Monthly Archives: April 2009

It’s fun to stay at the Y-M-C-A

This is Lane Searle.

At least that's what they call me at the Y. My handwriting is horrid. I take after my dad.

I haven't joined a gym in a really long time because that's one of the perks from working at one; you get to work out at one too!

When I left my favorite gym of all time, Easton in Hollywood, I left my membership. I was left to my own devices to work out.

Clever, I am, but I like the structure and motivation that a gym offers.
I wanted to join the Y in Santa Monica but even the Y was expensive. It had a pool and I longed for stretches of lanes, weightless movement, strong and steady.

Alas, I couldn't afford it.

My favorite neighbor, Jet, introduced me to 'how to get things as inexpensively as possible in Santa Monica". She knows everything. Might be because she used to work at the Huntley Hotel right here on Second Street and information jets around quick. Pun intended. I'm so glad she did because I was able to apply for low-income membership to the beautiful Y on 6th Street in Santa Monica. The place is incredible, beautiful, and clean and has everything a yogi, work out a holic could ever want.

Mostly, it has a pool.

And the people are ridiculously nice.

Today was my first day and I really only set out to get the drift of the place, know where everything is etc.

They processed my application via my horrid handwriting. Lane Searle.
I like that, very much. I think I might actually change my name to that. Laurie Searle. Say it. Sounds like you swallowed some marbles.

I had to correct the woman as she was entering me in the computer because there is no one, not even a forensic expert that could decipher my writing.
I should be a doctor with that handwriting. But blood makes me queasy. So does school.

After my orientation and payment, I set out for the equipment room that over looks the pool. I went to the locker room and an elderly, overweight woman stopped me after I weighed myself. I thought she was going to tell me I needed to shed a few lbs. but alas, she said she had spent too much time in the steam room and her blood sugar was low and could I go to the vending machine and get her a juice. Of course, I told her. I also told her I had a little think thin bar in my locker. Eat that to tide you over and I'll be back.

After ten minutes at the vending machine, the dang thing wouldn't take her dollar. I don't carry much cash on me; otherwise I would have bought her a juice. I went back to the locker room. Orientation, payment, weigh in, sigh, buying juice, already cutting into my time here.

The woman said she felt fine after eating my protein bar and thank you for the effort. I returned her change and locked up my locker.

You are not swimming? She asked. Well, I don't know. It's my first time here and I just want to suss out the place first.

I only come here for swimming she said. It makes me feel beautiful and free. I do it everyday.

I loved that.

She thanked me, sweetheart and I hit the elliptical.
I watched below from the machine room as row after row of swimmers went back and forth. I listened to heart pumping music in my ears but looked below at the lanes clearing out.

Lane. I'm Lane!

What the fuck. I have all the time in the world today. I got off the machine, showered, strapped on my bathing cap and suit, none of which I have worn in the last five years. I walked down to the pool. Water is cold. I jumped in. A woman sliding towards the wall surfaced from the water.

I asked, how do you know what lane you are supposed to be in, slow, medium?
She said, just go to an empty lane, if someone comes, you split the lane. If a third person comes, you circle the whole lane.

Thanks for the tips, I exclaimed, and I was on my way.

I spit into my goggles, a little trick I learned from swim team. Yes, I was on swim team, for like a day. Mostly because my dad was on swim team and I loved the water and swimming so much that I had to join and be daddy’s girl when I could among three girls vying for that position in the family.

I didn't realize back then how much I hated competition with others, it was me that was the fiercest competition out there and I'm tough.

I was off. I counted three back and forth laps in no time flat before I needed a little rest...breast stroke to my freestyle. Good lord, this is harder than I thought. This from someone who runs 6 miles in the time it takes to get a manicure.

Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming...I thought, from Finding Nemo.
So I did. For a half an hour, I just kept going back and forth adding a breaststroke when I needed a rest. I swam a measly 30 laps. I don't know. Maybe that's not measly. I felt strong in muscles I forgot about.

I don't know why I was so nervous to come to the pool. It's been a long time since I was the fat kid and I might be carrying a few extra pounds right now, but there is no need for me to not feel as free or beautiful.

I moved the water but I allowed the water to move me. I felt the strength and power but also felt the effortlessness the lack of gravity affords in water.
I backstroked once to look up at the flags. The last set of flags mean the end is near, the wall.

I remembered when I was young and you couldn't get me out of the water.

Especially my mother, who couldn't swim. My dad would have to come into the pool or ocean to get me out. I guess I get that from him. I love the smell of chlorine and the dryness I feel on my skin. I like the mark the goggles and swim cap makes on my face, especially now that I'm older, those marks last longer than just the trip to the locker room. They last my trip home and to Whole Foods, where the check out guy looks at me funny but that's ok.

