Archive for the ‘home yoga’ Category

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.

Awake

For the fourth night in a row this week, I have woken up at 4am unable to fall back to sleep.  This morning as I lie awake I continue to think about how I just under charged a new private yoga client based on his location & the possible number of attendees.

I finally get out of bed to get a glass of juice.  As I stand and drink my juice, I turn on my BlackBerry and see an email from one of my dear neighbors.  She sent the email to all of my neighbors asking each of us to pray on behalf of a neighbor battling breast cancer (again).

I return to bed with my mind now consumed with how thoughtful the email is and how I can follow through with the simple request of chanting “Dear Lord, please help heal our dear friend Julie”.  The email request that we repeat the prayer/chant/affirmation (whatever you want to call it) three times a day for 40 days.  There’s a lot of significance in 40 days – the Buddha sat under the bodhi tree meditating for 40 days, Moses was in the mountains (or sea) for 40 days, etc.  The references can be endless and very ancient.

As I continue to lie awake, suddenly I realize my financial woe that just minutes before took up my mind is insignificant to a human life.  How quickly my mind shifted from my petty loss.  Instead of worrying about me, I should put that energy into thoughts for my neighbor.

Prayer on behalf of another, a smile at a stranger or simply holding the door for someone are simple acts of kindness that express gratitude for others. To conclude, I ask:  Does the world revolve around us?  Or is it acts of human kindness that connect us to one another around the world?  Back to sleep.

How to Om

Om is everywhere. It’s in everything. It’s in everyone. Considered to be an all-pervading sound in the universe, chanting Om connects us to everything around us and within us. In many yoga classes, Om is chanted at the beginning and/or end of class so it’s no surprise that a student recently asked me “how do you Om?”

Comprised of three syllables –A, U, M – Om is pronounced Ahh-Ooh-Mmm. There’s a beginning, middle and end – creation, preservation and destruction. These 3 characteristics also apply to everything that has sound which is everything and everyone that has energy in the universe.

Om is best experienced with the eyes closed. Once the eyes shut, take a deep inhale and as you exhale begin your Om. Notice the first sound of “Ahh” – feel and hear it. Let the Ahh sound resonate in your chest area, heart, shoulders, and upper back.

Next hear and feel the transition to “U”. The “U” pronounced “Ooh” starts to trickle down and resonate through the belly/solar plexus/third chakra area. Naturally move to the Mmm. Finish out the Mmm by sealing the lips and letting the sound vibrate around the head region particularly the area of the sixth chakra. As you complete your Om and it slowly exits your body, feel the immediate sensations and hear the silent pause.

Chanting Om brings life into your body, presence to your mat and states your commitment to those around you. For most students in the West, it is one of the few sounds (other than breath) made in a yoga class. The next time you Om, enjoy all parts of it –the beginning, the middle feeling and sound and the vibrational ending. Happy Oming!

Frequency vs. Variety

Given I’m a full-time yoga teacher, I’m often asked by my yoga students “how often do you practice yoga?”  Sure I practice 5-6 days a week, which I know is a privilege.  Though it recently occurred to me the frequency/discipline of getting on my yoga mat regularly isn’t the only thing that matters.  The variety of learning from different teachers and playing with other yoga styles is what really will challenge and advance me.  In addition, the intention I bring to my practice is just as important as variety if not more so.

For four years, I’ve religiously gone to the same studio in D.C. and practiced with some of the best teachers in the area.  It’s been a convenient option and offered me a lot of growth during that time.  More recently, I realized the easy option isn’t the best option for me anymore.  In some ways my growth has been stunted.

Solution to my problem…I’ve challenged myself for almost two weeks not to go into my “home away from home” studio.  I’ve forced myself to explore other places and teachers.  I’ve spent more time in my home yoga space, learning from myself  —we are our own best teachers.  Throughout the last couple weeks my intention was to simply remain open to what ever came up.

As hard as this was at first, I realized that going to the same place everyday to practice (frequency) kind gave me “tunnel-vision”.  The discipline in mixing things up is giving me new strength and confidence —in my personal practice as well as my teaching —and a few “ah-ha” moments in my overall life.  Though I struggled with the change at first, it was one of the healthiest decisions/changes I’ve made for myself in a long time.

Lessons I was reminded over the last two weeks:  1) Easy is not always the best option.  2) If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got.  3) Variety is the spice of life!

What is Yoga?

My very simplified, yet realistic, view of this deep and ancient philosophy is yoga is an experience that each individual has to find for him/herself. Yoga is about learning about oneself, on and off the mat. In order to learn and experience, one must be open to exploring even if it means being a little uncomfortable.

To experience the beauty that yoga offers one must be receptive and committed to the learning process. Yoga is a lifelong learning process. Even once you think you’ve found your spirit and you’re living from your heart, you’ll realize there’s more within to be discovered. You’ll crave more.  You’ll crave the process.

I’ve been told that unless you’ve been practicing yoga for 15-20 years you’re still a beginner. Though I believe the beginner mindset for a true yogi continues to exist even if one has been practicing yoga 50 years. There is always something new to learn on and off your yoga mat. Usually the new piece of information you learn (whether it’s an asana, sutra or a news event) changes how you viewed the prior information or pose you once knew. When you start to experiment and play with the new and the old, existing feelings, sensations and thoughts are impacted and new ones are created. There’s always a cause and effect. This is the appeal of yoga. This is life.

Like life, yoga is an evolutionary process. It’s a process full of choices. I encourage all my students to explore a multitude of options: try different yoga styles, teachers, environments (home, studio, outside, office, etc.), poses, amplifications and modifications.  Try a private yoga class in your home and/or attend a group yoga class at a new yoga studio. These are all options in which a choice much be made.  The choices one selects create the experience. Through experimenting and patience, one will experience the beauty of yoga and find that there is no end.  Wishinng you all eternal bliss in your yoga journey.

