Practice, Practice, Practice

Practice, Practice, Practice

As a yoga, meditation and mindfulness teacher (as well as a forever student) the role of practice is a poignant one. I recently parsed out a set of three meanings of the word that were helpful to me in understanding the subtleties of yoga/meditation/mindfulness in everyday life.

On one level, everything is a practice. When we think of what we do again and again in our everyday life we can start to see the practices that make up our life. Waking up, getting dressed, eating three meals a day, are all a practice. The very things we do each day are, in and of themselves, a practice — something we do. (nothing fancy…)

On another level, a practice is how we do something. As oppose to the noun from above, the verb of our practice is another way to see this term. How do we do our everyday practice? What is the art of waking up, of eating our meal, of walking, of being in relationship with others? This is where we bring the intention and purpose into our practice of doing. We acknowledge that yes, everything we do in our life is a practice, but if we bring more awareness into our practices, we are practicing them in a different and more intentional way.

The third layer of practice is repetition. Have you practiced your pianotoday? Just, fill in the blank with whatever it is you intend to practice (yoga, mindful eating, conscious relationships). When we practice our practice in a particular practice/approach, then we start to deepen our experience and understanding of not only the things we do each day, but ultimately of our existence.

Recently, I’ve been guiding InnerMeals on Sundays in San Francisco and so I’ve thought about this in the context of mindful eating.

On Letting Life Force Flow

“No gardener ever made a rose.”

~ Rachel Naomi Remen, Kitchen Table Wisdom

This quote that I found scrawled in my notebook brought me such a sigh of relief!

It’s the first week of 2015 and I realize that all of my new year’s resolutions are piling up and stressing me out.

No gardener ever made a rose?

I understand this quote. I once had a garden and learned so many simple powerful lessons from my season of growing vegetables. The garden is a lesson in miracles. The daily weeding and watering that led to snap peas, kale, spinach and tomatoes was a reward for consistency. A powerful lesson in the yogic concept of Abhyasa Vairagya, consistency without attachment.

No gardener ever made a rose?

This means that the miraculous flower emerges by merely tending to the soil. And, that a flower has its own blueprint with potential to exist despite the gardener.

Wow! So according to this beautiful quote if I tend to my physical, emotional, energetic, spiritual self the beautiful flowers within me will grow. I like to think of the flowers within me as my best self, my greatest self, my self that is so in tune with the universe that my greatest gifts that I have to offer will emerge, effortlessly.

My New Resolution:
Remove worry, water daily.

Directions: Don’t worry so much. Consistently stick your hand into the dirt, see what your soil needs. Be present, talk to the seeds and the plants that are growing and encourage them to grow. Most important, remind yourself that the miracles are within and there’s not much to do, but consistently tend to the soil with love.

Happy 2015! Looking forward to connecting with the beautiful people in my life and being witness to the flowers, yours and mine.

Sari Gelzer Stankowski is a communications consultant, writer and yoga teacher living in San Francisco. She teaches yoga at studios, workplaces and high schools across the Bay Area and also specializes in teaching small groups, couples and families. Learn more about her yoga teaching at www.SariGelzer.com

Teaching Yoga to Teens: Connection Over Content

Teaching Yoga to Teens: Connection Over Content

“One of the most difficult experiences I’ve ever been through” is how I have been describing my recent two-week role as a full-time yoga teacher to 30 middle schoolers at a school in El Cerrito. I have taught many classrooms and after school programs to teens and young people before, but this was my first time managing a classroom from 9:00–3:00pm each day to bring these students not only yoga, but a well-rounded wellness education. For these two weeks I was a “Balanced Living” teacher with RISE Yoga for Youth, a nonprofit that brings yoga into schools across the Bay Area.

As a yoga teacher entering the school environment it’s tempting to think that you will be their “cool” teacher who gets to remain calm and peaceful and isn’t as concerned with how to react when someone is talking or saying something inappropriate. But, when managing the class as opposed to being a guest teacher, I knew this wasn’t going to be true, I knew this would be a challenging experience.

You are the Universe, Change is Uncomfortable and Other Yogic Advice for Change in the New Year

You are the Universe, Change is Uncomfortable and Other Yogic Advice for Change in the New Year

The new year is a time where we collectively encourage clean slates, energized motivations and specific goals. I  admit, I am a sucker for the new year. I am always trying to lead a meaningful life that includes reaching the milestones that I set out for myself. But, I've had my share of new years. Heck, I get two each year because I am Jewish and we celebrate Rosh Hashana. Thirty multiplied by two, well I'm a veteran. What I'm trying to say is that I know what it is like to set forth on ambitious change. Often, I do not meet the mark I intend to, which leaves me feeling down on myself and lost when I cannot sustain the rigor required to achieve my lofty goals. It's taken years to realize that although it seems cliche, life is a process and real change takes deep work. 

Yoga in the Park

Today I ventured to my local park to practice yoga outside. I found a plot of firm dirt underneath a palm tree. The sun beamed down on the hilltop park and the heat attracted a large Sunday crowd. I established my breath for a practice focused on steadiness. My teachers taught me that achieving steadiness is easier when preceded by movement. My Warrior I began dynamically ~ leg straightened, leg bent ~ arms cactus style, arms straight in the air. I paused in Warrior I and held my gaze steady avoiding the eyes of passerby's walking adorable dogs. Steadiness. Breathing in light, breathing out and concentrating that energy.