humor

Careening Down a Dangerous Path

So, I’m perusing through my Facebook feed the other day and I see this post:

“Sometime soon, we may reach a point where half the women in America will be teaching yoga to the other half…”

An interesting quip from a man I worked with at a California newspaper in the early 90’s.  To my knowledge, he’s a PR executive and not a yoga teacher. Hmmm, even non-yogis realize things are out of control and there’s no end in sight.

I touched on this in late 2013 when I wrote an article that evoked much discussion in the yoga community. My honest reflection resonated with many, ticked off some, and got people thinking.

Icicles on studioSo, here I am watching the snow fall outside my window in Massachusetts. It’s been about two years since I traveled to 40 cities in the US and Canada in the course of 15 months. I got a realistic pulse of the yoga landscape in America and hit classes in strip malls, YMCAs, intimate settings, large chain studios, gyms, and pretty much every place in-between. When I returned home, I reassessed where I wanted to go with my studio, Breathe Joy Yoga, which sits behind my house in the woods.  After witnessing the state of the yoga industry, I knew it was time for a change. I was done operating a full-blown studio where part of the job was competing for yoga newbies who are more concerned about sweating, low prices and convenience than immersing themselves in the practice. So, instead, I focus on teaching two to four classes a week at Breathe Joy Yoga. Everyone is welcome and every class is engaging and unique as I never have a yoga pose playlist prepared. I also oversee Pretzel Kids® trainings and classes, and I have returned to freelance journalism. Once in a while, I offer PR and marketing consulting services to other yoga professionals trying to navigate this rocky landscape.

So why revisit this topic? Well, because we’re no better off than we were two years ago. In fact, we’re much worse off. And this, my friends, affects how and where we practice yoga, as well as the integrity of our community as a whole.

Today, I would guess 30-50% of yoga studios offer 200-hour yoga teacher trainings. It’s no surprise as these courses generate fast cash and help pack studio classes. Now, don’t get me wrong. Studio owners deserve to earn a living and hopping on the teacher training gravy train is a sure-fire way to ensure that they do so. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. But, here’s the problem: As long as students continue to drink the Koolaid served at the closest yoga studio, teacher trainings will multiply like bunnies in a highly unregulated industry. Seems a little harsh, I know. But let’s peel off some more layers here.

DSCF0442Yoga in America isn’t what it used to be and we, as a yoga community, should stand up in Tadasana and take notice. It was only 11 years ago when I opened Breathe Joy Yoga. I offered a comprehensive teacher training course as much out of need as desire. There were simply no programs in my area. The market wasn’t saturated and skilled yoga teachers were in high demand.

Flash forward to today: If you throw a ball out a window in any major US city, it will hit one yoga teacher on the head and bounce onto another instructor’s asana. Taking classes and teaching yoga is the “in” thing and many students wear rose-colored glasses and think that, if they become a yoga teacher, they too can open a successful studio (just find an empty corner, start a Facebook page, and viola!) or at least teach a few classes a week (good luck finding a studio without a two-page list of subs). The plot thickens. Many still think they can quit their day jobs and make big bucks teaching yoga. Now, I know…..some of you are thinking I sound cynical or this is just sour grapes. But, let me tell you right here and now: I sure as heck don’t have sour grapes. I love to practice and teach yoga. And, I enjoyed the challenge of turning a small, community-supported studio into a thriving business. I wouldn’t have chosen any other life or livelihood for the eight years I ran a yoga studio full-time.

Here’s another thing: I love that yoga is now readily available. I just wish we were more responsible about this mushrooming growth. One of the pitfalls of working and practicing in an unregulated industry is that many businesses offer yoga classes and have no idea whether their own yoga instructors are skilled. A certificate from a crash course is sometimes all a health club needs to hire a teacher. It’s even become commonplace for prospective teachers to “audition.”  Here’s a common scenario: A club owner sits through a slate of “auditions” and then, regardless of whether this “casting director” knows the difference between yoga and Pilates, a yoga teacher who fits the “part” is selected from the lot.

And then there are master classes. What defines a master class? Well, nothing really. At least not anymore. Any newly-minted, recent 200-hour graduate can throw together a workshop and call it a master class. Scratch that. No 200-hour certificate is necessary as anyone can teach a master class. It certainly sounds impressive and many students take the bait, especially when they see this so-called expert on Instagram striking a perfect pose. Our industry has run amuck here. In my opinion, there are only a small handful of teachers who should be considered “masters” in any field. Yoga is no exception.

