One Step Forward

By Stephen | August 1, 2013

I set goals. Sometimes they are small, sometimes they are goals I don’t expect to achieve for decades. Goal-setting helps me focus, find clarity, see the path, and walk the path.

I am a strong supporter of telling people your goals. Facebook it, make a Tumblr page dedicated to your goal, tell your friends, tell the whole world. Tell someone. This makes the goal more real, and it helps to have someone to call you on it if you drop the ball.

There is an annual New Year’s yoga retreat that I go to in Tucson (and will unfortunately miss this year). This past New Year I vocalised a goal to the whole group: to teach yoga in three countries I had never been to before. This seemed doable, yet challenging. On the Rome to Russia leg we would not be going to many countries I had never been to before. And, I didn’t know if we would continue once we got to Russia, or if we’d even get to Russia.

But here we are. In Russia. And today, I teach yoga for the third time this year in a country I had never been to before this trip began!

We spent some time this morning having coffee with Lawrence, the Canadian who runs Hot Yoga Studio in Piter. We were introduced through someone at the New Year retreat (thanks Ananda) who connected us after I had stood up and shared my goal with the group. I didn’t know until we met at the hostel that he is Canadian and we grew up only a couple of hundred kilometres away from each other. We both had to travel thousands of kilometres to meet. Funny the way the world is.

When Lawrence was leaving to go teach, and we were heading out to see a few more sites before I taught, the last thing he said was, “Don’t be late.”

To The Gardens

We had made a half-hearted attempt to find the Summer Gardens yesterday, but today we were determined. So, we headed off, past the Church O’ Spilt Blood, and found them. The gardens are lined with beautiful marble statues dating from the 1700s. They had to be buried in the gardens during the war to keep them safe.

I wonder if some of the statues constitute 18th century pornography?

“I think I will go wander in the gardens. I fancy seeing a bit of boob.”

Almost topless in The Summer Gardens, St Petersburg.

Almost topless in The Summer Gardens, St Petersburg.

In one corner of the expansive gardens sits the tiny Summer Palace. Oddly, the Summer Palace is just down the road from the Winter Palace.

The diminutive Summer Palace, St Petersburg.

The diminutive Summer Palace, St Petersburg.

We never figured out why Peter would have wanted to move just a few blocks away when the weather got warm. We also didn’t figure out why the Winter Palace is absolutely massive, and the Summer Palace seemed to only have about 8 rooms.

Plans May Change

We had to pick up lunch and dinner at the same time, as finding vegan food on the ferry is laughable, and we wouldn’t have time to get food after yoga. Unfortunately, the place we had researched and chosen was out of their vegetarian option.

Sometimes when you set goals you have to change them along the path. Sometimes you no longer want the goal you had set, sometimes something comes up that throws you off track. Being flexible, knowing when to and how to shift, and realising that this is part of the path, is important.

We settled for a second option that was quick, and filled both our bellies, even though it wasn’t our ideal choice. At least we will be able to eat on the ferry now.

Having to change plans mid-stream put us about a half-hour behind schedule.

Don’t Be Late, pt. 1

Then we headed over to Hot Yoga Studio. It had begun to rain, so took longer to get a cab than expected. Then, because it was raining, there was even more traffic on the road than normal. I realised that the 80 minutes we had allowed to travel 7 km was possibly not going to be enough. What is this? LA?

The taxi had a GPS device that showed the time and distance to the studio. It started out saying we would be there by 2:05pm. Class was due to begin at 2:30pm. With every minute that passed, more were added to the arrival time. Traffic was ridiculous. Fortunately we managed to get to the studio just in time. I hate not being early, not having time for proper hellos, and a centering before class. But, sometimes you have to change your plans, and sometimes you need to leave 2 hours to travel 7 km. Who knew?

Lawrence had invited me to lead a teachers’ practice which is something I have been really looking forward to. Rather than an all-levels public group, I was able to assume a higher base level of practice when planning the class. Also, I would be able to practice with them as I taught, which I love, but don’t often get to do.

First of all, the studio is amazing. It is six months old, beautifully designed, and immaculate.

The group I had for class were also incredible. Strong discipline, strong practice, amazing focus. It was a truly great experience.

A bad photo of a beautiful group, Hot Yoga Studio, St Petersburg.

