My classes have a way of, well, testing people.
“Hey guys, this ain’t a funeral. It’s ok to cheer up.”
It’s not like a test that you have to study for, with a bunch of different questions covering a broad range of topics. There is actually only one question: if you can’t stay calm in here, how will you stay calm out there?
“You kids are looking awfully serious…”
What is this mind body mumbo jumbo anyway? Isn’t it like supervised nap time?
Emphatically, no, it is not.
You will not find a time during any of my classes when your mind is free to dwell on something that upset you yesterday or to worry about what might happen tomorrow. We work in the now, the right now, the only time that there is.
Stay with me…
Being present in the moment creates a sense of flow and ease. The path of least resistance is not necessarily the easiest path, on the flattest ground, with the fewest obstacles, it’s the one we travel without trying to grab on to every single thing that enters our consciousness.
Somewhere along the line we’ve mistaken working out for stressing out. Consider this: the way you do one thing is the way you do everything. Do you spend your days stressing out about time, money, your appearance, your social status? Is your #1 concern: Am I good enough? And your #2 concern: how will I get the things that will make me good enough? Let me ask you this: how will you know when you’ve arrived at good enough? Will your biceps be as big as your head? Will you drive a car that can go 3x the legal speed limit? How much energy is allocated to the stress and worry at the expense of the actual doing? Is the quality of the work diminished if you go about it calmly?
With our highly competitive and stress inducing culture, it’s not the least bit surprising that we’ve turned exercise into a competitive and stressful activity. No wonder so many people don’t enjoy it; they’re stressed out at home, they’re stressed out at work and the last thing they want to be is stressed out at the gym.
But is it really the gym that creates the stress?
I’ll be the first to admit that I teach the hardest yoga class I’ve ever been to, and Dynamic Body Sculpt – oh baby, we’re not messin’ around! But here’s the thing, I will not let you sink into that shroud of anxiety that most people wear like an iron mask. I can see it coming on, the way too serious expressions, the shoulders creeping up by the ears, the lack of breathing. As the level of difficulty increases, the body starts to experience stress. The heart rate increases, lactic acid accumulates in the muscles creating the feeling of “burn”, the mind is scrambling to coordinate the limbs and maintain balance. Suddenly we experience a feeling of turbulence and our knee jerk reaction is to hold on, to grab on to something, thinking that the only way to make it through, to survive, is to let our fight or flight reflexes take over and go into stress out mode.
Guess what happens in stress out mode? The workout is harder. You accomplish less and leave the gym with more anxiety than when you arrived.
If you’re trying to take your workout to the next level and are frustrated by a lack of progress, I have three words for you: let it go. When the stress comes, and it will, don’t grab on to it, let it go. Breathe through the moment. Fall out of a pose? That’s alright, don’t get mad. Take inventory of where the tension is accumulating, where the flow of chi is being blocked, and relax. Focus and breathe and try again. When the waves of tension start to rise up, be the screen door and let them pass through you without the need to hold on. Your mind and body will thank you. 🙂
I went out looking for the forest but all I found were 10,000 trees. I mean seriously, folks, 10,000 trees. I try to stay focused but metamorphosis is complicated and I am reminded again and again of something the great Price Pritchett said in his book, you2 (that’s “You Squared” not “U2”). He said quit trying harder.
Earlier this week someone complained to the manager of one of the clubs I teach at that my class is “not normal yoga”. I had a feeling that something was up when she told me the same thing in her best derisive tone about 5 minutes before rolling up her mat and walking out. So, she tells my manager “DeAnna’s class is not normal yoga” and he tells her, “No shit, genius.” and that’s why we get along.
Is PiYo like “normal” yoga? Nooooooo, that’s why it’s called PiYo and not yoga.
Which brings me to my next point, to say that this or that is “not normal yoga” implies to me that her definition of yoga evidently differs from mine, and maybe from yours too. I’m not into boundaries and boxes, I am unconcerned with uniforms and name tags.
This thing that I teach, this PiYo is, in fact, only supposed to resemble yoga. It is designed for the mainstream, the description in the packaging clearly states that PiYo is a non-spiritual approach to mind/body exercise. Now, don’t get all pee-pee-hearted with me for saying this but I have to call bullshit on that one. There is no such thing as a non-spiritual approach, because we’re not robots. All of us who are brave and/or crazy enough to put ourselves out there as teachers do so with an approach that reflects our personal beliefs. All of our participants who drag themselves out of bed and down to the gym first thing in the morning do so because of a belief system that tells them it’s worth while. The notion of a non-spiritual approach is a poison apple.
I would like to throw two ideas out on the table: one, that trying harder only pays off if you are employing the most effective method and, two, that your physical practice is only as strong as your mental practice can support.
