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Blindfolded Yoga Classes

For some people, and especially for those just starting the ancient practice, it can be challenging to focus during yoga class. One minute you’re in-tune with your body and breath, and the next your gaze drifts to someone’s perfect tree-pose or to a snazzy new mat you’ve been eyeing across the room.

A few acclaimed yoga instructors at New York City studios are trying to shift the focus inward by wearing blindfolds during classes! For Matt Lombardo, a teacher at downtown NYC’s Jivamukti studio, what started as a temporary way to shut out distractions became a consistent practice.

“I did one class blindfolded, and it was so great,” says Lombardo. “It totally revitalizes one’s practice.” Now, he’s practicing blindfolded on a regular basis, and so is his girlfriend, Broadway actor Cristy Candler. With mats side-by-side, the two flow from chaturanga to upward dog, invisible to each other.

I feel wearing blindfolds, or even just keeping your eyes shut during practice, forces you to have dialogue within yourself – your positive or negative thoughts, judgements, and criticisms cannot be escaped via outward distractions. You must confront them, head-on. I think blindfolded yoga classes would catch on quickly in Vancouver. What do you think?

YYoga’s Mexican Yoga Retreat

YYoga’s Mexican Yoga Retreat

Autumn is rapidly approaching, but fret-not, you can escape Vancouver’s rain by attending YYoga’s sunny Mexican yoga retreat this November! Delicious food, serene scenery, warm sea breezes, and daily yoga sessions conducted by YYoga instructions — will all make for an unforgettable 7-day experience.

Where?
Maya Tulum Resort (1.5 hours south of Cancun, Mexico)

When?
November 5-12, 2011

Who?
All levels
are welcome and you are free to participate in as many (from power and meditation to core and yin) or as few classes a day as you would like. If you book with a friend by October 1, you will each receive $200 off. For further information, visit the YYoga website here.

[source: YYoga.ca]

Yoga Photo Of The Day: On The Flyer

Yoga on top of the world! Master Saumik Bera of Real Yoga and his students practice yoga in a capsule of the giant observation wheel also known as the Singapore Flyer.

One of our readers, a Vancouverite yogi currently living in Singapore, kindly emailed us this captivating photo. Send us your yoga moment in time to [email protected] and you could be featured as Vancouver Yoga Review’s “Yoga Photo Of The Day”!

Tough Decisions…

Making decisions = agonizing.

True.

But the fact is that we create the suffering. The decision-making process can be as simple as; weighing the evidence, choosing, and then taking any necessary action.

I know, that sounds crazy.

I’m exploring the possibility. Feeling it out. Maybe I can make big decisions, tough ones (you know the ones I mean) and then just let it go. Move on. Let life unfold, stop pushing. You get the picture. It’s like if you really want to get into lotus or press up into wheel it doesn’t feel right, but if you just do it, it does. It’s like that. I’m working on it.

So I made a pretty tough decision this week. I had to choose between a retreat with Thich Nhat Han and a job that I really want. I chose the job, and instead of dwelling in the land of regret I am accepting my decision and not dwelling you-know-where. Because I had my reasons and I thought it through and took the necessary actions and that’s it.

Source: womanaroundtown.com

It feels a lot better than making the decision and constantly second-guessing my reasoning and agonizing over it. I’m not saying that I won’t have regrets, but this approach could work.

Although, if you have a life changing retreat with Thich Nhat Han in August, maybe don’t tell me.

Practicing Yoga Eases Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Science is just beginning to verify what yoga practitioners have known for eons, namely, that regular yoga practice positively impacts and changes your mood, body and health. Yoga has even been shown to aide cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy according to a study done at NIH. And it teaches tools to help patients reclaim their lives both on and off the mat.

Asanas, or the physical poses, are the most obvious form of yoga. Moving standing, sitting, backbends, inversions and restorative poses strengthens the body, makes it more flexible and realigns collagen to help improve daily movement. Both the range of asanas and the basic tenants of yoga are ideal for cancer patients. All poses aren’t for everyone; if a practitioner experiences pain, they should alter the pose, or stop and move into a restorative position like child’s pose. Yoga Journal provides a great look at how chemotherapy affects yoga practice. Working and breathing through the asanas helps patients put the attention into their bodies and examine areas of discomfort. Breathing into problem areas causes a release of the tension. Often medication side effects cause aches and pains but are eased through yoga. And even if a patient is loosing hair, he or she finds a renewed self respect and strength.

Breath work is often called pranayama. Students practice breathing and moving energy into discomfort. Many people undergoing cancer treatment report using breath control whenever possible, from waiting for a doctor’s prognosis to undergoing an uncomfortable procedure. One such pranayama is big belly breathing, where you expand your belly in big, long breaths. This slows your heart rate and calms you down, bringing awareness and oxygen into your body without causing excitement or anxiousness. It is a technique everyone including people with cancers such as mesothelioma should put into practice.

