Thoughts on Teaching During Covid-19

Life has been different in New York State since mid-March 2020 when we were all directed to stay home and quarantine for the safety of ourselves, our oved ones, and our community. A few days before it was made official that gyms and studios would be closing, my studio, Samsara Yoga Center, made the decision to close our doors and move classes to a screen. Our small studio in Jamestown, NY as well as studios all over the country and world quickly had to adapt. These are some of my reflections of teaching and practicing from home.

 

Where is Everybody?

Going from a room of students to staring at myself teaching to a camera was initially awkward and uncomfortable, and still is, to be honest. As a yoga teacher I never practiced while I taught, meaning I didn’t plan a thoughtful, progressive class so that I could practice for 75 minutes with everybody else. Instead, I warmed up with the class so that I could demo new or challenging poses, but I also walked the room checking alignment and giving verbal and physical adjustments. Teaching yoga was not my time to practice yoga, it was a kinesthetic communication.

Now I have no students to feed off of, I have nobody to teach. I have no idea the level of the student who is practicing with me during the live filming and of course nor the level of student choosing to practice with the filmed video at a later time. Therefore, I have to include a lot of modifications just in case, which I do in a studio class as well, but this time it feels more overwhelming to give all modifications (which is impossible) just in case the person practicing has wrist issues, tight hamstrings, low back pain, or any other number of countless ailments.

One option to change all of this would be to alter this experience so that I could see  students would be to switch my classes to Zoom instead of FB Live, but I like the open schedule that filmed classes provide for my students who are mothers or busy and like many of us, whose schedules have gone out of the window and now can practice whenever they want, not just at 6pm on Thursday. Another reason I am not going with Zoom is because my ego does not want to cope with a screen of no-shows. It’s damaging enough to watch people come and go on a Live Stream on FB, but at least some people click on the live stream now and again to check it out and there are some dedicated students (my awesome sister) who practice with me week after week.

Maybe I should Just Quit

I have been practicing and teaching for a eleven and seven years, respectively, I have taught in many different locations as I moved around the world and traveled. My classes are sometimes full and sometimes only one student shows up and we have a 1:1 private class. I roll with the ebbs and flows of student population in class, but recently during virtual teaching I honestly considered calling it quits for a while. It felt futile. That I wasn’t reaching many, that I couldn’t properly teach, couldn’t react to students and give them modifications, that nobody was tuning in. And to be honest, I have lost the bulk of my yoga income due to the virus. I will be ok since yoga is my side hustle, but as well as being a primary passion in my life, I also teach yoga for an income, which has not been reduced to almost zero.

Then I listened to a couple of podcasts on adapting to this time and my creativity was reignited. Knowing that every other yoga teacher is also struggling right now didn’t necessarily make me feel better, but it made me realize that my dark thoughts are probably common. You really put yourself out there teaching a class and it doesn’t matter how many themes I teach on letting go of the ego, it is always there nagging me constantly. We all feed off of our surroundings, interactions, and increasingly more and more off of social media, all of it feeding our egos for better or for worse. Not having many watch my live stream, no privates, no corporate sessions, and no income was quite the kick in the gut.

Seeing the Bright Side

Thankfully, I have pulled myself out of that sense of defeatism and am switching my perspective from a place of feeling futile to feeling inspired  to be creative and work with our current situation. Now is a good time to try new things, to create the content that has floated around the back of my mind without ever being fully formulated. Now I have the time to bring my ideas into fruition. In fact, I did just that when I taught an Earth Day Yoga class, which was a blend of my two passions – environmentalism and yoga. As I mentioned in the class and a post, the more you learn about very real situations in our environment the more depressed you may become, yoga is a necessity to curb those feelings of sadness and to bring us all together to make the changes that are needed.

I can’t deny a truth that teaching online makes my yoga more accessible to people everywhere. Students that I taught years ago in Korea can now practice with me if they wish. I can practice with my old teachers and discover new teachers around the world. As much as I was hoping that people would donate, even something very small like $2 or $3 for a class, I no longer hold on to that thinking, because I don’t only teach for money (although I know that my skill is monetarily valuable and am not arguing that teachers should not be paid) but to spread the mental and physical benefits of yoga, especially when needed such as now.

There will come a time when I will be back to teaching in person. Until then I will develop more content that I haven’t been brave enough to teach, and if nobody watches, well, I can handle that. Maybe it will reach the one person that needs it and it will have all been worth it.

50th Earth Day!

