Last night was Level One graduation night, I can’t believe 8 weeks goes by so fast! The transformation in such a short amount of time is astonishing, and seeing an entire group of women become confident is absolutely priceless. Their revolutions and revelations bring back memories of my own experience and the remarkable changes I’ve seen in the ladies of the YF community around me over the last 4 years. They remind me why it’s so valuable to start (and then continue!) a yoga practice. The strength and resilience gained by the mind and body support the spiritual health created by a consistent use of breath and focus.
I believe that any woman would benefit from Yoga Flirt. Last night I heard the Level One graduates sharing their stories, amazed by their own boldness and bravery in the outside world after two months of class. There were hugs and promises to stay in touch, as they will have a new instructor for level two. As the last woman left the studio, she had an enormous smile on her face that was lit up from within. I had never seen that look on her face before, but I’ve seen it on many other students faces as they break through their self-consciousness and fears! The feeling I get as their instructor is completely indescribable. For me, being an instructor means I have been given the gift of learning from my students. It is truly humbling.
Come, be my teacher! Spring session Level One starts THIS THURSDAY, May 2nd at 5:45pm-7:15pm. It’s an 8 week session, and you can sign up on the Yoga Flirt website. As a little bit of incentive, I’ll give you $30 off of Level One if you sign up for the session that starts this week. There are only 5 spots left, so please let me know ASAP if you want to take advantage of the offer to ensure you get a spot. All classes max out at 12 women, to ensure enough quality time is spent with each student. If enough ladies want to take Level One when Thursday sells out, Cathy might attempt to create another time slot. I can’t guarantee it, but it’s very possible!
If you’re in the area and want to get started, please go to Facebook, like my page and private message me, or find me on Twitter and send me a private tweet. If you’re an out of town gal, do not fret… I will collaborate with Cathy to help spread the love if we can!
For Ms. Maddy Cooley and her suggestion on my Hope on Heels FB page that I talk about “the transition and evolution of (my) mindset” as I progressed through the program of Yoga Flirt. Ask and you shall receive!
As a preamble to my own experience, it should be understood that every woman has a different experience around YF, depending on where she is in her life when she starts it. I’ve seen women start believing in themselves, begin keeping the power over their lives, their selves, that they had previously chosen to give away instead. The curriculum for YF is carefully constructed to allow a woman to soften into herself, at her pace. It allows her choices, to be made in a safe, mirror free and dimly lit environment where no one is allowed to judge. The program encourages going within and allowing a little inner naughty girl to emerge if it feels good to do so.
My personal transformation and evolution was unexpected! I felt pretty spiritually grown up, with a healthy dose of humility, gratitude and a dedication to service when I moved from LA to the Central Coast in January of 2008. Thinking I would be able to make friends and find ways to stay active in my spiritual life in a reasonable amount of time, I was not prepared for the vast emotional results of a physical change of location. Things like what grocery store to shop at, where to get my hair and nails done, and which restaurants to avoid (stuff I just knew in my hometown) were more disconcerting than they probably should have been. Adding to all the change was my 6 month old marriage, and quitting my job of 13 years… I guess I should’ve known I was going to struggle as much as I did.
It was my husband’s idea to move here, so I didn’t say a whole lot to him about the isolation I felt out of concern that he might feel bad. I didn’t want to talk to my friends in LA about how I felt out of concern they may feel sorry for me (or worse, have already forgotten all about me! Absurd). I certainly did not have any local friends that I could share my feelings of alienation and homesickness. Surely you won’t be surprised that I was unable to keep up pretense for very long! A very sudden and severe panic attack hit me while I was sitting at a red light in my new little town, all turned around trying to find a local shop. Breathing was difficult, big fat tears rolled down and I just gave in to the self-pity that I had been living in for months. That forced me to face the facts… which was that I was choosing to isolate myself and needed to ask for help, and that my spiritual self was atrophying without any nourishment. Nothing was even about to get better otherwise.
