Today is Yoga Play Day

a yoga dance

Ok, there’s no nationally declared day…yet. So, I’m unofficially declaring Fridays, Yoga Play Day! We often take yoga WAY too seriously, so take a step back, and then a step forward, and make it fun. Clear out the dharmic cob … Continue reading

Light a fire under your asana & transform

fireball

Photo Credit: Amarha58 Flickr

Fire is transformative.  As a bolt of lightning, it has the power to turn sand into glass.  As the sun, it has the power to bring life through it’s warmth, and illuminate the darkness with its light.  As passion, and dedication to yoga practice, fire has the power to transform the body, mind and soul.

In Sanskrit the root of the word tapas is “tap”, meaning to heat, burn, purify.  In yoga, Tapas is one of the Niyamas, or observances of self-control, in the Yoga Sutras that refers to an austerity or strict discipline of practice.  Tapas is the burning zeal in practice that comes from the desire to purify the body and seek spiritual enlightenment.  A desire to transform. Continue reading

Thanks for this piece. I love practicing yoga outside in the morning while all is calm and peaceful. Have a beautiful weekend. Namaste.

Yoga for householders

Maybe it’s lingering inspiration from Earth Day or the magic of spring, but lately I’ve been taking my yoga practice outdoors. Practicing in nature is a doorway to the very origins of asana. Yoga’s roots lie in the early shamanistic traditions of India (later influencing and being influenced by Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism). It is said that the rishis (seers) closely observed nature, and that this is why yoga postures celebrate the earth and its life forms.

Balance next to an ancient juniper—whose roots penetrate rock and whose branches withstand lightning and withering heat—and you begin to understand the essence of Vrksasana (Tree Pose). Feet root into stone as leg muscles engage, creating stability and a sense of groundedness, while the upper body rises toward the sky, sparking a dynamic polarity between earth and heaven.

Yoga postures celebrate the earth and its life forms.

Lie belly-down on sun-warmed sandstone in…

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I’d rather be in Dogvasana

smyrna ga dog in savasana yogaEvery morning as I’m wrapping up my asana practice and head into final relaxation, a four-legged canine creeper slinks into my yoga room, and coils herself up beside me in “dogvasana.”    I started this regular 5:00 am routine last year, and both of my dogs often help participate in “Doga” while I’m moving through my Vinyasa.

No matter where they are in the house, they’re attracted to the energy that begins to flow during my practice.  They’ll often settle around my mat very quietly, and take a nap or just sit blissfully with their eyes half-closed.  At first, I would try to shoo them away.  This was my very serious spiritual morning routine, after all.  But, I started to notice how peaceful and serene we all get when I’m moving from Trikonasana (triangle) to Ardha Chandrasana (half-moon pose) or relaxing in supported bridge.  Everyone’s energy is alive and calm, and we’re happy. Continue reading

Yoga in India – it’s not what you think

Shruti Pandey

Shruti Pandey

I recently spoke to a friend who teaches yoga in India. She said when people call to inquire about her classes, it all follows a surprisingly similar pattern:

“Hi. I read you teach yoga. Can you tell me what exactly you teach?”

“Sure – I teach asanas, followed by a relaxation at the end.”

“Oh – I assumed it would be meditation and pranayama. Do you teach that?”

“Well, not really. I teach mostly the postures and deep relaxation.”

“Sorry, that doesn’t really sound like the right thing for me.”

You have to digest that: People calling up for yoga classes in India simply assume that it’s meditation and pranayama that will be taught. They don’t care that much about the asanas. To them, yoga means something else. Yoga, that’s a way of living. Not a way of stretching yourself, sweating until you’re able to mold your body into pretzel postures, and then for days relishing that feeling of success. I guess many of them would just shake their head (no, not the head wiggle that means YES) when being told what became of yoga in the Western World. Continue reading

So, I Closed My Eyes, & Practiced from the Inside Out

women-eyes-closedLately, I’ve become more connected with my personal yoga practice than ever before.  Rather than dutifully unrolling my mat, going through the same warm ups, sun salutations, and 4 or 5 standing postures for 40 minutes, I start in savasana and just listen.

