Friday, November 13, 2015

Healing from the Inside Out

This past weekend, we had a remarkable event at Bikram Yoga Hamburg; a seminar with Diane Ducharme. One of my main take aways from the weekend was in learning how to work smarter, not harder.

My father was born in Calabria, Italy.  He is one of nine siblings. My kids and I, along with a couple of my siblings and their families were fortunate this past summer to be able to go with my dad and visit his hometown of Reggio, Calabria.  Over the years, he has shared with us many stories of his childhood and of his journey from Italy to America, but to see it in real life and to try to imagine what it was like living his childhood in the way he did, was very humbling.  It allowed me to understand that one of the biggest gifts he passed along to me was how to work hard and to appreciate the people that we surround ourselves with.  Being one of nine siblings myself, I believe I had an extraordinary advantage in learning how to work within a community from the very early ages of my life.  I look at how, within our large family community, we had to learn to share and cooperate.  We had to learn who was in charge and how to trust and follow that lead.  We had to do our part and sometimes more than our part.  And as an older sibling, I also had to learn how to take lead in order to help out my parents with the younger kids and jobs around the house.    
My dads' drive to work hard was driven mostly out of need to survive while he lived in Italy.  Once in America, his survival was about learning how to make his way in a country as a teenager without knowing the language or the culture. 

I have always known that I was fortunate in growing up the way I did.  While, many things were a struggle for many reasons, I had an incredible opportunity to learn how to grow into myself because I was taught how to work hard and not give up.
As a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sibling, a friend, a teacher and a studio owner, I have always tried to give complete effort to the work that I do and the relationships I am in.  I have found myself exhausted many times and simply unable to do my best because I was trying to be more than my best.

I've shared many times that I began my yoga practice in hopes of healing a knee injury.  And I did do that in a short amount of time. But, what surprised me the most throughout my practice was the mental and emotional healing and growth that I gained.  All of these benefits were gained through my willingness to show up and put the effort in.

This practice is one that we use to not only heal our bodies, but to heal ourselves from the inside out.  We are using our bodies to make us stronger, more flexible and more balanced.  As much I know this and teach this, I gained a much deeper understanding of what this means to living a more quality life by practicing my yoga in a way that is useful, not hurtful.
And it is by trying to do less.  It is by working in a way that does not hurt my body.  It is by listening to the words of the teacher, getting into set up correctly, keeping proper alignment, and then finding more depth which allows my body to open up.  Then this allows me to be calmer, more trusting of myself and able to do more with less effort. 

If I am willing to practice in a way that is honest and well for me, then I can accomplish great things, little by little, step by step. One of the most impactful things I heard from Diane this weekend was, "Differentiate between pain and discomfort.  Pain is sharp.  It stops us in our tracks and takes our breath away.  Discomfort is change."

Next time you are in class, I invite you to really listen to the words and allow your body to practice in a way that is not hurtful to you, but healing.  For many of us, this will be a great learning process, but one that I can promise will change the way you appreciate your practice and it will change the way you live your life.      


A Day with Diane Ducharme

This past weekend, we hosted a Diane Ducharme's seminar. 

First, I want to say that I believe our studio and students are exceptional.  I have seen and heard from many of you as to how much your yoga practices have impacted your lives.  

Next, I want to share with you how my first seminar with Diane Ducharme impacted me and how it is the reason why I was able to take the first step into opening Bikram Yoga Hamburg.

It is not a secret that Bikram Yoga has some controversy attached to it.  When I first started practicing and teaching this series years ago, many of us taught and practiced in a very aggressive way. The hotter, the better. The harder, the better.  If you weren't suffering or forcing your way through class, you weren't trying hard enough.  In my personal practice, this mindset caused an injury that I came in with, a much longer time to heal. It also caused minor irritations in my body to become ones more pronounced.  I don't believe all studios or teachers taught this way, but I do know that many did.  I did and I was at a point with my practice and with my teaching where this did not feel right to me any longer. I no longer had the ability to fight myself through my practice and I certainly did not want to teach this way.

