My Top 5 Lessons In Owning a Business So Far…

It’s been 9 full months since I took over as owner of Smiling Dog Yoga, the sweetest little yoga space in SLO town. I don’t write much about what it’s really like to run the studio from my perspective of straight-laced cubicle dweller gone yogi-entrepreneur renegade.  Today I’m in a squirrel-y mood.
feeling squirrely
Last week I let the stress get to me. And that’s what it really is isn’t it? It’s a choice that we often forget we have. As I was crumbling under it, losing sleep, unable to relax, I thought about all of my adult jobs and how they all came with their own version of debilitating, relentless stress. In my version of the corporate-america I was stressed because I was bored and didn’t respect anyone around me or what the business was doing. During my waitress stint I was stressed because of my social life and relationships. In grad school I was stressed because I didn’t love what I was studying and I was teaching apathetic kids. I could go on.

It made me think about the other a-ha life lessons owning my own business has taught me. An opportunity for a top 5 list perhaps? I cannot resist. I love John Cusak and High Fidelity!  These aren’t in specific order but these are some of my major lessons so far in owning my own business.  Something I’m so excited to have the opportunity to do, but I REALLY didn’t see this in my future when I was a 22 year old telling my first job interviewer, “I just want a job that will pay me, that I can work for 40 years, get a pension, and spend my spare time on yoga.”  Aw, I was cute back then wasn’t I?

  1. Be ready to face your biggest, darkest fears. The fears surrounding money and rejection can be fierce.  Money is supposed to be a tool to help with the exchange of goods, time, services.  I’ve noticed in myself and others around me how subtle and powerful fears surrounding money and rejection are.  Anything that comes from fear isn’t going to work, right?
  2. Step away from the line of fire.  I think it’s super important to step away from our main role in life and just decompress without expectation or being productive.  Western culture teaches us how productive we need to be, but what do we really need to put out there to be productive, functioning adults?  We need rest as much as we need productivity.
  3. Stop resisting what is.  Focus on what you CAN do and what your ultimate mission is.  Instead of focusing on what you don’t like, or what’s not happening.  So what if your business/project/relationship fails?  That just means that it’s had it’s time and what else can you do or offer the world that will serve people that you can enjoy and feel good about?
  4. Your career or business doesn’t define who you are.  I know I’ve thought this before but I have to remind myself time and time again.  I take a lot of pride in my work and always have.  When it doesn’t go how I expect it should, I get negative.  Why?  I am more than this one job, this one role.  Yes, it often feels heavy and important and I care a lot, but the good stuff does!
  5. Find ways to deal with stress.  Or it will haunt you.  It’ll sneak out in little ways in which you’ll snap at your loved ones, won’t sleep, dream about it, eat poorly, overall you’ll just be “bajigity”.

Owning my own business has been a wild roller coaster so far.  It constantly challenges me and helps me face my biggest fears and grow and learn.  For that, I’m so grateful.  Hopefully the next time I have a mini breakdown I’ll remember this list.

Posted in life, studio ownership, top 5 | 2 Comments

Why 108

summertime sun

Tomorrow is the summer solstice. When I worked as an office dweller I often let these days drift on by and I noticed how seasons would come and go without much ado. Now that it’s my job to share yoga, I enjoy taking a moment to recognize the transitions of our earth, and connecting my yoga practice with the reality of what’s going on outside my window. Worldwide, interpretation of the summer solstice has varied among cultures, but most have recognized it as a sign of fertility, a time to celebrate the bounty we have sown through spring, typically involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations around that time.

A common more ritualistic, meditative yoga practice for the solstice is to do Surya Namaskar A 108 times. I’ll be doing smaller divisions with my classes this week: 54, 36, 27, 9, or 3 depending on our energy levels. I’ve discussed the significance of the number 108 on this blog before, but I also found an epic article on Elephant Journal on the subject. Below are some of my favorite tidbits on the significance of 108 and a video of Surya Namaskar A to get you moving. Go ahead, do a couple at home, you can do it. Celebrate the sun and the longest day of the year!

