dear yogi: a letter from your teacher

Dear Yogi,

Here are some things I’d like you to know…

Your presence in my class means everything to me, because i know how hard it can be to get out of bed.

 I know the risk you take in getting into your car to come here.

 I know how testing it can be, to sweat and breathe in such close proximity to people who are different than you. You are a brave example of the Universe only knowing how to move in one direction...forward.

 These last 1,000 yoga classes have stretched, tested and expanded me in ways only silence, a wink and maybe a slight nod in your direction could explain. 

None of it is perfect and I’ve stumbled through seasons of wondering if it’s even worth it, if my efforts have been futile, if it’s time to roll up my mat and move on. Though I am grateful not to be in such a season today, 1,000 classes rendered feels like a great time for me to re-articulate my love for you, re-dedicate myself to this craft, and reclaim promises I never made but should have…

  •   I re-commit to my role as a Yoga Teacher and facilitator; a “professional friend” who exercises safety and practicality before creativity. I promise to sequence intelligently and stay open to change.

  •  I will hold fast to the truth that Yoga was invented by people of a different skin color, life experience and view of the world than me. This ancient and sacred practice was never intended to be presented in physical form, shown off for the internet or profited from for personal gain. There will always be a dark side to the ways in which we put food on our table, but I will honor this practice for what it is and where it came from to the best of my ability. 

Further, I will be mindful of cultural appropriation and continue t be a student and advocate of diversity on and off my mat and ESPECIALLY in my classroom.

  •  I will see myself in you, especially when I feel annoyed, frustrated or angry. I will be patient and kind and promptly make amends if I demonstrate anything on the contrary. 

  •  Lastly, I will love you. I will love you as I love myself, as I am loved by God.

 Each time I step into the yoga room, I have a new opportunity to create a habitat for acceptance and a terrain for taking healthy risks. I know what I have, and I am grateful and damn proud. 

 

Andrea Gibson wrote,

“...i intend to leave this place so shattered, there will have to be a thousand heavens for all my flying parts”.

Every yoga class I teach is one of those heavens—

YOU, are one of a thousand heavens for my flying parts. 

 Friend, no matter what, remember that I want to be here. I want to teach you yoga. I want to do this work; for this work is simply my love, made visible. 

 May grace and peace be with you and me and everyone else for the next thousand classes!

 

Love, 

Erica 

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The Yogi's Agreement

I HEARBY AGREE FROM THIS DAY FORWARD, to participate fully in my whole life. A requisite for showing up in such a way will require I take my Yoga practice on and off my mat. Therefore, I agree to be Yoga. This agreement fully binds me to earth for the duration of my stay, and beyond.

AS A YOGI, I AGREE TO BE AN ACTIVE LISTENER; as I am able to hear the voice of both my body and my Yoga teacher, I acknowledge they will sometimes send conflicting cues, and it will be up to me to decide which one feels and sounds right for my practice. Further, I understand I am allowed to ask questions and acquire suggestions and new information from my instructor, taking only what works for me, and leaving the rest.

I AGREE TO EXPERIENCE UNCERTAINTY AND DISAPPOINTMENT as a Yogi. My physical practice, my body and my life will change with the passage of time. I may become more or less mobile at times, I may be injured and need to modify my practice. Therefore, since my body is inexact and sensitive, I agree to cater to its unwavering desire to heal me and make me strong.

AS A YOGI, I MAY NEED A BREAK from the physical practice of Yoga. Sometimes I'll be away from my mat for a few days and those days may turn into weeks, into months, perhaps years. While this may be considered unproductive or detrimental to my health, I know, at its deepest level, Yoga honors my need to pause, however long I see fit.

IF I AM A WOMAN, I understand that my body and my soul are inherently connected to the energy around, above and below me. I acknowledge I have a special relationship with the moon. Therefore my mental, emotional, spiritual and physical practice will change from day to day. When I am on my cycle, I understand I may not be able to balance on one foot, or even balance one task. I also know it may not be best to take inversions, so as to allow gravity to pull energy where it needs to go.