About now I’m probably pissing off some of you. But, put your egos aside for a moment. I’m saying it like it is. Satya for ya in its truest sense.

To that end, I’m going to tell you a story that may help illustrate where our industry is headed. I’m warning you: It’s a doozy.

A couple of months ago I received a pitch for a workshop from an out-of-town teacher whom I had never met. I usually only offer workshops taught by experienced teachers I know. This way, I feel comfortable about what I’m selling and confident that my students will take away something valuable from their time and financial investment. But, it sounded good so I decided to give it a go. The teacher sent me a description of the workshop for beginners, which would include backbends, arm balances and inversions. She then explained that the inversions would encompass variations of headstand, shoulder stand and maybe handstand. Further information indicated her method will help students reach happiness faster. Ok. Let’s stop right there. Reach happiness faster? By doing a headstand? Wow. Now you really got me going.

Call me crazy. Call me responsible. I don’t care. I had to put my foot down and question her proposal. Here’s our email chain:

The “teacher”: “Regarding inversions, I am skillfully trained to teach them in a very safe and attentive way. I realize that not a lot of instructors feel comfortable teaching them (and thus they go untaught which I believe is a shame), but I feel that if proper alignment is taught, modifications are given and safely precautions are taken, inversions are not only extremely beneficial but tangible to even the most beginner of yogis. (INSERT HERE THIS TEACHER’S STYLE, PURPOSEFULLY LEFT OUT) places a strong focus on inversions and without them, I wouldn’t stay true to its homage….”

I agree that inversions are beneficial, however, kicking our egos to the curb: Even with modifications and the best instructor in the world, my experience is that it’s impossible to watch everyone at the same time in a large room filled with upside-down beginners who you don’t know. I was getting squeamish just thinking about the possibility of someone falling over on my hardwood floor. I also wasn’t feeling too warm and fuzzy about a teacher who felt that, without teaching specific inversions, she was not staying true to her yoga lineage. I mean, c’mon, really? Aren’t there plenty of other asana choices out there? Um, yes.

Here’s how it ended peacefully as I was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt:

Me: So, here is my position: From a liability perspective, I feel it’s not responsible or safe for me to offer this at my studio.  I understand that you would prefer to stay true to your homage but I need to stay true to safety and health. Are you able to offer rabbit pose, basic tripod and/or modified shoulder stand with legs up in an “L” (like legs up the wall without the wall) as alternatives? Let me know your thoughts. Thanks again.”

She wrote back: I understand your concerns. Yet on the other hand I ‘respectively’ [sic] disagree.

That was that.

So let’s talk a little about homage and lineage. What does that even mean? Back in the heyday (meaning hundreds and even thousands of years ago – long before lululemon pants graced our yoga classes), yoga teachers were taught by true experts to pass down this ancient tradition.

Take my primary teacher, Diane Lagadec. Diane is the real deal. About to turn 71, Diane runs Maha Yoga Center in Bridgewater, Ma. and you can often find her in a safe backbend or inversion. She trained with Shri Khanna, who was one of the yogis who came to the states in the late ’60’s and early ’70’s to learn and teach.

“He came to Boston to complete a doctorate and while he was here he created a small ashram in a home in West Newton. He was friends with Yogi Desai, Dr. Mishra (also known as Swami Brahmananda Sarasvati), etc. We got to meet and learn from wonderful teachers. Shri was from the Maha Ananda Ashram in Simla, India. I studied with him for years,” said Diane.

I realize there’s no one path to anything, but I am fairly certain that enrolling in a 200-hour teacher training for a handful of weekends or taking classes in a hyped-up studio with packed classes and hotshot teachers is not going to help you reach nirvana faster. What to do? For starters, do your research.

If you practice yoga, inquire of yourself: Why am I choosing this teacher to guide me? Maybe you have no idea whether he/she is skilled. Maybe the time works for your schedule. Maybe the quality or safety of the class doesn’t matter to you. You still should ask.

If you’re considering enrolling in a teacher training, ask yourself:  Why do I want to take this course with these teachers at this studio?

If you’re a yoga teacher or studio owner, ask yourself: Why do I want to teach? Why do I want to run a 200-hour course? There is no right or wrong answer.

The point is: We should all be digging deep. Or, as we yogis say, it’s time to practice self-study, a.k.a. Svadhyaya.

I may be going out on a limb here but we are careening down a dangerous path. Literally. Yoga students are blowing out hips and shoulders regularly. I’m thinking Patanjali didn’t have this in mind. Take a look at the Yoga Sutras. Depending on your interpretation, only about five of the 196 sutras (II: 29 and II: 46-49) discuss anything to do with asana. Let’s sit on that for a while.

Robyn Parets, a journalist and yoga teacher, is founder of Pretzel Kids® and owner of Breathe Joy Yoga studio in Massachusetts. A former writer for the Los Angeles Times, Inc. Magazine Group, Investor’s Business Daily, and many other publications, Parets turned to yoga and meditation in 1999 after her life was interrupted by a neurological disorder. Bedridden for nearly two years with two children under four, Parets credits her dedicated practice with helping her gain back her health. She recently traveled across the country, documenting the changing yoga landscape along the way. Parets is now focusing on blogging, reconnecting, and creating her next chapter! Find inspiration at: www.awayfromom.net

 

Categories: business, business of yoga, Etcetera, get real, humor, journalism, Philosophy, That's Life!, Truth, Uncategorized, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Witnessing the Yoga Scene

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/11/witnessing-the-yoga-scene-around-the-country-makes-me-consider-closing-my-studio-robyn-parets/

Categories: Accidental Stage Mom, Etcetera, get real, humor, letting go, On the Road, Philosophy, That's Life!, Travel, Truth, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Reality Check

Yoga Sutra 1.8: “Misconception occurs when knowledge of something is not based upon its true form.”

As Sri Swami Satchidananda explains it: “In the twilight you see a coiled rope and mistake it for a snake. You get frightened. There is no snake there in reality; there is a false understanding. But still it created a terror in your mind. It is not only valid knowledge that creates thought waves, but erroneous impressions also.”

We all have things we think to be real or true. Our relationships, our careers, whatever it may be that defines us. But what happens when your truth isn’t quite as you thought it was or should be. What then is the truth? What is real?

I’m going out on a limb here and I will probably piss off some yogis and yoga teachers in the process. But I don’t care. Gotta speak my truth.

And I know, I’ve probably already lost about half of you already…..but stick with me here. It will all make sense in a moment.

I left home in April 2012 and have been touring the US (soon Canada) ever since. Pretty much the only thing that’s kept me somewhat grounded in this tour de force is my yoga practice. Not the sweating, twist-yourself-in-knots type of practice that many Americans consider yoga, but the breathing and simplicity of the practice. Sometimes I just stand in mountain pose so that I can truly feel my feet on the ground. Other times I roll out my mat and do what feels good. And still other times I go to a yoga class. That’s where the truth starts to become fuzzy.

In every city I go to, I search for a yoga class that isn’t hot or power or rock ‘n roll or in a sling shot. I look for the studio that’s been in town the longest or has a teacher older than 19. I’ve been to studios from Los Angeles to New York City and many places in-between including, in no particular order: Wisconsin, Michigan, Tennessee, Texas, Arkansas, Indiana, Vermont, Minnesota, and Nebraska. Some of the studios have been chains, others just small spaces. I can tell you this for sure: yoga ain’t what it used to be. Everyone has a gimmick and everything is FAST. Yup, that’s right: FAST. In all but a couple instances, the classes have been crammed with as many poses as the teacher can think up in an hour, regardless of whether he or she knows how to safely get students from one posture to the next. Music is usually blaring (not that I have anything against loud music, but sometimes it hinders the ability to quiet the mind). The students look like they are competing in a yoga fashion contest hosted by lululemon (sorry, it’s true). Teachers talk incessantly even when they have nothing to say. Most classes have next to no warm-ups or cool-downs. They usually don’t mention the breath or the mind. One had no savasana at all.

Here’s the thing: This is what people want or at least think they want. This is how teachers are learning to practice and instruct.

It’s a sad but honest reflection of our culture. As a society, we don’t know how to slow down but yet we want to do things that are good for us. So we do yoga. Even if we don’t know what that is. We also teach yoga even if we don’t know how or even have an inkling of an idea of the centuries old healing practice that we are passing down.

Let me back up here for a moment. I opened my yoga studio nine years ago. At the time, I was pretty much the only Hatha studio around. Since then, there are now studios within 10 minutes of mine IN EVERY DIRECTION. All but one offer strictly hot, power yoga classes. I’m not even counting the gyms and YMCAs which all also offer yoga. In order for all these studios and classes to serve all those students, there have to be enough teachers. So almost all studios now offer training courses, many of which are franchised or canned (but the students don’t know this). I am not saying these programs are bad or that all teachers don’t know what they are doing. I am just trying to lay it all out there. Teachers are being pumped out faster than you can say Patanjali and students are coming to classes in droves regardless of whether the class is good or bad. They hang on the teacher’s every word even if the teacher has no idea what he is doing or saying. Students think that if they do enough chaturangas, they are doing yoga. Heck, they might even think that 20 chaturanga push-ups will quiet the mind. Skip it, they probably don’t know that stilling the mind and yoga are one and the same.

It’s not just happening in studios. Look at yoga conferences and festivals. Students flock to these big events where the classes are taught by those I now call rock star yoga teachers. These are teachers who have become “famous” in the yoga world and have large followings of students. Some of these teachers are actually very good at teaching yoga. But most are just overwhelmed with their own egos and the large base of students who seek them out in a convention center packed with 150 other adoring students. Most of these teachers are under 35 years old and many have been teaching this ancient healing art for less than eight years (that’s my unscientific poll but I betcha I’m right on the money here). I’ll admit it: there was a time when I aspired to teach at these big conferences. When people pay money to come to your classes or workshops, even if the money goes to charity, it feeds the ego. No getting around it. But after witnessing what I have over the past eight months, I want none of this.

Wanderlust Austin

Wanderlust Austin

DSCN0733

Me and my gal Michelle

It all hit home in Austin, Texas. Michelle, one of my closest friends, lives there. We did our yoga teacher training together at Maha Yoga Center with a gifted and wise teacher. For the past four years Michelle has been whining about the yoga scene in Austin. I keep encouraging her to teach because, well, she’s the real deal. She has tried but can’t seem to find a studio to teach at — somewhere she can keep it real. She said all the studios are hot or power or fast or gimmicky. She said all the studio directors and teachers don’t know a thing about anatomy and sure as heck can’t teach a breathing technique. I didn’t believe her. I mean, really, Austin? It’s a pretty progressive city with lots of yogis. Since I try to take a class in every city I visit, I was determined to hit a studio in Austin with my yogini friend Michelle. We picked a studio named after its famous circuit of yoga festivals: Wanderlust. It looked hip and fun. Let’s just stop there….We walked into a noontime class and had to restrain ourselves from laughing out loud. The skinny teacher in perfect yoga clothes had us rolling on the floor, literally. We rolled and then jumped up. Rolled and jumped up. Rolled and jumped up. We did a few fast poses in-between the rolling and jumping and then she bid us adieu. No rest for the weary. No savasana.”That wasn’t even on the top five worst classes in Austin,” said Michelle as we walked out. I raced back to my hotel to roll out my yoga mat. My nervous system was completely out of whack.

I know, I know. To each their own. But really, call that what you want, but don’t call it yoga. To me (and you are welcome to disagree) yoga was and is about quieting the mind, breathing, finding stillness, feeling grounded and balanced. It’s about moving in a way that makes sense and is rooted in anatomy and yogic science. It’s about being honest with yourself and your students. It’s about knowing your limitations. It’s about slowing down so that you can listen and hear your own inner voice: the voice of intuition. It’s about finding stillness amid the activity. Try doing 20 poses on both sides in an hour. There’s simply no time for stillness. Police give fast drivers speeding tickets. Who is going to slow you down in life? Just you.

Witnessing the yoga scene around the country has caused me to consider closing my studio on several occasions. I’ve become skeptical of myself. I mean, what is my purpose for being here when I’m losing the battle to hot yoga studios, fast classes, and DVDs/podcasts that promise results in 20 minutes? I have often wondered if perhaps I’ve got it all wrong. But then I come home and realize that what we are doing here is worth it. Regardless of whether we’ve got five students or 500.

This is real.

