Dharma Talk with Cyndi Lee: How to Go With the Flow

December 22, 2017

Originally Published on Yoga Journal
December 22, 2017
Written by Cyndi Lee

On a hot day last summer, I was teaching in an old brewery turned yoga studio in Berlin, Germany. It was sweltering outside, and there were no fans or air conditioning in the building, so we opened all the tiny windows that lined the walls. As I settled in to teach to a packed room, we heard a steady, loud hammering on the old roof right next door. It wasn’t the kind of noisy machinery you’d hear in a big city like New York; it was just a couple of guys on the roof, pounding away all morning.

As you can imagine, the room wasn’t exactly feeling settled. While it would have been nice if those workers stopped banging, that isn’t how life works, is it? It’s hard to get everything lined up just right all the time—everything arranged just the way we like it so that we can finally be relaxed and content.

For years, I’ve listened to students explain why they can’t do certain poses. The reasons are always essentially the same: My core is too weak, my hips are too tight … you get the point. The undertone is always hope that once the obstacle goes away, something better will take its place. Of course, when that better thing happens, there will be another elusive obstacle that is hypothetically making something else unattainable, and so on. The result? We end up full of craving and dissatisfaction rather than joy.

Yes, your yoga practice does offer adjustments for refining your experience and making you feel a bit more comfy. For example, if you’re feeling cold, practice Ujjayi Pranayama (Victorious Breath); if you’re hot, try Shitali (cooling) Pranayama instead. There are various modalities available to us, designed as yogic course corrections, so to speak. Yet, in the end, course correcting is not what practice is all about. Yoga is not an aspirin. It’s not about making things fit us so that we can feel better. In fact, when we approach yoga that way, we actually create our own roller coaster. Oooh, I’m too cold; I’m too hot; my arms are too short; it’s too noisy in here. We are always measuring. And all too frequently, nothing is just right.

So then, what is our practice about? It’s about getting familiar—with ourselves, our minds, and our habits, including all the ways we habitually create our own discontent. Rather than trying to make ourselves more comfortable—by adding props, or wishing the hammering noise would stop or the weather were different—what if we tried to expand our comfort zones? I believe the first step toward doing this is recognizing how we create our own discomfort.

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From The Yogis

  • Terri Bender Morrison, Owner, Mindful Motion Yoga, OM 500 TT 2015

    "Cyndi, I feel that my teaching has shifted a bit - sequencing is more interesting and effective. As I was driving home tonight, I thought about the statements of "leaving crumbs" and "connecting the dots". While you meant that for us as direction to be better teachers, I recognize you were doing that for us as well. I believe I am just now processing some of the things you taught this summer. The subtle parts of classes escaped me, but I am getting them now. Thank you for the crumbs, for leaving plenty of space between the dots....I think I see the moon."

  • Zan Margolis, OM 200 TT , 2012

    "The more yoga I experience, the more I realize how special it is that in your teacher trainings you actually teach your yogis how to *teach*"

  • Susan Golden, Studio Owner, Maine

    "Cyndi’s sense of humor and genius teachings have made this OM 500 TT very, very stimulating every minute of the day. I’ve learned so much. I can’t wait to let it all come together and bring this to my teachings and to my life."

  • Natalie Levin, OM Yoga Graduate, OM Warrior Weekend Teacher Training Program 2003

    "I am a graduate of the OM 2003 Warrior Weekend Teacher Training Program.  I had the honor to teach at OM yoga in New York City for several years.  I have since moved to another city and was instantly offered teaching jobs based solely on the fact that I had been a teacher at Cyndi Lee’s OM yoga.  Studio owners in my current city thought so highly of Cyndi Lee’s OM yoga Teacher Training that they hired me immediately and I found and continue to find that my OM yoga Teacher Training opens door after door for me.  OM yoga (practicing there, teaching OM yoga, and learning from Cyndi Lee) helped me professionally in my own yoga-teaching career.  Even more meaningfully for me, I feel that the path of mindfulness and attention to alignment that pours through the pores of OM yoga has influenced me and helped me to soften enough to become more “myself” since I first walked into the OM yoga studio."

  • Jeri Wilson, Studio Owner, Maine

    “I’m Jeri and I’m a studio owner in Maine and I just finished my 500 hr TT with Cyndi Lee. It was an excellent experience, partly because I had been trained primarily in Anusara and I was challenged to think very differently. I found it was very helpful to come back to teach with Cyndi’s influence. She is very, very funny and she will work you and challenge you and you will feel like you have actually gained something really deep from the training.”

  • Jeanie Gasque, Yoga Teacher, South Carolina, OM 500 TT 2015

    "Cyndi's skillful guidance lead me to a greater clarity of alignment based vinyasa.  The yoga combined with the charm of Lynchburg made the Sun Session an unforgettable experience."

  • Gina Callendar, Yoga Teacher, Yonkers, NY, OM 500 TT 2015

    "Cyndi truly follows the middle path and instills that in her teachings.  She combines disciple and humor to create an engaging, thought provoking and enlightening experience.  I had the pleasure of taking her 500 hour OM Yoga Teacher Training.  I have deepened my practice, work to continue challenge myself and never want to stop learning.  I am pretty comfortable teaching, but withCyndi’s guidance I am more confident in my hands-on adjustments and clarity of instruction with my students.  Thank you Cyndi for reinforcing my foundation, challenging me as a student and becoming my teacher.  I hope to continue to learn from you for many years to come.  Namaste."

  • Erica Settino, Founder, , Karuna for Animals

    "I have been teaching yoga for 12 years and over those 12 years I have often felt burned out and at a loss for inspiration. Now that I have taken Cyndi Lee’s OM 500 Teacher Training, I feel completely different, completely inspired, and so, so blessed. If you are even considering it, you must do it."

  • Donna Levenstien, Yoga Teacher, Lake George, NY

    "I am a student of the OM 200 and OM 500 TT. I keep learning from Cyndi Lee who is just a master teacher, every class I take, every hour I’m here she says something wonderful that I can bring into my life, onto my mat, into my classes with my students. As a teacher and a student, I feel enriched every time I’m with her and in her class."

  • Ann Megyas, Actor, Yoga Teacher, , Hospice Worker

    "I’m so glad I decided to take Cyndi Lee’s 500 hr TT. It advanced my personal practice in ways that I could not imagine. There is no pose I am afraid of anymore. It’s advanced my teaching practice, it’s advanced my dharma study. It’s just been a thrilling experience the whole time."