Of course other factors play a part, like meditation, which helps a person find their true self and center. Studies have shown that regular meditation can reduce chronic pain. The concept of ahimsa, the practice of nonviolence to oneself and others, helps cancer patients find a non-harming way of viewing their bodies, the treatment process and the medicine, which is commonly defined as poison for the cancer. In this way, yoga provides a different outlook on the world and feeling in your body. Even in your darkest days, possibly even living with a big uncertainty, like an unknown mesothelioma life expectancy, your quality of life can significantly improve with practice.

Author Bio: Jillian McKee works as the Complementary Medicine Advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. Her time is spent mostly on outreach efforts and spreading information on complementary and alternative medicine use in cancer treatment. You can contact her at [email protected] and check out the Cancer Alliance at @canceralliance on Twitter and Facebook.com/mesotheliomacance.

Take It Easy

Taking it easy when you usually don’t is its own kind of challenge. I am practicing Ashtanga yoga these days. Two days of led primary series and four days of Mysore at 6:00 am. But I worked for nine hours on my feet yesterday and today I was tired… and stiff… and sore. So I took it easy. As easy as you can take it in the Ashtanga primary series.

I felt guilty? Not guilty, but I had to rationalize this decision to myself. I had to continually remind myself that it is my practice and I can (and should) practice in a way that feels good.

Figuring out how much effort is appropriate is a theme in my life. I know that there are some people who do not have this problem, but all so-called “type A” yogis recognize this in themselves. Working hard is a virtue, but working too hard is dangerous. Vancouver’s own master teacher Bernie Clark characterizes it the best when he talks about how you can optimize health and you can optimize performance, but you have to choose.

And you have to examine your goals very closely.

I have found that the Ashtanga practice taps in to my competitiveness and drive to progress. I want to be able to reach the full expression of every pose because I’m goal oriented. But that’s not why I do it. I do it because it opens my heart and allows me to be more compassionate and loving.

I am committed to optimizing health, not performance. But taking it easy can be hard work too, sometimes.

Chataranga Dandasana

My subject today is the dreaded chatarunga (dreaded by me, anyway).

Source: yogaflavoredlife.com

We all have poses that teach us about our limitations. For many people these are poses like paschimottanasana or other hamstring zingers. But there is the other side– the upper body strength poses– like chataranga. I have been blessed with flexible, long hamstring muscles, which makes yoga much “easier” for me. So my challenges are different. I can find full hanumanasana on some days, but I cannot do a sun salutation!

Chataranga continues to elude me.

I do yoga because of how it makes me feel, because of how it allows me to be in the world– the freedom I get from my practice both in my life and in my body. But there is a part of me that would like to be able to do a vinyasa properly. So I get up every morning and do my yoga and muddle through my vinyasas. My difficulty with chatarunga teaches me to be humble and to continue to experiment in my own body.

Strength and ease in chatarunga is different for me than it is in other postures, but just as worthwhile to explore. Every vinyasa is an opportunity to laugh at myself and let go of any expectations that I have. I aspire to do the pose like this guy:

Source: blog.ricecracker.net

You Don’t Always Get What You Want

Source: stateofsearch.com

I have been meditating on the teachings of those yogis, the Rolling Stones. You don’t always get what you want, but if you try– sometimes– you get what you need. So true.

What is it really that I want, and what is it that I need? The difference can be so minute that it can be hard to tell. The thing is, you can tell if you needed it or just wanted it when you don’t get it.

I have noticed a tendency among yogis to greet any personal struggles or tales of not getting what we want or need with some variation of the consolation “what’s meant to be will be”. Which I don’t think is true. There are many things in the world that are not meant to be—so many that I don’t have to list them. We do not live in the best of all possible worlds. There is great and meaningless suffering and many people are victims of cruelty that I cannot imagine, and I do not agree that it is meant to be.

There is truth in this phrase, but it is not the whole truth.

Sometimes we want things that we don’t need. When we are disappointed in these cases, perhaps it is meant to be. But there’s more to it than that. There’s powerful learning in this disappointment. It’s an opportunity to understand ourselves and our choices more fully. To examine our motivation. Brushing this off cuts off this avenue of exploration.

Our struggles, pain, and disappointment make us stronger so in that sense they are meant to be. As Earnest Hemmingway said: the world breaks everyone and afterwards some are strong at the broken places. A committed yoga practice allows us to be strong where we used to be broken. And to get what we need.

Moving Day!

Source: honeyandlance.com

I’m moving today. So you all know how I feel. The culmination of many weeks of asking the universe what to do and listening to my heart. Wow, is that really how a yogi decides to move? This yogini anyway. I’m packing boxes, and organizing things, and realizing that there is much more to this than I thought.

Of course.

