Browsing Tag

yoga teacher training

Guest Posts, Self Image, Self Love, Yoga

On Being Fat, Yoga Teacher Training, and the Right To Be Happy

May 22, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Anna Falkowski

In the back of Yoga Journal, lodged between ads for Himalayan salts and yoga retreats, was a photo of Ana Forrest, a yoga teacher famous in the yoga community. She was in handstand, naked from the waist up. The photo was a back view. Her muscled arms and opened hands pressed into rock ledge. Her bare legs stretched wide in a straddle and spread toes reached to an endless sky. A single black braid fell forward and touched the ground.

When I saw the photo, I felt a pang of longing. I too wanted a body that could do this. A body strong with each muscle defined. Even more, I wanted to be fearless and trusting.

In my head, I say, I have the right to be fat. I have the right to be fat.

I am a full-bodied yoga teacher. I take comfort in the fact there are others out there, luscious like me. In the yoga world, the majority of teachers are lean. On bad days, I look out at the students in the yoga class I am about to teach, and ask myself, Dont they see how fat I am? Why are they taking yoga from me?

Yoga is practiced primarily by women, yet it has strong patriarchal roots and leanings, which means holding up thinness as a measurement of yogic aptitude and success. It’s the order of things.
Sometimes I wonder if being a fat yoga teacher is silently scoffed at. A suspicion that he or she is not doing the work. We must be lazy or sneaking processed foods. Most likely both. Yoga tops can not contain us. We fill out our lycra pants with hips and asses, yet we teach respectable and popular classes despite the fact we’re not skinny.
There are days I love my curves. Each one a chunk of wondrous love and an expression of my sexiness, aliveness and my ability to get down and dirty with a cheeseburger and glass of wine.
As far as skinny goes, I have been down there, in the palace, once or twice in my life, but only because of diet pills, smoking, over-exercising or sticking my finger down my throat. I cut out my risky behavior once I became a mom. But my thin moments are full- color photographs in my memory catalogued between power and acceptance. The truth is I was only ever skinny for a few hours at a time, and then my weight would creep back up again.

Catching a glimpse of Ana Forrest in the back of the glossy trade magazine sent sparks through my nervous system, so I signed up to take her thirty day course, even though I already held advanced yoga teaching certifications. I craved change.

I sat with my therapist a few weeks before the training was to begin and told her I hoped to let go of my body image problems once and for all. Maybe this training would do it. And then I regressed. “If I just didn’t have this belly, I could be happy.” My mid-section had become a bundle of permanent stretch marks, scar tissue and loose skin due to all the times I gained and lost large amounts of fat.

“It’s so unfair.” I hated the way I sounded. Whiny and superficial. Even to me. Especially to me.
I would have preferred to be swallowed by the therapist’s soft couch. Instead I clutched a trendy printed pillow on my lap.

My therapist, a PhD, who never wore the same outfit twice, nodded her head in agreement. “Maybe this would be a good time to get the tummy tuck you keep mentioning. Just get it done and over with. Right after the training. Then you can move on.”

That’s how I ended up in the upscale office of a plastic surgeon, with a brand new visa card with a zero-balance and a $10,000 limit hidden in my wallet. My insides were whirling. The wall-to-ceiling mirrors reflected back a woman with a rounded belly in jeans and a red flowered top. My flip-flops were noisy as I made my way across the marble floor.

In my head, I say, I have the right to be skinny. I have the right to be skinny.

The plastic surgeon was a tall man with big teeth and a spring-time tan. He held a red permanent magic marker in his strong yet manicured hands and waved the marker around as he spoke. As he drew a dotted line along my belly, hips, and even across the top of my ass, to show me where he would remove the fat from, he told me the incision would be tiny.

“In a couple of months, once you heal, you will be able to wear a bikini. Of course how good you will look depends on whether you are a cadillac or a chevy. It all depends on what model you are underneath. I can only do so much.”

I looked down at my recently painted and pedicured toes the color of cruises and cotton candy. When I had gotten them done the day before, I hoped he would notice I appreciated details and pretty things. Now I felt my own foolishness slap my face.
“You are going to love the results,” he said as he put the cap back on the marker. He was giddy with himself. “All my clients do.”

Later that evening, sitting with my husband, I told him I thought the plastic surgeon was an ass. “But he does really good work, so I think I’m gonna go for it. After the training.” I looked at Matt for approval.

