Being Obsessively Grateful (and happy day after International Yoga Day!)

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Hi friends! I wanted to put this post together for a few reasons. Firstly, yesterday was International Yoga Day!  I celebrated it practicing on the roof in the rain at Brue’s Alehouse with one of my favorite instructors and countless new friends (yoga on the rooftop is a weekly thing, check Studio Share’s Facebook if you’re interested).

In honor of a day that honors yoga I just wanted to give a huge shoutout to all of my fellow yoga teachers! Thank you all for pouring your heart in to healing people’s bodies and souls, for believing in the importance of yoga even when people doubt you, and for showing up every day even when there’s no money to be made. I’m convinced that yoga will one day change the world and I am so grateful that you all think so too. Keep doing what you’re doing!

Reflecting on my personal yoga journey got me to thinking of all the reasons to be grateful for yoga… I talk about gratitude a lot and you’d be hard pressed to find a post on my social media that doesn’t include an “I’m thankful/ grateful for” sentence or two but I saw a quote the other day that said “be obsessively grateful” and it really made me smile. Like, if you’re going to be obsessed with anything be obsessed with talking about your blessings and all that you have to be grateful for.  Gratitude= Happiness if you ask me. The more you wire your brain to think of all the reasons to be happy and thankful the more your quality of life will improve… So I though that in honor of International Yoga Day and a new goal to be “Obsessively Grateful” I’d expand on the last lesson in my “2 months later… everything I’ve learned from teaching yoga so far” post. The post itself was way too long (like all of my blogs) but this time that was mostly because I turned my blog into a list of everyone who has helped me so far on my yoga journey… a good problem to have! So here it is again, me talking about how much I love you all. Thank you for being you!…

I am so grateful for Christina, the time and effort she dedicated to my training, and the nonchalant way she told me she wanted me to teach at her northside location. Like it was the most matter of fact thing and that she had no idea that I was about to burst with excitement… she was the first person to believe in my dream and she continues to support me in about a million ways.

I’m grateful for Melissa, who welcomed me with open arms on my first day of teaching and who responded to my shameful apology about not wanting to work at St. Mary Corwin with a message that simply said, “no let downs here sister, I think you are pretty amazing.” A sentiment that meant more to me than words can say.

I’m grateful to all of the women in my teacher training and all of the instructors at Studio Share who continue to read and share my writing and occasionally attend my classes (where they laugh at my jokes even when they’re not funny). I love taking their classes and being inspired by their sequences and themes, you are all incredible! I love my yoga tribe!

I’m thankful for Paulo and all of his encouragement and instruction, and for believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself, when it came to teaching or inversions. And for attending my classes, even when he taught me a huge chunk of everything I know.

I’m grateful to James at Ultimate Performance for reminding me to never give up, that building a following takes time and for trusting me to teach his athletes. I’m also thankful for all of the athletes who talked to me about their games and came to practice yoga with an open mind.

I’m grateful for Chris at Devil Dogg CrossFit who is now my CrossFit coach but who has been my biggest supporter, most dedicated student, and an amazing friend since day one. His belief in me and my abilities, in our capability to create and grow a yoga program at his gym, and his unwavering dedication to, not only yoga, but everything he does inspires me on a daily basis.

I’m grateful for Calee and Cora who are also on this adventure of “how can we get veterans and athletes to come to yoga?” with me and have quickly become my DDC yoga family.  your support and encouragement is so important to me. I love that we are all different but that we all have a passion for yoga and a belief that it really can change lives. And I’m grateful for our students who are excited about the gym’s growing yoga program and are willing to try all of our crazy ideas.

I’m eternally grateful for my parents who come to yoga classes as often as they can (even when dad lets an “oh shit” slip during eagle pose). They have and always will be my biggest supporters. As much as I love writing there will never be words, paragraphs, or novels, adequate to express all that they are and all that they’ve done for me. From dancing in middle school to debating in high school to days spent roping and barrel racing they have supported every dream I’ve ever had. And now they’re supporting this one with just as much gusto!