A japa mala or mala is an eastern rosary with 108 beads. The mala is used both in Hinduism and Buddhism for counting mantras, chants or prayers. 108 has been a sacred number for a long time, and this number is explained in many different ways.

Traditionally, Buddhist have 108 beads, representing the 108 human passions that Avalokiteshvara assumed when telling the beads. This number ensures a repetition of a sacred mantra at least 100 times, the extra beads allowing for any omissions made through absentmindness in counting or for loss or breakage of beads.

Sometimes smaller divisions can be used: 108 is divided in half, third, quarter, or twelfth, so some malas have 54, 36, 27, or 9 beads.

108 may be the product of a precise mathematical operation (e.g. 1 power 1 x 2 power 2 x 3 power 3 = 108) which was thought to have special numerological significance.

POWERS of 1, 2 & 3 IN MATH: 1 to 1st power=1; 2 to 2nd power=4 (2×2); 3 to 3rd power=27 (3x3x3). 1x4x27=108

SANSKRIT ALPHABET: There are 54 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet. Each has masculine and feminine, shiva and shakti. 54 times 2 is 108.

HARSHAD NUMBER: 108 is a Harshad number, which is an integer divisible by the sum of its digits (Harshad is from Sanskrit, and means “great joy”)

9 x 12: Both of these numbers have been said to have spiritual significance in many traditions. 9 times 12 is 108. Also, 1 plus 8 equals 9. That 9 times 12 equals 108.

ASTROLOGY: There are 12 constellations, and 9 arc segments called namshas or chandrakalas.
9 times 12 equals 108. Chandra is moon, and kalas are the divisions within a whole.

PLANETS AND HOUSES: In astrology, there are 12 houses and 9 planets. 12 times 9 equals 108.

SUN AND EARTH: The diameter of the sun is 108 times the diameter of the Earth.

PYTHAGOREAN: The nine is the limit of all numbers, all others existing and coming from the same. ie: 0 to 9 is all one needs to make up an infinite amount of numbers.

STAGES OF THE SOUL: Atman, the human soul or center goes through 108 stages on the journey.

MARMAS: Marmas or marmastanas are like energy intersections called chakras, except have fewer energy lines converging to form them. There are said to be 108 marmas in the subtle body.

Joseph Campbell says it’s 1+0+8 = 9, the number of the goddess.

Or one can look at 1, 0, and 8 as:

1 = God or higher Truth
0 = emptiness or completeness in spiritual practice,
8 = infinity or eternity

Resource:  Elephant Journal

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does yoga have to be spiritual?

This is “the” question that always comes up in the yoga community, and I’ve been pondering it lately. To answer the question first I feel like I must look at what yoga really is. I looked up the definition online to start. Here are a few of them. Yoga is…

  • A science and art of living.
  • Intended to unite the mind, body and spirit.
  • A Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline.
  • A practice of physical, mental, and spiritual discipline, originating in ancient India.

But, what about the real reason many people come to yoga…stretching out because our bodies are whacked from years of overuse or under-use and sitting too much?

So, I suppose just by definition “yoga” is something more than the physical practice most of us interpret it as. It tones, strengthens, and lengthens the body, it can be a contortionistic, challenging, and fun way to move the body. Many of us are only drawn to the physical practice although that is only one piece of the yoga pie. Don’t get me wrong. People being healthful physically is important. Without that quest, nothing else really works, does it? Have you ever noticed this? Without a clear body, the mind can easily succumb to the BS of life. And it’s just harder to live a good life that way. But isn’t it good to be honest about the fact that what we do in a yoga studio is connected to something more, even if we don’t care to acknowledge it most days?

But is yoga spiritual, even if what we regularly practice doesn’t feel like it is? What is the definition of spirituality?

The first definition was “Property or income owned by a church.” —Well that’s kind of funny. Would we get free rent at Smiling Dog if it was a church? That would be sweet!

Here’s a good definition of spirituality from Wikipedia: “Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality; an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being; or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.”

