Monday, August 6, 2012

Hamstrings

I have tight hamstrings.  Yup, I said it.  You might want to blame it on all the running I do, but I don't think that's it.  As a kid, I don't recall ever doing a cartwheel with straight legs...too hard on my little hamstrings.  Whether it's walking on the New York pavement all day, running long distances or just genetics, I still have tight hamstrings.  What does this mean as a yoga teacher and student?

One of my teachers said "your tight hamstrings provide a container for your practice."  I will probably never over stretch in my joints, I know when I have gone too far in a pose because it really doesn't feel good. I have also learned not to push so hard, to use my hamstrings  to help me find my pose, not the pose the student next to me is doing.  Everybody creates different shapes in the asana and perfection is not one of them.

I was once in a class where we were doing Parivrtta Trikonasana.  My hamstrings were feeling particularly tight on that day, so I placed a block on the inside of my foot to get in the twist.  The teacher came around and told me I should have it on the outside because that is the "classical" version of the pose.  I smiled and did not move.  What I did realize was that I would never treat my students that way.  I will always encourage variations and modifications in poses, so that each student can find their pose.

Although sometimes it feels like my hamstrings are screaming at me, in general I feel good about not being the most "flexible" student or teacher.  I feel like the added challenge has given me the opportunity to grow on a mental level and check my bendy dancer ego at the door. It's also given me the chance to make fun of myself and add humor to my teaching.  Just watch me forward bend for you!  I think my hamstrings have helped me create community and acceptance in my classes because the students can relate to me.

When we stop judging ourselves, our practice, and our place in the yoga community, we start to play and have fun, using our body as a container to hold us in and let us go.



Monday, July 9, 2012

Meditation

Meditation has always fascinated me.  I know it has the capacity to calm and focus me and bring me to a place of peace.  I have tried it here and there over the years and always found it's effects to be profound, but I have never stuck to it...no patience I guess or just couldn't find the time. 

To me, eating healthy, exercising and going to yoga classes are my top priority.  I know that carving out the time for these things makes me calmer, more focused and able to give more to others.  I encourage my friends and family to schedule these things into their daily lives and to put their health and happiness first...so why isn't meditation on this list?

My breakfast ritual is a type of meditation, it's time that I give to myself.  My runs are always a moving meditation and so are my yoga classes...but what about sitting still for a few minutes?  Why is that such a scary thing to schedule? 
I decided that it really isn't that hard to schedule time for seated meditation.  It's really not that scary to commit to a few minutes of stillness each day.  However, it is hard for me to just stop, so my new practice will be about cultivating not only calm, focus and peace, but also patience with myself and others. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Subbing

For years I performed comedy improv, solo shows and plays in intimate New York City theaters.  There would always be one or two people sitting in the front row that had NO reaction through out the performance.  Their faces neither showed happiness nor dislike and of course they were only a foot away from me on stage!  After the performance ended, those stone faced people always came up to me and told me how funny I was, what a great writer I was and how much they enjoyed the show, while quoting one of my lines....I have found that subbing yoga classes is a similar experience.

I walk into a room full of students, most of them I have never met. I am supposed to please all these people, make them feel shiny and happy and love me all in an hour and fifteen minutes.  I start my carefully planned sequence feeling confident, tell a joke and try to break the ice, but nobody reacts...maybe one student gives me a smile. 

Just like theater, subbing has challenged me to be authentic even when I feel insecure or unsure of myself.  It has taught me to stick to my sequence, my way of teaching and be the best teacher I can be.  I sub a lot and I am constantly brought to the test, by one student or many.  One of the things that has helped me along the way, is my own practice.  I realize that I look very serious when I practice yoga.  I am so focused on my breath and concentrating on my movements that I am probably not smiling like many of the students I see every day. 

Low and behold, at the end of a class students come up to me and tell me how much they enjoyed my teaching, the sequence or their hour and fifteen minutes of bliss.  This always surprises me.  The tiny bit of stage fright that I feel while subbing comes back to me again and again.  I rise to the challenge and just try to breath and be me.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Creating Memories


I went to my first Red Sox game when I was seven years old.  I sat next to my dad, excited to be part of the action.  I had my baseball glove on and I was ready to catch a fly ball.  Our seats were so close that I could feel the energy coming off the field. It was exciting and nothing like ballet class or barbies.  I fell in love with the Red Sox that day.  I have been sitting in the same seat at Fenway Park for almost 30 years now.  I have sat next to my grandparents, parents and brother.  Baseball is my family sport, something to talk about, share and create memories around. 

When my mom had cancer seven years ago she turned to baseball for healing.  She would listen to talk radio and watch the games on tv.  It was her way of escaping.  My dad and I took her to spring training that year and I will never forget her saying "Don't worry, I'm starting my treatment during spring training and I will be done by the play offs!"  Her positive attitude and love for the game got all of us through that tough time.  She is fine and still rambles off stats to me over the phone.

