E-RYT 500, yoga instructor for children and adults

Posts tagged ‘asana’

Practice What You Practice

People are drawn to the practice of yoga for a multitude of reasons. There’s plenty of evidence showing it can help improve strength, flexibility, and physical health. Meditation is also becoming popular, mainly for its ability to relieve stress. These and other benefits to the body and mind, though wonderful, are still not the ultimate purpose of this ancient philosophy. In Louisiana we’d call these benefits lagniappe, a little something extra we can enjoy, but not to be mistaken for the main event. Yoga is a spiritual practice meant to lead the aspirant to enlightenment. In the West we often think of our being as two-fold, mind and body. In this dichotomy the body is external and the mind is internal. In Eastern philosophy however there are 3 parts to us: mind, body, and spirit. The spirit is the real deal, and the mind is just as unreal and external as the body. This is why our own mind can be such a mystery, seemingly controlling our thoughts, words, and actions. Through the practice of yoga we use the body and mind as tools to transcend both, getting in touch with the true nature of our inner being, our spirit.
In the yoga sutras, Patanjali says yoga is the calming of the mind. He chooses to mention friendliness, kindness, joy, and equanimity/non-judgment (1:33) as the four qualities to cultivate within ourselves in order to have a calm mind. Later he describes the 8 limbed path that includes the restraints, observances, postures, breathing, introspection, concentration, and meditation that will lead us to enlightenment. But before all of that he chooses to call attention to these four practices that anyone, regardless of ability to stretch or sit, can begin to practice and therefore get more clarity of mind.
I often tell my students, we don’t do yoga to get better at yoga…we do yoga to get better at life. I believe one reason we call it “practicing” yoga is because the things we do on the mat or while meditating are practice for the main event, which is life. Whatever we do on the mat or cushion is helping us to learn the principles of yoga which we then apply in our lives. And we must take our practice off the mat, we must be able to translate those lessons to our experiences in this life. That’s why we were given this incarnation, to learn and experience until we return to our Source. It’s great if we can practice being kind to ourselves when we can’t perform a challenging asana, but if we don’t take that lesson with us and speak kindly to ourselves when we’re stressed about money, or to our co-workers in a tense meeting, then we’ve missed the real benefit, and perhaps even the purpose, of yoga. It’s wonderful to find that state of peace while in meditation, but if we leave the meditation hall, get in our car, and get angry and yell at the drivers around us, again we’ve blown it. To be clear, I’m not saying we have to be perfect people. As Wayne Dyer said, you can only be better than the person you used to be. An effective yoga practice supports us in being our best self in each moment, evolving along the way.
Your thoughts, words, and actions are the results of what you practice. By practicing these principles when we do yoga postures, sit for meditation, or breathe deeply we are strengthening our ability to be friendly to a difficult person, kind to someone who has hurt us, to find joy even in the midst of challenges, and to remain even and non-judgmental through the ups and downs of life. The true measure of a yogi is not just our ability to be present during our practice; it’s in how we treat ourselves and others during the moments between practices.

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Hashtag Savasanuary

It started as a joke, as good ideas often do. On a random Facebook thread, my good friend and fellow yoga teacher Shana Stein of Operation Yoga said, “I really want to nail my savasana this year.” She was making a tongue in cheek reference to all the yoga challenges, progress pics, and advanced asanas that appear all over social media. Now, I’m not saying these are all bad.  I’ve participated in some really fun Instagram challenges with gracious hosts who offer modifications and encouragement to all yogis. I also see that sometimes the focus on the image overly emphasizes “getting the pose,” yet misses getting the yoga. Yoga is about union, connection, calming the mind, and overcoming the ego. There is a reason for asana, and postures are an important part of the yoga path for many, including myself. Asana can also be a double edged sword. Postures can trigger the ego, telling us we aren’t as good as another yogi because our backbend isn’t as deep, or that we’re better than someone else whose crow isn’t flying quite as high as ours. The important work is what we do with these thoughts, how we face our fears and challenge our ego based beliefs. When I teach kids I often say, “Savasana is the hardest pose in yoga.” Although it may be easy for the body, simply lying down, it’s the mind that can struggle to find the “steadiness and comfort” that Patanjali recommends for a successful asana. So back to Shana’s comment. I loved it. I ran with it. And so #savasanuary was born.

Jump in anytime for this “unchallenge.” Just take a pic of yourself in savasana, post it on the social media platform of your choice, and tag #savasanuary. No hosts, no sponsors, no pressure. The prize is peace! Give yourself the gift of a few moments of rest each day and share, if you’re so inclined, to encourage others to do the same. Do it every day or any day, whatever works for you. Enjoy!

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I’ll Be Om for Christmas

Maintaining equanimity amidst the holiday rush can be challenging for even the most mindful yogis. The good news is even regular Joe-gis can benefit from some simple techniques drawn from the yoga tradition. Come with me on a journey of OM from AM to PM!

Snooze Button Meditation
The holiday season sometimes means late nights and early mornings, which isn’t great for motivating you to get up early to meditate. Make it easy on yourself by using this snooze button meditation technique. When your alarm goes off, hit the snooze button and sit up cross-legged in bed or hang your legs off the edge. With a tall spine, rest your hands palms face up on your thighs. Inhale and exhale deeply and slowly, observing the sounds and sensation of your breath until the alarm goes off again. Bonus points if you set your alarm a few minutes early and get up for a longer session!