I just remember being young.

After my swim, I felt that same familiar feeling after swim practice at the butt crack of Buddha every morning when I was in high school. It was a feeling of peace. Something about the deep breath in, hold and let it out. Something about the water.

Something in the water?

I went back to the equipment room to finish my work out up there.

I have to get rid of these mystery pounds that have accrued somewhere between a glass of wine and a cookie betwixt my ridiculous diet of smoothies, salads and lean protein.

They closed off three of the lanes for the kids swim lessons.

I watched from above as a dozen kids from 8-10 years of age, lined up to dive off the platform and swim the stroke of choice.

Some of them looked like they were ready to go on a roller coaster ride. Some of them looked just like me when I was ten, fat and terrified that just those 10 inches above the edge of the pool would make all the difference in the world between comfort and fear.

I was on the swim team and could swim pretty fast for a fatty, but could never dive off the little platform. It's not very high. It's not a diving board. I remember my dad taking me to the local YMCA and teaching me how to dive off the platform into the stroke.
I remember being at the Y for hours, probably only minutes, but for a kid, it felt like hours, being on the platform and staring at the water. Once I was in, all was well, look out! But the letting myself go into it, that was the terror.

Very telling.

I stared and stared and stared. My dad cheered me on from the bleachers. Maybe he was frustrated. I would be. But he never let me see it. Once I did it, he was proud and I felt like it was nothing. What's next, I thought.

I did my first meet at Columbia University in NYC and that was it. I took a place in my least favorite stroke, the butterfly and I was done. I told my dad that I loved to swim but that I didn't want to do it for competition. There was no questioning. It was ok.

Not much has changed since that time. I often joy in the fear of the first time and that's enough for me. I also have problems letting go into freedom. Challenge is my comfort zone. Letting myself go to the challenge, that's another thing.

Like yoga.

If you can be in union with your experience, the challenge of it and the letting go, you are doing yoga.

You are doing yoga if you can dive off the platform into a perfect stroke.

Getting caught up in the fear will only leave you stagnant.

Getting caught up in the action will only leave you stagnant.

It's the merging of the two that is the blissful art of yoga.

I watched the kids below, one after the other dive off the platform, stroke there way to the end then start again. It was a flow that made me smile as I burned calories on the elliptical. The one little girl who was unsure, was cheered on by her little mates and at the end of the rotation, she did it. She dove off the platform and, I didn't time it, but I think she swam faster than any of the littler, skinnier things.

I was up there on my elliptical watching it all and when she dove in, I leapt a little and cheered a little. I don't know if anyone noticed. I don't really care.

Last Tuesday I was at Disneyland, remembering my life as a child.

This Tuesday, I'm at the Y doing the same thing.

I never want to lose that. I never want to leave that. I had it tough as an awkward kid, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.

As an adult, I can see kids now and understand that it doesn't matter what age you are; you can feel awkward and unsure.

I'm in my thirties and still felt nervous to go into the pool. It never goes away.

But I wouldn't have it any other way.

If I lose my 'inner child' I lose it all. My inner child didn't have long flaxen hair and lithe limbs. She was a little chub with a lot of energy. I'm not a little chub but I love that little chub and nurture all of her little insecurities when they come up as an adult.

I also appreciate that there are always people rooting you on to do well. Always. My dad was one of them. Is one of them. I wanted to call him after I left the Y and tell him that I swam, that I wrote like him on my application and that we are more alike than I thought.

He's lost a little in Cancerland, so conversations are sparse.

But it's ok.

That little girl down on the platform didn't know that I was there either, but I was rooting her on like I had money on her success.

You don't need someone right there with you to feel the existence of their encouragement.

If we are lucky, we have it with us with whatever we do.

Today my yoga was the Y.

Today was my Disneyland was the Y.

Today, I was a kid again.

But today, I wasn't afraid.

