Happiness After Depression

I get reflective in the Fall, thinking about the year fading into the past as the leaves start to change colors… this year has not been easy. Physical challenges, loss of a long time friendship, financial stress, etc have all weighed heavily on me. But the other day, I was at the dentist getting THREE cavities filled and after all the drilling, two shots, and the extra shot because I could still feel the drilling, the Dentist said to me, “How do you feel?” I answered like my lips and tongue were made of jello, “Happy,”” and she turns her head to the side and says, “No, how do your TEETH feel?” Ohhhhhhh…

Apparently¬†I’m not depressed anymore, because the first word that came to mind even in the Dentist’s chair was, “Happy.”¬†All the things that happened this year were worthy of a few days in bed feeling sorry for myself, a resurgence of bad habits, reaffirmation of negative self talk, playing the victim, all that stuff. It took a long time, over a decade, of work on myself, yoga, more yoga, and even more yoga, learning how to treat myself and others better, mindfulness, hard choices, pulling up my bootstraps, never giving up, MORE yoga, meditation, getting over myself and my ego, starting over and over again, being radically honest, getting as much therapy as I could afford, building and rebuilding relationships, you know, doing “the work.”

The work WORKS. It’s not instant, it’s not easy, but if someone like me who fought serious, serious depression for most of my life can instantaneously respond, “Happy” after having my teeth drilled, then it’s worth it. It works, and for anyone out there suffering right now, just don’t give up, don’t stop — get to a yoga class, volunteer somewhere, read all the inspiring books you can get your hands on, do whatever little bit of work on yourself you can each day, it WILL pay off. Only you can do it. Just like no one can get on the mat for you, no one can meditate for you, no one can eat right for you, no one can work on you for you. This work, it’s an inside job, and we all have to do it for ourselves. You’re worth it.

I never imagined I could be this happy!

I never imagined I could be this happy!

3 Important Questions to Ask and 3 Questions that Really Don’t Matter if You Are Considering a Yoga Teacher Training Course

It’s a thought you can’t unthink — “I want to do a yoga teacher training.” Once that thought crosses your mind, it’s just a matter of Where and When until you find yourself locked in a yoga studio for 8 hours a day on all of your weekends. I’ve noticed over the years at Dhyana Yoga that people enter the program in different ways. Some have absolutely no questions at all. Others have a rolling list of questions that spills over into the first day of class, every discussion throughout the program, all breaks big and small, and requires multiple emails threads to complete. I’m equally appreciative of both approaches and find that the mix of personalities that land in any given semester of training keeps my excitement level about being there as a trainer really high. Although the content may remain consistent, every training program is wonderfully different based on the energy of the group that comes together. For each of these two types, though, I offer the following “Do” and “Don’t” lists which I think will help teachers-to-be understand the program they are considering much better.

Do ask…

1. What is the lineage of the school you are considering?
I was surprised recently when speaking with a yoga student who is currently enrolled in a teacher training program at her home studio to get a blank stare when I asked her what the school’s lineage was, as if she had no idea what I was talking about. Do your research! What you will learn and how you will be taught will be a direct reflection of the lineage. This blog entry from YogaDork (regardless of the spelling issues) gives a pretty understandable overview of lineages if you are wondering about your school. You may be able to bounce from studio to studio and teacher to teacher when you are starting out practicing, but when it comes to training and what you will graduate being able to teach, this question needs to be answered and understood!

2. Do the lead teachers teach yoga full time, and/or how much actual experience do they have?
There is no substitute for time spent teaching, and no short cut either. Your teacher trainer will only be able to pass onto you what they have experienced, so why not connect with someone who is not only a great teacher, a great person outside of the yoga room, and someone you feel comfortable with, but also who has a good chunk of time put in actually teaching, interacting, navigating different situations, and learning how to pass on content in a generous and practical manner? Find out how long the trainers have been teaching, how much they actually teach, and how long the school has been offering their teacher training program. I’m not saying there aren’t good new trainers out there, but if you have the choice between someone with a little bit of experience and a lot, or between a school that is offering it’s first teacher training or 21st, finding out the answer to this question may give you a little more insight into the program you are considering.

3. Who did the lead teachers train with themselves, and/or who are their greatest influences?
The lineage question will give you a school of practice and philosophy to track back to, but this third question will fill in the gaps. For example, someone may tell you they practice Ashtanga Vinyasa in the lineage of Krishnamacharya, but it is unlikely they actually studied in the direct presence of Krishnamacharya. However finding that out, and then finding out if they either studied with BKS Iyengar vs. Pattabhi Jois, or even with Tim Miller vs. Erich Schiffman, or a teacher under either of those teachers, will tell you a tremendous amount about the program. Check out the teachers noted or thanked in your teacher trainer’s bio and you’ll start to understand where their teaching is flowing from and that will help you decide if the program is a match for you.

Don’t bother asking…

1. Is the program Yoga Alliance certified?
In my opinion, it means absolutely nothing. That’s all I’ll say for now.

2. How many people will be in the program?
There are benefits to having a big class, and benefits to having a small class. I think some people get hung up on wanting to have a small class thinking that they’ll get more attention, not feel overwhelmed, or not get lost in the shuffle. While this may be true, you also interact with fewer people in a small training, which means fewer ideas and opinions are offered, and fewer body types and practice levels are part of such a training. All in all, I think it’s a pretty even race between pros and cons of each size, so don’t over emphasize either.

