Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

Attachments, part 2 September 14, 2011

Filed under: reflections,yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 2:35 pm
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For our homework this month, we were instructed to make a list of our likes and dislikes, attachments and aversions. The purpose of this exercise isn’t to see if we like ice cream or whatever – we’re intended to look critically at ourselves, at the attachments and aversions that hold us back in our spiritual practice. Attachment and aversion are actually two of the kleshas, or obstacles to achieving enlightenment; when one is focused on enjoying pleasant experiences or avoiding unpleasant ones, then that person won’t be focused on meditation. Pleasant things come and go, and so do unpleasant things, but the true Self remains unchanging and unaffected by momentary events. Plus, even if you’re not worried about spirituality, it’s a good idea to examine your attachments and aversions: what’s really so great about this? what bothers me so much about that? The answers could be surprising!

On Tuesday I posted the first few of my attachments. Here are a couple more.

My Appearance

I definitely feel like I have major issues with my physical appearance. From a yogic perspective, physical appearance means nothing – we just do these yoga poses to make the body strong, so we can sit in meditation, and having Michelle Obama arms or looking hot in Dancer pose has nothing to do with it. But I constantly feel myself getting caught up in concerns about my looks. Maybe it’s because I was a nerdy kid. I made a big effort to change my appearance and the way others perceive me when I entered high school: I grew out my perm, got contacts, and it made a huge difference in my social life and even in the way I perceived myself. Maybe that’s where I got the idea that external appearance is linked to internal self. Another factor, I think, is that I went to Catholic school and had to wear a uniform, so that when I did get to wear normal clothes, I would agonize for ages over what I was going to wear. I don’t think I learned how to get dressed the way that other kids maybe did. Whatever, appearance is big with me, whether it’s weight, clothes, physical fitness, signs of aging, all of it.


I feel really attached to sleep. This sounds stupid but really isn’t. I’ve read that getting enough sleep is critical to daily happiness and even to personal relationships, because we treat others better when we feel better ourselves. For me, my sleep issue is pretty childish: I don’t want to get up before 6 am. It’s bad enough that it’s dark out at 6 am, don’t make me get up at 5. This was actually a pretty big factor in me turning down a job a few years ago (and I don’t think I’ve ever confessed to anyone what a big factor it was) – the job was 8-5, and there was a long commute, so I would’ve had to get up at 5:00 to be there on time. I took a 9-5 job instead. I guess the flip side of not wanting to get up early is that I don’t like to go to bed early either; it’s just not part of my natural rhythm. 9:30 pm is about the earliest I can go to bed, and if I go to bed any earlier I just lay there. There are things I enjoy doing in the morning – I like going running or doing yoga, and it’s such a great feeling when it’s 7:00 am and that’s already done! But don’t push it. I know that at some point if I have a child I will likely be getting up very early every day, but honestly, not much besides a screaming infant seems worth it.

Next time: my aversions! Don’t worry, I’m the kind of person who tends to like things rather than hate things, so I have fewer aversions than attachments.


Attachments, part 1 September 13, 2011

Filed under: reflections,yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 2:38 pm
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For our homework this month, we were instructed to make a list of our likes and dislikes, attachments and aversions. The purpose of this exercise isn’t to see if we like ice cream or whatever – we’re intended to look critically at ourselves, at the attachments and aversions that hold us back in our spiritual practice. Attachment and aversion are actually two of the kleshas, or obstacles to achieving enlightenment; when one is focused on enjoying pleasant experiences or avoiding unpleasant ones, then that person won’t be focused on meditation. Pleasant things come and go, and so do unpleasant things, but the true Self remains unchanging and unaffected by momentary events. Plus, even if you’re not worried about spirituality, it’s a good idea to examine your attachments and aversions: what’s really so great about this? what bothers me so much about that? The answers could be surprising!

Here’s my list of attachments, with some commentary about each one.


