August 31, 2011
We all have opportunities in this life to learn great things, every single day. It is also our duty to take these lessons to teach one another. Every day is a gift to learn, and to teach. We learn from someone else’s experiences and wisdom as well as from our actions and mistakes.
Those who teach as a profession, have one of the most crucial responsibilities for our future as humans on this planet. Education helps us to understand how things operate affectively, how to communicate well, how to survive, how to care for one another, and how to care for our earth. The possibilities are endless, and our intentions guide the direction.
Teachings reveal themselves in simple ways. We may be helping a child to speak, read, or to understand a basic concept. We may also be teaching without completely being aware of it. Every action we take, each word we speak, is teaching someone else something. With as many varieties of teachings, there are just as many ways to learn. Any personal interaction is an opportunity to learn something new, and to share knowledge.
With this in mind, we must be mindful of our actions, and of our words, in how they may affect others. If we choose to communicate using words, we must choose our words wisely, and with pure intention. For those who identify themselves as being a “teacher”, this weight is robust, and carries dignity. A teacher has not only a duty, but an honor, to pass on to others the knowledge that they have also been given. The students shall receive a clear understanding of why they are learning what they are, where the teachings originated from, and how it will be useful for them.
A Yoga teacher shares this endeavor, this duty, and this honor. With the greatest amount of mindfulness for speech, please do not refer to yourself as a Yoga “instructor”, for if that is what you do (instruct), that is not carrying the true essence of Yoga, nor relaying that you teach anything at all. I mean, where did this word come from anyway, aerobics? Anyone can instruct someone on what to do, but teaching has an entirely different meaning. As a student of everything, I grow from being taught. As a Yoga teacher, I have vowed to teach this powerful practice fully, in all aspects. We are “Registered Yoga Teachers”, that is why upon our registration, we are given the identification “RYT”, not “RYI”.
August 24, 2011
YES! In fact, when Yoga originated, it was exclusively practiced by men! Women in our Western culture have seemed to adopt Yoga as a healthy way to combat stress, be more in tune with our emotions and stay physically fit. But it is a misconception that men do not benefit in the same way, and that they don’t attend Yoga classes. Just in my classes alone, just over 25% of students are men! That means, in a class of 20, there will be about 5 men. I have even taught classes where the attendees were all men, just by chance!
You do not need to be flexible to practice Yoga. This idea kept my husband from practicing Yoga for over 10 years. In his eyes, it was “my thing”, and he never considered joining in. Now, he is a regular practitioner and his body craves classes several times a week. Intermittent pain from previous injuries has melted away as a result of his Yoga practice, and stresses from work are easier to manage.
You will notice changes in your body from having a consistent practice. Your body will become more flexible, stronger, muscles less cramped from other physical exercise, which makes it a great compliment to weight training and for athletes. Ask any professional sports player if they practice Yoga, and you may be surprised by the number of positive responses! Yoga will improve your sense of physical balance, your breathing will become deeper and more controlled. Your heart health will improve, emotions will become more stable, stress easier to handle, and the ego will find balance as well.
Yoga is also a wonderful practice to share with a loved one. When you attend classes, you are totally having your own experience, on your own mat. But, when the class is finished; and you look into your loved-one’s eyes and there is no need to explain the feeling of bliss that is floating through your body, that is an experience to be shared! Practicing together can improve intimacy, a sense of connection, improve communication, and release emotional barriers. It can help both of you deal with life stresses with greater ease.
If you are practicing solo, keep in mind that nobody else in the room is there to compete. Yoga brings you closer to your Self, so all judgments are left out the door, either good or bad. Everyone is there for their own benefit. So, with that in mind, nobody will be impressed by a display of physical strength, technique, or ability. In fact, who is more comfortable to be around, is someone who can peel those layers away, and just be themselves, breathing and moving at their own pace. Even experienced practitioners are aware that their practice will be different from day to day. Sometimes the practice will feel easy, and other times challenging. It is all part of the practice.
Every Yoga class will feel differently. There are countless styles of Yoga to experience, and countless teachers to guide you closer to your Self. So, my advice for anyone trying Yoga for the first time is; try three different classes. If none of them resonated with you; try three more. If you still haven’t found a style and teacher that makes you feel like your Self – that has been covered under many layers of other “stuff”; then try three more! Your body and mind will thank you!
August 22, 2011
The fourth step of The 8-Fold Path of Yoga relates to breath, specifically to regulating both the inhalation and exhalation. We bring awareness to this practice on the mat, during our meditations as well as while moving through postures. Pranayama simply translates as; prana, meaning life force energy and yama, relating to control, restraint, or regulation. Therefore, this practice refers to the conscious control of the breath, with the intention of affecting the life force energy within us.
Being aware of the breath helps us to sleep better, reduce stress, and live healthier lives overall. When we allow ourselves the gift of being present with sensations of the breath, we become a bit closer to our true Self. Studies show that deep breathing leads to a more relaxed nervous system, and in turn a more balanced mind. Breathing can also instill greater clarity of thought, which leads to a connection to your Higher Self.
As you begin a pranayama practice, the best way to do so is by becoming a pure observer of the breath. Just allow yourself to observe the natural qualities of the breath. Release any urge to label sensations, or to have a sense of “knowing” what the breath feels like. Simply notice how the breath feels as it flows through your body, releasing all expectations and judgments.
