As I leave the craziness of the holidays behind and move into the new year, my practiced is focused on balance on my yoga mat. Maybe it’s the need to shed the stress of the last year, or perhaps just a desire to get 2017 started in a positive matter, but every time I come to my mat, I find myself perched on one foot.
The yogis say that your balance on your mat is a reflection of the balance of your life–and I intend this year to have a bit more balance! So, in tree pose I will stand wherever I can-washing dishes, in line at the grocery store.
I think everyone can benefit from a balance check every so often. Certainly, balance can vary a little bit day to day, but just notice if you are suddenly falling out of poses that you normally don’t. It could mean you need check in with yourself and see if your life off the mat has gotten a little out of whack.
What I love about balance is that it’s an ever-changing effort. There is constant adjustment needed throughout the body. Balance is truly more difficult than it looks, because it’s not just ground your foot and float–it’s ground foot, engage the muscles, pull belly in, align joints, find your dristi, keep breathing. Pull all of this together, and you might just have a moment of calm embrace you, as the physical balance brings a sense of stability to your thoughts and emotions.
The best way to find your balance is to practice balancing poses regularly. They offer so many benefits–from helping develop concentration to strengthening muscles and building coordination. Balances call for a real mind-body connection as you move your body through space.
Try not to force your way into a balance. If you find yourself clenching the floor with your toes, see if you can soften and spread your foot. Sometimes, balance comes from just trying a little less.
If standing balances are regularly giving you trouble, consider taking a look at your daily life and see if there is something bigger throwing you off balance. But give yourself a break,! Try approaching balance with a sense of play, and see where that leads you.
In the excitement of signing up for a teacher training program, you may envision your future lived in a yoga glow. Teaching classes, taking classes, doing as much yoga as you want.
I learned that this picture I had in my head was far from accurate. Teacher training was amazing. The opportunity to fully immerse myself in the physical, historical and philosophical arms of yoga was an experience I’ll never forget. I hope for the opportunity for deeper dives into the ocean of yoga knowledge through an organized training again someday. But as I graduated and started teaching, my life changed in ways I didn’t expect.
I realized that the only time I had available to take classes was now taken up by teaching commitments. My home practice became my main practice, since I was only able to get to one or two classes a week, tops. This sounds pretty reasonable, I know. But I had worked with a flexible schedule in my “real-world” job for about the last 10 years, enabling me to go to a class almost every day. So the move to one or two a week became a real adjustment…I know, first-world problems!
As I transitioned out of that real-world job and started teaching more…I felt surprisingly overwhelmed. Not by the teaching–that was great! But all the running around was exhausting. Managing a typical job is pretty easy. You go to your desk every day, and there is a nice consistency to that routine.
Teaching regular classes and subbing at multiple locations, I was constantly on the run. I had to pull my kids out of after-school care due to the expense, and having to become a full-time chauffer (which I hadn’t done much as a full-time, regular desk worker) was another challenge I didn’t expect.
The reality is, the economics of teaching are challenging. While hourly rates are generally fair, the amount of classes you have to teach weekly to make a sufficient living feels impossible (or at least it did for me!). Most teachers I know have branched out into supporting or complementary fields like life coaching, holistic methodologies, or flexible creative fields to help pay the bills.
There are also unexpected expenses to be aware of when you teach. Insurance, business licensing, websites and other marketing like business cards, props, music for playlists, and transportation between teaching locations put a little dent into the budget.
A great opportunity to transition back into a traditional job came my way recently, and I took it. I was able to keep one regular teaching job, a seasonal teaching job, and stay on some sub lists. A bit of balance has been restored.
I am so thankful that I had an opportunity to focus on teaching for a couple of years…and thankful to continue to be able to teach. To anyone considering becoming a teacher, I think it’s important to be aware of how becoming a teacher will change your life, and your practice. As we learn in yoga training…the only constant in the universe is change. This aspect of becoming a teacher is hard to qualify and completely personal. I’ve enjoyed where the path has lead me and I’ve learned a lot. I hope you do too.
My father died recently, following a relatively quick (6 month), but agonizingly painful, fight with pancreatic cancer. During the last weeks of his life I was able spend quality time with him, both in the hospital, and at my parent's home. My personal yoga practice was critical for me during this time.
As a yoga teacher, I try and bring a sense of calm positivity and playful energy to my classes. But as I stepped away from teaching for a few weeks, yoga became something different for me. My practice became a quiet refuge. The pace became slower, more grounded. My focus on breath more important.
