Posts

Practice With Consistency

Patanjali tells us that practice becomes grounded when it is pursued consistently, with earnestness, over a long period of time. For many of us, we feel as if this is almost impossible. We may have a busy work and/or school schedule, or maybe kids, family and pets that demand attention. So how are we able to maintain our daily practice consistently despite our daily lives? Now this is where Sutra 1.12 comes in- abhyasa and vairagya. Effort and non-attachment.


In order to create or maintain a practice with consistency, we first must make sacrifices. We need to practice vairagya, non-attachment. Letting go of expectations. If you believe that your practice is only your practice if you have a full hour to move through a flow or have a lengthy warm up, cool down and 10 minute Savasana, this is one of the first sacrifices we need to make. This expectation needs to be released. Some days we may only have ten minutes of free time; so we step on our mat, do one round of Sun Salutations and we’re out the door. Or maybe we only have time after a long day at work when your energy seems to be spent, so it’s legs up the wall and supine twists before you’re off to bed.


If you have children or pets that want your attention, work them into your practice. Instead of disturbing your peace by shooing them away, let them be. Even try to include them if you can. For me, I know my home practice isn’t complete without a cat laying on me and joining my Savasana.


Or maybe distractions aren’t your problem, the only time you have free is after a long and grueling day at work. Is the first thing you want to do when you get home from a busy day to jump onto your mat, flow through vinyasas or power through standing poses and inversions? Well, maybe. But for most people, that’s not the reality. You’re drained, unmotivated and tired. You just want to lay down. So what do you do? Work this into your practice! Take any last drop of abhyasa (effort) you have left. Practice vairagya (non-attachment) by letting go of the belief that a practice only counts if you flow through vinyasas and inversions. Sit your legs up the wall, stretch out the day, then head to Savasana. Is this any less “yoga” than going to class and breaking a sweat or handstands? Nope, it’s not. Sorry to break it to you, but Yoga isn’t simply a workout routine. Yoga isn’t something that fits into a box or category and it sure isn’t something that is the same for everyone. “The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga.” (Sutra 1.2)

Yoga is simply taking the time to tend to your body, release that which no longer serves you and slow (if not stop) your racing thoughts. So whether to you this means flowing through a well rounded routine or taking ten minutes at the end of the day to surrender, any cultivation of mindfulness and release of “the mind-stuff” is Yoga. Any practice is still a practice no matter how small, and consistency is still achievable even with only ten minutes to spare. Remember that.


In conclusion, the biggest key to consistency is practicing with non-attachment. Letting go of the expectation that you need a full hour or rounded flow to practice. Let go of the expectation that you need complete silence or solitude to practice, and begin working with what you have; whether it be pets, kids, or a busy schedule. Adjust your practice to your own needs, and treat yourself gently when your energy is spent elsewhere. Approach your mat with an open mind, adjust your practice to your own needs, and peace will soon follow.

 

 

FullSizeRender-8

 

After her battle with anxiety and depression led her to seek alternatives, Maddy has been practicing yoga daily for three years. Now she is training to become a certified instructor and shares her journey through YouTube: Sacred Synchronicities and on Instagram: @sacredsynchronicities.

Healing with Iyengar Yoga

“Yoga lets us cure what need not be endured, and endure what cannot be cured,” said B.K.S. Iyengar. The great yogi, who lived to be nearly ninety-six, passed away in August of 2014. But his teachings continue to live and thrive within the Iyengar Yoga community, where teacher training is rigorous and the practice is specialized to accommodate everyone, including those with unique disabilities.


What sets Iyengar Yoga apart from most types of yoga widely practiced throughout the U.S. are timing (poses are held longer), focus on alignment (detailed instructions help the individual to move deeper within the structure of a pose), the use of props (wall ropes, blocks, straps, blankets and chairs), and specific sequencing (intelligent sequencing that can be tailored around various physical needs a practitioner may have).

iyengar1

“B.K.S. Iyengar not only was a teacher for eighty years, but his practice was uninterrupted for that entire time. There aren’t many people in the world who could say that,” says Vanessa Bacher, an Iyengar Yoga instructor living in Santa Barbara, California. “He was a very sick boy—he had tuberculosis, typhoid and malaria just to name a few of the serious ailments he suffered from—and was not expected to live beyond his teenage years. He essentially cured himself from all of these various ailments through his dedication to the practice of yoga.”

Vanessa, a petite and charismatic woman with a mane of wavy blonde hair and bright, aquamarine eyes, first discovered Iyengar Yoga over ten years ago, while still in her early twenties. Hailing from Colorado, she had put herself through college and went on to live and work overseas on the Caribbean island of St. John. There was no knowledge or practice of yoga to speak of there at the time, but Vanessa had brought along a book of standard yoga poses and began to practice daily on the white sand amongst the palms; it became an integral part of her lifestyle. She experienced a jolt of culture shock upon her return to the states, though, leaving behind the relaxed island vibes for the stressful pace of life back in America. Seeking solace in nature, she went to stay with her aunt, who lived and taught Iyengar Yoga in the small mountain town of Crested Butte, Colorado.