I’m grateful to all of my friends who have decided to start yoga again, or for the first time, and have made it to a few of my classes… out of all of the amazing and capable instructors thank you for choosing my class and allowing me to be a part of your yoga journey. I can’t express how honored I am.

I’m grateful for all of the people who make it to my class on a regular basis and who come when I’m nervous that no one will be there. My Aunt Kelly has been to every Sunday 8am class with her kids and having them there ready to practice and make me smile is something that I could never repay.

I’m also especially grateful for Matt and Morgan. Matt has been my ride or die since kindergarden and has always gone along with my latest obsession and craziest ideas (thanks for supporting yoga teaching! hopefully it’s more than a phase lol). Actually, just thanks for supporting me in everything I do and thanks for just being you! Morgan… I use to have a group of friends that I stayed out with until 3am and made bad decisions with- it feels good to know that they’ll always be there but what’s even better is that you’re the kind of friend I can make bad decisions with at 3am and who will still come to my yoga class the next day and brag to everyone about how well I’m doing. Friends like that are hard to find.

More than anything I am grateful to all of my student from the grumbling football player to my little cousin who has now decided she wants to be a yoga teacher when she grows up and everyone in between. I will always learn more from you all than I will ever be able to teach you.

Now, get out there an do some yoga and become obsessed with all that you have to be grateful for!

Namaste, my friends!

2 months later… everything I’ve learned from teaching yoga (so far)

Day 60 and the CrossFitters, and football players have started to accept me as one of their own…

No but really, I’ve learned a lot in these past 6o days. More than I ever imagined. Realizing that I only graduated from teacher training on April 3rd of this year has reminded me of what a baby I actually am at this whole yoga teaching thing… at this whole life thing actually. But there have been a few key lessons I’ve been wanting to write about. So, without further ado…

First of all, as cliche as it has begun to sound, yoga truly is for everyone. I have come to believe this so firmly that my writing has even been reflecting it. Visit the “article’s archive” tab on this website to read about why CrossFit Athletes and Military Veterans should practice yoga. And keep your eyes peeled for a Bad Yogi piece I’ve titled “Dirt Road Yoga”… about how I include myself in the “not a traditional yogi but yoga is still for you” category.  Over these past two months I’ve had the pleasure of teaching at three different locations. All different but still all good. I’ve been teaching at Studio Share II on the northside. I love meeting dedicated yogis who all smile and nod during my fumbling attempts to theme my classes, but who have still shown up the following week to practice with me again… including breast cancer survivors and girlfriends who bring their boyfriends to yoga, and boyfriends who leave with “that was harder than a work out” comments. I’ve taught at Ultimate Performance gym downtown where I’ve met young volleyball players who prefer to do their yoga to rap music, and minor league football players… who take my “you might have tight hips” comment so seriously that they message me after class to make sure they’re practicing pigeon correctly. And I’ve been teaching at Devil Dogg CrossFit Gym where I’ve met veterans who surprise themselves with how good they can be at this yoga stuff, and kids who restlessly make it through my class and enjoy renaming the yoga poses (nappy pose for savasana has been my favorite so far.) And not a single time throughout these two months have I heard an “I can’t” from any of these individuals, moments of struggle have been defined by goal setting and expressions of a desire to spend more time doing yoga… and frankly that inspires the shit out of me.

Different locations present different challenges. This has been a surprise to say the least. I don’t know if I expected every class to be the same as the classes I practiced in during my training but I swiftly  learned that was not the case. No class has been bad, just different. For example, kids don’t always respond to cues like “rotate the biceps laterally” or even “squeeze your glutes” but they really do like to make the noises that go with “cat” and “cow” poses. Nothing makes my heart smile more than a gym full of kiddos doing their best cat, cow, cobra, and dog impressions. Kids are awesome yogis. I’ve also learned that adults can be pretty difficult. I’ve even had a few that refuse to lay in savasana for the full five minutes or who decide mid class that yoga just isn’t for them. Not an easy moment but an essential part of my journey and theirs. Now I understand why during training we were always told “teaching at a gym is hard” it is but it can also be very rewarding.

