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Postcards From the Mat: Real Deal on Home Yoga Practice

Practicing yoga alone is an amazing adventure. There are aspects of home yoga practice which are so delightful. A controlled environment that you can choose yourself, whatever temperature, music, incense, lighting, tempo, sequence, pace, theme and style your little heart desires. And then there are some aspects of practicing solo that are arduous, roadblocks, speed bumps, detours and distractions on your path to Bliss. They too are a part of practice and prove to be fascinating obstacles and edges to work with as well.

Before I begin my yoga practice, I take inventory and scan myself internally. I feel two tensions: one is the tension of procrastination tugging, a Tamasic state of inertia begging to stay inert, “let’s just check the phone one more time” or “how about another tea first?” The other tension is one of distracted excitement, a bubbling up of energy that has yet to be directed. It rattles and bangs against my nerves feeling trapped by lack of expression and erratically pulsing with pure Rajasic restlessness. And let’s be honest, perhaps there’s a little too much morning green tea or coffee percolating through my human form? There are stories of thoughts forming and whirling, I observe myself engaging in a dramatic mental dilemma as to whether or not I’ll be able to overcome my laziness and/or find the ability to center, focus and calm down. This is all in my mind.

Neither of these two energies feels like a friend, an ally, a tool, or a supportive sense of assistance in my effort to get on the mat and do my thing. It feels like a struggle, and even a fight to get to the mat. If I examine this more closely, I recognize the underlying element of fear. Fear comes up, the fear that initiates the biochemical fight or flight response in my glands, blood, bones, heart, nervous system. All of this resistance starts just because I began thinking about getting on the yoga mat. Just the idea of a little discipline, effort, delving into my yoga practice is met with so much resistance. The hilarious cosmic joke is that I absolutely love, adore, and cannot imagine living without yoga! I am not sure any of this makes sense, and that is okay because yoga has taught me to live with paradoxes.

I make the tea. I drink the tea. I wash dishes. I wash my face. I apply coconut oil to my skin to wake it up and give warmth with gentle massage to my arms, chest, face and if there’s plenty of time to my spine, legs and feet as well. Maybe I turn on music. Maybe I film my yoga session just so I can replay it later and re-witness/remember the practice from an outside perspective. Chant a few prayers, and/or take a moment to dedicate the merits of my practice somehow, maybe just a couple conscious, sacred breaths to begin.

And it is time. I sit on the mat. I breathe. I arrive. I center. I notice. Wow. Okay, here we go, one breath at a time. Within minutes I become absorbed with sensations of stretching, “Ah yes, this is right. This feels so good. I love yoga.” Next come the runaway thought trains. I observe the process of my mind getting on runaway thought trains, followed by getting caught on tracks to the past and/or future. “Oh no, where did you go? This is hopeless. I can’t. Just go get a latte.” Finally, a deeper layer of tension disperses and the ease of a tender, forgiving, spacious, loving awareness is available in the present moment. You are here. Good job coming back, to be here – now. Why not stay? Here, in the now?

It is so lovely in the present, back to breath, back to arriving, and actually, directly experiencing feeling more centered. Now I’m watching thoughts go by like leaves in a stream. I am in the flow. I am the flow. The sensations of stretching in the body are feeling easier, sweeter, hypnotic and expansive as I continue to meld mind, body and breath. It’s not that I won’t go through more rounds of distracting thoughts, but I won’t grasp or push at them (so much). Their power to hook me will fade, meanwhile every other sense in my being becomes more awakened, enlivened and charged with prana. A state of equanimity is being cultivated with the practice of acceptance. This creates the right environment for body, mind and soul to combine forces as yoga instruments where incredible, mystical union can, and does occur.

Now I am dropping deep into savasana. It feels like a return home. It is the place I can clearly remember the beauty and special gift of this precious life, the blessings of this incarnation. I realize to have a life is such a privilege and an honor. I have been on a yoga adventure and now I remember what it is like to have calmness pervade the space between my cells. Stillness. My mind is clear, my body’s energy has been tempered, balanced with both stimulation and relaxation and it’s time to watch myself resting and not doing. Aaaaaahhhhh. Ommmmmmm.