Vanessa credits the experience of studying under her aunt as the pivotal chapter that, though she didn’t know it at the time, decided her life’s purpose.

vanessa1-1

“The first class I took, I felt like I was reborn. I felt like I had been completely dissected and put back together again in a better way. From the moment I stepped into the classroom I felt transformed.”

During her two years in Crested Butte, Vanessa found an inspiring mentor in her aunt. Still, she felt that relying on a relative to guide her was keeping her in too tight of a comfort zone—she wanted to deepen her practice and carve out her own path. She set out on a six-month journey through Southeast Asia and India, studying at the base of the Himalayas in an intensive program with a couple of senior Iyengar Yoga instructors. It was the first of many pilgrimages that shaped the course of her professional and spiritual life.

“In the Iyengar system in India they have “Medical Classes” that I would assist and there would be people with MS so severe that they were essentially paralyzed,” Vanessa explains. “They didn’t have (the technology that we do)—they had rickety wooden chairs from the 1940s. Someone would carry them in and we would assist them and strap them to the wall, and place them over all of the brilliant props that B.K.S. Iyengar invented.”

In India, Vanessa was a firsthand witness to countless instances of the miraculous healing powers of Iyengar Yoga, but one story in particular has stuck with her over the years.

“A woman came to study with my teachers and she was a novice in the practice,” Vanessa recalls. “She came in with her feet bandaged—she had some sort of foot disorder where she couldn’t separate her toes. She had stability issues and trouble walking. When she came into the class the teacher said, “Take those bandages off your feet” and she said, “I can’t, I’ve worn them all my life. The doctor prescribed them to me; I have a disorder.” The teacher said, “Nonsense, if you’ve signed up for this intensive and want to participate, take those off.” He was quite strict with her and really put her through the paces. Within three weeks, she was able to separate her toes. Tears were streaming down her face; she could walk with ease and stability. This moment always stayed with me, proof that we have this incredible, innate ability to heal ourselves and that this practice teaches us to be more in tune and find the resources within rather than depending on any sort of crutch.”

iyengar3

These experiences had a profound impact on Vanessa; they stirred something in her and planted the seeds for her own future as a healer.

“Mr. Iyengar taught me that happiness is to give more than you receive,” she says, continuing on to describe how the guru’s influence drove her to gain devotion to something greater than herself and lead a life of increased integrity. Her desire to help others benefit from the practice of Iyengar Yoga is palpable in the passionate tone in which she speaks of it.

“What moves me the most about it is that it’s absolutely made for any age, any body type, any ailment,” she says. “The practice is that diverse and has that much depth that it’s approachable for anybody. I always tell people that yoga has very little to do with just striking a beautiful pose. It is about the communication that you have to build with yourself to travel deeper towards that inner Self.”

“The path to bliss isn’t all rainbows and lotus flowers. I knew that it would take dedication.”

When Vanessa returned from India she made her home in Denver, beginning a cycle of intense practice abroad followed by intermittent lapses in practice back home and frequent disillusionment over the vastness of knowledge that she did not yet possess.

“I think it took me years to really cultivate the dedication that is necessary in the Iyengar practice,” says Vanessa. “Frankly I just wasn’t mature enough. But, over the years I chiseled away at the practice and became more devoted.”

She refers to her periods of not practicing as her “Dark Ages.”

“When I was not practicing I got very depressed. I felt like I had found this path that transformed me and then I let it go; I was not honoring my truth.”

vanessa5

Photo: Chris Orwig

It was only through loss that she found her path again and determinedly set out on it for good. Vanessa had moved to Santa Barbara, California for a relationship and left everything behind in Denver—her home, her family, her job. When the relationship did not work out, she found herself alone in a new city.

“The only thing I really had that stayed with me was my practice,” she recalls of that time. “I clung to it, basically, because it was all that I had. I decided then that no matter what happened, I would never let it go again. I knew that without it I felt lost and started practicing more than I ever had.”

Her new instructor at the Santa Barbara Iyengar studio recognized Vanessa’s natural affinity in the classroom.

“He said, ‘you know this is what you’re meant to do, right? It’s in every fiber of your being.’ Then he asked me what I wanted to do about it.”

She expressed her hesitancy to the instructor. The Iyengar teacher-training would entail at least three years of schooling to become a certified instructor, which for Vanessa would mean frequent trips driving back and forth to the Iyengar Institute in Los Angeles. Once the first hurdle of certification is passed, the training is not over. There are many levels in the system; instructors continue to study, train and go up for subsequent certifications for many years to come.

