Thursday, April 28, 2016

When A Zen Yoga Teacher Gets Real About Postpartum Depression



I wrote this for today's Washington Post. It's deeply personal, and pretty scary to publish. But it's a piece that's been writing itself on my heart for a long time now. And the personal is political. So if it makes even one woman feel less alone, then it was worth it.



My son was born on my birthday.

February 22: George Washington’s birthday. Drew Barrymore’s birthday. And mine.

My phone pinged with Facebook notifications as I stood over the hospital trash bin and retched. Three times I emptied my stomach of the apples and peanut butter my husband had lovingly sliced a few hours before. Once into the trash can. Again. And then again into the birthing tub laced with lavender essential oils.

Fiercely feminist, I’d always been ambivalent about having children. I’d watched my peers spawn with nary a twinge of jealousy, content with my books and my yoga. I told myself, “If it happens: great. If it doesn’t: great.”

On our first date, I teased my future husband, Robb, that I’d likely go the way of Sylvia Plath, making the kids sandwiches and sticking my head in the oven.

Six months later, drinking champagne on a pier overlooking Tomales Bay, we were engaged.

A year later, I was pregnant. Robb promised parenthood would make me a better yoga teacher. I rolled my eyes and took a swig of my chai, wishing it were vodka.

He was right. Motherhood has made me a much better yoga teacher.

But I was unprepared for the shattering.

Read the rest here.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Finding Your Dharma In A Bookstore


Later this afternoon, I'll be teaching a History of Yoga workshop for the YoYoYogi teacher training.

For the last week or so, I've been up into the wee hours each night nerding out on Indra Devi and the Bhagavad Gita and more Marilyn Monroe asana pictures than you knew existed. I should be so tired from not sleeping, but I'm not — the exact opposite, in fact: I feel fired up and jazzed to have an excuse to spend time and energy on all this philosophy and history.

When I first moved to San Francisco in August 2003 (and started practicing yoga for the first time 2 weeks later), I didn't know a soul. I was a bookish introvert quite happy to be quietly surrounded by books and music and art. So I spent all my evenings and weekends trolling around SF's iconic bookstores reading geeky yoga philosophy books. There weren't many at the time, but I'd dig out the dishy ones and plop on the floor in City Lights in North Beach or Barnes and Noble overlooking Union Square and lose foggy hours to those texts.

They lit up my mind and stoked my heart and changed my life.

I certainly never sat down to read those books thinking I'd ever have a career in them. That didn't even seem possible. I just did it because they made me hungry for more. They made me feel connected to something deeper. And they made sense of the world in a holistic, intelligent way I'd only ever imagined possible.

So I kept reading. And 13 years later, I get paid to do what I'd do for free, for fun, for the sheer love of it: talk about yoga philosophy!

You can major in Business and decide you're going to be an accountant. You can go to law school and set a clear career path. But if you, like so many of us, wonder what your life's purpose (or dharma) really is, ask yourself: if I could wander into a bookstore and just get lost for a few hours, what would I read first? Which section would I make a beeline for? Where could I disappear and only come up for air hours later, not realizing any time had passed?

That's your heart. That's your passion. THAT'S what wants to be your life's work.

Trust it. Keep reading. You never know where it might take you.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Holy Crap.


Holy crap. Front page of HuffPost Women. Chillin' with Monica Lewinsky. :)

Thanks so much for reading, and relating, y'all. This was one of those pieces that I almost didn't post. Too intimate. My heart raced for a good hour or so after publishing. (Those heart-racers are usually the ones that people end up relating to most. Never fails.)

I always say that good writing should make us feel less alone. The act of writing is blessedly (wonderfully) solitary. The sharing of said writing is incredibly intimate and vulnerable, like sharing a piece of one's innermost self. It's usually, erm, terrifying.

So I am ever and always grateful to anyone who takes the time to read. Thank you.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Spring Newsletter


Just sent out my Spring newsletter. I rarely send these anymore because too much email. If you want to subscribe, there's a button top left. Cheers.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

#ThanksSocialism


Yesterday my family and I went to the library, hiked a state park, mailed a letter, and waved to a fire truck. ‪#‎ThanksSocialism‬ ‪#‎FeelTheBern‬

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

An Insider's Guide To The Definition Of Yoga


Thanks to BeYogi for publishing my latest, An Insider's Guide to the Definition of Yoga:

"And there, right there, in the messy middle of all of it — this is where the yoga starts.

It starts when the breath gets ragged. When you’re not sure why but your chest tightens up, your jaw is suddenly stone, and your mind races. Suddenly you’re worthless and you’ve accomplished nothing and what are you doing with your life anyway, silly?"

