Monday, August 6, 2012

Let the Olympians Inspire YOU!

Imagine doing yoga for hours a day everyday, 365 days of the year. Makes you tired just thinking about it? Well that's how much the Olympians train in their sport. They have amazing dedication, drive and determination. It's always fun to watch the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. I love all the hugging and crying.

So what does this have to do with yoga? We can let those amazing performances inspire us to be great. Inspire us to try a little harder, do a little more. To get up and try even when we maybe don't feel like it. The practice of yoga is always good to great. Every practice is worth it. Even a few minutes can change the way you feel.

And then there is the guy without legs who is a runner, he could sitting at home watching and instead he runs. How amazing is that?

Your event is your life. Go big.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Stand Strong No Matter What! 

The last two weeks have been maybe the most exciting of my career. I went from a local yoga teacher to a name published in every major newspaper in the country. It's been fun and there are lots of good lessons within this story.

I won't rewrite what I wrote for Yoganonymous (, I'll just tell you about this translates to you and your yoga practice.

I usually have an "Anusara like" theme for class. Since Anusara fell apart earlier this year I have been more relaxed about this theme having a heart quality and always connecting to the Universal Principals of Alignment. It's really great when all those things come together, but lately I feel like the yoga practice speaks for itself.  How does a hot class make you feel, a restorative slow class, a class full of back bends?

So the last two week's themes was really simple: standing up for yourself. One week we explored ALL of the standing poses. Well not literally all, but all the big ones. Class included lots of lunges, sun salutations, warrior 1, 2 and 3, side angle, tree pose.... you get the idea.  This practice is both grounding and makes you feel strong, but it can really tire you. Yoga is hard, I'm always really clear with my students. You have chosen a path of resistance.

Then the next week we came at this idea from a different angle: Before you can stand up for yourself one must know what to stand up for. We explored a quieter practice, starting with Supta Padangusthasana ( and lots of hip openers. On Saturday we started with restorative poses.

If we can learn to be quiet and just sit and listen inside the truth of what we really want will come up. There is a time to let things go and there is a time to make your voice heard. It's always about balance.



Friday, July 13, 2012

Final Draft as I sent it to ELEPHANT JOURNAL
I was just fired from the Facebook gym for asking a student to not use her phone in class.

By Alice the Yoga Teacher (aka Alice Van Ness)

When the telephone was first invented some people were annoyed that this technology was now able to interrupt dinner. Now your phone fits in your pocket and is also a game boy, alarm clock, and personal computer. It interrupts everything including yoga class, lunch with a friend, and sometimes your sleep. Maybe we've given it too much power? Does it have so much power over us that it’s keeping us from connecting in real life?

A few weeks ago I was teaching my weekly noon yoga class at the Facebook Fitness Center in Menlo Park, CA. They have a little gym there where I taught a yoga class in addition to a Pilates and cycling class. Right before class begun a student was typing on her phone. So I asked the whole class to turn off their cell phones. She did, put it down next to her mat and we began.  Half way into class right as I was starting a demo of Ardha Chandrasna (Half Moon Pose), she took that as her opportunity to check her phone.  I stopped talking and looked at her. I said nothing, but I'm sure my face said it all. "Really? Your email is more important than understanding your body? It's more important than taking time for you? It's more important than everyone else here?" Oh and by the way, she was in the middle of the front row. She stepped out and rejoined class a few minutes later. Apparently she had gone to complain to management.

I had been previously asked by management to just let the students do whatever they wanted. Come in late, leave early, answer emails, come in during class to get weights, take photos for the newsletter, whatever came up I was told to just say YES. Which is why on this day I didn't actually say anything to this student.  I just looked at her with utter disbelief.

Two weeks later I was fired from the Facebook gym. I contested at the time that I didn’t actually ask her to leave.  They had already made their decision. What has happened that work or updating a status is more important than being in the moment? Are we so incapable of disconnecting? What could be going on that couldn't wait 30 minutes? This is not the emergency room, it's just Facebook.

The first time I taught at Facebook I started class, as I do everywhere, with a short mediation. One student was completely incapable of sitting still and closing her eyes for what was less than three minutes.  She fidgeted and looked around, visibly uncomfortable with those few minutes of silence. That means she needs to do this work even more, the more she resisted the more uncomfortable she seemed to become. Her behavior was similar in Savasana (Corpse Pose, the final relaxation at the end of class). Facebook and all these smart phones have invaded our lives and now we are addicted to being connected via technology, but at what cost? What are we afraid of missing online? Why can’t anyone wait for an answer anymore?

What I have seen over my years of practicing yoga is that technology and being "connected" electronically is depriving us (myself included) of connecting in the moment. For me I welcome my yoga practice as the one place where I don't have to look at my phone. I enjoy connecting to my breath and forgetting everything else. It's a pure time. It's a much need break from the stress or drama that is going on.

As the yoga teacher I want to you experience that break too. I know you need it, just like a mom knows her three-year old needs a nap. It’s a little like an addiction. We can’t stop ourselves even when we know its not the right time to pick up the phone, we do. The cost of being connected constantly is great to our own sprits. When we live a life disconnected to ourselves, it’s living in the surface. You are constantly on edge, unable to relax and be in any moment as it is. Plus is very distracting for everyone else in the room, not to mention rude. It’s so you can understand the pose better, feel better and maybe avoid injury. More importantly yoga is your time to pay attention to yourself. Connect you to you. The hour or so of disconnecting from the outside can leaves you more clear for everyone else.

Technology invading your peace is not just in yoga class; start to notice how many times per hour you reach for your phone. Is something coming up in the silence or stillness of that moment that makes you uncomfortable, or is it boredom? I encourage everyone to have someplace in their day where there is no television, no phones, no distractions. It may be hard at first but that is where the yoga begins.