I’m not sure if this falls under the category of “attachment” or “addiction”, but it seemed right to list it here. I used to have a much bigger issue with sweets – I could eat a whole bag of mini candy bars or an entire package of cookies (or, heck, raw cookie dough) in one sitting, just while watching TV or studying. I’ve worked hard to become more conscious of this and control it better. I purposely choose dark chocolates and try to avoid more processed sweets; I cut back on the sugar when I bake; I don’t keep many sweets in the house or at my desk at work; I’ll pack just four chocolates in my lunch and then space them out over the whole afternoon. Still, I find myself needing those little chocolates to get through the day, and when I don’t pack any I’ll sometimes have to make a candy run just to get by.

My husband, F

This is probably my biggest attachment. When we were first dating, F and I spent two years long distance, and I was constantly afraid that something would happen to keep us apart; now we’ve lived together for almost three years, but I still sometimes get that feeling, that our life together is somehow too good to be true and can’t last. Losing him is my worst fear.

Comfortable Lifestyle

When I was in grad school I was broke. I worked three jobs and my parents put money into my bank account every month. I had a roommate and an affordable apartment, and I lived cheaply, keeping careful track of every penny, but I still couldn’t afford many things. I would patch my jeans repeatedly because I couldn’t afford new pants, and a hot date out was a milkshake from Burger King. Now that I’m older, I have a lot more expenses (mortgage, house bills, car payments), but I also make a lot more money than I ever did before, and so I have a lot more financial freedom to buy clothes, shoes, organic food at the grocery store, and nice dinners out. I know it shouldn’t matter but I feel really averse to losing these things. I remember how it felt when I couldn’t buy pants – pants! Kind of necessary! And I don’t want to go back to that. I’m definitely more loose in my spending than I could be, but part of me feels like the reward of getting to where I am should be that I don’t have to count my pennies anymore. On the other hand, although I do give to charity, and pretty generously, I always feel like I should be doing more, that I’m selfish with my money. The other issue with this attachment to a comfortable lifestyle is that it means I need to stay in my current job – for financial reasons, I don’t feel I can leave my job unless I find another job that will pay me comparably. But more on worklife when we get to aversions.

Next time: Two other things I feel overly attached to! And then, some aversions!


Four Paths: Karma Yoga August 5, 2011

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna describes the four paths of yoga:

Each of these paths has the potential to lead a yogi to enlightenment, so you choose your path based on your temperament and personality. Choosing the wrong path will make it much more difficult to make progress, because essentially you’re fighting your nature. This month, my assignment is to consider the four paths and decide which one appeals to me the most.

Karma yoga, the path of action, is the path that called out to me right away during our class discussion at the last teacher training session. The nice thing about Karma yoga is that it’s all about action – you don’t have to give up your life in the world or retreat into secluded study or meditation. You still have to read and study and meditate, of course, but your main focus is your secular life. The difference between a Karma yogi and some regular guy, however, is that the Karma yogi seeks to perform the actions of her life with an attitude of selfless service, with no attachment to the results of her actions.

In Karma yoga, you perform your actions because it’s your duty, because it’s the right thing to do – no more and no less. You don’t get caught up in expecting a reward for your efforts. If you receive a reward, that’s nice, but the point is to do the action for its own sake. It’s not that the Karma yogi doesn’t care about what happens: to the contrary, she cares very much and works hard at her work, but she recognizes that she has no control over the results of her actions, so she just does her best and then lets go. She takes an attitude of service, making each action an offering to the Divine. This way, doing the work actually becomes your spiritual practice. (Chapter 3 of the Bhagavad Gita discusses Karma yoga in more detail.)

