Archive for June, 2012|Monthly archive page

Respite and Reprieve

An Amazing Presence

I am touched to the core
with a presence I cannot explain.
A loving plan enfolds me.
Someone is always believing in me,
calling me forth, calling me on.
I am standing in grace,
filled with mystery,
touched by the eternal.
I cannot get away from goodness.
–Macrina Wiederkehr

Summer vacation brings time to unplug, relax, and renew. Enjoy, and take a yoga mat. ūüėČ

View my complete schedule of classes at the Yoga Center of Columbia! Free classes the week of July 9.

The Calm Amid the Storm

I’ve had a stormy week, for reasons I can’t easily explain. I sought solace on my yoga mat again and again. My best times were with students, teaching. Guiding them through a practice drew me inside, even as I engaged with them. The rhythm and pace of the practice, the laughter and smiles,¬†brought a measure of peace for which I was very grateful.

And so this is life:¬† ups and downs, storm and calm, tranquility and strife. Our challenge is to walk through it all with courage, being true to ourselves, and always working toward the best. As we walk on this earth, life will never be perfect. The mindset of “…and THEN I’ll be happy” is pure foolishness. Minute by minute, life is moving by.

When a storm hits, how do you make your way through it? How are you in the middle of it? After it’s passed, do you spend some time reflecting and considering what you learned? How do you support others through their turbulent times?

Here are a few things I know for sure:

  1. People matter more than things.
  2. Never underestimate the power of your words.
  3. I’m not responsible for other people’s “stuff.”
  4. I’m never going to be perfect, so I might as well give up the idea and be okay with it. Ditto for everyone else.
  5. No matter what, I return to gratitude for all that God has blessed me with.

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
-Hebrews 4:16

View my complete schedule of classes at the Yoga Center of Columbia! Free classes the week of July 9.

Why I Practice Yoga

Most people know that consistently practicing yoga makes your body stronger and more flexible. I love to look at amazing pictures of advanced yogis in impossible poses! The full version of Eka Pada Rajakapotasana (pictured above) is one of my favorites! Is nailing an advanced pose what drives me to practice? Not hardly! Here’s the point of the practice for me:

Yoga helps keep me sane. When I’m having a rough day, yoga lifts me up.¬†All I have to do is roll out my mat; sometimes¬†¬†I just lay on it and breathe. The yogis speak of opening energy channels, or nadis…we have over 72,000 nadis!…and when we break through those blockages, we feel better.

I’m more compassionate because of yoga. Both practicing and teaching yoga have made me more aware of suffering. I’m fortunate to have wonderfully compassionate teachers, and¬†my desire¬†to help people in the ways that¬†they help me was¬†one¬†reason I started teaching. I absolutely love guiding people into a pose and helping them find their “version” of¬† it, with whatever support or props they need. Never much for the “no pain, no gain” attitude, the yogic mantra of “no pain, no pain” has always appealed to me.

Yoga makes me healthier. Yoga is a way of life — it has affected how I eat, how I view myself and others, and it makes every body system function better.

I’m a better me! Yoga encompasses much more than just the physical poses (asana). It’s about how you conduct yourself personally and with others (yamas and niyamas), how you breathe¬† (pranayama), and so much more. True yoga is seldom about what we do on the mat — it’s when we take yoga off the mat that we can call ourselves true yogis.

View my complete schedule of classes at the Yoga Center of Columbia! Free classes the week of July 9.

Top Five Reasons to Practice Restorative Yoga

Learning to relax is at the heart of living well. –Judith Lasater, PhD, PT

I’ve been hooked on restorative yoga since the first time¬†my teacher told the class to get a bolster and five blankets! If there’s a bolster involved, it’s got to be good, right? Restorative yoga is a practice you can do anytime — even (especially!)¬†when you’re injured, ill, or tired. It opens and softens the body, calms the mind, and soothes the spirit. I use restoratives regularly in my own practice, and there are so many reasons why!¬† Here are just a few…

Relaxation is an essential¬†learned skill and it’s not about sitting on the couch in front of the TV, having a glass of wine, hanging out with friends,¬†or playing a computer game. It takes intention and practice to learn how to become still, and this is what nourishes your body on a deep level. In restorative yoga, we use lots of props (blankets, bolsters, blocks, chairs, etc) to get the body very comfortable, and we release into the quiet and stillness. The body opens via the miracles of gravity and breath, and the breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure slow down. With the support of props, we can hold restorative poses for several minutes. A well-rounded restorative practice will include forward bends, back bends, twists, and even inversions, so that the spine moves in all the ways a healthy one should, and so that the internal organs are revitalized with fresh blood and enhanced removal of toxins.