Lacking friends nearby, I struck out to at least practice meditation in a group setting at a nearby yoga studio. How that turned into pole dancing has been explained in one of my first posts! Much to my surprise, the Yoga Flirt intro class I took was revolutionary for me, I knew I’d found something to love. I didn’t leave with new friends or anything but I did feel a sisterhood with the other attendees, and was so energized that I knew I dared hope I had found a little piece of salvation.
When regular class started, my particular brand of female perfectionism involves being a teacher’s pet, so if I had to let my hair down both literally and figuratively, I was gonna be the floppiest noodle in the studio. No one was going to be better than me at letting go. If that’s sounds silly, it’s because it IS. It’s hard to have an internal experience when one eye is open, making sure no one in the room looks as relaxed as you are! I was also determined to nail the warm up movements and execute them perfectly, which had a positive result of giving me a lot of strength in a relatively short period of time.
Being strong meant that I could usually execute the new moves we learned on the first or second try. When I realized that I was developing a reputation as “the strong one” I felt humbled and grateful… and also like I belonged somewhere which I wanted very much. I was a pole dancer! The loneliness I felt started to fade as I showed up in class week after week, level after level, with the same ladies. (We were a very enthusiastic class, four of us were instructors at one point or another and two of us still are, four years later!) The result of that was I came home exhausted but invigorated, ready to face the world. Yoga Flirt gave me my swag back.
The yoga wisdom lit me up spiritually, the physical activity gave me something in which to channel my restless, free-floating anxiety, and the complexity of some of the moves even fired up a neuron or two. One of my best girlfriends in LA had always talked to me about checking on the PMS list: Physical, Mental, Spiritual. As in, what did you do for your PMS today? The answer for me was that I hadn’t in a little over a year. Now that I was back to tending the proverbial garden of my existence, other life-stuff got easier to deal with and my re-awakened mind was open to possibilities outside of class.
I attended every 90 minute weekly class, I went to every extra practice I could. I got even stronger, I started developing in-studio friendships that eventually led to being invited into the lives of some of my classmates. I participated in my practice with a dedication that I can still be surprised by… but pole dancing is so freaking fun it’s addictive. I know very few women that understand the power they can, if they allow themselves, harness over their lives simply by inhabiting and owning and loving the body that they are in. My body became a symbol of my strength when I started loving it in it’s present shape and size.
I will end by sharing the biggest epiphany about my body (and your body too) that I have ever, ever had in 37 years: One night in class, a lady that our society would typically consider unattractive due to her size, got up and danced for us. She owned every single ounce of her curvy body, gyrated and crawled and spun in various states of undress without any noticeable hesitation. I saw she had a roll around her middle, and that her thighs were bigger than the girls I saw in the magazines and I didn’t even care because she looked so unbearably hot and sexy that I just knew, in that moment, I was seeing what men see every single time they look at us in an intimate setting.
As an experiment, I used my husband as an unsuspecting guinea pig. I replaced my normal sex mantra: “Thank you for being willing to overlook my hideous flaws and tolerate my naked body. I’m sorry about my (insert your main insecurity here) and am grateful you are still able to do me the favor of having sex with my obviously flawed person,” with a new one that went something like “yes I know it is hard to believe that I’m letting you touch my fiercely sexy curves, but if you worship me as I deserve I will reward you with even more of my deliciousness. You are welcome.” The results were… beyond what I had expected. And I mean that in the sexiest way possible.
Practice. Practice. A spiritual practice, a yoga practice. Same thing, when it comes down to it. Practice being imperfect, and having a sense of humor when you perceive failure. If you really want to be a better person than you are, learn to laugh at yourself more. Become an expert at it!
Recently in class I fell for the first time, I mean hit the deck hard, right on my thankfully extra squishy backside. It didn’t hurt, I was super close to the floor, plus I’m blessed with a big ole booty. As I was getting up, a gal in class said “You were laughing even as you fell,” as if she thought that was really cool. I thought back and realized she was right. On the pole, realizing a fall was imminent, I started laughing because I had managed to tangle myself up so badly! It was pretty funny, maybe you had to be there (maybe you have been there!).
