YTT: Behind the Maya (Veil)

Throughout the course of our 200-hour yoga teacher training(YTT), we have to observe class at least 3 times. One thing you rarely, if ever, consider as a student is the structure behind 60-90 minutes of a yoga flow. And with good reason! There’s some magic in the not knowing, just listening, doing and digging around your brain.  And trying to keep your hips closed or feet balanced. That may be all you ever think about – that ish isn’t easy!

I remember my first few yoga flows in Denver, when all the things began to click, leaving class in a mysterious state of bliss. Like, man, if only people knew that sanity is so accessible and a high is so easily reached without having to do much besides roll out and step onto the mat! I remember walking out of studios way above cloud 9, craving and seeking that mental massage more and more. Running is great, sure – but yoga? Puts you on a different level.


I’m learning (as you may have guessed). And part of that involves stepping behind the veil/illusion (or maya, in sanskrit). Erasing a little bit of the “magic”. Setting up props for the Scene, and watching the Director work. (In our YTT Director’s Chair: Coral Brown.)

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Did you know:

– Most classes build you up to a Peak Pose. You may not always recognize what this pose is, but the asanas (poses) leading up to it all have a specific purpose (e.g. open your hips, warm-up your back, engage your core, loosen your hamstrings, etc.)

– (Prana*) Vinyasa Flow classes will always start with sun (or moon) salutations, called “Namaskars”. Depending on the teacher, you may do a few different variations of classic sequences. This warms you right up!

– Every pose has a counter-pose. It’s all about balance, yo.

– There is always purpose behind the sequencing. It may seem as though you just aimlessly move from one sequence to the next, but know that the teacher’s mind is always taking you down a specific, planned out, path.

*This is the type of teacher training I’m completing – Prana Vinyasa Flow.

Sitting back, behind mayas, and watching a full hour of yoga without doing anything but observing is a completely different experience. I noticed so much more than I would have if I were on the mat. My mind wasn’t focused on meditation, but rather on learning and piecing together. I was a little jelly of everyone getting their asana-on. I was awake and alert while they blissed out in savasana. Not the same! But the totally-worth-it reward will be leading a full class through a similar journey sooner than later. Paying more attention to what’s behind-the-veil shifts your experience on the mat, but it also means I soon get to create my own story, bhav and flow, and see what happens.

For now, I’m still reading the script. (5o hours in)

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35 Hours: 200 YTT Resumes

Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) continues! See posts checking in at hours 5 & 29 from our initial training weekend in January.

The weekend of yoga starts off with 5 hours on Thursday evening, in the middle of which is a 90-minute class. Coral can throw a LOT into that time frame, and this one included peaking with crow pose. Breaking down that “peak pose” – what you need to work on to get in and out of it – will decide the vinyasas (sequences) of the class. Crow is a balancing pose, so a lot of people assume it takes arm strength. Actually it takes a strong core, open hips and a forward (not down/back/left/right) gaze.

“Look where you want to go!”

Think ahead.

Look forward.

Trust your {mind+body} abilities.

Be okay with falling/failing, and getting right back into it.

Build strength, open up, put a strong base in place; have faith that you’ll fly.


The room was straight up pumped – we had energy, we’re ready to get this ball rolling again, we love to feel the lightness of flight. She regaled us with some Bob Marley during savasana and we responded with a sing-a-long. And that’s an awesome way to end a kick-ass class.

So begins my favorite kind of weekend…

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Building (Run) Fatigue: the good way to feel exhausted

you fail

One way I reduce decision fatigue is by working with my Coach (cannot begin to put a $ to how much I value not having to think about my training plans). But what does she do in return? Fatigue the crap out of me.

