Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

Yoga Goals for 2014 December 31, 2013

Filed under: checking in,yoga — R. H. Ward @ 10:38 am
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Happy New Year! It’s the time of year when we set new goals and make new resolutions, which, if you’re a regular reader, you know is a favorite topic of mine. Right now I’m so busy between work and toddler-chasing that I don’t think I can set any strenuous goals. However, I do need to follow up on my yoga goals and make some plans, since I have some requirements to meet in order to keep my Yoga Alliance registration current.

First, I need to log ten contact hours of training, in a room with a qualified instructor, before December 2014. Back in August I started thinking about this, but unfortunately the workshops Amy had planned to teach for the fall didn’t pan out, so there went a big chunk of the training hours I’d planned on. I’ll need to do some serious investigating, and soon, to get this done by the end of the year. Amy is still hoping to teach the winter workshop series, so I’ll sign up for that if she gets enough students. I’m also going to look into workshops at Maha Yoga downtown (why did I not know about this place? 17th and Sansom isn’t too far to go for a class on my lunch break, and it looks like they have a variety of workshops for continuing ed!), at Dhyana Yoga downtown, and at Artisan Yoga in Wayne, PA (not too far from me, and I like the idea of the “yoga lab” and dissecting a pose – although I know I can’t do the flying split which is the next one they have scheduled, I want to keep an eye on them and see what they offer next time!). I found these options in less than 15 minutes of searching – Maha was actually the first thing that popped up when I searched “yoga workshop near philadelphia” – so there has to be more out there!

One other idea I’d had (which I think I got from Darshana Communications, actually) was to do a CPR training at a local hospital – they run those sorts of trainings often, and while I hope I would never have to use it, it would definitely be a good tool to have under my belt. I need to check and find out for sure if CPR training would count for my training hours (I would think it would, possibly under the “Techniques Training and Practice” or “Anatomy and Physiology” categories). I want to look into meditation classes, too, but I feel like it wouldn’t be right to take meditation classes now when I have so little time for practice at home. On the other hand, maybe taking a class would be a good idea to get me back into actually doing it? We’ll see.

I also have to log 45 teaching hours before December 2014 – the good news is that I’m at 39 hours now, so I just have to teach six more classes in 2014 to make that goal. That shouldn’t be much of a problem, although I do want to get more students into my class at Wellness on Park.

The other change I want to make this year is with regard to my blogging schedule. I love writing here, and the opportunity it affords me to look at yoga and other topics from a new perspective, but with my work schedule and the baby I have to recognize that I just haven’t been posting as often as I used to. I haven’t kept a Tuesday-Thursday schedule in a while. Instead of beating myself up about that, I’m going to acknowledge the limitations I’m currently working with and change my goal. I’m going to aim to post weekly, but will only hold myself to posting twice a month. If I can do better than twice a month, I will, but I think two solid, thoughtful posts in a month should be doable.

Here’s to accomplishing some yoga goals in 2014!

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Yoga Plans August 8, 2013

The other day it struck me that I completed my yoga teacher training over a year and a half ago. I’ve been a registered yoga teacher since December 2011! What hit me, though, is a practical concern: yoga teachers have to fulfill certain requirements for teaching and continuing education every three years to keep our registration current with Yoga Alliance. That means I have a year and a half left to meet my requirements to stay registered – that seems like a long time, but with a full-time job and a little one at home, I need to start planning now if I’m going to get there.

The good news is that I have some of the work done already. Specifically, I have to teach 45 hours of classes: I’ve been keeping track and I’m more than halfway there (which is really reassuring, considering I took a huge break from teaching when I had YogaBaby). Clearly, though, I need to get back into a teaching groove somewhere in order to make the remaining hours.

I’m also required to complete 30 hours of continuing education: at least 10 “contact” hours, in a room with an actual instructor, and up to 20 “non-contact” hours, which can be met in a variety of ways like reading books, writing articles, or attending webinars. The good news here is that I’ve got a decent number of non-contact hours already, just from my reading and work on the blog. The bad news is that I have no contact hours yet, so that’s 10 hours of classes I need to find somewhere with an actual instructor. Luckily I really like taking classes.

