Healing Back Pain Through Yoga Part 1

In my second portion of the healing back pain through yoga articles I’d like to discuss how our mental state plays a role in healing back pain.  If you haven’t read the first blog and need to catch up click HERE.  It may seem along way from our back but there are many deep connections between the brain, mind, our consciousness, and the physically sensations we feel.

Our Mind:

            Our lives and our identity are made up of stories we have been taught or stories we have about ourselves. How often do we attach to stories of past injury, or bodily dysfunctions that may have come up in our lives?  By attaching to these stories are we inhibiting ourselves from healing and writing a new more positive narrative on the direction of our life?  These can be hard questions to ask but our metal outlook on physical wellbeing does have an impact on what we do and how we do it! I don’t want to advocate some new age mantra that you can materialize perfect health just by belief (I’ll leave that to Mr. Chopra) but attachment can leave one foot stuck in the mud of our once injured self.  For example, doctors told me I would never play hockey, go skiing, lift heavy things, or do any of the activities so dear to my heart ever again.  And, devastatingly, I was attached to this advice.  My mind held on to the idea I couldn’t do the things I love and this was a death sentence, my life was over, as I knew it. 

I had a high regard to medical professionals so why wouldn’t I listen to them! But once I started moving, breathing, stretching, and living my life again I quickly realized they were wrong. One night I braved the idea of skiing again (for the fear of god had been put into me that skiing would cripple my hopes of healing). Skiing actually loosened my muscles up and filled my lungs with crisp mountain air.  My whole body pulsed with life and it relieved my backache. I was alive again!   The list of don’t do’s that is offered to those suffering back pain rolls of the tongue so nicely. Don’t sleep on your stomach, don’t forward fold, don’t lift heavy things, don’t engage in vigorous activity, don’t don’t don’t.  This advice leaves us very limited in what we can do and might create phobia each time we have to tie our shoelaces (yup that was me!). Of course a sudden change in my mindset didn’t instantly fix my spinal health and back pain but it gave me confidence to progress daily to become healthy again in order to live the fullest life.  In my mind I become open to the idea of healing.

An injury is an event, it happens, then it is over and the body begins to heal.  Attaching to the idea that we are permanently broken and injured can drown any positive goals of healing ourselves, or alleviating a condition.  Through yoga practice we focus our mind on our body (through postures, breathing, and meditations) and bridge a connection that harmonizes the two into one (the yoking of yoga).  When the body moves, stretches, engages and relaxes, the mind is focused on these happenings and becomes still, aware and present.  When the mind quiets down we have a finer lens with which to consider our thoughts, habits, and the stories we tell about ourselves with less reaction.  A yoga practitioner truly wakes up to the choices and decisions they make that affect their wellbeing.  The heart of Yoga is not to harm ourselves (see Ahimsa), or others, so by being mentally present and awake we can decide for ourselves what choices, lifestyle, yoga postures, and mental outlook best supports our path to healing back pain.  The mind plays an important role in helping us develop a personal yoga practice!

 

That is part 1 of my blog on Healing Back Pain through Yoga and you may be surprised that I didn’t talk much about the physical yoga or tell you what to do.  I’m hoping to intrigue each of you, the reader, to look deep into yourselves and question the inner teacher that has a great wisdom around healing the body.  It’s You!

Healing Back Pain Through Yoga (Introduction)

            Everyone will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Whether it be chronic or debilitating pain, or simply some stiffness and soreness, back pain and discomfort is part of being human!  I’m sure we can all agree that back pain isn’t fun and drains us of energy and lowers our quality of life.  In this series of articles, I will articulate a few thoughts about how practicing yoga can alleviate and prevent current and future back pain.

 

            To start, we must understand what “yoga” is.  The word “yoga” can be defined as to yoke, union, integration or intimacy and it is a practice that entails becoming more conscious of reality.  Meaning we strive to yoke our mind, body, consciousness, relationships, and our environment.  Yoga is being awake and aware of all the wonderful connections that are present in our lives and in the world around us.  To practice yoga one must treat the body as a whole, and this frame of mind gives a different lens from which to approach healing ourselves and maintaining health.

 

            The current model of healing found in contemporary western society can be thought of as mechanical and scientific.  We all want to know why our back hurts and exactly what to do to fix it.  How can I take apart the parts of my body and reassemble them to work properly? The answers aren’t so simple when we consider the totality of our existence.  Many modalities and modern medicine relate to the body as mechanical and compartmentalize our symptoms to specific areas leading often to overly specific diagnoses.  I’m not saying that modern medicine, science, anatomy, and bio-mechanics aren’t miraculously amazing, it’s just usually the language and the need to pinpoint the exact location and factor for pain tends to be insanely specific and gives us a feeling of dysfunction and alienation. For instance, can you receive a “diagnosis” (stenosis between out 4th and 5th lumbar vertebra with a slight fusion of the sacroiliac joint) and still feel like a whole and integrated person?  I’m being facetious but honestly trying to dissect and understand ourselves with this level of detail takes us away from the big picture, the whole picture: the deeply integrated nature of our body, mind and spirit. The viewpoint of what a healthy body is has been reduced to the concept that our physical body was built, has parts that can be broken, and someone else can show us how to repair, reassemble, and fix things back to a mechanically perfect body.  There are some missing links in this outlook.

 

            I would like to share my back pain story to situate how I turned my pain story into a new narrative of change and healing.  When I was a 26 year old active, fit and strong young man I started experiencing debilitating back pain and sciatica.  I paid to have an MRI after numerous therapies garnered no results and found I had severe osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis near the sciatic nerve, and an extreme case of degeneration of the spinal disks (the cushions between the vertebrae).  Needless to say this was devastating news for me.  All of the top back pain specialists I saw suggested surgery after manipulations, steroids, nerve numbing concoctions, and cortisol injections repeatedly failed. None of these specialists spent more than 15 minute with me.  WAIT.  FIFTEEN MINUTES.  In our current system, it was a rarity to find someone with compassion, an open ear, or someone who will sit down and help me for more than 15 minutes.  Of course this is my experience but it is hard to get know someone in 15 minutes.  Every doctor, specialist and therapist I saw took a look at my MRI, but not the person in front of them: me.  There wasn’t any consideration of my quality of life, postural habits, diet, love life, family affairs, or what I do for fun.  They missed all of the contributing factors to back pain in my life like dissatisfaction with my workplace, anxiety, loneliness, heartbreak, depression, and extreme stress.  Every single specialist failed to see the entirety of me and who I am as a person, but rather focused on the symptom, the physical, the mechanical and how my broken pieces might be individually fixed. I came to an important realization: healing my back would be a process of healing myself. I decided to look at my whole life and being and was able to create a new story, and new narrative around my pain. Through a practice of yoga, I found a union within myself and connected to my inner capacity to heal body, mind and spirit.   Luckily the union I found through yoga helped me connect with myself before I was under the surgeon’s knife.

 

There are too many words and too many emotions to tell my whole story and thoughts about back pain in one blog post! Check back tomorrow for the next part where I discuss the role of the mind and the emotions in healing back pain.

 

Why Beginners Yoga is a great introduction to Yoga Practice

So you’ve decided to try yoga, but are a little worried and maybe skeptical about your first yoga class.  When beginning to practice yoga our usual concerns are: we aren’t fit enough; flexible enough; or strong enough to make it through our first yoga class.  This is pretty normal for anyone new to yoga especially if you google yoga and see your stream fill up with advanced poses, handstands and twenty something year old fit women.  This isn’t a very good reflection of what happens in most yoga classes and can create some speculation about what yoga practice really entails.  Yoga practice is an amazing tool to increase strength, balance, fitness, flexibility, and encourage wellbeing while also promoting stress reduction.  Practice is unique to the abilities of each student and complementary to supporting your lifestyle ensuring you can continue to do all of your activities and hobbies.

Here are some reasons you should take a beginners yoga course to help you start practicing yoga without the worry’s and intimidation that comes with being new to yoga.

Learn with other beginners!:

When you take a beginners yoga course you will learn with other students completely new to yoga.  There is something comforting and reassuring about practicing yoga with others that are learning and trying something new for the first time.  A friendly and encouraging environment is so important when learning.  Nobody feels centered out for not being able to perform a pose and the pace of class is slow to give time to comprehend how to move your body, feel things, and most importantly breathe.  There is opportunity to chuckle at difficulties and failures and celebrate all of your successful yoga poses together.  The bonding that happens when learning and practicing with a small group is great way to build friendships and community!

 

You will learn about your body:

A beginners yoga course is a slow paced class where there is opportunity to feel your body in the poses and be receptive to how you practice the pose.  You find a relationship between yourself and the poses. This relationship helps teach you what poses come naturally and what ones are difficult.  You will also learn that your body is completely unique to everyone else’s and therefore so to your yoga poses will differ from others. Yoga should feel good so contorting your body to fit into the pose isn’t the goal.  The yoga pose should fit your body. Learning about yourself and being comfortable in your own skin is the yolking that is yoga.

 

Small class sizes:

It is so reassuring when beginning a yoga practice to have a teacher’s guidance and observation to help be sure you are practicing the poses correctly. In beginners yoga the teacher is there to make your first experience of yoga enjoyable.  The teacher will observe you in the poses and help you to find what works for your body.  The teacher can help with suggestions of what poses would benefit you to practice regularly and advise not practicing poses that aren’t suitable for you. 

Learn the Basics:

There seems to be an infinite number of yoga poses nowadays some of which you will never have to worry about.  This is good as when a new student becomes familiar with the basic foundation of yoga practice the more advanced poses come easier.  Beginners yoga will cover the fundamental yoga poses that you will encounter in a drop-in class.  Each pose is broken down so the student can learn if they need props, or how to modify the pose to suit their body.  It is amazing to see how differently you might practice a pose compared to your neighbor.  Yoga isn’t a “one size fits all” practice and by learning the basic shapes, your practice will become unique.

