Your why is your light.

February 26, 2019

Knowing your why keeps you on your path.

The first yoga classes I taught were inner anxiety festivals and truly a mess. It was bad.

I prepared and planned for years to make the shift from part time to full time yoga teacher . The reality of the work, the truth that I’d traded in my 9- 5 for a 5-9… meaning 5am-9pm almost laid me out.

The first year of studio ownership was a professionally and personally dark period in my life. Most days I truly didn’t know how I/we the business/work was going to happen or make it.

My why, my purpose. It was/is my guiding light.

It won’t always be easy, comfortable, IG worthy, or immediately fruitful. What will sustain you during the moments when you question it all? When you want to turn around?  When the thing you love seems to have led you to a dark tunnel? What’s going to sustain you?

Your why. Your purpose. That’s your light.

What’s your why or purpose in doing this work?

Start with this question, Why do I  teach yoga? If you are just starting it’s Why do I want to teach yoga? Write down the answer. Then ask why of that answer. Then ask why of the answer to the answer until you get to something that is distinct and feels exceptionally real to you.

Hint: the actual answer is rarely- because I love yoga. That’s a given for most of us  and only part of it.

Next ask yourself the following questions:

-Why does your yoga business exist (please note, most yoga teachers are independent contractors which means YOU ARE YOUR BUSINESS.)

-How do you want your teaching to benefit others? Be specific?-If you don’t teach, what will the world miss out on?

-What gifts were you born with?-What skills have you cultivated in life, through other educational avenues, or occupations?

-What  other talents do you have?-What do you feel you were born to do on this planet?

Teaching and practicing yoga allows me to access freedom in body, breath, and being. Freedom that many of my Ancestors didn’t know. I co-own a physical yoga space in honor of all that my people did not own. My work allows me to create new experiences, narratives, and legacy for my self, family,  and people.

What’s your why?

This week my “Teaching Tip” is an invitation, an inquiry.

Dear yoga teachers + studio owners :
Look around your practice spaces and ask yourself, who is not present here?Who is not represented in your trainers and workshop presenters? Look at your list of well worn books, manuals, and study tools for practice. Who’s voice is not heard here? Who does your favorite yoga apparel & accessory company not show accessing yoga?

I know we all cultivate a “brand” and that includes who our target audience is and guides a lot of what we do. Yet there’s room for the question what’s missing from our schedule or class offerings?

Stay curious about who’s not present and what we all miss out on because of that…And then, stay deeply curious about why.

Yoga exists within the context of our larger culture and many of the ills of that play out in our sacred spaces. Yet I believe that honest  and consistent yoga practice  can expand our capacity and ability to grapple with some of the most challenging of these in a mindful, necessarily fierce, and compassionate way.

Only if it matters to us.  Only if we are willing to look and see who’s not there and consider our role in sustaining that absence, invisibility, and inaccessibility. Only if we resist “band-aid”, quick fix, solutions that our minds conjure up when what we see creates discomfort or defense.

In this inquiry, if you find dissonance between what you believe and what’s represented in the spaces you teach or own- be gentle, firm, and brave- AND look deeply into that gap. It may present as a pus filled wound. Ickiness, an inclination to blame someone else for pulling off the scab, dressing, or poking it by simply asking the question.

If the question rubs you, perhaps it’s the salve.

So y’all- no tips this week- just an ask of us, yoga teachers and studio owners.

Let’s look and see who we do not see in our practice spaces. Let’s look within ourselves and question how our thoughts, words, and actions perpetuate that…Let us question ourselves and intentions.

Let us ask for honest answers.

Start & keep going

February 11, 2019

Many days of being the only one.
Many choices between vacation or more yoga training.
Many nights “in”-In meditation. In study. In more practice. In preparation. In quiet. In stillness.
Many mistakes, challenges, triumphs… later.
Many real connections nourished, a small and honest circle drawn around me.
16 years of yoga practice.
12 years of teaching yoga- (7 part time/ 5 full time).
2 years of yoga studio ownership.

To create a space, a place for what’s happening in this picture to thrive, live, and flouris

Do you see it?
The generations, “at home-ness”, love, the true depth.

This is Sacred Chill West.

Do you see these fierce women who’ve centered themselves, well-being, and joy in this moment?

Do you see it?

Where ever you are on your path, dear one, be consistent, persistent, be kind to yourself AND be patient.

16 years ago I didn’t have the capacity to hold the space for what’s happening here and now.
12 years ago I hadn’t actually done the work and was wasting time looking for a hack or short cut to where I am now.
2 years ago I wasn’t totally ready for the magnificent intensity unfolding.

But I started.
and that’s what matters. that I started and kept going. and kept choosing my own vision through many dark nights.
even now, I am deliberate in my choosing.

Dear one, start. Draw a tight circle around yourself.
Keep going.
Celebrate the truth that the real, beautiful, life-changing thing you are here to birth in the world, is too incredible to grow overnight.


How do I balance it all?

February 5, 2019

How do I balance it all? I don’t.

Being a wife. Mother to a toddler. Studio co-owner. Teacher.  Yoga Student. Creator. Director of Yoga Teacher Training. Retreat leader. Writer. Mentor. Responding to all of the things, usually in 48 hours or less…

When I think of balance, I think of holding multiple things at once and hoping nothing drops. Honestly it’s anxiety provoking.

These days, I work at holding only one thing at a time while staying clear that I am many. I cultivate harmony. To me, harmony means that all of the things within my life play together in a way that creates a sound that I can flow to.