A beautiful group, Hot Yoga Studio, St Petersburg.

Those of you who know me as a teacher know I love questions, and in a group practice conversation is something I encourage. When things came up that triggered questions, they weren’t afraid to ask. This is when real breakthroughs, real “Ah ha!” moments can happen.

I had just enough time for some small conversations with the group after class, and I hope we get to work together again. I had an incredible time.

Don’t Be Late, pt. 2

We had to get a cab from the studio to the ferry terminal, and knew we were going to be cutting it close. There was, we hoped, enough time to get across town, and make it to check-in before it closed. One of the main roads in St Petersburg has been torn up and is being resurfaced, so traffic is crazy slow in the city. This may partly explain our travel experience earlier. At least now the rain had stopped. However, after heading into the center of town, our car got stuck in really bad traffic. We moved 500 meters in 30 minutes.

It felt as if we would never get there, even though we only had 4 km to go. We did consider getting out of the cab and walking, but knew (hoped) at sometime it would clear and then being in the taxi would be much faster than walking. Fortunately, it did.

Even though we arrived at the terminal half an hour later than planned, we actually ended up with plenty of time to check-in, go through customs, and get on the boat. Disaster averted.

Finn-tastic Finns

We headed to RabbitBar (on the boat) for a drink where we met a group of Finns coming back from a day trip. How you can do two nights in a row on this boat, with only six hours to see St Petersburg in between is beyond me. But, they had had a good day, running around the city from place to place, non-stop until it was time to hustle back to the boat. The bit of rain today didn’t even seem to have affected them.

We sat together and had drinks, while they regaled us with Finnish swear words. They told is there is even Wikipedia page dedicated to Finnish swearing because it is so varied and expressive. Vittusaatana is our new favourite swear word. We also enjoyed more serious conversion about life, eating various parts of the birch tree, and not eating animals.

Between the four of them they had quite a menagerie of pets at home, from long-haired rabbits to horses to hissing cockroaches, and snakes that curl up in their owner’s hair while she cleans the house. And even though two of them had been vegetarian for a long time, they all currently ate meat. I don’t understand how people profess to love animals, and still love eating them.

Sleep Tight?

The time had arrived to head back to our cabins and see if we could fare better than on the boat ride over. When I got into my room my other three roomies were there already. Two of them I hadn’t met before, and the third I knew. The Snorer. Yes, I drew the short straw again, and he was back. He fell asleep before the rest of us, and almost immediately began to snore. I didn’t have the heart to tell the other two this wouldn’t stop until morning. Fortunately, I have earplugs for this trip, but he is so loud, I am not sure they’ll be much use.

So, with the roar of snore, and the rumble of the ship’s engine, I settled in for the night. Two goals have been achieved on this trip. Rome To Russia is officially done and I have taught in three new countries. Now I’ll have to work on a new teaching goal to set for myself.

Want it, mean it.

Say it, achieve it.  

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5 comments

  1. Comment by Gretel

    Gretel Reply August 8, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    I was in that yoga workshop!! It was totally inspiring to hear you share your goal that day. Congrats on making it happen!

    • Comment by Stephen

      Stephen August 9, 2013 at 4:04 am

      Thanks Gretel! I am now up to 4 countries that I have taught in and had never been to before… Yey for Finland! Soon we will head to Asia, where I have ample opportunity to add more to the list, as I have never been there. The journey continues…

  2. Comment by Cassie

    Cassie Reply August 6, 2013 at 8:56 am

    Setting personal fitness goals is a somewhat new thing for me, and I’m loving it. This Saturday I will run 8 miles for the first time, and I will do it in Central Park. Then on December 8 I will run the Tucson Half Marathon. Saying it out loud really does make a difference! Glad you had what sounds like a fantastic teaching experience. Bye for now, Russia!

    • Comment by Stephen

      Stephen August 9, 2013 at 4:09 am

      Wow – a half marathon. To me that makes what we’re doing seem not that huge. Good on ya! Enjoy New York. Drink at McSorley’s. Really, Do it. Post-run amazing beer.

  3. Comment by Taina

    Taina Reply August 6, 2013 at 8:34 am

    Ah yes. I should have warned you that Finns love to teach others how to swear!

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