Explore Different Styles of Yoga:

Beginners yoga will expose the new student to many different ways of practicing.  Sun Salutations are faster-paced movement following the breath, standing poses build strength and stability, restorative yoga relaxes the nervous system, and seated poses held for a length of time have a yin quality to them.  Once experienced, the new students can distinguish what practices might be the most beneficial for them to practice.  Someone who sits at a desk all day would often be invigorated and awakened by a faster moving class, while someone always on the go might calm down in a restorative class.  We acquire a yoga toolbox that can help balance our daily lives.

 

Feel the Benefits Right Away:

Even after your first class of moving, stretching, breathing, and relaxing you will notice the benefits and joy that come from yoga practice.  Yoga builds strength and power while at the same time opens and stretches stiff parts of the body.  This combination helps keep the body resilient and improves overall fitness. Some poses increase core strength while others do the opposite and allow the abdomen and organs to relax.  These oppositions encourage balance in the body.   The restorative and relaxing qualities of yoga let the entire nervous system unwind, significantly decreasing stress levels.  All the benefits associated with yoga practice will ensure you stay fit, healthy, and can pursue an active lifestyle.

Find Your Confidence:

After graduating the beginners yoga course you will have the confidence to go and try any class!  You will have a general understanding of basic yoga poses and know how keep within your body’s capabilities. You will have a personal responsibility of practicing in a way which keeps you curious, encourages growth, provides a challenge but maintains your health and wellness.  The confidence that comes with learning yoga might even have you practicing at home with your own inner teacher guiding you!

 

If you are still on the fence about trying yoga check out our other article about Beginners yoga practice HERE.  We encourage everyone to come and learn yoga if there are any questions or concerns please contact us at practice@liveyoga.ca

Our Beginners Yoga courses run regularly at the lovely Live Yoga that serves White Rock and South Surrey with the highest quality yoga classes.

 

 

 

Slowing Down by Marnie

“Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast-you also miss the sense of where you are going and why." -Eddie Cantor

I recently was on the Gulf Islands, where the locals talk about ‘Island Time’. There are even bumper stickers that say ‘I’m On Island time’ to notify city people that there’s no need to keep tailgating, I’m not going any faster! After a coffee at ‘Slow Coast Coffee’ (you’re starting to see a theme here too?) I realized that slowing down is something we actively need to value and encourage in our own selves and in our communities.

If we take the time to notice if we are living in such a way that we are constantly feeling rushed and anxious then maybe it is time to ‘untrain’ our brain. Because if we are constantly feeling stressed, anxious, and over worked, our brain becomes stressed, anxious, and overworked. You might even notice when you take a holiday that your brain is so un-used to relaxing that the whirling thoughts continue even when you desperately wish to have a break.

I believe there is a correlation between yoga becoming more popular in the western world as technology continues to increase with texting, emailing and social media. We intuitively know that our mind needs to have rest.

To ‘untrain’ our brain and rest our mind we can actively train our brain to slow down. Meditation and pranayama (breathing) are two ways that we can begin to slow down and really influence our mood state for the better.

This is a good time to take a nice slow breathe in and a lovely leisurely exhale and as you do feel those shoulders soften down.

Here are two very simple practices that you might like to implement into your life.

 

Appreciation Exercise (a breathing exercise)

Make a list of things you appreciate   – people, places, activities, and pets – choose one or two each morning to hold in your heart during the day. Choose an item again at night to hold in your heart while you rest.

After you have done your appreciation list, choose what you would like to hold in your heart for the day and begin to focus your attention on your heart area. If it feels appropriate close your eyes. Breathe a little deeper and slower than normal (check that your shoulders and face are soft). Allow yourself to enjoy the benefits of taking the time to slow down and establish a soothing breathing rhythm.

Next: Imagine breathing through your heart. Picture yourself slowly breathing in through your heart and exhaling out through your heart area. Keep the focus of your breath coming into the heart and exhaling out of the heart.

Now breathe what you have chosen to appreciate into your heart area and exhale it out and all through your body. Continue in this manner breathing in your appreciation and letting it flow through you.  Take as long as you like with this.

How do you feel? Do you notice a greater sense of ease, wellbeing or relaxation?
Practice this daily for a week and notice your wellbeing.
 

Meditation (uplifting if feeling out of sorts)

Meditate on light at the heart center: Assume a comfortable meditation posture (you can sit or lie down), and bring your attention to the center of the chest in the region of the heart. Visualize a bright golden-white light in the heart center. Inhale and allow the light to fill the region, imagine or feel the area softening and then exhale and expand the light in all directions, illuminating every cell of your body, every corner of your mind, your entire being. Visualize the light expanding infinitely in all directions. As you notice your mind wandering, return your attention gently to the light of the heart. Continue to focus the attention on the light at the heart center for the period of your meditation.

You can do this anytime, if you are new to meditation start with one or two minutes, gradually adding on.  You will always benefit from taking a short time out and recharging yourself.

“Just slow down.
Slow down your speech.
Slow down your breathing.
Slow down your walking.
Slow down your eating.
And let this slower, steadier pace perfume your mind.
Just slow down.”
-Doko

Marnie is teaching Gentle Yoga for Stress Release in September, as well as Healing Anxiety and Healing Depression. Her classes focus on slowing down and letting go.

Yoga of Eating

This weekend Sean will be hosting a workshop on the nature of food on Sunday, April 19th.  Usually he sends this article after the session but to give some foresight into what will be covered here it is now!

 

Culinary Consciousness

The Yoga of Eating

 

Cultivating a diet that sustains and nourishes your body, lifestyle, and yoga practice.

 

During the Yoga of Eating workshop/discussion, we discussed the highly debatable and controversial subjects of our diet and the nature of food.  Topics covered included the change in food in the last 150 years, eating mindfully, physical and mental experience, ahimsa, digestion, food preparation, and spices to enhance digestion.           

As our physiology changes through our yoga practice so to does our awareness of how foods impact our wellbeing and digestion.  We begin to feel the effect of foods we eat.  As any yoga practice should be developed to meet the needs of an individual, so too should our diet be formed to meet our own personal needs.

Hopefully after the workshop, you had a better understanding of how to take time to appreciate and feel the foods you eat – so your relationship with food can become more nourishing, satisfying and health-giving. The Yoga of Eating encourages lightness and clarity leaving the mind free, clear, and happy.

Sean prepared a vegetable curry that included germinated chick peas and rice, lots of nutritious veggies, prepared in , garlic, spices and lots of love. We experienced the smell of food, the taste, texture and experience of eating slowly.

 

The Evolution and Nature of Food:

Over the last 100-150 years there has been a dramatic shift in the nature of food.  The nutritional constitution of food has been reduced to nothing more than calories. Farm-fresh whole foods have been manufactured into replicas and there is a serious increase in previously uncommon diseases such as cancer and heart disease.   This leaves the question what transformation has taken place?

150 years ago there were no freezers or fridges, so food storage was done by methods like fermentation, pickling, curing, canning, or cellar storage.  Food did not last so it had to be consumed when harvested or it would go bad.  This brought a need for local supply, seasonal/regional availability, and community around the food we consumed.  Milk was delivered daily and the source of our food was a given.   There was a more intimate relationship with the food provided to nourish our bodies. 

Bring on changing times: the industrial revolution and the mass production of food (processed foods).  With post-war and depression, women were increasinglyjoining the workforce, so there was less and less time for gardening and preparing meals but a new opportunity for convenient, quick and cheap grocery option like T.V. dinners or McDonalds.  Consumerism begins to drive down not only the costs of foods, but also the quality, and suppliers start to find ways to increase production but cut down costs.   The production of foods leaves a disconnect between the origin of food and how it arrives on our plate. Also as food production ramped up, the quality of food decreased while the quantity increased.

With this revolution of supply, demand for cheaper foods comes the introduction of food preservation.  Pasteurized milk, large sodium contents, and chemical additives are some of the things developed to increase shelf life for giant super markets and big box stores to hoard food supply.  Food science becomes an actual thing.  The splicing of fruits and vegetables to get larger yields, sweeter fruits that lack fiber (think seedless grapes or bananas which originally contained seeds).  The sugar intake from over-consumption of these modified fruits can shine light on the increasing problem of obesity and diabetes. Even the seed itself has been modified GMOs (genetically modified organisms) to grow longer and resist pests but struggles to be anywhere near a natural substance. GMOs have been introduced with little research on the effects they have on our body and environment.  This awful reality has lead to depleted earth and soil, as well as farmers struggling with these new strains of seed.  Worst case is the farm owner suicide epidemic in India in which modified seeds were introduced with a cost inflammation of nearly 500%.   Even the meat industry has shifted from a system where farm animals actually assisted the ecology of the surrounding environment and agriculture to a disgusting, polluting, and unwholesome method of raising meat strictly for consumption.  

As technology increases so to does the impact of machinery on our foods.  Now our foods come stuffed in a cardboard box, wrapped in plastic, possibly frozen with a shelf life of 1 year yet somehow ready to consume after 5 mins in the microwave. Food is flown halfway around the world and sold cheaper than crops growing 20 kms from our home. The evolution of food has slowly drifted away from its natural state. All food is processed in some way (i.e. harvesting/cooking) but the more we allow ourselves to consume these quick and processed foods, the more our lives also become quick and processed. Choosing to source food from a known and trusted source, preparing meals personally, and sharing with good company will bring far better nourishment. Luckily there is a shift in the consciousness with the organic food movement and the increase of growing food ourselves.  The choice falls in our hands to know the origin of the foods that nourish us. This remembrance of where our food comes from shows the abundance the universe provides.

