Kevin Collins from Groove Yoga, Berkeley, will be joining forces with Yoga Belly this Saturday for another donation-based workshop benefiting Yoga Reaches Out with all proceeds going specifically to Children's Hospital in Oakland. Children's Hospital is the largest children's hospital not funded by a university and one who takes in any child in need of medical care.
We recently got Kevin to answer a few questions for us and to give our Yoga Belly peeps a chance to know a bit about him before meeting him in person this Saturday:
1. If I had never taken your yoga class before, what can I expect from your class?
It's hard to say what you should expect from it. My class is pretty much intuitive, reacting to whats going on in the room and drawn from my 15 years of teaching, so I never know where it's going to go until we get in there and get going. I guess in general it will be physically intense but emotionally supportive. My philosophy is really about using yoga to take care of yourself along every important dimension, so while we lean against all the tight spots in your body, the physical practice is just the starting point.
2. Any personal heroes?
My heroes are the people who do it without the press or the recognition. The cast is always changing as I meet and get to know new people, but the profile is consistent. They're the people who get up every day, even when it's rainy and cold and they don't feel like it, and go out to let it shine. I know a bunch of them, and you do too I'd bet.
3. What's your favorite comfort food?
Oh, man. I think it's grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup. My mom used to press them down with the iron, which wasn't great for my shirts but which made my sandwiches nice and thin and dunkable.
4. What inspired you to want to teach yoga?
I came to yoga from an interest in Eastern philosophy, but I started teaching for a very different reason. I knew a lot of people who were intimidated by yoga practice, who didn't want to go into a room full of skinny, flexy people and struggle with these poses. I knew a lot of teachers who couldn't understand that, since the practice was so easy for them. I found that my own struggles with the physical practice have helped me to open up the door for a lot of people to the richness of the full yoga practice. By not being intimidating, I'm sometimes able to get through and help people use yoga as a full, multi-dimensional practice.
5. What are you currently working on in your own personal practice?
One-armed handstands, because I just know that if I can do that, all the problems in my life will instantly fade away. But seriously, what I'm really working on is pranayama (breath) practice. All of us who teach yoga talk about it, but this is such a rich and robust avenue of practice that most of us are barely scratching the surface. Breath not only reflects your mind state, but it simultaneously influences it. I am finding so much benefit as I dig in there.
6. If you're not doing yoga, what is your go to physical activity?
Well, I ran the Avenue of the Giants half marathon last weekend, but honestly, I'm no runner. I can barely walk as I type this. I love swimming, and taking my big Bernese mountain dog Matti for hikes in the hills.
7. Any thoughts on yoga being dangerous or bad for your body?
Well my opinion on this is very similar to what many of us in the yoga community have said: doing things unconsciously can always be dangerous. Yoga particularly because it challenges you to explore the edges of your range of motion. But this is no reason to shy away from it. This actually reinforces the core message of yoga. Do nothing unconsciously. Do not practice yoga to achieve a pose, or to feed your competitiveness. Wh would we use this practice to reinforce he very things that make us unhappy and vulnerable to overwork. Yoga, done right, teaches your body to work in ways that are safer and healthier than anything else you can do. Yoga done wrong will lead to injury as sure as any activity done without respect for your body.
8. 3 words that describe you.
"Last to panic"
9. If you can have dinner with any 3 people alive or dead, who would they be?
Hmmmm. Richard Feynman, Jimmy Buffett and Maya Angelou. Feynman for his perspective on the nature of the universe, Buffett for how to carefully construct a life without being a slave to the structure and Angelou for a view on the human condition that I can't really inhabit.
10. You stub your toe on the coffee table.... You scream out: _?!@#!!___
"Aw, man...that didn't feel good", or "that was not necessary!". My sister always accuses me of being overly descriptive in these situations. "why can't you just curse like everybody else", she says.
Join us this Satuday the 12th for a powerful yoga workshop led by Kevin at 2pm.