Today is April 22, 2020 – the 50th Earth Day since the first in 1970 and what a good day it has been.  All day I have been watching performances, panel discussions, and experts speak on the realities of the dangers that we face in climate change and creating a sense of community although we are extremely separate during Covid-19.

Just minutes ago I completed teaching a 45 minute, all levels yoga class for Earth Day; teaching about climate change, climate action, and climate grief has been a goal of mine broadly since 2016.  Not long ago I was meeting with a fellow yoga teacher and a nonprofit, nature preserve organization to organize my goal into a reality, but of course that is no longer going ahead, so it was so beautiful to be able to teach virtually and combine my two passions of yoga and environmentalism.

Yoga and environmentalism, activism, and climate justice have such a link to yoga.  In my opinion they are one in the same, because yoga is mindfulness and in order to care you have to know.  It is so easy to bury our heads, plug our ears, and look away, but it is brave and necessary to seek more information, educate ourselves and make changes in our lives as well as encourage those around us and pressure businesses and governments to shift to be greener.

Other ways that I celebrate the day were going for a couple of walks with my dog and husband, watering my plants and seedlings, and spending time working in the garden.  If you are looking for inspiration on Earth Day, then visit: www.earthday2020.org for live streams today, April 22, through Friday, April 24.  If you are reading this at another time in the year, then seek out organizations that speak to you and that are pushing the change that you want to see in the world.

If you would like to practice my Earth Day yoga, visit my FB page and search in videos.  If you’re interested in hosting your own Yoga for Climate Grief classes via Zoom, please send me a message on my FB page.

Happy Earth Day!!!  What a beautiful place we live in, I am so grateful.

Blue Yellow Quote Earth Day Poster

Yoga in the time of Covid 19

One day before schools shut down in NYS, the yoga studio where I work, Samsara Yoga Center decided to close their doors and make classes available online for students, a few days later, all NYS gyms and restaurants closed their doors. The past few weeks of teaching from home and practicing from home have been somewhat stressful as I learn the technology, but also really comforting and grounding. Friends from years ago joined my online class, which was a beautiful surprise. This past Sunday I simultaneously practiced with over 2k people and Sean Corne.

As a teacher it is slightly difficult to teach live stream classes or pre-recorded classes taught to nobody. The first reason is that there are no students to feed off of, to make real time micro changes to class when the students are fatiguing or to adjust common alignment issues. In order to give as many cues for as many bodies and abilities as possible it feels as if I am speaking too quickly and lose my breath (which can also be attributed to speaking fluidly through namaskara A & B.)

The other difficulty is the unreliability of the technology. Primarily the ability to decide to teach from home and to be available to anyone in the world with a couple of clicks is absolutely a blessing. However, when the camera doesn’t turn on, or as happened yesterday, you accidentally record from the wrong FB profile, and you are dealing with fixing the issues just as your class is set to begin and then once the camera starts rolling you have to revert right to your calm, teacher self is a chameleon-like necessary skill and causes real stress.

The primary thing that I miss about live, in person classes are the people. The energy, the community, the small talk. I practice mostly from home, but when I go to a vinyasa class in studio, I feed off of the high energy and feel so invigorated. This is something that I hope my vinyasa students feel when they attend our weekly vinyasa classes in studio and that I am looking forward to when we are able to meet again.

But to bring it back to the positives, I felt so connected while practicing with so many others around the world with a live stream with Sean Corne. Sean gave the practice so much meaning and united us through these difficult times. As people joined and commented on the live stream I saw that three of my friends were on which made me smile knowing that we were doing class together.

In my biased opinion, yoga is absolutely needed right now. Intentional movement of the body is beneficial to those of us isolated in our houses for weeks on end. Deep, calm breathing helps us find that body/mind connection and helps us ground. There are so many independent teachers and large and small studios offering online classes, varieties of styles to try, and the ability to reconnect with favorite teachers and studios from our past.

Some of these classes are completely free, but many teachers are asking for small donations for their time and skill and because we have lost our income for the foreseeable future. If you have a couple of dollars that you could spare and can donate a class fee or a small amount to the teacher or studio that you practice with, then that will help the studios pay their teachers, pay the rent and utilities, and keep them afloat. I have seen a beautiful outpouring of support for local restaurants at this time and would love to see a similar support for other small businesses in similar situations, except many small businesses are even worse off than restaurants right now as their doors are completely shut.

To support your local studio you can donate, buy gift carts or passes for the future, or shop their online boutiques. If you do not have the spare income to donate or give right now, then you can like, share, comment and keep practicing with them virtually.