 

Mindful Eating:

Eating should be a sacred and divine practice. When did we start to disconnect from the act of eating?  Not only do we distract ourselves during meals with T.V. and cell phones, but also we become unconcerned with the actual physical effects and nourishment of our body.  In his book Food as Medicine, Todd Caldecott states,. “Food is something much more powerful than mere nourishment – it forms the essence of your very being. It becomes who you are. You are food.” 

Our physiology changes with the practice of asana (stretching) and pranayama (breathing) so we become more in tune with our body.  All the physical systems of the body become more efficient, absorbing nutrients and healing at a much faster pace.  This connection, awareness, and efficiency of body allow us to feel the effects of the food we ingest as well as absorb and assimilate provided nutrients.  Continuing to eat a western diet avoiding the results of our food choices can possibly cause harm to our body, as our newfound efficiency will actually absorb more toxins.  “It is the wholesome use of food that promotes the health of a person, and that which is unwholesome is the cause of disease” (Food as Medicine).  Knowing our food and the experience of our food is the core work of the yoga of eating. 

Eating should be a pleasurable experience. Human nature is to seek out pleasure.  At a primal level all beings and animals generally avoid pain and suffering (especially in digestion). Somehow the human race is one of the unhealthiest species on the planet.  Why is it we allow ourselves food that might not serve us?  Why take on a diet that makes us suffer, sacrificing our enjoyment with the idea that it will bring a healthier future?  The body can help to decipher what foods are good for you without having to study encyclopedias on nutrition and health food. Taking time to really enjoy the taste, smell, digestion, and wellbeing that food brings is necessary to conclude what foods are good and wholesome to us.   We must feel the effect of diet on the body and make choices not based on reason (right or wrong) but listen to that very intrinsic knowledge on a very animal and primal level. 

This practice can help to shine light on the confusion surrounding what diet to follow.  A lot of time can be spent trying different diets, listening to what the experts say, or the latest trends in health foods.  The problem is the experts are constantly changing their minds and most diets are contradictory or leave us working hard (and not enjoying) to achieve some super healthy state.  This leads to a lot of confusion and a struggle to conform to a strict dietary regimen that may work for some, but brings suffering to others.  Its not to say that the diets out there aren’t good but the ancient systems like TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and Ayurveda place a very high importance on the fact that every person has a very unique and different constitution as well as dietary need that is in a constant fluctuation.  So when deciding on food choices an inward authority should override an external suggestion.  Finding happiness and pleasure in life should be the goal.  There are more important things in life that eating perfectly.  

 

Physical and Mental Experience:

            In many Asian cultures a common greeting is“how is your digestion?”  How come in North America the subject of digestion and excretion has become so private, impersonal and avoided?  One of the easiest ways to understand how your diet is affecting your body physically is to attune to and be aware of how your body processes food from intake to excretion.  To really listen how you feel during the whole digestive process from start to finish.   B.K.S. Iyengar states, “Success in Asana begins with the first movement to come into the posture until the final movement to exit the posture.”   If we can bring this teaching into our Asana practice, why not use it for our eating habits?  Freeing ourselves from external distractions while eating can also reveal what foods we truly enjoy and receive therapeutic results from ingesting.  So eating quietly with full awareness allows us to learn more than a lackluster involvement in eating while focusing on TV, cell phones, or computers.  

            The mental involvement of eating is very significant.  Food addictions, stress, repressed emotions, habit, and societal influence all have a huge impact on our food choices.  We eat to be skinny, we eat to fit in, and we eat to enjoy but also we can eat to avoid things or distract ourselves from some deep craving or lack in our life.   Caffeine, alcohol, sugar, chocolate, and ice cream all are very enjoyable (and addictive foods) but usually don’t sustain or nurture us. Instead, they leave us with a sensation of emptiness.  We often only enjoy the taste or ecstasy of eating then continuing on with our busy or stressful day never accepting the suffering that our choice may render on our body.  We desire sugar for the lack of sweetness in our life, or MSG for lack of zest in life, or we overeat with a general unrest and dislike for our job, or life in general.  Often pausing to consider the nature of our desire will shine light on if it is a true authentic craving of the body or just the mind trying to escape some emotion or sensation that is unpleasant.  Like a devoted meditation practice investigating our thoughts, we can study our food choices to understand what brings true happiness. 

 

Ahimsa (Non – Harming):

            As stated in sutra 2:35 of Patangali’s yoga sutras “ahimsa pratishthayam tat vaira-tyagah.”  As a Yogi becomes firmly grounded in non-injury (ahimsa), other people who come near will naturally lose any feelings of hostility.  Non-harming (or as I prefer simply loving) should be practiced towards our selves, others, and the environment around us.  Being aware of our own choices and the reciprocating results is very important.   Continuing to buy vegetables or grains grown by earth-pillaging industrial agriculture actually supports that reality and harms the earth.  

Often a vegetarian diet is advised for a practitioner of yoga but what if this actually harmed our wellbeing.  Would it not be against the practice of Ahimsa?  Ana Forest elaborates quite nicely in the following piece. 

            Ana Forrest, the founder of Forrest Yoga, also began her exploration of the yogic diet by focusing on ahimsa. "I was very attracted to vegetarianism and the philosophy of nonviolence for years, but the diet made me sick," she says. "I'm allergic to grains. I gain weight, my brain shuts down, and my bowels stop working. And my yoga practice does not improve."  So with her body screaming for a different regimen, Forrest chose an omnivorous diet, one that consists mostly of meat, especially game, and vegetables. But, she says, this doesn't mean she can't practice ahimsa. "Since I do eat animals," she says, "I honor the elk, buffalo, or moose by not wasting its life force or mine. I use that force to heal myself and others, and to teach, inspire, and help people evolve. My ethics about what to eat came down to my personal truth. Eating in a way that impairs your health and thinking is immoral. And the truth is that an omnivorous diet physiologically works for me." [1]  

 

            Clearly listening to our own internal voice is the final word on our choices.   We also must be careful with identifying our selves with our diet with a “holier than thou” mentality that we are better than others (and their food choices).  Every individual has different needs and freedom of choice.  Charles Eisenstein states in Yoga of Eating, “Judge-mentality of self and others is a primal form of violence”. 

 

            The easiest way of living your diet in harmony with the teachings of Ahimsa is to love yourself, others, and the environment and truly give gratitude to all the abundance the universe provides.

 

 

Food Preparation: 

            With all of the abundance the universe provides we are also provided an endless array of options when choosing how to prepare our food.  As the list is large, covering everything would be out of the scope of this seminar.  But I will briefly touch on a few very important points.

            Since the beginning of time, humans have cooked their foods.   “Fire was the precursor to the exponential rise of technology from the Neolithic onward; its use is the hallmark of civilization.  It is possible that we are adapted to eating cooked food; it may be written into our very biology.” (Yoga of Eating, pg 124)  Cooking foods not only makes for easier digestion and unlocks available nutrients, but also nourishes a state of being that is domestic and civilized.   In both Ayurveda and TCM there is an agreement about the digestive fire within (Agni) that can be dampened by too much wet or raw foods.  So warming, cooked foods help to maintain this internal fire that assimilates and breaks down the food we eat. 

 

Germination:

              Soaking (or germination) is the process by which a seed is transformed from dormancy into its active growing form.  Soaking nuts, seeds, and grains triggers and releases enzymes that break down the anti-nutritional factors of the grain/seed as well as some starches stored with the seed making for easier digestion and assimilation of nutrients.   “This explosion in growth during the first few days of germination not only liberates vital nutrients for the seedling but also dramatically enhances bioavailability of these nutrients.” (Food as Medicine, pg 116)

Germination as stated in Food as Medicine by Todd Caldecott:

Germination is very simple and takes nothing more than the seeds, water, a big jar, some cheesecloth and an elastic band.   Make a point to use whole grains and legumes to ensure the integrity of the protein rich layer just underneath the seed coat, which contains the fragile enzymes required for germination.  Place the seeds in the jar and cover with water for 8-12 hours.  Use a cheesecloth and elastic band to cover the opening and drain the seeds.  Rinse well in cool water and drain again to prevent fermentation.  Put the seeds aside for another few hours and rinse and drain the seeds a few times a day making sure they don’t dry out, but aren’t sitting in water. 

For most grains and legume dishes geminate the seed/grain/legume just until the radical appears, or about 48 hours, in order to preserve the calorie content and starches.  For vegetable sprouts keep them growing for another couple days until tiny leaves appear.  Wow the food is actually alive and growing!

 

Fermentation: 

Fermentation is a great technique for food preservation/storage to help keep some of the yummy garden fresh items readily available for consumption at a later date.   Unlike the heat of cooking used to break down coarse fibers that trap nutrients, fermentation make use of micro-organisms to break down cellulose and anti-nutrient factors to enhance assimilation (digestion).  One key feature of fermentation is the presence of lactic acid bacteria (LAB).  These different strains of bacteria are found in the environment around us, in our kitchen and our bodies.  The added benefit of eating live-culture foods is they help replenish the gut ecology, which plays a key role in regulating immune function and metabolism (Food as Medicine, pg 126).  Here is a small list of live-culture food examples: sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, cheese, sourdough bread, beer, rice wine, tamari, miso, pickled beans, fish sauce, pepperoni.

 

 

 

Spices:

            Not only do spices make food delicious, they have many different qualities that can be used to balance our bodies that constantly have different needs.   Spices help the body assimilate food by increasing Agni (the digestive fire) while helping to rid the body of waste or ama (toxins) leaving the body and mind free and clear.  Here is a list of some of the most healing herbs you can use in your cooking to bring better digestion and nourishment to your body.