But ultimately, Vanessa was not daunted.

“My instructor said that in his experience, sometimes the longer, more arduous route is the best route,” she reflects. It was advice that echoed the words of her father.

vanessa3

Photo: Kayla McKenzie

“My father always said, ‘stay the course and it will pay off.’ I’ve definitely sacrificed quite a lot for the practice; the path towards enlightenment isn’t an easy one. The path to bliss isn’t all rainbows and lotus flowers. I knew that it would take dedication.”

Her instructor offered to mentor her, so Vanessa embarked on the three-year teacher training under his mentorship, traveling regularly to the Iyengar Institute in Los Angeles. After completion, it would take her two more years to become certified. She continued to work late nights as a restaurant server five nights a week, getting up early in the mornings to practice or teach.

“I felt half asleep in the mornings and dead on my feet at night. I continued until I was able to teach a little more and work in the restaurant a little less, but that is what yoga is all about. Yoga is the balance of two opposing actions. So in life I was balancing two complete polar opposites and that juggling act is yoga.”

Today, Vanessa’s mornings and evenings are filled with leading classes at two public yoga studios as well teaching various private lessons, a life in which she finds true fulfillment. When asked what words of advice she might have for someone interested in embarking on a similar journey with Iyengar Yoga, Vanessa says simply, “show up and don’t give up.”

vanessaclass

You can contact Vanessa Bacher by email at vanessabbacher@yahoo.com or Instagram @vbacher. If you live in Santa Barbara, or are visiting the area, consider taking an Iyengar class with her at one of the following locations:

Iyengar Yoga Studio of Santa Barbara

2718 De La Vina St.

Santa Barbara CA, 93105 USA

(805) 569-2584

 

The Santa Barbara Yoga Center

32 E. Micheltorena St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93101

(805) 965-6045

Author Bio:

Biopic

 

 

Lili Rauh aspires to find and create beauty and meaning in everyday life. Currently located in South Lake Tahoe, Lili loves to write, cook and entertain and ultimately hopes to combine all of her passions in one sustainable career. www.lilirauh.com

Get Lost, Start Over: Why Yoga Starts When Things Fall Apart

It’s a cool, grey Saturday morning in Portland.

7:45am.

I’m on the road, cruising along about 45 mph, pleasantly caffeinated, smoothie in hand, headed to teach my 8:15am class.

Life is calm and quiet and good. (The caffeine helps).

Good, that is, until, out of nowhere, smack in the middle of the road, surrounded by other metal deathboxes zooming along at 45 mph, my car just dies.

Shuts off. Loses all power. Sayonara, baby.

The dashboard lights flash once, ominously, and then they die, too. All of them.

Holy shit. What’s going on?! What am I gonna do?!

I shift the weirdly-energyless car into neutral. There’s a parking lot just a few hundred feet ahead to my right, if I can just manage to get there. Deliberately, clenchedly, I steer that lifeless monstrosity of glass and leather and steel into the parking lot, shove it awkwardly into Park, sit for a breathless moment hoping nothing explodes, and turn the ignition off.

Exhaling, I think to myself:

This is why we do yoga.

*

I’m a vinyasa teacher these days, but long before I’d ever stepped foot in a Flow class, I spent six years practicing Bikram-style hot yoga daily. It was my balm and my sanctuary, a delicious, addictive torture that cracked me open and slowed me down.

The first time I took a hot yoga class was in September 2003.

Age 24. I’d just moved to San Francisco, and my sweet Japanese roommate of two weeks, Hitomi, told me I just had to try this yoga thing. I’d been running the City’s hills to tackle the anxiety of trying to find a job, so my shin splints were screaming and my hamstrings tightening by the day. There was a studio just down the street, so one evening I went with her.

I’d resisted yoga for years, even after folks I respected had recommended it, figuring it would just be a bunch of middle-aged ladies stretching to hippie flute music. Not my jam.

Tim was my teacher; Tim, who all these years later, is now a dear colleague and friend. Tim, who was sweet and light-hearted and called Locust Pose “Superfriends Pose.” He led us confidently through the 26 poses, and there, in that sweltering, airless 105F degree room, I felt refreshingly at home.

The studio quickly became a refuge. There, I was allowed to be quiet. I was required to be quiet. I could roll in with messy hair and no makeup and ratty old sweats and stand in the back corner and be invisible. I could disappear into the breath, the silence, the rhythm of the practice, sweating and twisting and stretching out everything in me that was frantic or frazzled or stagnant or uncertain, balancing precariously on that sweat-soaked berber carpet.

