Yoga

Part II: Where the heck did my motivation go?

Motivation stops when we become distracted and overwhelmed by obstacles.

Stop telling yourself that you need that one last chocolate glazed donut, cigarette or cocktail beverage in order to ‘move on’ or that you’ll start ‘being good’ tomorrow. You’re wasting time. You can convince yourself for YEARS that you need to go through a period of suffering, habitual toxic behavior and inner turmoil in order to move forward. Well, the secret is out: you don’t. You’re worth more than all your bad habits combined. You have potential, so why not take a chance and see where some good, positive change can take you. Come on.

Hopefully you’ve read Part I of this little spiel regarding the predictable obstacles that could arise while on whatever path you are on and the consequences that could result from basking, running circles and hiding within those obstacles (depression, anxiety, frustration, weight gain, etc). Either way, I hope these can tips can be helpful for avoiding distractions, overcoming obstacles, finding motivation and moving forward on or off the yoga mat.

1. Observe yourself. Be your own detective. Pay attention to your body language, sensations, thoughts and moods. This identification will help to understand what is happening on a more subtle level. Perhaps the understanding won’t happen all at once, but it will happen. Sooner or later you will not be able to deny what you are observing and you will have to deal with it and when that time comes, you WILL be able to deal with it: you WILL move forward.

2. Don’t doubt. You can do it. You don’t need this or that to get started or to overcome obstacles. You just have to want it and believe that you can. Keep the faith in every single breath and every single movement you make.

3. Stay positive. Avoid becoming impatient, disenchanted, angry, depressed, egotistical or judgmental. Don’t attach more than an observation to negative emotions and don’t let anything get you down. See the light in everyone and everything, most importantly yourself.

4. Stay focused. Do not get distracted and fight the urge to be lazy. Don’t put things off! Devote and dedicate yourself to being and becoming the best you can be physically and mentally. Develop a routine, set goals and stick to them.

5. Constantly check yourself. Know where your head is at all times, keep two feet on the ground, live in the present and make sure you are awake! Creating harmony in one’s life creates clarity. Don’t allow yourself to be led astray.

6. Be willing to sacrifice what does not serve you. Walking away from bad habits, negative thoughts, unsympathetic behavior and actions can be hard at first, but you can do it. Take your time with it, practice every second. Eventually the negatives will be replaced by positives.

7. Moderation and diet. There are no answers at the bottom of any bottle or Cheeto’s bag. Learn how to consume and listen to what your body needs to run optimally and to be energized. You’ll be amazed what a healthy diet can do.

8. Will power. Accept the fact that you will have to put forth some serious effort. This may not come easy at first, but the fruits are worth every ounce of the effort.

9. Reward yourself. And, I don’t mean with a pepperoni pizza, I mean with love. Look in the mirror, accept yourself, encourage yourself and love yourself. You are the most important person.

Ultimately you are the biggest obstacle to yourself. You are the only one who can cultivate the inner strength to keep going. No more hiding. It’s time to bust out, believe it, want it and live it. You can do it.

Enjoy your time on this Earth as best you can.

Namaste.

Lori Lucas; Mummas & Babies

I’ve heard it said time & time again, that lots of women make their first path into yoga when they are pregnant, and what a better place to be when you first make your way into yoga then to already be on a path of change.

I was graciously invited to come & take one of Lori Lucas’ Prenatal classes at the Roundhouse last week, and was delighted to be surrounded by love and baby bellies! Yoga is a great practice for Moms to be who are more aware of the changes in their bodies and allows them to prepare mentally and physically for the birth of their babies. Prenatal yoga helps in building awareness and self love, along with strength both mentally and physically as well as added perks of relaxation, decreased swelling, relief from back and neck pain and so much more.

A trained Doula, Lori has been in attendance at numerous births and has completed both her Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training and Kids Teacher Training. Lori’s classes are a place of love and comfort, where all the mummas are encouraged to go at their own pace or make adjustments to their practice as their body tells them. With the never ending circle of new baby bellies and new moms that come through the door, Lori continues to make a community for these new moms to share and talk about how they are feeling with other moms to be. But it’s not over there, once baby arrives these moms can still have that connection with other new moms at Mom & Baby yoga. Mom & Baby yoga builds on the community that Lori so lovingly builds and ensures that these moms continue to stay connected to people who have played an integral part in their pregnancy.