Categories: Etcetera, humor, On the Road, Philosophy, That's Life!, Travel, Truth, Uncategorized, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

2012 in review: Thanks everyone for reading!!!!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 11,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 18 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Categories: Accidental Stage Mom, humor, On the Road, Philosophy, That's Life!, Uncategorized, Writing, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

“So goodbye yellow brick road

Where the dogs of society howl

You can’t plant me in your penthouse

I’m going back to my plough” – Elton John and Bernie Taupin

My yoga teacher crush blasted “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” during Savasana the other night. It was my last yoga class in New York City before taking off for Iowa farm country. How apropos.

After we emerged from Savasana and bowed in Namaste, my yoga crush smiled and said something like this to the class, “I hope you like Elton John. I don’t usually play songs with lyrics in Savasana but I found this fitting today for some reason.” Just another

At Central Park Zoo

synchronicity that told me I had discovered the right yoga teacher. Noah and I may be leaving our yellow brick road here on Broadway to head to the heartland, but we have just begun our magical journey and we’re not quite ready to go home yet.Flash back to four weeks ago.

After dropping into numerous yoga classes with multiple teachers, I found myself in class with Mike. Now, I don’t know if any of you have had a yoga crush before but this is my first (and the first my husband is hearing about it too. Sorry Joel, it was only a yoga crush, no biggie.) Here’s how it went down: his cues were fabulous, his sequence was intelligent and creative, he was quick to make one-on-one adjustments, he challenged me, taught me a thing or two I didn’t already know, made me laugh out loud, and knew his anatomy down pat. He didn’t practice with the class (a pet peeve of mine.) Rather, he skillfully guided people into poses and watched his students with an eagle eye, making sure to point out things like the direction of my right big toe. He made mistakes and laughed at himself. He had no ego, or, if he did, it wasn’t visible to the class.

He isn’t the type of guy who would turn heads on the street. He has a shock of graying hair, an adorable smile, and is cute in an ordinary guy sort of way. Oh, he looked about my age. So no, it wasn’t a cougar sort of crush. Besides, I hadn’t spoken a word to him.

I’m pretty finicky about yoga teachers. I think I’m allowed to be as I teach yoga for a living when not traveling the country. After a bunch of dud classes, this time I picked a winner. I left class and grabbed a schedule, scanning it to see when Mike taught next. I was at his very next class. It was just as good. No, even better. Apart from the awesome sequence, I liked his off-beat sense of humor and the way he swore in class (he said ass like three or four times at least.) I’m not kidding: if you teach yoga and don’t have a sense of humor, you may as well hang up your lululemon short shorts, at least in my opinion. Sure, you gotta know your stuff but please, don’t make me fall asleep in Warrior 1 with a fake sing-song voice, boring cues and the same old, same old stuff. This class was everything but boring. My crush deepened. I quickly left after the class ended, still without saying a word to the teacher.

The next week, I was back. Class was awesome yet, all through practice, I kept wondering if I somehow had met Mike before. I know…. not very yogic when I was supposed to be stilling my mind. Anyway, he seemed familiar to me. Ok, I admit it. I stared at him a lot, trying to make it not so obvious. But it was more than this.

As luck would have it, we rode the elevator down together after class. He looked at me and asked me where I was from as he hadn’t seen me much before. Here it was….my big chance. Don’t screw it up Robyn (huh, screw what up?) Don’t say something stupid, Robyn. Don’t tell him too much. OMG, talk about monkey mind!!! For Christ sakes, we were in an elevator. I had to say something! So I told him I really enjoyed his class and that I wasn’t from New York. I was just here for about a month. Ok, I opened the door and he stepped right in. “What are you doing in New York?” he asked. By this time we were standing out on the street and he was strapping on his in-line skates (yes, it’s pretty dreamy: he skates to class.) So I gave him the three-minute synopsis: I was in Manhattan with my son while he rehearsed to be in a touring Broadway musical. “What show?” he asked. So I told him about Noah and Billy Elliot. Then he surprised me by saying that he knows all about the sacrifices a mother makes when her child is in a Broadway show because his mom did exactly what I was doing. His sister was the original Annie on Broadway.

At this point I knew exactly who his sister was. I only knew of ONE Broadway child performer by name before I was tossed into the Billy Elliot world. And it was his sister! Honest to God. She was the girl I wanted to be when I was 11. I knew every song from Annie and couldn’t wait to go see it. It was the first Broadway touring musical I ever saw in Boston and I remember it like it was yesterday. But, by the time I saw the show, Mike’s sister wasn’t in the role anymore and I actually recall being disappointed I didn’t get to see her. I thought back to his last name on the yoga schedule. I didn’t make the connection initially and why would I?