IF I AM A YOGA TEACHER, I know about body language. I acknowledge that although I am doing the talking, my students are communicating back to me with their body. I can see their story. I will listen and respond to these stories with great curiosity and respect. As a Yoga Teacher, I understand music selection, sequence and theme are not the only reflections of who I am as a Yoga Teacher; these are only small components of what makes a Yoga experience. I recognize that should these class elements disappear, I am still able to teach, as Yoga is about union-- to unite with other people, through my voice and my spirit.

IF I AM A MAN, I recognize Yoga as a way to complement and enhance my masculinity. I understand that my practice, on many levels, sets an important example for generations to come. Further, when I show up to my mat, I see myself as a better person, a more present partner, a kinder friend, a more effective communicator. I understand the importance of making my presence known and my intentions clear, both on and off my mat. As a Yogi, I believe in the covenant of comradeship; so not only do I practice for myself, I humbly and proudly practice on behalf of my brothers, young and old.

AS A YOGI, I PRACTICE THE PRINCIPLES OF HEALTHY ATTACHMENT; I know what I need, I know how to ask for it and most importantly, I know how to receive it when it's given to me. If I enjoy human touch, I am allowed to ask my teacher to adjust, assist or massage me in class. I understand my request may not always be granted, but Yoga assures me of the power of asking for what I need.

EACH TIME I BRING MY PRACTICE ON AND OFF MY MAT, I am promising somewhere deep inside I will participate as my whole self. I am promising to build relationships rooted in kindness for myself and the world around me. I am acknowledging I am not perfect and neither is anyone else. I am willing to see the world in different ways. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY...I know what it means not only to do Yoga, but to be Yoga.

Grace, Peace and Rancid Yoga Pants,

Erica

A Few Words to Teachers Everywhere...

Yaxche Tearoom, West Palm Beach, FL

Yaxche Tearoom, West Palm Beach, FL

(An open letter-poem-thing from every type of student to every type of teacher)

So, you wanna teach me?

You want...to teach me?

What do you want me to learn?

 

You wanna tell me how to Down Dog?

Up-Sell?

Sidestep?

Back stroke?

 

You wanna show me how to lay down the law?

Stand up for myself? 

Dance in some heels?

Lean into discomfort?

 

You gonna inspire me to speak my truth?

Squat to the beat?

Run my own business?

Walk away from pain?

Okay, Teacher. Teach me.

But first I need to tell you some things...

Teacher, there's gonna be suffering. You're gonna suffer more than most people. You'll spend a lot of your life building huge mountains, just so you can climb over them...'cuz no one wants a teacher that hasn't climbed over a mountain. So, because of this, you will suffer.

Teacher, you're naturally given different opportunities to be amazing. Not better opportunities, just different. When life throws you lemons, you won't just need to make a Lemon Drop with Grey Goose vodka, you'll need to figure out custom ways someone else can do that, too. Everything you do to heal your own self, will need to be taught. Shared. Exposed.

That's why you're here.

Where you teach compassion, you'll have to have judged people harshly. You'll have to know what that's like and how destructive it is. Where you suggest speaking up, you'll have had to shut up in your own life. You'll need to remember how limiting and frightening and sometimes deadly it is not to express yourself.

Teacher, when you preach "listen to your intuition", you'll have had to numb out and "sheep" your way through a period of time. You'll have to remember all the times and all the years you put your business, your relationships, your weight, your life in someone else's hands, because you thought they knew better. You were certain you didn't know what's right for you. You'll need to teach from this place and empower me to make my own damn choices.

Teacher, when all is said and done, you don't need to be vague. You don't need to use weird cliches to get your point across or to sound qualified. You don't need to tell me to "sit in abundance" or "step into my light". Don't say I'm "embodying my essence" or that I should "drop down into my Heart Chakra" or "access my highest self." I mean, go ahead. Say whatever you want, just back it up with specific examples. Be specific. Say the thing. I'll hear you loud and clear without all that flowery nonsense.

