Category Archives: Fitness

YogaWorks Teacher Training Final Week Recap

handstand

As I kicked up into handstand, my teacher Maya whispered “Yeah Theodora, you got this—it’s back!” (this photo is not from my training but it’s the only handstand photo I have…so far!)

She meant the handstand, but it’s so much more than that. I’m back. And not even back—I feel like so much more than I ever was.

But back to handstand for now. When we’d learned handstand our first week, I quickly got over my fear and kicked up easily into it. (Every time I mention handstand in this post, please know I mean onto the wall.) That very weekend, I attended a real class (as in, in a real studio, not just in training) and had a handstand that was a mess. I kicked up and fell over to the side, I lost control.

My ego tried to protect me, to keep me from doing this new thing I was so excited to learn. For the next 2.5 weeks, I tried and I tried and I tried, eventually calling over a teacher to help me kick up. “You’re so close, Theodora,” they’d say. “I KNOW, it’s so frustrating—I had it…”

But after four weeks of learning about my body, about my brain, about my ego— and oh yeah, how to teach and share this practice with others—it all clicked. The strong back leg in crescent pose. The length I found reaching for the sky in urdhva hastasana. The confidence to go for that handstand. In truth, it was always there—I mean, I came cross-country and signed up for a yoga teacher training. But a month of going through the practice, practicing 1.5-2.5 hours per day, of discussing the philosophy, of learning the anatomy, it’s deep in my muscles, in my brain.

To be honest, week 4 started off in a not-so-great place left over from week 3. I was feeling beyond down on myself—I nearly cried again because I was too anxious to let go even in the restorative section I’d been waiting for for weeks. I was unsure about my future, believing that if I couldn’t be happy in this place that I’ve wanted to be for so long, and if I wasn’t happy in New York, would I ever really be happy? The answer to that both is and isn’t about location, but that’s for another blog post. To be honest, it took a breakthrough therapy session for me to start feeling better this week…

Week 4 // Final Exam Components

But before that in yoga, we began to wrap up our studies, leading us towards our three parts of assessment:

Written in-class final exam, in-class practical exam (teaching several poses to the class) and a take-home final.

We had one to two “quizzes” per week throughout the course of the training, which were really helpful to check in to see where we were. I say quiz in quotation marks because they weren’t graded and don’t count towards our certification. They were super helpful in studying for the exam and learning the kinds of questions that might be on it.

Wednesday morning was our final. I woke up early and went to my favorite ocean-adjacent coffee shop, Dogtown, to cram for a few more hours, occasionally gazing out at the ocean. By the time I handed in the test, I felt good. I didn’t ace it, but I passed it, I thought. (I won’t find out for a few weeks for sure.) We had two hours to finish the test, and I finished in one, so I gleefully walked out of the training center towards the beach. I DID IT! I got through four weeks of a yoga teacher training program and probably passed the test! After a year of false starts and crippling depression, this all felt so so good.

There was a woman in the program who felt like an angel to me. She is 68 and had just lost her own mother. We took to each other quickly, and our relationship felt at once like equals and like a nurturing relationship. We finished at the same time and took a long walk along the ocean in Santa Monica together. That afternoon, all of us were bouncing off the walls like little kids on the last day of school—which is kind of what it was like. We practiced late that afternoon—after we collectively tried to drag out our philosophy study so our practice wouldn’t be so long—and we worked on arm balances. Y’all. I suck at arm balances. There’s no amount of thought reframing that works on that one. But, while I did first feel sorry for myself, I quickly turned it around and reminded myself I was doing what I needed to to keep safe.

Christine wrote an article about bipolar and wellness habits, and one of the women included said that she considers bipolar as much a part of her as she does her height, her hair color—except that it means she needs to do certain things differently to keep herself healthy. I loved that, and the analogy works as well for bipolar or for, in my case, depression and anxiety, as it does for yoga. Or running. None of us are perfect, and we all have something we need to manage for in order to keep ourselves at our best selves. And for me in yoga, it’s not doing certain things because I know I’ll get hurt, or I just plain don’t have the strength yet. It made me feel better, too, for the myriad things I do to keep depression and anxiety as close to at bay as I can.

Thursday’s practice was another challenging one, with lots of core work, and once again, I felt my ego resurfacing as I resisted the practice. We spent more time practice teaching, and I was grateful for another opportunity to practice in front of my classmates, to get non-graded feedback from my teachers.

Friday morning, I woke up feeling oddly(-for-me) at ease with the practical to come. A sign that the teachers did a good job, Meg said. Though: as soon as I arrived at the studio, everyone else’s nervous energy was contagious and I thought I forgot how to do Warrior II (one of my poses.) The teaching practical was basically this: a full practice, with us each teaching several poses. I taught Warrior II and Prasarita Padottanasana A (wide-legged forward fold), and we got feedback immediately after teaching. I, uh, taught Warrior II on the right side twice, but other than that, my teachers told me I was funny, soothing, and nailed my alignment points. BAM.

The extent of how helpful this was for me emotionally is beyond belief, though I’ll keep some of the specifics of that for the people in that room, my friends, family and mental health professionals. But not only did it make me whole, it made me so much more whole than I ever was. It gave me a purpose. To share this body of knowledge I just learned with others: to help others feel their lives change through physical movement. To know it’s not just the physical movement that changes them.

To answer the questions I assume you may have:

I’m not positive yet what I want to do with this, but I’m thinking: absolutely private clients (let me know if you’re in NYC or LA!), I would like to be on a schedule somewhere at a studio, and I want to develop some online content, both video and written. (I’m already working on refining a short sequence for runners I recorded this morning—would you be interested in stuff like that?)

I really really want to work with beginners—in yoga, in running (still have a few more 1:1 run coaching spots open!). I remember what it was like to be a beginner in these things, in fitness in general—and I remember how just the act of beginning changed my life. That’s what I want to share with others. Let me share with you how movement can be life-changing.

NYC Marathon: Tips for Spectators AND Runners

I originally wrote this post 4 years ago (please see: baby face), but I think it’s worth reposting again today because all of the tips still apply! I’m both excited and terrified to run marathon #7 on Sunday, but mostly excited.

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I was on an email chain with these lovely ladies, and one of the ladies said she was “so excited, it felt like Christmas. Is that weird?”

NOT AT ALL. It is not my first marathon or my first New York, and I am just as excited. (When NYCM was canceled last year, she ran 26.2 all in the park, like the original marathon. DAMN.)

I know lots of people are first-time NYCMers or first-time marathoners, and I thought I’d give you some tips from my perspective.

SPECTATORS

There are a few places that I think are great to spectate, both from having spectated there and from having been cheered on from there.

Mile 2/3: Bay Ridge: While you don’t need crowd support that early in the race, it’s always fun to be cheered on. My book club cheers from here, and I remember there being people out cheering but the crowds being a little thinner than they are farther in the race.

Mile 8: This is where the three different-colored starts come together, and you can also get here by almost any subway: C to Lafayette, G to Fulton, 2/3/4/5 to Nevins, B/D/N/Q/R to Atlantic/Pacific. My friends and family cheered for me from here last time, and although it was pretty crowded, they were still able to see me.

OKAY GO GET BACK ON THE SUBWAY AND GO BACK TO MANHATTAN if you’d like to be able to see people in more locations.

Remember those R.L. Stine Choose Your Adventure books? Let’s play that, and let’s do three different adventures.

A. Looking to party? Take the 4/5 back to 42nd, switch to the 6, and take it to 68th or 77, and walk over to First Ave., where the party is waiting for you with half the city.

B. Looking for your marathoner and want to see them hurting when they’ll really need a boost? Take the 4/5 to 42nd and the 6 to 96th. Walk over to First, see your marathoner at Mile 18, walk over to Fifth, see them at Mile 23.5ish just before they enter the park.

C. If it is important to your marathoner to see you close to the finish, take the N/R to Fifth Ave. or to 57th Street, and watch somewhere along Central Park South or near Columbus Circle. I remember in 2011, running through here, seeing it LINED with people, and loving reading everyone’s signs. This also gives spectators an easy spot to get in and out of to meet up with runners without getting caught in the mess that the park is after the race.

Runners and spectators: have a plan where you will meet. This is crucial. CRUCIAL. With near 50,000 runners and millions of spectators, cell phone service is spotty at best. There is technically a Family Reunion Area, but I would imagine it turns into a massive cluster. I’d say to meet somewhere west of Central Park West or south of Columbus Circle. Last time, JackRabbit had an area in their W. 72nd Street that you could drop belongings off at the day before. EITHER WAY, MAKE A PLAN.

RUNNERS!

IT IS HERE.

There is no experience in the world like this, so take it all in. Every crazy second of this week.

Expo. Get there as early as you can. In 2010, I didn’t run, but met Lizzy at the expo on Saturday. The line wasn’t long but the expo was PACKED. A marathon is a once-a-year thing for me, so I enjoy everything that goes along with them, and I like the expos, so it was annoying to navigate such a packed expo. As you all know, I’m a very social person, but expos are NOT THE PLACE TO BE SOCIAL. There are way too many people. Go with no more than 1 person. Otherwise, you will want to kill everyone else trying to stick together or find each other. Plus, if you go before Saturday, you will be saving yourself from all that time on your feet.

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I went tonight with Jen and got to the expo at 6:55. Bib pickup was closing at 7, and the expo was closing at 8. I flew threw the security line (FYI, they go through your bags and there was no wait then but I could see those lines backing up ), and then to the ID check line and then to the actual bib pickup line.