There are four steps to Karma yoga:

  1. Know your duty, know your life’s purpose (your dharma), and accept it fully
  2. Concentrate and be fully present as you perform your duty
  3. Do the work with excellence, as best you can
  4. Give up any attachment to the results of your actions

For me, this path is very, very appealing. I have always felt like I wanted to do more, to serve more, that there was something I owed to the world in gratitude for the wonderful life that I have. For years I secretly wanted to join the Peace Corps but was too afraid to take the risk. I can’t even talk about the Peace Corps; I get teary. I’m teary just typing about it. The concept of Karma yoga fulfills that need to serve by making everything a form of service. I don’t need to go far away to make my life meaningful or helpful or useful. I can do that right here.

I also like how neatly Karma yoga fits together as a system for running your life. If every action is service, is an offering to the Divine, then you’re pretty much going to stop being a jerk to people, aren’t you? The yamas and niyamas become even more practical guidelines for living. You start wanting to eliminate negativity and nastiness from every action you put out into the world; there’s an inherent kindness to it. I often feel that I am not very kind, and I’d like to be. As a system, it also puts emphasis on personal excellence – doing your best, striving to perform your work in the best possible way – and that resonates with me too because I’ve tried to live my life that way.

The hardest thing for me to imagine is acting without attachment to the results of my actions. And obviously that’s kind of a biggie. But that’s something I feel I need in my life, too. How comforting it would be to stop worrying over things that are beyond my control! To be able to let go of that suffering, and just reside in the fact that I did the best I could do. I’ve been telling myself this for years. Of course, it’s still incredibly hard for me to just do that, but isn’t that the point? To work at it, and to make the work the offering?

I’m getting a little emotional here, but that’s clearly indicative of something. Yesterday, I was thinking about Bhakti yoga and thinking that maybe that might be a good option for me, but Karma yoga is something I really feel passionately about, and something I’ve been trying to practice without even knowing I was doing it. There are many aspects of the other paths that do appeal to me, and there’s no reason I can’t take those things and use them on my journey, but my main path is going to be Karma yoga.


Being the Best July 6, 2011

Filed under: reflections,yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 10:07 pm
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One thing I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is what it means to be the best. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve had a thing about being the best – maybe it’s because my generation was always told we could do anything, maybe it’s because as a child I learned quickly in school and got used to being praised. Whatever it was, it meant that whenever I was good at something, I wanted to be better, wanted to conquer it (or at least to feel like I could conquer it if I weren’t so busy conquering other things). In middle school when I got straight As in everything but science, in which I got a B+, instead of accepting that as good enough, I studied hard and pulled the grade up. In high school, I took geometry and algebra II at the same time so I could catch up and do AP calculus my senior year. In college I did exhaustive library research for all my papers, filling my dorm room with stacks of inter-library loan books. In everything I’ve chosen to pursue, I’ve always challenged myself to excel, to be the best.

Of course when it comes to yoga I do this too. A slow hatha practice wasn’t enough for me, I had to push myself in a tough vinyasa sequence. If there was a complicated, difficult pose, I was going to work hard until I could do it. A beginners class was fine for beginners, but I was an advanced student. When I decided to do my teacher training, this focus came up there too. Of course I would want to teach advanced classes, being that I was so advanced myself.

Through the teacher training program and even just in practicing at EEY, I’ve experienced a major attitude shift in my personal practice. When I signed up for teacher training, I thought that the classical hatha program wasn’t exactly what I’d wanted, and I was a little sad that I wouldn’t get to do the more vigorous vinyasa practice that I liked, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t still teach vinyasa after I was certified. What I’ve found is that a classical hatha class challenges me in completely different ways than a vinyasa class does.A few weeks ago, I went to a vinyasa class at a different studio for the first time since starting the TT program, and it was too fast for me: I missed having time to linger in each pose and really appreciate how my body stretched. I built up a sweat, sure, but I didn’t feel my muscles burning the way I do in hatha class. Having to hold the pose a little longer works the muscles differently.

The TT program has also made me more humble. I’ve realized that a lot of poses are hard for me such that the most basic pose is all I can manage, and I can’t even think about the more challenging variations; there are many ways in which I could be stronger, more flexible. There’s a lot to learn for everyone in a beginners yoga class, no matter what level you’re at, and I’m finding that I really enjoy beginner yoga class because it helps me stay strong on the basics. I’m learning that I don’t have to be the best at yoga – that there’s not even a “best”, only what my body is capable of doing today.

