“Your Ass Looks Fat in Warrior II.” It’s all I could think as we held the challenging pose and my Drishti settled right on my rear end. All through the practice at another Louisville studio, I couldn’t resist checking myself out in the mirror as we moved from pose to pose. But not necessarily because I was checking my alignment—although that’s what I told myself—it was because I was concerned for looking good. And I was constantly being disappointed.
I’ve been uneasy with how I look for decades. At 11 or 12, I noticed the uniform skirts fit the other girls in my class differently, and after intense examination in the mirror and self-criticism, I determined what was “wrong” with me: Short torso. Wide hips. Huge ass.
These self-judgements have traveled with me through several decades, through many fashion trends, through pregnancy and childbirth (contrary to popular belief, wide hips do NOT help with childbirth), and now into a career where I live in spandex. Fortunately, my yoga practice has been a space to practice self-acceptance and appreciate my physical strengths. I know that I’m capable of so much more than your average mom-of-a-2-year old, but once that mirror is in front of me, I’m immersed in critical self-talk.
I don’t know a lot of other mommy’s (besides my yoga mama friends) who can do this!
This is why we don’t have mirrors at 502 Power Yoga. Some argue that a mirror is a tool to help you find alignment in a pose, but at 502PY we provide more valuable tools to help you find alignment:
Skilled instructors who don’t practice while they teach so they can see you and speak to what they see and assist as needed.
Assistants who move about the room to help with alignment and foundation in your postures.
Spacefor self-insight so you can create a pose for yourself and truly immerse yourself in their moving meditation without concern for what they look like.
Practicing without mirrors allows me the opportunity to feel as beautiful on the outside as I feel on the inside. For someone with image issues, this 60 minutes of going inside and feeling powerful goes a long way for my confidence. This empowerment causes me to make bold moves in my life, for example, that one time I opened a yoga studio.
The most beautiful I have ever felt in yoga was in a blindfolded practice–it was so liberating to drop all concern for looking good that I actually practiced with my shirt off for the only time in my life. I felt sexy, glowing, and powerful for weeks. Had a mirror been present for that practice, I would probably still be wallowing in a bout of self-pity, drowning my sorrows with pizza and cheez-its.
Every day I am bombarded with images of what the female body “should” look like and then catch my reflection in my mirror at my home and see the discrepancy. Then I roll out my mat, turn inward, and am reminded that I’m strong. I’m powerful. And in that, there is beauty.
What have you experienced in your physical practice or in your self-inquiry by practicing without a mirror? Do you feel like you’re missing your reflection?
#ProTip: If you really need a reflection of yourself, the spots up by the front window often act as mirrors when it’s dark outside.
Student Highlight: An Interview with Nicole Wiseman
by Melody Mayes
When my dear friend, Nicole Wiseman, happened upon the Baptiste Power Yoga studio just down the street from her home she was insistent that the 502PY community was different than other yoga studios. She is the reason I ended up here, sweating it out next to her on my mat. Nicole is always a giver of herself to others. I’m elated that I was able to sit down with her and dig a tad deeper into her yoga practice.
Describe your first experience with yoga: My first experience with yoga was nearly 12 years ago at the University of Louisville. I was looking for something that would motivate me to work out and a grade certainly helped. Prior to that class I wasn’t particularly athletic or really even that active. Sure, I walked to class and moved around but I would never say that I “worked out” and definitely wasn’t what you’d call athletic in high school. That yoga class came at a very challenging time when I was thinking about changing majors and career paths and essentially the trajectory of my life. It was a pretty pivotal moment and yoga happened to be a large part of it.
How do you do it all? : There are way too many important and worthwhile things and I can’t do them all. And it’s ok. I prioritize (and reprioitize) every day. I try to keep the most important people and things first and let the rest go. I schedule my yoga classes using the MindBody app because it keeps me accountable. That 2 hour cancellation window prior to class is coincidentally the same time period when I often would rather take a nap or catch up on Netflix shows. This keeps me honest and helps keep the rest of my life in balance. So far I’ve never regretted showing up on my mat.
Pose that causes you struggle: Crow pose. Freakin’ crow pose. I once asked Sarah if it was lack of arm strength, lack of core strength, fear of falling on my head or all of the above. She agreed that it was probably a little of all of the above. Every day I’m working at all 3 and getting closer. I’m also learning (trying to learn) that I am where I need to be and it will happen when it needs to happen.