Fennel: That lovely slightly ‘licorice tasting’ seed eaten as a digestive at the end of a meal in India, is a sweet and cooling spice that works to balance all the doshas. Part of the three spice blend along with cumin and coriander, which aids in digestion, assimilation, and clears stagnation, works well on it’s own to promote menstruation, increase the flow of milk in nursing moms, alleviate abdominal cramping and for cooling and calming the nerves. This makes fennel especially therapeutic spice for fiery Pitta.

Cardamom: A fragrant spice, used in most chai recipes, cardamom is one of the mildest but most effective digestive stimulants. Removes excess Kapha from the stomach and lungs, and combined with fennel, it acts a soothing digestive for nervous stomach disorders in children. Cardamom stimulates the heart and mind and offers clarity and joy.

Cinnamon: Pungent and sweet, this aromatic bark of tree is an effective spice for strengthening and enhancing the flow of circulation. Particularly good for Kapha and Vata, as it is heating and acts to strengthen the heart and promote agni or digestive fire. It is a widely-used home remedy for colds and flu, and aids in the absorption of other medicines.

Coriander: Whether it’s the green leafy fresh cilantro or the grounding earthy coriander seed, this is a food to always have on hand. The cilantro leaf acts as a cooling balm to Pitta or a bitter refreshment to Kapha and the seeds are humbly gracious to all doshas. Famous in Ayurveda as one of the three spices (along with fennel and cumin) used to balance and reset the body and mind, coriander is used for digestive disorders and to help in the assimilation of other herbs. Works on the digestive, respiratory and urinary systems, valuable for Pitta skin ailments and digestive issues where other pungent digestive spices are usually contraindicated.

Ginger: A must have in every kitchen apothecary, the fresh rhizome brings flavor, pungency and sweetness to food and is used widely as a digestive. Also an excellent remedy for respiratory conditions of Kapha and Vata, ginger is an invigorating spice and is known as ‘the universal medicine’ for its versatility and healing properties. Also used for arthritic conditions to clear stagnation in the joints and stimulating blood flow. Can also be used as a poultice for areas of pain. Excellent as a tea for colds and coughs. Increases agni (digestive fire).

Lemongrass: Subtle and refreshing, cooling, pungent and bitter, this fragrant herb is also known as Malabar grass. Relieves digestive ailments and acts as a coolant to the body. Causes perspiration and increased elimination through the skin, ridding the body of impurities and clearing stagnation.

Cumin: Cumin is an aromatic, astringent herb that benefits the digestive system, help flush toxins out of the body and acts as a stimulant to the sexual organs. Cumin is rarely used in Western herbal medicine, having been superseded by caraway which has similar properties. It is still widely used in India, however, where it is said to promote the assimilation of other herbs and improve liver function.
A general tonic to the whole digestive system, it is used in the treatment of flatulence and bloating, reducing intestinal gas and relaxing the gut as a whole. It is also used in the treatment of insomnia, colds and fevers and to improve milk production in nursing mothers. Furthermore it has powerful antioxidant and anti-cancerous properties.  It is a heating spice that is light, oily, and smooth. It promotes digestion while relieving diarrhea. It stimulates pitta as it decreases vata and kapha.

Fenugreek (seed) is bitter and astringent. It is a dry, heating spice that helps to relieve fever and arthritis. Fenugreek seeds burn fat and help absorption. They lower blood glucose and are therefore helpful for diabetes 2. They are useful for dissolving fat within the liver.  Fresh fenugreek leaves can be found at the farmer’s markets in late winter/early spring. They are nature’s super-food due to their beneficial effect on fat metabolism, bone health, blood sugar and also their cancer-fighting properties. Fenugreek is popularly used as tonic and as anti-coagulant when consumed in various preparations. It helps relieving digestive disorders, stimulates bowel movements due to its mucilaginous content, is used for hair problems like baldness or premature graying. It increases vata as well as pitta if too much is taken. It also decreases kapha.

Mustard seed: is a pungent, heating spice. It is oily, light, and sharp. It relieves muscular pain. Generally brown, mustard seeds are used quite a bit in Indian cooking. Brown mustard seeds are warming, and impart the pungent taste according to Ayurveda. They are balancing for Kapha and Vata, but increase Pitta dosha. In Ayurveda, brown mustard seeds are considered a digestive and good for alleviating stomach discomfort such as gas or cramps.

Turmeric: is bitter, pungent, and astringent. It is a heating spice thought to help in diabetes. It promotes good digestion. Curcumin the active component of turmeric is anti-inflammatory and is medically promising because inflammation and oxidative damage are contributors to many diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, arthritis and various cancers. The prevalence of Alzheimer’s and certain cancers in India is among the world’s lowest. Turmeric blocks the growth skin cancer, and inhibits the spread of breast cancer into the lungs.  Turmeric is a wonder spice and finds much use in medicine. It enhances the tissue sensitivity to hormones besides receptivity to many drugs. In India ground turmeric is mixed in hot milk to strengthen bones and heal injuries. Turmeric increases vata and pitta if too much is consumed, and relieves kapha.

Black Pepper: Pepper helps carry nutrition across the blood brain barrier. Since the brain is over 50% fat, it is nourished by high quality oils. Sautéeing fresh ground pepper in extra virgin olive oil or ghee is recommended for brain nourishment.
Pepper is very stimulating to the digestion, however, pepper is quite heating and potentially Pitta aggravating in nature and must be used sparingly. Black pepper helps correct digestive disorders and its vital component called piperine strengthens immunity and the functioning of the heart and kidneys.

Saffron: Known as an aphrodisiac spice saffron strengthens the whole body, has a particularly powerful effect on the reproductive organs and has been used to enhance fertility. It is a good spice for menopause and menstrual problems, since it is a revitalizer of blood, circulation, and the female reproductive system, as well as the metabolism in general. Saffron is one of the best anti-Pitta spices since it regulates spleen and liver.  It helps with asthmatic and bronchial disorders, reduces inflammation, treats acne and skin conditions, and strengthens the heart.

Cloves: In Ayurveda, cloves are considered to enhance circulation, digestion and metabolism and help counter stomach disorders such as gas, bloating and nausea. The essential oil of clove is used as an ingredient in oral hygiene products to promote tooth health and freshen the breath. The clove contributes the pungent and astringent tastes. Cloves help pacify Vata and Kapha and increase Pitta.

Hing powder (Asafoetida): In Ayurveda, hing is used to aid digestion, cure colic, and stagnation in the GI tract. Hing burns ama. It is a primary herb for Vata.  Hing reduces the growth of flora in the gut, especially candida, directly reducing gas. It destroys worms and has anti-viral properties.

Ajwain: According to ayurveda, ajwain is a powerful cleanser. It is helpful for stimulating the appetite and enhancing digestion. It is recommended to help alleviate gas and discomfort in the stomach. It is also helpful for the functioning of the respiratory system and the kidneys.

 

Conclusion

            Developing a healthier and more conscious diet requires some simple steps and really is not that difficult.  Pleasure is the main goal and ridding ourselves of discomfort is an outcome.  As I said before there are more important things than eating perfectly and having supernatural health.  Living a happily engaged life with community, family, and friends striving to help make a better planet is a far greater calling then being concerned with the effects of your diet.  So live your life fully and let your diet be a reflection of the joy, happiness, and contentment you experience day-to-day.

 

By: Sean O'Leary

Rehabbing Your Body From A Broken Foot and Kneecap; Or, Ramblings of a Rehabbing Yogi by Cindy

Dear Readers,

This is a rather long title, yes? Step on my train (of thought) for a moment, I want to take you for a ride!

Several weeks ago while visiting the loo in the middle of the night, in the dark, I slammed my foot into the door jam, effectively breaking my foot. Then, a couple of weeks after that, while riding a knee scooter, a contraption that helps support a broken foot in an aircast, going too fast, I tipped over, and broke my kneecap! Two huge blows in the space of a couple of weeks!

SO, for several weeks I have been in an immobilizing leg brace. Me. Aircast. Leg Brace. Several days ago, I was given the green light to start bending my knee manually, with no weight. It really is a sweet relief and hot mess at the same time. Pain and pleasure. 

Sometimes it really is just about the body. Ohhhhh that pose feels so awesome on my hips and groins!!!! Then I look, holy cow, I'm not even that far into the pose!! And it feels heavenly with a touch of wonder...As in I wonder if its too far, too much, too soon, too intense? I would prefer that the wonder be about the whisperings of the Universe, but I know if I stay long enough, I will get there. 

All I can say is thank you God for Yin Yoga. It's a beautiful balance. Just like life. That beautiful balance of effort, and then surrender. I keep coming back to the realization that my challenge is the surrender!! Ahhh....there it is...there's the Universe.

Namaste,

Cindy

Cindy is taking some time off her lovely Friday evening Candlelight class while she heals. If all goes to according to plan, she will be back in September. In the meantime, enjoy some relaxing and soothing classes with Laura, Marnie and Jools in her stead this summer!  Happy healing Cindy... We know you will be smiling no matter what happens!

6 Tips to truly enjoy the holiday season

The holiday season is such a wonderful time of year to enjoy family gatherings, visits with friends, giving and receiving gifts, and a generally cheerful state of mind. Much joy is spread around with so much generosity. But beware, all of this gayness can be veiled by the frantic and hectic pace of commuting between gatherings, the consumer culture of large malls and stores, and an overall exhaustion of our own energy. Our days may include sugar and caffeine fueled shopping sprees or a couple more alcoholic beverages than normal. Striking a balance is key to remaining healthy and content. This blog won't preach about not indulging this holiday, but just having a mindful attitude while enjoying the treats as well as the busyness and possible hangovers (sugar hangovers also). Don’t fret, there are ways to ensure you keep calm without falling into the habits of the scrooge. Try these tips this holiday season:

 

  1. Take your time – Rushing around is very stimulating for the nervous system. Rather than treating the holidays as a never ending marathon, give yourself time to arrive at your destination or slow down when feeling frantic. A few moments to enjoy Christmas lights, watch the smiles on others faces, or taking a few moments to enjoy breathing can slow down the pace of your day.

  2. Be Present – This may sound cliché in the yoga world but extrapolating from tip #1, slowing down to smell the roses, pausing to enjoy another's company, and being there to receive others will keep you present to enjoy the holidays. It works in tandem with tip #1! You have to slow down to be present. This is living mindfully. When truly in the moment friends, family, eggnog, chocolate, or a glass of wine are the most wonderful treats!!

  3. Smile – The physical act of engaging all your facial muscles in a way which raises the outer edges of you lips and even shows you teeth is merry, joyful and contagious! Often it even encourages the spine to lift improving your posture as your happiness radiates throughout (think of the Grinch when his heart expands). Smiling will make you feel good and also other people will notice how happy you are! This is an easy way to spread the holiday cheer!

  4. Get Outside – Exercise is the best way to blow of some steam. The days are short, and it is truly tempting to live beside the fireplace in our pyjamas with hot chocolate but the body needs to move to burn off excess energy (or create it). A quick walk outside in the sunshine may be all you need to relax- or get some energy by motivating the physical body.

  5. Don’t be a stranger – People are very receptive during the holiday! You can make someones day better simply by saying hello and asking how they are. You might even make a new friend! As our culture and communities continue to segregate ourselves from each other it warms the heart to connect frequently. This is something we all crave! To have companions and share love with others.

  6. Be the GIFT!- Give yourself! Its not all about presents in the holidays (although we mistakenly might think it is). You yourself are an amazing gift. Showing up to visit, converse, help out, or share meals while mindful and present is the greatest gift anyone could ask for.

 

5 Reasons to do the May Challenge!

It’s the exciting time of year again at Live Yoga where we offer our annual May Challenge!  This is always a fun month for the studio as there is opportunity to support and encourage each other’s yoga practice in a totally different way.  This is no fitness regimen or boot camp style challenge!  We would like to encourage people to explore some other yoga practices like pranayama (breathing), meditation and study some philosophy.   All that is needed is a smile and commitment to complete 28 practices (of all sorts) in the month of May.

Here are the top 5 reasons YOU should do the Challenge!

1. Setting a goal boosts confidence: 

The sense of accomplishment we feel when we achieve a goal helps to build courage and confidence to complete other goals.  Setting our mind to something with vigor and determination helps to manifest our goals into reality.  We then become masterful at making our thoughts and goals a reality all around. 

2. Fire up your body:

Spring time is a great time of year to get the systems of the body moving again.  Yoga and exercise in general can help to remove some of the stagnation and lethargy left behind from the winter months.  Even on a digestive level, exercise promotes the assimilation of food and helps bring a strong hunger and digestive fire back.  All this movement ensures all systems of the body will be in proper working order and ready for the summer. 

3. Surprise Yourself:

Often there is a latent potential the lies hidden within us.  Whether held back by fear, worry, or doubt we can perceive ourselves unfit for some activities.  By committing to a yoga challenge, the body learns quickly and builds strength in the postures through repetition.  This can allow the physical limits of our practice to be tested and expanded.  The results usually surprise us as we might find ourselves doing more than we imagined.  So maybe try a flow class, or hold your warrior pose longer, who knows maybe you’ll be doing headstands by the end of the month! 

4. Find a routine:

Get your groove back and practice daily.  When the body finds a routine and sticks to it, vitality flourishes.  Participating in a challenge can be strenuous so the body requires the proper amount of rest everyday.  Getting up each day at the same time, and going to sleep at the same time allows the body to rest fully.  Practicing this much yoga often brings awareness back to the natural rhythms of the body and our environment.  We feel the natural urges of the body with heightened awareness and as a side effect we eat when hungry (not mindless snacking) and sleep when tired.  With routine we re-sync ourselves with nature and our natural urges this connection encourages wellness, balance and nourishment.

5. Connect with others:

A yoga challenge puts you in the same room with a whole bunch of awesome, like-minded individuals!  As everyone is be facing the same challenges there is an instant bond and relation – you will make friends!  You can share experiences and offer advice on how to accomplish your yoga challenge.  Easily the best part of the yoga challenge is doing it with others.  Much joy comes from connecting with people during the challenge becoming part of something greater than just fellow yoga students. It's an enriching experience!

 

Whatever your reasons for doing the May Challenge! Have a great month yogis!! More info here on joining the challenge. Register now and see what all the fuss is about!

 

Brahmacharya - Wise Use of Energy

Dharma Night discusses the Yama Brahmacharya this Friday, April 18 at 7:30pm. All welcome!

The practice of Brahmacharya essentially can be translated as the wise use of energy, especially sexual energy.  “Brahma” in Sanskrit can mean divine knowledge, universal consciousness or reality, and the root of the word “Brh” means to expand.  “Acharya” is translated as to move, practice, conduct oneself, or routine.  So Brahmacharya could be deciphered as conducting oneself in alignment with Brahma the divine knowledge and universal reality.  This conduct requires the observation of how we deal with energies in the body, including sexual energy. 

Often Brahmacharya is interpreted as celibacy, chastity and the general restraint of sexual energy.  The theory of this restraint is all energy from procreation or sex be channeled towards spiritual energy (ojus) and spiritual advancement.  I am glad to know that even in ancient time the sage Patanjali contemplated how powerful sexual energy is and included it in the 5 yamas of moral observations.  The idea that in order to practice yoga one must be celibate in order to reach deeper states of yoga is redundant.  Many great yogis were householders including the sage Vasista who had 100 children (in myth).  Both T. Krishnamacharya and B.K.S. Iyengar raised families while simultaneously contributing to the teaching and advancement of modern day yoga.  In fact Indian mythology is rich with stories of sexual union including the eternal dance of Shiva and Shakti procreating the universe.  Working with sexual energy skillfully is crucial to ensure our efforts still flow freely towards our passions, goals, and gifts to society.  Our yoga practice and our life cannot be separate but must be intimate.  It is the wise use and observation of powerful sexual energies that assures we stay in alignment with Brahma.  Sex and procreation are natural part of the world in which we live.  Understanding our relationship to these energies allows decision making to encourage balance between body, mind, soul and the environment.

B.K.S. Iyengar is his interpretation of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras gives insight into the practice of Brahmacharya:

“Continence or control in no way belies or contradicts the enjoyment of pleasure.  Assuredly it enhances it.  It is when sensory pleasure is the sole motivating factor the brahmacharya is infringed.”

Yoga is rooted in the goal of settling the fluctuations and elaborations of the mind and the practice involves observing through self-study the energies and tendencies that distract us from this universal reality (brahma).  If we fulfill every desire of the mind and senses we develop ignorance towards living in non-attachment.  We could become caught up in satisfying our desires in pursuit of pleasure whether sexual or not. When chasing our desire for the sake of hedonism, we often do not experience the full pleasure and joy of intimacy as we are already craving yet another next desire. Being aware and conscious of the present moment allows union with every aspect of our lives and unveils much joy.  Intimate relations that bring a wholesome loving connection to another are far different than living a promiscuous life moving from partner to partner seeking only to satisfy your desires through the sensation of sex.  There is an existing confusion of how to deal with sexual energy skillfully.

Modern media seems to encourage our pursuit of desire in advertisements portraying half naked models and living promiscuously.  Even celebrities add to the sexual misconduct as it not uncommon to see a 17-year-old “twerking” her butt to a 100 million viewers.  This creates a misconception around what wholesome conduct of sexual energy is.  Promoting the gratification or our senses and desire only leads us astray on the path of yoga.

At the same time as being flagrantly touted, sexual energies have also been repressed in contemporary society.  In religion, schools, and life in general there is a negativity surrounding the subject of sex.   Dealing appropriately with sexual energies is rarely addressed.  It seems strange as the natural act of procreation actually manifested everyone here.  Sex is a natural part of our existence.  It is normal to feel all sorts of energies or emotions and yoga gives us a tool to skillfully observe how we react and handle these sensations.  It is essential to channel and control sexual energy (and other energies) not despise or suppress them.  Rather energies and emotions in general should be respected and esteemed. 

From culture to culture the view of proper sexual conduct changes.  So too should our yoga practice adapt to our environment.  When sexual orientation is considered there is much confusion about the proper conduct.  Everyone has an opinion about the topic but no answer to the right way to live.  Homosexuality and same sex marriage are part of our society and with the observance of brahmacharya we can contemplate a balanced way of living our life that does not lead us away from joy and contentment or leave a sense of wrong-doing. 

The mind is constantly experiencing impermanent sensations, emotions, and energies that require our attention and observation.  When acting unskillfully from habit or desire we deplete our energy. Aligning with an intrinsic universal knowledge there is opportunity to channel our energies towards our life goals, enjoyment, intimacy, and leave the mind pursuing higher thoughts.  Brahmacharya and the yamas require an engagement in all energies, nature and the world to see things clearly, as they are.   

Asteya – Non Stealing

The yama Asteya considers non-stealing or taking what is not freely given.  This includes taking what belongs to another without permission, using something for a different purpose than it was intended for, or using something beyond the time permitted by its owner.  I think it is safe to say that most people are not thieves and do not consciously steal as there are laws and penalties in place to prevent these actions.  Socially it is unacceptable to steal.  But consider the idea of taking too much.  Is this a form of theft? Society promotes our separation from one another. The survival of the fittest and “dog eat dog” mentality creates constant competition to succeed in life by making money and consuming goods.  Caught up in the rat race, the greed of taking more than we need is justified by the fact that we need to ensure our livelihood.  We can make thieves of ourselves trying to fill all the lack created by the obligation to prosper and succeed.  Generosity is challenged by the idea of getting ahead.  When we see ourselves as separate we identify success with money, ownership, and attachment to things.  Greed is perpetuated as we succumb to the story of the successful self.   In his book Ascent of Humanity, Charles Eisenstein addresses this:

“Indulging it greed only exacerbates the underlying need, because enclosing more of the world into the domain of mine separates us all the more from the connected interbeingness for which we hunger.”