The practice pushed me to no end. It was so hard to stay alive! So hard to keep breathing! So hard to not freak out or swear at the teacher or throw my arms up in frustration and stomp out of the room! So hard to fall out of Standing Bow Pose and just get back in, 100 times, without reacting, without making a face, without feeling like the most pathetic yogi that ever was.

Get lost. Start over.
Get lost. Start over.
Get lost. Start over.
Get lost. Start over.

This is yoga. This is meditation. This is parenting. This is intimacy. This is art.

This is that moment in the middle of the freeway when you’re lucky to be alive, and 17you’re not sure what to do, because your car just shut down, so you take a deep breath, and remember how back in the day you used to breathe through Half Moon even though it was exhausting and frustrating and impossible, and you take that same deep breath and steer the car over to the side of the road and call your husband to tell him to call AAA and he does and call the studio owner to pick you up and he does and you get to class with 10 minutes to spare while AAA tows your car and you step into that studio and feel calm and present and perfectly wonderfully fine (because it all is, of course).

We don’t come to the mat because life is peachy. Most of us come because of an ache in our hearts or our bones or a mind that won’t quite stop racing. We come and we just practice staying; staying and not reacting, staying and realizing the chaos is not us, staying and realizing we are clear blue sky.

Everything else? Just the weather.

(Thanks to Pema Chodron for that one.)

*

There’s a reason we call it practice. For a long time I felt cheesy about using that word.

“So, how long have you been, erm, practicing?”

It felt so pretentious. Precious. Silly.

But the more I showed up on my mat, the more I realized how perfect that word really is. We aren’t performing (that’s for damn sure). We aren’t exercising. We aren’t doing.

We are practicing.

We are practicing for all of those moments when shit falls apart, and the flight gets cancelled, and the package gets lost, and the heart breaks, and the car stops, so that when those moments come (and they will), we already know how to take a step back, watch our reactions, slow down, and choose how to respond, realizing that as long as we stay right here in this very moment, without letting our minds run off to some story about what might be or what should’ve been, we’ll be fine.

Patanjali outlines this mental training in the second yoga sutra, wherein he defines yoga as “Citta Vritti Nirodha.” In other words, “Yoga is the cessation of the misidentification with the fluctuations of the mind.”

Come again?

Put simply: yoga is realizing you are not your thoughts.

*

Steve Ross’s book, Happy Yoga: 7 Reasons Why There’s Nothing To Worry About, was the first legit yoga philosophy text I ever found.

One afternoon shortly after taking that first class I wandered into the New Age section of a bookstore down by the Embarcadero. The yoga pickings were slim at the time, but Steve Ross’s book caught my eye. Its corny title grated me. But the content hooked my heart and my mind, all at once.

I sat on the floor and read the whole thing in one take.

In down-to-earth, relatable language, Ross laid out the basics of meditation, asana, and a yogic lifestyle. His simple, self-deprecating words changed my life.

Describing how to train your mind, Ross offers the example of what happens when you get a flat tire on a sketchy road at night. Your cell phone is dead and you can’t call or text anyone. (I’m adding this detail because the 2003 version didn’t assume that everyone had smart phones). In that moment, you can do one of two things: 1) Freak out immediately and hyperventilate and assume an axe-murderer is lurking just outside your passenger door waiting for you to walk out, or 2) Take a deep breath, keep your mind yoked to every step you’re taking, walk to the gas station a half-mile down the road, and call a friend. Then, sit down and wait and read the newspaper until he comes to pick you up.

No big deal. Problem solved.

The key moment here is when you make the choice to keep your mind from running off the rails like a runaway train. That crucial breath when you avoid getting sucked into the worst-case scenario and just bring your attention right back to what is.

*

Last weekend I led a yoga and hiking retreat in Point Reyes, California. This quiet little hamlet about an hour north of San Francisco is rich with local blue cheese and Tomales Bay oysters and the kind of thick coastal fog that rolls in about 5:30pm. The hikes that meander throughout Point Reyes National Seashore are rustic and lush, with killer blue-skied views of the Bay and the Pacific Ocean beyond.

16

 

I’ve led a few of these retreats in the last year or so, and it’s always a joy. There’s this particularly magical hike that winds up Inverness Ridge to the top of Mount Vision and back down again. Locals know it, but otherwise it’s pretty much off the tourist radar. My husband and I used to hike a portion of it daily when we lived in Inverness and I was pregnant with our son.

But the last time we did it, I got our group of 30 people lost several times and we had to backtrack to the trailhead instead of finishing out the full loop.

I was so embarrassed. Felt like an idiot.

This time, I was determined to redeem myself. Two days before the retreat, I hauled my ass to the trail for a test hike. With a fire in my belly, I started from the end and hiked backwards, determined to find the missing connection.

Got to the top, and BOOM.