Waking up from savasana, is always like, “Dang, it worked again!” I feel the genuine and authentic gratitude and joy for yoga, for my life, for everything, for every little thing. It’s a magical feeling. It is always there, but it gets covered up, blurred and even lost in the shuffle of all the other things in life that are also real and true, and the amount of information/stimulation that our senses are subject to on a daily basis. This state of harmony and knowing contentment is Sattvic. There are no tricks, nor lasting shortcuts to this state. Yoga practice takes you there as a simple result of practice. It is clarity, and a state of non-attachment that allows us to be with things as they are, without attraction or repulsion, and including the paradoxes. We feel connected, and a part of rather than the pain of separation. Even the ability to accept that the harmonious Sattvic state will not last permanently is a deeper layer of non-attachment. That way we do not cause suffering by clinging to the sweet feeling. Impermanence also applies to the Tamasic and Rajasic states, in fact all three of the Gunas are constantly, dynamically in play with one another from the gross to the subtle. Our goal as yogis is to be able to simply observe the Gunas, acting on the Gunas.

If the Gunas are unknown or new to you, or you have never quite understood their meaning, it is highly recommended to spend a little time researching and delving into the study of the Gunas. Two great resources for insights and wisdom are:

-Richard Freeman’s book, The Mirror of Yoga: Awakening the Intelligence of Body and Mind

https://www.richardfreemanyoga.com/books

-Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Bhagavad Gita

https://stephenmitchellbooks.com/translations-adaptations/bhagavad-gita/

And in the spirit of staying true to your yoga practice, whether you practice by yourself, or with others, I will happily share the best advice for yoga success that Richard Freeman would give us students at the end of just about every class or offering. He would say, with a big smile, “Practice every day. Practice all day.”

Good Luck Yogis and Yoginis and Practice On!


 

Aimee Joy Nitzberg has been an avid lover of yoga since her first classes back in Boulder, CO in 2000. She knew she had a problem when she was skipping out of work to go to yoga class. She decided to plunge in, quit her job and set off on an incredible adventure which has included daily practice and working full-time in the yoga field for almost 20 years.  This opened up great opportunities to study with extraordinary, masterful teachers and to travel around the world.  She loves sharing yoga as a way of serving and honoring the grace of all the gifts that she has received, and as one of her favorite ways to connect and share with others. Currently, she resides in South Lake Tahoe with her mountain man and spends as much time outdoors as possible with their yogi doggie.

Life Post Yoga Retreat: Maintaining the Bliss Buzz

Traveling and spending time at a Yoga Retreat or Training Center is one of the most beneficial ways to deepen or re-ignite a yoga practice. Yoga retreats and immersive training centers are an oasis of physical, mental and spiritual bliss! We are fed high-quality, often organic, whole food meals, and we typically do not have to even worry about cleaning our plates after the daily feasts. A daily, often rigorous schedule of asana, pranayama and meditation rejuvenate our minds and bodies while the support of like-minded teachers and fellow yogis hold the space for our transformation and emotional release. We experience decreased responsibilities, limited social media and an absence of addictive substances during the days lived at our yoga sanctuary. We are taken care of and lovingly provided for and held. We often connect so deeply with our fellow yogis on retreat that we question how we ever lived without them in the first place.

Ahhhhh, yes, the blissful bubble of yoga immersion! The environment and community encourage our self-expression and exploration of deep, authentic conversation. We feel so connected, healthy, centered and serene which is the perfect internal environment for our highest selves to shine through.

So, what happens when we leave our yoga bubble and go back home?

We discover on our retreat how easy it can be to consistently practice and embody a yoga lifestyle in a controlled environment purposefully constructed to support yogic principles and transformation. The real world might suddenly feel harsher in contrast to the cozy yoga shalas, yurts and tents we had grown accustomed to. We won’t automatically have many hours a day carved out of our schedules to practice yoga and meditate. Social media, news and other distractions are abundant. And what? We must feed ourselves and clean up? This might feel like too much to handle.