Why use Yoga Blocks?

Also known as bricks in the yoga world, blocks are tools yoga students can use to make certain asanas (postures) more accessible.  Since every human body is different, poses will look and feel different for each student.  Blocks can assist in improving the feeling of the pose.

The main physical aim of asana practice is to find freedom in the body and the primary path of doing so is by focusing on lengthening the spine. Props such as blocks can aid in keeping yogis not only aligned properly but also assist in honoring the integrity of the spine and length in the sides of the body (from the waistline to the armpits).  Remember, it’s not what the pose looks like in your body, it’s what it feels like.

Pay attention the next time you’re in Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) or Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon).  If you feel congested in the spine or collapsed on one side of your body, that’s a sure sign a block can help.  If you have trouble breathing in a standing twist (i.e. Seated Prayer Twist) with the arms open, consider using a block.  The block might just give you the little lift you need to open your chest and ease the flow of breath along the spine.

Blocks come in different shapes, sizes and materials.  In addition to blocks, other props you might consider using are straps, bolsters, blankets and chairs.  Yoga practice should be playful.  Mix it up by using props to explore.  For instance, try doing an entire practice with a block.  You might be surprised what you learn.  More importantly, you might be surprised how much better your body feels.

What I Believe

I believe my life will be long.  I believe there’s a purpose for me being here.  I believe I am on a journey to help others.  I believe I will have many side trips on my life’s journey.

I believe I haven’t figured out my life’s mission.  Though I believe what I am doing today (my current side trip), is what I should be doing –teaching yoga in people’s homes and offices.  I believe there are some people in the D.C./Arlington/Alexandria, VA area who want to try yoga but can’t make it to the yoga studio due to the stresses of city living, daily commuting, family responsibilities, work travel, etc.  I believe we are in charge of our priorities and some are more able to make the yoga studio a priority.

When I look back on the strong beliefs I’ve held, most of the ones I’ve pursued have supported me.  I believed there was more to my life than a 9-5 job.  I believed that serving corporate shareholders was not my destiny.  I believed I had more to offer.  I believed in my beauty and power as an individual and yogini.  And I believe there’s so much more, I just need to keep journeying and more beauty and power will be revealed.

What do you believe?  Do you listen to your beliefs?  If not, why?

September is Yoga Month

Yoga Month officially starts today, September 1, 2008.  It’s a 10 City Yoga Health Festival Tour and will benefit the Youth Health Alliance.  The select cities will host events throughout the month.  There will also be millions of health & social conscious individuals practicing yoga at thousands of yoga studios and homes around the world.

Get involved!  Participate as a student.  Volunteer as a studio or teacher.  For more information, visit www.yogamonth.org.

D.C. Yogis:  Put Sunday, 9/21 on your calendar.  D.C. Global Mala is where you need to be that day!  Please visit at www.dcglobalmala.com to find out how you can be a part of this beautiful event.

Spoiled by Manduka

I’ve said before “Manduka yoga mats rock”.  For the last 3 years, the purplelite ™ (Manduka’s 4.5 pound-travel mat) has been my yoga ride.  It’s an awesome mat.  I still highly recommend it.

Recently though, I was brainwashed by the environmentally friendly marketing leprechauns that I needed a new mat.  Frankly, I’ve been a tad curious about all these new eco-friendly yoga mats available.  Functionally, are they as good as what existed before?  Are people trashing their old mats for a hip eco-mat?  If so, that’s not very green.

Since my sturdy purplelite is starting to look slightly worn, I decided to go for the Manduka eKO friendly mat (eKO Lite™).  The sale price offered though The Y Catalog push me over the edge to finally make the purchase. The eKO Lite is nice but it’s not the same experience.

Like the purplelite, the eKO mat is durable and resists bunching.  For those looking for an enviro-friendly mat, it’s a natural rubber mat that apparently will “decompose completely at the end of its useful life without wasting valuable landfill space” (quoted from the Manduka site).  I understand what this means, but can’t we just donate mats when we’re done with them, create other uses for them, etc.?  And how long will it take the mat to decompose?  I’m assuming they don’t just magically puff out like smoke.

Including the fact that I jumped on the green bandwagon, I’m disappointed in my eco-friendly mat purchase/experience.  First, my purplite mat is still in good condition so I didn’t REALLY need to to go “green” to do yoga.  Second, the new eKO mat I bought lacks the comfort/support/cushion that Manduka mats are known for.  The purplelite™ as well as the 7lb. Black Mat ™ (yes, I have this one in my home studio) are luxury yoga mats.  Maybe my joints are getting old – who knows?!!?  The reality is it’s hard to go from comfort and luxury to no-cush, no support.  No offense, but its kind of like going from an S-Class Mercedes to an environmentally friendly car that has zero creature comforts.

Long story short, change is good right?  It’s getting through the first few steps of newness that we often resist.  In trying to practice what I preach, I’m staying open to the change.  When I go to practice in a studio or teach a corporate yoga class, I’m forcing myself to stick with my new eKO Lite.  I’m slowly getting use to have less support and I have been forced to shift my practice slightly.  For instance, in Ustrasana (camel pose) I now have no choice but to double-up my mat to protect my boney knees.  It’s made me realize how spoiled I’ve been by the Manduka purplelite.  It’s also reminded me of what the majority of my students feel when using thin yoga mats – no love from the hard floor below.  On the plus side, toting around one pound less of weight is a nice feature and is better for my spine.

Looking for a yoga mat?  Go with the Manduka purplelite.  In my opinion it is still the king of all yoga mats, including Manduka mats.  As for my purplelite yoga mat, it is currently the mat I use on the back deck of my house.