• Yoga

    How to Find the Right Yoga Studio for You

    I had never been a member of a yoga studio until I finished my yoga teacher training, thus, my impression of all yoga studios, up until a month ago, was that they were all like the teacher training I attended: inclusive, positive environments that value the “capital-Y Yoga,” or the Yoga practice off of the mat.

    While this may be true of many or even most places, I don’t believe that it was true of the first yoga studio I went to to try to get a yoga job. (Which they did not offer me because they never even gave me a chance to audition, but they were doing me a favor. I just didn’t realize it was a favor initially).

    I bought a new membership pass at a local yoga studio, and the first class I took was taught by the owner of the studio. As a new teacher trying to get a teaching job, I understood that you have to take a class with the owner before asking about a sub-list.

    Well, I felt like the owner didn’t take interest in me as a new student. I believe it was the front-desk woman who asked me if I’ve done yoga before and asked me a little bit about myself. During the class, the instructor did not make any corrections, verbal or otherwise, to any of the students. I feel like there wasn’t an excuse to not do this, especially considering that the class was small, with about four people aside from myself, so there was an opportunity for the class to be personable.

    Another aspect of the class that I did not like was how she incorporated “yogic” things. She used the harmonium, chanting, and a gong, which I love, but if I was a new student who was not very familiar with Yoga, it may have been very uncomfortable. The only reason I was familiar with the harmonium and the chant was because I had undergone 200 hours of training, but the gong was off-putting to listen to for the first time (although now I love it), especially because there was no introduction to it.

    Despite my ill-feelings about the class, I had the pass so I took advantage of by attending different styles of yoga with different teachers. Unfortunately, I found all of the instructors to be similar in their teaching style (probably because most of them were trained by the owner) in that they don’t make any effort to get to know new yoga students in their classes and they didn’t make any corrections during the physical practice. Due to the lack of student-engagement, I feel like the instructors were more focused on themselves than on the students, which does not align with how I interpret the “capital-Y Yoga.”

    From my yoga teacher training experience as well as my own pedagogy, I believe the purpose of teaching Yoga is to helpguide, and support students. In other words, it is about the students. It is about inspiring them, encouaging them, and helping them find their confidence. It’s about challenging their bodies, mind, and spirit. It’s about sharing with them how Yoga is more than just the physical practice, and it’s about introducing them to the spiritual and philosophical side. It is about creating a community and it’s about creating leaders.

    There are more definitions of what a Yoga teacher’s purpose is, but these are the ones that stand out to me in this moment. Regardless, as you can note, all of these definitions are about the students. None of the definitions have anything to do with the teacher. 

    Unfortunately, I do not feel like the yoga teachers at the studio I was attending were creating leaders, though. I feel like they were keeping their distance from students by not engaging with them, which then reinforced their position on the hierarchy as a teacher.

    After a month of attending yoga classes at the studio, I had the opportunity to pay a reduced rate for a regular monthly membership. I considered it for a while, but then, when I talked to my girlfriend, real shit came up. After my surprisingly explosive rant to her, I realized this yoga studio was not for me. Their pedagogy does not align with mine, and I would be better off finding a different studio.

    So, how do you find the right studio for you?

    Tip 1. Look at the styles of yoga that a studio offers.

    If you want to take vinyasa classes, you probably don’t want to go to a studio that only offers Kundalini yoga, which is awesome but entirely different.

    Tip 2. Check Out the Studio’s New Membership Packages.

    Yoga studios draw you into becoming a member with new membership deals. The prices of these deals vary, so they may or may not be pretty comparable to paying for one class.

    For example, one class at the yoga studio I attended cost $20, and the new membership cost $39. The new membership was unlimited for the month too, thus, it was worth paying an extra $19 for unlimited classes. I attended classes nearly every day, and it served a greater purpose in my life by exposing me to my local yoga community as well as providing structure in my otherwise structureless summer.

    Some new membership packages, however, are a five or ten class pack, or the unlimited month is pricier. Regardless of what the packages are though, I feel like they are a great way to become acquainted with a studio to see if you want to stick with it. If I had attended only one class, I may not have realized that the studio wasn’t for me. If I wanted to continue to attend that studio after paying for once class, I would’ve had to pay the regular membership price instead, which is a lot more expensive. Thus, I recommend doing new membership deals if it feels right to you.

