Even when my mind is open, my focus is centered, and my body is still, my hands feel the agitated need to move.Read more
The following post was written by Caitlyn Johansen, a dancer, yogi, and administrator. She received her BFA in Dance from NYU, and her 200 hour yoga teacher training from The Perri Institute for Mind and Body.
Since completing the 200 hour yoga teacher training program with The Perri Institute for Mind and Body, I have been teaching yoga to private clients, at dance programs, and to office groups. I’ve also made a huge career switch, and started working in administration for large corporations. Before this career change, I worked in restaurants and studied dance at NYU. When I decided to make the switch, I was worried that I was ill-prepared for office life. However, I quickly realized that teaching yoga had unknowingly prepared me for my switch to corporate life.
Large companies spend a lot of time and money selecting, educating, and training managers. The idea behind this is that stronger management creates a stronger company. Employees count on managers to be educated and knowledgeable, communicate clearly, allocate tasks, manage time, and maintain team morale. I expected the culture of the corporate world to clash with my yoga teaching. However, I quickly began to notice commonalities in my two lines of work.
Corporations generally offer educational programs such as online training modules, live training sessions, and educational reimbursements. These educational programs serve to expand and fortify a manager’s knowledge of relevant subject matter. Ongoing education is vital to successful management, because employees are more apt to respect and trust a manager’s decisions if a manager is well educated with diverse sources of information.
As a yoga teacher, one must continue to train as a yogi. An important part of my ongoing education as a yoga teacher has been diversifying my information sources. I take classes and read literature from as many different yogis as possible. I have found that exploring a variety of yoga methodologies and practices has grown my teaching vocabulary. For example, when I experience a yoga-class-planning block, I go take a yoga class. Hitting the mat as a practitioner often inspires my teaching practice. Inspiration can come from a theme, an adjustment, or a creative sequence presented by another yoga teacher. By diversifying my yoga training, I have more knowledge to draw upon. Therefore, I am more confident that I am prepared to manage whatever situation I am presented with.
Corporations rely on managers to effectively communicate information to employees. Effective communication is the thoughtful presentation of subject matter, tone, and phrasing. When a manager leads a meeting they provide an agenda, set a tone for the meeting, and phrase their statements with care.
In the past year, I have been fortunate to teach yoga to an incredibly diverse student body. Teaching to a diverse student body has taught me to consider the class demographic and setting when deciding upon what subject matter to present and how to present it. For example, the class theme ahimsa, non-violence, should be presented mindfully to a group of military veterans or domestic violence survivors.
Tone is used to energetically support a class. For example, an early morning class of adults may need a more vibrant tone of voice to wake them out of their early morning sluggishness. On the other hand, an after-lunch group of young children may need a firmer tone to focus them during their post-lunch jitters.
Phrasing is particularly important for verbal cues.I have found that dancers are more likely to be able to locate their sitting bones than non-dancers because of their prior movement education. Therefore, reach the sitting bones on the upward diagonal may be a more effective cue for dancers, and reach the hips on the upward diagonal may be a more effective cue for non-dancers. The difference is subtle but impactful. As a teacher, I prepare myself with multiple phrasings of the same cue. When administering cues, I take note of how practitioners are responding and continue trying new phrasings until practitioners are physically responsive.
Corporate managers are responsible for allocating tasks among their teams. Task allocation is more than simply ordering team members to achieve certain tasks. Task allocation requires a manager to intelligently guide and challenge their employees.
From the moment students walk into a room, a yoga teacher allocates tasks to practitioners. Yoga teachers guide students to their spots in the room, and guide them through a series of asanas by giving verbal commands. For example, “Grab a mat and two blocks and set your mat up facing the center of the room,” and “bring the hands onto blocks and step your right foot back to low lunge.” Beyond providing practitioners with physical challenges, yoga teachers provide practitioners with mental tasks, such as, “Focus the attention on the breath,” and “bring your attention to the room.” As a yoga teacher, I have to continue to challenge practitioners with mental and physical tasks. I have found that this is particularly important with private clients, as teachers are able to customize their class plans to the capabilities and needs of one practitioner. In my past year of teaching, I have had the opportunity to guide practitioners consistently from week to week. Challenging practitioners to grow their yoga practice over an extended period of time has been incredibly rewarding.
