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Sit-n-Reach

Have you always been so flexible?

In yoga practice we fold forward, standing feet together or wide in a straddle to reach toward the floor, seated to reach toward our toes, drawing legs and torso toward each other in a seated balance pose that is frequently featured as a cover photo for Yoga Journal, a smiling, nimble yoga model making a difficult pose look easy, and even rolling over onto our backs, drawing the legs over our heads toward the floor. Energetically, forward folds invite the practitioner to go within, to cool a heated body or calm a flustered mind. Not everyone is a fan.

Forward folds tax tight hamstrings and hips. For people with low back pain, a forward fold may be appealing but it could be counter-indicated before, at least, the person is fully warmed up and has done a series of back extensions. Nonetheless, forward folds are such a standard measure of “flexibility” that they are included in the twice-yearly presidential physical fitness tests run in our public schools. In conversation with people who are telling me why they think they want to practice yoga, I often hear, “I’m not flexible; I can’t even touch my toes.”

At the studio I’ll encourage a class to take the first few forward folds of a practice with knees bent to avoid over stretching the hamstrings. If we lengthen and release from the bottoms of the feet along the entire back body and all the way to the crown of the head, we move from a dedicated hamstring stretch (and potential injury) to a full body experience that recognizes the connected nature of all of our parts.

That said, touching one’s toes is both an admirable goal and a reasonable expectation to arrive with on the mat. It is not, however, so accurately a measure of flexibility as range of motion.

I have in most of my joints noteworthy range of motion. Even following childbirth, it only took a few yoga classes after Twelve was born for me to give up arm-lengthening blocks and place my hand directly on the floor in poses like Triangle and Lateral Angle. When I talk about compression—the point at which a joint can move no further because of the way it’s built—in class, I invariably hear a gasp if I use my own wrist or even ankle to demonstrate. And when the inevitable question arrives, about whether I’ve been flexible my whole life, I smile and quip that I wouldn’t be a good advertisement for yoga if I weren’t flexible.

As ever, yoga offers me the metaphors that I need. When I first started practicing regularly in 1998, I believed I was flexible. I have never not been able to touch the floor. In just a few classes I found I could fold my body in half, laying the length of my torso along my legs. I can interlace my fingers behind me and drawing my hands over my head in a standing straddle, bring my arms parallel to the ground. What I have, naturally, are joints with significant range of motion. Yoga keeps my soft tissues limber, preventing tension that can constrict a joint. But like anyone, my joints stop moving where bone finds bone, what Paul Grilley calls “compression.” Compression doesn’t hurt, when you reach that point with all tension gone. But most of us find muscular tension restricting mobility before we reach joint compression. Still, range of motion isn’t the same thing as flexibility—one is physical, the other is much more about how we adjust.

A few Thursdays ago I was driving east, early in the day. Grateful I don’t normally have to flow with the rush hour traffic downtown, I figured out where I needed to be, parked, and thought to put money in the meter even though enforcement doesn’t begin until 8. The quarter jammed. I hopped into my car and maneuvered one space over. This meter swallowed my coins but gave me the appropriate time in return. I bounded up the stairs, not really late but arriving just overneath the wire as so often happens. The appointment, passports for Twelve and Fifteen, went smoothly and we were back in the car and heading to school just a little later. I’d already called in my daughter’s late arrival, so we dropped Fifteen first. On the way from his high school to her middle school, I mused that I would take my editing (due later that afternoon) out for breakfast, and then I head to my entrepreneurial buddy’s house for the morning. Twelve said, “That sounds like a nice day,” as she collected her belongings and stepped out of the car. I watched her to the door.

On my way to breakfast I realized that I only had with me the first four pages of a twelve-page newsletter, so I switched lanes and navigated toward home. I got out a pan to make my own breakfast and checked my phone—a message from my entrepreneurial friend revealed she was ill and in bed. I finished making my plate and told my mother, “I’m going to take my breakfast back to bed.” It’s one of my favorite treats and I had a book I was almost finished reading.

A half-hour later I got up for the second time and decided that since my day had shifted, I now had time to change my bed and put my laundry away before diving into the editing. It felt good to leave my room tidier than I found it. Downstairs I filled my water bottle and spread my editing out on my desk when an email arrived from a woman with whom I’d been corresponding—could we meet at the yoga studio at 11:35? I fired back that I’d see her there and in no time at all I was back on the road. The studio meeting and a few work items attended to, I decided to go over to the coffee shop, where I greeted my friend who telecommutes and sat down to attend to the editing pressing hard against the deadline as morning had become afternoon.