I read this quote yesterday just before I strapped on the Heart-rate monitor for the second run of the day. I  immediately thought about all the times we build a BIG thick cushion for ourselves to land on, before we even know from how high we’ll start to fall. All the times I’ve had a goal for a race, only to so very quickly come up with “Plan B”. The times I’ve been in the middle of a run and thought this is too hard, I’m done – when the marathoner in me, a few layers down, actually thinks do you REMEMBER mile 26?! You are. not. done.  All the times I’ve excitedly thought of a big lofty (to-me) goal, only to almost immediately protected myself from thinking it’s possible, because what if it isn’t. {Lands on cushion.}

But what if it is?

As a Coach, I’ve learned to recognize what Katie’s doing to me when she’s doing it. I don’t always know ALL the reasons or the science or her magic logic, but a glance of the schedule du jour is always telling. Right now? Fatigue. She’s laying it on thick! She’s saying to me, Keep running even though you’re tired. And I’m saying to my legs, you’ll survive.

Sometimes my mind jumps ahead to the WHY – the goal race, the next couple of months of building this fatigue for good reason. Sometimes those thoughts dump adrenaline into my muscles and act like jet-POWER! Other times, they add cushioning for the fall, layering up failure protection. I.e. They doubt. This quote brings it back to reality.

I failed during those 26.2 miles at Marine Corps, and guess what? Life went on. I didn’t fail the two times I ran those exact same 26.2 miles before, and life went on. The difference was in an attitude. It can be just as  fatiguing to build that soft mental landing to protect yourself as it is to build your mind and muscles to risk failure, discover your true potential, and believe you’ll succeed.

Which fatigue are you building?


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Avoiding Decision Fatigue: Why I eat eggs for breakfast everyday

There’s something to be said for food habits. I once survived on the following: oatmeal for breakfast, turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread for lunch (with lettuce, cucumbers & salsa) – possibly a chocolate pudding or just chocolate, yogurt somewhere for a snack, carrots/chips+salsa while cooking, some version of “grilled” chicken + veggies/pasta for dinner. Maybe an Oreo or small bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats for dessert. Every day.

I’m not kidding at all. And this was during and probably for a while shortly after my college days (studying Nutrition Sciences). Take that as you will…

Usually no mind was paid to the fact that I very often ate the same thing, or some very slight variation of it (depending on dining hall, apartment grocery stash, or internship funds availability), for every meal, every day. If I was questioned, my only justification was “it’s what I like…”. I thought that was true. If I look back on it now, I think two things: 1) it kept my grocery shopping and bills simple & consistent (you know, no-income days!) and 2) it kept decision-making to a minimum. (Brain space was free to learn and have college / no-FT-job-days fun!)

Let’s talk about the latter – Decision Fatigue.

Research suggests we pull from a pool of will-power and decision-making power every day, which like most pools, can be drained. Depleted. Donezo. In a similar thread, the hypotheses suggest our brain fatigues, just like any other muscle. We can make up to X tough decisions per day, feeling strong and in control, until we aren’t. By the time the choice between Y & Z comes up, we’re at a loss. The easy, well-paved path, is taken – with a side of light remorse and defeat for dessert.

There may be more to stress eating, to the gravitational pull of comfort foods, and to giving into cravings in a brief moment of weakness. Maybe not always, but maybe sometimes those moments happen because the hours leading up to them have exhausted you in some way or another. You’ve had to pull from that will-power bucket too many times in one day; your decision-making muscle has been lifting 20-lb weights all day when it’s so used to the 10 pounders.

Remember Steve Jobs in his outfit of choice? Black turtleneck and jeans. Recognize Mark Zuckerberg by his signature hoodie + t-shirt look?

From Business Insider’s article on the latter:

He said even small decisions like choosing what to wear or what to eat for breakfast could be tiring and consume energy, and he didn’t want to waste any time on that.

I may not have nailed this down until more recently, but it’s so clear now. Decision Fatigue: the struggle is real. It’s been years since I had the same exact thing for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks every day. (It’s also been a long time since chocolate pudding or Oreos saw the inside of my grocery cart.) But even recently,  for a long time, I had oatmeal + peanut butter every single morning. Last year I switched to a more protein-based breakfast: 2 eggs scrambled with kale and chopped veggies (peppers, onions, tomatoes / whatever we have leftover), 1/2 avocado and a banana.  And Sriracha.