What keeps you going when the going gets tough? I love a challenge. That’s one of the things I love about 502PY. They are forever offering challenges, whether they are single verbal cues in class like to breathe through the discomfort, physical cues from the assistants in class or structured ones like the September Sunrise Challenge.
*(That same attitude is how Nicole completed the September Sunrise Challenge AND was one of the winners.)
What pose gives you the greatest peace? Child’s pose. It helps me settle in and refocus on being present.
What does yoga provide on a daily basis? It gives me peace. It helps me focus. And Ujjayi breath. Strangely enough, giving blood is a great opportunity to practice ujjayi breathing. It’s funny because a lot of times they’ll ask me if I’m ok and I assure them that yes, I am and my breath is getting me through. Note: I hate needles so every time I give it can be a struggle. Another side note: my blood pressure has gone down each time I’ve given blood in the past year since starting at 502py!
Who inspires you? It probably sounds trite but truly everyone inspires me. The cancer survivors I work with daily inspire and amaze me because they keep showing up to provide support to those that are beginning a very similar journey as theirs and sometimes the person they support doesn’t survive, but they keep showing up and giving. Other yogis inspire me especially when I see someone that’s been struggling with a certain pose totally nail it. When I see anyone give of themselves in any way; that inspires me. Yoga has taught me to find inspiration and beauty in a lot of things that I probably wouldn’t have noticed before.
You won the Sunrise Challenge, now what?! It’s back to 6PM for me. That was a nice experiment but I’m still not a morning person.
Nicole enjoys spending her time with her husband, Mason, her supportive circle of friends and family, and doing awesome work as Assistant Director at Friend for Life Cancer Support Network (www.friend4life.org) and part-time with the Crisis & Information Center hotline. Say hello to Nicole next time you see her!
Where Should I Put My Mat? A Yoga Studio Geography Lesson
By Becca Washer
It can seem like a silly question but every time you walk into the studio, mat rolled under your arm, balancing a block, towel, water bottle, and an eagerness to practice, you are faced with the decision, where should I put my mat? I’ve traveled my way around the room of 502PY and can tell you the ins and outs, tips and tricks, air flow pattern, etc of almost every spot. Here is my personal, in no way professional, view of the best spots in the room depending on your needs.
1. Your first class
It may be your first instinct to go in the back row, but I disagree. There will be times when you are facing the back of the room and it is helpful to have people behind you in case something is called you are not familiar with. The transition from Down-Dog to Flip-Dog comes to mind here. The fourth row in a full class is the best (or the second to last row if it is not a full class).
2. When you’re finding your own practice
After a while, you will get the hang of Journey Into Power (the sequence taught in all 502PY classes), and you will start to find what works for you. Breaking out from the back can be a challenge, but I promise, the front row is perfect for this. Take time with no distraction of people in front of you. When you can’t see what other people are doing you start to find things out for yourself. New transitions present themselves, challenging poses stop being a competition, you become very familiar with the Om painting on the front wall, and you find your flow.
3. When you get stuck
When only staring at the wall in front of you becomes stagnant, and you are ready to be inspired by your fellow yogis, place your mat in the center of the room. Connect your breath with everyone around you. Feed off the energy of your neighbors and let it fuel your practice. 502PY has a contagious vitality and the best way to reap its benefits is by immersing yourself in the middle of it. Start by literally being in the middle of the room and then expand that into joining conversations, coffee dates, events, and all the other aspects of the 502PY community.
4. When you’re working on a new pose
The walls offer great support when you are working on a new pose or modification and that goes for so much more than inversions. Try dropping back and walking up the wall for wheel pose. Float your hand while balancing on the wall in half moon. Press your hand into the wall to reach your foot higher in dancer. Yes, over time the wall can become a crutch, but it can also show you what is possible.
5. When you just want to be where it’s the coolest
From only my own perspective, the front row can tend to feel the steamiest especially in fuller classes where there is not much space between the front of your mat and the wall. Also, the corners offer less air flow and can feel a touch hotter. In the morning, avoid the center of the first two rows where the sun glares in through the windows (aka the death ray) or take on the challenge of a little extra heat. Take all this worth a grain of salt though (like the kind you’ll be sweating out) because the room is 90 degrees and that is hot no matter where you are.