Swing time…

I love running on the beach. It makes my day when I know I can do it. Today, I can do it!!
I had a ton of energy, strapped on my iPod mini and hit the beach.
The first mile was splendid, bright sunshine and some new tunes. I passed bikers, strollers, runners and lollygaggers. I'm in my zone, in the sun, the surf, the sand.
Then, my iPod dies.
I'm not gonna stop. I'll listen to my breath and the ocean. No prob.
I get to my little parking bump leaps and intervals. I get to the end of the path where I do more intervals and I see this biker guy doin' some weird stuff on the path.
Hey, I thought I was the only one doin' weird stuff on the path.
I took my stance and did my weird intervals. Then I saw him doing what I was doing. I looked over. He looked over. He continued. I continued. We were having a physical fitness duet and I was impressed with his stamina and zeal and the joy of working out at the beach. I had finished and was going to continue my run.
I walked passed the crazy dude and was going to say something before he intensely went into a new wacko exercise.
Ok, I'm serious, but really, a few exchange of words, would it be too much?
It's rare that I see someone with such fun exploration of the space around that I can't help but want to strike up a convo.
Wasn't going to happen.
I'll go to my end of the sandbox. You stay at your corner.
It's Friday. I'm burning calories in the lovely sun and sweet air. I spot the swing set just off the sand and I run to it.
I swing on the swings for 20 minutes. I talk out loud. There's no music to distract me. This is the best thing eva!!
I was a kid again. Alone, but a kid again and having the time of my life.
I think if I had a kid, I'd have a reason to play again, but I don't and I'm fine with that 'cause on a Friday late afternoon, I can swing on the swings and not worry about some kid who wants to get on 'em. It is my playtime.
I make up some new routines on the sand and the path for my clients but it's the swinging and the memory of Disneyland just a few days prior that have tapped my being into childhood.
We are free then. If we are lucky, we have loving parents to take us to the park or provide us with toys to play with. I was one of those kids.
I'm in my thirties now and I still love to play.
I think that's the reason I teach. I can provide students with an adult playground atmosphere where it's ok to play and look funny and have fun. If you aren't having fun, we have a problem.
I love working out and exercising but it's not much different from when I was young, running with my friends across the yard or park (cardio), swinging on a swing (workin' the core), or jumping (core, cardio and agility).
Sometimes, when I play, I wish I had a friend to play my silly games with.
Crazy bike man didn't need a friend and that's ok. My iPod is usually a good alternative. That wasn't working but really, how often do we ever get to be by our selves, alone, in the quiet of the world inside and out and just play?
I was quite content and happy to explore that.
And, I think swinging is the new fitness routine. I kept my heart rate up for those 20 minutes and burned calories like there's no tomorrow all by laughing and swinging into the sunset.
Now I'm going to have a cookie. And maybe some milk.
Jai Ma,

What are you talking about?

Ashtanga, Vinyasa, Hatha, oy my?
What is all this stuff? What is tradition? What is yoga? What are we doing? What is the teacher doing? What is she or he talking about? Why is this pose taught this way and the same pose taught differently in another class? Why is yoga cool? Why am I here? How did I get here? What’s all the hype?

It can be confusing. Let me try to break it down for you without using so many terms. If you google Yoga styles or traditions, it will give you an ice cream headache.

Even I, as a teacher who likes to practice ALL styles and take what I can to teach in my style, I get confused!

The fact of the matter is, Yoga is yoga.

You will hear: Iyengar, Bikram , Ashtanga, Anusara, Hatha, Flow, All Levels, Vinyasa. Take them all. Even if you like one, get a taste of them all. The one that resonates with you will be the one you are supposed to practice.

If you are lucky, you will find ‘the’ teacher that resonates with what you need. But even when you do that, eventually, you will need to move on. Know now, before you get into it, that it’s important in yoga, not to get STUCK.

Don’t stick to the same place in the room. Don’t stick to the same teacher for too long without trying someone else, just to understand the difference.

There are soooo many of us teaching different styles that you may like a style but not jive with the teacher. That’s why it’s important, especially if you are just starting out in yoga now as opposed to a decade ago when it wasn’t as mainstream as it is now, you need to try and try again.

Yoga was popular ten years ago when I started teaching. I happen to really like practicing different styles of yoga and bringing what I enjoy into my classes. I thought maybe that would stop eventually, but it hasn’t.

I also emphasize, if you do come to my class that if you are engaged in a specific ‘tradition’ of yoga, you can still do all of the poses I suggest in the style of yoga you prefer. I offer mine first, based in Ashtanga, the rest is up to you. I admire and have learned so much from Iyengar, Bikram and Anusara as well as Kundalini, Vinyasa Krama, Pre-natal, restorative and the list goes on. Ayurveda! Don’t get me started. That’s another blog!

I’m never done learning. There are tricks and tools in each branch. If you decide to follow a certain tradition, a whole new world will open up to you as far as further study in breathing, meditation and readings.

I teach in an adaptable way for all styles and let you make your choice. I bring in my tradition and that of others. I also bring in fitness training and Pilates. It’s where I came from and it’s important to me. The foundations and principles, though arguably different, can be adapted to ANY yoga class. I find that yoga is everywhere. It’s in every single activity whether on the mat or on line at the post office. That’s my philosophy. I can tell you a lot more if you want to know, but if you come to my classes, be prepared for a sequence that challenges your physical body and emotional body. Each week there is a new theme or story. Life experience in comparison to yoga is important to me. For years, I couldn’t’ transition the bliss from the mat into my real world. So, it is important to me to reiterate how important the postures – feelings and emotions that come up within each movement and breath can be related to whatever one might be going on in one’s life.

