We made it to savasana...

I'm on Day 2 of Three Days of Teaching. I hope one of my friends has a partridge waiting for me at the end of Day 3.

I started off today practicing with another teacher to gear myself up after a somewhat unsatisfying Day 1. I felt tentative while teaching that class, like I was tripping over the words. I didn't have all that much to say and running out of words is not a good feeling. During my morning practice, I paid close attention to what the teacher did. She did a lot of streeeetching out of words, set a theme for the day and then continued with it throughout class. Great teachers really are incredible wordsmiths.

It was all in preparation for my largest class to date: five students at my friend Angie's condo clubhouse in Bellevue. My big experiment was adding music to class. Until now, I've taught in silence. Some people say music is a crutch. I get that. But I really love a good song to add energy through the flow of warrior poses and twists or to motivate for core strengthening.

I zipped through my ipod before class and threw together a playlist with a couple of energetic songs from Hercules and Love Affair, added a dash of Krishna Das for some of his solemn, soothing chords and mixed in a song by The Weepies because it's cute and I haven't listened to it in awhile.

What I learned in real time is songs go really fast once you turn them on. Also, it helps to remember to turn the music off or else Krishna Das will be playing before you know it and not during final rest. All of which leads to today's note to self: Have more than four songs on the playlist. Yeah.

Today's class also verged on comical. People kept coming in and out of the clubhouse with holiday decorations. At one point, a woman waved me over. "Do you live here?" No. "You can't use this clubhouse." My friend lives here. "You're supposed to sign up to use the clubhouse." OK. I went back to teaching. Five minutes later, she came back again. "A lot of us would love to have a yoga class here, and we'd love to have you teach. Would you consider teaching a class here?" I don't know, I'm in the middle of a class. She told me to call the management company. (I probably won't. Shh.)

It's always a relief to get to final rest. I got the class to savasana, but not before I accidentally blasted them with some Krishna Das as they were settling in. (Another note: check the volume.) But they didn't seem to mind, and I think the head massages while lying on the floor helped. Then Angie rewarded us with some hard-earned homemade croissant bread pudding with vanilla ice cream. Mmm, I can't imagine a better end to Day 2. Thanks Angie!


Mindfully saying yes to too much food

 I was mindful today on this national holiday. The moment fullness set in, I stopped eating and looked at my plate. I then (very intentionally) ignored my stomach's plea for mercy and plowed ahead, finishing the other half of my Thanksgiving dinner. I followed two kinds of stuffing, moist turkey, fluffy mashed and sweet potatoes, silky green bean casserole, fresh rolls, salad and cranberries with a piece of flaky, lovely apple galette I only make during the holidays and a tartly sweet slice of pear cranberry cake baked by my friend and fantastic dinner hostess KGB (best initials ever.)

In case it was somehow unclear, I'm not a vegetarian. Also, I really, really, really like to talk about food. Food and yoga are in a dead heat for the two topics I like to talk about most. You'll probably read a lot of posts about food in the guise of writing about yoga. Like this one. (Pictured below: KGB peeling back the butter-laden cheesecloth from her magnificent turkey.)

I also had a few genuine moments of mindfulness today. My favorite way to start off this particular holiday is at the yoga studio with a Thanksgiving morning practice, and not just because I used a stick of butter in the stuffing. There's something extremely soothing about having time during the day to put the food aside for a moment (just a moment) and really consider gratefulness.

My gratitude this year and the opening I feel from following a new yoga path feel so boundless. But if I had to pick a theme for my gratitude, it would be space: my home space, the space to love the people in my life, the space to bring in the practice of yoga and the space I offer as a teacher to students who need a little room in their lives to stretch. I know there are so many people who have done the same for me, and I didn't even know. Thank you.


Wine, chocolate mousse and a yoga job

I still haven't figured out the normal way to get a yoga teaching job. In my current line of work, it involves the typical cover letter, resume and writing samples. Am I supposed to have a yoga resume?

But after I got back from Mexico, I knew I wanted to teach. I knew I wanted to teach at a new studio two of my teachers were on the cusp of opening. I didn't know how to do it. But training gave me a lot of chutzpah, so three days after I got back from Mexico, I marched on down.

I didn't really have a plan. I just heard through the grapevine that one of the teachers was basically living there trying to get it ready in time, so I popped my head into the construction zone and asked for him. He was in the back with the lighting designer and definitely frazzled. But he took a break and heard me out. He said, "Wow, I didn't know you wanted to teach. That's so great. Sure, we can figure something out. Just email me times that are best for you for classes, and we'll go from there." Then he went back to the lighting designer.

