Guest blog post by Camille Moses-Allen, Yoga Instructor RYT 500
Camille is Cyndi Lee’s assistant for the upcoming OM 500 TT program. She is also a yoga teacher and teacher training at Charm City Yoga in Baltimore. You can learn more about her on her website, www.camiekarma.com or her FB page.
I’ve been a yoga teacher for 7 years. It’s been my full time job for almost the entire time and like almost everything that happens in life, I didn’t expect any of this to turn out the way that it has. I never really thought when I graduated college that I’d be a yoga instructor let alone instructing people to become yoga teachers or takings hours and hours of yoga trainings. I got into yoga after years of dance and some gymnastics and it was kind of the next part of the progression. I started taking classes with my mom who had also been a dancer and after I finished college I totally fell in love. I was young and flexible and it was fun! I was good at it and that made me feel good. I worked in corporate America in my early 20’s and I realized just as quickly as I started there that well, cubicle life wasn’t for me. I took a 200 hour at Charm City Yoga in Baltimore, and have never really looked back.
I met Cyndi Lee last year when I was lucky enough to attend the yoga journal conference in NYC. Cyndi’s workshop was literally one of the last ones of the conference and even though my body felt tired and sore as I don’t know what, my friend Allison was with me and she’d taken one of Cyndi’s workshop before so I was ready. Since I’m a full time teacher, whenever I take workshops, a part of me is always thinking about how I’m going to apply what I’ve learned in my yoga classes. The workshop was called Stabilize to Pretzelize which essentially meant- how you can have a stable mind when you’re in a challenging yoga pose or whatever difficult situation. I had never met Cyndi before and I unfortunately had never been to OM Yoga before its doors closed. Cyndi started talking and said that the last workshop of the conferences are always when the dedicated people show up and stay around for one last intense yoga session. I was smiling on the outside but my body was already so sore! And since I was ready for full speed ahead, there I was with my mat right in the front and notebook in hand.
If you have never met Cyndi Lee before, you will find that she is witty, a lady with zest and a good sense of humor in addition to being someone who has a ton of experience and knowledge of yoga and Tibetan Buddhist philosophy (on and off the mat). As soon as the class started and Cyndi started to address some general basic principles of Tibetan Buddhism. One thing that Cyndi mentioned was the word GOM, which is a Tibetan word which means- getting or becoming familiar. The use of this word essentially means getting familiar with your thoughts and habits (like when you try to meditate and think you can’t concentrate so you tear yourself down and then, you do that every time something doesn’t exactly go the way you think it should).
Cyndi then when on to say that we practice meditation so we can recognize our habits and patterns and learn to let them go. We do this by consciously placing our mind on the breath. No crazy breathing, but just simply focusing on the chest rising or falling or the belly expanding and contracting. While these weren’t things that were necessarily new to me, several light bulbs went off in my head. I quickly realized that this is what I’d been working on (professionally and personally) all along. After teaching and practicing for several years, I started to hone in on my own stuff- you know, the drama and neurosis and crap that we all have but sometimes don’t really want to deal with. I wanted to live fully, be happy, confident, and be less judgmental and demanding without feeling like I wasn’t deserving of what I really wanted. It’s not really a secret that I’ve seen a social worker (who I love) for several years and I have to honestly say that seeing her and the combination of having a yoga practice has really synced things together.
All of the workshops I attended over the conference weekend had underlying Buddhist principles behind the conscious alertness and wakeful states of being. As yoga teachers, we try to convey certain principles of the yoga practice to our yoga students; yogic philosophy as well as anatomy and other essentials of the physical asana practice. However, sometimes these terms (in sanskrit as well as anatomical terms just for example) can mystify students. I realized I was one of those people! I was in loved with all of the Hindu gods and goddesses and their names, pictures, colors, and what they stood for even though their meanings never really jived with me. Like I didn’t believe it in my gut and carry that on with me throughout my day. Cyndi mentioned this once in a workshop and I secretly thought to myself- oh yeah, that’s me, I’m one of those people. And while that may seem simple; that’s sometimes how things click. Subtlety and when you’re not waiting or expecting it to happen. Tibetan Buddhist philosophy was not what I was expecting to find myself in mind 30’s to be pursing but meeting Cyndi really opened up what I feel like a million new doors and pathways to understanding myself and my yoga practice. And in turn, will make me a better yoga teacher. Cyndi’s teaching was very real to me- show up as you are and as she’s said, work with what you have right here and right now.
My new found love of Buddhist philosophy (I was a philosophy major in college so it’s not totally foreign) has been a real source of curiosity, practice and interest for me. I’ve been able to infuse that into my daily yoga classes, but I’ve also been able to hone in on being more mindful myself. And well, it’s not ever perfect but that’s where the beauty lies. It’s a practice and when you realize that oh, I’m really annoyed with my mother/boyfriend/sister/cat etc right now- that’s where you put that moment of clarity to work! At the end of January, I will start my 500 hour teacher training with Cyndi Lee in New York City and even though a large part of me taking the training will help my job; I am really taking it so that I can continue to learn how to be familiar with myself and become more awake, aware, and compassionate to not only myself, but to everyone else as well. As Pema Chodron says “Being satisfied with what we already have is a magical golden key to being alive in a full, unrestricted, and inspired way…meditation is a process of lightening up, of trusting the basic goodness of what we have and who we are, and of realizing that any wisdom that exists, exists in what we already have.”