Alice is a teacher and writer in the San Francisco Bay Area. Alice has been teaching yoga since 2006 and practicing since the 1990’s. She enjoys yoga, Pilates, cycling, photography and the ceramic arts. She is currently writing a book about growing up and going to high school in Palo Alto.

She has been trained in the Anusara Yoga method but has not dated John Friend. Alice makes her classes fun, while challenging students to go deeper. She is a humorous, passionate, knowledgeable, and giving instructor. She works with students of all ages and abilities, teaching both children's and family yoga. Alice has worked with children since she was a teenager and finds them to be a great reminder to stay in the present and have fun. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Telephone game.

Remember that game when you were a kid? You sat in a circle and one person whispers a phase and as it goes around it changes into something else all together.

For the most part the press has been really positive. I want to thank everyone that has posted nice comments to my Facebook page:
and sent me emails. It's been so encouraging.

But now it's getting into a he said / she said.

I am not interested in that. The media has taken my words out of context. Twisted them around to fit into their own version of the story. That's what you do.  
At first I called it a "disapproving look" then it turned into a "glare" and now a "dirty look".

Does it really matter?

I asked her not to use her phone and she did it anyway. That's rude.

97-98% of readers polled agreed that it is not okay to use cell phone in class.

It's not rude to point out someone is being rude. 

It keeps growing and changing. Papers post photos from my personal Facebook page, which should be hidden. It was one student, now its the whole class. I'm too strict. I'm mean. I should let students do whatever they want. I don't think so. Teachers of all kinds should have some authority of what they would like to happen (or not) in their classrooms. Period.

So put your phone away. Show some courtesy, when the teacher, cashier, usher at the movies, or a priest asks you to turn off your phone. Do it.

Turn off your phone, turn on your life.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Balance: quiet vs. talkative teachers

One of the studios in my area recently sent an email to all the teachers.  It was about increasing class size and schedule changes.  This email also mentioned the feedback from students was that there is "too much talking and not enough moving going on."

Well that's not good. It seems that the teachers may be losing people by offering too much explanation of the philosophy and detailed alignment explanations. After that I started paying more attention in my own teaching to how much I was talking in class. Was I offering ANY quiet time, other that in Savasana (the final relax pose at the end of class)?

Before I got into the world of Anusara I did two teacher trainings in Seattle. Most of those trainings where about how to get people into poses, sequencing, anatomy, and the Yoga Sutras.

There was little training about how to MUCH to talk, reading the room when people might need a space to just be quiet.  Also there was little about the conservation of words. You can say more about alignment and phiolsphy if you can get people in and out of poses in less words.  The best thing I got out of Anusara teacher training was this formula:

Verb, Body Part, Direction

For example: Step your right foot forward, stretch your arms up, or hop your feet forward.  This is clear and gets new teachers away from "Your gonna step your right foot to the front of the mat, and then...." Just simply tell me where to go.  So how did we get from this to too much talking?
Easy: John Friend does it.  He fills each asana, each moment with his 30 years of knowledge and passion.  He could weave a heart theme, inspire me to move deeper into Triangle pose, and talk about community at the same time.  It was powerful. I am not John Friend, and my students are not like me.

I teach full time, and am single.  I spend my day mostly alone, sleeping, eating, working on my computer, writing, or teaching. For those few hours a day that I am in the studio/ gym I am happy to chat it up in class, before and after class. This is not the day most of my students come from. Theirs is a world that is busy, full of meetings, children, more meetings, lectures at school, so they need QUIET.

What I need and want my students need are different things. My students need a space to move and let the yoga speak for itself. And doesn't the feeling, the experience of yoga tell you most of what you need to know anyway? Don't you already know that yoga calms the mind? Don't you already know that you are part of nature? Don't you already know that yoga connects you to something bigger?

I hope you do, if not keep practicing. 

"Practice yoga, and all is coming!"

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Changes 2012

The school / system / organization called Anusara has kicked out the founder John Friend. About half of the teachers have left.  I'm not sure where I stand.  I'm not sure what to do.  I became an "Anusara- Inspired" Teacher in the fall of 2010 and now less than two years later, I feel like all I have worked for is gone.  Yes the teachings I still have, but if it doesn't continue as a school of yoga what do I call my classes?

So what do we do when something we have no control of changes? We hang on.  We hold on to what we know. Yoga feels good. Yoga takes me out of my head, calms me, and inspires me to be a better person. It has healed me.  I used to have trouble sleeping, stress headaces, that is gone.  I used to have intense sciatica-like hip pain, that is gone.  I can more than touch my toes, do cool back bends, handstands (at the wall) and that's all nice.  It just feels good to move with the breath.

Beyond what it's done for me physically - it's connected me to me.  The more I connect to myself less I care about what others say and feel about me.  The more centered I become the less other people's drama gets in.  Conflict, disagreement, arguments, controversy, it's part of life.  We all come from different backgrounds, want different things, have different ideas of how to get there.  Difference is good, challenges are good.  People who see the world in a different way, challenges our view.  This is our "off the mat" yoga, to see the challenge, the annoyance, the other side, and not let it rock our steady foundation.  The word ASANA yes means pose, Trikonasana, Three angles Pose, or Triange Pose. But if we dig deeper we find it means "mastery of sitting still". That is being still when the world around us changes.  To see someone else upset and not let it upset us.

So when it gets challenging this it when to return to the mat over and over.  Keep connecting with that which is always there, your breath (thank god), that for today I can still do downward facing dog, that if things are tough for now, at least we know they will keep changing.

Hang on. Just Breathe.