Yoga

Oh Lordy, Yoga For Forty Part 3

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When dressing for work, I noticed my pants’ zipper went up a little easier. Really? I thought. So I did what I very rarely do…I went to the mirror. Oh… what the hell. I lifted each arm and flexed my biceps – whoa, they look bigger. Not bulky, just leaner. One could call them pipes.

Pleased with my results, I lifted my pant legs to my knees, turned around, looked over my shoulder back into the mirror, and went up onto my tiptoes. I have calve muscles? And they’re defined?

Then, I went there. Hesitantly, but I was on a roll. I lifted my shirt to just above my hips and went for a grab at the sides of my waist – the forbidden exposure of the muffin-top. I couldn’t grab as much as usual…I couldn’t grab as much as usual! I have less to grab there! I would’ve never thought.

Running upstairs is easier and I sit up straighter. I can finally relax my shoulders more and touching my toes is a breeze. I feel more comfortable in spandex, less concerned about my future, and just plain better all around.

Sure, on April 21st, that final fortieth day after my fortieth class, I went home with a list of things I had to catch up on. My taxes, cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping – the usual. I went away for the weekend and gave my body a long rest. But it felt weird. My joints were cracking, my neck stiffening, and my shoulders tensing. I need yoga. I miss yoga, my Kula. So after getting out of my yogic routine, I now cannot wait to get back into one…not every day, but steadily.

For some, forty days of yoga is minimal and part of their regular practice. For me, it was a challenge. A real challenge with much dedication and motivation needed along the way. But I did it and so did many others and it makes the daily challenges in life seem a little more bearable.

After all, if we can hold chair pose every day for forty days and come out feeling strong, I’m convinced we can handle most uncomfortable situations patiently with focus and come out stronger. All it takes is movement, momentum, and breathing. As one of my favourite teacher’s Ara Cusack always says at the end of each of her classes, “remembering that’s all that it takes.” I now understand what she means. Namaste.

KARMA YOGA: DO YOGA, DO GOOD

Yoga for Social Change! 

Karma (meaning to do or action) Yoga (meaning union):  in its simplest meaning literally translates to selfless service, the discipline of action or the union through action; which ultimately brings us closer to dharma.

A growing trend in the West, Karma Classes have been gaining momentum at a steady Vinyasa. More importantly, karma classes are finding their own place amongst social change makers and the Sports Philanthropy Movement; harnessing the Ying to the Yang in the therapeutic sense. This movement is designed to engage industry leaders and professional teachers in a dialogue about the value of sports/therapeutic philanthropy and aims to connect them with social change tools and causes that best fit their passions, recognizing their efforts to inspire others.

About a month ago I posted an article on Yoga & Activism, and karma class, my Yogic friends is the vehicle from which the compassionate-asana is driven! Karma classes also allows for a unique space, where the energy from inside a class is solely dedicated to a greater purpose!

From a business perspective the Yoga Industry can leverage their business in a socially responsible manner and showcase great grassroots initiatives/causes that can have a deep impact towards sustainable, positive change; both locally and internationally. More over; foster social change from a place of hope, opportunity and positive prana on a larger scale.

You can find a karma class at almost any Yoga studio these days, but if you are looking for a larger unified front, this has recently come across my radar and I felt compelled to share…

“Why stretch when you can reach?”  – The Engage Network

…is their tagline. Founded by Sean Crone, Hala Khouri and Suzanne Sterling” Off the Mat, Into the World ® (OTM),” is a non-profit program of The Engage Network, and is dedicated to bridging yoga and activism and is geared towards communities around the world who collaborate for social change. Understanding the idea that we are stronger and more powerful together then we are apart, making a difference starts from the foundation, our roots.

As Yoga teachers and advocates for compassion, a karma class is an incredible tool in our toolkit to bring awanress to social change and connection to our global community!

Sources:

 The Engage Network: http://www.offthematintotheworld.org/community.html

 Charter for Compassion: http://charterforcompassion.org/site/

 SAVE THE DATE: Camp Moomba Yogathon & Blissfest, July 24th Vancouver BC.

Semperviva Celebrates Mother’s Day With A Special Family Class

Semperviva is offering a very special family yoga class this Mother’s Day! The class is for moms with kids ages 5 – 11 years — but dads are also welcome. This will be a by donation class in support the exceptional efforts of Shanti Uganda — its goal is to lower maternal and infant mortality rates, reduce HIV/AIDS transmission rates from mother to child, improve access to education and supplies and honour every birthing woman.