It was almost time to pick up Twelve when a mother and son hailed me as I was getting into my car—did I know the way to a specific address? I started to show them on my phone and when they looked concerned, like they couldn’t possibly find it on their own, I invited them to follow me and lead them to where they were going. They honked happily as I waved, tore back to collect my daughter, and we drove home to fax in my work, start homework and dinner, and regroup for a private session and a class. I couldn’t help but think about how differently my day had gone from the way I said it was going when I dropped her off. Not bad, just different.

Indeed, every day is interesting—a blend of different types of work, parenting, and socializing. Like so many, I move from one to another, sometimes smoothly, sometimes in fits and starts, often derailed by a fire to put out or a phone call to answer. Am I flexible? Sometimes. When I can decide en route to change my plan and decide to change again in response to a request or someone in need, that feels like flexibility to me. When I cope with my car breaking or my mother’s computer having a sticky q key, that, too, feels like flexibility. When I feel overwhelmed trying to get everyone fed and my son announces that he needs to be at school early in the morning for a guest speaker, in comes the tension. When I know there’s something big that needs to be attended to, it can feel impossible, in a way that makes me feel paralyzed and powerless. My mind whirls and often creates a block against any action, like a computer screen frozen mid-sentence or a stiff, swollen joint that doesn’t move through its full design.

paschi

Hinge forward, feet flexed, extend torso along legs. Interlace or bind the fingers around the feet to close the energy circuits. Breathe.

That’s the physical; yoga definitely keeps my physical tensions at a minimum. So, yes, I don’t often get tight or sore or lose much in the way of full range of motion. On a good day, it is quite a different muscle, my brain, that yoga is tasked with keeping flexible. Some days are more successful than others.

A post catching me up to the full moon, the spring temperatures, and the greening and budding and nest building that are happening all around us. Happy spring & thank you, as ever, for being a part of my journey. Namaste & big love, Rxo

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Feet First

Whose footprints are those?

In December 1983 I bought a pair of high heels in a tiny alcove of a store on Wisconsin Avenue, the Georgetown shopping district steps from my university. I was a freshman, out selecting Christmas gifts with money I had earned in my work-study job driving a bus to take home to my family. The shoes, grey and navy blue, incidentally my school colors, were not leather—I couldn’t afford leather—but they were the highest heels I had ever owned. I paired them with a grey wool skirt, a cream silk shirt, stockings, my dark blue wool dress coat, the cashmere muffler I swiped from my father, and mirrored aviator sunglasses—it was the eighties after all.

I felt remarkably grown up flying home and perhaps was disproportionately ridiculous wobbling off the plane in Iowa, where we still walked down stairs and across the tarmac, in those heels on two inches of ice in temperatures sixteen below before the wind chill. But of course, the airline misdirected my luggage for several days. To stay warm, my brother loaned me a V-neck sweater and I wore my mother’s boots.

The most amazing part of that memory to me, all these years later, is that I stayed upright in a pair of shoes that were nothing like the shape of my feet and pinching horribly. I have wide, flat feet—the feet of a platypus. For years I bemoaned my feet—without arches I couldn’t run fast or comfortably or jump well at all. Most shoes were not designed to fit me. Dress shoes were even less available. I was never able to be a shoe girl—generally speaking I’ve owned at any one time: a pair of sneakers, perhaps some boot for staying warm, a pair of flats, and a pair of impractical shoes that seemed like just maybe they fit in the store.

When I started practicing yoga it was a toss-up whether my teachers would zero in on my feet or my knees first (they hyperextend). Iyengar yoga teachers are renown for their observations of their students’ body parts and not necessarily in a way that makes the student feel blessed. What they will do is help you overcome your irregular parts, propping you this way and that way, cautioning you to lift your inner ankles or otherwise adjust the realities of your body for comfort and integration in yoga poses.

Most types of yoga teachers will talk about the four corners of your feet, the inner and outer heel, the big toe mound and the little toe mound. They may talk about three bindi, or light points, a triumvirate from which we lift upwards. They may remind practicing yogis that there are 26 bones in each foot, 250,000 sweat glands, and toes that take half the body’s weight when we step forward. They will—or at least I will—invariably remind you to lift those toes, root down through the four corners of your feet, even when the feet or foot may not be on solid ground, and spread the toes wide and enthusiastically.

