Yoga

Finding Balance

I am out of balance. I keep getting sick and sometimes I’m bored and then I’m too busy. I know that yoga is the answer, but I still have to keep asking the right questions. Life is an iterative process. All the things worth doing have to be done again and again– like forgiving someone, and dishes.

Finding balance is constant work, balancing this part of your life with that part. Being a good person– being good both to me and to the people I love. Not always the same thing, is it?

I also need to find balance in my yoga practice.

When my practice is out of whack, so goes the rest of my life. I’m loving hot sweaty power classes these days. I miss my hatha and yin teachers, but I keep going back to vinyasa to burn through something inside me. Where my knee is and what my hip flexor is doing is not as important at the moment as connecting to my core and finding the devotion and grace that I find on my mat in power classes. Recognizing what I want and need is the first step to coming back to balance.

How do I find balance?

1. Listening. Yoga is intense and sometimes it’s important to take a break. It’s also important to work hard, so I work to listen to my body and my spirit.

2. Taking breaks. I have a daily yoga practice, but some days I lay off. I have a glass of wine instead because I need to keep that part of myself alive too.

3. Find joy. I like to work hard, and progress– hit my marks. But sometimes I get driven, and get way out of balance. Connecting to my joy in something allows me to go back to a sustainable and rewarding level of intensity and effort.

Like an elephant in crow pose on a beach ball, balance keeps me elegant and powerful.

Chopra Yoga Center Is Coming To Vancouver

Set to open in June 2011, the Chopra Yoga Center is an upscale, full-service yoga, health, and wellness studio conveniently located in downtown Vancouver (451 Granville Street), and just steps from Waterfront Station.

In a custom designed space, the Chopra Yoga Center will offer a wide variety of yoga classes, including hot, power vinyasa, flow, and restorative yoga in its two spacious yoga studios. The center will feature luxurious washrooms and showers, a large infrared sauna, private massage and yoga rooms, and a tranquil meditation space. Personal instruction in Primordial Sound Meditation will also be offered.

Founded by mind-body healing pioneers Deepak Chopra, M.D. and David Simon, M.D., the original Chopra Center (located in Carlsbad, California) has helped thousands of people throughout the world transform and heal through the timeless practices of yoga, meditation, and Ayurveda.

Additionally, the Chopra Yoga Center will be home to Organic Lives‘ only downtown location,
selling fresh smoothies, juices, and an inspired menu of delicious Ayurvedic snacks. Organic Lives is an exceptional local Vancouver restaurant and store serving healthy and delicious tasting raw, vegan and organic food.

Are you interested in checking out the Chopra Yoga Center and Organic Lives’ new location when they open in June?

My Yoga Online Contest Winner!

Our My Yoga Online one-year membership contest officially closed on Saturday, April 9th. Now, it is time to announce the lucky randomly drawn winner. The recipient of this fantastic yoga & wellness video subscription is…drumroll…

Alison M Scott

Congrats Alison! If you could DM your email address to me on twitter @VanYogaReview, My Yoga Online will set you up with your membership details, then you can get started exploring everything MYO has to offer.

We had so many local Vancouverites and international participants – thanks to everyone for entering!

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.

Are We Too Comfortable?

I was putting on a record the other day– yes, an LP. My mom and I got into a discussion about how she used to take care of her records… lots of work. Sometimes I can’t be bothered to make a playlist. I put 10,000 songs on random rather than take a minute. My day to day experience is so far from lovingly and painstakingly taking care of something in an elaborate ritual in order to listen to 20 minutes of music.

My life is so easy I get bored sometimes.

Except on my mat. I never get bored on my mat. One of the things that I love about yoga is the work. There is no hiding in my yoga practice, I sweat and I’m honest with myself. Part of my yoga is to really listen– both to what’s going on inside me and to the people I love and the people I meet in my day.