If I’m going to make all this happen, I’ll need to get my own practice in good shape first. I’ve been pretty solid with staying on top of my daily 15-minute practice, but I feel like I’m losing momentum – doing the same poses every day, not feeling excited about yoga but just checking it off my To Do list. One thing I plan to do to fix this situation is to write some new short sequences that can be done in a 15-minute period. These will be themed (like “Balance”, “Energy Burst”, or “Gentle Wake Up”) and will use different poses so I won’t get into such a rut. I’ll put them all on a card that I’ll keep in my yoga space, so that when I’m sleepy at 5:45 in the morning I can easily hook into a set sequencing, won’t waste time trying to think of what poses to do next, and won’t just go back to the same poses over and over. And, of course, I’ll post each sequence here for you!

I’m really excited about this new project. It makes sense that, if I’d plan in advance for a yoga class to teach, I should also plan in advance when I’m only teaching myself! And writing the sequences is an interesting challenge because I don’t usually think about my yoga practice in such a focused way – it’s fun to brainstorm poses good for specific purposes and then figure out how to make them flow together.

So (if we’re thinking in terms of goals, resolutions, and habits), my overall goal is to maintain myself as a registered yoga teacher. My next major milestone date for this goal is December 10, 2014. That’s the three-year anniversary of my YTT graduation (Yoga Alliance counts by my anniversary date for registering with them, so if I count by my graduation date that will give me a little extra time to get everything into their system). In order to achieve this goal, I’m following my resolutions to cultivate a daily yoga practice, to continue to grow my practice by educating myself, and to explore teaching opportunities. Here’s what I’ve done lately to further those resolutions, and here are my specific plans for forward movement:

  • I’ll write ten short 15-minute asana sequences that I can use to keep my personal practice active and varied. I’m planning to have a few little rules for myself with how I use these sequences (for example, I’m thinking I won’t be allowed to do Gentle Wake Up more than once a week and will require myself to do Energy Burst at least once a week and Strength at least once every other week), but I’m going to see where the actual sequences lead me after they’re all written.
  • To keep myself accountable, I’ll post each sequence here on the blog, starting on Monday August 12. I’ll post ’em daily, Monday-Friday, for two weeks. This will interrupt the usual Tuesday-Thursday flow of the blog, but I’d rather post each sequence and have them all done than let it trail on. I want to have ten sequences written to choose from for my practice, and I don’t want any excuses for procrastinating on writing them!
  • I’ll be going to the Philly Wanderlust Festival on Saturday September 7 with the lovely Sarah Trout. This will be a great way to connect with the yoga community here in Philadelphia, meet some local teachers, and get my yoga groove going. Maybe we’ll see you there!
  • I’ve sent out email queries to a few local studios that offer continuing education workshops. So far, I’ve decided that I’ll be taking at least one workshop on hands-on adjustments with Amy at Yoga with Spirit, and I’m hoping to take the three-workshop series that she’ll be offering this fall. She’s also considering offering some anatomy workshops in the winter too; winter is not my best time of year, so I’ve put this on the calendar already in hopes that it’ll give me something to look forward to!
  • I’m also going to look into some meditation classes, since that would count for continuing education contact hours as well. I may explore options to travel for a long weekend next summer (maybe at Kripalu or the Himalayan Institute?). That’s pretty far off, but we’ll see what develops!
    • In terms of continuing ed and contact hours, I’m most interested in classes that will help me step up my teaching – learning more about anatomy and hands-on adjustments, for example, which is why Amy’s workshops sound so perfect for me. I’d love to do a real prenatal training, if the right one came my way, but that may be a project to postpone for a few years. Chair yoga and yoga for older people are topics I’d like to explore, but that may need to wait until I can bring more anatomy knowledge to the table.
  • I’ve ordered some new books and I plan to look into webinars offered by Yoga Alliance and other organizations.
  • Finally, I’m going to get serious about finding teaching opportunities. Short-term, I’m going to try to get back on the sub list at Awaken and EEY (where I think I am still on the sub list, actually, but they just don’t need subs very often!). Long-term, after Wanderlust, I’m going to explore options for classes that I can attend downtown on my lunch break or right after work, and I’ll go from there in looking for a an opportunity for a regular class to teach.

In summary: Plans! I have them!

 

Books: The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg August 6, 2013

Filed under: books — R. H. Ward @ 1:02 pm
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 The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles DuhiggIn The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg explores what makes a habit – good ones, bad ones, petty little ones we can’t seem to manage to change – and how we humans, as creatures of habit, can examine our smallest actions and why we do what we do. According to Duhigg’s research, our daily habits may seem isolated and small, but making a small change to a daily habit may lead us to life-changing new patterns.

