Archive for the ‘office yoga’ Category

May

I just realized this morning during my meditation practice (as the birds & fresh air surrounded me) how much I adore the month of May.  We’re beyond the cold, dreary winter and just out of the somewhat rainy, warm month of April.  For me May signals the start of summer and a year ahead, full of possibilities.  I’ve decided May is my New Year!

Living in the DC area for 15+ years now, I have been fortunate not to acquire any allergies to pollen, grass, etc. so I love the smell of fresh cut grass, mulch and flowers.  It’s warm enough, yet cool enough, to sleep with the windows open (before my husband seals our house up with AC for a few months).  Though I’m not a fan of birds, I do enjoy hearing them at 4:30am chirping in the distance.  As 6am nears, all of nature seems to all be awake.   I love being up early this time of year enjoying the quiet time out in the fresh air.

Coincidentally, May is my birthday month so maybe this is why for me it signals a new year.  I feel the summer holds a ton of possibilities for work, play and all things yoga.  I love taking my mediation & yoga practice outdoors this time of year.  I love teaching yoga outdoors when the opportunity presents itself.  It’s also usually around this time of the year I pick up a couple new private and/or office yoga clients (not sure why that is).  Everything just seems to flow naturally.

So as we near the end of the first week of May, the first week of my New Year, I’m looking forward to both the known -planned beach trips, the 5K I’m running 5/21, BBQs @ BQ’s, hooping, cocktails on our new patio, biking, etc.- and equally looking forward to the unknown -like me spontaneously deciding to send myself flowers earlier this week.  Which reminds me…for those of you who are curious about the card that arrived with the flowers I sent myself, here’s what it reads:  Thanks for being a fantastic person.  Wishing you a great day, week and year full of all things active (mountain biking, running, skiing, handstands, sex & more), love and fun.  Love, Me and You.  Happy May!

Corporate Wellness Radio Spot

At the end of January, exactly two days before heading off to CO to ski, I was contacted by Voice of America to discuss corporate wellness programs, specifically yoga in the workplace.  Given it’s a passion of mine, I wasn’t going to turn down the chance to speak about yoga in the corporate world.  It’s what I live and breathe and love teaching/sharing.

The timing wasn’t great though since my focus was on wrapping life up before heading out for week of vacation.  When I asked what the deadline was for the story and she said “yesterday” I gladly obliged.  Instead of having her simply interview me, I invited her to attend the very last class I was teaching prior to my vacation —a Friday lunchtime office yoga class in DC.

With little notice and no clue what to expect as far as the interview, the story went live this past Sunday and has been well received by many around the world.  My name was botched a bit (Arbella instead of Abella) and a couple of other tid-bits are off but overall it’s a great overview on issues companies must consider when offering employee wellness programs as well as the potential benefits they deliver.

Tune in here at Voice of America to hear the full story.  Be forewarned:  most listeners are non-native speakers, so the voicing is S L O W.  You can also simply read it online here too (it’s quicker than listening).

And, yes that is us (RTI & me, aka Instructor) Omming at the beginning of the story.  That might just be my favorite part of the story 🙂

Accept “What Is”

Life is always talking to us.  The question is “are we listening?”  We usually only listen when it’s something we want to hear —something positive such as soothing words, fun music or children laughing.  Internal positive sensations such as the high generated from a long run or an energetic yoga practice are other things we often pay attention to because they make us feel good.  But what about the painful sounds, sensations and vibrations we often hear internally and externally?  Our tendency is to resist vs. accept them for what they are.

I learned today a root canal is in my near future (next Tuesday!) so I find it fitting this article “Suffering is Optional” just landed in my inbox this evening.  It’s also ironic that pre-dentist appointment/root canal news today I had just taught a corporate yoga class in DC and spoke of contentment (santosha) —learning to accept everything life throws our way.

Accepting doesn’t mean we simply tolerate an unpleasant situation.  It means we learn how to be open to “what is” in all situations.   It means we learn how to sit in the midst of the chaos, pain or whatever label you give it and use the time to discover creative solutions rather than flee.  It means fully understanding that all moments, good and bad, make up what we call LIFE.  This actually reminds me of a quote I read in The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari…”when you miss out on the moments, you miss out on your life.”

As I prepare for my surgery next week, this YJ article is a nice reminder that suffering is optional.  We all experience suffering in more ways than one, many many times in life.  It’s how we decide to handle it each experience that’s key.  It’s always our choice to work through it or flee.

So as I prep to sit in the dentist chair next week my yogic breathing, mantra of the day and all the other lovely tools I’ve acquired in my yoga journey will help me accept “what is”.  In your journey of accepting, I wish you peace in whatever life throws your way.  As the Buddha taught, everything changes.  Nothing remains the same forever.

Reflection

Why do you look in the mirror?  What do you say to yourself when you see your reflection?  Are you kind to YOU?

