The Value of Sleep

Quick post – it’s been a while since I last wrote and I’ve recently discovered something so simple that I just have to share. Sleep. I’ve been very busy of late, with a new job at work, a bunch of travel, teaching yoga and taking some workshops, and getting ready for an upcoming trip to India. The one thing that has been lacking is sleep – and I’ve been getting by on 5-6 hours a night pretty consistently for the past several weeks.

I’ve noticed that I’ve definitely been a lot more irritable, less energized and haven’t been as mental sharp and generally optimistic about things.

Starting last Friday, I’ve been making it a point to sleep a LOT. This means getting to bed by 10pm at the latest and getting a solid 9 hours every day (over the weekend I got 12 hours a night….which was a bit too much). The change is dramatic. I find that my entire day goes better and I feel generally happier, mentally tuned in and my relationships with people also seem more connected.

Sleep is important….speaking of which…gotta go to bed soon…teaching yoga in the morning!

Assisting at Level 1 Baptiste Yoga Teacher Training

During one of my many daily practices at the 2008 Level 1 training
During one of my many daily practices at the 2008 Level 1 training

I’m headed back to Level 1 Teacher Training for Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga. I attended last year as a student, and this time I will be an assistant, supporting the other students and teachers in the program.

I’m looking forward to spending another 8 days in the Catskills at Menla Mountain Retreat Center, disconnecting from technology for a while, helping others to learn and grow and I’m sure I’ll also pick a few things up myself. I am always amazed at how the act of teaching others can help you to learn so much.

See you in a week or so!

Never Stop Learning

I sat in a few teacher training classes during a workshop held at my yoga studio this weekend. The training is geared for those who are not yet teaching but have the desire to do so.

Since I am already teaching I’ve had several folks ask me why I would sit on a training session that I’ve already done and progressed beyond. My response has simply been that even if the training is a repeat, I am bound to learn something new. It is like going out on your favorite hike for the fifth time or walking into your favorite restaurant for the second time in a week. Just because it isn’t new doesn’t mean your experience the same as it always has been.

There is always a new experience to be had and new lessons to be learned.

In this training, we spent time doing personal introductions and getting feedback on them. I realized how my body language and tone and filler words (and, but) were keeping me from connecting with people in a powerful way. I’ve done literally thousands of introductions at work, in social settings and to begin yoga classes, but never really thought about how important those first few words I say about myself can really shape others impressions of me. Boy am I glad decided to do this workshop again!

How To Save Money on Taxes

The deadline is quickly approaching for those of us in the United States. In preparing my taxes this year, I realized a curious little truth. There are two sets of tax rules in this country. One for the educated and another totally different set for the uneducated.

This has nothing to do with one’s actual level of schooling. It has everything to do with one’s actual understanding of the tax codes themselves. They are arcane at times, stupefying at others, but those who take the time to understand them stand to make a solid bounty every year.

This is not about trying to get out of paying one’s dues and evading fees. It is simply about being smart and not overpaying where you don’t need to.

Let me give you a personal example. I am happily employed with a great career as a Product Planning Manager at a large software company. As part of this job I incur a large tax burden – as would anyone in a professional career. I made donations to charity and have a few deductions – but nothing too extreme. However, I also pursue a passion outside of my day-job, in the form of yoga. Last year I took the step forward and actually started teaching.

As part of my journey to start teaching yoga, I applies for a business license (very easy to do) and this year I filed my taxes not only for my day-job, but also for my yoga business.

Since I am now in the business of yoga, that opens a number of doors in terms of tax savings. I am able to write-off all the yoga trainings I attend (many thousands of dollars worth in the past year), my yoga clothing, travel and meals related to my training and other books and supplies for this business. I can even write-off auto mileage incurred while traveling to teach or attend workshops and classes.

The simple fact that I took the step forward and turned what was a serious hobby into a real business with the intent to make a profit (I do get paid for teaching!) opened the doors to a huge bounty of write-offs – saving me many thousands of dollars in taxes.

You might be thinking that I probably didn’t enough from teaching yoga to exceed all those expenses. Here is where it gets interesting. You see, even though my expenses were far more than what I made as a yoga teacher this year, I am able to write off those expenses from the income from my day job! This is a really big deal – and something I would guess that most of the American public is completely unaware of.

The same could hold true if you choose to become a “professional” blogger, writer, teacher, fitness instructor, etc…..with a business license and an intent to earn a profit – you open the door to a host of tax savings by offsetting income you make through another career.

If you haven’t taken the time to study the tax code – it is well worth it:

Transitioning From Yoga Student to Yoga Teacher

This weekend I finished a teacher training intensive at my yoga studio. This intensive was 12 hours of yoga over the weekend (Friday night and 2 practices a day on Saturday and Sunday), with 25 other teachers and soon-to-be teachers from the Seattle area (though 1 person came in from Montana!).

My studio, Shakti Vinyasa, is a Baptiste Affiliate Studio, and this style of Power Vinyasa Yoga is quite popular nowadays. The training pushed us all to discover our own inner voice, our reasons for teaching and some of the key building blocks to leading an outstanding class.

Perhaps the most unnerving part of class was leading other students through small 3-5 minutes routines! In fact, at one point during yesterday evening’s class, while all of us were hanging out in downward dog waiting for the teacher to lead us to the next pose, we were asked to raise our leg if we wanted to teach the class.

Of course I did.

And of course I was then called on, and led the class through a little Sun Salutation B (with Crow thrown and a few Lion’s for good measure!). This was my first attempt at teaching a class this size at an actual yoga studio (in front of a bunch of other teacher’s no less!). It was a lot of fun.

Throughout the rest of the intensive, we had several practice rounds of teaching amongst smaller groups, with feedback (intense feedback I might add!) on what we did well and what we could improve on.
Feedback was a critical aspect of the training, and we were pushed to give feedback that focused both on “gems” (things we do well) and “opportunities” (things we could improve on). We were also repeatedly coached to not react to the feedback, and to just accept it.

I must say, that if you have never had to sit and listen to someone praise or critique you and SAY NOTHING… would not realize just how tough it is. No nodding the head or laughing or telling your story about why did such a thing…just sitting and accepting it quietly.

Through this experience, I have had a few realizations about making the transition from Yoga Student to Yoga Teacher:

It is far harder to teach a class (effectively) than I thought.

It is one thing to take class on a regular basis, and another thing altogether to remember the sequencing and cues for proper alignment that are needed when teaching. Remembering the proper breathing pace and cues also takes practice. From my own experience, it was as if there was a barrier between my brain and my mouth….and when I tried to teach, I smacked right into it! Already after just a few days of practice I can see that I’ve improved a lot. It’s also clear that I need to “study” more of the asana sequences and Sanskrit names more rigorously.

It is far more rewarding to teach a class than I thought.

It is a feeling that words cannot describe. On a practical note, teaching is an excellent way to really dial in your own practice. You also get to see many more people doing poses as an observer, which gives you insight into alignment issues you may be having in your own practice. It is also just so much fun. It’s like a runner’s high. I can also see how much you can contribute to society through effective teaching. You can help people remove stress from their lives and bring their bodies back into harmony. I’m so glad I’ve started out on this journey to become a yoga teacher.

For those of you who have read this far, are you a yoga teacher or student? If so, what is your motivation for practicing and/or teaching? Leave a note in the comments please!