Managing the Ego, Part II

The last post on the site began as a general musing on the ego and quickly morphed into a commentary on social pressures primarily on women by media and social media as well as thoughts on pressures to show a lot of skin simply because I am a woman and also a commentary on how often yoga images also tend to . This second installation moves more specifically into the ego in the yoga world, where there is much discussion and emphasis on quelling the ego when it inevitably creeps into asana practice.
Both as a student of yoga and also as a teacher of yoga, I constantly work to balance fear of judgement, pressures to push further, and suppressing my mind’s reaction to successes within my practice.
When I am a student in a studio there is a human instinct to compete with others in the class as well as with the teacher. Competition many would agree, has no place in a yoga class, but it undoubtedly shows up. Another word for this is the ego. An example – in an intermediate class the teacher cues a challenging pose such as Parsvottanasana (Pyramid Pose.) My choice to use Pyramid pose as an example may have surprised some of you, thinking an even more difficult pose like Side Crow would be more of an obvious choice for a challenging pose (pesky ego,) but both poses are challenging for different reasons – Pyramid for flexibility and Side Crow for strength and flexibility.
An example, many students who attend yoga classes and many people who live in the modern world (ahem, all of us) have tight hamstrings, more so if the student is an athlete or physically active with running or biking, generally more so for men, but to the point, tight hamstrings is common.
Back to the scenario – the teacher cues Pyramid Pose (an intense forward fold) and you’re in a class full of students who seem to have hamstrings made of puddy, they’re folding forward, touching the ground with their hands, head to shin, the full works. A version of the classical pose. You however, have tight hamstrings and the floor seems miles away. But, the ego creeps in, and it’s loud. Your mind is illogically telling you that you’re just like them, you’ve been coming to class longer than thew new girl, therefore you should be able to do the same. If you act on this thought process a couple of things may occur:

1) you might reach for the floor without blocks and/or keeping a gentle bend in the knee and this could cause damage (tearing even) of the hamstrings at their connection points. 2) This is the much less severe reaction, which is that blocks may be used, the front leg may be safe form injury, but there may be a need to get the forehead to the shin in which case extreme rounding in the back will occur. This is not going to be an instantaneous injury and may never lead to an injury, but it may cause discomfort in the back and does not display integrity of the pose.

Now, I am a yoga teacher and have been a student of yoga for many years, so I hypothesized all of that in roughly 20 seconds. Some students however who do not have the same knowledge of yoga or the body, and not even the knowledge yet of their own body, will put their muscles and tendons in jeopardy in a matter of tenths of a second because they’re giving into the pressure of the ego and attempting to do what others are doing; teachers are by no means immune to this, let me be clear.
In fact this brings me to how the ego gives me trouble as a teacher. It happens every time I teach and I have been teaching for over six years, anxiety. Much less than when I was a new teacher, and dependent on the day, size of class, all sorts of factors. Somewhat negative thoughts run through my head before and during class, and they’re never the, “Man, I’m good” sort of thoughts. Never have my nerves or doubts been debilitating, but it’s also never not been there to some degree. Another teacher friend of mine who had more experience, and drew many students to her class confided that she also felt nerves before teaching every workshop. I’ve heard on Yogaland (podcast with Andrea Ferreti & Jason Crandell) that Jason Crandell did get nervous before teaching but no longer does (he’s been teaching for over 20 years.) This form of the ego is not as dangerous, maybe it’s even healthy, a sign that teacher’s are concerned with the job that they’re doing, and we can’t forget that teaching is a vulnerable position – to be in front of a a roomful of students, to be in front of a handful of people in general and to speak to them, guide them and teach them for over an hour would be nerve-wracking to pretty much anyone.  I’m not ashamed or embarrassed by my nerves as a teacher, just another example of my ego and self doubt creeping around in my thoughts.
Teaching Beach Yoga

Sunset Yoga at Gwangan.

This leads me to my final thought on the ego (for now,) which is that for all of us in our practice there are big and small wins, poses that have been worked on for years and years and one day are achieved. When this happens the ego is inflated. There is celebration, Instagram posting, and sheer joy at the success. This ties into the last post, the ego is what pushes us to take and post the yoga picture (guilty as charged,) to show off our most advanced poses on social media, but this is also a lesson of the ego, another way for it to be managed. Kathryn Budig said in a Yogaglo class that she did a handstand for the first time years and years ago and she came out of the pose with a big smile in an obvious celebration, and her teacher came over to her and said something to the effect of, “Ok, good. Now let it go.” That story has stuck with me and comes to mind every time I have a small yoga success, I consciously let go of the ego inflation to not further feed the ego.  It is a never ending balance to the management that I work on every day and in every single yoga practice.