Then he said the thing my husband always says. “If you need to do this, I support you all the way. But Annie, I could care less what your belly looks like. Just make sure that whatever you do, you continue to have sex with me.”
He leaned over and kissed me while his hands groped under my shirt for my belly. “God, you’re hot.” he said.

Acutely aware of the red lines that would not wash off and delineated my muffin top, it took everything not to pull away from the man who loved me.

In my head, I say, Stay. Stay.

The first day of Ana Forrest’s yoga teacher training was as I suspected. I was the largest women in the room. It’s not that I’m obese, but I carry rolls and padding in a crowd that had nothing extra to spare. It was a significant difference. This did not stop me from walking past every single size-two yogi and plunking my yoga mat down right in front of the teacher. Ana Forrest looked directly at me. I made eye contact back. For the next 30 days I would put my mat down in the same exact spot and every day we would greet each other with our eyes. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Yoga

Things Don’t Happen To You- They Happen For You.

July 29, 2014

By Karen Salmansohn.

If you want to be happy, you have to embrace your Karma and Dharma! If you don’t know how, here’s a helpful Legos analogy  - inspired from my Yoga Teacher Training at Ishta Yoga! Read on…

poster-karma-med-297x300

My 3 ½ year old son Ari has a passion for Legos – even bigger than his passion for pizza. I know this -  because when Ari’s busy with his Legos, not even pizza can pry him away.

Although Ari loves building Lego structures from boxed sets, he gets an even bigger kick out of taking huge scoopfuls of old Legos (which we keep in plastic buckets) then building the pieces into “One-of-A-Kind Creations.” I call Ari a Master Builder – a term swiped from the most recent Lego movie to describe someone who’s innovative – who thinks outside of the (Lego) box.

So – what’s this have to do with Karma and Dharma? An interesting synchronicity united these concepts for me this week.

On Monday, I started yoga teacher training at the amazing Ishta Yoga. It’s a 5 week intensive program  - which starts daily at 8am. As a result, my normal morning ritual with my son Ari is now disrupted.  No more waking up and leisurely dancing to fun music. I now have to be at Ishta on the mat by 8am.

Every day this week as I made my early departure, my son Ari made it clear that he was not a happy camper about my new yoga camp schedule.  Come Thursday morning, Ari was in total tears. In my efforts to calm him, I came up with a quirky Lego analogy – a playful metaphor I thought would help Ari to embrace going with the flow of this surprise change in our morning routine.

karma

“Life is like a scoopful of Legos,” I told Ari. “You never know what pieces you’re going to get handed to you – but whatever pieces life gives you in a day – it’s up to you to make something really awesome with these pieces.”

“For example,” I continued, “in today’s scoopful of a morning, I’m not taking you to school – but your favorite babysitter Belinda is.  You didn’t get the “mommy morning piece” today – but you did get the “Belinda morning piece” – and you can make something cool out of that piece. Each day you get all kinds of assorted pieces. You might not get all the pieces you want. You might even get some pieces you totally do not want.  But you are the Master Builder of your day! It’s up to you to take the pieces you are given  – and make a happy, beautiful day out of these pieces!”

My son Ari contemplated this. “So, I’m the Master Builder of my day?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said, encouraged by his question. “Yes, you are the Master Builder of your day!”

Ari’s tears at that moment vanished. I’m not sure if it’s because he understood my Lego analogy. I admit it’s quite possible that I had simply distracted him with the mention of Legos, Legos, Legos! No matter.  When I was done with this Lego analogy, Ari was done with his crying.

Sigh. Relief.

Later that day in yoga teacher training,  the inspiring Alan Finger spoke to our class about Karma and Dharma –their differences -  and how they relate.

“Karma is the situation you are born into.  Dharma is how you choose to act on what you are given   – your free will in how you choose to deal with your Karma.” Alan explained. “In Tantric philosophy, Karma is why you’re here. You’re here in order to work out the seeds of action you carry within you for this lifetime.”

What Alan said reminded me of the Lego analogy I’d given Ari that morning. Karma represents the random scoopful of Legos you are born with at the start of your life. There will be some pieces you’re born with which are totally terrific. And there will be some pieces you might not know what the heck to do with. And there will be some pieces you truly wish you were born with – but are completely missing from your particular scoopful of Life Legos.  It’s up to you to build something awesome out of the “Life Lego Pieces” you were given. And Dharma represents your “Free Will Choice “ in how and what you choose to build out of your particular “Lego Inheritance.”

mediate  salmansohn

Alan went on to explain how “Vidya” is the clarity you are meant to achieve so you can see your Karma for what it is – without ego or judgment.  Both yoga and meditation are wonderful at giving you the clarity you need to help you view your “Karmic Fingerprint” without judgment -  as something which makes you unique. Both yoga and meditation help you to go from a “restless mind” to a “still mind” – to help you to clear away your limiting beliefs, your illusions, and your negative habits – all of which limit your day to day awareness.