I’ve written about this topic before and here we go again. Isn’t yoga supposed to be a metaphor for life? If so, then what makes it yoga? Is it being barefoot? Is it Lulu Lemon pants? Is it dim lights? Blocks, straps and blankets? Chanty music? If I speak to you in my best monotonous drone, is it yoga now? What if you have all of these things and it still isn’t or what if you have none of them and it is? Is yoga an outfit and a set of poses? Uh-oh, what if it’s not? What if it’s not any of those things because what it actually is is a mental practice? Calm breath, focused, observant and responsive state of mind: this is what we seek to achieve and the appearances of yoga are just that; appearances. Stay with me now, what if you can take this “yoga mindset” into any physical practice? I propose to you that a good way to build the yoga mindset muscle is to push the limits of your physical practice. Anyone can stay calm and focused while sitting on the floor in a quiet room but what about after transitioning from crescent to warrior 3 eight times in a row? How about when you’re late and stuck in traffic? What about when your plans crash and burn? How calm are you now? What are the voices saying to you now? Are they still calm, do they say things like “Today I do my personal best. I stay calm and observe, but do not cling to, the emotions that I experience” or do they start saying things like “I’m not as skinny as that girl over there. I have terrible balance! I suck at this! I’m too incompetent to be here!” Suddenly, we’re not in Kansas anymore but did the workout cease being yoga or did letting go of the yoga mindset cause us to fall into a chaotic state? Think about that. Forcing the body into challenging poses really means nothing, accomplishes nothing, without the support of the internal condition. The physical practice of yoga, PiYo, Turbo Kick, Hip Hop Hustle or any workout provides a safe environment to practice the mindset with which you will approach all situations. You can go as far down this rabbit hole as you like but I’m just going to say this: the body responds to what the mind tells it and the mind speaks loudest in the voice it uses the most. Do you come to yoga to work on developing your negative self image? Go to the gym to cultivate angry thoughts? Turn everything into an imaginary competition that can never be won? Certainly that isn’t yoga, but what can you expect to change on the outside without first getting a grip on what happens on the inside? The outside mirrors the inside and never the other way around. If you want to make exponential progress in your physical practice then start by conditioning the mental practice to support working on a higher plane.
I am re-reading this after having just got off the phone with my PR agent. Without provocation or even knowing what I was working on today he said, “you have to condition yourself to operate on a higher plane.”
When the universe offers free advice, listen.
You can’t see the forest from the ground.
The other day I was checking out my site stats and noticed that someone found my website by performing a Google search on the question “Is PiYo different than yoga?”
I’m a big fan of yoga. I studied and practiced it for years prior to discovering PiYo. I love them both but they are not the same. On the other hand, I love them both and they are not different.
If there is any confusion, it lies in the perception, in the expectation of what a mind/body workout is.
This scenario is for my fellow PiYo instructors. You have a new student who comes in the door and says, “I’m here for yoga”. You say, “Hello, and welcome to PiYo!” They repeat, “I’m here for yoga.” You say, “this is PiYo.” They say, “the schedule says this is yoga.” You smile and wonder if they actually read the schedule because your class is clearly labeled “PiYo.”
Conflict occurs when expectations don’t match reality. I welcome all students to my class but when the conversation starts this way, I get a little worried inside because I infer from both their tone and reactions that they were expecting something different. Most of the time that convo translates loosely to “I’m not here for party music and sweat.”
Is PiYo different than yoga? In my opinion, PiYo is just one of the numerous evolutionary variances in what has become known as the mind/body workout. Being present in the body and performing actions with specific intention is all that is required for this type of experience. PiYo moves at a fluid pace; firing up considerable heat in the body, burning fat, building muscle, focusing attention and intention, so on the mat as in life. It’s about the flow, it’s about persistent effort, it’s about working through personal barriers, and expanding belief in what is possible. Is this not a meditation?
If you’re looking for a concise explanation of what PiYo is: PiYo is a high energy, low impact, total body fitness routine based on the principals of yoga and Pilates. I would describe it as fast power yoga. My friends call it The killer of “mom jeans”. What to expect? Energetic environment, fun music, lots of sweating, and results!
Sound like your kind of fun? See my schedule for a full listing of class times and locations.
PiYo is a journey, are you ready?
This is true in all professions: sometimes we get so busy working that we don’t make time for learning. It’s vital to remember that your current skill set can only take you so far and learning is an essential key to moving forward. Next month I’m taking advantage of two excellent opportunities for professional development.
September 9, 2012:
PiYo Instructor/Pro Training and Workshop
Together Strong in Santa Fe, NM
September 25, 2012
Power Yoga workshop with Bryan Kest
Yoga Junction in Louisville, CO
This train is just getting started!