I had been studying yoga for about four years when a family vacation took us to the Delaware shore. While everyone slept, I tiptoed out for a sunrise walk on the beach. I walked along the deserted shoreline, the waves curling at my toes, the sun glinting up over the horizon. When I had walked as far down the beach as I dared, I turned around and started back, crisscrossing footprints headed in the other direction. The footprints puzzled me because I was alone on the beach and yet they didn’t look like mine. These footprints reflected feet that had shape and an arch even, not the ovals my feet marked in the sand. And then I looked behind me: to my astonishment the footprints that lead right up to my feet were the same. For the first time I could remember, I had made foot-shaped prints. They were mine!

One of my early teachers had sparked fear in me when she opined: Will yoga make your feet wider? Yes, but you’ll also learn to wear more comfortable shoes. When I heard that, I worried. I didn’t want wider feet. To be fair, in my case I don’t know that yoga has made my feet any larger than, say, two pregnancies did, but yoga has given my feet two things: arches and love. Sixteen years of practice have taught me to love my improbable feet.

I still have, in my closet, one pair of ridiculously high heels that “fit” in the store. They were five dollars. I have two pair with more realistic heels that I wear for dressy occasions, one pair of professional clogs, one pair of winter Merrills, and a pair of fancy ergonomic flip-flops. I keep my sneakers in the basement next to the treadmill, and I have a pair of winter boots I wear for shoveling snow. I’m not a fan of socks because I end up peeling them off all day long, but I like legwarmers. And now I look forward during yoga practice to seeing my feet.

My toes lift and move in many directions, somewhat independently from one another. My feet are still technically flat, but I can draw arches into them at will and propel myself forward reliably. I can stand on one foot more easily than the other, but my balance continues to get steadier, not worse. My feet are capable and I connect easily to both the four grounding corners and three lift-off points of light. They rarely hurt and tire long after my brain is begging for sleep. Yoga offers many gifts, not the least of which is how it changes your relationship with your body. I haven’t learned unequivocal love for all of my body’s quirky parts, but those platypus feet are two of my all-time favorites.

My feet, toes spread enthusiastically, on one of my favorite yoga mats.

My feet, toes spread enthusiastically, on one of my favorite yoga mats.

The new moon ushers in the Chinese New Year of the Wood Sheep. It’s another super moon, too, close to the earth in its orbit. The universe keeps offering us opportunities to get clear and ride the energy to whatever’s next. Feeling grounded by these feet of mine and flying high on the sales of my book (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/516628), I’m excited for whatever the next chapter might be. Thank you for traveling along with me, Rxo

Kindness Counts

What else can go right?

One minute you’re singing along to the radio, the volume a little too high, and the next you turn it off because your twelve-year-old daughter has climbed off of her bus and piled into the car with all of her school day bits and pieces and you don’t want to miss anything she reports in the precious few minutes it takes to drive down the hill, up the circle and into your welcoming garage. A scant hour later, your sidekick—now decked out in one of her bright blue leotards, ballet pink tights, her hair coiled into a bun—tumbles back into the front seat and you scan to make sure she’s put on enough outer wear for this day when the low is fifty degrees below normal. She hasn’t, really, but rather than fuss at her you turn up the heat a little and seeing the yellow streak of your son’s high school bus zip by down the hill, you rev the engine just a little in order to pick him up, circle back up to drop him near the warmth of the house, and head back out, glancing down at the electronic clock to register whether you’re really going to maybe be on time for dance for once.

And that’s when you notice that there’s no clock.

In fact, there’re no lights at all. The heat still works, the dash is lit up, but the stereo is nonresponsive. The Bluetooth button on the steering wheel elicits no response. Pressing the button off and on and pushing all of others have no effect. At dance you turn the car engine all the way off and on again, because it’s a computer after all, and still nothing. Your daughter leans her head toward you for a kiss and lightly bounces off, and you wince a little because you know this is the day she has to wait an hour after her class releases in order to accommodate your teaching schedule, but she’s got a book and she claims she doesn’t mind. As you’re driving away you notice the next thing: the odometer is flashing even as the miles mount. You call your service advisor, his name and cell phone number memorized in your phone but, you think, you sure don’t want to resort to putting him on speed dial.