Things happen as they should. People are in our life for a purpose, or at least this is what I believe. So certainly there’s a reason I gravitated to his classes and a reason he resonates with me. I mean, really, out of all the yoga studios and teachers in New York City (and trust me there are THOUSANDS), Billy’s mom gravitates to Annie’s brother? In the divine order of life, we were supposed to connect. This is the way things happen for me. Time after time.

I just sort of nodded as he talked about his sister. I decided not to say anything back. We said goodbye and off he skated. I walked slowly back to my apartment with a smile on my face.

Flash forward to last Thursday night. My last class at the studio with Mike. Besides our one conversation, we had not spoken another word, not even at the class I attended a couple of days after that elevator ride.

He played Goodbye Yellow Brick Road loudly. So loudly it would have been annoying if he wasn’t my yoga crush. After class, I just had to say goodbye and thank him for the great classes and inspiration (I didn’t mention the ass cracks although they also kept me coming back.) I asked him if he knew that Elton John wrote the music for Billy Elliot. He had no idea. He also didn’t know I was leaving in a few days for the Midwest. He didn’t even usually play songs with lyrics. But there was a reason he played this song on this day. We were meant to meet. This much I know.

He gave me a big hug. Goodbye Annie. Goodbye yellow brick road.

EPILOGUE: ONE MORE PIECE OF THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD

So I guess the universe had a couple more signs in store for me along the yellow brick road.

Tony Awards Day, Sunday June 10: This was our last full day in New York and along with errands, laundry and packing up, we decided we would try our luck and enter the lottery to buy tickets for “The Book of Mormon.” Just to set the scene — Times Square was filled with theater-goers. I mean, it was TONY SUNDAY! But since this was our ‘hood, we didn’t have to go very far to get to the theater at 12 pm. What we saw were piles of people, camped out on lawn chairs. Oh boy, odds didn’t look good for “The Book of Mormon” lottery.

I should back up here for a moment for those who have no clue what a ticket lottery is (something I just learned about upon landing in Times Square). Basically, anyone can arrive at participating theaters two hours before show time and enter a lottery to buy up to two tickets for $25 each.

After sizing up the crowd outside “The Book of Mormon,” Noah and I decided we’d try our luck elsewhere. Neither of us had seen “Wicked.” So, we walked around the corner, didn’t see any lawn chairs parked outside and tossed our names into the hat. By 1 pm, when they draw the winner’s names, the crowd had grown exponentially. Odds didn’t look good but I had a feeling we had won the second Noah threw his name in.

I was right. Noah won! We got front row seats for $50. I hadn’t given a thought to what the show was about and the connection to the yellow brick road. In fact, only a sliver of the yellow brick road even appeared in this musical, and that wasn’t until the very end. When did it appear? Right before the two witches sang “For Good,” a song I had never heard before. It was about how people come into your life for a reason whether you understand the reason or not. And, these people generally guide you in changing for the good. Crazy huh?

So, the musical was amazing and immediately afterwards we went to Ellen’s Stardust Diner for dinner. For those unfamiliar with Ellen’s, it’s a diner with a singing wait staff, most of whom are waiting out their big Broadway break. Our waitress, Maria, asked us where we were from and that, of course, started the conversation about why we were in New York. Once she found out Noah was rehearsing to be Billy, she said she wanted him to meet someone. Who? A former touring Annie! No kidding! Ten minutes later, another waitress announced that there was a performer in the house who is about to star in a Broadway tour. Next thing you know, Kristine Bogan, aka Annie, is at our table introducing Noah and the whole place is clapping for him.

Now, I still don’t quite understand all the Billy/Annie connections. But I don’t think it matters. It was a magical day and I know something happened “For Good.”

Goodbye New York. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

Categories: Accidental Stage Mom, Etcetera, humor, On the Road, That's Life!, Yoga | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Good God!

Jesus found his way back. Thank God.

It’s not what you think. Actually, I have no idea what you think.

