Tuesday, August 26, 2008

All of us are in the gutter...but some of us are looking at the stars

An interesting discussion is afoot on Linda's Yoga Journey, concerning the wages of yoga teachers. Are we paid too much? (hardly) not enough? (often) the same as aerobic instructors? (sometimes...but maybe we shouldn't). I've thought about it often, since I teach at the Y, where there are a variety of fitness classes offered alongside my yoga classes.

I think yoga teachers' fees ought to reflect their training. If you spend a year or two (or more) learning from a reputable source, your wage should be commeasurate. If you took an email test online and got "certified" in an afternoon--whatever that means--that lack of diligence should be acknowledged, too. Continued training ought to be rewarded, as well, but I suspect that is more rare. And, of course, there's the issue of market value...people pay more for yoga classes, so teachers can ask more (some chicken and egg at work).

The under-paid teacher complaint is an old one. Those that want to share their knowledge and expertise often have to take satisfaction in a job well-done as part of their renumeration, whether yoga instructors or college professors or kindergarden teachers. These are crucial positions, and vital to the improvement of a civilized population, but rarely is it rewarded as it should be. The world values lawyers, businessmen, movie stars and football players more.

As far as fitness goes, I'll bet it's the aerobic instructors that get the shaft, payment-wise, more than yoga teachers, tho. Maybe the training isn't as long, but the amount of prep that it takes to choreograph and learn the routines is time-consuming. A strong background in physiology isn't required, but there has to be some familiarity with how the body works and how you train it. And then there's the level of exersion necessary to serve up a useful, engaging class to a roomful of, perhaps, less-than enthusiastic participants. Cetainly worth more than minimum wage...

So, this is what I think about. I'm not sure I have an answer...life is not fair. I wish yoga teachers (most of them) made more money than than Lindsay Lohan. And people should want to invest in the instructors that help keep them hearty and hale. But they don't, so I suppose it's pointless to spend too much energy on it.

I read a quote that's pertinent: "Santosa (or contentment, one of the niyamas from the Yoga Sutras by Pantanjali) cannot be practiced; it has to come from within. We're all discontented. The trick is to be content with that."--B.K.S. Iyengar.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Mind Games

I haven't been able to watch much Olympics (just swimming, yawn), but I've been reading about them. The amount of training these athletes go through is crazy (I'm not even going to touch on the pharmaceutical aspect), but what I find particularly interesting is the mental work they do to get themselves ready to compete. They train and lift and run for years, but right before the event it all comes down to the voices in their heads--either listening to them, or turning them off. I think that's fascinating, although, as a yoga teacher, I shouldn't be all that surprised.

There was a really interesting article in the New Yorker a few weeks ago about the brain chemistry behind inspiration and discoveries that come in an "aha" moment. Studies by several researchers found that a specific part of the brain in the right hemisphere becomes especially active about 30 seconds before the subjects had their moments, and that this fold of brain tissue communicates with the prefrontal cortex (the area of the brain that recognizes the problem has been solved); when a thought "just comes to you" the brain has actually been working on it for awhile. They found that this communication was especially efficient when they brain (and thinker) was relaxed and even thinking about something else when the connection was made. Think of all the times you figured something out or solved a problem when you were doing an unrelated task--that would be the relaxed mind at work.

I had an artist friend that used to put projects aside for a few days, when the creative juices stopped flowing--she called it "putting them on the back burner." She found that, upon returning to the projects after some time had passed, she was able to finish them to her satisfaction, as if the brain had unconsciously solved the problem while she was otherwise occupied. We used to joke about it, but now it sounds like that's exactly what was happening.

So, Pranayama. Calming the fluctuations of the mind. Make sure you spend some time breathing and releasing, in addition to your asana practice. I can't guarantee gold medals or masterpieces or (ahem) brilliant tenure packages, but the clarity and the focus that a quiet mind provides is fertile ground for all these achievements.

And you don't have to wear a goofy-looking wet suit...

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Yoga on the Farm

Hectic Householderdom...and I have been neglectful. I hadn't realized it's been a whole 2 weeks since the last post, so my apologies. However, I've finished the YJ community article (more on that later), Eamonn's 4th birthday is out of the way and things have settled to a dull roar.

I also got a call from a local organic farm, Angelic Organics, with whom I've participated in their CSA shareholder program for several years. Eating locally-produced food is something I try very hard to do (not so easy in Wisconsin in the winter) and buying a "share" in a local farm means I write a check and, for most of the summer, I get a box of fresh, organic veg to get me through each week. Late summer is great when the box overflows with tomatoes, corn, squash, carrots, etc...early summer is nice, too, altho it gets hard to find things to do with lettuce. Still, it's fresh, it's from nearby and my pick-up is the farm itself so I get to see the fields up close.

As I was saying, they called and asked if I would be interested in teaching yoga to some of their staff. I agreed immediately because I am a big supporter of their cause, but I didn't realize what a treat it would be for me. We meet in the fixed-up, second floor of a small barn, with floor-to-ceiling windows, and practice with the full orchestra of early summer evenings (birds, bugs, frogs) filling the space. The whole enterprise seems so yoga-appropriate--healthy dirt, healthy produce, healthy farmers--and the Midwest in July and August is such a green, fecund backdrop for it all.

I'm having a great time doing it. Even the drive is a delight--all gently rolling hills, farm ponds, grazing cattle and willow trees. It's almost it's own yoga, if you can have driving yoga (seems a bit petro-chemically dependent, so a guilty please, I guess). I'm grateful for the opportunity and it's a nice change of pace.

Check out your own local CSA or farmers' market...there's a lot of delicious stuff and you make even hook up with a yoga class. Who knows?!?