When? Sunday, May 8th, 2:00pm-3:00pm
Where? Semperviva’s Kits Beach Studio

[source: yogamanila]

Five Ways Yoga Can Save You Money

Erica Rodefer (from the Spoiled Yogi) recently wrote an article on the Yoga Journal describing five ways practicing yoga can actually save you moolah. If you’re new to yoga and broke, we wouldn’t recommend jumping into the discipline just to save cash, but Erica does bring up some great ways yoga saves your health, wealth, and the planet! Here is an excerpt from her list:

4. Shop less. Some people eat ice cream when they’re feeling down. Others just shut down. Then, there are those of us who buy new shoes to make us feel better about life. I’ve learned that the more yoga I do, the less “stuff” I need to feel happy and fulfilled. I don’t need a day at the spa or a psychotherapist to validate my worth.

5. Conservation. One of the tenants of yoga is ahimsa, which means nonharming. While there may be some controversy in the yoga community about what exactly it means to practice ahimsa (mostly around the issue of vegetarianism), one thing we can all agree on is that we do less harm when we use fewer resources. The more we conserve, the less money we spend.

To read reasons numbers 1 – 3 of her list, click here.

How does yoga help you save in your life?

[source: yogadestin]

Oh Lordy, Yoga For Forty Part 2

I felt muscles in my legs I didn’t even know existed. I felt more ribs move with every twist. More pressure in my fingers with every downward dog. More strain in my Achilles tendons as I tried to perfect my Warrior one. I had to stop going to my weekly Kundalini practice to ensure I could maintain my strength for upcoming classes. My basement suite became dustier, laundry grew higher, bus rides seemed longer, and sleep time felt shorter.

As tough as it is to dedicate your body to practicing every day, it is even tougher to dedicate your time.

Was it awful to give up other routines and dedicate my spare time to yoga? Not at all. It was a challenge, but I grew to like it. My daily practice became what I looked forward to during each work day. Knowing I had a welcoming, comfortable, and relaxing place to be in a few hours made the dull days shorter.

That tired, restless feeling most of us get after a poor night’s sleep and an even poorer day on the job was eliminated during my daily practice. It energized me rather than drained. I spent less time wasted on watching mindless TV or checking email and more time being productive. My time was better spent because it became more crucial. Don’t get me wrong, I began to miss staring at the Food Network, but I put more effort into taking care of myself instead.

I enrolled in the course I never got around to registering for, I completed four cover letters for job applications I was procrastinating on, and I got myself into bed earlier and in turn, was able to wake up feeling more rested, despite that I could always keep sleeping.

Time became more precious, which I soon learned may be the point of this whole challenge. A focus on time, the now, and gratitude for the precious time we have.

But how about those precious physical changes? You know, the ones to our muscular frame. As much as I didn’t think it was going to happen, it did.

To be continued…

Mindfulness And Me (3 Tips)

I’m thinking about walking the talk more. As I work towards being mindful in my yoga practice, I’m exploring how to be more mindful in my life. It doesn’t make any sense to be committed to being conscious and thoughtful on my mat and then float through the rest of my day on auto pilot. So I’m going to take my mindfulness practice off the mat…

How? you ask.

I have some thoughts:

1. Turn off my laptop more. Can I do this and keep my identity? Probably. It may be hard, but I bet I could do it if I made more of an effort (“I am not my mind, I am not my mind, I am not my mind”).

Less time reading the New York Times online would probably be good for me.

2. Slow down. Looking out the window is not necessarily a waste of time.

3. Pay more attention to food and drink. I need to remind myself that eating is sacred, not something I do for entertainment, and it’s not just fuel. My heart loves to enjoy and savour food, but sometimes I forget.

So in May I am going to start living my yoga off the mat one mindful moment at a time…

(source: www.mindfulconstruct.com)

FOAM ROLLING, YOGA & THE BMO MARATHON… OH MY!

As a marathon runner and Yoga practitioner I love any opportunity to marry the two passions and with the BMO marathon right around the corner, many Yogis and Yoginis will be participating in this grand event. If you find yourself pondering, how do I know if I am effectively tapering and preparing for race day? Don’t worry, you are never alone! Let me offer some direction…

Foam rolling and soft tissue release can be very beneficial towards preparing your mechanics for any event, and truth be told; as a biomechanical coach I instruct my clients to use this tool as a warm up to their warm up, before any exercise; running, biking, Yoga and beyond!

Why you ask? What a great question, thank you …

Foam rollers have been gaining popularity as a much needed tool for soft tissue therapy and to treat somatic dysfunction; but they aren’t just for the clinic.  Foam rollers are popping up in most therapeutic modalities, sports teams and even in Yoga.

Unfortunately, I hate to play the age card, but as we get older, our joints start to lose their elasticity thus reducing the range of motion and mobility at the joint, creating sore muscles, week muscular chains and delayed movement overall; which is never fun when you are trying to rock your Yoga mat in a Vinyasa class or any class for that matter.

A few weeks ago we looked at Yin Yoga as a runner’s best asset towards balancing out their Yin & Yang! Yin Yoga as we know focuses on asanas designed to bring intention and relaxation to our connective tissue.