Duhigg analyzes the elements common to any habit, from nail biting to snacking to gambling, and finds the common thread: each “habit loop” begins with a cue, an event that triggers the habit to begin. Once the habit loop is activated, you experience a craving, and then carry out the routine of the habit itself, which results in a reward. Thinking about a habit in this framework allows you to isolate each aspect of the habit, helping you to figure out why you always need a snack at 3:00 or why you can’t stop checking Facebook. After establishing the habit loop pattern and some techniques to change it, Duhigg then looks at the habits of people in groups, at work or in social situations, and examines how these habit theories can be applied to effect change on a larger scale.

The Power of Habit is, from a readability perspective, nearly perfect. Duhigg uses compelling stories to make his points and weaves together multiple narratives to keep the reader engaged. He pulls together many different threads from his exhaustive research and hours of interviews, looking at the question of habits from every angle: neurology, addiction, education, corporate culture, and social change, to name a few. As a result, there’s something here to interest everyone, and because he distills each topic down to the individual level – one person who conquered her addiction, one CEO who changed a company – the reader can stay focused on the story and the prose never gets too dry. Duhigg’s own authorial presence is very light, telling each person’s tale matter-of-factly, without bias, and only rarely interjecting himself. Duhigg comes across as an expert, and as a reader, I trust his expertise and want to learn more.

For this blog in particular, I found this book fascinating because of the way Duhigg’s research fits in with my recent posts on identity-based goals. According to Duhigg, the reason people often fail at achieving their goals is because they’ve failed to change a key habit. By changing the cue-routine-reward habit loop and changing just one habit, people can make much bigger changes and achieve larger goals. This fits in really well with the idea of identity-based goals, which encourages people to not only set a goal but to (1) change the way they think about themselves, and (2) make small progress every day in becoming the sort of person who can achieve what they want to achieve. According to Duhigg, those little successes are key to reprogramming our brains with new habits that will drive us towards the goals we seek.

For myself personally, this book gave me new ways of looking at my own habits: on the negative side, I’d like to change my nail-picking and Facebook habits, and on the positive side, I’d like to strengthen and deepen my yoga practice. I now have some ideas about how I can transform these habits: for example, improving my 5:45am yoga practice to deliver a stronger reward, therefore increasing my motivation to get out of bed early. (More specifics on that plan coming in Thursday’s post!) Overall, I strongly recommend Duhigg’s book. Whether you have bad habits you’d like to change, good habits you’d like to strengthen, or people in your life whose habits drive you nuts, this book will be a fascinating read.

 

goals in mainstream fitness May 7, 2013

Filed under: wellness,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:12 pm
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Earlier this week, Heather turned me on to this interesting post: It’s Time for a Makeover of Mainstream Fitness, by Ruthie Streiter. When Heather read it, it reminded her of the identity-based habits I was talking about earlier this year, and I agree completely.

First of all, I love that Streiter is advocating that people really think through their body’s particular needs and problems before embarking on an exercise program. So often, people take up a diet or fitness regimen just because it’s the latest fad, or it worked for a friend, but every body is different and has different needs. What is fantastic for one person’s body could be catastrophic for another, and result in no change at all for someone else. Planning out your exercise program in a thoughtful way can help you to save time and ensure that your actions will result in positive change – after all, who wants to spend hours on vigorous exercise if you don’t enjoy it (which is how most Americans feel about working out) and if it’s hurting you?

And Streiter’s article fits in well with the idea of identity-based habits. Remember, identity-based goals are the opposite of appearance-based goals (like “I want to lose ten pounds” or “I want a flatter tummy”). With an identity-based goal, you’re thinking, “I want to be a healthier person”, “I want to be a balanced person”, and, starting from there, you work on making healthier choices, day by day. Just starting out with that frame of mind could make the difference and keep you from throwing yourself into an exercise regime that’s not right for you. You’re not focusing all your energy on this one small aspect of yourself (your weight, your tummy), which could go wrong so easily; instead, you’re working on gradually changing your whole identity to that of a more healthful person, so you’ll naturally think in more holistic terms. And when you set an identity-based goal, the changes you make will last longer because you’re not only creating a new habit, you’re reinventing yourself, reimagining yourself, as a healthy sort of person, so your behavior will naturally come more and more in line with your goal.

