En Route to India (Again)

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Today I’m traveling to India for the second session of the 500 hour teacher training program at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram. It was a teary scene at 5:00 this morning when I climbed into the Uber in the pouring rain, leaving behind my kids and husband. Luckily my driver was really chatty and told me stories about her children, providing just the distraction I needed. As I write this, I’m sitting in the San Francisco airport waiting for my connecting flight to Singapore. 

The past several months have been kind of rough for me. As I’ve probably mentioned, this summer my family moved across town to a new house *and* I unexpectedly had to manage the renovation of our rental house after our tenants moved out.

But now that I look back, those weren’t the real challenges I faced.

I learned two important and life changing lessons at the first teacher training session back in January. As we all know, change is hard. And implementing these two lessons has turned my life upside down.

The first lesson I learned is that we humans need routine in order to be healthy. And being a mom to two young boys and also a small business owner, my schedule the past few years has been anything but routine.

The kids’ activities were randomly scheduled throughout the week. We ate dinner at whatever time my husband or I could pick up takeout. Or we ate at a restaurant. We tried to do a little homework every evening, but honestly, more often than not we crammed to finish it on the weekends. The kids’ target bedtime was 8:30, but sometimes they actually went to bed at 9:00, 9:30, or even 10:00. Which meant that I was going to bed at midnight most of the time.

On top of this, my own work schedule was very inconsistent. Over the past several years, I added classes to my teaching schedule whenever an opportunity presented itself. Because of this, I was teaching an oddball combination of Monday/Thursday mornings, Wednesday/Friday mornings, Saturdaymornings, and Thursday evenings. No consistency at all. My work schedule was similarly inconsistent; I’d work whenever I had a couple of free hours.

The second lesson I learned is about dharma, our life’s purpose. Indian philosophy teaches about the 4 stages of life: childhood/student, householder/parent, retired, and preparing for the end of life. I’m currently in the householder/parent stage, so I should theoretically be prioritizing the responsibilities specific to this stage of life.

My mentor at KYM explained to me that if we don’t take care of our dharma-related responsibilities, the lessons keep resurfacing until we do. And this absolutely makes sense to me. For example, if I don’t take the time now to make sure my children learn independence, study skills, hygiene, self-care, etc., we’ll all be struggling and suffering until they finally learn. It makes sense to invest the time now so that we can all be happier in the long run.

Trying to incorporate these two important lessons has created a time of chaos for me. Over the past several months, I’ve been working on creating a consistent routine not just for me, but also for my kids, and also for my husband to a smaller extent. And I’ve also been working on shifting my focus from teaching and running the studio toward more actively parenting my kids.

This shift has not been easy, and it’s still not easy, but I am slowly starting to see hints of change in my kids and in our relationships. They listen a little better, they’re more capable of doing their homework and violin practice independently, they know their morning and evening routines and I don’t have to repeat instructions 20 times anymore. This part is getting better.

Creating a routine for myself has also gotten better - I’ve gradually shifted my teaching schedule and now I teach MWF at 8:30 a.m. at the studio, TT at 9:00 a.m. at RRISD, and Saturday morning at the studio, which has created more consistent work hours and freed me up to parent in the evenings.

But the part I haven’t quite figured out yet is how to balance it all. Yes, I now prioritize parenting my kids. Yes, I’ve created consistency of schedule. But the problem is that my consistent schedule starts at 6:30in the morning and doesn’t end until 10:00 at night. And even with the help of my awesome management team, teaching staff, and reception staff, some of my responsibilities still fall through the cracks. For example, this newsletter. I haven’t sent out this “weekly” newsletter in probably a couple of months. And in light of all the change happening in other areas of my life, I’m ok with that, for now.

I’m really looking forward to this second session of training. Not only will I have a break from my regular routine (which always helps me gain some perspective), I’ll learn more anatomy, chanting, āsana, and philosophy (my favorite!), and I’ll also get some face-to-face time with my wise mentor. And all the while I’ll be looking out for new lessons to help me balance the sthira (effort) and sukha (ease) in my life.

Throughout October I’ll be posting/sharing a video diary about my experience in India on our social media pages:

And speaking of, please let me take a minute to explain where these new brands came from and what content we’re sharing where.

The Yoga Room’s pages feature content related to our brick and mortar studio location in Round Rock, like in-person workshops, classes, etc.

The EveryBody Yoga Podcast and its social media pages are how we share yoga with a broader, worldwide community.

