Yogis

How to Find Free or Almost Free Yoga Classes: What Every Yogi/ini Frugalista Should Know!

How to Find Free or Almost Free Yoga Classes: What Every Yogi/ini Frugalista Should Know!

Going to a studio and finding a well qualified teacher is definitely worthwhile to help deepen your practice as well as allow you to be an active part of the yoga community. But for many of us $100- $150 per month for a studio pass is just not an option!

Here are 12 great alternatives:

1. Many yoga studios offer Karma classes that are by donation or as little as $5.

2. Take advantage of the first time rate that most studios offer to new students. I spent a year and a half jumping from studio to studio only ever paying the new student rate! This is also a great way to see what is out there before settling on a home studio!

3. Often yoga studios offer a work-trade program where you can do some non-paid work in exchange for free classes.

4. Some yoga studios offer cheaper rates for  classes taught by a student teacher.

5. Check Kijiji and Craigslist for people trying to sell yoga passes they won or purchased but will no longer use.

6. Sign up for Groupon and other group purchasing websites. Many studios have been posting passes for 50-75% off.

7. Join the Facebook groups of local studios or follow them on Twitter for updates on any sales on passes.

8. Lululemon facilitates weekly yoga classes for free.

9. Check if Meetup.com has any nearby yoga meet up groups.

10. Borrow yoga DVDs from the public library.

11. Websites like Yogaglo and MyYogaOnline offer unlimited excess to online yoga classes for a monthly rate (around $18). Many of these classes are taught by some of the world’s most well known instructors.

12. Check out Yoga Journal for free online yoga videos. I recently signed up for the 21-day challenge and have been getting a free yoga class emailed to me daily!

I hope this list helps!

Namaste!

Jessica Hamilton

Images from: www.groupon.com, http://www.benefitsofyoganow.com/shop.html

The Exposed Afterglow

The cast of Sex and the City

“Hi honey, I’m home,” Amy calls to Jon as she walks into the house.

“Uh, honey. You look different – like really good and glowing. If I didn’t know any better I’d think you were just having amazing sex,” Jon says cautiously.

“Ha, of course not,” Amy replies, “but I did just have an amazing yoga class.”

We yogis are familiar with this look. Completely relaxed, eyes softly open, skin glowing, bodies refreshed, mind present. The afterglow of yoga is quite frankly, similar to the afterglow of sex. There are several parallels between each activity.

So what creates this serenity we feel after both yoga and sex?

Poses: Both yoga and sex involve holding certain positions to reach a certain state of mind or nirvana. The movement that first comes to mind is the strengthening of our pelvic floor, our Mula Bandha. We engage these muscles in yoga and in sex and by doing so, we can hold a pose longer by gaining stamina which  makes both practices more enjoyable. (http://www.thatsfit.ca)

Presence: We tend to always look better when we are thinking clearly. When we’re not interrupted by what happened at work earlier or what tomorrow will be like, but focused on the now.  Being fully and completely present wipes the look of worry, frustration, confusion, resentment, sadness, anger (the list continues) off our faces and allows us to share the look of just being. To reap the benefits of both yoga and sex, we must be present.

Relaxation: Being at ease in yoga. Calming the lines in our faces. Just letting ourselves go, most of all in Savasana, is an alternative to having that glass of wine before or after sex. Arising from Savasana may feel similar to arising from the bedroom, accompanied  by the eyes’ soft gaze, messy hair, and a subtle, low voice. (http://www.thatsfit.ca)

Breathing: The deep, long inhales and exhales during yoga and sex creates space in our muscles and cells, which helps soften and relax every part of our body and gives us more energy. (http://www.thatsfit.ca)

Sweating: That sun kissed look we get from wiping the dampness away from our faces. The healthy, refreshed glow that comes from the removal of toxins and the release of endorphins. Sweating, whether during yoga or sex, makes us feel and look better than we did prior to engagement. (www.thespicybananas.com)

So the next time you try and bust your glowing, refreshed, messy haired friend for not telling you who she’s sleeping with, think again – she may have just been to one of Vancouver’s many incredible yoga classes.