Basically, both yoga and meditation are great blockage cleansers which allow you take a happier, calmer gaze at that Big Pile of Life Legos which you were given at birth (plus also all those random Lego pieces which keep coming at you each day – which are also part of your Karma).  With the clarity of “Vidya”  you can better see how to build something truly magnificent with your “Life Lego Loot.”

Alan then went on to explain how according to Tantra, whatever life throws your way is worthy of worship and appreciation. Every circumstance has within it the opportunity to work out your Karma.

Meaning?

WRONG Thinking: Life DOES stuff to you.

RIGHT Thinking: Life GIVES stuff to you.

Basically, things don’t happen TO you – they happen FOR you. Every little piece of your life is there for a reason – to be there as something you can use in some way-  to help you to build your beautiful One-Of-A-Kind Life!

Although you might not see it right away,  every “Life Lego Piece” given to you will come in handy at some point – even if you don’t know what the heck to do with this “Life Piece” right away. Eventually you will find something useful for this seemingly random “Life Piece.” Even those “Seemingly Wonky Life Pieces” will come in handy at some point – perhaps even to serve as a powerful foundation for something else to be built upon it!

The more clear you can get (with the help of yoga and meditation) the faster you’ll be at figuring out how to build something truly beautiful with your “Life Lego Loot.”

Your Life Mission According to Karma, Dharma and Legos:

Look at each piece of your life lovingly! Stop whining about the pieces you don’t get.  Get curious about the pieces you’ve been given.  And be patient in your search to find just-the-right pieces to complete the beautiful life you alone are meant to build – your One-of-A-Kind Creation Of A Life. Each day when you awake,  it helps if you do yoga or meditate, so you can get clear on knowing what to do with any random, surprise Lego pieces flung your way – because you will know for certainty in your heart, that you are the Master Builder Of Your Life.

Oh – and I’ll leave you with this awesome quote about Karma to contemplate:

When in the middle of a difficult situation and I can feel myself provoked and the heat of anger rising, I actually say to myself this would not be happening if I didn’t have a karmic debt. And the way I relate to this right now can erase the karmic debt or make the debt deeper. And this type of situation is going to keep manifesting itself in my life until I erase this debt and now is my opportunity. And that is my motivation for being patient in the moment and not responding with my own irritation. -Pema Chödrön

I’d love to hear your insights on the comment section below! What’s something which comes to your mind and heart when you read about karma and dharma?  Share your personal story! I LOVE it when you share – because I love to find out about my community! his inspirational blog- so, what you share could be a helpful inspiration for someone else! xo Karen

Jen and Karen in NYC October 2013.

Karen Salmansohn is an ex-Senior VP award winning ad writer/creative director (at age 27) who left her successful advertising career (having worked as a writer/creative director/image consultant for J. Walter Thompson, McCann Erickson, Young + Rubicam, Averett, Free + Ginsberg, MTV, VH-1, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, Lifetime, E!, CNBC, NBC, Oxygen, Lee Hunt Associates, L’Oreal, Revlon, Avon, Blue Q, etc) to pursue her passion of writing.

She is now a best selling author and book packager with over 1 million books sold – known for creating a new breed of books – “self help for people who would never be caught dead reading self help.” Or: “self help books you can give as a gift — and not get slapped, because they look kinda cool.” Some titles: How to Be Happy Dammit; Prince Harming SyndromeThe Bounce Back Book; – and many more. Journalists call Salmansohn “Deepak Chopra Meets Carrie Bradshaw” because of how she merges empowering psychology/philosophy tips with edgy humor and stylish graphics.

Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. She has been featured on Good Morning America, NY Magazine, Oprah.com. Her writing has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, and more. Jen leads her signature Manifestation Retreats & Workshops all over the world. The next retreat is to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day/New Years. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: Seattle, Atlanta, South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Miami, Tucson & The Berkshires (guest speaker Canyon Ranch.) She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

Send submissions for The Manifest-Station to melissa at jenniferpastiloff dot com.

%d bloggers like this: