On year after yoga teacher training

This MSNBC arti­cle comes one year after I started my sum­mer inten­sive yoga teacher train­ing at Thrive Yoga.

Yoga teach­ers: Over­stretched and under­paid
In many respects – the low pay, the gig-​​based nature of the job, and the unpaid over­time – yoga is lit­tle dif­fer­ent from other free­lance pro­fes­sions in the new, service-​​based Amer­i­can econ­omy. More than one per­son inter­viewed by msnbc com­pared teach­ing yoga to being a part-​​time adjunct pro­fes­sor, with all the job inse­cu­rity and irreg­u­lar pay that implies.

The arti­cles dri­ves homes the mes­sage that it’s tough to turn yoga teach­ing into a viable pro­fes­sion in a com­pet­i­tive mar­ket­place. Obvi­ously, I decided that I did not want to pur­sue teach­ing even part time or as a fall­back option. I’ve made a cold­blooded deci­sion to work on a career track that builds on my accu­mu­lated expe­ri­ence and skills — and brings a salary and ben­e­fits. I am in awe of those who decided to fol­low their heart down the yogic path.

Too many distractions for my own good

This past month I’ve been absorbed in work mode, with a cou­ple of writ­ing assign­ments that  exceeded my ini­tial esti­mates and required over­time and week­ends. But that sta­tus has been com­pli­cated by the World Cup soc­cer (foot­ball) games that are avail­able in my employer’s break room. I’ve had sev­eral top­ics to write about for this blog, but I never had time to develop them, and it was more impor­tant to do yoga than write about it. So I’ve had to pri­or­i­tize my activ­i­ties and avail­able time.

I’ve became increas­ingly aware of how over-​​committed I ‘ve become: just to cite all the train­ing activ­i­ties that I have the­o­ret­i­cally lined up: (1) study­ing for the the Infor­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy Infra­struc­ture Library (ITIL) Foun­da­tions cer­ti­fi­ca­tion (part of my tech­nol­ogy refresh 10 years after get­ting my mas­ters), (2) tak­ing some online courses from Lynda.com to catch up with MS Office pro­duc­tiv­ity tools (my old job was still on ver­sion 2003, now I’m using 2011), (3) learn­ing to take advan­tage of Adobe Cre­ative Suite, espe­cially for online and e-​​publishing, (4) watch­ing some videos about some of the other soft­ware pack­ages I’ve invested in (the delu­sion that a few apps will make me more effi­cient), (5) tak­ing some online courses to revive my writ­ing and edit­ing skills (that’s what they pay me for), and (6) stop­ping the count there… because it’s become ridicu­lous. Even when I had idle time after leav­ing the OAS, I could not fit in that much time for skill devel­op­ment and self-​​improvement.

I’ve been able to tackle these tasks in fits and starts, in evening hours when I don’t have the energy or focus to get the most out of the courses. Reg­u­lar vis­its to yoga class and the fit­ness cen­ter have been my way to increase my capac­ity to extend my func­tional time and ward off the lethargy of brain work in front of a key­board. What’s clear is that I have to elim­i­nate my evening TV time, just as soon as the United States team is elim­i­nated from the World Cup.

DC Council to lay tax on yoga studios and other fitness businesses

The issue of how to treat yoga stu­dios under the DC tax code has come to the fore­front again:

Wash­ing­ton City Paper Yogis Go Mad Over Pro­posed Yoga Sales Tax
Although the pro­posal doesn’t just tar­get fit­ness stu­dios, the tax has been dubbed the “Yoga Tax” by peo­ple who oppose it. The Coun­cil gave pre­lim­i­nary approval this week to charge the city’s 5.75 per­cent sales tax on ser­vices like health clubs and tan­ning stu­dios that pre­vi­ously haven’t been sub­ject to it. The sales tax would also extend to bowl­ing alleys and bil­liard par­lors, bar­ber and beau­ti­cian ser­vices, car­pet and uphol­stery clean­ing, car washes, con­struc­tion con­trac­tors, and mini-​​storage.

