Archive for March, 2012|Monthly archive page

Everyone Loves a Giveaway

My thesaurus says something that’s “free” is complimentary and for love. I like that! At the beginning of every session, the studio where I teach (The Yoga Center of Columbia) offers a whole week of free classes. It’s an exciting week — I’m honored to introduce hatha yoga to some people who’ve never practiced before! After class, the students often tell me that the practice wasn’t quite what they were expecting, and they loved it. They’ve moved their bodies in ways that feel wonderful and dispel tension, and they’ve paused in the midst of a very busy life to engage with their breath for a few moments. They’re relieved and encouraged to know that yoga doesn’t mean you have to be able to touch your toes!

Free Week, which this spring runs April 2-8, means that students can take as many classes as they want without even providing their names — coming to class doesn’t get you on any sort of mailing list; it’s truly free. It’s always my hope that new students will find a teacher and a time that works well for them so that they can practice consistently and experience the peace, opening, and strength that yoga provides. I teach yoga simply because I love it — both the practice and the teaching. Yoga has given me a new spirit, and the ripple effect of this new spirit extends out into all areas of my life. I’m a better me thanks to yoga!

If you’d like to join me during this week of free classes, my teaching schedule follows; I’ll be offering these classes throughout the spring at The Yoga Center. For descriptions of the class levels and for more information on my teaching style, check out my website.

Class

When

Gentle Yoga

Monday 4/2 9:30-11am

Yoga 1

Monday 4/2 11:15am-12:45pm

Yoga 1 Plus

Thursday 4/5 4:30-6pm

Yoga

Friday 4/6 5-6:30pm

Leading with Compassion in a Feline Free-for-All

We have two beloved feline family members, Midnight and Rascal. They are well-named, polar opposites. Rascal is Light, Midnight is Dark. Rascal is sleek and delicate; Midnight is stocky and decidedly un-feline-like. Rascal is always up for a fun game or some cuddling, while Midnight seeks solitude.

We adopted Midnight because, of all the adorable kittens at the shelter, he was the one with the stubby, weird tail. My husband was sure no one else would adopt him. I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the choice, but I had to respect Scott’s compassionate decision. This cat came home and was something of a nightmare. He wouldn’t sit in anyone’s lap, wanted to be left alone, and worst of all, sometimes he’d suddenly snap at us with his huge teeth when we were petting him. Freaked us out! Midnight seemed to take a particularly strong disliking to my older daughter — he couldn’t stand the sound of her voice when she was in our foyer, and would come racing from out of nowhere to bite at her heels if she dared speak anywhere in the vicinity of the front door. For some reason she didn’t take this very well, and it would evolve into quite a chaotic scene.

Then along came Rascal. We optimistically thought that a kitten friend might be good for Midnight. Well. Hmm. Not so much! Not for a while, anyway.

As Rascal integrated into the family, Mara learned to keep more quiet in the foyer, and we all left Midnight alone after just a few mild strokes of his fur. We also let the two cats work out life together without our interference. At the same time, I noticed Scott wooing Midnight with a kitty treat every morning (Rascal got one, too). I started providing strategically-placed cat beds and blankets in cozy places throughout the house. Our daughters tried all different kinds of cat toys until they found the one that captured Midnight’s interest. Rascal persisted in trying to get Midnight to play with him. The whole household, it seems, had made a project of Midnight.

We were encouraged when Midnight started playing with Rascal. Then we noticed that they were hanging out together in the same room, kind of regularly! Time went on, and I almost cried the first time I saw Mid allow Rascal to groom him. Now they’re buddies — with boundaries. Midnight hasn’t turned into Mr. Sunshine, but our patience and persistent offerings of love have softened him.

We all deal with difficult people from time to time. It’s easy to be nice to nice people; it’s alot trickier to cope with the others! It helps to remember that no one really wants to be difficult. You never know what pain someone is harboring, physical or otherwise. Maybe a gentle approach can help, an “I’m sorry, how can I help you?” Those might be the first kind words that a difficult person has heard in a long time, and they just might bring some healing. When we show true compassion, it lifts us up, too. So today, smile at a stranger, hold the door for the person behind you, really listen when someone talks to you, and let the other car go first. Make it a great day, for you and for another person!

In your yoga practice, also lead with compassion and be patient with yourself. Let it be an offering, whether for yourself or for someone else in need. Stay on the pain-free side of the stretch, and always err on the side of gentleness. Those physical openings only happen from a place of softness, where the breath can be smooth and full. Be consistent! Check my website for some home practice ideas.

Compassion is the antitoxin of the soul:
where there is compassion even the most  poisonous impulses
remain relatively harmless.
–Eric Hoffer

Check out my schedule of yoga classes at the Yoga Center of Columbia!