Do you know of more similarities between yoga and sex?

BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN YOGA AND FUNCTIONAL MOVEMENT PART 1

What do Yoga and Functional Movement (FM) have in common?

In Sanskrit the word Yoga is derived from the root “yul” meaning “to control,” ” to unite,” and “to join;” meaning whole. There are many paths in yoga, all of which lead us to the same ultimate destination; which is optimal health and wellness in body and mind and a connection with something greater then ourselves. Functional movement aims to achieve the same destination, but does so through a more scientific modality. One rooted in understanding the approach to freedom in movement through the application of transformational biomechanics.

 Let’s take a closer look at the fundamentals of both Yoga & Functional Movement (FM):

  • Yoga: Anamayakosha – the physical body and its systems.
  • FM: biomechanics, anatomy & physiology of the human body
  • Yoga: Pranamayakosha – the energy body and breath
  • FM: deep diaphragmatic breathing & energy flow distribution
  • Yoga: Manomayakosha – the psychoemotional body
  • FM: sports psychology & emotional mechanics
  • Yoga: Vijnyanamayakosha – the watcher state or higher mind
  • FM: visualization & skill attainment
  • Yoga: Anandamayakosha – the bliss body, higher consciousness and the enlightened state
  • FM: homeostasis & equilibrium, in mind, body  & spirit

As a health practitioner of movement coaching we focus on aligning the body, and controlling movement through the use of transforming negative restrictions or “bio mechanical breakdowns” into symmetrical movement patterns. These movements are based on real-life situational biomechanics that affect us daily. They usually involve gross motor movement involving multi-joint movements that prepare the body for real life developments; which also place a high demand on the body’s core, segmental stabilizers and innervation of the body processes.

Yoga and Yoga therapeutics have been a growing niche market of the Western Yoga World for many years and with more teachers becoming more educated on human anatomy and physiology and more health practitioners understanding the benefits that Yoga modalities can have both mentally and physically on their clients, it’s easy to see the direct connection between the two disciplines. Both aim to teach on-going adaptation; which is required for people to remain injury free, and to maintain freedom of movement and peace of mind.

Join us next week as we look at the role of Yoga therapeutics and transformational biomechanics in rehabilitating back pain, a common issue in today’s society. Your spine will thank you! Namaste!

Yoga Pants or?

I’ve heard a LOT of talk over the last little while that “Yoga Pants are Not Pants!”  From newspaper articles, word of mouth, to even a pol on Virgin Radio a couple of weeks ago. While yoga pants, specifically lululemon branded ones, seem to be the staple in the yoga community around Vancouver, there seems to be a lot of huffing & puffing about whether or not yoga pants should be worn out in public.

Whether you want to call yoga pants and all the accessories, tanks and hoodies as part of the fashion industry or not, there are certainly enough styles and colours and fabrics to enter them into this category, as I’m sure all the designers who make these items would agree.

So being the devils advocate that I am, I’ve compiled a list of 3 Places to NOT where Yoga Pants and 3 Reasons Yoga Pants are Pants!

3 Reasons Yoga Pants ARE Pants;

  • Well, let’s just say – They are PANTS!
  • They are more cleverly designed than a pair of sweat pants from the 80’s with the elastic ankles.
  • They are available in multiple colours, fabrics and styles and there is something for everybody from straightlegged to tights to capris.

Posted in a Gastown Shop Window; Ishara boutique, 38 Water Street, Vancouver, BC

While the argument can be construed that they are great if you are going to or coming from yoga they aren’t meant to be worn everywhere. Sure, but in reality how are most yoga pants different from regular pants? Form fitting? Yes, but so are tights or pencil skirts for that matter.

But realistically, there is a time and a place for everything! While I will admit, I do wear yoga pants A LOT, as tights or in the summer as capri”s, they are multi functional when I want to run in & take a class, I don’t need to go home and change first. But there are places that we really don’t need to see the lululemon logo!