The greatest challenge of leaving a yoga retreat is carrying our recently connected, healthy, centered and serene selves back into the habits, stresses and relationships of our daily lives. It might feel like our yoga saturated bodies and souls transformed in some way making reintegration into the regular world uncomfortable. It may take us time to relate in a new way to our external environment.

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When I return from trainings, retreats and other Yoga Trade travel opportunities, I often find it takes me a period of adjustment. There are obvious extremes I will adjust to like the climate change between the jungle of Costa Rica and my home in Germany, but more importantly, I give myself time to acclimate my inner climate to my regular life at home.

Here are a few tips I find helpful to help integrate, prolong the yoga-bliss-buzz, and stay grounded in the regular world after a yoga immersion:

1. Home Sanctuary

Create a small retreat at home. If you don’t already have a sacred practice space in your home, find a small room or corner that you can create a mini yoga sanctuary. Bring your yoga mat, any props, a pillow, candles and incense. You may even create a small altar with items that inspire you. The space doesn’t have to be big to feel like a little slice of bliss at home. This home sanctuary might even inspire you to consistently practice and dedicate more time to your self-care and well-being than before.

2. Nourish Your Physical Body

If the diet you followed on your retreat was very different than your regular diet, it might be a shock to your body to jump back into old diet regimes – especially if at the retreat, you avoided sugar, alcohol, caffeine, etc. You may even consider incorporating any new eating habits you learned that really worked for you. Take some time to fuel and nourish your body with what it needs and take it easy on cravings. Treats are good, but over indulgence after a week or longer on a retreat might leave you feeling less than optimal.

3. Set Goals

We often quickly embrace the schedule at a retreat as we experience the luxury of so much free-time and limited responsibilities. If your regular schedule doesn’t allow for 3 hours of asana and meditation every morning, set a realistic goal that will still get your body moving and soul connected. You might wake up 30 minutes early every day and go straight to your sacred practice space. Maybe you find a local studio with a lunch time or evening class that you can attend a few times a week. Find a self-care and yoga goal that works with your reality! A consistent physical and mental practice will help you stay grounded and connected to your highest self, long after the retreat buzz wears off.

4. Reconnect

Taking time out of our lives to focus on self-care and personal growth often requires a sacrifice in another area of our lives. If you disconnected on your retreat from loved ones to focus your energy on your relaxation and transformation, take time when you return to reconnect with them. Spend some quality time and share your retreat experience with your partner, family and friends. Ask them what they have been doing while you were gone. These honest conversations will help rebuild and strengthen any weakened connections during your time away.

matthew-eklund

 

5. Be Gentle

Did you discover yourself feeling more gentle, compassionate, honest, open and free than ever before on your retreat? The yoga retreat bubble is the perfect place to truly practice and embody the teachings of yoga. Sometimes, the real world with all of the challenges, stressors and calamities that inevitably transpire makes acting like an enlightened yogi nearly impossible. If you find yourself losing your calm, go easy on yourself. Don’t beat yourself with unhelpful self-talk, “I was just on a yoga retreat! I should be better/kinder/calmer than this!” Be gentle and patient with yourself. The yoga bubble is a perfect place to practice the lessons and teachings in a controlled environment, and the real world is like the exam we get to finally apply what we learned. If you want to incorporate the teachings and be better at being you in the world, practice.

I hope these tips help you ease back into daily life post-retreat with more grace and patience while maintaining the yoga bliss and teachings. Namaste.

 

 

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Sarah is a Yoga Trade Travel Representative. She loves to explore herself and the world through the lenses of yoga and travel and constantly challenge herself to uncover truth and unity within and around her.

CONNECT:

http://www.la-yoga-vida.com/

Cultivating a Home Yoga Practice

 

 

Since my first yoga class, a few years ago now, I have taken many classes, in a lot of different studios and in various parts of the world. I have had the pleasure to be taught by many teachers and, while some of those classes were challenging at times, the hardest practice by far has always been my home practice. It is not more challenging in terms of sequence or postures, although it can be if I want it to be; it is simply the most challenging to maintain and cultivate.
I have been lucky enough to have access to yoga studios/rooms because they were very often part of my training or work environments, therefore taking classes in a studio was, most of the time, the best and most convenient option for me. I still would practise things that I was working on, before and after class as well as at home but, up until recently, a studio practice was my prevalent form of yoga. Then, last year, I began to practise at home more and more.

