Monday, February 25, 2013


change | ch ānj|
the act or instance of making or becoming different.
• the substitution of one thing for another • an alteration or modification• a new or refreshingly different experience 

Last week, I sent out a student survey to collect updated feedback from our student base at Southtown Yoga. When we moved locations, we also shifted many aspects of what our regulars were used to. We added several new teachers, introduced Yogahour® classes and replaced mixed levels classes with expanding. We also changed our pricing structure completely. That much change can be a lot to handle, especially for the 30% of our student base who attend 3-4 classes per week. Any amount of change usually startles most folks at first. Myself included. Personally, I changed my schedule to teach solely yogahour classes to help establish this new style of yoga within our community. I am working closely with Darren Rhodes in regard to yogahour teacher trainings and much more. Its crucial that I have a good handle on not only how to teach yogahour classes effectively, but also that I gain perspective on how our student base responds to this particular style of yoga on many different levels. From my perspective, its an honor that our studio is part of the evolution of this style of yoga. What happens at STY has an effect on the future of yogahour, in a way. Darren has had yogahour at his studio in Tucson for over 5 years now. But for St. Louis, this is a whole new ball game. 

Based on the surveys, 52% of students rated yogahour as their favorite class offered at STY (36% favored expanding, 16% basics). I am incredibly pleased to gain tangible knowledge about our student's preferences. Usually, the feedback I receive as a small business owner happens to come from those complaining, more often than those saying what they really like. This survey gave me a better perspective on the greater community's preferences, rather than the few people who regularly vocalize their opinions. Don't jump ahead, we don't plan to become a solely yogahour studio because of this input.  Its just nice to know that this added option is a crowd pleaser. I feel passionately about yogahour and love attending yogahour classes as much as I do teaching them. That's not to say that is the only way I practice, but it is one of the ways. And, its changed my practice for the better in more ways than one.  But that's another blog post for another day.

In the past year, many changes have taken place in the international yoga community as a whole - at least the part of the community that I was most involved with on a personal level.  Its inevitable that things will always keep changing and growing.  I think most people get that.  However, my personal preferences may or may not align with the changes others make.  Similarly, others' preferences may or may not align with the changes we make at the studio.  That being said, the greater portion of the community LOVES the new studio and all the changes that have come along with that.  While a small portion of students voiced concern about the nature in which we are growing and evolving.  I have to remember that we received a huge amount of praise and support from students old and new. But the comments that stuck in my head are the few who complained or voiced their negative opinions. I truly do value both positive and negative feedback the same. They are both necessary and important.  But why is it that the negative feels more intense, emotionally?! Well, because I care. Thats why. Its like when someone pays me a compliment personally. I usually remember to say thank you and forget about it 5 minutes later. If someone says something critical, its more likely to stick with me for days. My level of confidence in Southtown Yoga, what we are offering and the level of quality at our studio is sky high.  In fact, I feel more confident about the studio as it is today, than ever before.  But I also think, as a business owner, its important to ask for feedback and honestly listen to what people have to say.  There is no one way that will please everyone.  I know that.  But my goal is to continue to offer options that will serve a fairly large number of yogis in St. Louis (both novice and experienced alike).  

One of my passions is the breakthrough that happens within the practice. A deep asana practice physicalizes the teachings of yoga on a relatable level. Its empowering to learn the tools to advance my practice. For quite some time, this aspect of growing and learning something new all the time is what kept me coming to the mat. The feeling after successfully doing a pose on the syllabus poster than I never dreamt possible was invigorating. I definitely can't do every pose, at this point.  But, my desire to do so has shifted away from that. These days, I am more likely to do poses to sustain my practice rather than looking for radical shifts. I can't really pinpoint the exact reason why... but I do know the timing of other personal aspects of my life probably have something to do with that. Either way, I think both aspects are important. I still love the thrill of projecting a pose and figuring out the nuts and bolts of a pose. I just don't do it as often in my own practice as I once did. However, passing on the knowledge of my practice and tid bits I've learned from my teachers along the way is a huge part of why I love to teach. As yogis, I think its extremely important to leverage our lineage as a form of respect for the growth and evolution of yoga as a whole.

With all that being said, I appreciate everyone's patience as we evolve and grow together.  I also appreciate your input, both positive and negative alike.  I will keep my ears, mind and heart open and will work my butt off to maintain the original vision of Southtown Yoga, "To bring yoga to your life."  

Speaking of changes, as a result of input from many of our long-time regulars, Alexis and I are both swapping out one of our current classes to add in an expanding class. We are highly committed to (and rather excited about) challenging the advanced students in our expanding classes and helping you grow your practice. We will be working mostly with peak poses and playing the edge.  Hope you can join the fun!

Schedule Updates (as of March 1):
Expanding with Alexis - Tuesdays, 5:00-6:15 pm 
Expanding with Brigette - Wednesdays, 6:00-7:15 pm

With love,

Monday, February 11, 2013

meditation is not easy

Meditation is not easy.  I've been practicing meditation on and off for several years now and consistently for just about 2 years.  At first, I used to think something was supposed to "happen" during mediation.  I was waiting for something to change and for my body/mind to feel dramatically different once I was actually meditating, so to speak.  There are a handful of meditation techniques out there that are extremely helpful tools. However, some days I just focus on not opening my eyes the whole time, sitting as still as I possibly can, resisting the temptation to fidget or finding comfort within the uncomfortable.  All of these aspects of sitting are extremely challenging for me.  One step at a time, or as Manorama says, "Pade, Pade."  I usually just choose one at a time and focus on that for a while.  Today, my task was to keep my eyes shut the whole time.  Its so hard not to peek at the timer.  

