I am a girl who loves mountains, changing seasons, running, true backpacking, strong coffee, and knitting with high quality yarn.

When something bad happens, you have three choices: let it define you, let it destroy you, or let it strengthen you.

The purpose of life is to discover and develop your gift. The meaning of life comes from sharing your gift with others. - David Viscott

Monday, April 20, 2015

Keeping on living the dream.

I had discovered yoga back in November 1999, when, after some serious martial arts competitions and training with lots of throwing one's body on a concrete floor, I ended up with 2 herniated disks, causing me not being able to do things even as simple as put my shoes on - or get in and out of the car. After 6 months of conventional treatment, I was scheduled for a surgery, when a friend recommended to check out Bikram yoga. I did, re-scheduled my surgery, and 3 months later, seeing a huge progress to my pain's diminishing, cancelled it all together. 4 months later I ran my first race, soon after 2 events happened: I became an ultrarunner AND was asked to teach yoga in that very studio back in Westchester, NYC, Bikram (primarily) and Vinyasa style. I did so (taught yoga) for 2 years, anywhere from 2 to 6 classes a week, as an addition to my Pharmaceutical company job (and training for ultras, and yes, of course, family). I loved it. It was an outlet for me to share my medical knowledge, my desire to help everyone become healthier human being, and to thank this Eastern weird thing for "fixing" me without intervention. That, and the space it provided for me to be still. Running was my moving meditation. Yoga was my "focus on the moment".

Life moved me into Portland, and not only did I dive in to ultras training full speed, mountains explorations, and some seriously challenging changes in my family, I also couldn't find a yoga studio that would feel like home. I was taking a class a week - or a month - and only in the last year of living there did I stick to twice a week consistency, again.

Moving to Austin proved similar challenge. While I did find a Bikram studio that spoke to me, Bikram style was loosing its appeal for me. I still believed in its benefits, but the sameness, the heat I was getting more bothered by, the lack of challenge, and the boom behind its founder was shaking my interest to say the least.

This when, on Labor day in 2013 (day of free yoga in Austin), my running friends Janice and Gabe suggested me to check out "Breath and Body" studio, at the time associated and teaching Baptiste style classes. Baptiste Power yoga was my passion for sure, this is what I brought to the time in my NY Bikram studio by taking workshops with Baron Baptiste. It is powerful, flowing, has all the poses you can imagine - after a sequence of the same that will warm you up inside out. And, the studio (BB) and its teachers, owner and students were so awesomely welcoming, I stuck around and fell in love all over again.

No wonder that when my "science life" was being planned out to come to an end, and my massage job and the passion for healing people was coming to fruition, applying for yoga teacher training at the studio was a no-brainer. 

I wish I could share with you a lot of details, but let me tell you, this was not a simple: learn the yoga poses and how to deliver them. It was a life-transforming process. It's been challenging on far more deep levels than physical - in fact, those "far more" were far more important and stood out on its own.

Let me simply share with you my final short assay, a part of graduation process.

And invite you to come to take classes where I will be co-teaching and assisting for the next month, in hopes to eventually teach a class or few on my own. 

What a journey it has been! 4 months of deepening of my own practice and learning how to deliver the knowledge I glimpsed here to others. Yet there is entirely different reason I was told this training will transform me to be “the best I can be”.

I have a thing: I love studying and re-reading subjects I am passionate about. It’s like going in circles, or, rather, in spiral, new knowledge, deeper every time. I had been focused on growth path, psychology, yoga, Ayurveda, and all sorts of non-traditional, East-oriented stuff, for a decade. But it seems there are always new things to dive into.

Re-learning on a deeper level Yoga philosophy, the 8 limbs, the meaning of Om has been super-exciting. Can you believe, when I joined the studio, I just stood there without a sound? Now Om makes my whole body vibrate from inside out, and indeed, it does seal the resolve and the practice. Talking so much about all-yoga makes me want to read more and practice mindfully not only the physical part of it, but study all aspects, especially explore mediation and vegan eating. Yep, I said it, I may give up meat, at least for a while, and sit still too. Chakras, previously only touched in passing-by, enlightened the knowledge why we become who we are, how our biography correlates with biology, how our past shapes our future; and how healing Yoga can be by moving and activating all those centers of energy and breaking the blocks.