What I’ve really learned is how much yoga is a part of my full life, not just a workout. I crave my yoga time not just because it feels good physically, but because it keeps me calm and centered. I don’t need to do fancy poses or wrap my leg around my head because it’s not about that. I don’t know if I realized that as much before I started TT. I wanted to be a yoga teacher because I love yoga so much and I really want to share yoga with everybody, but I noticed that teaching advanced vinyasa classes doesn’t so much jive with the “sharing yoga with everybody” mission. Sharing yoga with everybody means teaching beginner classes, period. I’ve always said too that I want to teach yoga to older people, but older people often have physical problems that mean they need the most basic level of beginner yoga. There was a disconnect in what I saw as my mission, and I can see that now. I’m really excited about teaching yoga to people who’ve never done it before, and I’m much less interested in teaching advanced level classes. I’ll teach ’em, of course, but I’m psyched about working with beginners. Being “the best” teacher doesn’t have anything to do with how flexible I am compared with others. To be the best yoga teacher I can be, I just have to share my passion.


Some Personal Reflections June 16, 2011

Filed under: reflections — R. H. Ward @ 6:41 pm
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“Buddhist training offers an alternative approach to experiencing life from an essentially fear-based perspective of survival in favor of experiencing it as a parade of odd and wonderful events.” – Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, The Joy of Living, page 81

Dear readers, here at the yoga blog I try to keep the focus on what you’re here for: the yoga. But lately I’ve been taking stock of where I’m at and what else is going on in my life, and I thought you might indulge me in some personal reflections.

One year ago next week, I married an amazing man. Afterwards we crashed out for a while, then got started planning a spectacular (and yogaful!) honeymoon in Belize. With those milestones over, I thought 2011 would be a year to get back to some old projects and start on new ones. I had no idea how much sheer stuff was going to happen in 2011. I had some vague goals in mind: make progress with yoga and maybe look for a teacher training program; get back to my writing and try to make some progress towards starting a freelance editing business; and on a personal level, think about maybe buying a house. Here’s what’s actually happened so far this year:

  • I found a teacher training program, signed up, and made a lot of progress. This, you know in detail already.
  • On the writing and editing front, I attended a writing conference in February, reconnecting with old friends and making valuable new connections. I started this blog, which has been in different ways both easier and more difficult than I expected. I wrote my first professional book review and sent it out to a number of magazines, I had three poems accepted at literary journals, I did a proofreading job for a small press I like a lot, and biggest news of all, I found out that my chapbook manuscript won the editor’s prize in a contest and will be published next year.
  • F and I found a realtor, started house hunting, fell in love with a house, made an offer, got turned down, made another offer, got accepted, had a home inspection and a termite inspection and a radon inspection and a sewer inspection, applied for a mortgage, got an appraisal, and settlement is scheduled for June 27, god willing and the creek don’t rise.
  • A bunch of unexpected things also happened, some good, some less good. I won a big award at my current job. F got some welcome recognition at his job. F and I traveled to Arizona for a great vacation and a wonderful wedding. We had a getaway weekend in Rhode Island with fabulous friends. I took an eight-week African dance class, we saw an amazing play in NYC (twice), I became a member at a museum I love and went to a bunch of really interesting lectures. I had a business trip that involved my presence in Chicago for less than 24 hours. I had an extremely minor surgery, F fell down some stairs and fractured his shoulder, and we got rear-ended on the highway (we’re both fine, but the damages on the car are estimated in the thousands of dollars). None of those things except for attending the wedding were things I could have planned in advance.