Its Day 7 of the 30 Day challenge at Yoga Belly and we are back from our weekend excursion. Can I just say what a difference its like to practice yoga outside of Yoga Belly. We stayed at the Claremont for the weekend and the first thing we did was go and find out about the Yoga classes that they have at the Resort / Spa and decided to take the level 2 / 3 Flow class during our stay there. I think I have been ruined for what others consider an advanced class. Herdig was the teacher, a lovely woman in sixties who had us get a blanket, two blocks, a strap and a towel at the beginning of the class and I said to William, “oh boy, here we go, we are getting out all the toys for today’s class.” We started off in a seated position and slowly worked our way up to her standing series which included approximately two vinyasa’s a variety of forward folds and the peak pose of Triangle. Its not often that my ybbig Puerto Rican body moves through a level 2 / 3 class without breaking a sweat but it was a nice change of pace to really focus on the breathe and alignment in the poses. No music, no groaning. Straight up gentle yoga. As I write this I almost feel bad about even including this in my 30 day challenge but….gentle yoga is sometimes just what the doctor ordered. Its better than no yoga and it fits into my goals of 30 straight days of yoga. Day 5 and Day 6….check.
Cut to back at the Belly. I decide that Nikki Wong for some non-heated power is the class for me today. What a reality check on what I consider to be my go to Yoga. Even without the heater running I find myself struggling to find the breathe and keep up with the class 30 minutes into the class. Thank goodness that someone came into the studio and needed to speak to the owner 40 minutes into class. Just the well deserved break that Captain Struggles needs to sweat profusely while trying to serve excellent customer service in the lobby. As I returned to the last 10 minutes of class and come up from shivasan I was reminded by the lovely Ms. Moore that I didn’t complete the whole class and this will not count towards my goal of dominating the studio in the 30 day challenge. I smile on the inside knowing that sometimes…. You got to do what you got to do when you have a daily practice. Thank you Yoga Belly for continually challenging me not only in my practice but in my life. Good luck on Day 7 everyone and I hope that you are enjoying this amazing journey we are taking together as much as I am.
Its Day 4 of the 30 Day challenge at Yoga Belly and I have much business to attend to today and I am up and at it around 6am. It’s my 10 year anniversary today and I have planned a very special weekend away filled with friends, parties, spa treatments and relaxation. So today I have to get to an early morning class and start my day right and knock yoga out of the park. Here I come and I have Thoa’s 7:15am class in my sights. With the love of my life on my arm, we have business to attend to and yoga to check off our list.
One of the things that I love about going to Thoa’s class was that she was the very first teacher that William and I auditioned to be a part of Yoga Belly. I always reminisce about when we took her class at another studio before we were open and she was fresh out of Teacher Training and slightly green as an instructor. What a difference a couple of years make. When we got there Thoa was telling me how much she is enjoying my blog about the challenge (my first compliment in person, thank you very much) so I thought,” Oh God, here it comes, she’s going to try to kill me.” After falsely accusing Carlos of taking my sandals since we were wearing the same ones and I couldn’t find mine (turns out William put his bag down on top of mine, sorry Carlos). I was ready to throw my mat down by the window side. Cool side off the room for me since Tiffany isn’t here trying to kill me.
Much to my surprise the pace was on point, she talked about patience and premeditation in your practice. Slow movements between poses. It was great. Just what I needed after the fast pace of Edna and Melissa the days before. Stan and Anna were in the corner for their 2nd class of the day. Side Note folks: Beware of Stan and Anna…their yoga is fierce and they come practically every day, you’re going to have to be focused to beat them in the 30 day challenge folks. I got just what I needed to start my day off right and now I am off to wrap up work before we head out for the weekend.
This begs the question: How will I participate in my 30 day challenge and go away for the weekend? I won’t be able to attend classes at YB this weekend but I have set an intention to practice 30 straight days of Yoga. Our hotel has a Yoga class on Saturday and Sunday I plan on practicing with William. It won’t count towards the contest but it fulfills my intention for May. There is part of me that is disappointed that I cannot do every day at the Belly. Part of me wants to win bad and not be disrespected in my own home by setting the record straight about who’s house this is for our first 30 day challenge….but as a 38 year old man that has grown a little…I know it’s not about that. It’s about honoring my word to myself. Fulfilling my obligations to me. Setting an intention and completing it. Its not about crushing the competition….but who knows what’s going to happen in the next coming weeks. I will keep on trucking on and who knows….perhaps the blog will take a different tone in a few weeks when I am crushing the competition and the blog becomes an ode to my greatness…..who knows….we can only hope. Have a great weekend folks. Next Blog update and results coming Monday. Be safe out there. Be mindful in your practice.
Its Day 3 of the 30 Day challenge at Yoga Belly and nothing has gone the way I planned them to go today. I had planned to practice with Jimmy at the 12:30pm for lunch but meetings ran over and I couldn’t get out of the office in time to make it down to the studio. Which means I have to face Edna or Jeff on Day 3. I’m scared….its Day 3 and already I am ready for a nice Yin practice lol. Wheres an hour of non-jeated Yoga Belly when you need it. For this challenge I am pacing myself (in my mind). Slow and steady wins the race, I have no desire to pushed to my edge on the third day of a 30 day run of yoga. I call my homegirl Tiffany and tell her…lets go practice with Edna. Side Note: Tiffany IMs me at the beginning of the week to find out if we can practice together any classes during the week (We work at Symantec together on the same time, Tiffany = Love). Practicing with a friend is a slice of heaven. It helps you to not chicken out in the moment when your pushing yourself through a yoga class side by side with someone that is telling you “Do it!” I never know what to expect when I go to the studio. Stasha is running late and there is people waiting for the doors to open so I walk in and start to do check-in. I’m in the zone and doing my thing. In my mind I want to run but I am committed to being in the moment. I’m saying hello to the people I know…Manisha introduces me to her daughter, Leslie and I talk for a second. Tiffany and I are changed and ready to put our mats down. Where to go….Of course Tiffany wants to be in the corner where its hot….I cringe but put my mat down. Edna starts to do her thing and suddenly we are on the move. Twisting and turning and pushing and sweating and finding my edge. I’m lost in the moment, I look at the new girl in the corner who is a little lost and I want to tell her. Girl, you cannot be new and in the corner where it’s hard to see in an Edna Barr class. Being the true professional Edna is in the corner picking her up and helping her into Crow for the first time (Seemed like her first time, who knows). The joy on the woman’s face is priceless, I tell her,” …good for you, that’s awesome.” Edna’s classes are hard and you move quickly through poses so you have to have a working knowledge of Yoga to participate fully in the experience that Edna is creating for you….but Edna is fearless in her adjustments and she will walk over and put her hands on you and push you to your edge in ways you didn’t know were possible. You feel accomplished when you finish her class. I’ve lost 3 pounds to the floor in a puddle around my mat at the end. I wander around in a mindless yoga high while I get my things together. I see Jeff in the lobby getting ready for his class. I love Jeff. He has this naughty look in his eye that makes me want to tease him mercilessly but we are surrounded by people so we have a polite teasing exchange as we conduct business. I feel connected to his yoga practice when I practice with him. I’m saying goodbyes to my fellow Edna-ites and starting over greeting the new arrivals for the Jeff Lang experience. It’s the circle of life at the studio at night. I love Yoga Belly, I love the people…but I am hungry enough to rip someone’s arm off and eat it. I gotta bounce. Day 3 Yoga….check. It wasn’t pretty today…but it was worth it. Part of having a daily yoga practice is just getting yourself to show up. The battle is not always in the body, its mostly in the mind. There is more to yoga than just a workout. It teaches you to exercise discipline when keeping yourself healthy. Not just physical health but total health: Physical, Mental, Emotional, Spiritual, Social. The lessons you learn on your mat apply to all areas of your life. I’m here to practice yoga…. Everywhere.
Hang in there people, 27 days to go! You can do it.
Its Day 2 of the 30 Day challenge at Yoga Belly and I wake up at 5:30am in the morning and the first thought of my day is….should I go to Yoga at 6:00am instead of 7:15am as I had planned? I uncover a leg and realize that its freezing in my house and quickly the thought of getting up early and going to the studio are quickly rejected. I instead decide that a long restful shower and a brief meditation are in order. When I get to the studio I run into the previous class exiting the building and am greeted with familiar faces smiling and even an invitation to a BBQ at the end of the month from a friend Mel that William and I have gotten to know since the studio opened. I chat briefly with Kathleen about how successful Day 1 of the challenge was (biggest day attendance wise in the history of Yoga Belly ….woohoo!!) and she informs me that if it keeps getting busier that she’s going to have to cut down on the # of days she’s going to be coming to the studio. She prefers the class small and intimate. I smile on the inside because in the same conversation she’s also telling me how she used to not be able to fit into the pants she’s is currently wearing (which are baggy on her) and YB is to blame for her fortunate drop in pant size. I love what people want to say to me about their experience with the studio. All in all, not a bad way to start the day. I open the studio door and Stasha is sitting with our new check-in person training her on the fine art of check-in. Thank God for Stasha, if you haven’t had the opportunity to meet Stasha (she’s mostly there in the evenings, or on days like today she pops up at a random time to do Gods work in the studio) please make it a point, she’s awesome. After she sends me back and forth to my car to get peoples mats and water bottles that they are reclaiming (I emptied the lost and found yesterday out of the studio, it was getting messy)I finally get in, throw my mat down to claim my yoga space and say hello to Melissa.