A new month has just begun, and spring is springing up all over. It’s a great time to go play outside, enjoy the fresh air, and pick up the season’s first fresh produce at the farmers’ market. It’s a great time of year to think back on your New Year’s resolutions and recommit to working toward a balanced, healthy lifestyle in the way that’s best for you.

 

Goals versus Resolutions* March 5, 2013

Filed under: books,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:53 pm
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I recently reread Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, and I came across this passage that I found interesting, particularly in light of my recent posts on identity-based habits and resolutions*:

I’d noticed idly that a lot of people use the term “goal” instead of “resolution,” and one day in December, it struck me that this difference was in fact significant. You hit a goal, you keep a resolution. “Run a marathon” makes a good goal. It’s specific, it’s easy to measure success, and once you’ve done it, you’ve done it. “Sing in the morning” and “Exercise better” are better cast as resolutions. You won’t wake up one day and find that you’ve achieved it. It’s something that you have to resolve to do every day, forever. Striving toward a goal provides the atmosphere of growth so important to happiness, but it can be easy to get discouraged if reaching the goal is more difficult than you expected. Also, what happens once you’ve reached your goal? Say you’ve run the marathon. What now – do you stop exercising? Do you set a new goal? With resolutions, the expectations are different. Each day I try to live up to my resolutions. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail, but every day is a clean slate and a fresh opportunity. I never expect to be done with my resolutions, so I don’t get discouraged when they stay challenging. Which they do.

– Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project, page 288

I like how Rubin has differentiated here between goals and resolutions – I think you can push the idea further and explore related or nested goals and resolutions. For example, the goal to run a marathon could be one part of a larger resolution to exercise more or live a healthier lifestyle. As Rubin notes, thinking about her resolutions every day helps her to live up to them, but a goal in tandem can provide additional focus. If the resolution is to exercise three times a week, adding a goal to run a marathon can help to keep you focused and in the habit. And resolutions can help us to achieve larger goals. For example, a resolution to show up on time for work every day can contribute to a larger goal of earning a promotion. Even Rubin’s resolutions all push her forward towards a goal: feeling happier in her life.

I think Rubin’s conception of resolutions (both in this passage and throughout the book) also fits in well with those identity-based habits we’ve been talking about. As part of her happiness project, Rubin identifies areas of her character she doesn’t like and uses her resolutions to change them. Rubin wants to be “happier”: she wants to laugh more, have more fun, and be less snappish with her husband and children. Throughout the book, resolutions like “Laugh more” or “Sing in the morning” encourage her to change her self-concept to encompass more humor, more goofiness, in small ways on a day-to-day basis. And it works!

*[While I recognize that the annual time of resolution-making has passed now that January is over and in fact it’s March already, I think it’s in the spirit of this blog to keep exploring the question if I want to. (And I keep seeing things that make me want to.) As Rubin notes, you don’t have to wait to start a happiness project – you can do it anytime – and this blog is all about exploring things that lead to happiness. Don’t postpone joy! So I think resolutions are fair game for any time of year and I shall post accordingly!]

 

Identity-Based Habits: The Picky Eater February 5, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:48 pm
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I’ve been thinking a lot about that article on identity-based habits that I posted a few weeks ago. The concept just makes so much sense to me – that you’ll have trouble making significant changes in your life unless you change your self-concept and start thinking of yourself as the kind of person who can accomplish those changes. The more I think about it, the more examples I can find in my own life.

My parents tell me that as a baby, I loved to eat. I started on solids relatively early, and once I started, I’d eat anything. I sucked down baby foods that completely grossed out my parents and then opened my mouth for more. But somewhere along the way something changed. I started refusing foods and only accepting certain approved foods, like hot dogs, chicken, french fries, and mac and cheese. I became a “picky eater”. Dinnertime was often a battleground as I fussed and complained. Throughout my childhood I was notoriously picky about food, and looking back now, the pickier I was, the more I internalized that identity: no matter what my actual tastes might have been, I knew myself to be a picky eater, and I acted like one!

Eventually little things began to change my eating habits. At my part-time restaurant job in high school, I noticed that the Caesar salad and the zucchini marinara on the menu looked pretty good. I tried them, liked them, and began to eat them regularly. In college the limits of the cafeteria forced me to try new things so I wouldn’t have to subsist on a tasty but boring diet of froot loops and cheese sandwiches. During my senior year, the dining hall began a “pasta kitchen” line that offered two interesting dishes per meal and introduced me to the idea that pine nuts and spinach could go in my pasta, not just red sauce and meatballs, and the meals I tried that year were a major inspiration to my later cooking experiments.