When gearing up for any small or large event, adding the roller to your movement prep can make a world of difference!

Foam rolling can help prep your body by addressing restrictions and soreness by relaxing contracted muscles, increasing circulation and lymphatic drainage and breaking up fibrous tissue and by products. It also simulates the stretch reflex of muscles and connective tissue.

This year at the BMO marathon, I will be sitting on the side lines volunteering at the expo with my friends at IMPACT Magazine, but I am sure you can guess what will be in my tote bag – you got it; runners, my travel foam roller and my Yoga Mat!  Feel free to stop, drop and give the foam roller a whirl.

Oh Lordy, Yoga For Forty – Part 1

smokefreewisconsin.blogspot.com

“Oh no, there is no way I can do that,” I respond to my best friend Brenna, the yoga teacher, when she asks me to do Semperviva’s Forty Day Challenge with her.

She looks at me calmly and replies, “why not?”.

The excuses flowed faster than a Vinyasa Power Flow class. “Well, I’m taking that night class and I have lots of homework. My weekends are tied up enough as it is. I won’t have time to cook dinners. My body can’t handle it – you know, I’ve had that sore hip for months. I don’t have a car anymore. I’m trying to find a new job right now. And I’m not good enough at yoga to do it that much.”

“Ok then,” she says unbothered, “I’m going to do it.”

In reality, if anyone doesn’t have time to do this yoga challenge, it’s Brenna with her schedule of volunteering, yoga teaching and training, overtime working, and wedding planning to name a few. Her question of “why not?” stuck with me the whole rest of the night. It’s called a challenge for a reason.

But why forty days? I asked. It seemed like an eternity. Semperviva’s website (www.semperviva.com) states, Yogic science confirms that it takes 40 days to fully develop a new life-promoting habit or to drop a current destructive habit. Knowing full well that I could use something to break the repetitive question to myself: “What am I doing with my life?” I chose to try and sustain my mind from all the foreseen opportunities within my future and focus more on the now. Something I do well temporarily, but making it last is a recurring problem.

I started off strong. The first week of March 13-20, with momentum and positivity, I counted every class with pride. A few friends and I were in it together and created a routine support network.

Slowly after week 2, fourteen straight days of yoga, I began to feel the benefits of practicing every day, but these weren’t felt without pain. Strong, rooted stiffness which I took as good pain, but pain nonetheless.

To be continued…

What The Neck About Yoga

We store stress throughout our entire body, but for most of us, our neck takes the brunt of it. Fortunately, yoga can do wonders for neck pain and not only because it helps build strength and flexibility, but also because it helps us to develop better posture habits, even if we have a sedentary lifestyle.

The average human head weights between 15 and 21 pounds, so, as you can imagine, when we have poor posture, have bad head-neck alignment or are stressed, it makes the muscles of the neck and back work and compensate more than they should – it actually makes the muscles short and weak. This can lead to pain and tightness in the neck and upper back region, headaches, even arthritis and other not so pleasant muscle injuries.

Forcing your body to do anything in yoga that it is not ready for can result in serious injury. All it takes is a few centimeters the wrong way.

Chances are that if have (or have had) a desk job or stress in your life, you are going to show up to yoga with tight neck muscles (most of us do). You may not be able to bring the chin to the chest, bend the head back to look up or even turn the head from right to left to a great degree. These limitations are OK, you just have to learn to work with them.

Releasing tension and stress in the jaw, neck, shoulders and down the back is as important as sitting up straight. All we need to do is to take a few deep breathes and remind ourselves to relax and sit up right (remember strong, but soft). This goes for when we are doing yoga and in our everyday life.

Here are only a few exercises that could help. Remember to move slowly and deliberately and not beyond your boundaries.

Easy Pose: helps to balance the head evenly on top of the neck. Sit in comfortable cross-legged position with a straight spine, balancing the head evenly on top the neck.

Chin-to-chest: creates a long gentle stretch of the back of the neck. Inhale and as you exhale slowly lower your chin to your chest, creating a long, gentle stretch along the back of the neck. Take several slow, deep breaths with the chin down. Lift the head back up on an inhale. Repeat.

Ear-to-shoulder: creates a gentle stretch along the top of the shoulder and side of the neck. Inhale and exhale your head to toward one shoulder – eyes forward. Inhale and raise your head back up. Repeat on the other side.

Draw-a-necklace with your chin: creates a gentle stretch along the top of the shoulder and side of the neck. Inhale and draw a necklace with your chin from the middle of your chest toward right shoulder. Exhale come back to center. Repeat on the other side.

Before you know it you’ll be looking up at your fingertips while in triangle pose.

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

My Top 5 Favorite Vancouver Yoga Review Articles

This was tough! But, here are some of the articles that have lately spoken to me and have stuck to my heart. Hope you enjoy! I would love to hear your fave!