Managing the Ego

Initially this was going to be a single post, but as I began writing I realized that there was no way that it was all going to fit into one. There is a lot to say as a woman and as a yoga student and teacher about managing the ego. Mindfulness through my practice has made me more and more aware of how the ego permeates my life every single day.

It’s a constant job, managing the ego, one that I have become more acutely aware of thanks to my yoga practice. As a teacher it is a reoccurring theme in classes that I teach. As a female it is a lifelong struggle, not to say that it isn’t for our counterparts, men, trans, etc., because of course it is, but I believe it becomes a permeating issue for young girls much earlier than it does for boys. Specifically I am referring to body image issues.

Young girls and women are bombarded with sexualized images of women in fashion magazines, on TV and movies, in music videos, commercials and advertisements. There’s a cultural pressure to be “pretty”, to wear makeup and expose skin. Although it may not be realized by those that it effects, there is a never ending expectation on American women and women world wide, that leads to low self esteem, eating disorders, and in some cultures, such as Korea where I lived for five years, a massive beauty products industry and even thriving plastic surgery industry.

Think about it for yourself, imagine the last pop culture/mainstream entertainment that you last saw. Ask yourself how the women and girls were portrayed. Men as well can be portrayed with shirts off for example, but it is far less common. Red carpets are a prime example of the disparity. Fashion is something that I enjoy, so after big events I like to look at images of what people wore. The women’s dresses tend to have ridiculously plunging necklines (a-la J-Lo’s green dress at the 2000 grammys), very short skirts, cut outs or sheer fabrics over nothing more than what may as well be underwear. And what do men wear to these events? Three piece suits. They literally could not be covered up more unless they wore gloves and scarves.

The yoga world is unfortunately not immune to this norm. Google the word yoga, select images, and scroll. Most of the images will be of fit, thin, muscular women, some of whom are not wearing shirts, majority of the images will be of white women.

I have to pause and have a brief interlude to say that I somewhat hypocritically, and contrary to the main theme of this writing, believe that if you work hard on your physical fitness and are proud of your body and it’s capabilities through whatever means of your choice, yoga, running, cycling, zumba, and you want to show off your hard work and are a confident, proud adult, then please by all means practice yoga in your sports bra and short shorts. In fact this is the Ashtanga way and even B.K.S. Iyengar wore little shorts while doing yoga his whole life and I completely respect him for that. What I am arguing here is that marketing relies on sex selling which leads to a cultural pressure to be what is seen everywhere and I do not believe that it is healthy or necessary.

Iyengar

Although yoga clothing is often sold with images of women in their bras and leggings, or exposing more skin in their bras and short shorts, there are some brands that do better than others of purposefully having more realistically sized models and plus sized models, that should be recognized, but it certainly is not the case for all brands. In fact, in writing this I looked up one of the  biggest names in yoga gear and surprisingly discovered that the line that they’re featuring on their website at the moment of winter 2020 is actually quite modest full of long sleeves, turtlenecks, and drapes of excess fabric.

I had an experience at a studio in a tropical location in which the teacher taught in just her bra and leggings. I don’t want to sound overly puritanical, but I believe that to do so as a teacher is distracting to our students and will more than likely lead them into negative self talk because that is our default as people and primarily as women. As I said before, practicing yoga in little clothing is in some lineages traditional, and I think that women should have the ability to practice in a hot yoga studio or hot climate without a shirt on the same as men, but for a teacher in a place of authority and power I believe that it is not the most responsible decision that we could make.

It is for this larger cultural reason that I purposefully do not often post pictures of myself in my sports bra doing yoga or in my bikini (I only practice so scantily clad at home when very hot in the summer, to my best knowledge there are a handful of shots on my Instagram feed, it is certainly not a common way that I post.) For many young women there is a pressure to post sexy Instagram posts, to get more likes and because that is what the broader culture glorifies.

In a similar manner, Instagram posts of beautiful women performing difficult yoga poses in however many levels of yoga hype up the ego in yoga practice, making many of us feel less than for the inability to do the same. The next post will delve more into the work of the ego in wanting to achieve the perfect pose and how that mindset can in fact be detrimental.