Since this mea­sure is part of the annual bud­get­ing process for 2015, the time frame is going to make it hard to alter the deci­sions already made by the DC Coun­cil. Many crit­ics say that the mea­sure is a tax on healthy behav­ior, but yoga stu­dios are still busi­nesses that are sub­ject to other Fed­eral, state and local taxes. Mayor Vince Gray is a lame duck and has already lost a lot of his pet ini­tia­tives so he could not influ­ence this deci­sion one way or the other.

There was also an arti­cle in the Wash­ing­ton Post. Here’s the Face­book page of the cam­paign against the new “yoga” levy.

Yoga, kirtan and the special child find a sangha in Sterling

I’ve been mean­ing to write an entry about Gita’s Dreama Kir­tan group led by Gita Krista Zem­ber and her hus­band, Christo­pher. It runs out here yoga stu­dio, BE Yoga, in Ster­ling, Vir­ginia (think Dulles Air­port). They hold chant­ing ses­sions at yoga stu­dios around the DC area, includ­ing Yoga in Daily Life in Alexan­dria and lil omm in DC. Last year, they par­tic­i­pated in DC Kir­tan Fest; there’s more to the kir­tan scene in DC than you might think. She picked up kir­tan in 2007 and it’s blos­somed into a root of her yoga prac­tice and teach­ing. Check out the sched­ule of per­for­mances; there’s a cou­ple of things almost every month.

“I now have a Yurt stu­dio out here  teach­ing Hatha Yoga, Med­i­ta­tion, Liv­ing Yoga, Reiki, Yoga for Chil­dren with spe­cial needs and a whole lot of Kir­tan! All of the money earned from our kir­tans is donated to girls in India res­cued from sex traf­fick­ing that I go visit and work with there in Kolkata.”

Gita is trained in the Kri­palu and Inte­gral Yoga tra­di­tions, and has been influ­enced by other teach­ers.  She leads yoga ses­sions for spe­cial chil­dren, which is def­i­nitely an under-​​served group.

I will add her to my DC yoga direc­tory as soon as I can. By the way, a yurt is a portable dwelling typ­i­cal of nomadic tribes of Cen­tral Asia steppes, but in the States it’s come to be an exam­ple of sus­tain­able buildings.

DC Yoga Week is upon us again!

It’s that time of year again: DC Yoga Week (9th time around). It stretches from Mon­day, April 28 to Sun­day, May 4.  The crown­ing event will be Yoga on the Mall, Sat­ur­day, May 3, 10:00 am – 12 noon.  It’s a big, pub­lic dis­play of yoga, led by some of the best teach­ers in the Wash­ing­ton Met­ro­pol­i­tan Region, as well as mas­ter teach­ers such as Shiva Rea.

You can find more infor­ma­tion on the DC Yoga Week site or its Face­book page. The event is orga­nized by the DC Yoga Com­mu­nity and 30-​​plus yoga stu­dios and instructors.

Other Resources

New yoga listing for DC

The Wash­ing­ton, DC area just got a new yoga stu­dio direc­tory: DC Area Yoga. It looks that it has been oper­at­ing since the start of the year, accord­ing to its blog. It also cov­ers well­ness and apparel. More power to them.

The oper­a­tors seem to have a rela­tion­ship with a Philadel­phia direc­tory and a Chicago one.  But if they want to feel inti­mated, just check out the other Chicago direc­tory and print mag­a­zine: illu­mine. It has more than 200 stu­dios listed, fea­ture arti­cles, com­men­tary and a newsletter.

16 minutes of truth on broken bodies, healing, yoga

Yoga teacher Shan­non Paige deliv­ers a mov­ing TED Talk about her bat­tle against can­cer, depres­sion and the dam­age they brought to her body and mind. Her talk, Mind­ful­ness and Heal­ing, took place at the 2012 TEDxBoul­der event so it’s not seen a lot of expo­sure. She owns Om Time Yoga Cen­ter.

For Shan­non, the bat­tle with depres­sion was actu­ally as hard as bat­tling can­cer. Through this, Shan­non dis­cov­ers that while, yoga can’t heal depres­sion, get­ting into your body can change the mind and cre­ate a state of empow­er­ment, sta­bil­ity, and release.

Sharon also reminded me that I had failed to main­tain a dia­logue with myself and who­ever else wants to lis­ten to tales from the jour­ney down the path of prana. This will have to do for now.

