Monday, December 28, 2009

Keeping Class Energized

As one year winds down and we find ourselves on the cusp of a new one, I have been contemplating how to keep my classes fresh and energized. I do believe there is a tendency to not change things up too much for fear of offending regular students or alienating new ones, but yet, that too becomes a samskara (habit).

Over the past month I have been experimenting with some new things; some have been well received, others, meh, not so much but they were good for a chuckle. I should add that my students are very lively and interactive. I like to encourage community and I've seen some beautiful friendships form. People greet each other by name, ask how things are going, and engage in a meaningful way. It's a wonderful thing to watch. But I'm always mindful to make sure the regulars try and engage the newer folks to so we don't become "cliquish".

Here are some things I've done so far:

Musical Mats
I have 5-8 students who always sit in the same spot. The EXACT same spot each session. Then others tend to fill in around them in generally the same area. So I have everyone stand up, pick up their mats, and walk around in a circle to music. Music stops, put down your mat right where you are at. Most folks find this great fun. Most folks...

Reverse Room
Back of the room is now the front. It is very interesting to watch peoples reactions.

"Crazy-Wild Poses"
I toss in a pose every now and then again that is just totally "out there" for my students. Things like Side Crane variation, Fallen Angel, Tripod Headstand (though they are beginning to enjoy this one!). I usually cue it by saying "I'm going to go crazy-wild on you now and we are going to do...". I don't want people to *think* about the pose, but to just *do* the pose wherever they are at.

Rocket Sequence for Ashtanga Sequence
I know Ashtanga traditionalists will be clutching their chests in horror, but as I've mentioned before, I teach what I call Contemporary Ashtanga (it is the traditional Ashtanga sequence, but without the chanting and Sanskrit names). But! Just to liven things up and to see if people are paying attention or if they've shifted into autopilot, I will do Suyra Namaskar A and B then shift to the Standing Sequence of the Rocket series without telling them ahead of time! I do think working outside of the box on occasion is good for body and soul.

Different Music/No music
I confess, I get tired of the ethereal sounds of Deva Premal or the rhythmic chanting of kirtan. So on the occasion I need something different I throw in a little rock music, or Irish Folk Rock (Tempest). A while back Brenda on Grounding Through the Sitbones mentioned Jazz, so I tried a little Michael Buble. That was nice. Or, I go with nothing at all. Just silence. Also a treat in our noisy world.

Technique Week
One of the downsides I find to the Ashtanga sequence or a Vinyasa Flow class is there is really no good way to break down a pose without disrupting the flow of the class. So, based on a request from a student to work on technique, I decided to do a one time a month "technique class". I picked the last week of the month and I let the students know ahead of time so they know it's not a regular session. We go through a half hour of movement, then the last hour is devoted to breaking down a pose, its modifications and working toward individual awareness in alignment (internal alignment). We do the dreaded partner exercises, use the wall and bring out the props.

For myself: workshops
Nothing energizes me more than going to a weekend workshop. It's when I really get to recharge my batteries and I love that I can bring back new things to my classes.

So, my question to my fellow practitioners - teachers and students - what sort of things do you like to keep class fresh and interesting? Or, even, what *hasn't* worked?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Best Wishes to All

Warm wishes and thoughts to everyone this Holiday season! May your travels and homecomings be everything you dreamed they could be.

Christmas Homecoming by Norman Rockwell

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Vortex of Busy-ness

Rather an odd thought for the week:

I am beginning to it even possible to step away from the swirling Vortex of Busy-ness during the Holidays? Even with the scaling back I did this year, which included not decorating, no holiday cards, and minimal gifts, I still find myself running hither and tither while feeling frazzled and annoyed. My few evening hours just don't seem to be my own. There is dried fruit to make, dinner to assemble, hounds to exercise (who aren't getting enough), knitting to do, house to tidy...

I've said no to skiing outings, no to breakfast and dinner invites. I've rationed family time so I'm not making extra trips into town (downside of living 30 miles outside of the City). Errands are done on the way home from work - which means I'm getting home late.

Work I can do very little about. Similar to tax accountants in April, this is my crunch time. But I don't take work home with me! I am fortunate that what goes on at work can stay at work. And I hold my lunch gym runs as sacred "get out of the office time".

I'm being mindful, attempting to maintain an attitude of gratitude, paying attention to my mood swings and making sure I thank people.

And yet, the Swirling Vortex of Busy-ness looms like a bad special effect in a science fiction movie. Perhaps it's just a matter of waiting till the Holiday rush is over. All I can do at this point is wait and see.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"This Time of Year"

It is that time of year, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when we are blitzed by such phrases as the 'spirit of giving', 'peace on earth and goodwill towards men', and the 'holiday spirit' - which I believe is supposed to reflect our open hearts and goodwill over the holiday season.

Note I said "supposed". Mostly what I see is stress; the anxiety and worry about getting so and so a gift, the concerns about whose house the Holidays will be spent at and did someone remember to buy grandmama her dried fruit?, the apprehension about traveling during inclement weather, the disappointment when opening a gift and it wasn't what was expected, the irritation that "I got her a gift, but she didn't get me anything!" or it was the wrong gift.

For years now I have had mixed feelings about "this time of year" - I've experienced the whole gambit I just rambled off above, fully thankful when December 31 finally rolled around and I didn't have to worry about "this time of year" for another 360 days.

However, since I've started practicing yoga and studying Buddhism, I've seen a subtle shift within myself. I've noticed that "this time of year" is no longer restricted to the 30 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That I feel comfortable now stepping back and saying, "Naw, I'm not going to get sucked into X Y or Z this season, it does not serve me."

This isn't saying that I'm in anyway perfect! I'm still fully capable of some very snarky moments and comments. Now I find myself mortified when I'm caught up in them.

Mostly what I'm trying to say is, for myself, the Holiday Season extends beyond these 30 days, beyond "This Time of Year". "This Time of Year" has become 365 days, that every moment is one to be grateful for, one to express my thanks, a birthday or random moment a time to show my gratitude, or to donate to a charitable cause.

"This Time of Year" is every year, the whole year through. Now THAT just gives me the warm fuzzies!

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti