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.

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!

 

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!  

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.