That's really almost exactly how it went. It seemed suspiciously easy. That night, I emailed him and the other owner. She got back to me and we had coffee a few days later. Everything she said thrilled me. My vision for teaching meshes with their vision for the studio: empower others by creating space for people to grow. I want to do it in class, and they want to do it through the studio, eventually starting a nonprofit. Once we got that out of the way, she said she wanted to have a donation-based community class that would make the studio accessible to everyone and also be a place to nurture new teachers like myself. She showed me the pay scale. She asked me what times worked for my schedule. I said, "Weekends are better." She said, "How about noon on Saturday?" Done.

Then I got really, really scared. I'm nervous about teaching, but I was more nervous that I made the offer up, even after I was invited to a teacher dinner and the first meeting. I thought that they might take it back. They haven't yet.

I feel really lucky to be part of the birth of this studio. They have gathered an incredible group of teachers in a gorgeous, thoughtful space. Their energy is so inspiring. They held their grand opening recently, and it was my kind of party, with wine, champagne, cheese and chocolate mousse. There was a huge crowd there for the opening ceremony and the studio's first round of "om." I'm still assisting and learning insane amounts, but I also can't wait to get going teaching. SOON!


Wanna know a secret? Yoga is expensive.

I've spent a good chunk of my paycheck over the years paying to practice yoga at an excellent local studio. But it's nothing compared to training to be a teacher. It's a little scary to add it all up: a weekend teacher training, weekends studying with visiting master teachers like Ana Forrest and Bryan Kest, the weeklong training in Mexico.

But I'm very clear on how much I spent this past weekend: $500. OK, it was two weekends. Isn't that better? (Say yes.) Yoga training is calculated in hours and this past weekend was the culmination of 24 hours learning hands-on assists. When broken down, it's $20 per hour, which seems semi-reasonable to insane yoga people like myself. But I'm still grateful (most of the time) that yoga has become a black hole for my time, and dinners out have pretty much come to a screeching halt. I've reallocated my resources.

But despite the achy upper back and 12 hours confined to a hot studio, I loved the whole weekend. I'm ridiculously happy to spend hours every day talking and thinking yoga, refining postures and luxuriating in some hip opening. My shoulders feel the effects of being lifted deeper into wheel. My wrists are sore from pulling on people's legs. Yes, assisting involves a lot of contact with really sweaty people. I can't even pretend it's appealing to the sane. But I'd do it every day, all day. It's incredibly fun to see people light up when you deepen a twist, get them into the right alignment or help them into a headstand.

I'll help you too. Remember, the free class deal is time limited!


Free Classes! Really!

I came back from my teacher training a month ago with yoga neurons firing: I'm ready! Let me teach! I'll be awesome! But I just started assisting at my studio, and it will take some time before I can teach there. I did finagle a community class that starts in January (how that came to be is a story for another day), but that's too far away for impatient me.

So I have been offering my friends free classes. It's been spectacularly easy to convince people to be my guinea pigs. They have no idea what they're getting themselves into. Yes, I will make you "om," even if there's only one person there. (And this only lasts until January, so if you want in, speak now or forever hold your peace.)

I recently taught a class of three (3!) at my friend Maria's place. I got everyone into child's pose, then realized I had nothing to say. My brain was not functioning and stalled completely once I had the floor. I was slightly panicked. I made them breathe a lot. I'm pretty certain it's going to happen again.

But I had spent some time that day with a homeless woman. She has huge blue eyes and a composed demeanor. She shared some intensely personal details about her life. And she was amazingly, utterly un-resentful about it all. She doesn't get mad that people ignore her in the streets. After she searches for cigarette butts in ash trays, she clears all the other butts and throws them away. She's had trouble getting her food stamps this month so she's been hungry. But she told me all she really wants in life is a cozy place of her own. A car would be nice, if that works out.

I am always looking bigger, higher, wanting more. I have more. In class, I eventually worked my way into a story about gratitude. In some ways, it was a clobber-you-over-the-head kind of gratitude, but if you met her, you'd feel compelled to do the same.


About this blog

Hi, I'm Nicole. I’m a yoga teacher and writer who started this blog to combine two of my biggest passions and shed a little light on This Yoga Life. I live in Seattle, but grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. I have been a resident of states as various as New Hampshire and Alaska, but feel most at ease in the brilliant, beautiful Pacific Northwest.

Seattle also is where my passion for yoga took root. I have been practicing yoga for several years, and teaching since 2009. Since this blog began, I have completed 200 hours of training with Baron Baptiste, and now teach Baptiste Power Vinyasa Flow at several studios around the city.

Through this blog, I have been documenting my teaching journey as I turned what once was a side gig into a full-time job. Besides yoga, there are the usual detours into meditation, into yoga clothes, into playlists and sometimes into food, because if I'm not thinking about yoga, I'm most likely thinking about what I'm going to eat next. But mostly, I'm here to share what a wild ride it is. Welcome.

If you want to send me a personal message via email, please click here.
Header Image from Bangbouh @ Flickr