Turns out, last time we were actually totally on the right path. Had we only walked ¼ mile further — and had I trusted my intuition — we would’ve stumbled right onto the rest of the loop and hiked back down to complete the circle.

Lesson learned: You are on the right path, even if it doesn’t feel that way. Trust your gut. Your body knows more than your mind will often give it credit for.

Get lost. Start over.
Get lost. Start over.
Get lost. Start over.
Get lost. Start over.

*

I don’t practice much hot yoga anymore these days, but I’ll always be grateful for the way it changed my life: how it taught me to stay with discomfort, to keep breathing, and to trust that the difficult moments would pass. Sweating there in Trikonasana, my mind couldn’t get lost in aimless worries about my career or my love life or my bank account. I had to be right there, struggling, exhaling, trying not to fall over.

This is yoga. This is why we practice. So that when we’re in the most awkward, sweaty, challenging moments of our lives, we can be there, and be ok. Not freak out. Not run out of the room. Not get lost in unhelpful stories.

We yoke the mind to the breath the same way you’d yoke a wild horse to a wagon. Keeping it steady. Keeping it focused. Keeping it centered on that drishti. And before we know it, the difficult moment has passed.

And there we are.

Clear blue sky.

 

Rachel-Meyer-Headshot

 

 

Rachel Meyer is a Portland, Oregon-based writer and yoga teacher. Her work has appeared in Yoga Journal, The Washington Post, On Being, The Huffington Post, Yoga International, and more. You can find her at www.rachelmeyeryoga.com.

Post Surf Yoga Practice: 10 Poses to Ground and Restore Energy

PHOTOGRAPHY by: Megan McCullor

Surf is incredible. The raw elemental energy of being in the ocean and chasing waves creates a feeling inside like no other. Physically one of the best upper body and abdominal workouts I have ever experienced, plus the rush of adrenaline that comes from riding a wave and harnessing the awesome power of the sea.

So what effect does this have on our bodies?

Spending extended time in an adrenalized state causes the sympathetic nervous system to go into overdrive. This is a necessary function for our survival, our “fight or flight” backwash-surfmode. Air passages dilate and blood vessels contract, providing more oxygen to muscles and blood flow to the heart and lungs. Awareness is heightened and strength and performance increase, all part of our body’s natural functions that get us out of dangerous situations alive…aka beast mode! If we’re lucky enough to be travelling yogis and surfers in this lifetime, chances are we are not often using this function for pure survival; we’re in it just for the thrill of it. Our body’s ability to perform activities like surfing and other high-energy aerobic workouts depend on the sympathetic nervous system. But we need some yin to this yang, to understand that our softer sides play an equally important role in our lives.

Enter the parasympathetic nervous system. Of course our super awesome physical bodies have the natural solution. Sometimes referred to as “rest and digest” mode, the parasympathetic nervous system is the relaxed place in which our bodies can truly rest, restore and rejuvenate all the spent energy that occurs in the opposing state.

So how can we access this cooler, calmer place?

In any style of yoga practice our breath is the primary pillar on which all other elements can balance. Through our breath we can release excess heat and energy. Fresh oxygen is supplied to the blood and tissues and our nervous system responds. By practicing calming, supported, gentle postures in combination with deep cooling breaths we can access this restorative state. Think ujjayi, but without heat and constriction in the throat. Deep sighs through the mouth can be done at times throughout this kind of practice.

Ujjayi = Ocean breath; steady, full and gently audible like rolling waves.

As yogis, we strive for balance in our practice, lives and bodies. Post surf yoga session, my favorite poses are grounding, cooling, supported and opening. There are many poses and sequencing options to create this effect on the body, these are my top 10:

lynn6

1. Garudasana (Eagle Pose) – opens upper back, neck and shoulders. Centring, grounding balance poses create acute focus within our practice and help develop ease in balancing on your board.

lynn7

2. Supported Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Dog on the railing) – great shoulder opening stretch without putting pressure on wrists and arms. Helpful in feeling all the actions involved in creating an aligned downward dog, without the challenge of supporting your own weight. Try to connect to externally rotating the upper arms and spreading the shoulder blades, creating space in the upper back.

lynn8

3. Supported Side Stretch – move from DD on the railing (a counter top or kitchen table works too!) to turn to the side and press hips away from your supporting hand. Opens side body and outer chain of back muscles, brings spine into its side bending range of motion.

lynn9

4. Utkata Konasana (Goddess Pose) – grounding and activating for the legs and quads, helpful to feel balanced in a wide stance. Stretches groins and hips.

lynn10

5. Prasarita Padotanasana C – opens low back, hamstrings, chest and shoulders. Forward folds are calming and cooling. With an added chest and shoulder opener this is a juicy post surf pose.

lynn1

6. Malasana – narrow the stance of your feet and come to a low squat. Stretches the achilles and calves, opens groins and hips.

