My Yoga Super Heroes

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I used to think my yoga teachers were super heroes. Now that I teach, I’m constantly tempted to compare myself to them, and the comparisons are not always favorable to me.

I want to be like them because their work changed my life. Maybe even saved it. I know I’m not exactly the most with-it grownup on the block, but can you imaging where my life would be without yoga? I can’t.

At sixteen, I didn’t have the patience to just sit and be quiet. I was anxious about everything. My brain never quit chattering. I would regularly tear at my skin until I bled. And I hated everyone and everything. Yoga became the moving meditation that allowed me to find some quiet within myself. I have Janet to thank for that.

At twenty-seven, in a panic about the grey cubicle farm that was my daily life, I turned to yoga again, this time with a different need. I had learned to make peace with my body, but could I make peace with the rest of my life? This is when Elizabeth introduced me to the real power of the breath, which gave me the ability to be present in this moment. Notably, many of life’s worries drop away when you’re living in the present rather than stressing about the past or the future. I learned to work on my problems just like asanas — one moment at a time, letting the breath be my guide.

Now that I’m teaching, I wonder if I can give my students the same things my teachers gave me, and I don’t know the answer. Maybe it’s not my job to give my them precisely the same lessons but rather to introduce them to their own inner teacher. We honor certain great teachers with the title “guru,” but the true guru for each of us is the wisdom that lives within us. Finding that divine spark within yourself feels a lot like how I imagine super powers feel. Now, if only I could figure out how to give people that.

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Good News and Bad News on Project Derby

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Happy Saturday! It’s time for another derby update!

We’ve become regulars at the roller rink. The manager knows us, we recognize most of the employees, and last night, I think I got hit on by a 14-year-old. Jenn and I brought her cousin and daughter skating, and while I was out doing a couple laps on my own, a group of three boys skated up behind me. I heard one of them say, “Do it, man,” to his friend, who then skated up and surprised me be by grabbing my right hand. I gotta say, for an eighth grader, homesauce was pretty suave. I wasn’t sure whether to scold him for being inappropriately forward with an adult or encourage him to try again with someone his own age. It was very weird, but then it was over, and I rejoined my friends in the middle of the rink where we helped kiddo practice her balance and I learned to skate backwards for the first time. Gotta admit — I was pretty proud of myself for skating backwards, and it’s easier than I expected.

As for the rest of the week … let’s get the bad news out of the way first: The $10 consignment store skates totally are not gonna cut it for derby. I took them to Department of Skate (a derby-girl-owned skate shop in DC), where an extremely cool chick named Raptor (Velocityraptor — awesome name!) literally begged me not to try and skate in them. I asked her to tell me why, not because I didn’t believe her but because I needed to be educated. She explained in detail the difference between these adorable but totally impractical vintage skates and a derby skate. Key point: the $10 skates had wheels made of plastic, like a Rubbermaid trash bin or a Tupperware dish. Raptor skated around the shop in them and a little bit of plastic actually broke off. There was absolutely no way those skates would survive a derby practice, let alone a bout.

The good news is that I ordered skates, and they should be here Monday! Raptor was super friendly and helpful, even though her teammates were arriving for a meeting in the store as she was helping us. I was actually starstruck as I recognized some of the women from the previous night’s bout. Even though it got crowded, warm, and noisy very quickly, I loved the atmosphere of all those awesome chicks in one room.

So, while waiting on my skates, I’ve continued to practice. Skating with Kiddo last night was particularly fun because even though she had a hard time, she really tried. I admire the adventurous nature of little kids. This girl believes she can do anything, but she got frustrated watching glide around effortlessly while she had to hold someone’s hand or lean on something to stand up — I relate! It was fun to encourage her and see her learning even in the short time we were at the rink. We spent most of the night going slowly to help her learn, but that gave me lots of chances to practice going forward and backward without picking my feet up.

All in all, I’m feeling kinda confident right now. Taking on a new challenge has been really rewarding so far, and it’s fun to make little bits of progress at a time. I feel certain that if I keep skating regularly, I’ll keep getting stronger and better at it. Part of me is chomping at the bit to try out for a team right now, but I have a ton to learn, so I better value the practice time!

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I Love Nicki Minaj

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I ain’t gotta get a plaque, I ain’t gotta get awards
I just walk up out the door all the girls will applaud.
All the girls will come in as long as they understand
That I’m fighting for the girls that never thought they could win.
Cause before they could begin you told them it was the end
But I am here to reverse the curse that they live in.
Got two bones to pick I’m a only choose one,
You might get addressed on the second album
Which means you can breathe until I mothafucking say so.
To all my bad bitches I can see your halo.
-Nicki Minaj, “I’m the Best

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Being a Writer is Meaningless

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When I was a little kid, I wanted to write books. I don’t know how I got the idea, but I think it had to do with feeling that I was strange and other people didn’t understand me, therefore I was bound to be some kind of artist. Also, I won some silly little writing contest in the first grade, so I thought, “There we go! I’ve figured it out. I’m a writer.” It was handy for all those tedious years when adults incessantly ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“A writer,” I would say, thinking it made me sound quite smart. I never did get the awed response I hoped for, but I did start to believe in this idea of being a writer.

Unfortunately, it hadn’t occurred to me that a writer is not a thing you can just be because it doesn’t mean anything. You have to write something. And before you can write something, you have to care about something. When I tried to write fiction, I was completely unable to care about the characters. Sometimes it happened with essays, too. I’d realize after 200 or maybe 500 words that I was rambling on about nothing in particular, just thinking out loud. I feared this was a sign that I should give up because I obviously didn’t have anything to say, but I couldn’t just quit writing.

When I had strong feelings about anything, I needed to write it down in order to figure it out. For a while, I only wrote when I felt strongly about something, and I avoided cultivating any one topic for too long. Most of my ideas and projects would eventually bore me or prove to require more effort than I could to give. To be perfectly honest, I flaked out a lot because I didn’t care as much as I thought I should about my writing. Journalism was the worst for me because most of my assignments felt pointless, and I didn’t feel equipped to handle big stories without prior reporting experience. Writing in and of itself, done purely for its own sake, didn’t interest me at all.

I gradually accepted the truth: My childhood dream of being a “great writer” was based on a complete misunderstanding.

That’s when I realized I needed to tap into what I was most passionate about — not writing for its own sake or books in particular, but the things that mean the most to me. I experimented with a lot of different topics, but it took a while to find something that consistently inspired me. When I started talking about creativity, spirituality, yoga, and meditation, I knew I’d struck a nerve.

Now, I don’t know if what I’m doing is “good” writing. I don’t know if it’s entertaining or interesting. I have no clue if anyone besides me laughs at my cheesy jokes. But I’m noticing that I haven’t gotten bored with it, either. I haven’t stopped caring or run out of material. And the fun part is, now I get to trust my training and leap into the wind. All those years spent trying to shape perfect metaphors and construct clear sentences aren’t going to waste because I finally have something to say that’s worth the effort. At the same time, I have so much to say that I can’t obsess over every sentence, nor do I want to. If I’m trying to express a difficult idea, I pick the best metaphor I can and run with it and just cross my fingers that I’m getting it right. This work feels like riding my bike down a big hill — it’s exhilarating, and little risky, not the tortured process I put myself through in the past.

The other day I asked myself: Am I still a writer?

And do you know what the answer was? I don’t care.

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