 

 

Studio Review – School House Yoga, Erie, PA

This review has been spinning around in my head since I attended a lovely workshop with my twin sister who was visiting the area from DC for a week in August 2019. It wasn’t for a lack of inspiration that this post has not been written but rather simple procrastination, although that has nothing to do with the studio, it’s my own personal battle.
Schoolhouse Yoga in Erie, PA is located on the east side of the city in a renovated school building which also houses many other cool businesses and organizations. Having studied in Erie, I know that there is so much more of a need for a studio on the east side than the west side, so I was very happy when I realized where the studio is located.
The workshop that we attended was a Sound Bath and Yin class. It was relaxing calming. The studio is an old school room, rectangular in shape, so all of the instruments were in the center of the room while students bordered the old classroom, making for balanced acoustics for all.

 

Before I tell more about the workshop itself, I have to describe the studio which was simply gorgeous. I am biased because I have a deep love for history, but due to it’s corner location, there were two walls of windows letting in so much sunlight on that August morning, and a fresh breeze. The chalkboards were still on the walls, now adorned with yoga artwork. There’s even a coat room, necessary in our cold, winter climates and convenient to have separate space for students’ belongings to not clog up practice space.
The studio was full of props which were handy for the slow restorative/yin style practice that was taught during the sound bath. The teacher took her time walking from student to student to make sure that the props were in a good position to make the pose comfortable. The waves of sound from the gongs were just what we needed to kickstart a relaxing day at Presque Isle with our girlfriends, the workshop was a prelude to my sister’s Bachelorette Party and since we’re both yoga lovers, it was a good way to start.
The studio has a variety of teachers and classes that it offers. This studio has it’s classes arranged as sessions that last for eight weeks. Students are encourage to purchase a pass for the entire session and arrange enrollment through each individual teacher, contact information found on the website. Classes offered include: beginner, multi-level, chair, and interestingly, a class titled Energy Medicine Yoga.
Cost of class passes are: $10 for one class, $36 for four, and $64 for eight classes. The workshop that we attended was priced at a very reasonable $15.
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Avoiding Plastic Tips 2.0

I am obsessed, I can hardly go a couple of hours without thinking about my plastic use, people’s use around me, and use as a community, nation, and global population. In all honesty, I don’t understand how people couldn’t think about it all the time considering that plastic surrounds us wherever we are pretty much every single day. Wherever you’re reading this from right now pause and consider what plastic is nearby you. Maybe it’s the bottle of water in your bag, the plastic casing of the device that you’re reading this from, or quite likely it is in your clothes and home items (curtains, carpet, upholstery, etc.)

As a 5 Gyres Ambassador I always make sure to say during every single one of my talks that I do not hate plastic, it saves lives in hospitals and via medical devices every day. I use plastic in ways listed in the intro paragraph in my home and when I drive my car (plastic dash and other parts) and work at my computer, but plastic production and consumption has really gotten out of control. Therefore, I always try to cut back on my use. I stopped drinking bottled water and other single use beverages a few years ago, I always refuse straws at restaurants, and take other such steps so that I personally do not contribute to plastic pollution. There are the well-known ways to cut back, refusing single use, but here are some larger ways to reduce your plastic dependence, because we all have it.

Shop Local

This is an obvious one, but it has many positive impacts. Ever since swapping to organic cotton produce bags I have bought more produce in bulk which means I waste less food (before shopping for a household of two would mean wasting a lot of food before we could ever get to it) and I also visit local produce stands more with my produce bags. When shopping at mainstream grocery stores the majority of the fresh section is sadly wrapped in thin plastic bags and if it doesn’t come that way then that’s how it ends up going home with shoppers from one of the giant rolls of flimsy plastic produce bags provided.

Shopping more locally and at a scale that’s better for a household of two means that the food that we eat travels less to our table and therefore maintains more of its nutrients once there. While visiting my in laws in France for an extended amount of time it was fascinating the market culture of the French – they shop frequently and eat fresh. I aim for that type of grocery shopping as much as I can now. Another added benefit is keeping money in the local economy and supporting a family run business.

Mend and Make Do

Modern American culture is extremely consumeristic, shopping has evolved into not just a hobby but into a frequent way of living for many, a lot of it to do with keeping up with the Jones’. It can take a lot of effort, but instead of allowing yourself to replace items when they break or when the newest must-have hits the store, ask yourself if you can repair, or if you know someone else who can repair for you if you lack the skills – Facebook and other social media outlets are a great place to ask such questions, and also ask yourself if you can get by without.

Clothes are the obvious example here. I have a bag set aside with my items that need mending and whenever a road trip comes up I try to remember to take my sewing for the passengers seat. It seems a really old fashioned thing to do, but it used to be the norm before fast fashion took over the world. Women mostly used to spend a large portion of their time mending the families clothing because clothes were either handmade and/or expensive to buy from a store.

