Category Archives: teaching

Odds and Ends

happy Fall!

I am on my third week of my first ever “No Fear Yoga” session, which has confirmed my belief that beginners are definitely the most fun and most rewarding to teach. They are easily impressed, willing to try, and notice improvement almost immediately.

I have 13 people in my class (12 women, 1 men), ages ranging from early 20s to early 60s. About half of the class is friends/coworkers and half strangers who found me through the Parks and Rec catalogue. We do a lot of slow flow, gentle stretching, nothing too strenuous. My goal each time is to get them feeling good so they’ll come back. So far it’s working and I have two ladies in particular who stayed after class last time to ask me when my next session begins. : )

Private one-on-one lessons with K are going quite well. Two sessions ago we did headstands, last week we worked on shoulderstand. It’s lovely working with her!

Andy and I attended a community education class at the local community college on Saturday: “Massage Therapy for Friends and Family”. It was taught by a massage therapist/yoga instructor whose wife owns the fancy yoga studio in town (theirs is the 200 RYT I would be doing if you didn’t have to pay the thousands of dollars upfront!). For the first hour of class we discussed the background of massage and the instructor did a demonstration of his massage approach. Then we spent an hour giving and an hour receiving massage, playing around with approaches and techniques. It was really fun and relaxing.

There is so much overlap between massage and yoga. I’m sure Suburban Yogini could tell us more about it! His language and the overall principles he taught (breath deeply, move slowly, relax into every movement, follow your intuition) sounded awfully familiar.

Other than that we are keeping busy painting our bedroom, planning a Halloween party, and enjoying fall. : )

my view on a recent dog walk



YTT continues

First, I just want to say thank you all for your support and encouragement on my last post. It means a lot. : )

Back to yoga.

This weekend I re-trained YogaFit Level 1, as required by the 200 RYT program. I was the only re-training participant, so I was with 9 newbies the whole time.

I took Level 1 for the first time last October, so it’s been almost exactly a year. It was interesting to notice the differences in my body and my personality.

First, I have gained a lot of strength. I remember feeling physically wiped out last year from the classes and the pose breakdowns. I feel fine today. I am stronger and I have also learned to pace myself for long yoga weekends now that I’ve been to a few.

Second, I was pleased to find out how many anatomy terms and concepts I remembered and could apply from my Anatomy and Alignment training in July. And I thought that stuff was all going over my head!

Third, I realized how comfortable I have gotten with teaching in the past year. I remember being terrified with the idea of team teaching last year, and this year team teaching was a breeze — I hardly even had to prepare. It really does become natural.

So overall, an encouraging weekend. : ) It’s exciting to think about where I will be next year at this time!

This Thursday my 8-week session of “No Fear Yoga” starts. This is yoga aimed at the “ultimate beginner” with no experience at all. I’m planning lots of slow flow for the first class. Shall be fun!


A field trip and some blanks

This week (on Wednesday) I organized a little “field trip” for one of my yoga classes.

This is the class that meets twice a week, with six women. One of them usually brings her 11-year-old daughter along. It’s a group of tightly-knit friends who have let me into their lives two hours a week, and I have very much enjoyed getting to know them.

I bought a newbie pass at the fancy yoga studio in town, which is good for three classes. I attended one of the Vinyasa Flow classes two weeks ago to scope it out, and decided it was appropriate for a field trip. Two of the ladies were able to go to class with me this week and more of them plan to attend in two weeks when I go again.

It was fun to be in the “student” role alongside my students, though hard to let go of my “teacher” half. At the fancy yoga studio she spoke almost exlusively in Sanskrit, and I was criticizing myself a bit for not teaching them more Sanskrit names. They would have had an easier time following along (but they ended up doing just fine anyway). The positioning of the room afforded me a view of both students and it was hard for me not to size them up and offer adjustments…it was great for me to practice turning that awareness inward.

Last night before class we had a good laugh about the trip. It’s common for this group to giggle during class, joke around, tease each other, and try things they wouldn’t in a studio — they’re not afraid to fail around their friends. The “church like” atmsophere of the studio class (look straight ahead, no whispering, this is serious stuff here) was majorly at odds with the way our classes generally go. Not to mention they got the “Rosetta Stone” experience of Sanskrit: full immersion!

If you ever get the opportunity to attend class with your students, I encourage you to go for it.  : )

On an unrelated note, Suburban Yogini has been doing blanks recently and I thought this would be a fun little thing right before the weekend.

