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.
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.
No matter how tired, sick or emotionally drained I am, practicing yoga always makes me feel better. Always.
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.
One of my favorite meditations focuses on the breath. Feel free to follow along as I describe it to you!
As you sit in a comfortable position with closed eyes (preferably after an asana practice), allow your entire mind to concentrate on your breath. Watch your lungs expanding and contracting, feel the breath coming in and out through your nose. As you inhale, imagine the oxygen pouring in through your lungs and out through your veins, renewing each cell of your body. As you exhale, imagine all the toxins and waste that your body doesn't need pulling out from each of those cells, back through your veins and exiting your lungs effortlessly. Your body unconciously renews and restores your body with each breath.
Now imagine that with this inhale of breath also coming strength, peace and positive energy flowing into your body. And with each exhale you release tension, stress and negative energy, simply allowing it to leave you. Imagine these good things flowing into your life and negative things leaving you just as effortlessly and unconciously as your breath.
Just as your body benefits from literal breath more when the air you take in is clean and unpolluted, so it is easier to draw good into your life if your surroundings are calm and positive. The only trick is that sometimes our bodies & minds hold on to stress and resist "exhaling". Today see if you can conciously release negativity and surround yourself with a little more of what you want in life.
I just found out that I'm pregnant. My husband & I are so excited! All my life is changing, yoga practice included. Did you know you're body gains about 30% more blood in the first few weeks of pregnancy!?! My heart rate has shot way up and I've started finding myself breathless during practice. As a teacher who likes to give lots of instruction it's been an adjustment to work on calming my breathing and heart rate during practice.
I've been fortunate to not have much in the way of morning sickness, but my stomache is more tender these last few weeks and even at such an early stage I'm finding strong forward folds less practical for me.
I am excited to continue practicing and teaching through-out my pregnancy and we'll see what new insights it brings!
I've always been kind of a minimalist when it comes to yoga. I really love the fact that all you NEED is your body. A mat is nice, but on grass or carpet you can usually get by even without that.
With that said I've got to say that props can be really nice and there's all kinds of ways to use them. Blocks can help you stay more stable when you can't quite touch the ground in a revolved triangle pose, or allow you to take a restorative fish poses for a great chest opener. We usually think of using straps in poses when you can't reach your toes yet, but you could also use a strap to stretch your neck or shoulders, just watch this video!
There's a dozens other props out on the market, back stretchers, toe openers, inversions swings, headstand helpers and more.
You don't necessarily have to run out and buy a bunch of props to get the benefits. Try a scarf or a belt if you don't have a strap and wrap it around the bottom of your foot for a forward fold, pulling yourself farther forward. Laying on your back, place a few pillows underneath the middle of your back and let your arms rest open for restorative fish.
One of the most challenging things to teach students is to leave their egos at the door. It's hard to stop judging yourself, stop trying to compete with your neighbor and just do your thing.
One of the poses where the ego becomes the most apparent is just a simple seated forward bend, paschimottana. We strain forward and hunch our back and shoulders trying to get to our toes. We're so focused on the need to reach father we can miss the stretch! Whether we're missing a stretch, or pulling a muscle trying to outdo the person next to us (or even just ourselves) letting our ego take over on the mat does us no favors.
One way to leave ego at the door is just recognizing your intention in practicing yoga. If you are clear with yourself that relaxation and taking care of yourself are just as important as becoming more flexible or stronger, then it's easier to take poses just as far as you individually need to.
At the end of each class we say, "Namaste". It means something like "The good within me recognizes (or salutes) the good within you." I give the translation each and every class because without understanding it is just a word, and it is definitely not just a word.
I can remember the first time I actually experienced this. I think I was 15... hmm... about when I started yoga, though I can't say for sure it's related. It changed me to truly recognize and appreciate the good in people. It was more than I had ever imagined. I am not ignorant of the bad in people, but like the native american story of the good wolf and the bad wolf. The one we feed is the one who wins. Namaste can remind us to not only feed the good in ourselves but in those around us.
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.