Jesus Saves

Jesus is really Israel. And praise the lord I have friends who spy on my house or I would never have known Israel was even there. Confused? I bet….Israel, you see, is the tile guy who was at my house in Sharon, Ma. today finishing the tile work on my bathroom that has been under a remodel for two months. Israel drives a truck that says in bold letters across the back, “My GPS Is Jesus Christ.” If you ask me, Israel was heaven-sent. Before delving into a discussion about why my house is still being remodeled, I need to turn the focus back to Israel, er Jesus. Israel, the Brazilian tile dude, is in seminary school studying to become a minister. So this explains his truck and the reason why he says a prayer for everyone. I didn’t make this up. I couldn’t have if I tried.

We kind of like having him around. It’s not his fault that he disappeared for a month. In fact, the bathroom was supposed to be finished three weeks ago. But, as Joel likes to say, these types of jobs are always one-and-a-half times the estimated cost and take twice as long to complete as they’re supposed to. It doesn’t matter how much praying you do. On time construction projects are damn-near miracles. So far he’s been right on both accounts. In defense of Israel (don’t worry – this blog is not going all political on you), he’s not the general contractor and he could not complete his part until the other parts were done and ready to go. If any of you have ever remodeled a kitchen or bathroom, you certainly know what this is like. You could be sitting around waiting for days or even weeks for an electrician, plumber, painter or another key player to show up. In the meantime, fast-food becomes your friend and cramming the whole family into one bathroom becomes the norm. Not that I am complaining about the bathroom situation, especially seeing as my toileting facility in New York is tinier than the smallest bathroom in my house. I share my NYC bathroom with Noah and sometimes my husband. I should clarify: Joel is always my husband, but he only sometimes stays with us in New York and shares the bathroom.

Okay, back to Jesus. The home remodel project went on hiatus, apparently. We didn’t ask for this “break.” In fact, I was really “praying” to use my own bathroom when I was home last weekend as now I won’t be able to use it until July. And god-willing, it’s finished by then! But no such luck on my recent trip home. In fact, I get a call every day from Joel: “Nope…no one was here today. Everything still looks the same as when you left.”

But TODAY, the Jesus Saves truck was parked in front of my house! Hallelujah.

How did I know this? Heidi, the new manager at Breathe Joy Yoga, drove by to teach her yoga class and saw the truck. Religious about keeping a vigilant eye on the comings and goings around my house, she snapped a picture, texted it to me with the message “Jesus Is Back”.

“Praise the Lord” I texted back. I called Joel and he confirmed the good news. Israel showed up bright and early.  It turns out that he needs to replace a bunch of tiles because the stone wasn’t installed correctly.

Oh lord.

Categories: Etcetera, humor, On the Road, That's Life!, Uncategorized, Writing | 2 Comments

Ahhh, That Hammock Has My Name On It

(Disclaimer: the names of the yoga teachers have been changed and the yoga studio remains anonymous to protect the parties from, well, not sure what.  Although this is a true story, it is in no way meant to disrespect AntiGravity yoga. There are many styles of yoga and what’s good for one, isn’t always good for all. This is written in tongue in cheek fashion so read with an open mind and a sense of humor. If not, get yourself to a hammock immediately!)

Noah may have been dancing all week but the only thing dancing in my head last Friday was a vision of me plopped down on a nice comfy hammock. Yup, after a long, hard week doing nothing (see “Pass the Epsom Salt Please), I could hardly wait to get myself to an AntiGravity restorative yoga class.

Here’s how the AntiGravity website describes it: “AntiGravity Yoga: Restorative is the gentle, healing side of AntiGravity Yoga.  This powerful method focuses the mind…as it floats the body through a series of gentle gyro kinetic motions, deeply opening the entire spine, hips, and connective tissues of the body… This therapeutic method offers accessibility to students with physical limitations, but is loved by all as a portal into deeper spinal flexibility, and mind/body connection.” Ok, I admit it: I didn’t read this until AFTER I took the class, but I do know that restorative yoga is the relaxing form of yoga, the yoga of “non-doing.” I mean, although I had never done AntiGravity before, it was restorative so how hard could it be?