3 Places to NOT Wear Yoga Pants;

  • Funerals – Take the extra 5 minutes and put on a pair of slacks that will make you come off as being a little bit more modest, especially if you are in a church.
  • Weddings – Unless the wedding involves a yoga class they are probably way too casual to pull off at a wedding.
  • Job Interview and maybe the job depending of course what it is, if you work in a business office downtown, the lulu’s won’t fly!

While I’m sure there are the lover’s and the haters out there on where they should and shouldn’t be worn, but my vote is in; Yoga Pants are Pants! What do you think?

Yoga-ee People

Patti Paige Baked Ideas Custom Baking

“So, where do you work?” I ask a new acquaintance.

“Oh I work in Kitsilano,” she replies with an unimpressed tone.

“Oh yeah, I work around there too and used to live there. I love Kits, such a nice area,” I respond cheerfully.

“Yeah, it’s ok. It’s very Vancouver and all yoga-ee,” she states, accentuating the ee.

“Yes, I know,” and to her surprise I add, “I’m actually all yogaee myself.”

Vancouver yoga people. Just a bunch of clones wearing Lululemon spandex suits, headbands, and legwarmers with yoga mats on our backs, shopping for organic produce in Capers or Whole Foods. We prefer Naturopaths to Doctors, tea to coffee, and vegetables to meat. We believe that because we practice yoga, we are better than the general public. We feel better, act better, and look better in tight clothing.

I used to be convinced of this stereotype, allowing it to create negative feelings towards practicing yoga. Then, a few years later, I went to my first class.

Rather than being surrounded by the image-conscious people I expected, I was surrounded by all sorts of focused, non judgmental yogis enjoying their practice and supporting mine. Lululemon? Yes of course it was worn – and good thing since most spandex pants reveal bum crack during every Downward Facing Dog. Matching outfits? I couldn’t tell you since my attention was drawn inward rather than towards analyzing classmates’ clothing choice. I even had the option of sipping a free cup of tea before class.

There is an instant sense of comfort when you begin class and recite om for the first time. We’re all there for our own reasons and it has nothing to do with personality type or fashion sense or where we choose to buy our produce. I wasn’t being looked at or stereotyped, so how could I speak of these yogis with negative connotation?

There is no denying that Vancouver is full of practicing yogis who do fit the stereotype to a certain extent. I’m a vegetarian, Lululemon wearing, tea drinking yogi. Yet this doesn’t determine who I am. There is such a wide range of people who practice yoga in this city and we are much more diverse than any stereotype’s classification.

I used to think yoga was for wealthy yuppies in need of an indoor activity during winter. Until I tried it and was pleasantly surprised. Perhaps this new friend of mine should just try it, too.

YIN & YANG: A RUNNERS GUIDE TO YIN YOGA

With the Sun Run and the BMO half/full marathon just around the corner adding a little Yin to your Yang could be your best preventative approach towards staying injury free this season.

As an ultra marathoner and Yoga teacher I realize that stretching is a crucial part of any athletes repertoire. Over time, as we age, and especially in competitive athletics when load is applied continuously our structural frame our connective tissue and joints are ultimately the most affected. This creates stiffness, limited mobility and sometimes injury.

 So how does Yin and Yang relate to human physiology?

Yang tissue make up muscles, are more fluid-filled, soft, and elastic.  Yin tissue make upconnective tissue (ligaments, tendons, and fascia) and bones are dryer, harder, and stiffer.  By extension, exercise that focuses on musculoskeletal tissue is yang; exercise that focuses on connective tissue is yin.

Through dynamic movement and the linear mechanics of running, we place 8 times our body weight with every gait cycle; which generates a large amount of heat within working tissue. So it’s no wonder so many athletes gravitate towards adding a little Yin to their Yang practice.

Yin Yoga provides a slower, calmer method of yogic stretching that targets the joints, ligaments and fascia/connective tissue in the body. When combined with deep diaphragmatic breathing; the vagus nerve is stimulated and the relaxation response within tissue is activated, releasing new depths in postures, deeper ranges of motion, or an increased flow of energy can be achieved by focusing on the deeper tissues of the body through this practice.