Along with task allocation comes project management. Corporate managers are responsible for ensuring that tasks allocated to their team members are able to be completed on time. Project management is the setting of goals within a time frame, to ensure the completion of a project by a certain date. Managers often have to make adjustments to employee workloads and tasks to meet deadlines.
A yoga teacher must manage class time in a similar fashion. Beyond starting and ending a yoga class on time, a teacher manages class time through class preparation and class pacing. When I first began teaching, effectively managing class time was a challenge. I would become so excited by the students’ responsiveness to an asana workshop or pranayama that I would lose track of time and have to rush through another part of class. I have found that when I class plan, I now keep in mind what aspects of class are optional to teach and what parts must be taught for students to be well-prepared for future asanas. I sometimes make on the spot adjustments to my class plan and pacing in order to provide practitioners with the healthiest and most fulfilling practice possible.
Corporate managers determine team morale by assessing factors like resources, productivity, and accuracy. When team morale is low, managers employ strategies such as work assignments, promotions, and fiscal compensation to motivate their team members. However, a manager must employ motivational strategies to individual employees while prioritizing the needs of the entire corporation.
A yoga teacher listens to the verbal and nonverbal communications of practitioners, and makes teaching choices that best support the individual practitioner and the entire class group. Attending to the needs of the individual and the entire group is challenging. A yoga teacher must simultaneously take note of patterns occurring among the entire group and individual practitioners. A yoga teacher then tries to use verbal adjustments, physical adjustments, and self-adjustments to benefit the entire class. When I first started to teach, I would sometimes sacrifice the pacing of class to focus on adjusting one student. Through teaching experience, I have learned how to dive in and out of individual adjustments quickly in order to provide continued support to the entire class group. I have also become more sensitive to the class group’s energy when they first enter the room. I take note of whether the majority of students seem restless or exhausted and may adjust my class plan accordingly. I also check in personally with students as they enter the class. I ask students if they have prior yoga experience, injuries, and are comfortable with hands on adjustments. I have found how to balance my attention between individual practitioners and the entire class group.
In closing, I am extremely thankful for my yoga teacher training. For the past year, I have been sharing yoga with others! Beyond the sheer joy of teaching, my yoga teaching practice has made me a better employee. I shifted into a corporate job with more ease than I anticipated and my career has continued to flourish. Yoga constantly sneaks ancient wisdom into my modern life. I look forward to a lifetime of teaching yoga and being taught by yoga!
The following post was written by Liz Montgomery, a dancer/choreographer, writer, and teacher for The Perri Institute for Mind and Body. She currently co-teaches the Grow Your Practice seasonal series with TaraMarie Perri, and is involved with various aspects of the institute’s growth and development. As evidenced by her constant recipe sharing, Liz loves to feed people.
As the temperature climbs higher still, it's tempting to forgo breakfast altogether. Don't do it! The quintessential summertime breakfast, the smoothie, has been around since the 1970s, but has recently seen a surge in both popularity and creativity. Gone are the straightforward banana/strawberry swirls of my childhood. Now, smoothies are expected to have complex flavor and be chock-full of nutrients. Since I am a yogi on the run (and I suspect most of you don't have time to kill in the morning), I've provided two ways below to combine your breakfast with your morning drink-of-choice. That's right, no more juggling multiple mugs on your commute!
Lime Green Smoothie
3/4 cup coconut water or 1/4 cup greek yogurt plus 1/2 cup water
1 handful baby spinach
1 frozen banana
1/4 of an avocado
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 teaspoon Matcha green tea powder, optional
Maple syrup to taste (sometimes I add it, sometimes I don't)
Combine all ingredients and blend until smooth.
Beans and Nuts Smoothie
1/4 cup cold brew coffee or 1 shot espresso
1/2 cup milk of your choice (cow, almond, hemp)
2 Tbs almond butter
1 frozen banana
A dash of cinnamon
Combine all ingredients and blend until smooth.
And here are a few tips to help you become a smoothie pro:
- Pre-freeze your bananas. Anytime you've got a bunch and one starts to go brown, peel it and toss it in a bag in the freezer. I can't tell you how much easier this makes things.