Living in the 21st century is hard and we need to unplug sometimes. Literally.¬†I don’t know about you, but I’m¬†so darn connected to everyone¬†via phones, computer, and tablet that sometimes I feel a little claustrophobic! Solitude is a rare commodity in this fast-paced, hyper-connected world. When’s the last time you were truly unreachable? How great would it be to regularly turn everything off and lay down on some blankets and bolsters to do nothing but breathe?!

Doing absolutely nothing is worth your time. As a recovering Type A, I can tell you that productivity is over-rated. Some people think they’re not doing anything unless they’re doing something. The constant churn, the lists, the calendar(s!), the texts, emails, and phone calls…one obligation after another…wear us down and sap our bodies, minds, and spirits. A friend recently posted on Facebook, “Do they still make Calgon?” I don’t know about Calgon, but I do know that restorative yoga takes me away to a place of renewal, where my body and mind and spirit¬†can take a break. Just simply being is critical to your mental and physical well-being.¬†A¬†little bit of time doing “nothing”¬†might even make you more productive when it’s time to plug back in.

You’ll get to know yourself. As we carefully arrange blankets and bolsters for restorative poses, the difference between heaven and hell can be as little as one-quarter inch. With an extra blanket tucked¬†here or a slight move there, you’ll come to understand better what your body needs. In the quiet stillness, you’ll be able to listen inside and actually hear something.

You’ll be a nicer person when you’re not exhausted and stressed out all the time. Your time on the mat doing restoratives will not only leave you immediately refreshed, but over the longer-term, regular restorative practice will help you sleep better! When you’re refreshed and rested, you take a better you off the mat and into the world. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

View my complete schedule of classes at the Yoga Center of Columbia! Free classes the week of July 9.

Savoring the Sweet In-Between

I’m naturally a fast walker; if you accompany me to the mall, wear comfy shoes! Our cats¬†often scurry away as I determinedly move from one household task to the next, moving quickly from here to there. The cats don’t like it, and neither does my husband, who cringes when I’m working through my “to do” list¬†or when I ask him to “go for a little walk.” You see, he prefers a strolling pace, taking in the scenery and enjoying conversation. I’m all about burning calories and “accomplishing” something. And you know what? He has a point¬†(don’t tell him I said so!). In my fast-paced walk, I don’t notice what’s blooming in nature around me, can’t observe a sweet moment between father and son playing catch in a neighbor’s yard, and can’t even feel the breath in my own body. There’s something to be said for slowing down and noticing what’s happening on your way to the next thing.

This happens on the yoga mat, too. The mind habitually moves ahead to the next pose and we miss what happens, or can happen, during the transition. Those transitions just aren’t as sexy as being in the next big pose! But what might we be missing along the way? During a Sun Salutation, moving from Mountain Pose (Tadasana)¬†to Forward Bend (Uttanasana), into Lunge¬†(Palakasana), and back to Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), it’s easy to fall into thinking that Downward Dog is the goal. After all, it’s glorious to stretch up and back, lengthening the whole spine, stretching and strengthening¬†the entire body. It’s the quintessential yoga pose, after all! But careful attention to the placement of your feet and hands¬†in every pose en route to Down Dog means that your hips, pelvis, spine, and shoulders¬†will stay aligned and thus get the chance to strengthen and open in a safe, healthy way. Mindless movement toward Downward Dog deprives you of these opportunities and actually risks injury. The point is not just to get to Adho Mukha Svanasana, but rather, to be with each pose along the way, staying present in body, mind, and breath. The same is true in any yoga sequence (vinyasa).

Transitions are an opportunity to build strength in body and mind:  staying fully present, aware of every muscle movement as you progress into the next pose not only disciplines your mind, but it enables you to focus on the weaker muscles. When your muscles shake as you transfer from one pose to the next, your breath is there to facilitate the transition and remind you to keep your body integrated and aligned. Paying full attention during transitions keeps you safer: a mindless move, perhaps trying to muscle ahead, can result in injury. This presence of mind invites us to stay in the moment: every moment counts, on and off the mat.

As I move through my days,¬†consciously slowing down my task-oriented self to savor the sweetness of the in-between moments, not only can I feel the breath in my body and¬†actually¬†be ¬†aware of what’s happening around me, but the cats might remain¬†more calm. And maybe my husband will say yes the next time I ask him to go for a walk!

View my complete schedule of classes at the Yoga Center of Columbia!