Taking more than we need may provide some feeling of security but perpetuates the need to keep taking.  Generosity, charity, and love are ideals that can shift this pattern.  Witnessing how interconnected we are with our communities and nature can provoke us to give back and help others.  Opening the doors of generosity, benevolence and the practice of non-greed promotes a deeper connection with others.  As humans this is something we all crave.  The opposite action of stealing is giving.  As individuals we are all blessed with amazing qualities, talents and passions.  These are our gifts to share.   Be the Gift.

 

Satya – The Yama of Truthfulness

Sean O'Leary

Satya is the practice being truthful and honest in our thought, speech and action.  On the surface this yama may seem straightforward but in reality it requires a constant observance and understanding of the changing nature of our relationships and the world.

The definition of truth is “the true or actual state of a matter” or “conformity with fact or reality”.  Interestingly if matter and reality are in constant state of fluctuation and change truth will be relative to each circumstance and situation.  So to grasp at the idea of truth or honesty our yoga must be a spiritual practice that is rooted in a constant exploration of the present. 

I love the idea of a practice that doesn’t state right or wrong or a single path but gives an idea that is relative to the individual, community, culture and causation of our surroundings.  Every person has an opinion and values developed throughout life.  Satya challenges us to investigate our motives. In his book Yoga for a World out of Balance Michael Stone points out the connection between person and society

“From the time of our birth, we each respond not only in a personal sense to the precariousness of our human condition, but we are also the inheritors of delusive social institutions and shared meanings about the world.  The same basic patterns we find in our minds and bodies are also found in the structure and function of our institutions.”

I like how Michael Stone challenges the reader to consider how contemporary society can warp our worldviews and potentially corrupt us into living untruthful lives.   The social and economic pressures of modern life make us think that success, financial gain and consumerism is equivalent to life satisfaction but this is ultimately a lie.  At our deepest core we yearn for love, community and compassion.   Yoga practice, meditation, pranayama, and asana all bring us closer to our true needs rather than our conditioned desires.  The yama satya prompts us to investigate our desires and how we can live aligned with our highest truth.

What does living honestly mean to you?

The Practice of Ahimsa (Non-Viloence)

The Practice of Ahimsa (Non-Viloence)

 

Sean O’Leary

 

The first limb of the eight-fold path of Astanga Yoga is Yama or ethical discipline.  The Yamas provides us with a framework that considers how choices and actions impact our lives.  The first Yama is Ahimsa or non-violence/non harming.  Ahimsa is a universal concept that requires us to live peacefully and intend no harm through word, thought, or deed.   Often Yoga and related spiritual practices are methods that focus on enlightenment where the separation of the practitioner from their surrounding world could be seen as an achievement.  Opposing the notion of total separation, what if enlightenment is to wake up to the interconnectedness of life and live skillfully in the world.  The mind can distract us from the realities of our actions but only through practice can we place a greater importance on discerning the effects of our decisions.  Only then can we live a fully engaged life.

 

As we practice yoga we learn to settle the elaborations of the mind and eliminate distraction. With these distractions aside we are then able to accurately identify connections and interrelations in our lives. We are not separate individuals.  Decisions and actions we make affects every person, community, and environment around us.  Becoming aware of our actions and their impact is important when considering the practice of Ahimsa. When the mind is quiet we can make decisions free from the attachments, ideals, and prejudices of our thinking mind.  With the awareness we achieve through yoga practice, it becomes our responsibility to realize our actions have implications upon the planet and its inhabitants.

 

The scope of Ahimsa is broad and can be applied towards all aspects of our lives.  The impact of our food choices are often over looked but question the notion that most grocery stores stock foods shipped from all corners of the planet.  Whether they be bananas from Costa Rica, olives from Israel, or soya beans from China, the shipping of food takes an environmental toll.  In addition, the techniques or pesticides used to grow food, and the treatment of employees harvesting foods can manifest repercussions from choices as simple as diet.  As a separate being we enjoy the convenience, abundance, and variety of food but choose to ignore the multilayered reality.  The Yogin is conscious of the connectedness of our world and considers the karma (causality) of his or her choices.  It is easy to be distracted by modern media and want to separate ourselves from the sensational world (war, political unrest, starvation) but these realities are happening to us by extension.  We are the world.  We are not separate from the violence and injustice taking place on this planet.  Learning to react skillfully to these events without adding more hate, anger, or violence to an already awful situation is needed to dissipate the situation.  Fighting violence with violence is not a practice of Ahimsa.  Fighting fire with fire is also an important consideration while debating, or engaging in any conflict.  Identifying to our ideals and preaching our beliefs could be taken to be a form of violence in itself.  Expression of our ideas and opinions is important, but it must be done in a tactful and reflective way as to not offend or hurt.  We must contemplate the impact of our lives during a time when the earth is unprecedentedly sick.  If we become conscious of decisions and actions that deplete the worlds natural commons and resources, we can make practical choices that will heal our planet. Driving cars, using electricity, and carelessly consuming have negative effects.  A consciously moderate lifestyle will assist in making the world more capable to support the abundance of our planet.

 

One can be overwhelmed by the practice of Ahimsa especially when engaging controversial and contentious topics such as vegetarianism, veganism, fossil fuel consumption, abortion, gay rights, religion, and spirituality.  There is no book written that explains how live perfectly. We are obliged to make choices relative to the circumstances in our life. In his book Yoga for a World Out of Balance, author Michael Stone reiterates this point, “Nor can any theory claim to be a universal canopy of the different norms and values across cultures, because doing good is always relative”.  As practitioners or yoga it is our duty to constantly consider the practice of Ahimsa and reflect on our relationship with the world and always strive to live a fully engaged life.

 

I encourage everyone to share their ideas, comments, and experiences on this topic.

 

I’ll end with a quote from Light on Yoga by BKS Iyengar:

 

“Violence is bound to decline when men learn to base their faith upon reality and investigation rather that upon ignorance and supposition”

What is Yoga? Exploring your Truth

by Sean O'Leary

 

What is Yoga anyways?  This question can be answered many different ways.  Before I write a 1 million page article or tangent about my perspective about yoga I would like to clear up a few things:

  1. I am writing this to celebrate the abundance of Yoga we have access to
  2. This article is not stating the best/only yoga, or spiritual path. 
  3. Yoga, while challenging, should be enjoyable

The word Yoga can be translated to mean union or intimacy.  Through different kinds of practices the goal of Yoga is to explore the connection and relationship between body (physical), mind (consciousness) and soul (universal consciousness).  When we deepen the relationship and experience between these 3 aspects of our selves there is a sense of contentment.

Balance must occur simultaneously between effort and ease in all practices.

Through the intelligent awareness of body we can align ourselves into deep states of relaxation and experience profoundly calm states of consciousness without the constant chatter and fluctuation of the mind.

The nourishment and pleasure resulting from calming the mind guides us to adjust our lifestyles to experience it more often. 

Everyone has heard of Yoga and its popularity has exponentially exploded into an overwhelming market.  Now sold as a service Yoga is branded into different stlyes like: ashtanga yoga, power yoga, bikram yoga, iyengar yoga, sivinanda yoga, kripalu yoga, Bob yoga, Jenny yoga, and thousands and thousands more styles and brands created all the time.  For the most part all of these styles focus mainly on the physical asana practice, or stretches and poses we do on the yoga mat.  A small problem is some of these practices are too strenuously fitness-based or difficult in the beginning for the average person new to yoga to succeed in achieving the asanas (poses) correctly. The fruits (therapeutic benefits) of the practice are lost unless we can perform the practice with a balance of integrity, steadiness, and ease.  Lost in translation is sometimes the point of yoga itself: finding a clarity in the mind. 

Asana (posture) is only a small part of Yoga practice.  There are many different practices.  The 8 limbs of Hatha Yoga include Yama (ethical standards), Niyama (self discipline/spiritual observances), Asana (posture), Pranayama (breathing practices), Pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), Dharana (concentration), Dyana (one pointed focus/concentration), Samadhi (enlightenment/bliss).  Outside of the hatha path there are  other Yoga practices including Karma Yoga (yoga of selfless action/service), Bhakti Yoga (unconditional love or devotion), Raja Yoga (follows the 8 limbs of hatha yoga), Jnana Yoga (Yoga of knowledge or wisdom).  Clearly there are more options for our yoga practices than just Asana (poses). 

A point that must be made clear is every person is uniquely different and will need to find a practice that provides a progressive path towards physical and spiritual contentment.  In other words, find a practice that is enjoyable and works.

Traditionally yoga was transmitted in a one-on-one basis.  It was taught to the level, and ability of the practitioner.  Although guidance is necessary to learn different practices of yoga we need to tune in what practices are working for outselves.

There is less attention paid to the more subtle experiences of yoga practice like states of consciousness and movement of energy. 

The practice of asana is generally a starting point to prepare a student to sit comfortably to experience the state of his/her consciousness.   

Join us on Friday, Feb 7 for our Dharma Night discussion about “What is yoga?” See you there!  

Rebirth of Community


by Sean O'Leary

 

This Friday night, Live Yoga is starting “Dharma Nights,” which Amy and I are very excited to offer. This is an opportunity for members of the studio and other friends to talk, discuss, come together and create community. Community: something that I believe we are fundamentally missing in our lives.  Click here for more info.

This Friday, we discuss community as a topic. What is it? Why is it missing? Where did it go? How do we get it back? How can are our lives be more meaningful and connected?