And 2011 is only half over! Look at how many things I’ve done and how many things have happened already. On the horizon, I know that we’re going to get our car fixed, spend all our savings on a house, and pack all our stuff and move into said house; I know that F is going to attend a two-week writing conference that will be good for his career (but lonely for his loving wife), and I’ll finish my teacher training and become a registered yoga teacher (again, god willing and the creek don’t rise). I know that we have these things planned now, but I don’t know how the details are going to unfold. I don’t know what wonderful surprises the rest of 2011 has in store for us.

So, happy early-anniversary to my wonderful F. I assume we’ll still be married, not only on our actual anniversary on Monday, but for many more wild, enchanting, surprising, amazing years. I know that no matter what the rest of 2011 has in store for us, we’ll handle it awesomely together.

And, dear readers, happy blogiversary. We’ve been together for three months now, and it’s been pretty cool, I think. Here’s to experiencing life not as something to survive, but as a parade of odd and wonderful events. Here’s to embracing whatever comes.


Yoga teaching voice April 30, 2011

Filed under: reflections,teacher training,yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 7:50 pm
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As a writer in grad school, I really struggled with voice, trying to write poems that would stand out as MY poems. My thesis advisor would tell me how important it was for my poems to hang together as a cohesive group, with a voice to unify them; he said he wanted my poems to have a voice so strong that if someone dropped a pile of unattributed poems on his desk, he could pick mine out of the stack. At the time, I was 23. I had no idea really who I was as a poet, and was just beginning to figure out who I might be as a person, so when my advisor talked about voice it was hard really to understand what he meant. I didn’t have as much confidence as my classmates did, and that came through in the poems. In the years since then, I’ve made a lot of progress with developing my voice. The poems I’m writing now (or was writing, before teacher training started) have a much stronger voice, a voice that was influenced by many writers I admire but which is still definitively mine.

This teacher training weekend made me think about my voice as a yoga teacher. I don’t mean my speaking voice (although that’s important too), but who I am and what’s important to me as a teacher. I’ve been practicing yoga for over eight years, and I’ve taken classes with a lot of different yoga instructors, all of whom teach differently. The core poses are all the same, but every teacher is going to phrase things differently, is going to emphasize something different. My favorite teachers all live in my head somewhere: Gene in Boston, my friend Lucia, Jennifer Schelter, Adam and Lisie at Enso, now J & N, even the woman who taught my very first yoga class back in North Carolina. When I practice yoga, and even more when I try to teach a pose, I have their words in my mind to draw upon, but it does no good for me to just regurgitate another teacher’s class. That’s not helpful for me, and it’d be dead boring for the students. What I need to do is to synthesize the different voices I hear in my mind and add my own perspective – make my yoga my own. It doesn’t sound all that difficult, but practicing teaching this weekend, it was incredibly difficult! My classmates and I could all hear J’s voice in our mouths as we taught. Each of us needs to develop our own unique voice.

How? The only way to do it is practice, practice, practice. I need to dive deeper into my own yoga practice, not just doing poses but paying attention to each pose, noticing the little things I do to get my alignment right and figuring out how to tell those little things to someone else, how to describe those things in my own way. And I need to practice teaching. The same way I had to practice writing poetry to find my voice as a poet, or the same way that a student in a public speaking class needs to practice before giving a speech, I need to practice giving yoga instructions, practice hearing my voice in this new way, practice paying attention to what the students are doing and finding ways to guide and correct them. I’ll get a lot of this practice through the teacher training program, but still, I think F’s going to be getting a lot of yoga lectures for a while. This issue of voice is something I’d never really considered before, but it’s critically important to explore if I’m going to follow this path.


April Yoga Weekend: Friday’s group sharing April 25, 2011

Filed under: reflections,teacher training,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 2:19 pm
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So, Friday night’s teacher training session began with group sharing. What did studying the yamas and niyamas bring up for each of us? We all also had the chance to practice teaching last month, and N & J wanted to see how we were feeling about that. It was really interesting, and also really reassuring, to hear how each of my classmates is doing with the workload. We’re all struggling in different ways, but studying the yamas and niyamas affected each of us. Also, we all have conflicted feelings about the difficulties of actual teaching, which I’ll get into more later.