While I  feel good after my morning asana and meditation, there have been times (admittedly), that I had to muscle myself a bit to get my butt on the mat. Of course, once I begin, I know why I’m there.  My body always feels more alive after the physical part of my practice.  But, recently, my meditations were becoming more and more thought-filled. I’m talking, unstoppable-freight-train types of thoughts.  This wasn’t the meditation I’d fallen in love with during teacher training.  So, I stepped back, paused, took in a full breath and saw clearly what was happening. My routine was becoming…well, routine.  I was going through the motions like I used to at church mass. I wasn’t really practicing yoga.

I realized that I wasn’t getting much more than physical wellness out of my practice, because I wasn’t giving much more than my physical presence. And, my meditations were so full of distraction, that by the time my “zen alarm” went off, my mind was even more chaotic, as if I’d been watching television. Something had to change. Continue reading

Namasafe: 10 More Reasons to Practice Slow-Ga

chinese-pond-turtleThanks to the much blogged about NY Times article by WJ Broad on the risks and rewards of yoga, we’ve all had to do a bit of introspection when it comes to our teaching and personal yoga practices.  I know that as a beginning yoga student in 2001, I was extremely concerned about “how good I was doing.”  Having originally discovered yoga as a way to improve my tennis game, I was in a competitive mindset from the get go.

I would constantly crank my neck to get a peak at the students beside me without regard to how long they’d been practicing, and I’d force myself much deeper into poses than my body was ready for.  I know this now having injured myself in the past not listening to teachers and not listening to my body.  It wasn’t yoga’s fault.  It was mine.  I don’t know why I thought I didn’t have to pay attention as acutely as I did during tennis coaching, but alas and a lack.   When you begin training for a marathon, you develop a slow and achievable schedule to build up endurance and strength.  Yoga is no different.  But more importantly, yoga isn’t about “achieving” anything.   In our uber competitive society, we don’t know how to just sit still; to slow down and let the practice unfold for us.

I’m sure my students get sick of my incessant reminders about going slow, easing off of a pose and the ever present reminder that I’ve liberated from a number of mentors, “Remember the 11th commandment, thou shalt not covet thy neighbors pose.” Continue reading

What Your Favorite Yoga Pose Says About You (1 of 4): Warrior I

In this four-part series, I’ll examine the connections between four specific poses (asanas) and their chakra correspondences.  I’ll also dive into the physical and warrior_1emotional benefits of the pose, and what it means if you love the pose or hate it.  First up, Virabhadrasana.

You’re in downward facing dog (adho mukha svanasana) and you’re teacher cues you to extend your right leg out behind you toward the ceiling, and to swing it through to a high runner’s lunge.  “Yay, here it comes,” you think to yourself.

Ground your back foot, engage your core, and rise up to standing; extending your arms proudly to the sky — warrior I (virabhadrasana I).    You sink into the pose, with your heart wide open, your chin held high, and the stability of a mighty warrior.

Continue reading

Move Through Life Sequentially

Surya-Namaskar-A

In many styles of yoga — Ashtanga and Vinyasa, particularly — the class is constructed by a series of postures sewn together to make a sequence.  Each pose, though distinct, flows into the next almost without a separate beginning or ending.  Separate, but seamless.   In fact, the transitions themselves are, of themselves, poses.  Moving with the breath, each movement is both active and passive.    For me, Yoga, which means “union” is the unification of one pose to another; the unity of the breath to the pose; the uniting of the self with the all.   And, to truly be present during yoga, the mind is absent of thought and distraction.  Absent of multi-tasking.

When I’m in a yoga class or doing my morning asana (poses) at home, my awareness is on my practice and my practice alone.   For those 45 to 90 minutes, I am doing only one thing at a time sequentially, and life seems manageable and clear.

In 2012, it seems almost incomprehensible to tackle one thing at a time.  With all of the electronic devices, television, radio, and pressures we place upon ourselves, one track succession is a foreign concept. We are a generation of multi-tasking, overthinking, producers.   We are rarely, if ever, doing only one thing at a given moment.  Right now you are reading this at work perhaps with four other browser windows open.  Or maybe you’re reading on your iPhone and walking (look out for that fountain).  Or you might even be reading while listening to music, or while half paying attention to someone on the phone. Continue reading