Moreover, a yin approach works to promote flexibility in areas often perceived as nonmalleable, especially the hips, pelvis, and lower spine, all areas that runners need to be mindful of during their peak training leading up to race day.

As you approach the Sun Run and BMO half /full marathon create space for Yin Yoga, it’s a great addition to your taper. Try YogaFORM on Saturday mornings on the North Shore, or if you are an evening Yogi; one of my favorite spots is YogaPod, also on the North Shore, Friday afternoons and Saturday evening bliss!

 Happy Yin, to all your Yang!

4 Things You May Not Know About Yoga Teacher Training

1. For some of us, it may be our first yoga-type training…

Typically practitioners at all levels and ages show up to yoga teacher training. I attended with students who had been practicing and studying for several years in addition to others, whom like myself, had been practicing for less. The important thing to remember is that it’s not a competition and no one is going to judge you – if you feel a little unsure about where you are, you can always contact the teacher(s) hosting the training to get their opinion. Most schools seem to accept all levels, but there are also some who suggest a recommended amount of experience. The training will most likely be challenging both physically and mentally, so some experience and preparation will indeed be helpful.

2. It’s not always about learning to teach…

Not everyone may attend yoga teacher training to learn how to teach, but to deepen his or her knowledge and practice. Typically yoga teacher training offers comprehensive and invaluable information. Areas of study can include meditation, chanting, philosophy, Asana practice, Pranayama (breathing techniques), anatomy, physiology, diet and nutrition, in addition to how to start teaching and setting up logistics. Training to become an effective yoga teacher typically takes many years of dedicated practice and not everyone who graduates may immediately start to teach. Instead they may be inspired to go even deeper into the exploration of yoga, broaden their expertise within different aspects or specialties or continue to develop and evolve their personal daily practice.

3. Be prepared for the unexpected…

As the time becomes nearer, you may be both anticipating the experience and feeling a little anxiety. This is natural. It is important to get plenty of rest and to try and arrive with an open mind and ready to be teachable. It is also a good idea to prepare for not only the physical challenge, but also for the mental. Yoga training can be intense and detoxifying. Along with it can come moments of bliss, but also strong sensations and feelings. You may find yourself asking quite significant questions or wanting to deal with a certain issue. There may also be elements of resistance, even confusion. One of the best things you can do during this time is to simply trust in the process of yoga. Know that the experience is worth it and that all the effort it may take to deal with it is too. And, most importantly, know that you already have what it takes to get through it.

If you are taking a residential intensive, may not be able to return home or  to your family or friends. Don’t be afraid to seek the support from other willing students or teachers around you.

4. The changes are continuous

You may experience both subtle and dramatic changes during your yoga teacher training. It will most likely not stop there. The transformation may happen all at once or gradually over time. Either way, you will more than likely start to grow a clearer understanding about who you are. Yoga brings us to places within ourselves where changes need to occur. Doing yoga everyday will definitely bring a dramatic change as it will relieve stress, release negativity and promote awareness and a positive outlook on life.

I would love to hear your experiences.

Floating Through The Practiced Storm

Savasana. The pose of all poses. You rise from your deep, calm, refreshed state with an increased positivity and gratitude towards life. You steadily prepare to face the outside world, bringing with you the qualities enhanced during class. Before you can collect your things and gather your thoughts to go on your merry way, the entrance is flooded.

Fellow yoginis, desperately anxious to find peace and start their practice, rush to the crowded cubicles and still occupied mats. You and others in a successful tranquilized state are bombarded with questions as to whether you’re coming or going. Your peace is interrupted, but you try hard to hang onto it as you dodge the incoming traffic and make your way out of class.

Doesn’t this abrupt behaviour confuse our purpose in going to yoga? The practice in breathing through discomfort and applying it to our daily lives. Being calmly present to deal with temporary strain.

So why not breathe through the discomfort of not getting our usual spot in class? Or the hurry to place our belongings in the cubicle closest to the exit? Or the anxious need to achieve ten full minutes of happy baby before class begins? How about respecting our community, our Kula, to help enhance its practice rather than suspend it.