I realize that experienced meditators may argue that what I am describing is not actually meditation.  However, for right now, I am just working on maintaining my focus. When I first started sitting, I literally couldn't sit still.  If you would have given me an advanced asana to figure out, I would work intensely for months (or even years). But attempting to sit still and close my eyes was a whole new type of challenge. It has taken a long time to be able to sit still.  And now it actually feels good to sit still, even if my mind is still moving a million miles per hour.  Pade, Pade.  

For me, the effects of meditation have been subtle, yet major.  Mantra is the first meditation technique I was drawn to, and still am.  Mantra is repeating a word or phrase over and over again.  Often, I keep count with malas. My favorite is the Ganesha mantra, "Om Gum Ganapatayei Namaha."  From what I understand, mantra has a message and a meaning.  According to Tantric Scholar, Douglas Brooks, " The message refers to nothing more than the matrkamalini, the relationship between order and chaos, karma and lila, the self-same self-organizing principles of reality shaping memory.  It is the syllables, the sequence, the rules that create the access to memory.  For meaning, it is the description of the siddhi and the identification with the deity who is, of course, nothing other than nature, society, and yourself."  

I have always deeply connected to the teachings of Ganesha.  He is best known as the remover of obstacles, however, I have learned via experience that he is also the placer of obstacles.  For example, if you pray for patience, don't be surprised to find yourself in a traffic jam.  Ganesha us gives the opportunity to practice over and over again until we get it right.  For me, I wanted so badly to trust.  In order to trust, I had to learn to be honest with myself and those I love most.  Its a practice.  So I repeated this mantra 108 times a day. Then, one day, something started to shift.  I didn't realize I was indeed meditating. Or that chanting this mantra was actually doing something. But there I was, in a healthy trusting relationship with the love of my life.  I had cultivated solid, honest friendships. And, my relationships with my family had never been better.  Whoa!  I am not saying by simply repeating this mantra all of this happened.  I am saying that the mantra did something to me.  Or maybe even more specifically, the mantra helped me gain the consciousness to change an aspect of myself with a lot of focus and hard work.

There are a lot of ways to meditate.  Some I enjoy, others seem impossible at this point.  But I do know it is worthwhile.  It can be overwhelming at times, but I try and remember that this practice is meant for my entire lifetime.  Not just for a few years.  My job is to keep showing up to practice and welcome the hard work this practice requires.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sacred Morning

This morning, Alexis and I set our alarm for 5:45 am to be up in time for our first 6:30 am February Morning Meditation at Southtown Yoga.  To my surprise, I woke up excited.  I went down to the studio about 30 minutes before to turn up the heat and on my (very short) walk to the studio, it dawned on me... this felt like the start of a ritual.  A ritual that I really like.  The birds were chirping as the sun was starting to light the sky.  The air was crisp.  When I walked into the studio, Kiley was already there, prepping for the 6:30 am yogahour class.  Something about the fact that we went to the studio to meditate, rather than sitting in our usual spot at home, felt more sacred.

It was at that point that I was reminded, for me, the studio is more than a place to practice and teach.  In the wee hours of the morning, it felt more like a temple than a place people do asana.  The soft dim light, the candles, the energy... it all felt different.  I think the fact that Alexis was the head visionary for this new space makes the end product feel so sacred.  He and Ivan Hill put so much love and sweat into the renovation, just so we all have such a nice place to practice yoga. Now that we have students and teachers filing our space daily, the hard work that went into the creation of this new studio is highly appreciated.  Alexis and Ivan built our space and the people who practice at STY brought the studio to life.  Its an amazing feeling.

Early mornings at the studio remind me of when we visited an ashram in AZ and started the day with chanting at 4am.  Or when I was in Varanasi, India, and we woke up at sunrise to float down The Ganga.  There were people everywhere doing their morning rituals in the river.  Making offerings to the sun. I realize that we aren't an ashram or a very holy city in India. But as Douglas talked about a few weeks ago, what makes something sacred is the relationship you have to it.  Even more so than the actual place or thing being sacred by itself. For example, our new studio was an empty, dilapidated building when we got our hands on it.  Its still the same building we started with, only different.  Not only has the physical structure changed a lot, my relationship to it instantly changed when we opened our doors to the public on Nov. 17th.  My relationship to this studio is growing every day to be more sacred, holy, of utmost importance.  It is way more than what meets the eye.  Its where I laugh, cry, pray, love, practice, create and nurture friendships, etc.  Moral of the story, 1905 Park went from being just another building in Lafayette Square to something sacred. First thing in the morning today, for whatever reason, this was more apparent than ever to me.

This morning meditation is special to us because its our regular morning practice, open to the public. Sharing the practice of yoga and my own experience of it is as rewarding as it is challenging. Alexis is very disciplined about sitting every day, but I tend to find reasons to skip morning meditation.  Like, I have an early meeting, or I need to shower, or I slept in later than I thought and now I don't have time.  The list goes on and on. Putting this on the public schedule requires us to show up.  It holds me accountable in a very public way. And, since I love being at the studio and in good company, meditating at Southtown Yoga is a huge incentive.  Plus, its a donation-based practice.  All proceeds go to a local charity.  So its a way to give to others as we give to ourselves with the gift of meditation.

Needless to say, I am very excited about this new ritual. Daily meditation practice has proven to be very powerful, in my experience.  When I stick to it, the benefits are sky high.  I hope many of you can join us.  And if not, Alexis and I will be in there on our own.  No matter what.  Every weekday in February at 6:30 am.