    If, after a month, you don’t feel connected to the studio, try another studio and take advantage of their new membership deal! On the other hand, if you do feel connected to the studio, become a regular member if that makes sense to you.

    Bonus tip: Most studios seem to use the company MINDBODY for scheduling, prices, class descriptions, and more. You can download the app and do your research there if you like!

    Tip 3. When you attend a class at a new studio, ask these questions:

    When you arrive:

    1. First, how do the front-desk people treat you? Are they pleasant, welcoming, and helpful?
    2. If you meet the owner, do they introduce themselves to you? Do they welcome you?

    The yoga class:

    1. Does the yoga teacher introduce themself to you before class starts, or at the beginning of the class?
    2. Does the yoga teacher take an interest in you?
    3. Do they offer modifications based on your physical abilities?
    4. Do they make verbal corrections and/or hands-on corrections? (The hands-on corrections should be made with your consent and they should be combined with verbal cues. They should also be necessary for either your safety or to come into the true form of the pose. Basically, they should not be touching you just to touch you).
    5. Do they care about the “capital-Y Yoga,” or the Yoga beyond the physical practice, and do they incorporate it into their classes?

    The studio overall:

    1. Is the studio clean?
    2. Is there water?
    3. Is there a bathroom?

    These questions are the most important to me as a new yoga teacher who wants to find a welcoming environment to share and learn more about my passion for Yoga.

    If you’re a member of a yoga studio, please share any other tips you have in the comments below!

    If you’re not a member of a yoga studio, what are your thoughts on yoga studios? Do you practice yoga, and if so, where?

    I used to practice yoga by myself in my living room, which I still do, especially when I’m practicing the classes I make. I really love the energy from doing yoga with others though.

    xx Vic

  • Yoga

    Living with Uncertainty

    Despite how heavy my foot was on the gas, it felt like we were driving in slow-motion. I was weaving around the cars in my way and tailgating them as my dad clutched his side and dry heaved into a plastic bag. I had never driven so recklessly and aggressively.

    I pulled to the front of the emergency room and he pulled himself out, hobbling toward the door. I quickly parked in the deck and with shaky hands, I put on my sweatshirt and sprinted to the ER after him. He was already inside, sitting in a wheelchair and checking himself in when I arrived. He had stopped shouting in pain and was relatively calm as he sat there.

    They told him a room would be available in a few minutes as they wheeled him to the side to wait. Suddenly, his calm expression broke into one of agony and his mouth opened wide to verbally release the torture his body was causing him. I rubbed his back and reminded him to breathe deeply, hoping it would pacify him. It did not. He continued to cry and shout in the waiting room while people checked in. Then he started vomiting into a plastic bag. I got him tissues to wipe his face and I asked the administrator when the room would be ready. I was impatient at this point.

    Fifteen minutes later, a nurse slowly meandered over and wheeled him to the room he would spend the next six hours in. Ironically, it was the same room he had spent nine hours in, the same time last year. That time was for a different emergency though.

    After several hours, multiple doses of pain medication, and many tests, the doctor diagnosed him with kidney stones. He was able to pass it in the hospital and be released the same day.

    Life is obviously uncertain, but it didn’t use to scare me as much as it does now. My cousin’s death has completely transformed the way I perceive the world and it has caused me to raise questions that I otherwise wouldn’t have asked or even considered. While I feel like I have more compassion and gratitude for life, I have also come to recognize as life as being very fragile. This has caused me to develop fears that I did not use to have. Some of the fears are silly while others make more sense but… I haven’t seemed to overcome them all yet.

    The terrifying experience I had with my dad on Monday as well as the volcanic tragedy in Guatemala, among many other tragedies that people experience, has caused me to reexamine the reality that life is fragile.

    I had shared this realization with the grief group I used to attend about two years ago now. Many of my peers had solemnly nodded their heads in agreement as I shared my concerns and worries about this fact. The therapist, however, raised the question: how do you deal with uncertainty?

    One method for coping that my peers came up with included acknowledging the challenges we had faced previously and that anything that comes next can be overcome too. Another idea was to focus on the present rather than worrying about what might never occur.

    Since I’ve been learning more about yoga philosophy for my yoga training, I’ve learned another effective method for challenging my fears is to be in a state of mind that is described in the Yoga Sutras, which is upeksha, or “indifference.” I learned about this idea in an article from The Yoga Journal written by Frank Jude Boccio titled, “Calm within.”