In the beginning, I had limited access to understanding the healing capacities of this series and I certainly did not know how to practice in a way to heal my body or teach in a way to help people.  I was not willing to teach in a way that felt less than helpful for students.  I thought this meant I had to give up my practice, my teaching and the idea of opening a Bikram studio.  What didn't make sense to me is that it was so clear that I had received immeasurable benefits from my practice and I was receiving an incredible amount of joy from teaching because I knew the potential this series had in changing peoples lives for the better.  I knew what it did for mine and could only imagine what it had to offer if I stuck with it.  I had wanted to open a studio for almost as long as I had been practicing but had no idea how I would do this with feeling the lack of understanding in my yoga practice and in my teaching abilities.  I knew there was something more to understand. And I knew that I was at a point where it was now or never. I was ready to step away from not only the idea of opening a studio, but also my practice when I had randomly heard that there was a teacher's only seminar in NYC coming up.  Throughout my years as a teacher, I had attended as many seminars as I could from Bikram, as well as Senior Teachers.  I wanted to learn as much as I could.  This was the first time I had access to a teacher's only seminar and something about it intrigued me.  I went with a bit of a chip on my shoulder because I had thought I had made up my mind that I was going to step away from this yoga and this seminar would only give me more reason to know that walking away was the right decision.  This was to be the perfect excuse to stop doing something I knew deep down was a good thing, but simply because I was at a stuck point with my practice and teaching.  
I showed up to the seminar, not sure what to expect.  Not exactly sure what I even hoped, wanted, needed to get out of it.  I don't know how far along we were into the day, but I remember so vividly, being in complete awe as I listened to Diane talk and demonstrate, answer questions about how to work with students more effectively and how to help our own personal practices evolve.  She did hands on adjustments and worked with so much humor and with an incredible amount of kindness.  And I knew exactly how I needed to move forward with my teaching and my practice and I also knew opening a yoga studio was, without a doubt, my next step.  Last week's seminar with Diane Ducharme helped students gain great insight into their yoga practice. For new students to Bikram's yoga, it was a great opportunity to learn from the start by a senior teacher.

For those who have been practicing for a while, it helped in ways that surprised.  It's easy to find ourselves sometimes going through the motions once we've been practicing for a longer period of time because we are more comfortable and now the basics, but this time with Diane helped take our practice a step further. It was a long day, but what was gained from this day is immeasurable. 


It's All About Perspective

Several years after I went to teacher training, I started to wonder why I hadn't opened a studio yet.  I had known since training that I would open a studio of my own one-day, but I couldn't figure out why I wasn't moving in the direction of doing so and I wondered what was keeping from moving forward. 

I so vividly remember one particular morning; I was in the shower and I asked myself out loud, "What are you so afraid of?" I paused, wondering if I would get an answer back, afraid of what I would hear back. 

The answer that came was my kids.  I was afraid of not being able to fulfill my commitment to them and I was afraid that I would be pulled away from them. I adore my kids.  Not only do I love them, but also I really like them, even now as teenagers. I have certainly become a better person because of my kids.  Many times in my life, since being a mother, my only motivation to keep trying was because of my kids.  I knew if I were better, they would grow up to be healthier in all areas of their lives. 

How would I continue to be there for them, if I opened up a business?  I knew I would want to give 100% to this business because the yoga is something I truly believe in and have gained so much from. 

Almost immediately, my next thought was that I would have to look at this business like my third baby.  Each of my two kids is so incredibly different.  Each has different interests; different things that motivate them; different challenges that have had to be worked out through the years.  If I could be successful at working with each of them individually and keeping our family unit strong, then maybe I can add in the studio and work it the same way and I believe to this day that this little conversation I had with myself in the shower was what really allowed me to open up to the possibility of this studio and let go of the fear that I couldn't do it.

Many people come in and say they are afraid of the heat.  They are afraid they are not flexible enough or strong enough or they have no balance. And when they write to me or talk to me about why they are afraid, I tell them that I can relate and what I know is that if they choose to take that step, the gifts waiting are immeasurable. 

So here we are, three years in. When I look around at what this studio space has grown into, I sometimes wonder how it happened. But as I reflect upon how incredibly strong our yoga studio community has become, I understand how this all happened. Every person who has walked through our doors has taken the chance to explore something new of them selves.  For some, it was an easy decision.  For others, it took a lot of courage.   For most, the benefits have exceeded any ideas originally set.  I see everyday the achievements made because of your willingness to look at things with a different perspective. 

The number one thing that I find 100% joy in at the studio is when I walk in that room to teach.  I am continuously inspired and humbled by all of you.  Thank you for three years of what is only the beginning of an incredible experience that we all share together.