My sharing moment was interesting. In response to another student, J gave us a speech about how we shouldn’t discuss what we’re doing and feeling in teacher training with people in our regular lives; he feels it’s best not to talk to others about your spiritual practice, because other people might misjudge or misunderstand and it could cause difficulty in your personal life. When he finished, I piped up with, “Well, actually, I started a blog!” I explained that I’m a writer and that’s how I process my experiences best, and that with the TT commitment I wouldn’t have much time to write, so I wanted to channel my writing energy into something that would be helpful for yoga. I described how useful the blog has been for exploring my feelings on the yamas and niyamas, and how committing to regular blog posts has forced me to examine events and emotions I might not otherwise have thought twice about. And I told everyone how wonderfully supportive all of you, dear readers, have been. J looked at me skeptically and said he hopes that works out for me. It was a little awkward, and not exactly how I had envisioned telling them about this project.

I do firmly believe that starting this blog was the right choice for me. I think best on the page, so writing everything out has been incredibly useful for processing all that I’m learning, and for keeping track of my progress. I think the blog is also a good choice for me professionally: I don’t have a lot of by-lines or articles to my name, so when I do want to freelance as a writer in the future, I’ll have this blog to use as an example of what I can do, and it may lead to more and better writing gigs. And finally, I’m really glad I started it because of all the feedback I’ve gotten from readers out there, who have found my words helpful or inspiring, and that really means a lot.

It’s interesting to me how the teacher training process has made me examine all my choices carefully, even choices that seemed easy or obvious, even choices that I’d thought carefully about before. I think too that I’m incredibly lucky in my friends and family and in the abundant support I’ve received. Not everyone is so lucky; becoming a yoga teacher isn’t as obvious a career or lifestyle choice as, say, becoming an accountant, and I’m sure there are many yoga teachers out there who met with difficulty or derision as they embarked on this path. The fact that writing a blog seemed such a natural choice for me possibly says less about me than it does about all of you, and about my parents, who may have loved for me to be a doctor, but who love more the person that I’ve become. They were nothing less than delighted when I told them I’d signed up for teacher training, because I’d wanted to do it for so long. At every new turn, they listen and do their best to understand, and they may think I’m crazy sometimes, but they also know how much thought and work I put into this decision, and they respect that and support my choices. (Not to mention my amazing husband, who is quite frequently too good to be true.) So I do think that I am lucky, incredibly lucky and blessed. If I feel able to write freely about myself and my experiences, that writing at least in part stems from all the support I’ve received, and I’m so very grateful for that.


Letter of Intent March 16, 2011

Filed under: teacher training,yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 12:39 pm
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In order to sign up for the teacher training program, I had to send the instructors a letter of intent.  I thought it’d be nice to post it here, since it describes how I got into yoga in the first place and talks about why I want to teach.

Dear Nicole,

I would like to participate in East Eagle’s 2011 teacher training program.

I first started practicing yoga in the spring 2003 while in graduate school, and I loved it right away.  Shortly after that class ended, I moved to Boston, where I continued my practice, attending yoga classes twice a week from 2004 to 2006.  My teacher, Gene, taught Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga, and was a stickler for keeping a straight back and doing poses accurately.  He  provided me with a great yoga foundation.  When I left Boston for Philadelphia in 2006, I knew I wanted to pursue a teacher training program.  Of course, life intervened: I moved to a new city, found a new job, and fell in love with a man who lived in California, so for a long time my weekends were devoted to traveling to maintain our relationship.  Eventually F moved to Philly and we were married last year.  Through all of this, yoga has been my lifeline.  When I didn’t have enough in my budget to attend yoga classes at a studio, I would practice at home, rolling out my mat in the tiny space between the back of the couch and the hall closet.  In my new home with my husband, I am fortunate enough to have a dedicated yoga space, and I wake up early several mornings a week to practice before heading to work.  On our recent honeymoon, one of the places we visited was a yoga retreat in Belize (and it was heavenly!).

During the past few years, I have been reading books on yoga, meditation, and Buddhism as a complement to my yoga practice.  To provide just a few examples, I recently read BKS Iyengar’s Light on Life, Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Bhagavad Gita, and Nischala Joy Devi’s guide to the yoga sutras for women; I also spend some time every night reading authors like Thich Nhat Hanh and Pema Chödrön on meditation.  I subscribe to Yoga Journal and read it cover to cover every month.  The reading requirement for the teacher training is something I’m truly looking forward to!

Yoga is an important part of my daily life.  Over time, my practice has deepened, from simply accomplishing the physical poses, to relishing the emotional calm and spiritual growth that yoga makes possible.  Yoga is something I love and something I want to share with others.  I get excited about yoga the way a young child gets excited about a flower and wants to show it to everyone.  Yoga is so incredibly good for us, physically and emotionally and spiritually, and I want to help others  realize those benefits.

One of my long-term goals is to teach yoga for the elderly.  My former teacher Gene told us about the classes he taught at a retirement home, and how much yoga helped those older students stay strong and balanced and flexible. When I was a teenager I watched my grandma gradually decline and lose her sense of balance until she could barely walk. I don’t know how much of that was medical in nature and how much was a result of her sitting in a chair all day, but now I wonder if things could have been different for her. How many grandmothers could be helped by yoga, staying mobile and living longer on their own?  This is a subject really close to my heart, and it’s work I feel called to do in the world.  Completing my teacher training is the first step to eventually realizing this dream.

In short, I want to participate in East Eagle’s teacher training program in order to deepen my personal yoga practice and live a more yogic lifestyle, not just for myself but for the life that I share with my husband and the children we may have.  I want to learn how to teach this practice and share it with others.

I look forward to hearing from you.  Thanks very much,



Why I chose East Eagle’s program for my teacher training March 15, 2011

Filed under: teacher training,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 9:47 pm
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I’ve been wanting to enroll in a yoga teacher training program for a while now.  When I was laid off from my job and moved to the Philadelphia area in summer 2006, I deposited my severance check into a savings account and mentally reserved it to pay for my teacher training.  I hadn’t looked into programs yet, but I knew that I wanted to do it.  So… what took so long?

Life, mostly.  I moved to Philly; I found a job; I moved into a new apartment.  Then I fell in love with a guy who lived in California and spent the next two years traveling, planning trips, and recovering from jet lag.  At the end of 2008, we got engaged.  Then he moved cross-country; we got a bigger apartment, planned our wedding, then our honeymoon.  It’s amazing how much time all that stuff can take up. I was practicing yoga all along, at home, at the gym, and at studios in the area, but didn’t have the time to invest in another big project.

When my now-husband F started looking for jobs in Philly in fall 2008, I started researching teacher training programs and found some good options in our area, like Yoga on Main in Manayunk, where my friend Lucia did her training.  Then F got here, and having him actually around all the time was a big change, plus we had to find a larger apartment. I started researching again in summer 2009 after we moved to our current home.  That’s when I saw that Jennifer Schelter, a teacher I really admire, was going to be doing a teacher training… in the neighborhood I’d just moved away from.  We’d moved from one side of Philly to the suburbs on the other side, and from our new home, it would take me close to an hour to get to Jennifer’s studio.  I couldn’t commit to a commute like that, not while planning my wedding too.  I knew that when I did my training, I wanted to be truly able to devote my time and energy to it, not just to squeeze it in.  So the timing just wasn’t right.