Traffic Jammin’ Dance Party
Typical rush hour traffic is bad enough, but add in the shoppers, travelers, distracted drivers, and bad weather and it can get downright nasty out there. If you find yourself caught in traffic, you can either arrive late and angry or arrive late and happy! Practice the yogic principle of santosha, or contentment, and make the best of the situation. Take advantage of the awesome acoustics in your vehicle and have a good old fashioned traffic JAM! Put on your fave holiday tunes, or any song that lifts your spirits, and sing and dance along. True story, one day I was getting super frustrated in traffic and glanced in my rear view mirror to see the driver behind me singing and grooving, having a blast! It made me smile and reminded me not to take anything too seriously. Bonus points if you can get the driver next to you to dance along!

Under the Table Tennis
Standing in line for Santa in those cute holiday heels may be fun, but your feet won’t be happy! Bring a tennis ball to work or keep one at home to roll your feet on under the desk. The feet are the endpoint for many energy channels, sometimes called meridians or nadis, that run to different parts of the body. By massaging the feet you also stimulate and balance the organs, glands, spine, and chakras. I like to roll my feet while working on my laptop. Bonus points if you take it outside and take off your shoes, connecting to the healing energy of the Earth!

Mall Meltdown Mantra
When faced with the hectic shopping scene, create a serene space inside your own head. Repeating a calming word or phrase to yourself can distract your busy mind from those worrisome, negative thoughts and replace them with something positive. One I like to use is, “It’s all good.” You can mentally chant in any language, whether it’s the traditional Sanskrit or your native tongue. Of course, “Om” is always a good choice. Om is the sound of the universe, and though it doesn’t have a literal translation, you can think of it as meaning “light.” Bonus points if you get brave and chant out loud!

Present Wrapping Pranayama
During routine tasks like wrapping presents, baking cookies, or writing cards, you can perform a mental version of analoma viloma, or alternate nostril breathing. In the traditional breathing exercise you use one hand to periodically close off one nostril then the other, inhaling and exhaling between sides. If your hands are busy, you can simply visualize the air flowing in through one nostril and out the other. Here’s the rhythm: Inhale through the left nostril, Exhale out the right nostril, Inhale through the right nostril, Exhale out the left nostril. Repeat as many rounds as necessary to achieve a calm, balanced state of mind and body. Bonus points if you use a neti pot in the mornings to clear those nasal passages, allowing the breath to flow freely and helping nip any winter colds in the bud!

Yogic Sleep and Sweet Dreams
Use a guided meditation to help you wind down before bed. You can find yoga nidra, or yogic sleep, guided relaxation videos on YouTube. I like this one by Jennifer Reis. This healing and restoring guided meditation technique helps to turn on the body’s natural healing response and counteract the “fight or flight” stress mode that many of us maintain throughout the day. Bonus points if you fall asleep during the nidra and stay in a state of peace all night!

No matter what traditions or beliefs you celebrate this winter, I hope these simple yoga practices help keep you merry and bright! Happy Holidays!

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EDIT: This blog topic was prompted by a request from Oscar Insurance, a new insurance company that currently has availability in New York and New Jersey. Since I’m in Texas I can’t personally attest to their quality, but I love their focus on holistic healing and progress in the area of health insurance. You can check out more info about them here: www.hioscar.com

Mark Your Calendars!

All You Need Is Love~Beatles Light Show Yogatacular

October 26, 7:30-9:30

Namah Shivaya Yoga

 

Shana Stein and I are teaming up again to bring you a very special heart opening event featuring a light show, meditation, breathing practice, and yoga class all to a love-themed Beatles soundtrack!

 

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Kids and Teens Yoga Schedule for Fall 2014

Are your kids already climbing the walls after being in school all day? Come let them walk up walls and do other fun yoga poses to release energy and quiet their busy minds.

another walk up wall

Wednesdays from 4-4:45 PM at Namah Shivaya Yoga (in the Medallion Center)

All kids welcome, recommended ages 4-12

Thursdays from 4-4:45 PM at The Yoga Movement (on the Katy Trail)

All kids welcome, recommended ages 4-12

Fridays from 3:30-4:30 at We Yogis (on Lovers Lane near the Dallas North Tollway)

Boys only, recommended ages 12-16

Dallas Free Day of Yoga Kick-Off Festival

This Saturday, August 30, is the Dallas Kick-Off Festival for the DFW Free Day of Yoga! I’ll be teaching a kids class at 10:30 as well as helping to lead the community class at 12:30.  The festival will be held at the Trinity Audubon Center, and some portions will be indoors with A/C so don’t let the heat keep you away!

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Photo Shoot at The Yoga Movement

I recently took part in a fun yoga photo shoot at the yoga movement. I teach there on Sundays at 1:30 PM. Currently this is a beginner’s class but in the fall we have plans to make it a meditation class so stay tuned!

Here are a few of my favorite pictures:

Meditation

Child's pose 1

Uttanasana

Chaturanga

UP dog

King  Pigeon

Backbend

Drop back

Child's pose 2

Chilling

AstroSync

Opening the wheel, web and flower of life

OPERATION YOGA

Helping people who are ready for better