You can find the whole thing here.

Yoga Philosophy For Dummies


Delighted to teach a Yoga Philosophy For Dummies workshop at YoYoYogi next month. Open to all, whether you know anything about yoga or not. I promise it won't be woo-woo.

Sign up here.

Monday, April 11, 2016

When I'm An Old Lady, I'll Be Glad I Took This Picture


This is a selfie.

I talk a lot of shit about selfies. Have for a long time. You know, that they're narcissistic and precious and self-conscious and misguided and pretty much the downfall of the yoga world these days. All about "The Gaze," all about "being seen" rather than just "being." The practice lost to the performance. No small thing.

But, shit. That's a goddamned selfie.

And you know what?

I fucking love it.

Do you know how people take yoga selfies? There's not a single graceful thing about it.

That effortless Handstand-on-the-beach? She took 62 shots of that and they were all sandy and shitty. That relaxed Pigeon in the park? He ran back and forth to the camera 17 times before he could actually get into the pose in time. That Natarajasana on the mountain top? She about lost her shit and fell into the Grand Canyon.

I had to prop my iPhone up on a wooden stool and stack a children's book on top of the stool and then a Vitamix pitcher on top of that, and lean the iPhone precariously against the blender. My kid was napping and he'd already been asleep for two hours and was due to wake up any second and my husband was at the gym and it was just me and the afternoon light and my stupid smartphone there for a few rushed minutes. I'd just finished an hour's practice listening to Elizabeth Gilbert and Brene Brown and Cheryl Strayed and was feeling open and strong and unraveled and said to myself, Ahhhhh, fuck it,

I want to take a goddamned picture of this healthy strong bendy resilient 37-year-old body of mine.

So I propped up the shit and turned on the light and set the timer for 10-second-delay and hurriedly softly carefully pushed the button on the precariously-blender-supported iPhone and ran over and dropped on my butt on the wood and took some goddamned selfies.

And most of them suck. Most of them have a foot cut out or a knuckle missing or a hideous slant. Or my thighs groan like hamhocks or my red cheeks glow even in the shit lighting.

But you know what?

One or two, I fucking love. They make me feel fierce and flexible and strong. And, ok, I'll say it: beautiful. They make me feel beautiful.

We are not supposed to say that out loud.

We are not supposed to admit that.

But I will.

When you call yourself beautiful, and really mean it, you are no longer prey to their not-enoughness.

You are no longer at someone else's mercy.
You are no longer living in externally-imposed lack.
You are no longer a slave to the capitalist-misogynistic beauty industry.
Because you no longer need their approval.
And you no longer need to buy their shit.
And you have no desire for $95 pants.
Or $27 mascara.
So you win.

And goddamn, if that isn't liberating.

My first childhood dance teacher just died. Nevorah, she of the long legs and the fishnets and the high-heeled tap shoes and the vague resemblance to a 63-year-old Lucille Ball. (At least in my 5-year-old mind's eye, that is.)

She who hoofed it out with us up on the second floor of a dusty wooden studio there in Brookings, South Dakota, Nevorah and my sister and me, tapping it out to the Beach Boys and Me and My Shadow and god knows what else.

You don't realize the huge impact you can have. Even then, I looked at her and thought: I want to be like this woman. I want to move through life like this tall elegant creature. I want to be able to kick my nose when I'm 63.

Talk about motivation. I think of her still.

She ended up an elderly woman with a broken hip and a dancing spirit. (As we all do, if we're lucky.) And she surely had no idea what an impact she made on a shy little South Dakota girl.

And I realize, even now, that one day I'll be the one in the recliner with the oxygen machine and the twinkly eyes and the broken hip.

So I'll take the damn selfie, in the body that still bends, wearing three-year-old hand-me-down leggings from a teacher-friend and an old black shirt from Target, make-up all sweated off, heels cracked.

And I'll look at that photo and feel like a fucking queen. Regal, all size-8-and-not-size-0 of her. And I'll raise a glass to what she has been through, and that size-0 does not equal joy, and that picnics and books and coconut milk chai teas do, and the baby that body has grown and birthed, and the cupcakes she's eaten and the broccoli she's cooked and the stairs she's climbed and the house she's built and the dirt she's tilled and the lawns she's mowed and the airport floors those hips have slept on and the wooden floors those bare feet have danced on and the crow's feet those eyes have earned and the pots of coffee she's chugged and the grey hairs coming in and the tired eyes who've not slept for two years and the cracked heels and the stubbed toes and the despair and the delight and all of it right there in that body

right there!

resilient as fuck

and

selfie, my ass.