The Anatomy has always been my favorite subject. I love not only figuring out muscles, joints, bones and other structures for myself, but sharing it all with others, sometimes to a fault of too much. What’s not mesmerizing about body’s complex mechanism, its functions, ability to compensate, eventually break down, and then begin a healing process? Applying my 30 years of fascination with Anatomy to every Asana is totally my kind of nerdiness.
As far as Asanas, 16 years of practice and previous classes of studying with yoga teachers, various workshops and seminars had not given me even a quarter of what I had learned here, in this training. My friends keep asking me if I am, finally, able to do a split, or a handstand, or any other amazing final expressions of difficult poses. The fact of the matter is, no, I am not. But every pose, from the simple Tadasana, to my funny-looking leap-frogs and hitch-kicking hops, had benefited greatly in details I couldn’t even imagine. And sometimes I think it is even better, to a certain degree, that I am not that far advanced, because sharing those minute points becomes my strength in teaching methodology and a way to relate to many students on a more personal level.

The teaching methodology designed and delivered in Breath and Body studio is amazing. The idea of North Alignment, the “From the ground up”, which is completely simple yet profound, is one that has never been explained before. Why, I ask? Build the foundation, focus on muscle energy; and from there on build the pose and expand! And the Inner Spiral, what a concept that makes everything align better and stay stronger! That was a revelation, along with a constant reminder of a big-toe-mountJ

When we began, I gave a commitment statement: give my best, accept challenges, to be open to failures and to success. During the training, I never wanted to walk out, but the times I wanted to shut down were aplenty. Yet I was able to keep an open mind and keep exploring, turn inside my soul and listen – and turn outside to accept a feedback.
To top it all off, I had acquired new friends – beautiful women who went through the journey with me, learned together, opened up, shared, and helped me grow.

“A person whose mind wanders is like a lost boat on the water carried here and there by the wind. But the person who has self control is calm and happy. Like the ocean stays calm when rivers flow into it, so a person with self control stays calm no matter what flows into her mind.” ("Bhagavad Gita", Chapter 2 Verse 70)

How many times do we find ourselves wandering inside our head daily, whether at work, with our loved ones, or on the yoga mat? We spend hours mingling tasks while thinking of plans ahead, completely unrelated. We sit at the dinner table with our kids, yet not hear a word of how their day went. We come to our yoga mat, the unsettled mind keeps running, and before we know it, an Eagle is falling apart, a Dancer is shaky, and a Handstand is not happening at all.

Imagine a small vessel in an ocean, and a storm comes. The boat gets thrown around and eventually shreds to pieces. We live in the vast world of unknown and are surrounded by all the outside influences, just like little boats at sea. If what we have in our thought process cannot be controlled by us, all the smallest winds and waves shake us to the core. It could be another car driver cutting in front, a traffic jam, a store that ran out of milk…If those tiny things impact us, imagine what illness of a loved one, a loss of an income, or a burning house could do. Even without disturbances of any proportion, the overwhelming amount of information surrounding us outside messes up the calm. The choices in the stores, technology, social media…

Yet with a steady mind we obtain inner strength and we can withstand the storms that life offers us, navigate them as lessons and opportunities to grow. Everything that ever happens to us is for a reason, even if it is not apparent right away. With steady mind, focused on a continual forward moving and doing to the best of our ability, the burdens can be taken in stride, and the ways to deal with any catastrophe are clearer.
Our yoga mat is often referred as a mirror of life. The body on one particular day is stronger yet inflexible; the other day we can stretch but not kick hard…it varies, offering us challenges at hand. If the mind is clear of chatter, strong and focused, work with what you have today, don’t allow disappointments to settle in, nor be taken out by circumstances, stay calm and enjoy the process.


Kirstin C said...

Oh how I wish I could come to your classes!

Good luck on the meatless experiment, I tried that and always felt hungry, but you never know what will work for you until you try it out. Another opportunity!

ALM said...

Congratulations Olga! You look so happy, healthy and at peace. I'm so happy for you! There is something special and unique about being on a yoga mat. Wish I could take on of your classes.....

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