Many of the people I do spiritual work with seem to think that being a grown up means that one has to take “self” very seriously. Maybe it does, and that’s why I don’t feel very “grown up.” This happens every year around my birthday: I start wondering just when I am going to stop feeling like I’m a teenager, even though I’m not sure that I even want to feel older. To me, it’s quite enough to settle for being responsible and dependable, and leave the rest of adulthood to the stodgy types.
It is said that age is a state of mind. To be honest, I don’t try that hard to be an adult about things. To me, that seems really, really boring.
Yoga Flirt helps me keep a youthful mindset. It doesn’t hurt that practicing Yoga Flirt involves swinging myself around on a vertical monkey bar!! When I first started YF, I did take it seriously. I wanted the teacher to see how wonderful my form was, how well I performed the moves. I was up in my head the whole time, paying no attention to what my body was feeling or the transformation available to me in that magical studio. While it is still tempting once in a while to compare myself to the other ladies in class, tempting to become discouraged enough to stop practicing and go find something that I can be the absolute best at immediately (HA!), I remember the yoga philosophy that I’ve learned in every level.
Thankfully the lessons in the beginning of class usually dispel that drive for perfection, shifting the focus to the practice instead. Practice doesn’t often mean perfect, but focusing on the end result takes away from the journey anyway. Another thing that seems “adult” is being results driven, disregarding the opportunities to experience what happens between setting and achieving a goal. There’s so much life that happens, while we’re waiting for results… and remembering to be present in the moment takes practice.
Practice being imperfect. Practice being quick to laugh (especially at yourself). Practice being quick to cry tears of joy or pain. Practice asking for help, admitting you don’t know everything. Practice being afraid and doing it anyway. Practice having a light heart and an open mind. Practice trusting that there is enough love, money, time in the Universe for you to get exactly what you need, exactly when you need it. Practice breathing, pausing, detaching with love. Practice yoga. Or even better, practice Yoga Flirt!
I recently visited the Yoga Flirt website to find my testimonial, written back in 2009. I had been in class with the same set of ladies through level 4, but most of the ladies I joined up with in level 5 had been in that level for a few sessions. We did the normal structure of class, with dancing at the end. It was all challenging and interesting and fun, but when the dancing started it just turned… POW!
Here’s a piece of my testimonial:
“…I attended my first level 5 class last Monday, and I could barely keep my jaw off the floor. I was so amazed and moved by the power those women had over their bodies, and it made me realize the power I had developed over mine. Not just in physical strength, but the power to own my physical beauty, my sensuality and sexuality! … I can’t describe the feeling of freedom that comes from completely letting go and finding out what happens when you don’t hold back! It can be scary, but it’s SO worth it.”
That first level 5 class has left an impression in my mind, even after all this time. Reading this testimonial back, I realize that somewhere along the line I relinquished the power I felt over my physical body. I started having severe, constant neck pain and it was so physically and emotionally exhausting that I barely had any energy for living. I became hopeless. Exercising was out of the question, but eating for comfort was easy enough. The result of that is something I’ve already shared: I’m heavier than I’ve ever been.
The good news is that I’m taking the power back. I am committed to becoming physically fit! More exercise (every time I get a chance!) and listening to my body about when it’s time to eat are the two most important actions. Slow and steady wins the race, so I’m staying off the scale for now and just doing the footwork.
Revisiting that testimonial also renewed my love of Yoga Flirt. It’s easy to forget how much my life changed that first year of pole dancing/yoga philosophy lessons, but it changed quite a bit. YF helped me deepen my spiritual life, I feel closer to the higher power that I believe in. This tells me that the divine powers that be can deliver spirituality in the most unexpected ways. It pays to have an open mind.
There are a lot of great yoga blogs, I follow some of them (see right sidebar). They know infinitely more than I do about yoga! What I do know about yoga is this: It’s not just about holding poses and all the physical benefits that one gets from consistent practice. If you dive in just a little deeper you will find that there are great suggestions on how to live a more peaceful, contented life. Who doesn’t want that?