3. Will I be able to teach after taking this program?
There are no guarantees in life. Yoga teacher training is as much an opportunity to get to know yourself better and examine your choices as it is to practice more yoga and potentially teach yoga. Some people enter yoga teacher training with a background that makes them more comfortable in front of the room than others, and some make major leaps in self confidence just because the time is ripe for them. Others enter thinking that they want to teach immediately and then realize they need more time being a student or just want enjoy practicing without teaching for a little longer. In any case, yoga is a lifetime of study, so whether you teach after the program or not doesn’t matter very much. The best thing to do is go into the program with a desire to learn and see where that takes you!

If you’ve had the thought you can’t unthink, CONGRATULATIONS! You’re on your way… Swaha!

More info about Dhyana Yoga here

ALTERED SPACE // WHAT WE EAT

In 2002 I moved back to Philadelphia after 14 years mostly in Southern California, and partly on a journey literally around the world (more on this later). I came back in July, and it was hot. By August I had found a little room at 12th and Walnut and rented it in a handshake deal with plans on opening a yoga studio. I sweated it out the next few months getting that room ready by refinishing the floors, painting the walls, and doing a 3 layer lotus stencil design 108 times around the top of the walls. I wasn’t used to the humidity, and as I sewed curtains and made pillows and even stapled in some carpet, I longed for the cool breezes of San Diego. On October 5th, 2002, Dhyana Yoga at 1212 Walnut Street, 2nd Floor had it’s Grand Opening celebration, though, and my friends and relatives showed up in support… and in sweat. The turn out was great, and the room was HOT! It got even hotter as more people arrived, and even more so as my new friends Simon Park, Marni Sclaroff, and Phil Migliarese did asana demonstrations in the front of the room.

And then it got cold. So very cold. I hadn’t endured an East Coast winter for quite some time. I thought I owned a coat. It was not a coat, it was a thing with sleeves. In San Diego, a nice, heavy, cozy sweatshirt is a coat. In the middle of winter in Philadelphia, that sweatshirt did nothing to protect me against the biting wind as I walked my also cold dog, Santa (AKA “Bob”) morning, noon, and night. I fell on the ice in my Puma sneakers and Bob ran home without me. It was almost too much to take. I had to rally. Winter lasts awhile. So I bought a big, unflattering, puffy jacket at a thrift shop on South Street and my neighbor gave me a hat. And I practiced a lot because at least the practice room was warm! I’ll admit, I wondered more than once that long winter why I ever decided to leave San Diego and come back to my hometown.

Now 11 years later I have a little stockpile of winter gear, the right boots for snow and ice, and that gritty Philly girl that got soft on the West Coast resurfaced, and even enjoys the winter cold these days! I also have support from the inside, via my Ayurveda practice, to keep me warm. Below is an amazing, easy, and absolutely delicious recipe for a hearty soup that will keep you toasty, nourished, and going back for another bowl! Also keep in mind that Ayurveda says when you feel wet and cold, to favor lighter, warmer foods and spices that balance out Kapha (the earth and water elements that may make you feel cold, damp, and lethargic). Also, during times of transition, be they seasons of nature or seasons of your life, it is wise to pay special attention to the basics of good health: meditation, regular exercise, sensory nourishment and emotional healing. I hope this healthy soup recipe will warm your body, delight your taste buds and make you happy! Enjoy!

Heart-y Ginger Vegetable Soup

Ingredients: 3 carrots, 4 rutabagas, 3 stalks of celery, 2 inches of ginger, 3 garlic cloves, 1/2 an onion, 1 turnip, 2 cartons vegetable stock, 1/2 small carton of Pomi tomatoes, 1 tablespoon evoo, salt & pepper (parsley to garnish)

John's 3rd bowl of this yummy soup!

John’s 3rd bowl of this yummy soup!

Preparation:

1. In a stock pot, warm oil. Add diced garlic, ginger, and chopped onion, stir 3 mins (don’t burn the garlic!). Add chopped celery and turnip and cook on medium heat stirring lightly 5-7 minutes so they can soften.

3. Add chopped carrots and rutabagas, which look like crazy carrots. If you have knife skills it’s best to chop them by hand because your shakti (love and power) goes in them, but I don’t have knife skills so I do them the in the food processor and say a mantra instead, which is also fun! And fast…

4. Stir up everything in the pot and keep cooking for 5 more minutes, then add the crushed tomatoes and vegetable stock. Stir more. Everything should be in the pot now. Bring it to a boil.

5. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes.

6. Stick an immersion blender in the pot and blend everything up. You might end up with a few chunks of rutabaga or carrot but that’s kind of fun to come across in a bowl of this soup so don’t worry about getting it perfect.

7. Salt and Pepper to taste, but you won’t need a lot. When you serve it up, put some fresh Italian parsley leaves in the bowl if you have them, totally optional.

This yields about 8-10 bowls, but everyone will want seconds! Enjoy!

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