Some ways I cultivate harmony that may be useful for other yoga teachers who navigate many responsibilities daily:

1. Center what matters the most to you and stay focused on what genuinely supports + appreciates that vs. subtracts from it.

2. One of our most valuable assets is our attention. We become  more of what we pay attention to. What deserves your attention in this moment? Can you practice holding one thing at a time?

3. Place practice high on your list.  As a yoga teacher practice supports your capacity, creativity, and authentic connection to self and the work. It’s necessary.

4. AND— also- give yourself permission for your practice to evolve and truly serve your real life, now. In the first 9 months of my son’s life, I’d practice yoga nidra for 15 minutes at least 4 times a week during his nap time. And that was it. I savored it and it saved me.

5. I recently read an article that said the average mother works 80-90 hours a week if you take career, child care, and household duties into account. I know this is true for many complex historical, systemic, and varied reasons.  And— If you are in partnership and there’s a pronounced lack of equity in the distribution of housework and child rearing, be empowered to shift it. It will benefit your whole family.

6. Lessen the “all.” Say no when you need and want to.

Fortify your true “all.” Say yes when you mean it.

I don’t balance. I tend to one thing at a time.

Yoga Teachers, every Tuesday I’m answering your questions about doing the work. Head over to my IG @octaviaraheem and leave your questions there!

After completing a 200 Hour Training, there are many paths to teaching yoga if you decide you’d like to.

If you decide you want to teach in a studio setting (this is ONLY one route) here are a few things I’ve learned over 10 years of teaching yoga as well as 2.5 years of owning Sacred Chill West.

1. Consider if your home (training) studio) offers a pathway for their graduates to become weekly/regularly scheduled teachers.

2. If you know you want to teach in a studio setting, yet
don’t feel quite ready to jump into teaching real folks, consider a mentor program.

3. If a studio interests you and you haven’t been, purchase the new student special and go practice+ be in community there. If the owner teaches on a weekly basis, take their class.

4. Go practice where you think you want to teach. Yes, I know that was #3. As a studio owner I always check to see if someone inquiring about teaching has been to Sacred Chill West. Here’s why, we build community, not simply classes and schedules. Additionally, our offerings at SCW (and most studios) are specific, so is the vibe. If you’ve never been we might not be your jam. Practicing where you want to teach FIRST gives you a chance to check studios out to! The studio isn’t simply “choosing you” you are choosing to be in relationship as well.

5. If you take classes at that studio who’s rep or IG you’ve been eyeing and think “yooooo this, all of this is my set!” Email them, say that. Say “I’ve been practicing in your community and I feel it’s MY community and here’s why” (specifics are good) or whatever version of that is real for you.

6. In that same email ask if they are hiring (or filling sub list) and what the process is.

7. Engage the process- fully and completely. AND keep practicing there.

8. If they say no, or not now, and it’s really your jam, continue to practice, keep showing up, keep building authentic + organic community.

. . . Trust it never goes unnoticed.

I’m carving out Tuesdays to write about and share what I’ve learned both about teaching yoga AND the business of doing the work.

Teachers- (new, not new, and in training) what questions do you have? Follow me on IG at @octaviaraheem and I’ll choose some and respond to them in the Tuesdays ahead.

Waiting and Watching

January 27, 2019

Waiting for someone you love to die is hovering 10,000 feet in the air, knowing you can’t help the crash coming.

It is the fear of falling to sleep because you don’t want to miss the last 500 breathes they take.
It is waking up to see the sun, yet stumbling through days in darkness.
It is hearing laughter and wishing today was easy as that sound.
It is stinging cold bites on the hottest day of the year.

You look at the phone when it rings and decide that if you don’t answer, you don’t have to talk about “comfort” care or how many hours there may be left of what the nurse called his “natural life.”

If you have ever watched someone about to leave their body you know that God isn’t always beautiful, and without a doubt, she’s real. You know sometimes there’s a fight. You know there is no winning or losing. There is simply real.

Watching my 93 year old grandmama watch her first born, my daddy, die,- I learned that mama’s never stop seeing the innocence of their baby and always remember the complete joy and pain of their child’s first breath.

If you’ve ever watched and waited for someone you love to die, you know the air in the room and your whole world changes. In some places it thins, so they can pass through. Other places it thickens to hold all the love and memories in.

You know that spaces outside of the waiting room feel like betrayal. The way everyone else’s time seems to move on while you watch for it to stop in a kind of forever way.

You know that every prayer is heard, and ain’t always answered in ways we can understand. You know that in the rawest of moments, prayer is a covering for your heart. You know that when everything is pulled apart at the seams, prayer is the thread that holds the smallest part of us together.

You know what it is to retrace a lifetime of memories only to realize there are too many gaps and no way to fill them in. You hold on to faith that those places will indeed be “where the light enters.”

You know that sometimes silence is a loud and deafening sound.

Two years ago, on this day, and after weeks of waiting and watching, my daddy left his body.

10,000… 9,000, 8,000 feet in the air…

I never actually crashed. It has been slow going, turbulent, and an honest grounding. At times I’ve closed the window and my eyes on this ride because there is really nothing to see out there, everything to feel in here.

Yet I landed. I landed with my feet and heart deeper in the earth.

And I am closer to all living things and everything that has breath.

Closer to the helm of God’s torn, yet regal garment.

Braver in the face of the grit, stuff, compost within us all.

I am closer to the place that grows and returns every life to its beginning.

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