lynn2

7. Supported Matsyandrasana – there’s nothing like a good twist after a surf sesh. This supported version is also calming, and grounding. Allow your weight to soften onto the blocks and hold for 2 mins each side.

lynn3

8. Supported Savasana – my favorite chest opening heart lifting supported back bend ever. Completely counter to the movements and actions required for paddling and riding a wave. If you do one pose post surf, let this be it. One block goes directly under the shoulder blades, the other supports the back of the head.

lynn4

9. Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand or legs up the wall) – this cooling, energy balancing inversion feels amazing on the shoulders and upper back after a day in the waves. Finish your practice with circulating calming energy. Hold for 10-15 deep breath cycles. This can be done supported, with legs up the wall for 2-5 mins.

lynn5

10. Savasana – lay it out, splay it out, melt onto your mat like butter on toast. Rest and digest for tomorrow is a new wave.

 

 

Lynn

 

Lynn Alexander is a yogi, surfer and Thai massage practitioner living in Costa Rica. Learn more about Lynn and connect with her directly here:

 www.moderndayoga.com

Nama-Stay Yourself: 5 Tips to Teaching Yoga with Authenticity

I didn’t expect that teaching yoga would in turn teach me so many lessons.

Teaching with authenticity came as an unexpected challenge as a new teacher.

Without knowing what was going on in the bodies and minds of my students, I felt unable to stand strong in my own feet and in my own voice. I naturally began to defend my vulnerabilities by creating a separation between the students and myself. Teaching became a performance where I felt like I was on a stage with an audience.

I have learned that if we want our students to feel comfortable, secure and connected we must strip off our masks and face our students as we are- allowing them to be exactly as they are.

“Tear off the mask. Your face is glorious.”– Rumi

 

1) Practice, then Preach

Teach only what you know. Self-practice will give you the deepest understanding of yoga that you can then share with others. You are only able to share your experience with your students. It is not possible to teach something that you have not yet experienced for yourself. This would be like teaching a language that you cannot yet understand. Anyone can repeat the words of someone else but to teach effectively you must be able to express what it is you have learned. Share your practice.

IMG_0234

2) Yoga is Connection

Make direct contact with your students. Through speech, sight and touch you have all the tools to connect with every student. Ask questions – create a safe environment for people to interact with you. Make eye contact – let people know that you are seeing them. Always first assess what the students are comfortable with, but people generally like to be hands – on adjusted. Safely assisting and supporting your students can immediately create a connection. You are not a YouTube video – take advantage of being in real time!

 

3) Teach People, Not Poses

Respond to your students. If you are not cultivating awareness of your students while teaching them – how can you expect them to be aware of what you are teaching? Teaching is never one – way but a reciprocal process. You are teaching unique individuals. Stay tuned into how the class is receiving and responding to what you are saying. Approach the students with a sense of curiosity and respond according to their needs. Each moment is a mystery and so is each class – each student brings something new that you can learn from – stay present.

 

4) To be Sacred does not mean to be Serious

Enjoy yourself. Trust me that if you are not enjoying teaching – no one else will be IMG_0235enjoying your teaching either. You are creating a space for people to explore themselves as living human beings – dropping into the excitement and aliveness that exists in each moment. Teach what you feel passionate about so you are able to share this joy. Remember not to take yourself too seriously, as it’s not really about you anyways!

 

5) Live Yoga

As a teacher, it is your responsibility to maintain the practice outside of the class and into the world around you. This does not mean you should attempt to be who you think is the “perfect yoga instructor” but to live your truth – making conscious choices of how you interact with life. It’s not about having anything – the perfect practice, the perfect diet or even a smile always on your face – but about cultivating awareness to your relationship with yourself and the world around you – in every possible moment. You have the opportunity to share the reasons why you practice and teach yoga that stretch far beyond the mat and into the world – share this.

May everything we do benefit all beings.

 

 

IMG_0240

 

Sacha is a Yoga Trade Travel Representative – living nomadically all over the globe as a student and teacher of yoga. She is passionate about sharing the benefits of yoga as a way of living in connection with oneself and the living world around us.