If you think about it, the idea of challenging your body to come into a difficult arm balance or inversion is nothin’ compared to the trials of life. If you can look at a posture and it’s challenge the same way you do a problem in your life, everything becomes so much easier, clearer and logical in it’s approach.

Do you remember when you were young and something bothered you so much you thought your life was going to end. ‘He’ didn’t call or you got a ‘C’ on a paper and your life was over.

We’re not kids anymore but we still think a lot like when we were young. What could be troubling us now, will be such a non-issue down the road. Yoga brings us into the space where we can remove ourselves from our daily struggle, play a bit, challenge our bodies and minds and maybe overcome something on the mat that resonates in our live. Things that are big become little. Revelations are amuck.

I remember the first time I was able to come up in to the arm balance, Crow Pose (Bakasana for the Sanskrit literate).
I nearly cried. For others, it seemed so easy. For me, it took class after class, fall after fall, failure after failure, until, success! I can tell you that everything seemed a lot better off the mat after the class I was able to get up and hold ‘Crow’.
It might seem silly. And it is, in a way. But it’s important. It’s like childhood. We didn’t think so much about ‘serious’ stuff then. But with adulthood came responsibility and that play and experimentation gets lost in the years that accrue.

Yoga can give us the chance to stop time and go back to the existence of play, fun and challenge in a way that works our responsibility and taps into our child like sensibility.

I believe all yoga traditions want that. Some are stricter than others. Discipline is imperative for some constitutions. For others, the idea of, ‘what’s next?’ is equally as important and disciplined. Some celebrate the playfulness more than the strictness.

As a yogi, it is important to search ALL of it out and then go back to the one style and/or teacher that gets you to push past the limitations that have been set by being an adult and make you feel the freedom, liberation, strength and success you deserve to have every day whether you are on the mat, in your car, the office or takin’ care of the kids.

Yoga is designed for EVERYBODY. In the earliest traditions in India, yoga was prescribed individually. It was never meant to be mass produced as a class. Age, body structure, class, health was all put into account in a sequence of poses, breathing exercises, diet, meditation for ONE person. There is a lot to bring into the sequencing of a class to benefit the individual. Here in the states, it's adapted to the everybody. But not all classes are created equal. Be wary, my friends.

Nowadays, there are so many choices. Be wise and have fun. Then make your decision as to where you want to go.
For years, I felt bad that I didn’t follow one tradition or teaching over the other.

My success as a teacher has everything to do with the fact that I am open to all of the teachings and bring it to you in my classes. I sometimes wonder how I do it. Not to toot my horn. I’m not doing that at all. I'm still out there with my mental notebook learning what I can from all the greatness that is out there to be found. But I remember the myriad of teacher trainings I did in Yoga, Pilates and Fitness Training. I often asked teachers how I could integrate one with the other and was met with looks of confusion. Well, how would they know if they only knew one way?

I know many ways and if anything, I will be your tour guide to the one or many ways you would like to be lead. Not everyone is like me. Some people want the ‘one’. I like it all. My classes will never be confusing and you will never feel mislead. You will always stay true to your practice, stay safe under my guidance and feel free to explore, fall, fail and succeed brilliantly. I will always mention if some pose or verbal idea is specific to a certain style of yoga. If I don't you can just ask me. I will always credit the great teachers and styles that went before me as I continue on my own dodgy and colored path.

I also learn so much from my students. We are all in the practice together.
There are so many teachers out there that have the mental ability to quote every yogic book out there or can come up into a pose with no effort at all. I'm not that girl.

I started out as the fat girl who couldn't touch her toes. Now I've learned how to train my body and mind to live in a way that is harmonious with the life that I lead...most days.

I'm not a gymnast. I'm not a dancer. I can't repeat what I just read.

I ran marathons, struggled and worked hard to find peace and balance inside and out. Which is kind of funny. Working hard to find peace.
Well, that's me The peaceful worker. Or peaceful warrior. I think that's actually a movie.

I can answer a million questions and if I can’t I can most definitely tell you the person who can. It’s my job and my quest.

I can’t imagine being a teacher who follows one path. I admire those who do. But I remember when I was young and I don’t want to let it go. I am a seeker. It’s important for me to seek it all out. If you want to work hard and get into your body and mind, I’m the person for you. If you work with me for a long time and want to search out something else, I am also honored to guide you the special teachers that I have been fortunate enough to work with. They are dedicated to their paths and I can show you the way to them.

And I’ll see you there. Practicing, challenging, failing and succeeding.

Yoga is my life. I don't know what life is without it.
I'm happy to be your servant on your yogic path.
Humbly and happily,