Studio Practice versus Home Practice

I love both and I believe that they both offer great benefits. Practising in a studio can really open the mind and body to do things that perhaps we shy away from when practising on our own. Students may feel more at ease and safe in a group environment, especially when starting out or they may feel more inspired when witnessing the progress of fellow yogis. Another positive aspect of a studio practice is the teacher/student relationship; the teacher’s encouragements and corrections can deeply affect one’s understanding of asanas (postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises). A studio also has the advantage to have everything at the ready to facilitate relaxation and motivation. Nowadays most studios take care of everything for you; the hardest part of taking class is often just to get there as, once you are there, in the room, with the teacher and other students, you have committed to your practice for whichever length of time it may be. You always have a choice to stop at any point, in any given class of course but it is much harder to give up on something you 1.are paying for and 2.have made the effort to travel to. I have had classes when, due to whatever personal challenges that day, I wanted to leave as soon as I walked into the room but dedcided against it and I always, always felt better for it afterwards. The voice of the teacher, the focus on the breath and postures would always carry me away from my worries, at least for little while if not for the rest of the day.

In comparison, maintaining a consistent home practice can be extremely difficult at times when the main source of motivation is yourself. Being in charge means that you’re the one who has to manage the many distractions which can present themselves at home such as a tempting sofa after work, kids, housemates, TV, food, a partner and the list goeshome-class on. However, when you do put all the distractions aside and make space (physically and mentally) to care for yourself, that little time of practice is every bit more rewarding. Practising at home develops many skills such as discipline, mental strength and self-awareness because it puts you in control of your practice. As much as I love to let a teacher take me into their own practice and sequencing, the big plus about home practice is that I can stay in postures for as long as I want to and change things up according to how I am feeling at the time. At home there is room to fully listen to your inner voice and really go with your flow and become “your very own best teacher”. The latter is a phrase I have heard a few times in class and, to me, it tells students to follow their instincts, to listen to the voice inside all of us which guides us and, ultimately and more importantly perhaps, it encourages students to not limit the yoga practice to the comfort of a yoga room but to take it everywhere else with them.

Start Slow & Simple and Build from There

Make time for yourself: that is what yoga is about, self-care, so any window of time you have in your day will do to start with. It is good to work on creating a ritual in the long run but, at the beginning, taking any opportunity that presents itself to practise is probably best so that you are not too hard on yourself in the eventuality you miss a day or two. Let it build organically.

Keep it simple: create a basic sequence of 2 to 3 postures (or more if you feel like it) and a breathing exercise to begin with. The more you do it the more your body will open up so that, over time, you will be able to incorporate more postures as your body will start to crave the practice and you gradually dedicate more time to it.

Invest in a good mat: a mat is a very personal part of your practise and really is the only thing you need to transform your room into a studio. It is also a bit of an investment which gives motivation, as long as it’s not tucked away out of sight in the lost causes closet.

Explore & play: read books, magazines or blogs, watch videos (there are so many on youtube to choose from), take studio classes to find inspiration if you feel stuck then experiment on your own. Have fun discovering what your body can and cannot do and challenge it.

Give yourself a goal when ready: once you start practising regularly then make goals to keep things interesting and demanding.

Acceptance & Growth

I have learned something about myself in every class I have taken in the 16 years I have been practising, be it in a studio or at home but, in the comfort of my own space I know that I allow myself to be that little bit more accepting of my body’s challenges and abilities. Practising yoga is a life journey on and off the mat and I see home practice as the bridge that connects what I learn in a studio environment closer to my work, social, family and love life. It is fairly easy to meditate or find relaxation in a room full of like-minded people and away from our everyday world, it is much harder to remember to take deep breaths the next time someone invades what you think is your personal space or tests your limits.

Raphaelle

 

 

Raphaelle Romana is a yoga teacher who has been exploring the wonders of yoga for almost 16 years now. She is passionate about health, well-being, creativity and movement among many interests; some of which she shares on www.arcenciel-therapy.com