As my father struggled to find full, deep breaths from his hospital bed, it was a constant reminder to me to just stay present with him. To keep breathing to the best of my ability. It was hard not to be overwhelmed with my emotions, as well as those of my mother and sister, as we watched dad fight. So I tried to just keep breathing, to stay in the present moment, instead of worrying about what was coming for my family.
During the hospital stays I'd take walks outside and find a quiet place to take a downward facing dog or a tree pose to help steady myself. As I found myself back at my parent's home, pacing the halls, I'd remind myself to stop, breath, and would move into intuitively into poses that felt nurturing-Child's pose, reclined twists.
This soft, gentle yoga, helped me deal with my emotions in a way I didn't expect. I sometimes cried in a pose for awhile, sometimes cried myself to sleep. But by taking care of myself in this little way, as frequently as needed, feelings escaped in a way that didn't overwhelm me.
This experience has reinforced for me, more so than any training could, that the most important moments come down to just you and your breath. And when life becomes the most challenging-just keep breathing.
I love this image, because I think so many of us feel this way when we show up to class-especially a class, teacher, or even style of yoga that's new to us.
Since we are expected to move through pose after pose in class, it's easy to feel like yoga is all about how you're moving....whether you're doing it "right" or "wrong". But yoga is about so much more than postures.
Tthe second Yoga Sutra tells us that yoga is a calming of the "monkey mind"-- all those little thought bubbles that pop up in your Warrior 2.! Pantanjali said "If you can control the rising of the mind into ripples, you will experience Yoga."
How to calm the monkey mind is a journey that's different for every person. Here are a few tips to turning your Worrier into a Warrior:
The bottom line is just keep showing up! Commit to spending time with yourself on your mat. Once you find your breath, you may just start to find yourself. Your strong, focused, confident, Warrior self.
There’s something wrong with this title, isn’t there? Yoga is not supposed to be about the pose...it’s a beautiful practice focused on the melding of breath and movement.
Yet when you’ve been practicing yoga for a while and it’s a regular part of your life, finding that traditional poses—some of your favorite poses—have become painful, it’s easy to become frustrated with the constraints of your body.
Yoga poses are about how you react to the pose, how you transition in and out of the poses. One of my favorite yoga teachers always said “Yoga is being comfortable with being uncomfortable”. Being able to breathe and find a bit of Savasana in every posture.
I’ve got that being uncomfortable part down. I find myself trying to force my poor, swollen Achilles into one of my favorite poses, Trikonasana,Triangle pose. And my left foot toes will just not extend to the ground. My foot only wants to flex right now. My left knee won’t bend right now; I can barely get to Virasana, Hero’s pose, with 2 blocks under me for support. What I haven’t quite found is the Savasana in these places. The acceptance that I can’t do poses right now that I love.
I’ve been barreling through my poses, hoping to find relief through yoga, while all I’m really doing is just pushing through. NOT listening to my body. This persistence of mine can be a great quality at times in life…but as I step back and examine my yoga practice, it’s clearly telling me that right now, pushing through is not the answer.
So I’ve taken a step back from my regular active practice. It’s a little scary stepping back from something that’s become such an integral part of your life. But I must admit it’s also a bit of a relief. I suddenly have a several extra hours a week and I get a lot of "life" done. I’m practicing at home more, trying to listen to my body and give it the poses it needs to restore itself right now.
Yoga does not always have to be full steam ahead. There can be pauses and detours. Yoga is not a destination, it’s a journey. That’s the big lesson yoga has taught me.
What is your mat telling you?
According to a new study in the journal Surgical Technology International, most people spend an average of two to four hours a day hunched over, staring at their smartphones. Looking at the photo, it's pretty obvious that the attention you are paying to your phone isn't doing your body any favors.
The adult head weighs about 10-12 pounds. When you stand correctly, head over shoulders, that poundage is equal to the stress your neck and shoulders and spine carry. But any tilt of the head will increase the stress on your spine. Tilting just 15 degrees forward adds about 27 pounds; at 30 degrees, it's 40 pounds; at 45 degrees, it's 49 pounds; and at 60 degrees, it's 60 pounds of stress!