- For the tea drinkers: invest in some matcha! Creamy and mild, matcha is a varietal of green tea processed into a powder. It is known for its ability to simultaneously increase both alertness and calm.
- For the coffee drinkers: cold brew your coffee. With just a bit of foresight, you can be out the door without ever needing to turn on your kettle. I find cold brew to be so much better on my finicky tummy--the acidity can be as much as 65% lower than coffee made with heat! A quick primer: take 3/4 cups of very coarsely ground beans and 4 cups of water and place in a glass container at room temperature overnight (12 hours), then strain with cheesecloth or a fine mesh sieve and refrigerate.
- Get creative... but not too creative. It is very easy to end up with too many competing flavors. When in doubt, make a small test batch. Some things you can add that will give your smoothie more oomph and texture while preserving the taste include: chia seeds, hemp hearts, ground flax seed, and rolled oats.
The following piece was written by Brianna Goodman, copy and features editor for MindBodyBrew. Brianna teaches Yoga with The Perri Institute for Mind and Body in New York City. She currently attends Fordham University, where she is pursuing a degree in English and Creative Writing, with a minor in Communications.
“[L]earning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.” -David Foster Wallace
Today’s mantra comes from one of my favorite literary icons, David Foster Wallace. This quote is an excerpt from the wise yet humble commencement speech he delivered in 2005 at Kenyon College, in which he warns students of the “dreary, annoying, seemingly meaningless routines” that they will endure as post-graduate adults. He confesses to students that there are times when being an adult sucks—when finishing a long day of work means heading out into rush hour traffic to enter a crowded grocery store to wait in a long line at the register to head back out into traffic to start a long and frustrating journey home. Sounds like an inspiring commencement speech, right? But indeed, it is.
Wallace reminds the graduating class that we have a choice in how we decide to evaluate a situation. We can look at the events of a long and frustrating day as personal assaults on our general happiness and well-being—or, we can look at these events as opportunities to be compassionate towards those around us. “[T]hat Hummer that just cut me off is maybe being driven by a father whose little child is hurt or sick in the seat next to him,” says Wallace, “and he’s trying to get this kid to the hospital, and he’s in a bigger, more legitimate hurry than I am.” We don’t always have to consider scenarios so extreme, but Wallace makes an important point; it is up to us to decide if the world is out to get us, or if instead, the world has a lot more pressing things to be worrying about. We can choose to view fellow drivers as enemies, or we can view them as fellow humans who deserve compassion and understanding.
John Milton, in his famous epic Paradise Lost, wrote that the mind “is its own place, and can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.” Our work as yogis, and as humans, is to consciously choose how we’re going to evaluate a situation. What will we decide to emphasize, and what will we decide to conclude? How will we let this experience affect us? Is this moment entirely negative, or is there knowledge to be gained? As Wallace says, this sort of work requires us to be awake. To pay attention not just to the inner monologues buzzing inside of our heads, but also to the sensory experiences that are happening around us. This is what it means to live mindfully—to pay attention to what is around us, to who is around us, and to then decide how we will allow this information to shape our focus.
Back in a meditation workshop during my yoga teacher training, Ethan Nichtern directed myself and my classmates to focus on the breath, but to be aware of the sounds around us. In this way, we were making a conscious decision to pay attention to one specific facet of the moment, but without shutting out or falling asleep to the rest of the world. This, I believe, ties into what Wallace was saying. To live a mindful and compassionate life, we must be awake to both our inner and outer worlds. We must be aware of the circumstances around us, but we must also be aware of the ways that we are internally digesting our experiences. More than being aware of our thoughts, we must also be able to direct our thoughts—it is up to us alone to decide whether the world is our friend or our foe.
What will we decide?
The following post was written by Callie Ritter, a certified yoga teacher through The Perri Institute for Mind and Body, and a Restorative Exercise Specialist as of summer 2015. She's professionally trained the connection to her body and movement as a Modern dancer for over 15 years; she aims to spend the future helping others in their bodies with her accumulating knowledge and passion. Callie was born and raised as a cowgirl in Southeast Idaho, but currently resides in New York City.