1.  In the story of my life the actor who would play me would be Laura Linney. I think she’s so pretty in a wholesome, realistic way. She’s older than I am though so we’d have to get the timing just right.

2.  If I could change one thing about the world it would be more tolerance, less hate. More acceptance, less judgment.

3.  Yesterday I took a big step towards a future goal, and was reminded of just how much I love my hubby.

4.  My favourite comfort food is sweets. Things that are terrible for you but taste yummy.

5.  My new favourite blog find is A Little Pregnant. Julie has an amazing story.

6.  If I could meet any blog friend (who I haven’t met yet) in real life, I’d choose to meet Hmmm this is hard. Probably Y is for Yogini, because she’s just so sassy. But I think I’d have so much in common with all of you that it’s really tough to pick.

7. My favourite breakfast food is twofold: on workdays it has to be something sensible like granola or some healthy cereal, otherwise, it’s a long morning until lunch. But on the weekends I like to indulge with muffins or pancakes or big breakfast scrambles. So I guess I can’t really pick!


Hip-opening, back bending sequence

I taught my third class with my private client, K, tonight. It went so well! I’m really enjoying getting to know her, and she didn’t even blink when I lead her into urdvha dhanurasana.

I particularly enjoyed this sequence because I felt it really opened my hips and loosened up my back. It has a nice balance of hip openers and backbends. I actually fit this all into an hour, it didn’t feel rushed, and we had 13 minutes for savasana. Lovely. Enjoy! (repeat everything on the opposite side)

Easy seated pose
Neck/shoulder rolls
Fire log pose (agnistambhasana)
Fold forward over fire log
Easy seated pose
Lateral flexion
Half lord of the fishes (ardha matsyendrasana)
Seated pigeon pose
Cat/cow flows (marjaryasana/bitilasana)
Spinal balance -> floating bow pose
Child’s (balasana)
Low lunge (anjaneyasana)
Straighten front leg to stretch hamstring, flow in and out of low lunge
Pigeon (eka pada rajakapotasana)
Down dog (adho mukha svanasana)
Flow between down dog and plank
Flow between dolphin and plank
Locust (salambhasana)
Down dog -> Warrior I (virabhadrasana I)
Forward fold (uttanasana)
Tree (vrkasana)
Dancer (natarajasana)
Bridge (setu bandha sarvangasana)
Wheel (urdvha dhanurasana)
One legged wheel (eka pada urdvha dhanurasana)
Knees to chest
Spinal twist
Happy baby (ananda balasana)
Reclined butterfly (supta baddha konasana)


Learning and teaching one-on-one

I had my first one-on-one session with my new client, K, on Tuesday night and we had a blast. I had never met her before, except over email, so we took the first session to just get to know each other.

Honestly, I really don’t know how to teach one-on-one. I’ve never done it before and I’ve never taken a one-on-one class. It will be a learning experience for both of us.

K claimed she was rusty and hadn’t practiced yoga for a few years, but her practice looked strong and beautiful to me. She’s going to be fun to work with, and I will be able to alter my teaching style, dropping almost all of my “beginner” cues and modifications that are second nature to me now, using them only as occasional reminders. I look forward to exploring some deeper poses with her, which I haven’t really gotten a chance to do in my other classes.

The most challenging thing about the one-on-one part will be finding a comfortable layout for the room. The sessions are at her house and she has a nice-sized space, big enough for two yoga mats facing the same direction. For our first class we practiced side-by-side. Since we were just meeting, I didn’t want to creep her out by staring her right in the face for an hour (and I won’t dream of adjusting her until we get comfortable with each other).

Teaching on my mat right next to her has two distinct advantages: 1) it’s hard for me to see her alignment without craning my neck and making it obvious I’m checking her out, 2) she can’t see me as clearly as she could if I were in front of her, so if one of my cues is confusing, it disrupts the flow of the practice for her to check out what I am doing.

In time, I’m sure I’ll find a balance between getting quick peeks out of the corner of my eye, and coming out of the pose to check her alignment. As long as I keep her comfort my top priority, it will work itself out.

I’m so grateful for this opportunity : )


My crazy schedule: finding balance off the mat

My teaching life is getting very exciting these days. Maybe some of you out there are wondering: “Jamie, are you super woman? How do you teach yoga and hold down a full-time job, friends, a marriage, a house and two dogs?” Well, I will attempt to answer that here.

