I'm starting anew this year and with my recent pregnancy I really do feel like I am now coming out of a cocoon. My baby is 4 months old and the second half of the pregnancy weight is finally coming off. Yoga and meditation helped me through the pregnancy and are definitely helping now in recovering and keeping my health on minimum sleep.
I personally would like to encourage all of you to make responsible contributions to help in Haiti. There will be many organizations asking for contributions. Please find a well known disaster relief organization like American Red Cross or Mercy Corps to donate to.
Don't have money but still want to help? I recommend Games That Give, a site that gives advertising dollars to nonprofits when you play games online. Mercy Corps, a relief organization working in Haiti, is a beneficiary on their site.
Haiti is going to need help for a long time. Right now is the time for professional, organized, first-response agencies to go there and get things organized. I spent time in Louisiana the week after Hurricane Katrina and it's important that while our hearts go out to them we understand that there is a time for everything. The next two weeks are search & rescue, water, food and shelter. After that they will need different support, rebuilding and grieving and trying. That's where we can personally step in. Don't forget about Haiti next month or in six months. They will be rebuilding for years.
As yoga followers I think there is something extra we can do. I believe the meditation on goodwill and love for our fellow men cannot be discounted. I also encourage you to look to your higher power tp spread love and compassion at this time.
I haven't written in a while. Life has been so crazy that last week I went on a retreat to St. George. I had so much fun hiking in the red rocks, doing yoga & tai chi, and just relaxing.
I think there must be something in the air in St. George because my hiking guides were 83 and 81 years young, and my tai chi instructor was also 84. I'm not sure how old my yoga instructor was because ladies don't give their ages away as easily but I know she was a grandma! Being with an older, healthy, vivacious crowd reminded me of the greatest goal of physical health, to be able to enjoy my life as long as I live it.
Some of these folks had been active all their lives, others only started when they retired, but as I talked to them the common thread was that being active was FUN for them! This wasn't on their "have-to-do" list but their "get-to-do" list. I think that's the secret. Good thing for me that I love yoga as much as ice cream!
I'm going to try to keep being active with the things that I love doing like yoga, hiking, and swimming, rather than get stuck in the idea that I "have to" run on a treadmill or lift weights (though I have found those can be fun too when you get in the mind-set to enjoy them).
Here's to a long-life worth living!
Everyone is talking about thanks this week. I think yoga is a great way to give thanks for the most simple things. Taking time to be thankful for your breath, the way your body renews itself without you even thinking about it. To be thankful for your body, even if it has limitations, it's yours and every movement & sensation is yours thanks to your body. Yoga philosophy has taught me is that I have enough. With my body & my breath I have all I need & everything else is extra. I am so thankful for those moments of clarity. Everytime I practice my heart is opened a little more & my mind is a little clearer.
I am so thankful that I am able to teach yoga. Every time I watch my students master a pose, stretch a little farther, love themselves a little more, I am so thankful.
On Monday I participated in a study at Brigham Young University that is trying to find out exactly how yoga affects bone density. They've shown that weight bearing exercises do help bone density, but they haven't done a lot of studies to show the impact of specific types of exercises. It was fun, I did a series of 30-some poses six times in a row, three times with the top of the mat on a scale measuring force & three times with the scale at the bottom of the mat, so in warrior poses it could measure both the weight born by the front foot & the back. The more force a pose exerts, the better it is for bone density. The investigator has promised to send me a copy of the results, so I'll let you know what she finds out.
She's still looking for 4 women & 10 men who have at least 3 years of yoga experience (really the judge is can you do crow & side plank on one foot, if you can you should be fine) between the ages of 20 & 55 to help out with the study. She pays $20 for your time & it's a lot of fun. Her name is Sylvia Wilcox & you can email her at email@example.com if you live in the Provo, Utah area.
I worked for United Way of Utah County for 6 years & Sub 4 Santa had always been one of my favorite projects. Now that I'm not working there I know I still have to help! I'm holding a benefit yoga class at my house on November 21st at 10 am. Click here to see details on Facebook!
The program provides basic gifts for children of low-income families. It could seem that there is a conflict between the non-material focus of yoga & the gift giving of Christmas, but that's a great thing about this program. They just ask sponsors to provide two items of clothing, two toys & a book. Enough for a child to be happy, help a parent who can't afford new clothes, and allow a family to feel the love of their community, but not so much as to overwhelm the love of the season with stuff.
