Why Do Derby Today (my reminders)

Attack Dog Three Kids

I’m pretty sure my fellow freshies will understand when I say I identify a little too much with these toddlers.

Roller derby is not easy. As I was reminded at practice this week, “If it were easy, everyone would do it.” In fact, if it were easy, I would have done it ages ago, gotten bored with it and quit by now. In the past week or two, I’ve had moments of wondering whether derby is for me or if I’ll ever get good at it. A pulled muscle in my hip and one very discouraging practice had me thinking I’d never be good enough to scrimmage, let alone get on a team. But a couple days later I had a good practice, learned some things, felt a little stronger, and connected with league mates I hadn’t talked with before.

I love the way our practices are set up so the new girls get to drill with the vets and learn skills from them. Skaters at every level are eager to share what they know and to give a word of encouragement whenever it’s needed. Still, there are days when you come home and just want to cry because (a) something hurts, and/or (b) you just don’t think you’ll ever get there.

Especially when you’re in pain, it’s easy to forget all the good stuff, so I’ve started a running file on my phone called “Why Do Derby Today.” This is where I keep track of the reasons I love derby so I won’t forget them when I have a hard day. Here’s the list so far:

  1. Derby makes me feel really strong.
  2. Facing challenges helps me get braver.
  3. All the awesome friends.
  4. Be an example of what’s possible for other women.
  5. Do it for the sense of accomplishment.
  6. Eat what you want, and never feel bad about it.
  7. Seeing how far I’ve come already, I wonder how much further I could go.
  8. My league mates are awesome and always willing to help me learn and improve.
  9. Hitting drills are fun and not as scary as I thought.

So, next time I’m afraid I totally suck and will never get it right, hopefully this little list will remind me why it’s worthwhile to keep trying. With a little encouragement from my friends I’ll keep showing up, doing what I can, and hopefully growing a little bit at a time. And who knows? Maybe one day I’ll even get to skate in a bout.

Announcing a New Chakra Class Series and a Special Sunday Class

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This Sunday from 10 a.m. to 11:30, I’ll be leading a chakra-balancing yoga practice to introduce you to the concept of the chakras and invite you to explore them more deeply through my upcoming chakra class series.

The on  Monday (4/14/14), I’ll be leading a 7-week yoga series focused on the chakras from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. at Shakti Studio in Arnold, MD. Each class will focus on a different chakra, we’ll talk about the symbolism around it, how it relates to the body, how it affects our lives, and how we can use asana practice and meditation to improve our overall health (mental, physical, and emotional).

If you’ve ever tried yoga, you’re likely at least faintly aware of the concept of chakras, but most people really don’t know much about them. The chakras are part of an elegant system through which yogis approach health on every level rather than separating the mind, body and emotions from one another. We often think of ourselves as just brains walking around inside a body, and we even create an adversarial relationship between the mind and body with our constant dieting and endless self-criticism. The truth is that without the mind there’s no use for the body, and without the body, the mind doesn’t have a home. So yoga uses asana, meditation, and concepts such as the chakras to help us create a state of integration and wholeness. In that state, we can experience the richness of life in a profound and life-changing way.

Our goal with this series will be to explore each of the chakras in turn to see what it can teach us about ourselves and our lives. My hope is that by the end you will have gained a new set of tools to practice self-awareness and cultivate the kind of wisdom and joy you want. Drop-ins are welcome in this series, however you will get the greatest benefit by participating in the full series of classes. Advance registration is recommended — just go to Shakti Studio’s online registration system and sign up for the Monday morning 9:30 class. All levels are welcome!

How to find us: Shakti Studio is at 530 East College Parkway, Suite E, Annapolis, MD. Do not use GPS to find the studio as you will get incorrect directions.

Coming from Rt. 2/Baltimore: Take Ritchie Highway into Arnold, then take a left onto Parkway. Stay on College Pkwy. until you see the second turn for Bellrive Rd. Make a left turn onto Bellrive. You will be able to see the studio from the street. It’s on the lower level of the College Parkway Professional Center.

Coming from Rt. 50/Annapolis: Take the exit for Bay Dale Rd. and veer right. Follow Bay Dale until you see College Pkwy. Take a right onto College Pkwy., then a left onto the second turn for Bellrive.

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a little bit of silence

trying to understand myself

I hit a wall. Not literally, although that has happened in the past. I just haven’t felt like blogging lately. The busier I get, the less time I have for thinking about stuff to write on the internet. On the other hand, it’s become all but essential that I write in my private journal every day. I’ve also started drawing again, something I don’t feel particularly good at, but which makes me happy nonetheless.

Why no blogging lately? Well, partly because I’m too busy living my life to spend the time telling the internet about it. But also because I feel like anything I write for public consumption should be in some way relevant to a potential reader. Everything in my head lately has been very much about me, things I’m learning, things I’m working on. Those things are not only irrelevant to you the reader, but they’re also very private things.

I’ve come to dislike the common tendency for people to live their whole lives in public. I feel like we as a society have reached a point of media saturation. Pretty much everyone has the access to the digital soapbox and megaphone, and for some reason we all feel compelled to use these wonderful communication tools regardless of whether we have anything of worth to communicate. As I think more and more about what it is I’m communicating to the world, I’m wanting to be sure that it’s high quality, not just fluff and not just noise. And an awful lot of the so-called communication I’m seeing around me turns out to be fluff or noise. Even passionate messages about important topics get lost in the chatter, driving us to be louder, shout more, and contribute to the sense of chaos. Sometimes the world (especially the world of social media) feels like a noisy restaurant, and I just want to step outside and get some fresh air.