From here, I invite you to practice the three-part breath, with a deep inhalation, feeling the breath fill the low belly (diaphragmatic) first, allowing the belly to expand. Next, fill the ribs (thoracic) with air, and then noticing the air continue upward into the clavicular region and throat. Exhale from the top of the body, downward, again, being aware of the breath flowing to all three parts of the body, the belly releases the final air from the exhalation last. As you do this, the each area of the body will expand as you inhale, and naturally contract as you exhale. The three-part breath is nicely practiced while placing your hands on each part of the body where you are controlling the breath. The breath can be better felt with the added benefit of using the hands to increase sensation.
The three-part breath can also be practiced during asanas (postures). When you are just beginning, inhale for six counts, and exhale for six counts. Gradually increase one count per week until you reach fifteen in and out. Controlling your breath with the same duration of both the inhalation and exhalation (balancing or equal breath), creating a consistent flow through the three areas of the lungs, harmonizes our energy, balancing our body and mind.
August 11, 2011
Yoga in its truest nature, is a psychosomatic (body-mind) practice. Everything about the practice changes, including the physical postures, when we approach Yoga from the mindset of simply being an observer of sensations that arise. A student’s posture in a Yoga pose reflects his or her emotional, psychological, and spiritual condition. The holistic practice of Yoga, actually transforms these aspects. On all levels, we keep in mind, that our practice will be different from day to day, and respect any limitations that may come up. This carries into all areas of our lives.
Part of the philosophy of yoga is that we can’t always change the world around us. No matter what we do, stressful situations arise and we will feel tested. The one thing we have control over, and can change, is our reaction to these situations. We can choose to allow them to throw us off balance, or take them in stride by acknowledging their existence, and sending them on their way. Even creating a sense of gratitude for these challenges, can instill a sense of contentment and personal growth. This mindset affects our practice both on and off the mat.
Yoga teaches us how to respond to stress patiently and to greet this resistance with grace. We must experience the physical challenge of the postures without fear, and use deep, calm breaths to move through them. Being aware of the unity of our practice both in class, and out, we realize our practice never ceases. By taking this lesson off the mat and into our daily lives, we will move closer to the goal of responding to stress in a caring, and loving way.
August 5, 2011
Allow yourself a night of restful, healing energy, surrounded by love and lightness.
Join me this Sunday evening at Gotta Yoga Studio from 6:30-8:00pm for a gentle, rejuvenating body flow followed by a refreshing Yoga Nidra practice. Yoga Nidra is a deep, yogic sleep, which involves a guided meditation through progressive relaxation of the body, mind and soul. During this practice, your consciousness is invited to transgress from a surface level, past the dreaming state, while you remain fully aware throughout the practice.
Practicing Yoga Nidra instills a deep sense of release, allowing the body to release “stuck” negative energies in its tissue. This can be a cumulative practice, so if you’ve practiced Yoga Nidra before, and have not felt an emotional release, that’s okay! After practicing this for some time, your mind learns to cease thinking about what you are doing, being curious about the class, the mind-chatter ceases and you finally allow yourself to “let go.” What a delightful treat for you!
This class is offered once a month, on the first Sunday of each month at Gotta Yoga Studio from 6:30-8:00pm. Feel free to bring items from home for your increased comfort. (blanket, pillow, journal etc….) You deserve this gift for yourself 12 times in a year! Class is only $15 for a drop-in, or regular class-pass applies. Class begins promptly at 6:30, give yourself 10-15 minutes before class begins to settle in.
A friend recently asked me for a good tofu recipe, and this is a good staple in my household. I’ve enjoyed this cubed, in a garden salad with balsamic vinaigrette, or sliced with cooked beans and sliced fresh peppers in a burrito, or cubed and served with rice and veggies in a stir-fry. You could also use it as a finger food, or add to soups.
1 lb. firm or extra-firm tofu*
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. water or unsalted vegetable broth
2 tsp. brown rice syrup or agave nectar
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 ½ tsp. peeled and grated fresh ginger
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
*If you wish to make tofu firmer, line a baking sheet with a clean kitchen towel. Cut the tofu into 4 slices, arrange in a single layer on the towel. Cover tofu with a second clean towel and top with a cutting board. Place heavy items on the cutting board, let stand for 30 minutes before using in recipe.
1.) Preheat oven to 400 F. Cut the tofu into 4 equal slices and arrange them in a single, tightly packed layer in a 9-in. square baking dish.
2.) Combine soy sauce, water, syrup, vinegar, garlic, ginger and pepper in small bowl. Pour evenly over the tofu and bake uncovered for 30 mins.
3.) Stored in a covered container in the refrigerator, leftover Baked Tofu will keep for up to 3 days.
August 1, 2011
LOVE this poem by Danna Faulds, and this is wonderful for discovering a new sense of depth in your Yoga practice.
Go in and in.
Be the space
Between two cells,
the vast, resounding
silence in which
Be sugar dissolving
on the tongue of life.
Dive in and in,
as deep as you can dive.
Be infinite, ecstatic truth.
Be love conceived and born in union.
Be exactly what you seek,
the Beloved, singing Yes,
tasting Yes, embracing Yes,
until there is only essence;
the All of Everything
expressing through you
as you. Go in and in
and turn away from
nothing that you find.