For the past several months I have taught my private class with 2-6 ladies here in town on Sundays and Thursdays, and at the gym on Wednesdays and the occassional Saturday. I take yoga on Mondays nights. It was a schedule that worked great, leaving me all of Tuesday night to myself.

Then I had a very exciting opportunity fall into my lap: teaching through the Bloomington Parks and Recreation department for the fall (if you’re in the area, check out the link on the right hand side). It meant a lot more exposure and came with the potential to turn long-term. Of course, I jumped on it. I set up the class on Thursdays, which would mean I’d teach twice on Thursday evenings. That was fine, but something had to go.

Realistically, I realized I had to drop the gym. Although the ladies there are lovely, I also drooled at the idea of having Wednesday night free. It’s a much-needed “break” night in the middle of the week. Also, since I have such little time to devote to teaching while I try to find a balance with working full-time, I had to look at it in black and white. The gym pays me less and gives me access to a smaller sector of people.

So my last class at the gym will be September 1. My Bloomington Parks and Rec class starts on October 7, so I gave myself a nice break, teaching only twice a week, hoping to pursue taking more classes myself in that time. Or so I thought…

Then I got an exciting email from a colleague of Andy’s requesting one-on-one private lessons every other week on Tuesdays. If she had requested weekly, I would have had to consider turning her down. I had just dropped the gym and here I was adding another class? But bi-weekly is perfect because it gives me “off weeks” that I can see myself desperately needing.

So heading into the fall, it looks like this:

Sunday: 7:30 private group class
Monday: 5:30 take yoga class
Every other Tuesday: 7:30 one-on-one class
Wednesday: break day
Thursday: 5:30 Parks and Rec class, 7:30 private group class
Friday: break
Saturday: break

I will be busy for sure, but I think I’ve found a nice balance. In my “off” month of September I hope to show my face at the only (!) studio in Bloomington-Normal. I’m ashamed to admit that I have only been there once, it was a few years ago, and the class didn’t rock my world so I never went back. I think now is the time to correct that.

How do you find balance in your hectic, busy lives?


PS- stay turned, tomorrow I’ll be talking about my first one-on-one session, with my new client, K.

You mean it’s more complicated than “the foot bone’s connected to the leg bone”?

Last weekend was my Anatomy and Alignment training, and going into it I was radiating positive energy and happiness.

Saturday night was a different story. Turns out, learning anatomy is difficult.

Friday night was full of mind-numbing traffic, driving around in an unfamiliar city, and extreme storms that (combined with an overzealous cricket and the generally uneasy hotel room feeling) made sleep next to impossible. I was feeling “off” in about every way on Saturday. 

More than anything though, it was frustrating for me to see people conversing fluently in this foreign language of anatomy while I tried to keep my head above water. Of course, most of these people have ACE certifications and/or work in the medical field and/or have degrees in Kinesiology, Physical Education, or Physical Training. I was completely out of my element.

Both days our 2 hour morning class was taught in purely anatomical terms. So, instead of “turn the palm towards the ceiling”, or teacher cued us to “supinate the forearm”. And instead of pointing the foot, she instructed us to plantarflex the foot. This was an enormously effective teaching tool, if kind of jarring for the student.

Luckily, on Sunday, things started sinking in. I still don’t know all the muscles in the body, and I never will unless I make an extreme career change. But I learned enough. I also learned these three extremely important things:

1)       I hyperextend everything. Elbows? Check. Knees? Check. Shoulders? You bet. More on this to come.

2)       Everything is connected. Your elbows are doing something weird? That affects the muscles between your ribs (serratus anterior, dontcha know). Your knee hurts? Perhaps your knee is fine – it’s your hip that’s arthritic. I already knew this in a floaty, spiritual, yoga way, but it was fun to learn the science behind it. No, seriously, it’s all connected.

3)       I can walk down the wall from Tadasana (mountain pose) to Urdvha Dhanurasana (wheel/backbend). The wheel is probably my #1 favorite pose, but I had never done it from standing before. It’s always nice to achieve a huge personal practice milestone on the path to becoming a teacher.

On Saturday night I declared that I needed a yoga BREAK! No more about the acetabulum for pete’s sake! But it was really just a lovers spat, and yoga and I made up quickly.

All in all, I left the weekend with more knowledge, more experience, and more love for yoga than before. YTT is just like everything else. You ride the ups and downs. Education is never wasted.