Another bout of bronchitis confines me to home

On Thurs­day, my boss ordered me it of the office and back home because my cold threat­ened his health (we share a small office space). On the way, I stopped at an urgent care cen­ter to have a doc­tor look at my con­gested chest and sinuses, plus my swollen neck glands and fatigue. I was pre­scribed another round of antibi­otics and rest.

This win­ter seems to have been one long con­va­les­cence from bron­chi­tis, sinusi­tis and the whole immune sys­tem. I and my first round of antibi­otics in Sep­tem­ber, a sec­ond in Decem­ber, and then weak­ened con­sti­tu­tion. No won­der I’ve lost my dis­ci­pline for yoga prac­tice. I am always try­ing to pick myself off the fig­u­ra­tive floor.

Yoga as medicine gets a bad review

Brian Palmer is Slate‘s chief explainer and tack­les the claims that yoga is med­i­cine for many med­ical conditions.

Slate Does ther­a­peu­tic yoga work? The best stud­ies say no, but they don’t get much press..
Doc­tors even­tu­ally real­ized — most of them, at least — that prayer didn’t fit well into a clin­i­cal trial. Yoga doesn’t, either. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do yoga. By all means, do yoga, pray, and eat lemons, if those things bring you con­tent­ment. Do yoga espe­cially if it’s your pre­ferred form of exer­cise — exer­cise is a health inter­ven­tion sup­ported by thou­sands of clin­i­cal tri­als. But rec­og­nize the “yoga as med­i­cine” craze for what it is: an indi­ca­tor of the zeit­geist, not a sci­en­tific discovery.

I’ve com­mented on the trend towards pre­scrib­ing yoga for all kinds of ills and flaws. Much of it goes back to the incep­tion of mod­ern yoga in India when its early advo­cates wanted to val­i­date yoga within a West­ern, med­ical­ized frame­work. In the States, the appli­ca­tion of yoga as a ther­a­peu­tic tool has also help it makes inroads into main­stream cul­ture. There’s been a lot of bad sci­ence done around yoga ther­apy, which has com­pounded the prob­lem. It’s hard to run stan­dard­ized, double-​​blind stud­ies on a mas­sive scale on a prac­tice that should be tai­lored to indi­vid­ual bodies.

But I also think that all this talk about yoga address­ing med­ical con­di­tions is wrong­headed. The prac­tice of yoga is aimed at well­ness, the holis­tic uti­liza­tion reg­u­la­tion and bal­anc­ing of bod­ily sys­temic func­tions (myofas­cial, neu­ro­log­i­cal, cir­cu­la­tory, lym­phatic, and oth­ers). You could focus a ses­sion exclu­sively on lower back pain, but the asanas and vinyasas would not affect just the lower back, but the whole body. The effects would be accu­mu­la­tive over time, not some­thing like a round of antibi­otics. In addi­tion, yoga addresses men­tal states that Western-​​style exer­cise ignores and have a huge impact on well-​​being.

This arti­cle is the lat­est wave of skep­ti­cism about yoga, mind­ful­ness and other things vaguely New Agish. You should also check out The Mind­ful­ness Racket: The evan­ge­lists of unplug­ging might just have another agenda by Evgeny Moro­zov, a senior edi­tor at The New Repub­lic. He’s actu­ally talk­ing about another trend, the rec­om­men­da­tion that peo­ple should unplug from their stress-​​inducing devices because West­ern soci­ety is too hyper-​​wired and needs to stop mul­ti­task­ing. The mind­ful­ness thing gets lumped in because unplug advo­cates fre­quently cite that mind state as the coun­ter­weight to multitasking.

Yoga Poses in Israel

Love the photos.

NYTimes.com Yoga Poses in Israel.
Their stu­dents, taught in single-​​sex classes, are encour­aged to come as they are, even in day clothes or long skirts, if nec­es­sary. The Kol­bergs say yoga helps peo­ple who spend long days in prayer and study and aren’t phys­i­cally active. But, Rachel says, “in our stu­dio, we will never have prac­tices that con­tra­dict our reli­gion, such as mantras and chanting.

I guess they are not going to have any “naked yoga” classes.