The single most important thing I can tell you about where to put your mat is that there is magic inside those studio walls. All you have to do to be a part of this community is show up. Wherever you are in your practice, and wherever you are in the room is going to be just perfect; you can plant yourself in the same spot or move every day. As long as you’re unrolling your mat you are setting yourself up for taking your day to the edge.
It is the one-week countdown for Winter 2015-2016 Teacher Training (see Becca’s guide on what to bring) and I know I’m not the only one who has mixed feelings about it. Starting something new is always a little unnerving, even if it is a positive thing. Lately, life has been crazy and at times things have been packed so tight that it seems impossible to shove in one more responsibility. And yet starting next weekend, that’s exactly what is going to happen.
When I feel myself start to resist the process, I try and lean into that resistance. It makes me think about Frog Pose and how sometimes I just want to cry, or how I feel I can barely breathe but in a really weird way I kind of like it. It can still hurt, but taking it to that edge makes me better. I’ve learned these lessons already on my mat as a student. I think that through the training I’m going to start to see what it means to take that surrender off my mat.
For those who don’t know, Tina Guelda wrote all the incoming trainees a letter and she didn’t sugar coat anything. She suggests bringing Ibuprofen regularly because, “Your body and your brain will probably hurt at some point.” She concludes the letter by reminding us all that we are going to need support from family and friends even when we won’t be able to see them. When I first read Tina’s letter, I may have freaked out a little. What have I gotten myself into? But re-visiting it I realize that while it wasn’t coated with sugar, Tina instead dumped a whole lot of salty flavor all over the truth. And my mouth is watering just thinking about it.
What surprises me the most from all of this is how even though I’m a little nervous and I have definitely already held back a few melt-downs, I’m not doubting myself one bit. I’ve seen the support system 502PY has created already through its programs and when it comes down to it, I am not afraid. I have doubts about myself, my abilities, my schedule, my finances, and my mental will to carry on when things get tough, but I have zero doubt that when things get rough that I will have my support system to push me through it all.
As this new challenge sits in full Lotus Pose right on the strong, sturdy, and looming gate of Friday evening, I shudder to think of all the tears, frustrations, and emotional highs that wait for me right on the other side. But then I lean into the challenge, I read comments from my fellow trainees, and in a really weird way, I realize I’m going to like this.
Shermaggedon. That one word can create so many emotions. Prior to that traffic event several years ago, I had no idea one word could cause so much drama in my daily life. Once bridge construction was complete, life returned to a semi-normal routine with occasional road delays and traffic jams. Fast forward a few years to the present day and the addition of a new bridge and the three years of construction that has come along with it.
The daily anxiety returned. Commutes that once took 15 minutes started taking 45. I did what any good yogi would do. I left earlier for work; didn’t help. I came in later; also didn’t help. I meditated at lunch which while it did help it was immediately negated once I was stuck in traffic on my way home. I began leaving for work early and not returning until time for bed. Even still I would leave 502PY to head home and would immediately hit standstill traffic. My body became disconnected with my home. And most sad of all my Puggle, Eddie, took up residence with my boyfriend in Middletown.
I would love to tell you this blog ends with a pearl of wisdom on gaining zen when in difficult life situations. Alas, it does not which is what made it so difficult to write. Truthfully I was at a loss of what could help my daily anxiety, frustration and downright anger towards my daily commute. However, I did realize a few things from this painful process.
My commute simply put was making me miserable. I loved my job and my co-workers, but it had become difficult to enjoy. Through inquiry from within I made a very difficult choice to seek employment elsewhere. With that search I applied for positions I would have thought out of my realm. They seemed out of reach for this girl that had not yet broken into Corporate America because nonprofit world was too comfortable. The search and growth was not easy. Routinely I planned and canceled interviews out of fear.
I found courage from my yoga community that I am worthy of a job I want and I am capable of anything (including that tripod headstand I’m working on).
I obtained a position once thought out of my reach. The commute? It is as long as it takes me to get from my bedroom to my home office. My puppy, Eddie? He has moved back home and we are both pretty thrilled.
The process of looking within regardless of how painful it can be in the moment saved me from further frustration. Faith in myself got me to the position.
The only feel good advice I could give is if you are struggling with hard decisions try on asking some internal questions, have faith in yourself because only you know what is best for you, and if you are failing to find faith in yourself lean on those around you that do believe in your awesomeness!