The next day at the enormous dealership under the even more enormous American flag, he agrees: “You don’t want to get to know my children’s birthdays,” he says. He’s right. You love that this young man has children and you’re even glad to ask just now about their ages and genders—when he reports that his little girl is six months and his son just turned two, you understand completely why you need to refresh his memory about who you are even though you were just in the week before.

You leave the car and catch a ride with the chatty courtesy shuttle driver back home where you retrieve your unreliable car and proceed to the grocery store. There’s a whole other little family of people there who keep tabs on you, who know that if you’re not there at 8am on Tuesday as you weren’t this morning because you were dropping off the car there’s something wrong, who will listen, shake their heads, and even make a gift to you of the reusable grocery bags you’re purchasing. You thank them for listening and head off for the rest of your day.

Before the sleep-deprived service advisor calls with a report that—and here’s a surprise—your radio isn’t functioning, your son arrives home from school ill for the second time in two weeks. You have to run out to teach again, so you leave your daughter to care for him and she covers him through his chills and a hard sleep while she does her homework and doesn’t practice because she doesn’t want to wake him up. A quick supper for her and it’s out the door to ballet again while her brother sleeps on. When you get home and go to check on him, he’s burning up. His temperature climbs up to 103.5.

Now you find a substitute for your class in the morning with the knowledge that no matter what happens next it’s going to be a wakeful night. You breathe a sigh of relief as the fever drops to around 100.5—no emergency room, you’ll call the doctor in the morning—and you leave to go get your dancer a little before her class is over so she won’t be waiting for you in the dark. You crawl into bed still fully dressed, not caring really. It’s been a long day.

 

At the end of the week your car is back in your garage, even though the radio has yet to be replaced and your son is on the mend, even though he’s missed three full days of school. Your to-do list for the week has been entirely derailed, you missed some of your regular activities, and you’ve woken up feeling like you haven’t slept at all. You know this has been a week of missteps and small concerns, but you think when health and basic transportation are at issue, it’s something more than petty and it all feels a little too enormous, so it’s a week from which you require some healing. You start by reflecting on kindnesses, little and big, because these are the things that go right and the gestures that keep you going: the friend who brought you two kinds of Wheat Thins; the grocery store employee who gifted you free reusable bags; the teacher who leapt in to teach for you; the yogi who texted “Happy Friday” just because; the woman you barely know who offered to loan you her car; the friend who wrote that you’re a “super Mom;” the opportunity to write it down and send it out there under the new moon. You breathe in, you breathe out, you move on.

Namaste & big love, Rxo

My dancer, dressed in her Nutcracker costume ... a rat to love

My dancer, dressed in her Nutcracker costume … a rat to love

Owner-(of the)-Ship

Whose rights are they, anyway?

The chair of my graduate school thesis, Professor Paul Diehl, opined in class one day that if he were ever to be some sort of lawyer or legal expert, he would take up copyright law. It was the end of the eighties, a decade that has come to be both celebrated and castigated in a way I find unnerving since it was the decade in which I became an adult. By the time I was enrolled in Professor Diehl’s class, big hair and leg warmers had given way to rolled-up jeans and rap music, a genre that left me behind, and I was studying creative nonfiction.

Copyright law was changing with the infiltration of computers and the “publish or perish” mentality at research universities. Under the construct of “educational fair use,” my fellow graduate instructors and I all-too frequently created dittos of favorite essays and foisted them upon our students. We were admonished by our department and textbook publishers, and many of us worked around the issue by customizing print-on-demand style reading packets available from some of the major textbook publishers.

Ever since, I have tried to walk a careful line and give credit whenever it’s due; I insisted my children learn MLA-style citations long before their teachers required them to include their source notes in school projects. As an editor I check carefully my client’s footnotes, endnotes and works cited lists, sometimes following hyperlinks for many pages and other times querying “indicate source?” in the margins of their work. I’m aware that when a play is performed, even by a group of high schoolers, or when the artistic director of the local ballet company chooses music for his dancers, the producers must secure permissions if tickets to the performance will be sold.

Nonetheless, I was startled awake by a recent article sent out by Yoga Alliance. Yoga Alliance is the governing body through which yoga instructors register; their newsletter is usually full of information about their business of yoga conference and partnership deals for discounts on yoga pants.