Yoga is work. It’s work to let go and it’s work to cultivate the habits of body and mind that will lead to freedom. It’s work to forgive the people that have wronged me and it’s work to forgive myself for all my shortcomings. Yoga is also work that matters. I do these things because it is the most important work that I can do.

My yoga practice is also the most rewarding thing in my life.

So maybe I need to work harder in the rest of my life. Work hard like I do on my mat– spend more time out of my comfort zone.

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.

A Day with Sadie!

A Day with Sadie!

Saturday was a blissful Sadie Nardini filled day. Having watched a few of Sadie Nardini’s FREE YouTube video’s over the last few months, when I heard that she was coming to Vancouver, I knew I had to go.

Sadie had several workshops at yyoga (various locations) throughout the weekend, but I was only able to attend the Saturday sessions at Highgate (Burnaby).

{source: www.sadienardini.com}

If you are not familiar with Sadie Nardini, she is the founder of Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga.  Based out of NYC, she travels internationally, has her own Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga teacher training program as well as retreats and offers hundreds of free videos on YouTube.

Saturday consisted of two two hour workshops at the beautiful Highgate Yyoga with some fantastic Core Strength Vinyasa yoga. The basis behind Sadie’s Core Strength Vinyasa yoga is a new way of looking at asana’s and simplifies how to use our “core” more efficiently when practicing. A practice that left me feeling it the next morning, which is the best kind in my opinion. But that’s JUST the yoga!

We all know yoga classes offer us so much more than just the yoga, and what makes us enjoy the asana even better is a fantastic teacher, which Sadie most certainly is. A real, down to earth type of person, who gives you the impression that going out for coffee with the woman would be fun and insightful all at the same time. She has a raw presence about her, and after conversations about “what is the point?”, why do we do the things we do when we really don’t want to? Why do we feel we need to please other people, when it doesn’t please us and why do we feel the need to not tell these people or look out for ourselves? She encouraged us to respectfully but honestly speak our truth, don’t give everything you have to somebody else and leave nothing for yourself.

I find that my most favourite teachers or yoga classes are the ones that give me a piece of self reflection that stays with me as I walk out the door, oh and the soreness the next morning. Take Sadie’s truth message posted on her Facebook account this morning, “THIS week, start saying what you really mean, respectfully, and yet honestly…to yourself, and those around you. Why hide, if you really believe that you’re OK just as you are, that ultimately you don’t need anyone’s acceptance to be passionate and happy and your truth is equally as valid as anyone else’s? Hmmm…”

Brilliantly awesome! Thanks Sadie for a fabulous day of learning how to move through asana’s with more ease and core strength and that little bit of self reflection I needed to start off a new month! Looking forward to your return for the Vancouver Yoga Conference in the fall.

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.

Contest: My Yoga Online One Year Membership

A few weeks ago we posted about the amazing My Yoga Online website offering exceptional yoga, health and wellness videos. Now, My Yoga Online are offering our lucky readers a chance to win a one-year membership to their site!

How to enter the My Yoga Online contest:

1. Post a comment below.

2. Retweet this post on Twitter.

3. “Like” this post on Facebook, and “Like” our Vancouver Yoga Review Facebook page.

3. If you comment AND Tweet AND like on Facebook, your name will be entered three times into the draw to increase your chances of winning!

Contest ends April 9th at 12:00pm. Good luck 🙂

Browse With Moderation

In our teacher training last week, we discussed Brahmacharya. This fifth yama invites us to moderation and to not squander our energy, and hence to exercise our will-power. A lot of us in the class realised how in our modern age, a great deal of our energy leaked through the infinite, colourful, ephemeral and ever so stimulating internet.

I don’t watch TV any more, so nowadays when I’m feeling bored or my energy is low, instead of reaching for the remote, I just open a browser on the laptop, and wander around twitter, facebook or youtube.

A lot of the time, I do learn things, I find inspiring blogs and articles. There is an undeniable educative value to the internet but it can be also a wonderful tool of procrastination. So when do our cyber-musings become a real waste of energy?