1.  Memory Dredging by James Liang. Time traveling through the senses – how smell, sight, taste, sound and touch can revert us back to a time that was significant in our lives. We hold onto these moments (both good and bad). Sometimes we may not even be able to remember the entire instance, but select pieces and parts of it, but for whatever reason, a particular sense captured its imprint. I believe that perhaps a reason we record this instance is for energy. In those places (memories) we experienced something profound, memorable, a particular feeling or emotion. Perhaps they are also places for us to return to learn from and use the experience and its energy for strength to keep going.

2.  Coming Back To You by Leeana Anaka. Yoga helps us to reconnect with our bodies in a way that we become more in tune with it and, in a way, we become better at listening to what it’s telling us. Yoga also helps us to take control of the mind, especially when it comes to dictating unrealistic expectations or negativity. As Leeana has written, yoga cultivates a calmness that allows you to believe that you are exactly where you are supposed to be.

3.  Browse with Moderation by Sophie Legrand. In this article, Sophie talks about not squandering our energy and exercising our will-power in a modern world of cyberspace. We often resort to things like the television and endless hours of Internet surfing when we are bored, lonely or in need of stimulation. Sophie has some great recommendations for nurturing ourselves instead of giving in to mindless surfing.

4.  How to Start Your Day Calm & Relaxed – Without Yoga by Taya Ng. An article from Vancouver Yoga Review’s founder, Taya describes some very nice ways to start the day without yoga. Not everyone can or chooses to start the day with asana practice, and that there are other ways to capture and manifest a sense of relaxation and calmness upon waking up. Yoga can be done at any time of that works best for you.

5.   21 Beautiful Benefits of Yoga by me. One of my self-written faves, this article covers some of the benefits of yoga practice. Perhaps it’s a bit weird to choose one of my own, but I constantly come back to this. It’s important we believe and trust in the process of yoga, surrender ourselves to it and know that the more we do yoga, the more we believe and dedicate ourselves to discovering our true selves, the more will be revealed.

Namaste.

3 Ways to Pamper Your Soul!

{Source: http://www.portalmico.com/?p=244}

Who doesn’t love a relaxing massage or a stroll on a beautiful spring sunny day, but how can we continuously pamper our soul? How do we make the time to make our soul and or our heart feel good? We may get these feelings from the above, but generally they are only temporary solutions.

Our lives are made up of a bunch of moments, and while every moment may not be the best experience it makes an impact on our soul and our subconscious.

Here’s 3 Ways for Long Term Soul Pampering;

  • KARMA
    Seems to be pretty self explanatory, especially with the old adages “what goes around comes around” or “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”Derived from the Sanskrit word “kri,” karma literally means “to do.” Then if we take the meaning of yoga as “union”; karma yoga translates to the path of union through action. In some philosophies the word karmanot only means action but the effects that your actions have and can be further described as a way of acting, thinking and willing by which someone acts in accordance to their dharma (one’s duty) without personal self-centred desires, like or dislikes.In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says:

Therefore, without being attached to the fruits of activities, one should act as a matter of duty, for by working without attachment one attains the Supreme.

           Take into consideration how your actions influence life around you and your life.

  • SEVA
    Otherwise known as Selfless Service, Seva is the action of giving back, it is a sincere sharing of wealth (money, talents, service).  Our community is nurtured through voluntary gatherings, where teachers and students can connect with each other while, at the same time, doing something that makes the world a better place.Swami Niranjan, a modern master of yoga, explains the word Seva is made up of two words, ‘saha’ (with that) and ‘eva’ (to). Therefore, the word Seva means ‘together with’ and is describing actions that is an expression of compassion, of the desire to uplift and assist people and can be a strong practice for self-purification.How do you do this? Start small, maybe helping a senior citizen with their groceries or offering to run an errand for a friend. Or take a look at www.govolunteer.ca which lists countless of opportunities to volunteer from bringing your dog to visit the local care home or teaching yoga.

Only those who have learned the power of sincere and selfless contribution experience life’s deepest joy: true fulfillment.
Anthony Robbins

  • DHARMA
    Buddhists believe in the Law of “Dharma,” which means, the purpose in life. This law says that we have taken manifestation in physical form to fulfill a purpose. You have a unique talent and a unique way of expressing it meaning there is something that you can do better than anyone else in the world. By understanding your purpose and special qualities, you will be able to reach your goals and get closer to your dreams.Is what you are doing in life your dharma, are you not sure? Write down all your biggest hopes and desires and work to live by them!

Souls have different journeys. The best thing to know is, not what everybody else does, but what you do. Self-discovery essentially is finding your own dharma, your own rhythm.
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While all of these items are life skills and or lifelong ways of interacting with the world, they can lead to healthier, happier you and a pampered soul!

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?

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