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It feels good to have breakfast habits. I like having the same thing most days. Now I know why: because it feels good to start your day without having to make decisions! I like what I like. I get variety during the rest of the day, and my brain is ready and happy to make those choices.

Other ways to avoid decision fatigue:

– Minimize your wardrobe. Throw out half of that stuff you haven’t worn in months, or years, anyway.

– Develop a few healthy food habits/staples and you’ll make grocery shopping easier, minimizing impulse buys. See also: meal planning!

– Have an exercise routine or work with a coach. Take the guesswork out of the day and you’ll be more likely to not only go workout, but also to stick to it. (This is easily one of the best choices I’ve made in the past year.)

– Recognize the days where it may set in, and make things easier on yourself by making a few choices ahead of time (pack lunches & snacks on stressful work days; have a go-to outfit for presentations or VIP meetings; set up a training plan for a “crazy week”).

Perhaps more importantly, get to know yourself. Recognize those times where you “give in” and take a few steps back. Do a mental rewind through your day – what made your brain tired? What was different about today vs. yesterday? What choices have you had to make that depleted your buckets? Every time you do this, your buckets get deeper. Your brain can take on more ‘weight’. You’ll make better decisions.

Additional Reading: – Drowning in Jam: How to conquer decision fatigue

NYT WellBeing Blog  – Do you suffer from decision fatigue? – Here’s the Real Reason Mark Zuckerberg Wears the Same T-shirt Every Day

The Strength Model of Self-Control – Baumeister, Vohs & Tice (FSU & Univ of Minnesota)


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YTT: What do you do that’s not true to you?

“My religion is based on truth and non-violence. Truth is my God. Non-violence is the means of realizing him”  – Mahatma Ghandi


Moving right along with Yoga Teacher Training (YTT): We’re one week into a one month “Living” meditation. It’s not all about sitting cross-legged on a colorful pillow in a quiet room for 1-10 minutes per day – as meditation rarely is – but rather taking a concept to live with all day, every day. It’s meditation through your thoughts, which turn into actions and behaviors, concentrating on different topics/ideas every few days.

A lot more a-ha moments, not as much quietness.

Refuse Spa Carmel Valley_Silence

On Friday we got our second prompt: Truth. Satya: from the root “to be” (sat). To be truthful; to be true to yourself. To realize that sometimes we block the truth with an iron no-thank-you-ma’am shield. We try to hide the things we most want to reveal, admit or accept about ourselves. We suppress things we want to ignore; we ignore things we really want to chase.

Things to think about this week…

How often do you find yourself rationalizing things that you’ve said or done that don’t really feel “true” to you? How many times per day do your wishes have one thing in mind, while your actions (almost unconsciously) express another? When was the last time you felt like a shadow of yourself because you’re not entirely sure what truth you’re chasing (or not) + why?

If you can’t tell the truth to someone else, what makes you think you’re telling it to yourself? Call the bluffs, yo.

“It seems so simple, yet it can sometimes be quite complicated.”

It’s almost unnerving how often you can catch your mind sprinting to justifications or excuses for why/not you do or say something. There are probably quite a few ingredients in this self-preservation recipe, but Ego and Fear tend to dominate the flavor.


A few random moments in the past week have made a few things very clear to me, and I won’t chalk it up to coincidence. Spend even 5 minutes (or 24 hours) focusing on these little things, and your mind will bust out the obnoxiously huge spotlight and shine it right on whatever it is you’re struggling with, ignoring or wishing-to-be-different (but probably not doing much about). It gets easier and easier to separate the important truths from everything else.

What are you doing that’s not true to you? Why?

Back to regularly scheduled light-hearted eats and running anecdotes after this break, brought to you by a yoga teacher-in-training with a busy mind!

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