What is community?  It is a really good question because in my opinion community has almost disappeared in our society.   It is almost foreign to consider being close to all the neighbors on your street, and also difficult remaining close to friends and family with our busy lives.  I tried to google the word community and the first 10 hits were about some American television show.  Even the internet has forgotten community.  How strange that we have boxed ourselves into such a sedentary lifestyle not requiring anyone’s help for anything, as if to say, “I’m an individual and I can provide for myself, make my own way, without your help.”  This way of thinking is ingrained in having a successful career and life.  I felt for years an urge to connect more with others, to help others or simply to be part of a group of people with similar interests and this yearning has remained.  It seems impossible to find community in most urban or suburban areas. In the past, being part of a community meant you had fellow beings to help support you through your life.  Members would gather weekly to visit and sing, and there would be abundant help during harvest time or when somebody was building their house, for instance. All would freely offer their time to assist.  I guess in the past people were just friendlier and more generous with donating their time.  Or maybe time was more abundant.

In the current society we live in, most people I know are too busy to take time for themselves.  40 hours a week in order to make ends meet.  After work a runabout of chores and activities fill the rest of our time.  Time has become a rarity and busy-ness a reality.  Time is Money.  Hmmmm That last sentence Time is Money.  Time is Money. Time is Money!  Money! Money!  Money!   This is the problem itself.  Our lack of community and ever increasing loneliness, as well as our despair about achieving success is driven by the very evil word, MONEY.  Most things we used to rely on our community for have now been turned into services that we pay for.  In fact any good business idea is just that, turning something people do for themselves into a service for a fee.  It paints a grim picture about the direction of our society.

In his book, Ascent of Humanity, Charles Eisenstein sums it up:

“…and so we find in our culture a loneliness and hunger for authenticity that may well be unsurpassed in history.  We try to ‘build community’, not realizing that the mere intention is not enough when separation is built in to the very social and physical infrastructure of our society.  To the extent that this infrastructure is intact in our lives, we will never experience community.  Community is incompatible with the modern lifestyle of highly specialized work and complete dependence on the specialists outside that work.  It is a mistake to think that we can live ultra-specialized lives and somehow add another ingredient called community on top it all.  Again, what is there to share?  Not much that matters, to the extent that we are independent of neighbors and dependant on faceless institutions and distant strangers.”

Ok so I realize this has been kind of a downer so far.  But it will brighten up from here, I promise!  The idea of the separate self should be abandoned so we can align with a more fulfilling way of life.  We have to need each other!  We must rely on the goodness within each of us.  We all desire to give and enact our gifts, and thus strengthen the bonds of community and create a more wholesome, organic and connected way of living.

There is another way, and it requires us to trust our true human nature.  We all have a goodness, a desire to be creative and make beautiful things.  A desire to meet, share, help and love others.  It is written in our genes!!  I do know something is perverted about our society, economy and so forth but as human we are all amazing.  Deep down our hearts all know we can live differently, and it will take some big changes to make the world, starting with our communities, a more beautiful place.

I think small changes are the most important for us to reconnect with the people around us.  Smiling and chatting with neighbours, cashiers and strangers you meet makes it more natural to be open with others.  Meeting in groups to enjoy like-minded ideas where everyone has an opportunity to share their gifts will harbour more connection between ourselves and others.  Living this way will develop relationships and over time those relationships can grow.  Living life with an open and loving heart will attract and sustain even the smallest seed of community, and seeds grow.

After searching more, I eventually found a definition of community on Wikipedia (the ultimate community project).

Community can refer to a usually small, social unit of any size that shares common values.  If community exists, both freedom and security may exist as well. The community then takes on a life of its own, as people become free enough to share and secure enough to get along.  

This is an extremely powerful and intriguing idea.  How can we bring these community-focussed ways of living into our modern-day life to create more nourishing and connected relationships? 

Let’s talk more about these ideas, and your thoughts about community, its difficulties and how to create more space for connection in our modern society! Dharma Night discussion happens this Friday night from 7:30-8:30pm. All welcome! 

 

Why Do Pilates? Our Teacher Katarina Explains

Katarina teaches fantastic Pilates classes - great for all ages, levels and abilites - these are fun classes that help build strength and balance. Register by phone (778-545-9918) or email (practice@liveyoga.ca) for the upcoming January 2013 session. More info available here!

1. Pilates is Whole-Body Fitness

Unlike some forms of exercise, Pilates does not over-develop some parts of the body and neglect others. While Pilates training focuses on core strength, it trains the body as an integrated whole. Pilates workouts promote strength and balanced muscle development as well as flexibility and increased range of motion for the joints.

Attention to core support and full-body fitness -- including the breath and the mind -- provide a level of integrative fitness that is hard to find elsewhere. It is also the reason that Pilates is so popular in rehab scenarios, as well as with athletes who find that Pilates is a great foundation for any kind of movement they do.

2. Adaptable to Many Fitness Levels and Needs

Whether you are a senior just starting to exercise, an elite athlete or somewhere in between, the foundations of Pilates movement apply to you. Building from core strength, focusing on proper alignment, and a body/mind integrative approach make Pilates accessible to all. With thousands of possible exercises and modifications, Pilates workouts can be tailored to individual needs.

 

5. Develops Core Strength

The core muscles of the body are the deep muscles of the back, abdomen, and pelvic floor. These are the muscles we rely on to support a strong, supple back, good posture, and efficient movement patterns. When the core is strong, the frame of the body is supported. This means the neck and shoulders can relax, and the rest of the muscles and joints are freed to do their jobs. A nice side benefit is that the core training promotes the flat abs that we all covet.

6. Improves Posture

Good posture is a reflection good alignment supported by a strong core. It is a position from which one can move freely. Starting with Pilates movement fundamentals and moving through mat exercises, Pilates trains the body to express itself with strength and harmony. You can see this in the beautiful posture of those who practice Pilates.

 

 

7. Increases Energy

It might seem like a paradox, but the more you exercise, the more energy you have and the more you feel like doing (to a point, of course). Pilates gets the breath and circulation moving, stimulates the spine and muscles, and floods the body with the good feelings one gets from exercising the whole body.

 

8. Increases Awareness - Body/Mind Connection

Joseph Pilates was adamant that Pilates, or contrology as he called it, was about "the complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit." This is one of the secrets of Pilates exercise: we practice each movement with total attention. When we exercise in this way, the body and mind unite to bring forth the most benefit possible from each exercise. The Pilates principles -- centering, concentration, control, precision, breath, and flow -- are key concepts that we use to integrate body and mind.

Tea for the Spirit - By Lydia Hol

“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”

~Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

The first time I started drinking tea was when I lived in Dublin, Ireland while on a University Exchange. I wore long johns underneath my regular clothes every single day (I’m not kidding you!) for 4 months. I could never seem to get warm in the damp Irish winter. You often hear talk about ‘tea time’ in the UK, and I soon realized what an important ritual this was. Just as southern countries take an afternoon rest called ‘siesta,’ I think ‘tea time’ is the UK equivalent. Enjoying a steaming cup of thick black tea mid-afternoon was one of my

favorite new rituals, and something I took with me back to Canada. The ‘to-go cup’ is unheard of, in Ireland tea is sipped and enjoyed, the time being used to chat with friends, read, or just as a reminder to slow down.

 

I love how much tea has become part of the culture at Live Yoga. I joke that it is the only way we get people to come to class, knowing they will get a cup of tea at the end!

At Live Yoga, we love our "tea time" and we offer it for many reasons: to promote community; share news; get to know the studio's friendly faces; and as a chance to settle before heading back into the busy world. In addition, there are the wonderful health benefits of tea which I would like to share with you:

One of our most popular teas is ‘Rooibos’. Rather than a tea leaf, rooibos is actually a South African herb. It has been confirmed by many studies that rooibos tea is capable of reducing cancer, heart disease, and aging. As it is completely caffeine-free, it can be drunk throughout the day to help relieve headaches, insomnia, stomach cramps, allergies and much more!

Another tea we often serve is ‘White Tea’. Health benefits of this variant include cancer prevention, lowered blood pressure, lower cholesterol, strengthened bones and teeth, and a powerful tonic for the heart.

Spiced teas containing cinnamon, cardamom, chai, ginger, and other ‘spiced’ ingredients are always favorites, especially our ‘Yoga Blend’ tea. Drinking these types of spices in teas are antioxidant as well as anti-inflammatory. They also promote a state of tranquility and calm, instilling emotional harmony.

A couple more tea tips for you:  

Did you know the most amount of caffeine is released from the tea leaf in the first 30 seconds after adding hot water? If you are wanting to limit your caffeine intake a good trick is to pour out this first bit of brewed tea and add more water for a flavorful but less caffeinated cup.

Used tea leaves can be re-used in a variety of ways. You can use them as a deodorizer in your fridge, or as fertilizer in your garden.

Ever wondered what we do with all our used tea leaves at the studio? Our wonderful teacher Cindy takes the home weekly and composts them in her garden!

Looking forward to sharing a cup of tea with you at the studio soon :-)

“Remember the tea kettle - it is always up to its neck in hot water, yet it still sings!”

 ~Author Unknown

How Becoming a Teacher Made Me a Better Student- By Amy Holt

I had been practicing (and intermittently teaching) yoga for years before I decided it was time to take my Yoga Teacher Training at Live Yoga in the summer of 2011 and finally certify to teach. I picked a teacher that I loved (Dan Clement from Open Source Yoga) and embarked on an experience that would change me in more ways that I could ever imagine.

Although I had been attending classes for all those years, it wasn’t until I became a yoga teacher that I truly started learning what it means to be a student of yoga.

I’m not saying that understanding yoga is inaccessible to students, or that the light of yoga only comes with teaching it. For me, it wasn’t until I needed to articulate to others the benefits and purposes of yoga that I truly started integrating my knowledge into my own practice.