The headline, “Legal Risks of Playing Music in Yoga Class” (Yoga Alliance e-newsletter, August 28, 2014), caught my attention. As a studio owner, I am so often taken aback by a legal risk or wrinkle about which I knew nothing that I should be used to it by now. Not only am I not, but I tend to freak out when I see things like:

You have a few choices for legally playing music in your classes:

Pay the licensing fee to the PRO [Performing Rights Organization] that is requesting payment. You could also decide not to pay the fee, but that would entail a significant risk. While it is rare for the PROs to actually bring an action for infringing on a copyright owner’s public performance right, … the fine under the Copyright Act for a public performance violation can be as high as $150,000 per occurrence (i.e., per song played). (https://www.yogaalliance.org/music-licensing-information, accessed 10.21.14)

With concern, I read the article, clicked and followed the links and thought about which of my trusted advisors I might consult. Since I had a meeting already set up with my accountant, I started with her. It made sense to me, since at bottom line—whether or not Radiant Om Yoga should pay for music licensing—was in part a financial consideration. I thought she might help. She’s amazingly versatile and promised she would share the issue with a copyright attorney/friend. His reply was instructive if not precisely definitive:

It is advisable for your client to get licenses from ASCAP and/or BMI. Those are the two biggest licensing associations. Unfortunately, there are overlapping artists in both associations, so getting a license for both may be somewhat duplicative; but getting a license for only one would mean there are some artists your client would technically not be able to play on a CD or MP3.

For a small business owner it is difficult to determine just what songs you can play in your studio (although there are radio licenses too), so I find that a lot of people are not as concerned as your client is; they just decide to bet on the proposition that ASCAP or BMI would not approach them for licensing royalties. The problem with doing this is that ASCAP and BMI end up wanting past royalties, which can be expensive for a small business.

Generally, ASCAP or BMI is more likely to pursue your client based on the number of customers she has, but they have a bad reputation for being pretty ruthless when it comes to seeking royalties. If there are not many people in her yoga classes, then she might not even be “publicly performing” the work, and in such a case it might not make business sense for her to obtain licenses. (personal email, 9.23.14)

How small is small for class size? Who are these organizations? How do I know what’s playable? If I pay them, how do the musicians actually get their piece of the pie? Radiant Om Yoga’s third birthday came along and I put aside the music quandary for a bit. Then I had an appointment to discuss all things yoga with a trusted friend who is also a teacher and a studio owner, and I pulled together my online research to show her and discuss our options.

As I understood it, my options were: shut up and pay the license fees, move to some sort of music provider like Sirius that has a legal avenue for business to play music at their locations, wholesale with license to play a few CDs, or take the stereo out of the studio and cease playing music all together.

That was on a Friday. The very next Tuesday I got an unsolicited email from ASCAP (The American Society for Composers, Authors, and Publishers) offering to save me tremendous time and effort if I would just please sign the contract to license music-playing in my studio and send them a check.

I remain suspicious that Big Brother Internet somehow reported my searching, but the ASCAP rep I spoke to on the phone, after more consultations with the lawyer, insisted that they are researching and contacting every yoga studio, that her region was Des Moines. Okay, I asked her, just how do the musicians make money from the sum I’m paying you?

“I don’t really know that,” she answered. “I do know you’re paying the reduced rate for yoga studios,” this negotiated on our behalf by Yoga Alliance. I asked for a few other changes in the contract, corrected their spelling of Windsor Heights, and asked her to send me a new file. Radiant Om Yoga would toe inside this particular legal line, alongside taking the fire extinguisher to be officially tagged each year and having an ADA-compliant ramp, the engineering of which nearly drove the landlord’s central contractor insane.

Writing the check, signing and copying the contract, and putting the whole mess in the mail (and to bed), I couldn’t help thinking about how many knotty problems I deal with on a regular but never routine basis—all of the issues that come up when you’re the captain of your own small business. Some days I handle it with ease; far more often I struggle through the nuts and bolts and work hard to come down on just the right decision. At those moments, I think it might be a huge relief to let someone else take on the burdens—just have a job where I show up, work and leave. Then again, at that fantasy workplace I might not be able to get away with wearing legwarmers and the silver hoop earrings I bought in the eighties.