We’ll all eventually arrive on our mats and begin our practice our way, moving to accommodate our bodies’ needs. Once class is finished, the positive energy we leave with is not determined by how strategic we were before class started.

So let’s face this challenge, despite how badly we need our next class. Let’s incorporate the strength, compassion, and integrity we learn from yoga and ensure its carried forward once we enter our yoga community. So when we exit class, we stay afloat rather than being forced to sink.

My Yoga, My Responsibility

I’ve been thinking a lot about personal responsibility– especially with regards to my yoga practice and the yoga that I teach. Injury is serious, especially in advanced yoga classes. Everyone knows someone who has hurt themselves. Ryan Leier, one of my dear teachers, talked about this the last time he was here in Vancouver: “I’m not going to talk so much about your kneecaps, because I trust that you all know what to do with them”. That trust is vital because it empowers me be conscious and honest within my own practice.

But I’ve been talking about kneecaps in my classes– maybe too much.

Yoga is a tool for me to practice taking responsibility for myself. On my mat I reconnect with who I am and with who I want to be. Yoga gives me the strength and the peace to go out into the world and live the life I want to live. I think that most people who stay with their practice do so because it teaches powerful lessons about personal responsibility. The practice of yoga allows us to be honest and to be present– to take responsibility for our actions and our thoughts.

But yoga teachers do have an enormous responsibility to their students. They are responsible for providing a safe environment and finding a balance between challenging students and protecting them. Ultimately it’s up to each individual to take responsibility, both physically and emotionally. Yoga is intense– it brings stuff up and can be hard on the body if we’re not careful. So each yogi needs to take responsibility for themselves every time they practice.

I feel so lucky that my yoga practice teaches me how.

MOVIE REVIEW: FIERCE LIGHT, WHEN SPIRIT MEETS ACTION

What does Yoga and Activism have in common?   COMMUNITY!

Last night I watched the ground breaking documentary, “Fierce Light, When Spirit Meets Action” an in-depth look at the power that is released when our spirituality/belief and activism meet.

Sparked by the movements of Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu,  Thich Nhat Hanh, and Mandela, by igniting a global movement of positive, compassionate action. It is a global journey of social change motivated by love, and the necessity to save our world through ethical action.

When asked by students what my message is, I say I am an Activist for Compassion, thus my message is to be an activist for compassion.

It is here, where we see a direct correlation between Yoga and Activism; both deeply rooted in community. The growing popularity of yoga at this time of global transformation and shift of inward search for our own humanity is not a coincidence.

If we look at the definition of a Yogi it is someone who strives to live in harmony with the earth, our environment and embracing the connection with another; which is at the heart of belonging.

A yogi seeks self-realization through the practice of action to become a more centered and rounded partner of society. By living in an other-centered way rather than a self-centered way, the yogi lives harmoniously with the earth, with all beings and things, and ultimately with oneself. This is the very way of life that is reflected in our leaders who have taken compassionate action towards a better world.

The practice of yoga on the mat can provide us with very practical skills to enable us to dismantle our present negative culture, a culture of dis-ease, based upon the exploitation of the earth and injustice of our fellow human and to act with non-violence to shift the paradigm towards social change.

So the next time you are on your mat, think about how you can transfer the loving, compassionate traits evoked from your practice and take them off the mat.  Imagine individuals and organizations connected by a shared commitment to compassionate, positive action….that’s most definitely Fierce Action!

Transform.  Inspire.  Enable

Cynthia’s Handmade Cards and Yoga Bags

Teacher training is a great way to meet inspiring, talented, creative and like-minded people. Cynthia, one of our fellow yoga trainees, always comes to class with the most original creations. She knits quirky hats, gloves, scarves, but also yoga mat bags. They are quite a hit amongst our group and a lot of the girls have now their personalised one, assorted to the colour of their mat.

Handmade Yoga Bag

Cynthia also personalised her yoga diary, by carving her own yoga inspired stamps, and I always peek at it jealously when we are making our notes on asanas. She has now created a few different sets of cards using her designs, and they are really lovely.