Coming straight from work, I was luckily too tired and overwhelmed to want to shop much, so I walked out with minimal damage: two more SparklySoul headbands (THEY HAVE A CHRISTMAS ONE NOW!) and Dave McGillivray’s book, which I wanted to get at the RW weekend. Jen and I tried out the Roll Recovery, which looked and felt INSANE.

Food. If you don’t have plans yet for Saturday night, and you want to eat out, MAKE THEM NOW. I REPEAT, MAKE THEM NOW. If you are here from out of town, look on OpenTable to see what’s still available. There will definitely still be places you can walk in, but do you really want to have to worry about walking from restaurant to restaurant the night before a marathon?

Sleep. Go to sleep early Saturday night, duh. Also, Friday night, since two nights before is when your quality sleep matters most. Maybe sleep on top of your foam roller.

Getting There

In 2011, they didn’t check when you get on the ferry. This time, your ferry time is on your bib. Personally, I’m not sure I’d take the risk of getting on a different ferry…but just putting all the information out there. From the ferry, you take a bus to the Start Village. I know some people have said they hang out in the ferry terminal until they absolutely have to get on a bus, but I’d rather be cold at Start Village and know I’m there.

I remember there being a million port-a-potties: when you first get off the bus, in the Start Village and then in each corral. (The corral area is truly ginormous.) Awful segue, but I also recall Dunkin’ Donuts being out there with coffee, hot chocolate (I think?) and bagels. Last time, we waited maybe half an hour before it was time to get into corrals. I ate my breakfast on the bus from the ferry and then had half a dry bagel while waiting.

Corrals

They were really strict with checking your bib last time to make sure you weren’t jumping ahead, but you can jump back to run with friends. (Tina did to run with me!)

Standing at the foot of the Verrazano last time listening to New York, New York was so emotional last time. I’m definitely going to lose it this time, FYI.

Course!

Mile 1: You will feel awesome. Of course you will. This is the best marathon in the world, and you are surrounded by energy. You also still have 25 miles to go. Slow down. Yes, there is a hill, but you will barely notice it with the adrenaline.

Miles 2-3: End of Verrazano, then running through Bay Ridge. This is where you start to really feel the energy of the spectators, and that energy just continues to build.

Miles 4-14: You run through Park Slope, Williamsburg and Greenpoint. There are some gradual hills in this part of the course, but your energy is ridiculously high from the crowds, although around mile 11 or 12, you start to wonder when you can leave Brooklyn and get closer to the finish. (No offense, BK.)

Mile 14: While, in distance, you’re more than halfway there, you’ve barely just begun. 14 miles was a “shorter” long run. You’ve got a while to go, honey. Here, you go over the Pulaski Bridge to cross into Queens, where you don’t spend much time. The Pulaski Bridge is fairly short and not too steep, but it is still a noticeable hill.

Mile 15: Just a quick little jaunt through Long Island City. I remember from last time that you run past Silvercup Studios, where 30 Rock was filmed. I did not, however, see Tina Fey.

Mile 16: Yeah, you know what this is. The Queensboro Bridge. Last time, Tina and I swapped stories over the bridge and it went by quickly. If you are running with someone, wait until this point to tell them some crazy story. If you are running alone, pull out your headphones or your mantras or whatever you need to power through this hill. I’ve never found it super-steep, but it is long (but so is the downhill!)

Mile 17-20: First Ave. And then some more First Ave. 17-18 are packed with spectators; closer to 19, the crowds start thinning out. Don’t run too fast from 17-18 out of excitement, but do let that energy give you a boost to power through this long, gradual incline.

Mile 20/21: If you’re a first-time marathoner, you’re probably crossing into unfamiliar territory at this point. BUT YOU’VE GOT THIS! You run over a small bridge to get into the Bronx, and run there for about a mile or so. The crowds are smaller than in Brooklyn and Manhattan, but they make up for it in energy!

Mile 22-24: You are back in Manhattan! You are almost done! The Lululemon cheer station is at mile 22, and I wanted to stop and hug all of them last time. The course begins yet another long, gradual incline as it leads back to the park, but good news! There are approximately a million spectators again.

Mile 24: GLORIOUS. YOU ENTER CENTRAL PARK DURING THIS MILE, AND YOU ARE ALMOST DONE. It is absolute, sheer magic in the park at this point. The course is fairly narrow in here, but you still have room to pass people if you’re feeling up to it. You’re running south and encountering some gradual hills.

Mile 25 – Mile 26: MORE MAGIC. You exit the park onto Central Park South, and it is a wall of people on either side cheering for you. Last time, I was smiling and blinking back tears at the same time. At this point, you know you’re almost done! You will finish this. When you enter the park again, you’ll have just a bit more than .2 to go. That lats .2 has a gradual small incline toward the finish, but nothing compared to the other hills you’ve conquered.

26.2: YOU DID IT!!!!! Go find your family and friends and celebrate.

Any questions/other tips you’d add???