Many experiences as a teacher have deepened my personal practice: when students ask me about the philosophy behind the practice, or the anatomy behind the body; when students describe sensations or emotions during poses and how yoga helped them to heal; when students want advice for rehabilitating injuries and conditions; when students push too hard in class, or not hard enough; when students recount failures and successes and how yoga helped them to develop a fulfilling life.

Teaching so many wonderful people has enriched my own understanding and appreciation of yoga in profound and unimaginable ways. Here are a few of the things I have learned and integrated into my personal practice as a result of teaching and observing my students:

My body is unique and beautiful. Seriously. Nobody has my bones, my history, my evolution with my body. Nobody knows my body like I do and how it moves, how it responds and what it needs to feel healthy. My practice needs to be sensitive and respect this uniqueness. Sometimes that means I don’t do a pose even though my neighbour is doing it. I'm ok with that now, because my body is mine and I need to take care of it.

I require and deserve respect, patience and love. At All Times.  Absolutely and without exception.

Every class/day/experience is an opportunity to learn (about myself and others). It doesn’t matter who I am talking to, who I'm learning from or which students are in front of me. Every person has a story that is interesting, full and inspiring. Even in mundane or tense moments of life, there are opportunities to learn and grow.

I deserve compassion and care, from others and especially myself. In yoga you explore your body (and spirit at times) and learn things. Sometimes you learn that you can’t do certain poses or exercises, while at other times you learn you can. This ebb and flow is an integral part of the practice. It is not yet another chance for judgement, repulsion or disappointment. I may never get into poses that make me look like a pretzel- that doesn’t mean I am less spiritually developed, physically fit or deserving of love! I try to understand and love myself for all my limitations and abilities alike. They are what make me ME.

Yoga should be shared. There is so much variety in yoga. So much that can help with health and wellness. I am to spread the word. Not in a dogmatic way, but in a way that expresses and abounds from the passion and belief I have in what I do.

Yoga isn’t about getting your legs behind your head, it’s about integration, health, vitality and wellness. That’s right. No one is meant to do ALL the poses that have ever been invented. There are a variety so you can pick and choose what works for your body. I do what feels safe, good and beneficial, I modify some to suit my needs, and I always give myself permission to leave some poses out completely. 

I aspire to live my yoga on and off my mat. The more I learn patience, determination, how to overcome challenges, enjoy successes, demonstrate care and compassion on my mat, the more I want to be the person I am on my mat, all the time. 

When I soften my practice, things open up (but sometimes when I get too soft, I need to energize too!). I used to practice power, hot and flow yoga all the time. I thought that to improve and get stronger at yoga, I needed HARDER classes. I have started to realize that a consistent, softer practice, with lots of intention, exploration, alignment and care has wielded far greater results for me. I make time for Yin and Restorative now. I make time to rest and breathe. I am gaining strength and energy with less tension. My practice is getting more advanced in a natural way – and I am having so much fun doing it!

Committing to my practice sets me free – whether that means a full practice in the morning, or just a few minutes of breathing, reading or relaxation at the end of my day. Making the practice of yoga part of my daily routine keeps me connected and fulfilled.

Sharing the wisdom of yoga as a teacher has made me a much more sensitive, caring and dedicated student. I am so blessed to share a practice that I love with others, and have them teach and inspire me in my own practice as well.

I hope that as a teacher, I continue to learn and get inspired by my students, so that I can deepen and expand my practice always. 

Yoga for Beginners- By Katie Quinsey

Yoga for Beginners- By Katie Quinsey

I remember how nervous I was about going to a yoga class for the first time, not knowing what to expect or what it was all about.  I wondered, “Will everyone be super flexible except for me? Will I feel silly for not knowing the poses or not being flexible enough to do them? Will I be able to keep up? What do I need to bring? What do I wear? What is the etiquette at a yoga studio?” 
Wait a minute, I thought that yoga was supposed to reduce stress, not cause it!

Fortunately, when I arrived at the studio, I found out that there was nothing to be worried about. Everyone was friendly and helpful and I was able to relax and enjoy myself. Now, as a yoga teacher, I wish the same type of enjoyable first yoga experience for all of my students. That’s why I’ve put together this list of the top 10 questions that I hear from new yoga students, so that you’ll know exactly what to expect and your first yoga experience can be a relaxing one.

  1. Do I need to be flexible? Will I be the only one who can’t touch their toes?
    No! One of my yoga teachers once said that not doing yoga because you are not flexible is like not taking a bath because you are dirty. Most people start yoga, at least in part, because they would like to improve their flexibility.  You can expect a range of different body types and levels of flexibility in a drop in yoga class.  However, keep in mind that those students who look very flexible now were once beginners too and will remember what it feels like to not be able to touch their toes. The most important thing is that you listen to your body, let go of any internal pressure to go deeply into the poses and instead, do the poses in a way that feels good for you!
  2. What if I don’t know the poses? Will I be able to keep up?
    The teacher is there to guide you through the poses. You do not need to know them in advance. He or she will explain exactly how to position your body in each pose and how to move in and out of the poses safely. Sometimes, the teacher will demonstrate the pose and at other times he or she will describe the pose and walk around the class to offer adjustments. If you have questions, just ask!
  3. I have injuries. Can I still do yoga?
    Yes, as long as your doctor or healthcare provider has given you the go ahead, you can do yoga. Yoga can be a helpful part of the healing process by helping to stretch, strengthen and align your body as well as offering a chance to relax and reduce stress. We have classes that are specially designed for students who are healing from injuries or dealing with chronic conditions. Please contact us or stop by the Studio to discuss your individual needs and we will help you to find the class that is right for you. Also, please be sure to let the teacher know about any injuries or health conditions prior to class.
  4. What about all of that weird chanting and stuff?
    Yogis (yoga practitioners) are known to do some strange stuff at times.  However, once you know what it is all about it probably won’t seem so weird anymore.  In fact, you might even find that you would like to join in! Of course, you are always welcome just to observe and listen if that feels more comfortable for you.
    Most classes begin with chanting the sound “Om”. In yoga philosophy, the sound of Om represents the vibration of Universal Consciousness. When we chant this sound together, it is a way to bring us all together as a community and to remember that we are, in essence, all One.
    We end our yoga classes by saying, “Namaste”. Namaste is a Sanskrit word which means, “The Light within me honours the Light within you.” Again, this is a way of honouring the Universal Consciousness, the goodness and the light within ourselves and within each other. 
    What’s all this talk about Universal Consciousness?  Well, that could mean a lot of different things to different people. You might think of this as Nature, the Divine, God, Energy, the Source, Oneness or simply a Connection between all things.
  5. Is yoga a religious practice? Will it conflict my religion and personal beliefs?
    Yoga is not a religious practice.  However, it is a spiritual practice in that it asks you to connect with your physical body, your mind, your heart and your spirit. You are encouraged to cultivate this connection in a way that feels natural for you, with complete respect for any personal beliefs that you hold. If you ever feel uncomfortable with a particular practice (such as chanting, for example) you are welcome to pass on that part of class. I have also had students who have sung “Amen” instead of “Om” and said “Thank You” instead of “Namaste”. Be true to your own heart!
  6. What do I wear?
    The main thing is that you feel comfortable and that you can move freely. Tight spandex tops and expensive yoga clothes are not necessary! Just wear the type of clothing that you might normally wear for working out. Fabrics with a little bit of stretchiness will give you more freedom of movement. Layers are great as you will warm up and cool down throughout the course of the class. In some poses, like downward facing dog, your head will be down so you will want a shirt that tucks in or that is tight around the waist so that it will not fall down into your face.
  7. What do I need to bring?
    Just bring yourself, a bottle of water to drink and a yoga mat, if you have one.  If not, don’t worry, you are welcome to borrow one of our mats.  We also have mats for sale in the Wellbeing Shop.
  8. What can I expect when I arrive?  What is the etiquette before, during and after class?
    When you arrive, one of our friendly teachers will greet you and show you around the studio. You will be asked to complete a waiver and either pay a drop in fee to attend the class or purchase one of our discounted passes or memberships.
    Yoga is done in bare feet.  There is a shelf where you can leave your shoes and hooks for hanging jackets in the reception area. Bring any valuables into the studio with you, where you can store them in a cubby within sight while you are taking your class.
    The teacher will show you where to set up your mat and where to get any props that you will need for class.  The other students are always really helpful in making you feel comfortable and showing new students around as well!
    At the end of class, we will serve tea so that you will have a chance to relax and chat with the teacher and other students.  This is a great time to ask questions! If you borrowed a mat from the Studio or if you would like to give you own mat a cleaning, we have spray bottles and sponges for that purpose.
  9. What’s the proper way to breathe in yoga?
    In yoga, we generally breathe in and out through our noses, making a soft “haaaa” sound with the breath, kind of like the sound of ocean waves rolling in to shore and back out again. As you inhale, you should feel a gentle expansion in your belly, sides, back and chest. However, your chest and shoulders should stay relaxed.  This is often called “belly breath” or “diaphragmatic breath”. Don’t worry if this feels unnatural at first. Stick with it, but remain relaxed and don’t worry too much about it.  It will come! Other types of breathing exercises are sometimes done, in which case the teacher will give specific instructions and guide you through it.

10.  What are all of these different classes? Which class should I start with?
There are many different styles of yoga ranging from relaxing and meditative to an energetic workout. I highly recommend starting with a Beginners class.  In our 8 week Beginners series you will learn breathing techniques, the basic poses and how to do them with good alignment, and you will also receive an introduction to the different styles of yoga that we offer at the studio.
If you would prefer the flexibility and variety of drop in classes rather than a series, just contact us or pop by the studio and we will explain the different styles and help you to find the one that is right for you!

If you have been thinking about starting yoga, come on out and try it!  Once you do, the only question you’ll be asking yourself is, “Why did I wait so long?”