After several years living in Los Angeles, I made the difficult decision to move back east.  The first night I was home, my dad  took me to a Red Sox game.  I will never forget sitting next to him and drinking a beer thinking "everything is going to be okay".  It was a great game and a great decision to move.

My baseball memories go on and on, hot summer nights screaming and cheering with my brother and sister-in-law at Fenway.  Sitting on my grandpa's couch and yelling at the tv with him and my great aunt.  The year I turned 30, my dad and I decided to make it a tradition to go to a different ball park each year.  A little father daughter adventure.  We hit Baltimore, New York, Chicago. Philadelphia, Tampa and Pittsburgh.  It's great that we get to spend time together, exploring new places and enjoying the game.

This weekend I am heading to Chicago to see the Red Sox play the Cubs at Wrigley Field.  This is HUGE!  Seeing the two under-dog teams play each other in one of the oldest parks in the country is an incredible experience.  One of the things I like the most about Fenway, is the size.  It's intimate and you always feel like you are part of the game no matter where you sit.  Wrigley has a similar feel to it.  The best part is that I will be going to the game with my parents and sharing the experience.  As I look to the future, I can not wait to take my kids to games, buy them Red Sox hats and baseball gloves and continue to create memories.

Fun Facts: I slept with a 5X7 baseball card of Jim Rice under my pillow for years.  I collect Red Sox memorabilia.


Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Power of Music

In the last few weeks I have been creating new playlists for my yoga classes and my long runs.  I used to just play an album I liked, but I am finding the change in artists, songs, tempos, beats and vibrations very inspiring.  Listening to a variety of music lets me feel different things, whether it be a song with deep and meaningful lyrics or just an upbeat tempo, the music motivates me and lets me explore my movements in a different way.  Today, I was running and all of a sudden Pumped Up Kicks came on.  I started to run faster and sing along.  It's an upbeat and fun song and it had it's power over me!  Later, as I cooled down John Mayer's The Heart of Life was playing and my heart started to sore with thoughts of my husband and how much I love him.  It is truly amazing how much music can make us feel. 

My husband is a musician and he plays a variety of music in our home, like jazz, Latin, R&B or whatever Pandora chooses for us.  I get really excited when something new comes on.  I sometimes do a silly dance or find myself humming along.

It amazes me how certain music can make me feel so much, deep in my core.  It's good to be quiet, silent, without noise, but it's also nice to explore what music can make you feel and how it moves your body.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Time to Oneself

I have lived with my parents, roommates, boyfriends and now my husband and one of the most important things I have learned is to create sacred space for myself.  This is not an alter or meditation room, it's just a time of day for me to shut my computer and phone down, turn the TV off and close the door.  It's time for me to read, write and think without distraction. 

I heard that Fifty Shades of Grey was a must read, so I picked it up last week.  Well, I could not put the book down, it forced me to really shut down my technology, curl up in bed and get lost in the book.  Anyone that knows of this book is well aware that it's sexy, erotic and will make your heart pound.  It's definitely not great literature or even very well written, but it is a page turner.


I usually watch TV before bed, but the book has been calling me lately.  I have found that I am sleeping better because I am shutting the world, technology and even my husband out for an hour every night.  I had always found some time during the day for myself, but lately I have been too busy...this book forced me to stop!  I have even created a ritual of fluffing the pillows and setting myself up comfortably before I dive into it.

In the last week, I have learned once again the importance of carving out time for myself, whether it's writing this blog, reading an erotic novel or lying down with my eyes closed and listening to music. My sacred time should never be pushed aside.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Me + Me = We

I just got back from a lovely week in Miami with my husband...HUSBAND!  I still let out a giggle when I say that because we have only been married for a few months.  People are constantly asking me what has changed since we exchanged vows and I always have a simple answer, a deeper sense of connection and commitment to one another.  We lead our separate "me" lives, building our careers, following our passions and spending time with friends and then there is the "we", which consists of planning for our future together and what we need to do together to make things happen.  It seems very simple, especially when I have a husband that respects my independence, supports my creative endeavors, isn't dependent and let's me really be myself. I love him and want everyone to know it.
I decided a long time ago that I would make my maiden name my middle name and change my last name.  So, I went to the DMV, excited to present my marriage license and get a shiny new license with all my new names.  Unfortunately, you can not just switch your middle name, you need to go to court to make that happen. When the woman told me this, I felt anxious and emotional and couldn't understand why this was so overwhelming.  I went home and realized, I had spent thirty-six years shaping Marjorie Suvalle, the woman, comedian, yoga instructor, runner behind that name and I was supposed to just give it up?  I felt like the DMV was pulling at my independence.  At that moment, I knew I needed to fight to keep all my names the way I wanted them.  It sounds really silly and there was no real fight, just three trips to the court house, hundreds of dollars and an announcement in the Irish Echo that I was now officially Marjorie Suvalle Fischel, but it was important to me.  A lot of people don't bother going through the motions for a name, but to me I felt proud of the Suvalle I had been and the Fischel I was becoming.  This is marriage, being yourself while merging with someone else.  It's not just a walk down the aisle, it's the rest of your life and sometimes a name says it all.