Ganesh

So I would suggest a browse at Cynthia’s blog, where she posts some very appetising vegan recipes, and writes about yoga and self-sufficiency and also have a look at her shop where you will find her cards.

Olive OM

Aqua Bird

[Source: http://muddyspoon.blogspot.com]

If You Can Breathe, Then You Can Sing

Sitting cross legged, arms raised straight out from each side, palms up, music on. We can sing along if we want to. And to my surprise, we all do. And it sounds…awesome?

I didn’t expect a group of random people – some with vocal talent and others (like myself) with none whatsoever – to sound so lovely. And it wasn’t just this once either, it is every time we repeat a mantra or sing along to a popular song. We sound good. The combined voices are somehow in sync with great tone. It sounds better than any cover band I’ve heard or any church choir performance I used to be tortured with. Yet, these bands and choirs rehearse.

So why does an unrehearsed group at yoga sound better?

The author of Yoga Solara offers many parallels between practicing yoga and singing, offering explanations about why us untrained singers find our voices in yoga.

Relaxation, releasing our egos. The best singers strive to let go of all physical and mental tension and allow their voices to come from an authentic, natural place. If you allow your ego to run your singing, your voice will sound false and manipulated.

Presence. Singing is the epitome of being present in the moment. If you let your mind wander, your voice can become unstable.

Posture. Correct singing posture is identical to mountain pose, with hands at the sides.

Technique and Heart. A great singer understands and cultivates a solid technique, and then, when performing, lets go and just sings from the heart.

Breath, the focal point in both yoga and singing. The ‘First Secret’ to singing is the control of breath. When you have control of your breath that means you have control over the muscles of your diaphragm, larynx, and vocal chords (Singing and Breathing – http://singinglessons4u.net/).

So, a singing voice and the courage to find it is one of the many benefits of practicing yoga. Although I’m not about to start belting out Donna Summer songs or create my own cover band, it is nice to acceptably sing out loud and believe I sound better than I would otherwise.

What are your thoughts about singing in yoga?

Want to sing in yoga? I recommend Gloria’s Kundalini at Semperviva.

YOUR PATH TO PRANAYAMA

breathe deep and relax

We know that the word “prana” means life force and “pranayama”  in Yoga means “breath control” or deep diaphragmatic breathing; which is crucial to both sustaining life, as well as relaxation.

But did you know your diaphragm does more then just help you breathe deeper and cultivate prana? 

Deep breathing establishes the mind-body connection needed to regulate our autonomic nervous system (ANS); which can become under-active or over-active with higher levels of stress, tension and the daily hustle and bustle of our urban lifestyle.

The ANS is comprised of the parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) and the sympathetic Nervous System (SNS); which are responsible for regulating the body’s involuntary functions; which includes the movement of the diaphragm, breathing, circulation, muscle contractions and how you got into the Yoga posture you are practicing right now!

When we meditate or sleep all of these processes slow, along with our breath and we reach a steady state of deep breathing, which is controlled and methodical.  

However, daily stress, tension, muscle fatigue and anxiety can obstruct the fluidity of breathing leaving us with shallow, rigid breathing patterns. This results in unbalanced or impaired autonomic responses that restrict the flow of energy in our body, thus weakening our prana.  

Deep diaphragmatic breathing exercises engage the diaphragm, abdominal wall and rib-cage which improves the inner space within the abdomen for the organs to move freely.

Practicing your pranayama helps to circulate freshly oxygenated blood throughout the system, improves mental clarity and activates the PSNS by stimulating the vagus nerve; which induces the relaxation response, and provides a healthy respite from chronic stress.

Your Path to Pranayama can begin in a relaxed seated or supine posture. Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your belly:

  • Steady your mind.
  • Breathe more slowly.
  • Breathe more deeply, from the belly.
  • Exhale longer than you inhale. 
  • Cultivate Pranayama

Happy Breath makes Happy Prana!

Sources:

*  Full Path to Pranayama article can be found here:  “The Da!ly Muse” YogaFORM’s official blog site.  http://gimmedailymuse.wordpress.com/  

* Yoga Anatomy: author Leslie Kaminoff and The Breathing Project, Inc – NYC

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