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As a full time teacher of Yoga, I often think it's funny that my humanness can be a surprise to people. Like when students see me at Starbucks, and gasp, or at a bar with beer in hand, and look away. I get it, when you usually see me I am guiding you through a practice of becoming more aware of your breath, body and how you move. I am holding space for you to experience yourself at a deeper level physically, mentally and spiritually. I stand as a conduit of change for you and take this work VERY seriously. I love what I do, I love you, and yet there are definitely days, when I wish I didn't have to show up, when makeup is covering my tear stained face, when I'm hung over, tired, feeling fat, and wish I could just crawl under the covers and hide forever. I am on the path with you, and by no means perfect.
I was inspired to write this article when recently at a wine bar, one of my Yoga Teacher Trainee students tried to hide her cigarette from me. When I walked by and "caught" her, the look of horror on her face was priceless. All I could do was smile, love her dearly, and let her know, I too, have smoked a cigarette. So for all of you "humans" out there who love Yoga, here are 10 things you may not know about your Yoga instructor.
1. I eat bacon, ice cream, and drink coffee.
It's true, I do. Not only do I eat bacon, I also love a good steak or burger. Not tofu steak or veggie burgers, but the real bloody deal. Yes, there have been many periods on my "yoga journey" where I ate vegetarian, vegan and raw. These are honorable disciplines and everyone has to figure out what is right for themselves. I figured out I'm a meat eater. Oh, and I also get really excited about Ben and Jerry's Peanut Butter Core ice cream, straight out of the carton.
2. I was a party girl.
I'm sure there was a time when every bartender in Adams Morgan knew my name. I loved to be out, drinking and socializing with friends. There was also a time when I smoked cigarettes (but only when drinking of course!) Like maybe even chained smoked. I am not condoning getting wasted and chain smoking, but understand we all have our "stuff" to work through. I just got old and have to go to bed early now. I can feel the effects of partying on my body and choose not to feel like that.
3. I do not practice Yoga Asana and meditate every day.
There have been seasons of my life where I have practiced Yoga and meditated daily. Like any discipline, there is value in consistency and everyday practice. But currently I enjoy a myriad of movement arts and contemplative practices. Ranging from Yoga Asana, to wrestling, biking, running outside, stair-stepping, punching, kicking, weightlifting, all of these activities done in balance with awareness make me more alive and free. My meditation practices include staring out windows, catching random moments of silence, journaling, listening to Pema Chodron on the metro, biking through the National Mall or Rock Creek Park, and most days teaching Yoga gives me a sense of being fully present.
4. I'm rarely calm and balanced.
I originally wrote "I am not always calm and balanced," but my partner made me change "not always" to "rarely". Okay, he's right... I am aware that I live my life in the extremes and I'm always working on finding more balance. Roller-coasters are fun and exciting, but can you imagine being on one, all day, everyday for the rest of your life? I'm a work in progress, just like you and this is why I practice Yoga.
5. I do not speak Sanskrit fluently.
I definitely think it's important to honor the ancient practice of Yoga by learning the culture. I do my best to know the language, but still often mis pronounce, forget or never knew Sanskrit names for Yoga Asana poses.
6. My hamstrings are tight.
I was a collegiate soccer player. I'm not sure if my hamstrings would ever let me rock a Titibasana, but that's okay, because I can work with my body where it's at and empathize with all the other tight ham-stringed humans.
7. I love punching people.
Sparring is one of my happy places. It's hard not to be in a complete state of awareness, when one wrong move gets you punched in the face. And when you get punched in the face, you have to practice staying calm and unemotional, lest there will be more punches in the face and perhaps a kick to the head. Sparring is the most cardio intense movement I've ever done, so controlling my breath is a necessity. I also love Jiu Jitsu and Wrestling...body to body, sweaty, practices of kinesthetic intelligence. It is imperative to feel your partners body and react accordingly. I would consider Martial Arts sparring a highly "Yogic" practice.
8. I often feel insecure and want to hide.
Like almost everyday. The little girl in me often wants a mama. I feel afraid alot and would rather not be "seen." That said, I am grateful for the daily opportunity to face my fear. I am most alive when I honor the fear, and choose to move out anyways. I am courageous, only because I'm always afraid.
9. I really really love good beer.
Good beer excites me. I love the nuance, the distinct flavors, the art and the craft. I,of course, would turn my nose up at a Miller Lite or anything light for that matter. But a well brewed craft beer, that's where its at for me.
10. I shoot guns.
Believe it or not, I am a certified Krav Maga/Self Defense instructor. I have spent alot of time contemplating what I would be willing to do in a self defense situation. Still not sure if I could shoot someone, but if I did, I'd be prepared.
I would like to make a disclaimer that I'm sure there are Yoga instructors that do all the "right" things a Yoga instructor "should" do according to the Bhagavad Gita. I am by no means, knocking ancient disciplines that allow humans to have structure and access more freedom. It is important to honor history, community, rituals and the power of discipline. There have been seasons in my life where more structure was necessary for me, and helped achieve greater liberation. I always want to be on the path towards greater consciousness and love, but trust the path will continue to shift and change as I shift and change. My practice is to be fluid and humble enough to move with it, so I don't miss a moment.
In conclusion, I'm just like you. I want to be a better person. I want to live my life fully and freely. I'm on the path with you, not in front of you. Being perfect or "getting somewhere" doesn't interest me anymore. I gave up on the impossible task of "becoming something" and trust that who I am right now is more than enough. I AM HUMAN, and never want to be anything else.