I suppose the historical practice of yoga does contain spiritual components. It teaches us how to live, breathe, get out of our overactive minds, and if we’re lucky, life to our fullest potential. BUT there are parts of yoga that are merely physical, and many people will spend their entire lives only working on the physical body with yoga and will never address the problems their crazy minds inflict upon themselves. Most yoga classes aren’t spiritual and those offered at gyms, jails, and beyond most certainly aren’t. Or maybe they are, but it’s just more subtle. I wonder if that’s a good thing or bad thing? And I wonder how much spirituality is appropriate? And why does the word spiritual only get to be used by churches and Christians? The word frankly turns many off and turns on defensive responses. I often refer to tidbits of yogic philosophy in my classes and I wonder if it’s just spirituality that I’ve learned to define in a way that isn’t daunting or offensive.

So, my answer is this. No, yoga doesn’t have to be spiritual. But I wonder if yoga teachers should be? And how much spirituality should be brought into classes? Can you learn one part of a vast subject and teach that one part well without knowing or honoring the related pieces? Probably well enough. But why is it that doesn’t sit well with me? Oh, I’m getting deep today folks. So deep! It reminds me of my math teaching days. I most certainly would be a math professor if I could have done so without learning the theory behind the calculus.

Donna Fahri says it well in her book Teaching Yoga, “If we profess to be teaching Yoga, which is a science and art of living, we must practice that way of living ourselves. If we wish only to teach poses or postures, it would be better to call what we do by a name other than Yoga”.

I used to think I wasn’t spiritual and that spirituality wasn’t part of my yoga experience. I now realize the opposite is true. Sure, I can call it mindfulness, philosophy, being present, but it’s all leading me to live a healthier, happier, more sane life, and that’s what counts. Who cares what label it has.

Posted in remember, spirituality, yoga teaching | 3 Comments

all fired up?

Feeling a little fiesty or over-heated these days? As spring starts to transition to summer I started noticing my pitta fires getting inflamed already. What the heck is my pitta fire? No, it’s not a crazy yogi bon fire party. The season of summer is related to the pitta dosha in Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science of nutrition and healing. it’s important to keep our internal cool and balance the extra heat that’s easy to accumulate and cause aggravation this summer.

Signs of pitta imbalance include diarrhea, burning sensations, skin irritations, acne, odorous sweating, fever, general inflammation, and a hypercritical or intense mental outlook. I personally notice it most when my skin breaks out, I sometimes get cold sores, I get angered easily, and I get “hangry” often. “Hangry” is when I am hungry and it makes me angry and I can’t think and I eat the first food I can find. It’s not pretty. Pitta governs digestion and metabolism, so the fire may flare first in the small intestine and the stomach—pitta’s main seats in the body—with excesses of digestive acid and bile. That’s heartburn by the way.

It’s a fundamental principle of Ayurveda that like increases like. In Ayurveda: Secrets of Healing (South Asia Books, 1998), Ayurvedic teacher and author Maya Tiwari writes, “The doshas are not simply the dynamic energy within the body; rather, they are influenced primarily by seasonal variations.” As summer heats up, we become prone to accumulating excess pitta. If we already possess a pitta prakriti (nature), we’re at an even higher risk of becoming out of balance. If you are curious what your prakriti or nature is according to ayurveda you can take a quiz online. It’s kind of fun.

What to do when pitta’s boiling over? Keep in mind that doshic imbalances can vary in manifestation and severity, depending on many factors. If you’re simply a touch overheated, tune in to your senses and try applying opposing qualities to maintain balance in the midst of summer’s swelter. I have started to eat more fruit, smoothies, and have been thinking about ways to shift my yoga practice and teaching so it’s more aligned with the season. I’ll be focusing more on forward folds and twists and transitioning from the inversions and strength of spring. The following are some ways you can cool down according to Ayurveda and yogajournal.com:

TASTE – Bitter, sweet, and astringent tastes calm pitta, so eat more foods like apples, grapes, zucchini, lettuce, cucumbers, cilantro, and fresh organic dairy. Eliminate or reduce your intake of alcohol, heavy meats, and fried, oily, salty, spicy, and sour foods. Instead of salt, use fennel seeds, coriander, fenugreek, and fresh lime juice for seasoning.