Let me tell you….quite a difference between William’s Yoga Belly and Melissa’s Power class. Although both hard in different ways. I find myself sweating like stuffed pig in the first 15 minutes. Yoga Belly starts you on your back and gradually works you up to standing poses. Its designed to be challenging but beginner friendly in that it works you to where you need to be. Melissa’s power class starts off with a couple of Cat / Cows and then she is moving through side plank and push-up to side plank on the other side. She’s moving and getting the body hot and sweaty right off the blocks. 60 minutes later after having pushed , worked, gone upside down, balanced and basically wanting to cry twice. I lay in Shavasan and let myself melt into the floor. I pick myself up and take myself home. I feel good…. Really good. I feel happy. Day 2, Yoga…check!
Best of luck with Day 2 everyone, please remember to be mindful in your practice. Your body changes daily and you have to be aware of what you need today, in this moment. We aren’t having a challenge so you push yourself beyond your limits. It’s about setting an intention for your life and seeing it through in a mindful way. Be safe out there.
Its Day 1 of the 30 Day challenge at Yoga Belly and I am excited to set the intention of taking at least 30 straight days of yoga. Of course I took a week off from Yoga prior to the challenge so I woke up this morning at 6:00am excited to go to Williams 7:00am yoga class. Usually I try to avoid Williams class like the plague. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a phenomenal instructor and I am fully supportive of his journey but those of you that are married for a long period of time will feel me when I say that the thought of listening to your spouse speak for 60 to 90 minutes at a time without being able to respond is not at the top of my priority list. But this isn’t about my wants or desires. This is about setting an intention and seeing it through.
I look at my work schedule to see what my options are going to be for including yoga in my day and I know that i’m going to the Avengers premiere tonight put on by my company, I can’t take lunch classes because I have meetings, so it’s got to be before I go to the office….William it is. Its always nice to see familiar faces in the morning. Melinda greets me at the door, we haven’t seen each other in a while so when I tell her that I checked in online she gives me the speech about thanking me for checking in ahead of time to guarantee my place and making it easier for the check in person. I smile cause she is just saying it to let me know she takes her job seriously. I appreciate that about Melinda. She cares about Yoga Belly, she makes it a point to tell me in her own way. I love that.
I slip off my shoes and go inside, scan the room and I see Terry across the room who is a new friend so I go and put my mat next to hers. It’s always nice to practice with a friend. I say hello to Stan and Anna…Eli is back and I shake his hand. William is ready to begin so I sink myself into child’s pose and listen to his morning monologue. He’s really good about talking and getting everyone in the Yoga Kula to introduce themselves. The people he knows better than others he says their name and greets them with a smile. He’s a very special teacher and I think to myself… I should go to his class more often. He embodies a lot of things that I love in a Yoga instructor. 60 minutes later the class ends and I have given it a good 70% all through the class….I’m pacing myself. Slow and steady wins the race. Day 1 of the Yoga Belly 30 day challenge is complete…..check!
Good luck everyone….see you at the finish line!
This past week we visited Paris, France. It turns out there's a lot to do there and on the last day we still had quite a list of things that we wanted to accomplish. On the other hand we were already exhausted having walked seven hours at Versailles the day before.
So what did we do? Well, we're not in Paris that often (go figure!) so we set an alarm, got up, and ventured off to mark things off the list rather than sleeping in and getting some rest. It completely backfired. We did one thing that took less than an hour and were so spent we had to come back home and lay down for a nap.
Once we got up from the nap, guess what we did? Took back off across the city. Guess what happened. It back fired again. In the end I hated the coffee that I went across the city for and decided that I already loved Zombie Runner in Palo Alto (shout out) that much more. The best gift for a friend was down the street not across town. Same goes for the best people watching. Annoying.
I was even more annoyed at the voice in my head saying, "sometimes you need to go through the journey to understand what's right in front of you." Stupid voice. I hate when it's right. We were trying to live it up and accomplish a lot but we forgot to soak it up. Svasana may be the reward, but soak up the journey to get there. Enjoy the existing pose rather than thinking about the next one. Forget what you've accomplished or didn't accomplish. Just show up. Everything else is a bonus.