There is no-self. (Haven't you heard?) Anatta, no-self, that idea that we exist only in relationship, that our notions of permanent selves are ever in co-creation, ever fluid. It's a Buddhist thing. But it's also process theology, and ecofeminist theology, and yoga.

And as soon as you drop the notion that you are this particular form, life gets so much easier. Once you were an infant. Now, you're not. Once you were a kindergartener in a duck tutu and tap shoes. Now, you're not. Some day, if you're lucky, you'll be elderly. Now, you're not. Follow me?

I always give a private nod to this reminder at the end of every class. Right as folks are rolling back up into their seats for the final OM, I lead them through one last oh-so-simple head circle, rolling their heads first slowly to the right, and then reversing, circling to the left.

I do it for me, selfishly, that one day if the only yoga-asana my body can manage to do is a simple neck roll, I might remember that it's holy, and it's real, and good, and life-giving, and that I've been practicing for that moment all my life.

I do it for you, too, that even if you don't realize it, you might one day give yourself the same grace, if your body will no longer let you stand on your hands or fly into Hanumanasana.

You are not "you." You are not your selfies. You are not your twists or your arm balances or your vertical splits. You are just this moment. This Sunday-afternoon squeezed-in selfie before the iPhone fell to the floor and the kid woke up and the husband got home and the light changed.

Isn't that a relief?


Thursday, April 7, 2016

New Article: 7 Tips For Teaching A Kick-Ass Vinyasa Class



I wrote this new piece for Yoga International, published today. I've long respected their work, and am thrilled to contribute to this thoughtful, intelligent magazine.

Pretty much my personal teaching philosophy, right here.

A little preview:
Let’s be honest: there are tons of vinyasa classes out there these days.

What can you do to ensure yours is terrific? What are the essentials for designing a really solid class, beyond the basics (like safe sequencing, cueing the breath, and making sure no one passes out)? And how can you make your class the kind of can’t-miss experience that keeps students coming back for more?

Here are seven keys:

1. Be yourself.


Don't get your "yoga-voice" on. I've taken classes from a number of rad, funny, cool yoga teacher friends who, once they step in front of a class, totally lose their personalities and become yoga automatons. Don't be afraid to be real—to speak in your normal tone, like you would in everyday conversation, and maybe even (gasp!) swear once or twice (if that’s normally how you’d talk). People are more relaxed in the presence of a confident leader, and your students will feel at home when you’re at ease. That said…

2. Don't talk too much. For real.


This is the feedback I hear most often from students who have negative class experiences. Have you ever taken a class where the teacher's so eager to fill all the silent spaces that they jabber the whole way through? Honor the introverted, meditative nature of the practice. Nonstop chatter makes it really tough to settle into a meditative flow, and it can be, quite frankly, invasive, unhelpful, and really annoying. So step back. Don't feel like you need to explain everything you've ever learned about a pose or a philosophical topic in the span of five breaths. Offer the basic instructions necessary, count out a few breaths as you go along, and then STFU. Your students will thank you.

3. Keep a nice rhythmic pace, as though you’re playing an instrument.


And I don't mean choreographing your routines to the Skrillex song playing in the background. Let your vinyasa pulse like a heartbeat.
There's much more. Read the whole thing here.

Monday, April 4, 2016

June 26th Yoga + Hiking Retreat



Yes, we're doing it again! 

I'll be back in Northern California the last weekend of June, and summer should be bustin' out all over. Looking forward to sharing another yoga + hiking retreat with you. It's a great chance to get a dose of sky, bust out an old-school vinyasa, luxuriate in a long meditation, and ramble together over sunburned conversation in the woods. 

So please do join us.  

What: Day-long Point Reyes Yoga + Hiking Retreat  

When: Sunday, June 26th, 12-5ish pm  

Where: Toby’s Feed Barn, located at 11250 California Hwy 1, Point Reyes Station, CA. (About an hour northwest of SF and Oakland.) Drive up anytime Sunday morning to enjoy Point Reyes Station. Make your way to YogaToes Studio (MC Yogi and Amanda Giacomini's home studio) between 12-12:15pm for check-in and brief hellos. We’ll share a full vinyasa + meditation practice, take a quick break to change and refuel, and then head out for a 2-3 hour hike in the wilds of Inverness and Point Reyes National Seashore.  

What To Bring: yoga mat, water bottle, solid hiking shoes, sunblock, rain gear (if it’s wet), and comfortable clothes. Wear layers, as temps can drop when the fog rolls in.  

Registration: $50 covers a 2-hr hike and a 2-hr yoga/meditation class. Link is below! (Studio space is limited to 35, so it will definitely fill up.)  

Questions: Email me at rachelmeyeryoga@gmail.com 


Registrations