TOUCH – Wear breathable natural fibers that have a cooling effect, such as cotton and linen.

SMELL – Treat yourself to a fresh bouquet of tuberose, gardenia, or freesia. Or dab on a diluted essential oil: Try rose, jasmine, geranium, vetiver, or ylang ylang.

SIGHT – Take a break from work that requires intense visual focus. Gaze at summer’s verdant trees and meadows. Surround yourself with cooling hues of pearl white, blue, green, silver, and gray.

SOUND – Listen to calming music which can help calm your heart and soothe your spirit.

Posted in ayurveda, health and wellness, yoga journal | Leave a comment

Hello from yoga camp!

I’m thankful that the universe is allowing me to stick with my commitment to continuously grow while at my second yoga training with Shiva Rea this year, Fluid Power! Based on her teachings and sequences from her DVD Fluid Power Yoga, I remember it as one of my favorite trainings to date. When I’ve taught these sequences at Smiling Dog they are always the most popular and well received classes I teach. You might remember my friends “coily lunge” and “coily squat”. Shiva says it best:

“The practices you will experience are based upon the primary characteristics of the fluid body that benefit your health and well being. The first characteristic of our fluid body is that our bodies are physiologically rhythmic, vibrating and pulsating with the constant tide of or breath, heartbeat, and brainwaves as a few examples. You will experience a rhythmic and energetic approach to vinyasa flow yoga where the breath initiates and inspires all movement. In particular, we explore a three part vinyasa technique I developed based on the teachings of Krishnamacharya that express this wave through the pulsation of breath to enhance the state of flow and the instinctual alignment of your inner and outer body. I call this “thawing out poses” which are often rigidly held so that you can access your strength and flexibility with grace.”

I couldn’t have said it better. My homework today is to think about the following: my state of the union, how I’m doing; to contemplate the fluidity in nature and in life like the waves of the ocean; to contemplate the blockages to fluidity, like a dam in a river, or a caged bird maybe.

After practicing Namaskar 1008 with Shiva this morning I was so humbled by my attempt to capture it on video! If this is remotely interesting you should buy the Fluid Power DVD and do it properly. Or even better, come to a Fluid Power training down the road. I’ll share it with you again as it’s what I’ll be practicing all weekend long!

Posted in sequences, shiva teacher training, shiva tt fluid power, videos, yoga teaching | 1 Comment

a simple sequence

My second yoga video is of a simple, seated yoga sequence. Suitable for all levels and abilities, it will loosen your spine and hips. A great little practice on it’s own or as a warm up to a longer practice or another activity. Let me know what you think. It’s inspired by Kira Ryder of Lulu Bandha’s in Ojai, CA.

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Is Yoga Enough To Keep You Fit?

Check out this interesting article from YogaJournal.com, who tested the theory that yoga is all you need for optimal fitness. Although I don’t think people should stop any activity that brings them joy and health, the article intelligently explores the ideas of fitness and yoga. It’s by Alisa Bauman, a writer for Yoga Journal. I found it while searching for content for our website improvements and the new Smiling Dog Blog!

When it came to the fitness benefits yoga can or can’t provide, yoga teacher John Schumacher had heard it all. A student of B. K. S. Iyengar for 20 years and founder of the Unity Woods studios in the Washington, D.C. area, Schumacher was convinced yoga provides a complete fitness regime. But many people, even some of his own students, disagreed. Yoga might be good for flexibility or relaxation, they’d say, but to be truly fit, you had to combine it with an activity like running or weight lifting.

Schumacher just didn’t buy it.

He knew three decades of yoga practice—and only yoga practice—had kept him fit. He didn’t need to power walk. He didn’t need to lift weights. His fitness formula consisted of daily asanas (poses) and pranayama (breathwork). That’s all he needed.