I haven't met a single YB yogi or yogini who isn't a huge fan of the insanely talented, warm, focused, and hilarious Edna Barr. I recently moved to San Francisco, and have been dropping in at different studios just for fun, and NO ONE holds a candle to my beloved Yoga Belly. The instructors here have spoiled me, I'm not just impressed with any old yoga class anymore!
Anyway, as many of you know, we will be hosting an upcoming teacher training this spring. I was curious about it myself, so I asked Edna to sit down and answer a few questions about what the training will cover. Here are her insightful answers, and I thought I'd pass them on to anyone who's still on the fence...
-What will this class cover/involve?
This course is accredited with Yoga Alliance so we have to cover everything they require in order to register with them. Yoga philosophy, history, all eight limbs in detail.
-Who would benefit from taking this class/training?
Anyone & everyone! I have been on staff teaching this course internationally for the past 3 years & I fall in love with it over & over again. Even though we are covering the same information; it is so profound each & every time. Information ministers to us on different levels during different times in our lives. It is always an awakening as well as a reminder of what is truly important.
-What will a typical class look like?
The course is broken down into 3 hour sessions that cover a variety of topics so there no real "typical" session. The teaching style is repetitive so we will do a daily review of Sanskrit to ensure memory retention. Other than that, each session will be a new experience!
-How did you train to become a yoga teacher?
Haha! I have never heard this question before but the more I think about it, the more I feel that they should be a very common question. Yes, we absolutely must train to become a yoga teacher... There is a misconception that once you complete your YTT course; one is ready to start teaching but nobody trained them to teach...
You train by first being taught how to teach. Then you practice, get feedback, practice some more & get more feedback. A teacher training course is a safe space to learn, practice, get feedback & sharpen your skills before making a public debut. Too many courses out there do not prepare you for this. Rather they leave you to debut as an amateur instead of a professionally trained instructor. Becoming a teacher takes time & experience, but one should have a solid foundation from which to build upon.
-What do you hope to share with your students?
Wow, everything. I hope to share yoga... The full meaning, the full experience, the complete satisfaction & joy of yoga. That samadhi, even a tiny morsel of it, is wondrous.
-How is this program different from other teacher training programs out there?
Well, I mentioned some of it above where this course will prepare you to actually teach. There is a difference between an instructor who calls out cues & instructs and a teacher who can asses the room & actually teach. Once again it takes time & experience to learn to teach but standing in front of a crowded room reciting a generic script is not going to help anyone deepen their practice. I have students who have been practicing much longer than I have; never would I assume that I could teach them something but I do have the ability to assist them to go deeper.
This course is different because it is completely interactive. We don't just give you a reading assignment & hope that you fully comprehend it. We come back & discuss it, find out if & how it resonated with you. We don't want you to simply memorize the philosophy; we want you to understand how to live by it & make this life the best it can be.
We spend each day going over hands on assists & adjustments. I was speaking to the owner of an award winning studio last week & she said mentioned that they don't teach assist in their YTT because of the liability. I responded by saying, "well even more so the importance to teach instructors the proper way to assist." She nodded her head in agreement...
-How is teaching this program different from teaching your regular asana classes?
Oh gosh, another fantastic question! When we teach an asana class that is what we are there for. Too many teachers insist on cramming every element of yoga into a 60-90 minute class. Many students also expect a full yogic experience in this same amount of time. The truth is none of it can be rushed... If you want to learn philosophy, study it. If you want to learn meditation, study it. If you want to learn more pranayama techniques, study it. You come to an asana class to learn asana. Sure we practice a bit of pranayama but only as it pertains to the asana. Perhaps we throw in some calming, restorative breathing or meditation techniques but to think that 5 minutes of pranayama, 10 min warm up for asana, 30 minutes of asana, 5 minutes of restorative, 5 minutes meditation & 5 minutes of savasana with the instructor constantly talking you through each minute is a complete yogic experience... *sigh* That isn't it...
More often than not people say that my classes are not spiritual enough which makes me laugh because I have practiced yoga my entire life. I grew up with meditation, the wonder & awe of life, spent a lot of time in the Hare Krishna temple as a teenager. Just because I don't feel the need to preach one thing in the classroom & turn around & live another doesn't mean that I do not live in a constant state of truth & bliss... How I can teach others to obtain this same bliss? I cannot... It is their journey to learn to surrender, seek knowledge & accept.
This is what I truly hope to share in this course. I hope that it will change everyone who attends the way that it has changed me. I have always been able to see the divine light in others but it took a lot of work to finally see the divine light in myself.