It is very like me to underestimate how much energy a move will take. VERY like me. I have moved at least 30 times in my life. Usually by myself. I am not an elegant mover– I do not ask my friends to help me and put things in boxes and label them. I throw my clothes in industrial strength garbage bags and box up my kitchen and put my bathroom things in a shopping bag and stuff it in the back of my car. Which works for me and so it’s fine. I am not an elegant lady– my bra straps are always showing no matter how hard I try.

But that’s another story. Today I was humming along, doing my thing. Really flying through the move. And then I got to the kitchen.

I live my life in my kitchen. When I started pulling things out of cupboards and peeking into the fridge (really peeking, seeing what is actually up in there) I realized that I’m leaving this kitchen for the foreseeable future. That’s when the move really sank in. Now my momentum is gone and I might have a beer and stare out the window for a while.

Allowing my yoga into my move. Giving myself time to honour this kitchen and all the laughter and tasty meals I have enjoyed here. Being soft and gentle, and finding the energy to continue the move from my centre.

Silence is Golden

No matter where you are.

Vancouver is a wonderful city– beautiful and exciting. It feels small enough to be comfortable but big enough to always be interesting on a Friday night. And the yoga! What an amazing group of studios and teachers. There is really something for everyone here.

Unless what you need in your yoga practice is silence.

I have always been loud. I love raucous music in my classes– two of my favourite teachers at Semperviva Carolyn Anne and Reno rock fabulous tunes in their classes. I love to flow to music, linking posture, breathe, and tunes. I am an avid talker and singer and relish being in the midst of it. But recently I have been craving silence. I want to be able to feel the silence, wrap it around myself and sit with it. Give myself the space to get still and be, contact the silence that is inside me. I have never felt like I could actually be quiet within myself until now.

The search for silence in the city is an undertaking. I have always appreciated yoga studios where people are encouraged to socialize with other students, but sometimes I want a quiet room, a peaceful space. But you can’t have it both ways.

I guess this is where retreats come in for the urban yogi. We can leave the city for a little rural silence, maybe even some darkness or the odd star. Because the truth is, I’m really craving it (silence–what else?). It’s starting to make me irritable– which is silly, because the whole point of wanting to be somewhere quiet is to find my own inner stillness.

So the quest for silence continues… another leg of my yoga journey.

Source: maheenzakaria.blogspot.com

Indecision…

I have been on the fence lately– about everything.

I’m making some changes in my life and it seems that the moment I change one thing, everything else is up for grabs too. I’m thinking about the life that I want to live, and realizing that everything is on the table. What is really important? Not what I think.

Indecision is about balance. It’s not always clear what choice leads to balance. My tried and true way is to go with my heart. Choose the option that makes my heart beat faster. But tonight, the ramifications of going in that direction seem extensive. Striking the balance between what feels best for me and what’s really best for me is daunting.

So I’m indecisive.

And that’s fine. It’s like the moment in a Yin yoga pose when you can’t bear the sensation, but you keep breathing and then your body opens up, like a sigh. It’s that moment– my teacher Cam calls it joyful discomfort. There is such freedom in that place.

Source: softwarebyrob.com

I’m meditating on my indecision. Getting still and breathing, quieting my mind even as it races. Staying with the joyful discomfort of not knowing how to find balance, confident that I will find the opening I need. Using this indecision as a reminder of how free I am.

Really, it’s a gift to be indecisive.

One Yoga for the People

One Yoga for the People

Source www.yogaforthepeople.ca

Last night was the grand re-opening of Yoga for the People. It is now One Yoga for the People. You should go. Really, you should go now. What was a beautiful community is now even more awesome. Last night’s kickoff featured the funnest class I have ever that the pleasure of taking, plus great people, and fabulous food (Gorilla Food– check it out).

Food for all of me.

I’d like to dedicate this to all the creator’s righteous children.
I’ve got some food in my bag for you.
Not that edible food the kind you eat, no I’ve got some food for thought.
-Erykah Badu

Sometimes I get so hungry. Hungry for something that I’m not getting in my life– it has nothing to do with food. I feel hungry when I’m not whole. So guess what I do?

I dig deeper into my yoga practice to find what it is that I need to feel whole, to feed myself. Last night was a feast.

It’s this paradox. In yoga we feed ourselves and fill ourselves up to get empty. The intermediate practice is to be full (of love, compassion). The advanced practice is to be empty. But I’m not there– obviously. Because I’m still hungry. I have moments of fullness, and I have flashes where I can see that emptiness is possible. One Yoga for the People is a community of people who support each other on that journey.

When I’m not paying attention I get hungry. And I try to feed myself with things that I’m not really hungry for. So I’m working on identifying that hunger and what it means so I can get still, take a breath, go to my mat and fill myself up.

Thanks to Ryan and the gang I am full. Next time you’re hungry check it out.

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