Even as I write this, I am asking myself, “Why? Why are you saying anything? Why open your mouth unnecessarily?” And I just don’t know, so I’m gonna be quiet for a little while.

How Derby is Teaching Me to Let Go of Fear

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This is the year I let go of fear. This is the year I push myself. That’s what I determined at the start of 2014. There is no path laid out ahead of me: no promotion to work for, no boss to please, no raise to negotiate. It’s up to me to determine where I go this year and beyond. Total freedom is very similar to total lack of direction, and the main difference between the two is having the ovaries to take action. And that means I cannot be frozen by fear.

Trying out for derby was a pretty big challenge and a good way to practice facing my fears, but it was only the beginning. Getting into the league is one thing, but sticking with it, practicing even when you’re tired and sore, reaching out to new people, and challenging yourself physically and mentally with every practice … well, it’s hard work. It’s especially hard if you’re naturally an introvert who’d rather stay home and think deep thoughts than sweat or meet new people.

Sometimes I wonder why I’m doing this, and the answer seems to be: Because I want to see if I can. The challenge is satisfying in a way I’ve never experienced before. What I get from derby that I haven’t had in the past is a particular sense of accomplishment. Unlike my professional accomplishments, what I achieve in derby directly benefits me first and foremost (later I hope it will also benefit my team). Unlike writing or artistic accomplishments, there’s no questioning whether other people will like or appreciate it — I’m not doing it for an audience. And whereas my yoga practice is very personal and private to me, derby is something I can share with a vibrant community of people who want to help and cheer each other on. It turns out, derby fills a hole in my life I didn’t know was there.

As for the fear? Yeah, it’s still there, but I’m working on it. During practice this weekend, Mr. Pistol (one of the coaches) kept talking about committing to your movements. If you don’t commit, you’ll always do it half way, and you’ll never really get there. And what stops me from committing? Fear, of course. So I started telling myself to let go of fear and commit to doing the falls, stops and various techniques we worked on. I did not instantaneously became awesome at them, but it felt good to make a sincere effort, focus on my work, and see improvement.

I’ve also noticed that what I learn from derby often relates back to my other love: yoga. Just the other day, I complained about being afraid that I’m not a good enough yoga teacher. Yep, there’s that fear again. I have to let go of the fear of failure and commit to teaching with my true voice. If I try to please everyone, I will end up pleasing either no one or everyone but myself. Neither option is acceptable to me. If I teach the yoga I love, there’s a chance that the folks at the gym will decide I’m not their right teacher, but there’s also a chance of real success.

And what does real success mean to me? It’s pretty simple: Doing what I love in a sustainable way that adds to the overall good in the world. I’m pretty sure that’s not asking too much, and all I have to do is get the fear out of the way.

The Gym-Phobic Yogi

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I’ve developed a bad habit of only writing about positive things. That means when things are tough, I don’t really have an outlet for my thoughts. Please bear with me, as I’m about to tell you about some of the harder parts of being a yoga teacher.

Even though teaching yoga truly is my dream job, it’s not always easy, and sometimes I doubt my ability to do it well. I’ve been having some frustration with my classes lately. By all external measures, they’re going well. The students keep coming, they say nice things about me, and I get offered new teaching contracts. All these things would suggest I’m doing something right. But something feels wrong.

I recently began teaching at a gym. During teacher training, I heard a lot of negative talk about how bad it is to teach yoga at a gym. Not just my teachers but their colleagues and my fellow students talked about how gym yoga is stripped of its spiritual and philosophical core. They’d say all the students want is hot vinyasa and hand stands and if you tried to put them in savasana for more than a minute you were doomed. Considering that I’ve been too self-conscious to actually set foot in a gym for most of my life, it’s possible that I’ve embellished on their negativity with my own.

This new contract involves teaching at a corporate gym for an amazing company, and it’s a great opportunity for me to branch out professionally. Plus, it pays more than studio classes do. Being a yoga teacher is not just physical work, but there’s a ton of mental and emotional energy involved, and there are times at studios where you earn less than $5 an hour. No matter how wonderful your neighborhood studio is, it’s really hard to earn much of an income if that’s the only place you teach.

I thought I’d outgrown my fear of gyms, but it seems it’s not entirely gone. I get nervous going in to class, forget my plan, stumble over my words, and skip through the centering too quickly when I see someone fidgeting — because I assume they’re annoyed we’re not sweating yet. I find it very hard to teach authentically because I’m worried about what people must be expecting of me. I’m aware as I write this that the solution here is to stop worrying and just teach. But it seems I’ve forgotten how.

I’m not giving up. I know I will figure this out. It just takes a while to figure out a new group and how to relate to them. Until I get it properly pinned down, I’ll be teaching a lot of gentle vinyasa. Finally, I am reminded that every time I meet a new challenge, the answer comes in the form of my own yoga practice. The more I teach, the more I have to focus on my own practice. I have to keep learning and improving if I want to be of service to anyone else.

And with that, I guess I better go get back on my mat.