A few of the places I teach corporate yoga classes have mirrors in the yoga space.  I’m not a fan of mirrors in yoga because for many students they can be distracting.  Mirrors assist students in judging themselves and just as equally judging those around them.  Comparisons and competitive thoughts arise such as why don’t I look like him.  Why doesn’t my Warrior I look like the picture in Yoga Journal?  Look at the size of my “*?!*”  The negative self-talk can be endless.

When I teach in a room with mirrors, I try to strategically position the students in a way that offers them the least chance of seeing their reflection.  Inevitably someone can’t resist looking over to check themselves out.  When I catch them in the act, I encourage them to say “I love you”.  Or something as equally goofy as “you’re the best!”  And as goofy as it sounds, what’s wrong with complimenting yourself positively?

This leads me to an article I read in The Washington Post today.  As morbid as it sounds, I quote “Suicides outnumber homicides in America, making self-hatred more lethal than violence by others”.  I found this to be shocking and very sad.  How different would we each feel about ourselves if we cultivated a daily habit of looking in the mirror and saying something nice to ourselves vs. criticizing and wishing to see something/one else?  I realize this isn’t going to prevent those with suicidal tendencies but maybe it’s a start towards a little self-love.

Shine Your Light

A few years ago at a San Francisco Yoga Journal workshop I attended led by David Swenson, I heard a quote that has stuck with me.  In the middle of attempting a forearm balance he said “There are fears that keep us alive, and there are fears that keep us from living.”

Writer extraordinaire Michelle, of 210 days of waves, posted this article today  “What’s the Meaning of This?” at workawesome.com.  As I read through it, I was fully taken down memory lane.  I vividly recall the thoughts I use to have about how “stuck in the rat race” I felt.   I wanted out but I liked the paycheck.  On the flip side, I knew I wasn’t living my full potential.  I also felt the longer I stayed in the corporate environment, the dimmer my light became.

What was holding me back?  Me!  I use to think I could never teach yoga because I was afraid to do it.  I was afraid of failing.  I was afraid of speaking in public.  I was afraid I wouldn’t know enough.  I was afraid of looking stupid.

Well, today I have my own yoga business teaching in-home private & corporate yoga full-time —just like Michelle’s article states.  It’s humbling to know I will never know everything there is to know about yoga in this lifetime.  I also know that we are each unique individuals and stumbling along the way is how we find our shine!

I fully admit my fears were pinning me down and sucking the life out of me.  I’m not sure I knew this fully at the time, but now I know it enough to never let it happen again.

Take the time to read What’s the Meaning of This? and maybe rethink what you’re doing today.  Are you shining from the inside out?  What’s your passion?  What’s holding you back from living it?  Remember “there are fears that keep you alive (i.e. like the instinct to get out of a burning building), and there are fears that keep you from living”.

2010 Yoga Trends

Almost two years ago I read a list of 10 predictions for yoga in 2008.  As we look forward to 2010, I believe they’re still very accurate.

With the obvious economic stresses of the last two years, more and more people need “wellness” guidance – yoga class, meditation practice, nutrition advice and just overall direction on living life to its fullest!  So again, why wouldn’t these be trends for 2010?

“Predictions for Yoga in 2008” was authored by Megan McDonough.  Megan McDonough helps you get clear so you can get positive results. Along with teaching yoga, she’s the award-winning author of Infinity in a Box, a marketing consultant for mind/body organizations including Kripalu Center, and a corporate trainer to companies such as the American Cancer Society.

Savasana – Live It!

Final rest is what some students can’t wait for in a yoga class – as indicated by the many welcome sighs I often hear.  At least once a week, one of my Washington D.C. or Arlington, VA corporate yoga students will jokingly ask at the beginning of class “can we spend the entire hour in savasana?”

The truth is the blissful feelings generated in corpse pose – peace, joy, ease, lightness – are a result of what we put into our practice.  Really every pose in the asana practice should be about finding bliss and joy.  Ultimately whether we are on the yoga mat, in the office or at the dog park, every moment in our lives is an opportunity to explore ways to have more happiness, tranquility and freedom (or whatever adjective you want to use) as often as possible.

Aparigraha (Sanskrit for “letting go” and one of the primary ethical precepts of yoga) is one of the keys to finding savasana in your yoga practice.  Aparigraha is not just about letting go in your asana flow, but in your life flow.  Egotistic thoughts/actions, tension, worries, judging, anxiety and other stresses of this nature are often the result of thinking things should be a certain way.  Many times we impose a lot of restrictions on ourselves.

In life and asana practice if we just step back and pause (savasana), particularly in the face of conflict/tension, we might just discover that “letting go” is the answer.  The universe flows in mysterious ways – and many times it’s out of our control.  How you respond is always your choice:  flow with it (let go/savasana/forgive) or flow against it (resist/fight/grumble).