If you're not willing to give up checking your email in line at Starbucks, you might try simply holding your phone up closer to your face so that you're not so contstantly stooped over. If you still find your chin falling to chest and head dropping regularly, try counteracting this posture with a few yoga poses to lengthen your spine and open your chest and shoulders.
Mountain pose can be done anywhere- at work, standing in line at the grocery store or any place you are on your feet.
Cobra engages the back body and opens the chest.
Bridge Pose/Seu Bandhasana
This simple but effective backbend opens the chest and shoulders, two areas that are usually constricted in smartphone addicts! It also strengthens your back body while it stretches and lengthens the spine.
This summer come experience yoga in the great outdoors! Being outside can intensify your yoga experience - providing the opportunity to breath fresh air and connect with the natural world around you.
What's the difference? The feeling of air moving on the skin can help you stay in the moment and can help you remember to keep your breath flowing. A little bit of warm sun on your skin can help warm the muscles without the artifical addition of central heat. Finding tree pose out in the world, surrounded by trees, may just help you become one with your environment, adding little extra rooting to your stance.
Never tried yoga outside? Join me starting in June for an 8 week series at beautiful Hageman Park in Livermore. Monday nights, 6:45-7:45. Register through LARPD, page 54 of the Spring/Summer catalog.
Yoga experience is helpful but not necessary.
The weather is blustery, you are closing out the calendar year at work, holiday parties abound, and the malls becken...followed by a pile of presents to wrap.
Did you remember to breath?
The holidays can be a fun, exciting time, celebrating with family and friends. But they can also be stressful for many reasons--if family relationships are strained or non-existent, if money is tight, if challening travel is required. It's easy to feel frazzled.
While it's easy to let your yoga practice fall by the wayside, it's more important now then ever to connect to yourself, and to your source of faith or inspiration. If you can't get to a class, there are plenty of ways to stay grounded and connected as the holidays whiz along.
If you find yourself skipping classes over the next few weeks, for any reason, try finding a few minutes alone and take my advice. It just might help you sail through the busiest time of year feeling a little more calm, thankful, and happy.
Hot yoga is described as yoga in a setting that uses heat to increase a practioner's flexibility in poses. In colder climates, hot yoga may seek to re-create the heat of India, yoga's birthplace. Different forms of yoga, might be "hot", including:
Proponents of hot yoga say it increases your body's flexibilty and flushes out toxins. But those against say these are myths. They say that In 75-90 minutes, your body does not detoxify. All that sweat is just your body losing its water weight. Not necessarily such a bad thing, but dehydration can be a side effect.
In relation to increased flexibility, heated rooms increase your blood flow and make you feel more flexible than you really are. What's wrong with that? Well, it takes a way your body's natural stopping points, allowing you to move past what is safe for your body.
The overall shift to yoga in the U.S. is to that of a rigorous, athletic,competitive style, and that often means in a heated environment, where everyone is pushing to go further, deeper. This shift has brought a documented increase in injuries -- from torn tendons, ripped hamstrings, back strains to herniated disks.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, which monitors yoga injuries, reports that there were about a dozen reported yoga injuries observed in the U.S. in 2000, and 7,369 in 2010, the most recent year studied.
I don't believe that's all due to hot yoga. There are millions more people practicing yoga now than there was a decade ago, and more participants mean there will be more injuries.
But, If you can't tell, I'm not a fan of agressively heated rooms. I'd rather build my own heat through activity. What do you think? Have you changed your viewpoint on hot yoga from pro to con, or vice versa? If so, why?
Pre-natal yoga has many benefits to new and experienced yogis alike. Yoga can teach you how to focus on your breathe and fully relax your body, which is beneficial as you experience all the changes of pregnancy-- not to mention the efforts of labor and childbirth.
The Mayo Clinic says research show that pre-natal yoga is safe and can have many benefits for pregnant women and their babies.
Pre-natal yoga allows you time for self-care. It's all about you and your baby on the mat! It's also a great way to meet other expectant mothers, offering a community for women at a special stage in their lives.
If you don't already have a regular yoga practice, check with your doctor before starting pre-natal yoga to make sure it's a good option for you.
As a mother of three, I can attest to the power of yoga on a pregnancy. I did not regularly practice yoga with my first two children, but did with my third, and the differences were huge. I had less back pain, I gained less weight, my labor was easier.
I'm thrilled to be teaching the Pre-Natal Yoga class this Thursday at Dragonfly Yoga + Wellness in Livermore at 4:45 pm. Hope to see you there!