    Boccio deems it is more apt to regard upeksha as “equanimity” rather than “indifference.” He defines equanimity as “a state of even-minded openness that allows for a balanced, clear response to all situations, rather than a response born of reactivity or emotion.” He adds that it is a balanced state of mind and heart. It allows one to experience pleasure and pain without clinging to it or condemning it. In other words, equanimity is about experiencing life and different situations without judging it as good or bad and therefore, maintaining an emotional detachment from it.

    For example, my dad had kidney stones and needed to be hospitalized. It’s not good or bad, it just happened. He was able to get the care he needed to alleviate his pain through hospitalization, and he was working from home that day which enabled me to drive him there. So..while it may seem unfortunate that he had to be hospitalized for this condition, it was actually perfect timing and everything panned out well. In the moment, however, it was scary and awful but it needed to happen this way. If he was at work, he would’ve been taken to a hospital that was further away and it would, therefore, take the rest of my family longer to get to him.

    Equanimity is also about realizing that while you can’t be responsible for nor can you control what happens in life, you can control your reactions. I controlled my reaction by driving him to the hospital, and I let the doctors take control of the situation.

    The last aspect of equanimity as Boccio describes it is that you have to open your heart while simultaneously letting go of expectations and attachment to results. This aligns with what I’ve been reading in the Bhagavad Gita, which is Hindu scripture traditionally written in Sanskrit. It is part of several books of epic poetry.

    The god, Krishna, tells a warrior, Arjuna, that it is important to act for the action’s sake, and not for the results, whether that be success or failure. This equanimity is yoga. (The physical aspect of yoga that is the most popularized is only one limb of yoga philosophy. Yoga is actually a more comprehensive philosophy with eight limbs).

    I believe this type of mindset and state of being would be beneficial to me and it is something that I would like to practice in both my asana practice as well as in meditation. This way I can keep a level head when difficult situations emerge and I can also live with less fear than what I live with now.

    How do y’all feel about equanimity? How do you live with uncertainty?

    xx Vic

  • Mysticism

    Trying Full Moon Rituals?

    As I get deeper into my yoga practice as well as learning about the intricacies of the history of yoga, I have taken a particular interest in spirituality, and what that means to me. One thing I plan to do tonight to explore myself a bit will be to do the Virgo Full Moon Ritual!

    I’ll give you some background on my previous experience with religion and mysticism since most of you don’t know me.

    I’m a queer, multiracial cisgender woman and feminist, and I have not been a religious or spiritual person in about six to eight years. I think the last time I wrote about my spirituality/religious ideals on my blog was in 2013/2014…so clearly it hasn’t been important to me. That started to change when my cousin passed in 2016, I became obsessed with death. I was reading about it and listening to Podcasts about it…and then at some point, I just stopped. I became fascinated with life again.

    This past fall semester in college, I have taken a Mysticism class in the Gender Studies Department, which has definitely played a key role in an interest in spirituality. One of my favorite books that we read from is called Jambalaya by Lusiah Teish. It has caused me to want to read more about Puerto Rican-African religion, Santeria, so I can get more in touch with my identity and my ancestors.

    In the meantime, however, I have been reading up on the religion that Yoga is based on, which is Hindu. I’ve become intrigued by chakras so I bought a book about that to read…I need to finish a book. I have all these partially read books but…I will finish them once I’m done with my thesis!

    Anyway…the point of me delving into a little bit of my personal background with religion, spirituality, and mysticism is basically my long-winded way to explain that this is the first time I will be doing a moon ritual. Unfortunately, I do not have the space nor the supplies to do the full ritual that was sent to me by a lovely woman who is part of the online yoga community that I belong to as well. It’s okay that I won’t be able to do the full ritual though because, for my first ritual, I just want to do the “basics,” which for me is to do the meditation and journaling.

    I will link you to the full ritual I will be following if you want to find out more and possibly try it yourself, though!

    Anyway…I will write another post about actually doing the ritual, which I plan to do later tonight. I hope that it will expose me to my more spiritual side, which I have yet to discover. I hope to gain some clarity about myself and to just…relax and to enjoy it. My professor that taught the Gender Studies Seminar always preached the importance of sitting in silence and lately, I haven’t been getting enough of that.

    Anyway, please let me know if you will try it or if you have done it already! Do you regularly do moon rituals?

    Please comment with suggestions/stories/advice below!

    xx Vic

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