Teacher, in a culture of extremes, you're going to have to find the middle of things. Because you have a special relationship with empathy and healing, you'll still need to find the healthy balance of remembering enough of your own story to help others heal from theirs...and moving the f on from your own pain. This will arguably be one of the hardest parts of your life...and your job.

Teacher, you're gonna need to take care of yourself. A lot. Because you, on many levels, speak all 5 Love Languages, you need them spoken back to you, x's 8. If you are a Yoga Teacher, a Counselor, a Massage Therapist, Fitness Instructor, a Nanny, a School Teacher, etc. You're gonna need more Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Gifts, Quality Time and Acts of Service to balance the energy you're constantly giving away. (You will also need extra hand-sanitizing wipes.) These things will not just be given to you; you will need to ask for them. That's the self-care part. In fact, your job is to practice self-care so hard, that you get paid for it.

Teacher, I just thought you should know these things, so that when you fall apart from time to time, (because you're always susceptible to falling apart and losing your crystals) it won't dissuade or discourage you from being the Teacher, the Healer, the Hungry Student, the Wisdom-Holder, the Truth-Seeker and the Badass you were put here to be. If you can just understand that a little more pain comes with the territory, you won't be scared of showing up for your students, and you'll happily continue balancing childlike curiosity with a quest for wisdom.

Anyway, thanks for listening. You're really good at that.

Love,

One of a Million Ready and Willing Students

 

 

 

Evergreen: My First Tattoo

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"Yes, I'll take a shot", I answer. The creamy taste of coffee and liquor run down my throat, eager to numb me enough to make it through the next hour. But numb I am not. I am all here; nerve endings, proprioceptors and brain cells alert, and surprisingly willing. I think about my Dad, then I don't. I think about going to India in four weeks, then I don't. I think about tattoos and my Jewish heritage, then I very quickly don't. My thoughts are drowned as I hear the first buzzing of the needle. It's coming for me. Erica, relax your jaw and for God's sake, open your eyes all the way...you look like Gilbert Gottfried. It swipes my fair skin for the first time, then a thousand more times, this is no joke. Erica, breathe. Yellow, green, teal, brown, I can see my tree coming together. If anything, it tickles. If anything, it tickles. If anything, it tickles. If anything, it tickles.               That's what I keep telling myself...

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Though I never planned on having a tattoo, I figured if I did, it would be because I'd finally had it all figured out; that life and the ecosystem in which I live made perfect sense and I was so sure that what I was about to put on my body was the only thing that could soulfully represent who I am and why I am here. I suppose by the time that happens, I'd be on my death bed and no matter what design I settled on, it would just look like Madonna eating corn through a picket fence. (No offense, Madonna). So now, at the age of twenty-eight, creamy white-girl skin still pulled taught, breasts still relatively perky and I've still got most of my brain cells, this feels like a great time.

I know I've permanently marked my body with a needle being dragged across my skin, filling it with ink and yet I didn't give it multitudes of thought. I have not been thinking about this design for five years or even five months. But I realize this Evergreen Tree on the inside of my ankle will forever represent this time and space in my life; twenty-eight years old, about to embark on a trip to India with my best friend, who reminded me that tattoos are just another way of documenting where you are at a certain point in life. So there, I'm just starting a new journal. Right?

Without further ado, this is the meaning of my tattoo. It is based on the ancient Druid Horoscope, which is represented in trees. I am an Evergreen...

In the dead of winter, when the countryside was dull, grey and blanketed with snow, the Evergreen brought color and life to the landscape with its cold and austere beauty. The Evergreen is symbolic of friendship, resilience, perceptiveness, longevity and honesty.

Evergreen people are very sensory-oriented and are drawn to dim lights and the aroma of perfumes.

Evergreen people love antique jewelry and other old things and they enjoy being a part of majestic celebrations. Despite this last attraction, and because they are capricious and not easy to live with, they often experience a strong sense of isolation, even among large groups of people. Those born under this proud and resolute sign do not give up until they've achieved their goal and they are not likely to fall under anyone's influence.