IMG_4663The same goes for electronics. The hype around new iphones exemplify this. Not only does buying secondhand or getting your phone repaired if it bites the dust help keep plastic out of landfill, but it is also more ethical since in production and end of life our electronics are very polluting to those who mine for the metals that make them work and  those who ‘recycle’ our electronics by burning them whole (air pollution via burning plastics) in order to retrieve the wires again.

 

Surround Yourself with Nature

When shopping for items for your home or closet opt for natural fibers and materials. This is usually much more expensive, say to buy a wool rug instead of a synthetic fiber rug, but if you cut back spending in general over the long run spending more on fewer items may balance out if you follow a budget. Lately I have been buying a lot of baskets for organizing, they’re easy to find secondhand and they’re pleasing to look at and to touch, as opposed to a plastic organizer that is far more likely to break.

As with all plastics they are not just harmful at the end of life when they often end up polluting land, water, and air, but they are also detrimental from the beginning of production. Plastics are made from fossil fuels meaning they have a direct link to global warming, they also have been found to off gas when littered on land or sea contributing again to global warming and throughout the time that we use our plastic products, plastics release possibly dangerous chemicals. All around bad.

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DIY More

This goes hand in hand with make do and mend, when something runs out do a google search to see if it can be made at home, saving you money but probably not time. Of course it will take more time and energy to do research and learn something new, but it is rewarding to realize how much you can do for yourself and your family. Say for example, laundry soap – I have two friends that make their own, it’s cheap and lasts a long time. I have yet to try their recipes, but did use soap nuts for a while years ago. Recently I was reminded of soap nuts on social media and think I’ll go back.

Other ideas for making for yourself include play dough for your kids, baking and making treats at home instead of buying processed, making your own skin care and cleaning products, and maybe try baking your dog treats. There are blogs and recipes galore on all of the ideas above and so many more to try.

 

These are just a few areas where you can cut back on plastic use if you’ve already mastered the refusing single use straws, cups, silverware, and more. Maybe you’re fresh on your plastic free life or maybe you’re somewhere in the middle, aware of the negative side effects of plastic but still dependent, we all can do our part as the way we spend our dollars encourage companies to shift their packaging and production, so support less plastic production and packaging and be creative as you move away from this omnipresent material.

 

Studio Review – Evolution, Burlington, VT

It was a while ago that I visited Vermont for the first time on a work trip, but Evolution, the studio that an old friend took me to has stuck in my mind ever since the visit. Sure, it was only a little over two months ago, but I’ve been behind on the posting and have been formulating this post because there’s so much good to say about this studio.

I fell in love the instant I walked into the welcoming entryway which was warm and inviting with plenty of seating and a desk to sign in at. My fellow yoga trainee (we trained together in Nicaragua graduating with our 200 CYT,) a local of Burlington and also a former teacher at Evolution, got me signed in with the waiver and guided me around the studio. We dropped our belongings off in a back room where students stored yoga mats and where changing areas were located. I then headed to the restroom where, get this, there was a squatty potty. That might not seem like a big deal, but I was quite impressed, especially since I had never used one before, I’d only heard of them and their magic before. It was pretty magical, reminiscent of actual squatty potties in Asia.

It all makes sense when you learn that the owners of Evolution are physical therapists. That also explains all of the books for sale in the waiting room, many technical yoga books along with spiritual. Suffice it to say, it is my idea of a close to perfect yoga studio. When I dream of my future, commercial yoga space there’s always a library, I hadn’t dreamt as big as squatty potties, but they may have made it on to my list now.

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The yoga class that we took on a Saturday morning was Vinyasa I/II, an hour and 15 minute class that was just what I needed after traveling and sleeping in hotels. The teacher taught what to me seemed to be a very traditional or Eastern style of vinyasa, it certainly was not power yoga, which I highly appreciated. There was more explanation, more description of alignment, and more guiding inwards instead of simply a physical practice. That’s not to say that it was easy, however. For my practice it was just right – steady yet full of flows to keep the heart rate up and build strength.

All sorts of styles and programs are offered at Evolution, likely because of the physical therapy background, the studio is more than a place to be guided through yoga poses strung together, it is a place to learn and, well, evolve. They even have a rope wall, which I sadly have never had the pleasure of using before and wish I had had time to attend a class.

The schedule at Evolution is full and classes are priced at $15 for a drop in, however there are multiple class passes that help students save. The studio offers yoga for families, prenatal, and kids yoga – information can be found here. Physical therapy sessions can be scheduled, massage, and they lead frequent continuing education for yoga teachers.