Most importantly, I listened to my friends, people I liked and trusted who were surprised at the range of things I wouldn’t eat. Especially when I got to grad school and had to cook for myself, I knew I had a lot to learn. Christina taught me about garlic, chicken, and biscuits, among other things; Danielle and Sarah each taught me about guacamole; Dylan taught me about mushrooms, onions, and garlic, and how good they were all cooked together in olive oil; and much later, Fritz taught me the wide variety of things that can go in a burrito. By the time Fritz and I got engaged, I was ordering the octopus at fancy restaurants and sighing over my delicious Brussel sprouts.

As I tried and learned to cook new things, my concept of myself slowly changed. I was no longer a picky eater. Somehow I’d become a “foodie”: I’d grown to love cooking and trying new foods. And then I became a vegetarian, something a younger me (who refused anything green) could never have envisioned. When I think back to the 12-year-old me, or even the 18-year-old me, she would have been appalled. And that’s all rooted in self-concept: if I still identified myself as a picky eater, I would have missed out on so much deliciousness, so many enjoyable food experiences, and so many good times cooking and eating with friends. My self-identity only changed gradually over time based on what I learned and how that knowledge caused me to grow.

This is one reason why I think it’s so important to keep an open mind and never stop learning and growing. There’s so much in the world to experience that I don’t want to miss. And it’s why the idea of purposely, purposefully, changing one’s own self-identity is so compelling to me. If gradual, unintentional identity changes can have such effect, then what more can we do if we thoughtfully set out to change how we view ourselves? What new things will we be capable of? What distant dreams can we make into reality by becoming the person who can achieve them?

 

Creating Identity-Based Habits January 17, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:11 pm
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Here’s an interesting look at new year’s resolutions: Stick to Your Goals This Year by Using Identity-Based Habits. The idea is that most resolutions are appearance-based or performance-based (consider “I want to lose 20 pounds” or “I want to do more yoga”). Most people start off highly motivated but then lose momentum and don’t succeed at their goals. What this author, James Clear, recommends is that you focus not on changing your appearance or your performance, but that you set goals that change your identity. In essence, you become the kind of person who can accomplish what you want to do.

For example, if you have a goal of wanting to do more yoga, you might start off strong by getting to the yoga studio or the gym twice a week. But then life catches up with you, you get a cold, you miss a few sessions, and then despite your good intentions, you realize you haven’t done any yoga in a month. But “do more yoga” is a performance-based goal, which you fulfill by performing the task of showing up at class repeatedly. Consider instead an identity-based goal: something like “I want to be the kind of person who really cares about yoga”. Then you could start with small steps, like doing a sun salutation every morning. Once you’ve made that a part of your daily habits, you start to see yourself as a person whose yoga really matters to her, and you can branch out to larger yoga-related goals.

You could even try “I want to be a yoga teacher” (or, “I want to be a yoga teacher again”). Before my teacher training, I had an image in my head of what a yoga teacher is like, and that person was not me. Because I enrolled in a training program which required a significant investment of time and money, I felt like I was committed, and I began to put in my own time to make sure I got the most out of my investment. I practiced yoga and pranayama and meditation every day, read books about yoga, wrote this blog. The constant practice shaped me, and more importantly shaped my concept of myself, from “yoga-enjoying person” to “real actual yoga teacher”. I began to see myself differently, which only drove my yoga practice further as I became someone who not only wanted more but was capable of more. This example is a little extreme and beyond the scope of a new year’s resolution, but thinking about identity this way is just really interesting.

Recently I’ve started to become very invested in motherhood – I see myself as a mother first, and I’ve lost some of that concept of myself as a competent, confident yoga teacher. What do I need to do to rebuild that part of my identity? A regular yoga practice of some sort will have to be one of the first things I work on, but I also have to remember that a yoga teacher takes care of herself too (and, for example, doesn’t force herself to get up early to practice if the baby kept her up all night). Even just keeping up with this blog more often reminds me that I’m a yoga teacher. There are plenty of little ways I can start reinforcing my yoga identity again. Once I reconstruct my basic idea of myself as a yoga teacher, then I’ll be the kind of person who can accomplish even more: teaching a regular weekly class again, preparing and teaching a special workshop, maybe even planning the yoga and writing retreat that Heather and I have dreamed of. But that’s the long term – little steps first!