Four years ago at age 52, Schumacher decided to prove his point. He signed up for physiological testing at a lab in Gaithersburg, Maryland. As he expected, Schumacher tested near the top of his age group for a variety of fitness tests, including maximum heart and exercise recovery rates. His doctor told him that he was in excellent physical condition and estimated that Schumacher had less than a one percent chance of suffering a cardiac event. “I’ve always maintained that yoga provides more than adequate cardiovascular benefits,” says Schumacher. “Now I have the evidence that regular yoga practice at a certain level of intensity will provide you with what you need.”

Evidence of yoga’s ability to bolster fitness, however, goes well beyond Schumacher’s personal experience. Yoga Journal’s testing of three yogis also yielded impressive results. Even physiologists who don’t do yoga now agree that the practice provides benefits well beyond flexibility and relaxation. Recent research—though preliminary—shows that yoga may also improve strength, aerobic capacity, and lung function. If you practice yoga, you already knew that. But if, like Schumacher, you’ve been told by friends, family, doctors, or even other yoga students that you need to add some power walking for your heart or strength training for your muscles, here’s evidence that yoga is all you need for a fit mind and body.

Read the whole article on YogaJournal.com

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notes from jail yoga

rox getting caught

“I don’t even remember leaving the bar,” one guy said to his cell phone as I approached the jail this morning. Another guy was pretty sure he was arrested for a DUI the night before, but not 100% sure. They made me giggle as I waited to be admitted as a guest to teach yoga. Then on the other side of the security door my giggles faded away as I saw how crowded they were. All the drunk tanks and holding cells were full of three people sleeping on mats on the floor huddled with blankets. One of the tanks was smeared with what must have been vomit. That was a first.

This is how it goes teaching at a jail. You’re up, you’re down, it’s fun, it’s traumatizing, it’s sad, it’s just another yoga class, all at the same time. I noticed today that the stress of the environment didn’t bother me as much as usual. Maybe because I’ve been taking better care of myself than usual? Maybe because I’m more comfortable now that I’ve done it a few times and know to expect the unexpected? When a girl went to the bathroom in the middle of class and her flush drowned out my voice I just smiled and waited until I could be heard again. That wasn’t a first. There is an outdoor toilet in the mesh covered courtyard where we hold yoga classes. I kept my shoes and socks on today while I taught, instead of freezing my toes on the concrete and I invited them to keep their socks on as well.

Today we did some standing poses, push ups, squats, and scrumptious floor poses. They like to chit chat more than I’m used to doing in a regular yoga class. They want to ask random health questions, how to eat, where they can do yoga on the outside. They want to explain how long they’re in for. One explained she was in for a 10 day detox from drugs and she was a mamma. I’m so humbled by the experience of sharing yoga with these women every time. How difficult it must be to be in jail and keep your head on straight. One girl said they hadn’t been outside in 4 days! No matter what brought them to the jail, we can empathize with the difficulties they face. Even if they brought them on.

I can see in each one of them a bit of myself, my best friends, my neighbors. I feel a little guilty for being thankful that the wrong turns I’ve taken in life didn’t lead me to jail. They were never really that bad in hindsight. I actually took a bunch of photos of the jail program room and courtyard on my cell phone but totally got caught and was so embarassed! What was I thinking! The bloggerati in me just wanted to share I guess. I will leave you with the photo of me getting caught. Haha!

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Clean Your Internal House Part 3

kitcheree in thermos

It’s amazing how great reaching your own goals can be.  Even if the goal feels cheesy and unimportant.  In a way it can feel more rewarding than earning a college degree as you do it without anyone forcing you, charging you money, or whispering in your ear about how important it is or worthless you’ll be without it.   I’ll have to write a post on goal setting another day.  My 4th semi-annual spring cleansing process is officially complete and I feel all the benefits I usually feel including a few lost pounds, clearer skin, less attachment to what I eat, decreased appetite, increased commitment to my health, yoga, loved ones, and sanity. It’s so strange how quickly you stop desiring the foods you once coveted. It’s so much easier to be committed to healthier eating after a cleansing process like I just went through. It’s like I don’t know what I’m missing even though I do. My new mission is to continue eating wheat, dairy, and alcohol free for another month. Well, I’m thinking one day off per week. Although I almost want to just go whole hog. I also want to try one new ayurveda recipe per week for the next month (from Yoga Body, Eat Taste Heal or Ayurveda Cooking for Westerners). The recipes always look too boring or long usually, but I doubt I feel that now. 🙂