I encourage you to check out a book about yoga at the library, ask your yoga teacher what they know, or just google yoga and get the low-down on what yoga is really about. Maybe there’s something for you, a tidbit of deep wisdom that will touch your heart, mind or soul and give you that glow that so many a yogi display. Let me know what you find!
So, where were we? Oh, yes that’s right… Possibilities, and the foundation it was built upon. Learning a new lesson each week in YF class was a great start. The information was seeping in around the edges of my life, it was effortlessly happening. It was like I had just been waiting for some one to tell me how to do what I’d wanted to do all along.
But now we’re getting back to not knowing what you don’t know that you don’t know. For instance: I had no idea that I had such a hang-up about letting myself try to look good (or even hot!). Before YF, applying make up was something I did for work or a special occasion, and I definitely didn’t go in for revealing clothes. If I did do myself up or wear something a little clingy, I was sure that people were thinking, “Why is she trying to look good? She’s obviously vain, and she’s a fraud too. She looks like a fool in that dress/skirt/eyeliner.”
WHAT? Why would a grown woman be afraid to be feminine? It has to do with my childhood, of course! I felt that drawing any attention to myself was a bad idea, because it surely was when I was a kid. My peers would make fun of me if I didn’t wear the “right” outfit, or changed my hair in an uncool way. If I wore something that showed off my body they’d say I was conceited, and that I was just trying to stick my boobs out so the boys would look. (Like that’s a bad thing?) That right there helped me develop some rotten self-esteem, believing I didn’t deserve to feel good by looking good. Baggy jeans and an extra large t-shirt were my uniform for several years.
I was at the point in my life where I would try to wear make up more often, but I avoided having any personal “style” at all costs. Then we moved away from a set dance routine in YF. I don’t want to give everything away, but we learned to freely express ourselves through movement in level four. Cathy encouraged us to wear and remove layers, stop thinking about moving and just move. She encouraged us to be our true selves, and not mimic others. Otherwise known as: having your own “style.” Since I fancy myself such a great student, I felt I should not let Cathy down. Letting my mind be led by my body was a difficult but wonderful process. I began to develop a trance-like state when I danced. Everyone in the class, teacher and students, were super complimentary and supportive when I truly let go. They could tell I was really being authentic with my dance.
And so, a personal style was born! I was once afraid, but not any more. Sure, I still have confidence issues from time to time… but for the most part, I wear what I like and if people don’t like it, well every one is entitled to their opinion.
There’s also the idea of self-expression, and being bravely authentic during the times when a woman is expected to just, well, take it like a man. Cowgirl up, you might say. I don’t fake feeling fine anymore with my true friends. On the whole, I am pretty optimistic and positive, but everyone gets her panties in a bunch from time to time! So when I do, I let people know. I will usually dance it out in class anyway.
When my precious doggie died, I danced to “Heavenly Day” by Patty Griffin. As the song came to an end, I just crumpled down on the floor and cried. Cathy brought me a tissue and a hug. It felt good to be so raw in such a safe place that I do it as much as I can! I find a song to match my mood and hash it out in stilettos. If you’re angry, stomping around in 6-inch heels, then taking them off and chucking them at the floor is very therapeutic. And the gals in the crowd will just hoot and holler and love you for your emotional honesty.
Emotional honesty, once experienced, can be like a drug. It feels so good to name your pain or joy when it’s safe to do so. The yoga principle for truthfulness is satya. Practicing satya in class has helped me be more honest outside of class. Come to find out, having a real feeling about something isn’t frowned upon if you’re with the right people.
Yoga Flirt has taught me that I am safe, even when I’m sexy, passionate, or even just sad. It has taught me more about finding the right people to be authentic with, and they have taught me more about finding my truth. My truth changes, and so it’s important to stay on top of it. Check my emotional temperature, if you will. A weekly class where I am asked to examine my truth gives me an opportunity to see when it changes, ask why it changed and – yes! – remember that it’s probably going to be different next week any way.