I was appreciating an average but perfect glass of rosé when I caught my reflection in a window: solitary with a wandering gaze. I grimaced at the thought of going back to my accommodation for the night, never mind, I leave for the airport at 6 AM tomorrow morning. I left my extra euros for a smiling waitress with good English, and began the hour walk back, my eyes up and watching. I shared paths with a goose whose yellow gaze studied me carefully; I secretly took pictures of people’s window displays; I asserted myself to some young punk men: “Can you please leave me alone?”
I killed time by watching the underside of a tree.
Traveling is a lonely and not-lonely thing. It brings you into the unknown, where your perception zooms out and blows open your mind—yet it also zooms in, bringing into focus the intricate texture of an experience. The edge requires you to pay attention, helping you remember what it feels like to be awake.
I made a friend from Sao Paulo named Cauay. I remember his dark eyes shifting serious when he paused to see if his physician skills were needed in a huddled crowd in Amsterdam’s Red Light District. He later ordered Nutella-smothered waffles with such introverted, boyish excitement that it made me smile. I already had my pack on as he stirred from sleep on his bottom bunk. I wished him luck and shared our last glance.
Ellie was a mother and daughter and asked about my love relationships as we sunk our bare feet into the sand of a windy beach. We rode cruiser bikes under arches of great green trees, and on our path the sun laid Dalmatian-print shadows. She told me about being a new Singaporian, and how you can always start over—because you always have a choice. Whenever she orders tea, it’s usually for the biscuit that comes with it.
I had too many clothes on for the temperature inside the bus, but was too busy scanning for a recognizable street sign, my stomach unsettled. Quit pretending to know what you’re doing Callie—because the truth is you don’t. This is all new.
Traveling sharpens the perspective. I feel and see much more than I do in my normal life. I breach the ‘stranger wall’ by crawling over to ask someone for help, or if they mind having company. I open myself up to the experience—however uncomfortable, bland, or blissful it may be. I take in my surroundings and spread my consciousness, and something truly unique happens; I feel like I’m a part of it all.
Intersubjectivity is a philosophical and psychological term to define how one’s subjective, identity-driven experience relates to another’s. It’s typically found in anthropological and social contexts describing shared common culture and things we agree upon. On a deeper scale, it can provide a pure definition of relationship, where and when it is that we see eye-to-eye, or rather as I want to venture: eye-into-eye.
I implore to the goose, “Come on, be my friend. I’m sad I’m traveling alone.”
The goose replies by sidestepping away. “You’re a strange and tall creature who seems to want something.”
The city’s energy fades like a weekday, and the light from the west is dimming golden into blue. I’m wearing sneakers without socks and have a belly full of bread.
Traveling isn’t comfortable, and branching into new territory can be risky, but it requires you to absorb information at a heightened intake. This newly expanded awareness leads you to observe a moment so deeply that you begin to merge with it. Merge with the glance of the waitress, the sip of glassy rosé, the wet-foot smell of a hostel, the way sun comes through the trees. When you’re open to the smells, the sounds, and how you feel in a situation, you view yourself from the outside and you see what all around you sees as well. This is intersubjectivity: relating to everything else to the point that you dissolve into and overlap realities. You find that feelings of discomfort can actually help seal in how real an experience can be.
The Third Nobel Truth of Buddhism states that a remedy to the inherent discomfort of life is a state of Nirvana or connectedness. Christos Yannaras, philosopher and author, writes, “We know God by cultivating a relationship, not by understanding a concept.” Connection is about living in a state ofrelationship where all comes into focus. This is my meditation. My practice as a yogi is to try to come back to this state of intersubjectivity over and over again, and do so on and off the mat.
I step off the plane into the humidity of a high noon. Fulton Street is full of color and swagger and fresh ripe mangos in rows. I’m home but I’m not the same. What does this feel like? What are they wearing and saying; what’s in that window?
Can you experience the same walk home freshly each time? Can you get out of your head and into your body and your environment, and touch it with your perception? Wherever you are, do you hear the birds? The sirens? Humanity’s breath and profanity? Yourself inside this moment? Whatever the experience is—don’t you want to be here for it? Within it?
Photography by Callie Ritter.