I am grateful for the opportunity to visit Burlington, a city that I have had interest in visiting for a few years, to meet up with an old yoga friend, and grate to her for showing me such an impressive yoga studio. Evolution is everything in a yoga studio that I enjoy – community, healing, continuing education, and more. If you find yourself in Burlington and are itching for some yoga, then I highly encourage you to go no further than Evolution. The studio is located at 20 Kilburn St, Burlington, VT.

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Plastic Free July 2019 In Review

It’s practically mid-August and I’m continuing to reflect on my month of attempting to refuse single use plastic as a commitment to participate in #PlasticFreeJuly. This year was my third or fourth year joining the movement and encouraging others to join with me. This year I was extra careful, but I still had slip ups. This is a recounting of how my month went, good and bad, along with some tips on new ways I’ve discovered to cut back on plastic use.

First the bad and then I’ll end with the good and hopeful. Last month I tried my best to not use single use plastic for the entire 31 days, but there were times when it was given to me before I could say or do anything and there are also items in my daily life that I haven’t quite been able to give up (tortilla chips come to mind, my go to snack).

Two examples of plastic that were given to me without any warning both took place at restaurants. The first was at a cool BBQ spot on Lake Erie where I went with my husband after an afternoon of him riding his SUP and me making progress on my novel (reading not writing, ha!) We sat outside to be able to see the lake as the sun went down and as we perused the menu the friendly waitress brought us two ice waters both with tall, black, plastic straws sticking out of them.

The second time I was out with a friend in Jamestown after teaching my class and we tried a newer restaurant I’d never been to. I’d heard hipstery things about the place, it seemed trendy with an interesting menu and lots of beer on tap. We ordered sliders and tater tots. The tater tots came out with two plastic forks stabbed into them. The sliders were on wooden or bamboo boards. I didn’t say anything and had my real fork in my backpack, but I hadn’t known that the food was going to come with plastic forks. Fail.

In my teens and twenties I worked in the restaurant industry, I like to think that I was a good server – staying ahead of a table’s needs to make them happy and earn good tips. I understand that that is what the waitress at the BBQ restaurant was doing when she brought us waters without prompting. Unfortunately I haven’t gotten to the point where I feel comfortable confronting strangers about single use plastic, so I said nothing, besides moaning to my husband. It was an even bigger shame because we were sat feet away from Lake Erie and so many straws were going into the trash at this place everyday. There was a big disconnect between the natural beauty that draws people to the area and the constant litter being produced.

I decided that I will not visit the other restaurant that gave us straws again, that might not be fair, but I don’t like to support restaurants that charge a pretty penny for pretty good food in a hip atmosphere and then use plastic silverware, it knocks the experience down a couple of notches, like drinking a coffee out of a styrofoam cup, yuck. It just doesn’t feel nice.

Success stories time now. For the past few months I have been shopping as much in bulk as I can. Options for this are very limited, so mostly this is just snacks such as sesame sticks or chocolate covered peanuts, but it has meant that I was less wasteful during two recent road trips that I took. I fill up old ziplocks at the bulk section because my cotton produce bags have wholes in them so produce can breathe. A cashier at my local store where I do this commented that she’s trying to cut back on plastic and never thought of reusing zip locks. It touched my heart that she said that, because although this local grocery store chain prides itself on being progressive I have never once heard a cashier ask if a customer would like paper or plastic, instead they ask “Is plastic ok?” and every time I hear that I want to scream, “No! It’s not f*ing ok!” and then go on to tell them all of the statics that I know. But again I don’t like to confront strangers and know that I would look like a real nutter if I did that. I have thanked other customers for remembering their bags though, which is also a little bit weird, but I hope they appreciate it. I’m always taking inventory on how many people brought their reusables and it’s usually just me and one other person out of a good 60 that I watch going in and out of the store. #sad

Straight up denial, refusal, and restraint were the best tactics for Plastic Free July. I was at a farmer’s market with a fellow teacher and she bought a delicious treat at a friend’s bakery stall. I wanted to support her and have a treat myself, but I said no because of the challenge of the month. She explained that due to her permit she has to package them in single use plastic sleeves, I know that it’s an issue of sanitation, but I wish there was an alternative.