Under Armour Every Day

Many years ago I went through a tumultuous time, as I grieved the loss of several people close to me, through death and broken relationships. I had two young children, and was struggling to find my way. My response to this enormous amount of stress was to put on some protective armor by closing myself off. I clung to my grief, anger, and fear. Emotionally, I shut down, and physically, my body became constricted and hard. This went on for some time, and my world became very small.

Through God’s grace and the help of family and friends, I came to understand that this stressed-out, closed-up person was not the real me. It was just someone that I created to try and cope with a very rough patch of life. I gradually learned to trust, breathe, move forward, and take off that hard shell of armor I was wearing. I found new ways to cope, reaffirm my faith, and step back into the flow of life. I learned that sometimes holding on hurts more than letting go.

As babies, we are joyful and open, and we thrive when we’re nurtured well. Growing up, we learn that boundaries are appropriate and necessary, and a few shields go up. As life goes on, though, sometimes circumstances beat us down. If we overprotect ourselves, we can lose that person we once were, and we become hardened both emotionally and physically. The harder we become, the more we withdraw. If we can break this vicious cycle and learn from it, we can recapture our true selves and maybe even a little bit of that childlike joy that was once so natural. We need boundaries AND softness. I can’t help but think of Under Armour clothing — it protects athletes from extreme heat or cold, and yet is soft and allows free movement. It provides just the right amount of protection. Maybe we should all wear Under Armour every day!

Yoga brought me home to my real self — and even now, whenever I struggle, the mat is a place of safety. My strength enables me to maintain the integrity of a pose, and then I layer on softness by using my breath. Where do I need to let my guard down a little, and where should I be more assertive? It’s a dance between the two. I love feeling the strength that the standing poses engender, the heart-opening of a beautiful backbend, a delightful twist, and finally, finally, softening into relaxation.

Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.  –Chinese Proverb

Check out my schedule of yoga classes at the Yoga Center of Columbia!

Hope Lives!

When I was a kid, my friend David and I loved to play inside the honeysuckle tree that was part of the natural divider between our yards. We would sit under that tree playing for hours every spring, fully enveloped in the heady honeysuckle scent. Those days were sweet and carefree!

As we move into spring, the days get longer and nature is reborn. The pulse of life is everywhere. After the dark, cold days of winter, we’re ready for new life and hope. As I enjoy the blooming landscape and the music of children playing outside, this spring I’ll also savor the greatest blessing: the Empty Tomb, as Holy Week concludes with an Easter celebration. Hope lives!

Spring is also a time of budding energy within ourselves; especially if we’ve nurtured ourselves well during winter, energy abounds during the spring months. It’s a great time to dig into a more energetic yoga practice! You’ll hear and feel your breath, and you’ll notice the blood flowing within you. These are tangible reminders that you’re alive, and that Hope lives within you.

View my complete schedule of classes at the Yoga Center of Columbia. Free classes coming April 2-8!

Small Treasures

For me, a really great day starts off in a very modest way, with a perfect cup of coffee in my hand and inspirational reading before me. I have a sense of reverance about that cup of coffee and my prayer & meditation time; I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I can become quite annoyed if something interrupts my morning ritual. This half hour sets the tone for the rest of my day, and I protect it fiercely.

The experts constantly say that it’s the small things that make all the difference, right? Drink plenty of water, spend some time with friends, get enough sleep…we feel better when we keep these good habits going.

My college-age daughter is home on Spring Break; it’s part of the normal rhythm of a college student’s life, the back and forth. She simply came home…no fancy vacation to some Spring Break hot spot. It’s priceless just to have her home, folding back into our family life, doing normal things together. It’s quiet, simple, and wonderful.

What are the small treasures that you hold dear? Cultivating an awareness of those small things and savoring them, makes every day sweeter. This sort of appreciation slows us down, helps us feel more connected and more whole. Rushing mindlessly from one thing to the next wears us out, saps the joy from our life, and leaves us feeling incomplete.

On the yoga mat, we learn to pay careful attention to small details. Each minute element of good alignment is like one tiny facet of a diamond; the light shines through it and the whole gem sparkles with vitality and beauty. A few meditative moments, enjoying the rhythm of your breath and the spaciousness that comes from a great stretch, are other little gifts for us to enjoy on the mat. When we leave the mat and go out into the world, well, that’s where the real yoga begins.

I’m already looking forward to tomorrow’s morning cup of coffee.

Normal day, let me be aware of the treasure you are.
Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart.
 Let me not pass you by
in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow.
Let me hold you while I may,
for it may not always be so.
One day I shall dig my nails into the earth,
or bury my face in the pillow, or stretch myself taut,
or raise my hands to the the sky and want,
more than all the world, your return.

— Mary Jean Iron

To view my schedule of yoga classes, please go to my website www.newspirityoga.com