Legwarmers and hoop earrings, ready to wear

Legwarmers and hoop earrings, ready to wear

Wherever you are and whatever you’re wrestling with, the new moon plus a partial solar eclipse give us new inspiration. Maybe hunt up your favorite wardrobe embellishment and toss it on, connecting your past self with your present enthusiasms and future creative energies. And thank you, as always, for coming along with me on my journey. In gratitude and with love, Rxo

Linked In

Linked In

What kind of yoga do you teach?

I spent the night of September 23, 2011, with a team of volunteers unpacking more than 400 two-foot square three-eighth-inch thick brown puzzle-pieces. This was the flooring I found for my yoga studio after an exhaustive search for something that would separate yogis on their mats from the cement subflooring, cushion their restorative poses, and still be firm enough for balance work. In the newly repaired and painted room, with a ceiling that soars to a peak of some twenty-two feet, it took us six hours to piece the floor together, starting in one corner and working in rows. I would not let anyone cut-to-fit the exterior pieces—that was a job I came back to a couple of days later and completed all on my own. The floor is one of the most remarked upon aspects of the space, where people have been coming to practice nearly every day for three years.

Indeed, Radiant Om Yoga, ROY, turns three on Sunday. Every three-year-old enjoys a party, and ROY will celebrate all weekend with free classes and new tank tops and discounts for fall. And Sunday after special morning classes, we’ll share a bite and toast where we have been and where we are going.

The studio space really is lovely, but what makes the studio spectacular is the people who find their way through the doors, both to teach and to practice. Each class has a crowd of regulars such that in my mind Monday at 5:30 pm is quite different from Thursday at six in the morning, gently shaped by the energies and expectations of the people who arrive. The entire studio is on a drop-in basis; however, and that means we have new encounters just about every day, and it’s delightful to experience the studio and the practice through fresh eyes.

New people often ask questions like how long we’ve been open. I get phone messages on the answering machine asking if our yoga is heated or whether we offer Pilates. It’s when I meet people for the first time, because they’ve stopped by to check out ROY or we’ve met in another venue and they find out I’m a yoga instructor that they ask: What kind of yoga do you teach?

Teaching for eight years, my answers have ranged from the standard, “Hatha or Asana-based yoga with an emphasis on alignment,” to a longer-winded, “I started as an Iyengar yogi, trained with an Anusara-inspired teacher and then did my 200-hour RYT (registered yoga teacher training) in Power yoga,” to the sassy, “boutique yoga.” None of these are wrong, but nor do they adequately describe what I do: I cull from a number of sources, influences, and yoga experiences, from teachers I trust, from articles and books that I read, from living in my almost fifty-year-old body, and I run all of that through a filtering process and offer this ancient practice, of which I consider myself to be a custodian, as a tool for living in the twenty-first century. While I may be late to the buzz, may be picking up on the tail end of a naming trend that is over-used and thus has lost its luster, in thinking today about all things Radiant Om Yoga, I came to a new conclusion. What I teach, what all of the amazing, wonderful, talented teachers at ROY offer, is artisan yoga. (And, of course, artisan Nia, taught by the lovely Moira who is due back at the studio in time for our birthday weekend with a brand new black belt, the next step in her amazing Nia journey.)

Yoga has been around for upwards of 5000 years. It’s only in recent history that yogis could learn yoga via printed text, the Internet, magazines … long before there was spandex, yoga was passed from teacher to student. In the practice we honor lineages, so my teachers and their teachers are my students’ teachers too. It’s one of the longest chain letters on the planet, and while some modern practices and contemporary clothing might make historical yoga gurus gasp, my Dharma (duty/nature/purpose) is to be a link in the chain, a link that both understands where yoga comes from and pulls it where it will do the most for the people who practice with me. That means every class, every private session, every time I practice, I am crafting an experience that draws upon the tools of yoga without being tethered by them.

I am very fortunate that I get to do this work at ROY. Four years ago, if you had told me there would be days when I would miss driving myself around to six different teaching sites, I might have looked at you like you were crazy. I wanted to land once and for all in a studio home. Teaching is the part of the whole enchilada that I like the best. But as a teacher I was a journey(wo)man, not challenged to be an artisan in the medieval sense of one who owns a business. So even on the days when owning a brick and mortar is really, really hard, I can remember that Radiant Om Yoga is a labor of love, a small batch of yoga hand-crafted and delivered with gratitude, creativity, and joy.

Thanks ever-so for joining me on this journey. We launch year four with a new season, a new moon, and a renewed appreciation for all things yoga. Happy Birthday to the whole ROY community, Rxo3

Parking Ticket

Did you enjoy your class?