This is what I had in mind

I walked the five blocks to the yoga studio and eagerly showed up for the class. I asked the woman at the front desk, “This is relaxing, right? It’s fine for someone who hasn’t done this before, right?” While I asked these questions, I thought of my husband Joel on our last vacation. He immediately staked out the hammock and there he stayed, for hours on end. Now, this is what I was looking forward to! The front desk yogini smiled, pointed in the direction of the studio door, and said, “You’ll love it.” Ok, that was the only confirmation I needed. I walked into the studio and stared at these parachute-esque bright orange hammocks hanging on large hooks from the ceiling. I was the first one there (talk about eager to relax!) and was told by the assistant teacher to select a hammock. So I did. Right near the window. Then, she came over to me (let’s call her Jane) and said, “Have you done this before?” I said no and then she asked me to move right in front of the teacher as this way the teacher could more effectively help me. So I did. As Jane was adjusting my hammock and releasing it from the large ominous-looking metal hook, she looked at my engagement and wedding rings and asked me to remove them. “Remove them?  Why?” I asked. “They will snag the hammock so you’ll have to take them off and put them on the floor in the corner,” she said matter-of-factly.

It took everything I had not to blurt out, “Are you kidding me? You might as well be asking me to stack a wad of hundred dollar bills  in the corner. Do you really think I can close my eyes and practice yoga while thinking about my wad of hundreds laying on a floor in the middle of New York City!” But I didn’t say this. Instead I politely said, “I would rather prefer to keep my rings on. I’m not comfortable taking them off. I can turn them around, plus they don’t have any prongs that will snag the hammock.” She looked at me arrogantly and bluntly said, “Well then, you will need to go ask the person at the front desk for a Band Aide to put over your rings.”

At first I could not believe she was serious. But she was. In disbelief, I walked out and got a bandage and literally bandaged up my rings. My serene evening was off to a great start. Completely agitated and stressed out, I walked back into my so-called relaxing yoga class. By this time, the hammocks had started to fill up and class was about to begin. The teacher, let’s call her Donna, was smack in front of me and I had a feeling she didn’t like me very much (I’m thinking Jane told her I was difficult while I was out bandaging up my rings). She asked if I was a beginner. I told her I practice yoga regularly but have never done hammock yoga before. “What a great way to start. This class will be wonderful for you,” said Donna, enthusiastically. Ok, that’s two confirmations. Let’s go. The ring thing is now in the past.

The one by the window was calling my name

First up: we wrap ourselves up into little alien pods and stay there for a while. I don’t know, maybe it was only a couple of minutes but it felt like forever. It was pretty claustrophobic in here and certainly not relaxing. As we emerged from these pods, Donna explained how to go upside-down but I think I was the only one who needed explanation as everyone was already hanging out there. I clumsily made it into this inverted position by looking at the position of my next-door alien’s feet, but apparently I was doing something wrong as Donna asked me to come up from upside-down. So I did. And there I sat right side up, swinging on my hammock while everyone else was still upside-down. I thought Donna or Jane would come over to me and explain how to get back into that crazy-looking position. I mean, it didn’t look relaxing but it sure looked like fun. But I just sat and sat some more, wondering why they were not helping me out (I mean I was two feet in front of Donna. I did give up my prime window seat for a little bit of help, or so I was told.). Frustrated, I jumped out of the hammock, left the room and went to the ladies’ room just to kill some time. I re-entered the land of so-called relaxation just in the nick of time for the next pose. Donna came over to me, a little too late, to ask if I was ok and I honestly responded that I left out of boredom and because I had no clue what I was supposed to be doing next. Donna apologized for not explaining that apparently my hammock was positioned wrong. She said she thought I might prefer to come out of the pose. Hmmm, not sure where she got that idea but, whatever.

I considered bolting but I knew I should stick it out. We did a few other forward folding and back-bending positions in the hammock which I would call awkward instead of calming. All I could think about now was, “Do we at least get a savasana (final relaxation pose)?” This class was stressing me out, big time. Finally, it was time for savasana. In the hammock. Except that we were huddled in fetal positions while Donna talked about visualizing being born and how it felt to be alive on your first day on earth. Now, I’m sorry but do any of YOU remember your first day on earth? And is this what you would want to be thinking about while trying to relax? All I wanted was a little time to think about nothing and de-clutter my mind. But no such luck.

Finally it was over. Hallelujah! I practically jumped out of my hammock, collected my stuff and high-tailed it outta there. Back to my apartment to de-compress. I laughed to myself the whole walk home. It may not have offered the relaxation I was looking for but it sure proved to be comic relief.

Categories: Etcetera, humor, On the Road, Yoga | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments

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