In savasana, corpse pose, we are invited to just “be”.  We are not asked to change anything.  We aren’t asked to do anything.  We are simply invited to let go and receive what the moment has to offer.  Being in the moment provides clarity particularly in challenging situations — fight or just be.  Savasana offers a glimpse of being in the flow of life.  And as brief as savasana may be, it is true bliss.  Seize it, enjoy it and learn to find savasana in your daily life!

Teaching Yoga Off the Mat

Often new students in my corporate yoga classes will ask, “Why don’t you do the poses with us?”  They initially grumble stating it would be easier for them to learn if I was on my mat practicing with them as I teach.

The reality is a teacher practicing in front of the class is a visual and mental distraction for students, completely taking them out of their practice and into the teacher’s.  It’s not about watching the teacher.  Asana practice is about getting to know one’s self through self-exploration, self-awareness and self-acceptance.

To start, practicing yoga asana is not about how the poses look; it’s what they feel like.  Teaching by cuing only is a very empowering way for students to discover and feel the poses for themselves.  Learning to experiment with a teacher’s words regardless of what it might look like (i.e. playing with variations in each pose) is a fun way to find what works best for one’s individual body.  Self-exploration is key to a fulfilling asana practice.

Second, yoga is physical, mental and spiritual training for the entire body including the senses; hence by not demonstrating while teaching, students are forced to use their ears.  In turn, this can help students improve their listening skills in all areas of life improving their sense of self-awareness.

Another essential sensory organ (though they all are important) to the asana practice is the eyes.  Every pose has a focal point known as drishti.  Drishti in the asana practice helps keep the student physically in the pose as well as mentally on the mat.  As the external drishti is set (and not on the teacher), the student can then shift their gaze internally, tapping into the sensations of the pose and experimenting deeper.  Setting the eyes to a fixed point will help relax the nervous system, which will relax the student in the pose. Using one’s senses on the yoga mat to remain calm and focused will ultimately benefit them off the mat.

Third, asana practice isn’t about forcing one’s body to look a certain way in a pose.  Related to the first point above, yoga asana is about “feeling” your body and learning to accept yourself just as you are.  I want my students to find and feel their own Crow Pose  (Bakasana) rather than trying to look like me, or a picture in a beautiful yoga book.  Everybody’s body is different, so Bakasana is going to look different for each student.  Self-acceptance is the lesson to be discovered here.

To conclude, it’s empowering for students when they realize they don’t need a visual to do yoga.  Everything they need is already inside of them.  I’m just guiding them on how to access their own personal power through self-exploration, self-awareness and self-acceptance.  And all of this takes self-discipline.

Focused Fun

“Focused fun” – I’m coining this term to describe asana practice.  More and more people are getting on their yoga mats to release stress and tension –mental, physical and emotional.  Ironically with the intent to let go of tension, more often than not they look stressed out as they are moving through their practice.  I witness this frequently in the office yoga classes (aka corporate yoga) I teach as well as in the studio environment.

To fully experience yoga asana, you must be present.  To be present, you must be aware of the moment at hand.  To be aware, you must be focused with the eyes, on the breathing, feeling the movement. Yes, there’s a lot going on in the asana practice and it’s a lot of work –mentally and physically.  And it’s fun work.  Focused fun!

If you’re not focused and constantly scanning the body internally and externally (awareness) when you’re on the mat, there’s a greater tendency to check out of the present moment.  Being focused and present takes continuous practice.  It’s a moment-by-moment practice.  Asana is a moment-by-moment practice.  And to fully live life, you need to be in the moment.  And being in the moment means fully taking in challenging times and good times.

Back to the mat…next time you’re on it, notice the intensity of your focus.  Is your breathing choppy and fast?  Back off.  Is your face tight or jaw clenched?  Let it go.  Where are you straining?  Instead of zoning in on your fatigued muscles, can you relax through breath?  A simple smile can invite ease and fun into the moment.   The point is stay focused as you move and tune into your intention for unrolling your mat in the first place.  My guess is your not practicing yoga to create more stress.  Lighten up and have some “focused fun!”

Live by Feeling

What do you mean “what are you feeling?”  I introduced this question at the beginning, and repeated it at the end, of one of my corporate yoga classes recently.  A student approached me afterward wanting an explanation.  Suddenly, I realized “feeling” is a foreign concept for many humans given so many of us are “stuck” in our heads and not use to moving and acting from our hearts –our feeling center.

The right answer to how you’re feeling has to come from you, no one else.  Feelings depend on the moment you’re in now.  Feelings depend on what’s going on in your life – at work, with your family & friends, on your yoga mat, etc.  Feelings can be physical, mental and/or emotional.  And it’s normal for them to vary day-to-day, moment-to-moment.

Most of us rarely acknowledge how we are feeling.  If anything, we often put the feelings of others before ours.  The first step to feeling your feelings is becoming aware of simply “how are you feeling right now?”  The answer can be as simple as one word such as happy, grateful, beautiful, frustrated, angry, fearful, etc.  If answering this question is challenging, get on your yoga mat.  If you’re lost, read my next post (Live by Feeling, part II).