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Another win was the purchase of a plastic (but not single use plastic) Tupper Ware vegetable tray from a thrift store. I used it to take a veggie tray into work for a snack day. I also made my own homemade dip that was pretty similar to ranch and very easy to make. The base was yogurt which my husband makes in our instant pot. Then spices and herbs from the garden. I bought only produce that wasn’t in plastic bags to use in the tray, so other than the gallon of milk used to make the yogurt there was no plastic involved in the dish. Sure, it was a lot more effort than buying a prepared veggie tray, but it was a lot cheaper than and didn’t create waste with the tray, lid, or dip in a tub. Plus, I now have that Tupper Ware item and yogurt dip recipe to utilize again for a pot luck or family gathering.

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The final thing I did last month that has increased my success was to join a couple of groups on Facebook that are geared towards finding alternatives to single use plastic. The primary one that I have been following is called Plastic Free Support and it is an extremely active page. There are multiple posts each day mostly of people asking for advice and tips on how to make good changes and every post gets many responses full of new ideas. I love that it’s an international group to see what others are doing around the world and ways we can learn from each other.

Being a part of a community is a key part of this life change I have been moving towards for the past six years. It is very easy to feel defeated and as if my choices aren’t actually making a difference, but I have had others tell me that I have inspired them to make change, which is a major motivator for me. Plastic is everywhere, look around wherever you are right now and start noticing it, a habit you won’t be able to stop doing once you start. It takes time, effort, research, and patience, but I will one day be living as plastic free a life as I can.

Did you have Plastic Free July success?

Studio Review – True Yoga Vermont, Rutland, VT

At the end of June 2019 I traveled with my husband to Vermont, for me it was for the first time, to attend a training for work. We extended my work trip into a little mini-vacation, renting an adorable Airbnb on a lake, riding bike trails, visiting farmers markets, and of course going to yoga classes. The first studio I visited in Vermont was in Rutland, a small city south of Burlington by about an hour and where my work training was held. I found True Yoga Vermont online and signed up for their new student deal which was just $20 for a week of unlimited classes.

There is something that you should know about True Yoga Vermont before going – it’s a hot yoga studio. They have hot pilates, Bikram, and flow classes. It’s my opinion that hot yoga is not for everyone, but many people love the experience of doing yoga in a very hot room. True Yoga Vermont certainly believes that hot yoga is for everyone as they outline in their FAQ section. Just know that hot yoga is demanding, so take it at your own pace, even experienced yoga students will likely struggle with the stress of the heat if not used to it. The heat may also cause some to feel dizzy, be sure to rest if you’re feeling fatigued – trust me, teachers don’t mind at all if you rest in child’s pose for a while or a long time, we understand that you are listening to your body.

Regardless of the heat, or because of the heat?, True Yoga Vermont is a fantastic studio in a old renovated bowling alley with tons of character. The owner, Liz, does a great job of making new students feel welcome whether they’re just new to the studio or they’re new to yoga in general. The studio’s website has guidelines of what to expect, how to make the best of your new yoga practice, and how to safely see results from practicing in the heat. Better than just a great website, True Yoga Vermont’s staff are friendly once you arrive and there’s even a sweet little goodies bag for new students after their first class, a detail that gave me the warm fuzzies.

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As mentioned, the studio is in an old bowling alley on the second floor. There are two studios in the space and a spacious welcoming area complete with merchandise for sale – clothes, mats, and more. There is also a big changing area that has two showers which are vital after a class in which simply entering the space makes sweat bead on the body. Honestly, during the flow class I attended I saw sweat on my arms where I’d never noticed sweat before, it was quite interesting and obviously a detoxifying and purifying experience. For sure it felt effective.

Liz’s welcome statement on the homepage of the website states that it’s normal to feel nervous and excited when trying yoga or hot yoga for the first time, but that the studio is there to support and guide through the experience and that there is no need to know what you’re doing or to be flexible in order to attend. She also says that True Yoga Vermont is a community, I love that. It is a ethos of mine to learn my students’ names, to learn about their lives outside of the studio and to mold unique classes that will aid them on and off the mat, clearly Liz and everyone else at True Yoga Vermont have similar sentiments. I definitely noticed during class that Liz knew her returning students and gave them coaching throughout their practice. She spoke to me before class as a new student to gauge my level, not out of judgement, but to see how much aid I would need. What every good teacher should be doing.

Unfortunately I did not get to maximize my new student special of a week of unlimited classes. I was planning to return the following two days that I was in Rutland, but I can’t have all of our vacations revolve around yoga, so spent quality time on bike trails and eating ice cream with my husband instead. If you live in Rutland I encourage you to try the new student special and to get to as many classes as you can. If I’m ever back in quaint Rutland, I will for sure be returning to True Yoga Vermont.

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