I’ve also learned that it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. Just because you have a class doesn’t mean you’ll have students. I was overjoyed at my partnership with two different gyms and my favorite studio and the opportunity to teach 5 plus classes a week. But I quickly learned that just because you have an allotted amount of time you are given to teach yoga at a gym doesn’t actually guarantee that anyone will show up. I’ve had more empty classes than I’d like to mention which has resulted in several “I’m going to cry my eyes out while I eat this Taco Bell burrito” afternoons. But several 7 layer burritos and teary phone calls with my best friend and mom later and I’ve learned that an empty class shouldn’t be taken personally. The truth is, teaching yoga requires building a following, like anything else and planning classes requires a certain amount of strategy. Having people who support you and are willing to work with you on this is also essential. Getting a full yoga class might be something that baffles me for the rest of my career. One week I may have 20 students and the next week… *crickets chirping*. It’s all part of the journey.

You don’t have to take every opportunity- and for god’s sake don’t beat yourself up. At the beginning I was so overjoyed about receiving a response to my email inquiring for a yoga teaching job that I became inclined to believe that if someone emailed me back it was just “meant to be” and I would end up teaching there. But in reality I quickly learned that I just didn’t click at some places. I spent a week crying until my eyes were swollen because I declined an opportunity to teach cancer patients at St. Mary Corwin Hospital. I’ve had a phobia of hospitals and getting my blood drawn (which is a requirement so that they can check your health before you can become a volunteer) for as long as I can remember. And I realized that all of this combined meant that, in that setting, I’d probably be a pretty crummy teacher. And that I just wasn’t ready to teach there… It’s okay if you think I’m a wimp, I know I am but I’ll get brave enough one day and that will be when I am “meant to be” teaching at St. Mary Corwin. I also declined a job at the YMCA… It was shorty after getting teaching jobs at the two local gyms I’m at now and I realized I just prefer the “rough around the edges”, “nothing official” kind of jobs as opposed to the “you’ll have to do X amount of hours of training” and red tape that comes with larger corporations. But, again, that’s just were I’m at right now.

You can be a yoga instructor and an entrepreneur at the same time… if I could give advice to anyone who wants to start to build their career as a yoga teacher I would tell them that there is absolutely nothing wrong with making business cards. It sounds kind of awful when you imagine an instructor in a temple-like yoga studio finishing their class with an “om shanti shanti, namaste…. now here’s my business card.” But knowing when and how to market yourself is essential. And it is something that I’m still learning. It does make me smile, though, every time I lock up one of the gyms and see a stack of my business cards by the front door… or when I grab a chai at The Daily Grind and see my card clustered with the many others on the cork board. Following your dreams means doing something that you are proud of and that you want to share and having the mindset of a entrepreneur has helped me to form relationships and reach more people than I thought possible.

The most important yoga, business, and life lesson I have learned so far is that having people who support you is worth more than words can say. This sound cliche too but it’s so incredibly true. I am so grateful for Christina and the nonchalant way she told me she wanted me to teach at her northside location… she was the first person to support my dream and she did it in about a million ways. I’m grateful for Melissa, who welcomed me with open arms my first day of teaching. I’m grateful to all of the women in my teacher training and all of the instructors at Studio Share who continue to read and share my writing and occasionally attend my classes. I’m thankful for Paulo and all of his encouragement and instruction, and for believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. I’m grateful to James and Julie at Ultimate Performance for reminding me to never give up and that building a following takes time. I’m grateful for Chris at Devil Dogg CrossFit who has been my supporter and dedicated students since day one. His belief in me, and in our ability to create and grow a yoga program at his gym inspires me. I’m grateful for Calee and Cora who are also on this adventure of “how can we get veterans and athletes to come to yoga?” with me. I’m eternally grateful for my parents who come to yoga classes as often as they can. They have and always will be my biggest supporters. I’m grateful to all of my friends who have decided to start yoga again, or for the first time, and have made it to a few of my classes… out of all the amazing and capable instructors thank you for choosing my class. More than anything I am grateful to all of my students! I will always learn more from you all than I will ever be able to teach you.

Here’s to many more months of this crazy, beautiful, adventure.

The light in me sees, honors, and unconditionally loves the light in each and every one one you. Namaste.

Alexis Kristan (10)