Parking tickets in downtown Iowa City when I was growing up were two dollars. To pay the ticket, the driver inserted the money into the envelope that the ticket written on and dropped it in a street-side payment box near the courthouse. Parking tickets were an irritation, but not of great consequence.

When the rate doubled to four dollars, akin to about $24 in today’s economy, I remember the pushback among the grown-ups. Going downtown became less desirable, a boon for the newly opened suburban mall with its free parking. Over time the pain wore off, and Iowa City’s citizens resumed tucking their fines into the ticket envelopes and thinking little of it.

My mother, Eighty-Nine, has long ascribed unexpected financial annoyances as “today’s parking ticket.” Lose a library book and have to replace it? It’s a parking ticket. Break the cable on your headphones? A parking ticket. Pay the Visa after the deadline? A more expensive parking ticket, but ultimately a parking ticket just the same.

Some parking tickets hurt way more than others, though. In the category of expensive but replaceable, I’ve had two car stereos stolen from parked cars in New York City, items lifted from my dorm room freshman year, my first bike purchased when I was 27 removed from my garage, and $8 belonging to my daughter taken from our bulletin board by a child invited into our house. In each case, I felt dishonored by the crime and powerless to restore my losses.

During those same years that parking tickets cost four dollars, we belonged to a dairy where we bought milk, eggs, butter, and cream so thick I could turn the bottle over with no lid on and the cream wouldn’t pour out. Everything at Moss’s Dairy was on the honor system—we were members, paying a lifetime membership fee about equivalent to one parking ticket. Eldon Moss or his wife might be in the dairy barn when we drove in, but the place might be entirely deserted as well. We would select our items, write a list and the prices of what we were taking on the sales pad, and put the money on the counter, making our own change. If we didn’t have enough cash one day, we could write the total debt on the calendar on the wall and crossed it off next time.

Community classes at Radiant Om Yoga are modeled after Moss’s Dairy. It’s just five dollars to drop in for an hour of yoga or Nia or forty minutes of our newly added meditation practice. There’s a basket and participants are invited to make their own change. Of the twenty classes on our weekly schedule, more than a quarter are designated for people to have a studio experience without paying studio prices.

The first time you walk through the studio doors, your class, whichever one you have chosen, will be free. So it was that at the beginning of May I told a mother attending community yoga with her grown son that their class that evening was on the house, a gift from the studio because I was glad they were there.

She directed toward her son the folded up twenty she had been starting to hand to me, and before he could stretch his hand over to take it, softly shook her head and crumpled the money into her fist. I directed them up the ramp and into the studio, after indicating where they could leave their shoes, and mentioned what props they would need for the practice. A few minutes and several nearly late arrivals later, we were under way.

About twenty-five minutes into class, the son—tall with a thick head of dark hair and what looked like full-arm tattoos emerging from under his shirt, stopped practicing. He sat tall on his mat, feet together, knees out, holding his ankles. His mother on the mat next to him struggled with the poses, looking lost as students new to my teaching style sometimes are. Ten minutes later, the son rose, crossed the room without looking left or right, collected his personal belongings, and left the studio. I did not hear the door to the street close.

When a student leaves class, a yoga teacher’s first concern is that he may have suffered an injury. At the moment he departed, I was mid-pose and couldn’t extract myself easily to follow him. It was a few minutes after when I did look to see if he was waiting for his mother in reception and I found no one there. Then I was unsettled—because of course I took his departure as a critique of my class. But it’s important to stay present for the students who are on the mat, so I shook off the incident as best as I could.

After class, two students came up to chatter with me and a third made a point of crossing the studio to welcome the mother. With a big smile I heard him ask, “Did you enjoy the class?” Her worried look diminished and she smiled back as they spoke amiably. She seemed in no hurry to follow her son out the door. Then the conversations subsided and I finally made my way from the studio to reception; the crowd had thinned to just a couple of students and the teacher for the next class. And then I gasped: The money from the Community Yoga basket was gone.