Flow

As soon as she laid herself down on her mat, her soft, warm skin awoke by the coolness of the floor which pushed through her mat into her skin. You could nearly say; the mat was giving her a hard time because she hasn’t used it in quite a while.
First; Stillness.
Breath started to flow slowly into her system.
In and out.
In and out.
In and out.
The nearly invisible hairs on her body spiked up, only through the thought of knowing she has 90 minutes to herself and no one else.
Breath.
In and out.
In and out
In and out.
She started to move to her breath, awakening every dark and untouched corner of her soul. Mindfully opening her body from pain, fear, insecurities, doubts but also happiness. Gradually building strength from the ground up, feeling the burning desire to touch the roots of her feelings. Her feet, pressing thoroughly into the mat, legs engaged, sweeping her arms up on the inhale and down on the exhale. She was moving like a surfer moving to the swell and ebb of the ocean.
Her pores are opening, sweat is releasing, releasing impurities of her body. Letting go. Letting go. Letting go. Peak; Dhanurasana, bow pose.
Her heart is visible now. There is no place to hide, no lies to be told or pain to be unseen. There it is, just her and her heart. Exposed to the world like standing naked in a crowd full of people although she is all alone in a room with her mat. And what was the sensation when stars alone like bees crawled numbly over it? Her breath flows in, energizing her chest, lifting higher and higher and higher. I’m on top of the world.

Release. Her face looking down, her chest drowning into the ground. Arms are heavy, legs are still and once again she feel the coolness of the floor, pushing into her body.
Restorative movements are here. Now, the exposition of Yoga is being made.
Surrendering to forward folds and hip openers. Her body is saying yes but her mind can’t hear that yet. Only until a gentle tear is rolling down her cheek, dripping onto her mat and then, another one and another one.
Pure surrender in happening, she knows. She knows too well. Breathing into the pose.
The final call. Savasana, moving into stillness. Her breath was now the only thing that is moving. Consciously unconscious. Not manipulating the breath but being eternally watchful towards it. Belly moving;
Up
and down
Up
and down.
Awakening but eyes are still closed. Last prayer. Gratitude towards pain, fear, happiness and doubts. Gratitude to being alive, being right here.
10734245_681879745243720_8087402292483934423_nThe knowledge of the head bows to the wisdom of the heart.
OM.

 

Danae is a German/ Italian Yogi, lives on Mallorca and is a passionate Yoga teacher and Blogger, soulseekergirl.com about what she does best: The Art of Food, Fashion, Travel and Health. She inspires her readers toward a healthy and fulfilled lifestyle.

Thirty Days of Sun

This past June, my wife and I decided to drive across the continent from Anchorage, Alaska and Long Beach, New York to visit friends and family. It was to be an epic endeavor! Besides the practical side of planning such a journey, we had one great concern.

What about yoga?

Both of us love yoga. I instruct at a local studio, and she has a rich and vibrant practice. The question of how to maintain and expand our practice while traveling?

First, we looked at our trip itinerary and the route before us finding the cities and population centers that probably had a regular yoga presence. Yes, we found studios that offered yoga classes. But, when we started thinking about it, did we really want to be in a different studio every day? What if the classes weren’t really what we were looking for in a practice? Could we really cover the cost of paying for so many drop-in classes on our trip budget? What to do?

Rather than despair, we saw this as an opportunity to expand our personal practice and set an intention to follow through with this desire. Since we would be traveling before, during and after the summer solstice, we decided to use the basic form of the sun salutation as a template for practice on the road. Wherever we found ourselves after a day on the road (campgrounds, hotels, parks, somebody’s home, whatever the context) we would rise and perform at least twelve sun salutations, letting our intuition flow and guide us into other poses and variations. To add a little extrinsic motivation, we created a Facebook event called Thirty days of Sun then invited our friends from around the world to join us in this sun salutation experiment.

Soon enough, the day came for our journey. We set off and the first night stopped in a random town near the border of Alaska and Canada. Early the next morning, we slipped on our Lululemon gear on and went behind the hotel looking for a place to practice. There, we found a random concrete slab that faced east. Perfect! Thus began our Thirty days of Sun. Every day we found a place to perform our poses and before we knew it our experiment had come and gone. We learned so much from this simple ritual that translates into life off the mat. Let me share the three most important lessons.

#1 A power resides within that will carry one through intentions. Through the act of daily commitment and action, an inner drive accepts this and rises up. It takes over and leads one forward. Maybe, it’s one salutation after another but this easily can be any endeavor. The drive becomes more powerful with practice and takes one further each time, eventually to completion then beyond. It teaches that we can follow something through to the end on the mat and in the world of our aspirations.

#2 Yoga is more than calisthenics! For sure, there are physical benefits that come with doing yoga on a regular basis. But through the practice of sun salutations something else emerged beyond the physical. A change comes, shifting the mindset from one of limitation to openness, through the joining of intentional movement with breath. This creates a flow of energy from the head to the toes which saturates the entire being (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually). After the last sequence, I stand on my mat in mountain pose completely grounded in the here and now. A perfect platform for whatever it is in life that rests before us.

#3 Daily returning to the same routine over the course of a period of time creates a consistent personalized practice. As with any action performed over a span of days, it starts to become an internalized habit that continues long after the initial need or external mandate. Once there, it becomes part of the daily experience, 032and a home yoga practice has been established. It may sound rather simplistic but after all as the maxim goes, “life is complicated; yoga is simple.” This can be a yoga practice or any other healthy habit, one wants to cultivate in life.