springtime rose

I don’t typically go on a binge right after a cleanse, I’ve felt the pain of doing that before, but I do go back to my normal way of eating pretty quickly. Which is pretty much this: “eat whatever when social or stressed” which is like 70% of the time. This time I’m thinking of extending this transition a little longer and possibly change my normal way of eating just a smidge. I am in LOVE with ayurveda, yoga’s sister science of health and nutrition for the body, I can’t wait to take a course in it so I can offer it through Smiling Dog Yoga!

If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about with all this cleanse talk, see my other posts Clean Your Internal House Part 1, Part 2, and the Manifesto of a Clean Freak for the whole shabang.

Another winter gone and another spring time under way. I just plucked some errant roses from my yard for my kitchen table. May we all channel the renewing energy of spring and use it to propel us into an even sweeter, more focused summer and beyond. One where we enjoy our good times and balance them with nourishing ourselves rather than burning ourselves out.  At least that’s my mission.

Posted in ayurveda, cleansing, health and wellness | 1 Comment

Clean Your Internal House Part 2

What does it feel like after 11 days of eating vegan, avoiding alcohol, and avoiding crap in general? Well, it’s a humbling experience to say the least. I’m on day 11 of my two-week mission to eat cleanly in honor of spring house cleaning and am feeling pretty good so far.  My comments and thoughts:

grilled cheese image
  • It is great to have someone around you who supports your cleansing goals. Except when he makes grilled cheese all weekend.  My yogi friend Marissa and Angela joined me this time, and having their subtle presence behind the scene’s has been sweet.
  • I have not felt as good as I have in the past during this process. I have been having knee pain, fighting a cold, other little things. I don’t think it has anything to do with the cleanse, but it’s a bummer.  Bad timing. I guess it’s a good thing, it’s forcing me to take it easy which I often don’t do. Seating yoga poses are so nourishing right now.
  • I’m really enjoying the simplicity of eating a mono food diet. At first the plain food feels impossible, I don’t want to eat it, and I hardly do. I wonder how I’m going to make it for 7 days eating just beans, rice, and veggies. But I just do it without too much obsession. I imagine how many other people in the world don’t have a choice of what they get to eat each day. After day 1, it’s a little easier.  By day 3, I actually start enjoying it.  The mind is a tricky beast, isn’t it? Today I noticed cauliflower tasted almost like butter. Butternut squash was so sweet.
  • I really enjoy the fact that I create little waste during the cleanse.  I buy my beans and rice in bulk and bring my containers to bring them home in.  My veggie scraps go to compost.  I’m wondering if I could make veggie broth out of them and take it even further. Everything just feels so simplified when I’m not able to be distracted by food.
  • It’s amazing to notice how symbiotic the relationship with food is.  When I’m busy, tired, bored, I don’t really spend sufficient time or energy on the food I eat.  On preparing it or eating it. This sometimes crappy food makes me more easily stressed, tired, and throws my yogi wagon around.  This leads me to crave more crappy food.  I feel crappier.  And the cycle continues.  Until you take a step back and deal with one day of crappy feelings and your monster mind. Then all the sudden you wake up lighter, refreshed, and renewed reminded that it’s all connected, and sacrifice is ok sometimes.

I guess that’s it.  Details on what I do to clean my internal house each spring and fall are in my previous post, Clean Your Internal House Part 1. Just a few more days. I’m excited to try and cook from some of my ayurveda cookbooks. Their recipes normally seem too bland too me but after this I think it’ll taste just fine.

Posted in ayurveda, cleansing, life | 1 Comment