At this moment in the drafting of this piece, my cat elected to barf newly eaten food. I can’t think of a more perfect response to the events that I’m narrating. I did not, however, barf when it happened. Nor did I call the police, as one person suggested I do. Nor did I use the intake forms of mother and son to contact them. I could not be 100% certain that someone hadn’t whispered open the door and swept the basket clean, and I did not like to accuse or even stir the pot, there was so much weirdness there. I did look around to see if anything else was missing and found to my great relief that my purse, keys, computer, inventory, and cash box were all unruffled. Beyond notifying the teachers at the studio, there was nothing else to do.parking meter

I called the loss a parking ticket. I learned I have to put the money away before heading in to teach class. And I mourn the time before it happened when I could be a joyful host, welcoming in anyone without misgivings.

It’s a new moon & I’m ready for new tidings. This happened three weeks ago, and I’m sorry to say the events that followed haven’t been much better. I hope things are happy where you are, and I wish that we might all move into a lighter summer mood together. With thanks, as always, for your love & support on the journey, Rxo

Accounting Basics

What’s the take-away?

Before I opened Radiant Om Yoga, I started saving money. All the income I earned teaching private yoga lessons in my house and teaching community classes in the back of a church sanctuary and on the beautiful but hard cement floor of a local events center went into a savings account earmarked for the studio. As my vision of the studio b

Tools of a very different trade than mine.

Tools of a very different trade than mine.

ecame clearer, I enrolled in an online accounting class.

I never imagined that I would do my own accounting, but I wanted to be sure I understood enough so I’d be able to understand my accountant. I worked through double entry accounting 101 online in good time and I remember this: whatever figure is on the debit side of the accounting square has to equal a figure on the credit side.

At the studio we keep a hand-written ledger of sales broken into categories—class sales, merchandise and sales tax—on a fairly regular basis I enter all of the data into QuickBooks, which balances the columns for me. If I’m off, once a quarter the lovely and talented Trisha arrives at the studio for our two-hour accounting appointment and she deftly repairs any errors or oversights I may have created. The system works.

At tax time Trisha provides me with a tax planner, and all I have to do is fill in the numbers and organize my data. However, I too often find myself behind in my data entry, so taxes require a marathon of QuickBooks work, invoice corralling, and mileage calculations. To my delight, prepping for 2013 taxes was easier than 2012, and it’s no surprise that I determined 2014 would be better still.

When I mentioned this to my business confident, the lovely and talented Susan—a photographer with whom
I meet regularly to discuss small business life—she commiserated. She, too, has tons of financial upkeep with her business and she, too, often lets it slide in favor of just about anything else. We decided that we can support each other by setting aside time to meet at her house and do our financial duties together.

It is one of the truths of a small business owner that there’s a heap of work that needs to get done and usually it’s all accomplished alone. In owning a yoga studio, teaching classes, and writing and editing, I’m holding others accountable, but who’s keeping me in line? Sometimes it’s really hard to be my best self, to remember why I do what I do and to find the joy in it when all I see is a list of things to do. Sometimes that list looks not like work but like drudgery, a one-way energy drain. When I’m feeling that way, like it’s really hard to be the boss, to be in charge all the time, and to feel like there’s no one who’s looking over my shoulder, I tend to long for the days of being a student when my work was assigned, due, delivered and evaluated. My teachers were my authorities, giving me opportunities to learn with the comfortable rubric of the classroom setting. In the various jobs I had with bosses, whether or not I agreed with company policy, someone else was making the rules. And there’s a comfort in that—a place in the natural order of things.

At our first meeting, sitting with Susan another company CEO (chief everything officer) and doing our bookkeeping together, drinking lovingly frothed chai in her pleasant open kitchen, the entire experience was painless. We could quip to one another about the things that we were discovering, the systems we have or don’t have in place, and the way the numbers make our eyes blur. In spite of the chatter, we marched through a significant amount of work in two hours’ time. We have another date for more of the same next week.

Self-employed for fifteen years, I’ve come to live with the morass on some level. I’ve also learned that I’m not an island and I continue to rely on compatible authority figures. My authority figures may not be directly above me in the traditional sense, but seeking out and putting people into positions of authority is essential. I have not always understood that there are two sides to that equation—that the person in the position of authority is gaining as much as giving. But every healthy relationship has give and take on both sides, energy exchanging from one person to another. Susan shapes time and hosts me in her kitchen where we both can work, and Trisha literally hold me accountable to my bookkeeping. In return, I hold space and time for Susan and I pay Trisha monthly. The debits and credits are balanced.

Wishing you many lovely May flowers and balanced books in this full flower moon. Thanks, as ever, for reading, Rxo

 

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