Evergreens can be very demanding and hard to negotiate with. Knowing and understanding their true value, they always try to get the most out of life and usually they manage to achieve it.

If an Evergreen ever falls in love, the experience shakes her/him to their core. Their love can be truly unconditional.

When Evergreen people have to choose between different options, they usually pick the most difficult path. That's because deep down they believe it is their destiny to create difficult situations for themselves. But whatever happens, Evergreens are very noble and one can fully rely on them. They remain optimistic through every endeavor and never lose their faith. However, Evergreen people usually neglect the small things because they prefer to focus on the big picture instead.

A big picture, indeed.

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an open letter to twenty-eight

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Dearest Twenty-Eight,

In the deep, dark quite of my living room, I hear the clock in the kitchen. It counts down the remaining fifty-eight minutes of being twenty-seven.

I'm hardly ready for you; my phone has 20% life, clothes are unnecessarily scattered everywhere. Dishes are piled in the sink, DVDs of Seinfeld, Girl Interrupted and The L Word, are just...on the floor. Things are not where they're supposed to be, twenty-eight. I'm not married, I don't have children. I'm a writer and I'm not even wearing the right outfit to type this letter; it doesn't scream Carrie Bradshaw at all!

The thing is, Twenty-Eight, I was conceived mid afternoon, on the bedroom floor, after a huge marriage-threatening fight. (I do love drama). And forty-two blissful weeks later, on a Tuesday in 1987, my 7-pound ass was hauled via emergency C-Section into a culture driven by numbers, data, facts, conclusions, deadlines and fear. In many ways, Twenty-Eight, you're a ticking time bomb; not yet thirty, but dangerously close. Most 28's in my culture are expected to have it figured out. We are to be financially stable and independent, settled in our sexuality and secure in who we are. We ought to know our purpose and our passions and the difference between the two, because there is a difference.

Since the human body has its own rhythm--which we audaciously deny on the daily--so much information can be gathered every 365 days in a human's life. On a physiological level, predictions can be made about the condition of the body as we age; metabolism, bone health, reproductive ability, etc. If I die tomorrow, a skilled professional would be able to tell I am around twenty-eight, more or less by the stern end of my fourth rib, the length of my bones and my teeth. That's a beautiful and often helpful thing, but it would be hard to determine how I felt as a human being. Was I happy? Did I feel complete and secure in my purpose? Did I show and receive enough love? Did I pay my own rent? I mean, I was twenty-eight, after all. Interesting how age can only predict, depict and determine so much and yet we allow it to define who we are, by setting so many deadlines. This isn't a bad thing, it's just what is, for today.

Twenty-Eight, getting older hasn't been the hard part for me, growing up is. As a grownup, I've had to make very hard decisions and judgements. I've told the truth when I really didn't want to, and I've lied when it was my only option. I have to constantly be humble and realize things about myself that aren't favorable, but helpful to know. I've walked through shame, grief, fear, heartbreak and hopelessness. It's not all bad though, Twenty-Eight. Concurrently, I've really surprised myself, as a grownup. I've shown myself grace and a willingness to be here in a way I didn't and couldn't as a child. I have friends who seek me out and think of me all the time. I have a loving, smart and very strong family. My Mother has become my favorite person, thank God. I've cried so many tears of joy and I have much to celebrate, each and every day.

Twenty-Eight, I just really want you to know you are NOT a deadline. You are just a point of reference, like a mall directory, and I'm glad you're here. Of all the numbers so far, you feel the most fun, strong, powerful and enlightening already. You don't scare me...but let's be honest, you haven't demanded anything of me today, other than to receive and really taste all the love available to me. I know things only taste as good as the time I take to absorb them, so I promise to stay present for the next 16 hours. Yikes.

So maybe I am ready for you, sweet Twenty-Eight. For you are proof that I've kept air in my lungs, food in my belly and more than enough love in my heart to sustain me thus far. My dishes might be piled high, I might be single and I don't make 60K a year. My clothes may not make it back neatly where they belong anytime soon and the scattered DVD's won't get re-racked today. But that will come with age...right?

Love,

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