[source: http://praiseworks.wordpress.com]

To me, it is when I run out of real purposes to connect to the web and I’m anxiously looking for stimulation, something that will distract me from boredom, loneliness, unpleasant tasks, low mood, etc.

How can we exercise our will-power and direct our energies to worthier pursuits?

First, we can monitor our time and use of the internet, and develop awareness to our browsing. Do we need to check my email, Facebook, Twitter, etc. every 10 minutes? Also, we could play with our abilities for delayed gratification and motivate ourselves with an internet break. For example, ‘I’ll watch that video on youtube once I’ve finished this task I really don’t want to do’.

What can we propose ourselves to do instead?

  • Lonely: why not call a friend, meet someone for coffee, talk to a co-worker, or just go to a yoga class.
  • Bored: maybe think of more creative ways to use our time, like grab a yoga book and read about a posture, a yama, a pranayama, or simply meditate and find out more about the void within.
  • Low: why not get the mat out and practice a few twists and backbends, or cook a tasty nutritious meal for your partner, family, friends or just yourself!
  • Procrastinating: we all know that the earlier we get over unpleasant but unavoidable stuff to do, the better we feel. So just do it and reward yourself after, not before.

Being mindful of how we spend our time and energy is a way of taking care of ourselves. When we waste our time surfing, there is this latent feeling of letting ourselves down. By entertaining the inner child within in a more productive way, we also connect with our more nurturing self.

Who Are You? Do You Really Wanna Know?

Click here for some inspirational music: Who Are You?

Yoga can help build self-confidence, self-awareness and help us to take a more proactive approach to life. Yoga can be one of the biggest gifts you can give yourself, but it takes patience and the courage and willingness to make life-altering changes. Yoga can transform your life.

There is a yoga style for everyone and there are no rules that say you have to stick to just one style. Take your time to find what best suits you and your personality. Styles range with technique and focus, but whatever path you choose, keep going and keep an open mind. Even if at first you find yourself practicing simply to become more physically fit or more relaxed (both will happen), over time you may just find yourself going back more and more for the clarity that yoga brings.

It is important to know that there may be elements of confusion, resistance and even intimidation that arise (I have experienced all of them personally), especially during the early stages of your practice, and of course later on too. Don’t let these things stop you. Take these sensations as signs that you are doing the necessary ‘work’ to uncover deeper truths within you.

Despite yoga’s popularity, some people see yoga as only for the trendy, flexible or religious. Well, none are true. Yoga is thousands of years old, it’s for anyone who’s interested and it’s non-competitive. It is, however, what you make it.

Yoga encourages us to take on kindness toward others and ourselves. Creating awareness and appreciating oneself and others goes a very long way in improving the quality of life for everyone and every living thing on our planet. And, yoga because helps us to feel better both physically and mentally, chances are when we feel good in both of these areas, we feel good in our lives and we want others to feel this way as well.

Yoga helps to reduce stress and tension and helps us open to clarity. When we are thinking clearly, we can start to get in contact with our deepest passions and to what we want to achieve in this life. This clarity, even if not understood at first, often instigates us to ask ourselves more profound questions (What am I doing here? What do I want to do?). And, perhaps it even encourages us to formulate a plan, develop a routine (i.e. practice every day) and to stay on track.

The changes that take place could be massive or subtle. Some find themselves changing careers completely while others find themselves improving the situation they are currently in. Everyone has the possibility to work with the potential they have no matter what it is or has been.

How we practice yoga can also tell us a lot about how we feel in other areas of our lives. Our practice is often a true reflection of our own individual struggles. For example, pushing to hard, not enough, having difficulty relaxing, troubles with the breath, doubting, not enough motivation or belief, no discipline, etc.

Yoga can be a tool to help whatever we do in life, to do it better. It is a journey and the more time we spend on it (on the mat), the more will be revealed. Take a chance. Discover yoga, stick to it and discover who you are.

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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