Archive for July, 2012|Monthly archive page

Standing on Your Own Two Feet — A Yoga Miracle

Standing on your own two feet is the most important asana — Judith Hanson Lasater

One of the very first poses a yogi learns is Tadasana, Mountain pose (pictured above). On the surface, it doesn’t look like much, does it? She’s just standing there, right? No, not really! As I tell students, there are a lot of layers to Tadasana, and we unpeel those layers over a long stretch of consistent practice. There’s really a whole lot happening in a well-aligned Tadasana, and in fact, we attempt to bring that Tadasana alignment into every yoga pose. Kindness, patience, consistency, and a willingness to regard the body with new eyes are key to this unfolding.

How do we take such a basic pose as Tadasana off the mat and into our lives? It might begin with just noticing how you stand in the checkout line or how you sit at a computer. It all starts with awareness. Out of a developing awareness arise healthier habits:  you notice that you feel better physically if you keep the feet parallel and draw the thighs in, back, and apart. Your low back feels so much better just from doing that, that you start to root down more firmly through your feet and legs. Out of the rootedness arises a firm belly and lifted chest. That core integrity invites a lengthening at the back of the neck, as the crown of the head lifts skyward. And then you smile!

Rooting down to rise up on and off the mat can also bring forth something amazing within your mind and spirit:  you learn to stand confidently on your own two feet (or hands!!). You find out that you matter a lot, that you have a lot to offer, that your voice is welcome and your opinions matter. You discover and appreciate your own self-worth, and share your gifts generously with a world in need of whatever it is that you have to offer. It’s a little yoga miracle, and it all starts with a pose that doesn’t look like much at all.

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

Glass Shatters

I recently watched the movie I Don’t Know How She Does It, with Sarah Jessica Parker as the lead character. She’s an over-extended woman trying to manage a high-powered career that requires a lot of travel, as well as a husband and two young children. She made painful choices as she moved higher up the career ladder, and…well, I won’t spoil it for you in case you haven’t seen it.

It reminded me of an adage that a wise friend once shared with me. She said that as we walk through our lives, we’re constantly juggling five balls in the air. The balls are named Work, Family, Health, Friends, and Spirit, and you’re desperately trying to keep them all up in the air. Here’s the thing we all have to learn:  Work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four, though — they are made of glass. If you drop one of those, it will be permanently damaged in some way…perhaps just a scuff that you can work around, or a deep crack that will require careful attention for a long time.  But maybe one will be shattered. The point is, if you drop Family, Health, Friends, or Spirit, there will be some irreparable damage and things will never be the same.

Here’s how yoga can help you keep those balls up in the air:

1. Yoga isn’t about nailing a pose better than the person on the mat next to you. It’s not a competition.

2. When you practice yoga, you learn to tune in to your body’s needs and modify poses as you need on a given day. As I tell my students, sometimes just laying on the floor breathing can be your practice!

3. Just as we practice one pose at a time, we live life off the mat moment by precious moment. Yogis cultivate awareness of the present moment, as we tune into what our bodies and teacher are saying.

4. Challenging poses help us acknowledge our weaknesses, our human fragility. They also invite us to persist with our practice and to overcome our fears.

5. When we come upon rough patches in life, we might bend and sway a bit, but we can root down into what sustains us and rise up to meet what comes.

It’s all about balance and prioritizing.

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

Keeping a Vacation Spirit Alive

I’m just back from a wonderful week of relaxing vacation with friends and family. Now home, I’m wondering how to hold on to a little bit of last week’s spirit…less frenzy, more peace, more fun. I never wore a watch last week, didn’t check my calendar, and only occasionally looked at email. I rested, walked the beach, read, played games, floated in the Atlantic, and practiced yoga. One of my favorite spots was on a deck swing overlooking the ocean, breathing in gratitude and letting go of stress. Ah, the bliss of free days!

With the return to my normal life, there’s laundry to do, bills to pay, errands to run, and myriad other mundane tasks. Riding the wake of vacation, though, I find myself navigating through stress a bit more skillfully. Deeper breaths, a softer tone and demeanor, and more conscious gratitude envelop me. I’m blessed in so many ways — supportive, loving friends and family who know me and love me anyway, a truly wonderful “work” environment (I still can’t believe people pay me to teach yoga and help run a studio!), many creature comforts — and yet peace can be so elusive.

Taking a yoga class yesterday, my teacher encouraged deep breaths, a personal pace to the practice, and feeling the earth beneath our feet and hands. It was just the message I needed to hear. Full, nourishing breaths helped me find spaciousness inside and calmed my mind. Pacing the practice to serve my own needs strengthened my resolve not to let my busy calendar push me into a frenzy. The grounding practice I enjoyed in class reminded me that God is always with me and that I am best served when I relinquish control. While that deck swing and the Atlantic are miles and miles away at the moment, I do believe I can still feel a touch of ocean breeze and taste the salty air!

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

Bring a Friend to a Free Yoga Class!

People often ask me, “what’s a good yoga DVD for a beginner?” My response is always the same — there isn’t one. The guidance of a teacher and the camaraderie of other students is priceless. Next week, July 9-15, yoga literally IS priceless, as The Yoga Center of Columbia is offering free introductory classes!

If you haven’t tried yoga, why not give it a go? It’s probably a lot different from what you think. If the idea is unsettling, bring a friend!

I’m offering Gentle Yoga on Monday at 9:30am, Yoga 1 on Monday at 11:15am and Friday at 5pm, and Yoga 1 Plus on Thursday at 4:30pm.

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