I'm planning to focus the practice around gratitude & giving, so get ready for lots of chest openers! I always structure my classes to accommodate all levels & ages, so bring the whole family. If I get a big response I'll schedule a second class (or third or whatever it takes).
I had read about meditations focusing on sorrow, anger, grief, or other "negative" emotions, but I hadn't tried it formally until last week. I'd always thought that meditating on positive feelings was more productive. However, I've come to realize that it is just as important to recognize negative feelings and allow yourself to experience them so that they can be spent & you can move on. I also came to realize that this was actually something I did in my life, but hadn't fully developed.
If you'd like to try this as a formal meditation here's some ideas & imagery that might help. I always recommend meditating after some asana (physical) practice because it gives you time to focus on your physical body & then forget about it. I also recommend making sure you are in a place where you won't be disturbed or distracted.
Sitting in a comfortable position, start by focusing on your breath, letting the inhales and exhales, the expansion & contraction, take up all your thoughts. Once your focus is complete, allow it to move to your heart. Take inventory of your emotions, imagining sorting through a card file if you like, or searching through a pile of clothes, just noting what you find in your heart. When you come across a sad, angry or unhappy emotion - just pick one - imagine yourself taking it out from the rest & bringing it closer so you can look at it. Allow yourself to feel the emotion, you don't have to relive the experience that caused it, just experience the feeling. You can visualize that feeling like a little flame, flaring up, growing, running out of fuel, dying down and eventually going out completely. Imagine the ashes blowing away. You could also try visualizing the emotion like a flower (I know, it's not a good emotion, but it could be a weed flower, like a dandelion if you want), imagine it growing out of your heart, getting bigger, blossoming and then slowly dying, the petals withering and falling off, the flower wilting and decomposing back to the earth. You can make up your own visualization if you want, but the end of this visualization is the most important, letting the feeling die out and letting yourself release it. Focus again on your heart & feel it a little stronger & healthier, maybe a little cleaner?
I think learning this skill is life saving. Allow yourself to experience & release rather than wallow in or repress & you'll feel a big difference.
No matter how tired, sick or emotionally drained I am, practicing yoga always makes me feel better. Always.
I teach a mixed level class and while I strive to create a class with lots of flexibility so all the students can participate and enjoy. But teaching & participating in a mixed level class has challenges.
Sometimes there's a struggle when beginning students try to perform more advanced options I suggest for more seasoned practitioners. I worry that a student might injure themselves but I don't want them to feel bad, since it's just not time to go that far yet. I talk a lot about taking care of yourself & not trying to compete, even with yourself, but that often takes more practice then the advance poses!!
Another challenge I've come across is style & pace. Beginning students usually have a better experience at a medium-fast pace, and slower poses can be a great way to challenge more season students. I have one student in particular who comes to relax and unwind. This student often doesn't participate in asanas and spends much of the class meditating. I am always glad when a student knows how to take care of themselves, however this student often requests that I slow down poses, hold them for longer and don't try to do so many poses. I've tried to grant this request the best I can without discouraging beginning students. A challenge for me though is often this student is still not participating in the poses, or coming out of them early even though they were the one who requested it be held longer! Any suggestions?
At the request of a faithful student I brought some partner poses into our class practice last night. Even though the student that requested it wasn't there last night, we had a good time!
The most simple partner pose is one most people have done already some time in their life. Sit with your legs straight in front of you and your feet against those of your partners. Get a strap and hold on with both hands, one person with their in the middle, one holding the two sides. Then one partner slowly lean back. Both partners try to keep your backs straight, the one leaning back feeling your abdominals engage. The partner that is leaning forward try to relax the backs of your legs. Both keep breathing! For some reason we hold our breath when things are challenging and I had lots of students holding their breath during this pose last night! Watch and listen to each other and stop when the person leaning forward is at the edge of where they can reach. Switch and let the other person lean back.
Partner poses help us go past our comfort zone and try a little harder then we do on our own. Some people may hesitate because touch itself might be out of their comfort zone, but partner poses can be like the one I described above and really not require much touch or "invasion" of space.
My name is Kristen and I started practicing yoga when I was 15. I've been teaching for 2 and a half years now. This blog is about my experiences as a yoga teacher and practitioner.