F and I got married in June 2010 and had an amazing honeymoon in Belize in November.  We came home to all the usual holiday activity, but after Christmas, he encouraged me to start looking at teacher trainings again.  And, as my friend Kristina often accuses me, I don’t seem to be happy without a project.  So I started looking, and about an hour later I clicked on East Eagle’s website.  They were having their teacher training again this year, and in fact would be hosting an information session in one week!  Perfect timing.  I went to the session, practiced at the studio a few times, dragged F along for his expert opinion, and consulted with some other yogis I know in the area.  I heard, observed, and experienced nothing but good things, and East Eagle’s approach to teacher training really clicked with me.

They set up their program over a series of ten months so that students will have time to absorb what they’re learning – different from trainings that take a fast-paced approach, where you drop everything else for a month and just do yoga.  Those programs have many benefits, of course, but I imagine it’d be a challenge to really retain everything you learn.  I had considered finding an intensive program and taking a leave of absence from my job – part of me wanted to just get the teacher training over with!  But East Eagle’s approach really appeals to me, and they’ve structured their program so that it’s reasonable to accomplish it during your normal life. I’ll be there one weekend a month, Friday and Saturday, from March through December.  Once a month is do-able, and I’ll still have Sundays for, you know, life stuff like errands and laundry.  I’ll also have to attend yoga class at least once a week (complimentary yoga? I’m there) and read books (hang around this blog for a little while and you’ll see the great enthusiasm with which I’ll tackle that particular requirement).

I also like East Eagle’s approach to yoga itself. They don’t want to teach me just a series of poses – they’re most interested in where yoga leads us, the spiritual benefits of meditation. And that’s something I want to explore too.  So the timing is right and both the course schedule and content fits with my lifestyle.  This training really seems like the right fit for me. And it starts this weekend, so we’ll soon find out if all my hypotheses are on the mark!


Why I Love Yoga March 14, 2011

Filed under: reflections,yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 9:02 pm
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For my first real post here, I thought I’d write about the obvious: why do I love yoga?  What is it about yoga that makes me want to devote 200 hours of my not-so-copious free time over the next ten months to learning how to teach it?

I love yoga because it feels great.  Yoga stretches can be as simple or as challenging as you want them to be.  When I’m practicing at home, sometimes I want a fast-paced practice that will get me sweating, and other times I just want some gentle stretching.  When I’m sick or injured, I can scale back my yoga practice and still benefit from it.  No matter how old or young or fat or skinny or flexible or stiff you are, you can still enjoy yoga.  I love the feeling of stretching during a practice, and the slight soreness afterward reminding me that I still have more to do.  I love the feeling of working on a particular pose for a while (sometimes years!), and gradually being able to move farther and farther into the pose.  I love that moment when I’m suddenly able to do a pose I hadn’t been able to do before.

I love the physical benefits of yoga.  I’m much stronger and more flexible now than I was before I started doing yoga several years ago.  Then, a year and a half ago, I committed to practicing yoga in the mornings before work three days a week.  I have firm, shapely Michelle Obama arms now, and what 30-something woman doesn’t want those?  I’ve also lost weight and gained muscle just about everywhere. And after yoga practice, my body feels hungry for healthier food.  Dunkin Donuts?  No thanks, please pass the bananas.  I’m in the best shape I’ve been in since high school, I’m happy with how I look, I have plenty of energy, and I feel great.

I also love the emotional and spiritual benefits of yoga.  Yoga practice calms me and lifts my spirits – I almost always end with a smile and feel great for the rest of the day (or at least until I get to the office).  I’m a busy person with worries and fears like anyone else, but yoga helps to make it all feel manageable.  When I’m practicing yoga regularly, I feel like I can do anything.  As trite as it sounds, yoga really does help me to be my best self.  And bringing a calmer, happier me to my family and my friends and my job means that I have more to give to them.

I want to complete a yoga teacher training program partly for myself, to deepen my practice and continue to learn.  But more, I feel like yoga has done so much for me, and, like a little kid with a cool new toy, I want to show everyone just how awesome it is.  That’s why I want to be a yoga teacher.  I hope you’ll follow along with my journey.