And Professional Yoga Teachers Podcast and its social media pages are how we share our teaching with like-minded yoga teachers and people interested in becoming yoga teachers.

We welcome you to follow us on any of those pages that are interesting to you and to share our pages with your friends!

Looking forward to connecting with you soon,

How Exactly Does Yoga Work?

I’ve always struggled to explain how yoga works, in other words, why we receive the benefits from yoga that we do.

You’ve seen cute memes that say things like “I practice yoga because punching people is frowned upon.” Of course it’s meant to be funny, but there is also some truth to it.

The question is, how exactly does yoga stop you from making poor choices, like punching people, or saying the wrong thing, or making unhealthy choices when it comes to sleep, food, hydration, stress, relationships, etc.?

When I was in India last month, I finally found the answer to this question.

The short answer is that mindfully breathing and moving the body through specific postures or sequences teaches the brain to focus, be present, be patient, and be accepting. For the details, keep reading…

Focus & Be Present
In order to successfully follow teacher’s instructions, you must focus on the instructions and also on your own body.

If your mind wanders off, or if you get distracted by the person on the mat in front of you, or if you start to think about how well you performed the last posture, or which posture is coming next, the break in your focus will be evident. You’ll make a wrong movement and get out of sync with the teacher’s instructions and with your fellow classmates.

Yoga practice is a physical exercise, yes, but it’s also a way for your mind to practice focusing and being present.

Yoga practice also teaches your mind to be patient. You can’t very well anticipate what the teacher is going to teach and get ahead of her instruction.

In order for the practice to flow smoothly, your mind has to be patient, hear the instruction, instruct the body to follow the instruction, then the body follows the instruction. Over and over again.

In yoga philosophy we have two important concepts that are very relevant to the physical yoga practice: ahimsa (do not harm) and satya (truthfulness). Whether we know it or not, when we practice yoga, we practice these two concepts.

We practice ahimsa by avoiding or modifying postures that are overly challenging for us because trying to perform them may cause us harm.

And in order to practice ahimsa, we must practice satya. We must be truthful with ourselves about our level of ability. It’s easy to get carried away with cool looking postures and go beyond what’s healthy or safe. Ahimsa and satya keep us in check.

With time and practice, ahimsa and satya lead to acceptance. Acceptance of ourselves, our abilities, and our limitations.

The Role of Conscious Breathing
Conscious breathing is what differentiates yoga from exercise. In yoga practice, we’re not only moving our bodies; we’re coordinating the pace of our breath to the pace of the movement.

To breathe consciously, we breathe in and out through the nose, use ujjayi breath, follow a specific breathing pattern, and monitor the quality of the breath. When the breath becomes labored, we know we’re working too hard and it’s time to ease back a bit or rest.

Breathing adds another layer of interest to keep the mind engaged and focused. 

The Evolution of Yoga Practice
We’re initially attracted to yoga as a physical exercise, but soon we begin to experience more subtle benefits. Life seems easier. We can’t put our finger on what has changed, but we know something has definitely changed. The difference is that we’re making better choices for ourselves. How exactly does this happen?

The yoga practice - the combination of physical movement and conscious breathing - trains the mind to be more focused, present, patient, and accepting. These new skills are not specific to the yoga practice - they carry over into your real life too.

Your Life on Yoga
When you have a dedicated yoga practice, at the moment when you need to make a decision or take an action, your mind is focused, present, patient, and accepting.

You are focused and present, so you are able to take in all the relevant information. You accept the details of the situation. Rather than reacting impulsively, your patience allows you to take a brief pause. In that pause you have an extra fraction of a second to consider your response. In that fraction of a second you find a better alternative than punching someone.

And that’s how yoga works. Consistent yoga practice over a long period of time yields incredible subtle benefits due to the conditioning of the mind. Pretty incredible, isn't it?

If you’d like to ramp up your practice and enjoy the subtle benefits of yoga, join us for our upcoming 40 Day Challenge.

It’s a great program that provides motivation and accountability to help you complete 30 yoga classes in 40 days. If that goal seems daunting, don’t worry! - we’ve just added a home practice option for those days when you just can’t make it to the studio. Click here for details.


P.S. Yes, I'm back from India! I'm sorry I missed sending out newsletters the past two weeks. Two weeks ago I was immersed in final exams from my training course, and last week I was recovering from jet lag and reverse culture shock. I have lots of stories to share, so please stay tuned!