Perhaps, you will go on such a trip or maybe you just want to mix it up and try something new. Try setting an intention for thirty days, sun salutations, some other yoga routine or really anything for that matter. Why not? See what happens, enjoy the process and cherish the lessons.

Namaste

David Westlake teaches vinyasa style yoga in Anchorage, Alaska. He is fortunate to be able to do this as his life work and when not on the mat, he can be found sitting planning his next trip or adventure, especially to places that have warm beach. http://dmwestlake.blogspot.com/

The Power of Meditation

Imagine waking up in a field of sunflowers, lying on a soft patch of grass with the sun’s warm rays kissing your skin. Where you choose to go from this paradise is up to you. You can stay in the bliss that stillness offers you tree-poseor wander around the field to soak up all the beauty it has to offer. When you begin your day with meditation, your mind can transform into that breathtaking sunflower field and your soul can explore it with wonder, love and gratitude. With practice, your world– the one you open your eyes to when the timer rings–can begin to take on the characteristics of the dreamy, peaceful place you tune into in meditation. Suddenly, the smell of those lilac flowers on your walk to work is intoxicating and wondrous. Simple acts like climbing into a warm bubble bath or slowly untangling your knotted hair begin to fill you with comfort and gratitude.

How, you ask, can meditation– which takes place in my mind–make my real world experience more fulfilling and enjoyable? Well, it starts with recognizing that meditation doesn’t merely take place in your mind, but also in your soul and your body. You can access this peaceful state when you’re not sitting on your meditation pillow by connecting with your soul through your physicality, or more specifically, through the powerful muscle in your chest. Your heart is your compass to love, serenity and happiness. You need only pause when you feel lost or unpleasant, place your hand on your heart and listen generously to what it has to say. When you allow yourself moments to tap into stillness and peace and quiet you can hear what your soul really wants. It may come to you as a quiet voice in your head asking for a break in the day, or as a pounding pulse that’s urging you to take action in a situation you’re facing. Listen to your heart, as it is the loving home of your soul. Connecting with your body, spirit and mind can bring you true balance and overall wellness.

Described in this way, meditation may sound magical, yet unattainable. It may feel out-of-this world, but it’s not impossible to achieve. If you’re just starting up a meditation practice consider that you already have all that you need to find peace and happiness. You’re born with it in your soul and you just need to reconnect to it from time to time. If you already have what you’re looking for then, you do not need to tirelessly search for it or work hard at it. Through stillness, meditation can let you effortlessly reignite the serenity inside of you so that it shines bright and pours out into the world around you. There is no doing or trying, there is just being. When you drop the struggle, all will reveal itself. Breathe, let self-judgment and expectation fall to the way side and the rest will fall into place. Remember there is no such thing as being good or bad at meditating, there is just your unique experience and journey towards your higher-self. What happens on the way there is just part of the path to enlightenment and it need not be judged or made to mean anything about you.

I struggled with meditation when I first began. I’d sit anxiously for a few minutes, sneaking a peek at the clock every chance I could to see when it would be over. It seemed I could never find a “comfortable position” to Meditation-by-lakemeditate in and my mind was a torturous hell that I would have rather ignored. Every self-doubt, judgment, piece of past pain or regret would surface during these moments of stillness and I’d become consumed by them. I didn’t know how to be still and peaceful at the same time. Through dedication and practice I can say that’s far from the experience I have meditating today! I wake up in the morning and can’t wait to find a place to plant myself for a few moments of tranquility. It’s getting easier and easier for me to tune into that simple, yet beautiful place without effort or discomfort. That’s not to say I don’t have days when I struggle to relax, but I’ve changed what I let those days mean to me. I don’t judge myself for being antsy at times or floating away in my thoughts. I notice it and let it go so I can be present for my next meditation.

That piece, right there, is the biggest shift I experienced in my meditation practice from displeasure to bliss. I began practicing non-judgment of my thoughts and dropped what I thought meditation had to look, feel and be like. If I started thinking about money troubles, an old argument or upcoming event I’d observe the thought without criticism and let it roll on by like clouds in the sky. With time, I became skilled at letting go of these negative thoughts and better able to connect with the peace, love and happiness in my heart. The best part of this all is that my meditation story is like so many others, one that includes initial unease and eventually leads to joy. Just be patient with yourself, experiment with different ways of meditating and find what works for your unique, beautiful being. Reconnect with the peace and love that created you and that’s destined to shape your life.

eryl-pic

 

Eryl McCaffrey is a yoga teacher from Toronto, Ontario and a passionate health and wellness writer. She’s driven to empower others to step into their greatness by spreading love and compassion. Check out her blog at; twofeetheartbeat.wordpress.com.