I hope you find your truth today, and that you say it out loud to some one you trust. And maybe you could share a little truth here, if you don’t mind? I’d love to hear what’s really going on.
The great thing about being on a spiritual path is that I’m an eternal student! Every situation is -eventually – seen as a growth opportunity. Sometimes an experience is painful, but it’s never a waste unless I fail to learn the lesson. A lesson is bound to show up over and over again until it sinks in… I say this from personal experience! Quite a bit of personal experience, unfortunately.
Being an eternal student requires having a willingness to admit I don’t know everything. It also requires maintaining an open mind, which is how Yoga Flirt managed to fall into my life. My assumption about pole fitness was oh so wrong! I can only hope to be that positively incorrect in the future. No doubt I will be, over and over.
As mentioned numerous times, I do so love Yoga Flirt. It has made me realize “stuff” about myself that nine years of self-study hadn’t been able to reveal. You can’t know what you don’t know, if you don’t even know it’s there! (Ya know?) The shadow of my childhood was so integrated into my unconscious mind that I didn’t realize I was still suffering, unnecessarily, from the effects of my early experiences. It was so shot through the fabric of my behaviors and feelings that I just thought it was normal.
Thank goodness I couldn’t be more wrong about what I thought “normal” looked and felt like! I honestly thought I had recovered as much as I could in certain areas of my life.
Little did I know every single YF class begins with a lesson or discussion involving a yogic principle and how it can apply in class… or life. And when I started being able to successfully translate my in-class practice into my every day life, I experienced small seismic shifts in my fundamental understanding of what it means to be a woman.
The realization that I’d made it to my 30s without knowing what kind of woman I had the potential to be was a lesson in humility, and a major turning point in my spiritual progress. A whole new set of possibilities appeared to me, along with a framework upon which to build them.
For the sake of brevity I will address those possibilities and their foundation in another post. I leave you with a photo of the world’s most awesome garland:
Cathy asked me to assist her newly minted instructors in the large level one classes that were going on quite a bit in the summer of 2009. She has always believed in me, even before I started being able to believe in myself. The passion I have for both teaching and Yoga Flirt came together and it was electric! Getting to watch the ladies transform into true Flirt Sisters was such an honor, such a humbling experience. So I moved from student to staff member/student and it was an easy transition.
However, the next challenge of my Yoga Flirt journey came quickly… inversions. I was full of self-doubt, but nothing could compete with how excited I was to try anyway. I did try, I did succeed and I felt pretty awesome about it. Thrill rides are a favorite of mine, and here I was creating my own little thrill ride using my own two hands.
Eventually we got to moves that required “side skin” which meant exposing a large area of midriff. First thought: Not enough that I had to get comfortable showing my legs, now I have to show you my soft white belly? Cathy would then demo the move and it would be beautiful, or neat, or challenging. Next thought: I hope I have my shirt hiked up far enough to stick to the pole.
It’s not that I’m completely free with my body now. I still nervously tug at my clothes to make sure my muffin top is covered or that my belly doesn’t show. But put me in the YF studio, and all that anxiety gets left at the door. You might be surprised what I’d be willing to take off when I’m inspired! My sisters don’t care about my rolls or cellulite, and I know because I don’t care about theirs. There are very few perfect women in the world, and we should celebrate diversity anyway, right?
The YF studio is a place where sensuality rules. There’s no men allowed, so there’s never a “sex” vibe in there. But, boy does it get sexy in there! I am not physically attracted to women, but there’s something so amazingly hot about a woman who’s expressing herself in a vulnerable way without an ounce of self-conciousness. One day I realized that I was probably seeing women in the way men do all the time! It gave me hope that the shape of my body was not as important to my husband as what I was willing to do with it. I experimented with that idea – acting as if my curves were amazing, and not hiding them under the covers. It turns out that the aformentioned hope was right on target, all it took was a little faith and a whole lot of courage. The six-inch heels didn’t hurt the situation either!
More, later. xo