Since most women make their way into yoga when they are pregnant, the idea of going to a studio may be a little daunting. Lori’s classes are held at local Community Centres (Roundhouse & Mount Pleasant Community Centre) and while some people have a perception that Community Centre teachers are no where near as good as Studio teachers, Lori’s classes confirm you can get the same level of teaching if not better at your local Community Centre.

Check out Lori’s blog at: http://yogawithlorilucas.blogspot.com/ or on Facebook and if you are a Mom to be and haven’t yet signed up for Prenatal Yoga, give it a whirl, or if that new bundle of joy has arrived take that time for you and baby & head to a Mom & Baby yoga class. Lori’s schedule can be found on her blog or on Facebook.

Attention To Details

You know you are in an Iyengar type class when you hear a teacher say that ‘feet are parallel’ means second toes are in line with the middle of your ankle.

At the beginning, when I was practising yoga, I was addicted to Ashtanga. So, whenever my favourite teacher was substituted by an Iyengar teacher, my heart would sink, and I would itch for a Vinyasa.

Whenever I thought of Iyengar, blocks, straps, and injury rehab would come to mind.

[source: yogaasanablog.com]

My relationship to Ashtanga changed when one summer, I went to a Mysore class in Barcelona. The studio was really hot, and my body was overheating. For some reason, the teacher thought I was a dancer, and in the standing balance sequence, he lifted my leg way higher than it should go. That’s how my hamstrings were torn. I could barely walk for a few days, and it took a whole year for them to recover completely.

When I arrived here I went to a lot of different classes, and was exposed to many different styles of yoga. Although I still really enjoy Power Vinyasa classes, I really feel I’m working when I’m attending an Iyengar type Hatha class.

After almost 3 months here, I can already see how my mental checklist for each asana has grown – especially for downward dog. There are so many details that I’ve now added to my practise, and my body has already learnt most of them.

The more I get into the details of an asana, the more I feel focused, relaxed, and grounded. It goes for many things in life, the more you break them down, the more you understand them, the more empowered you feel.

I’ve now also discovered a great Iyengar trick to open tight hamstrings the other day; a lesson learned the hard way!

Create New Eating Habits – Part 2

After I finished my latest post on eating habits, many other ideas occurred to me, so I thought I would share them this week!

  • Special feature ingredient: each time you read a good review about a food, why not make it the guest star of some of the meals during for a week. You might find a special place for it in your diet!

[source: themagazineofyoga.com]

  • Drink more water: we never seem to drink enough water. One of my teachers told us the other day that it was particularly good to drink a lot of water after practices with deep twists. After a class this morning a woman told me ‘water has never tasted so good since I’ve been practicing yoga.’ I couldn’t agree more.
  • Less caffeine: I’ve noticed the number of coffee shops around since I’ve arrived here:) Chamomile could be a good substitute. It’s a good mood drink, as it helps to produce serotonin, which can be helpful to beat the January blues.
  • Make it from scratch: how much food can you make yourself?Try to challenge yourself. It’s a good way to cut down on additives, preservatives, salt etc. Did you know you could make your own ketchup for example?
  • Be more mindful: try to make every spoonful taste like the first one. If you are stressed at work and with little time for a lunch, try to make your lunch break a relaxing time, one to slow down and get grounded.
  • Be more ethical: one thing that we learnt from recent documentaries such as Food Inc or Our Daily Bread is that we need to be more discerning and informed about our choices when it comes to food. Reading labels more attentively could help you make your decisions.

The Physical Body

Last weekend I spent Saturday & Sunday afternoon on the floor of Semperviva’s Sea Studio, and sat in on The Physical Body workshop with the lovely Bernie Clark. While the majority of the attendees were taking part in his Yin Teacher Training, they opened up the anatomy & physical body part of the days to anybody who was interested in attending, so being as I’m more of a hands on learner I thought it was the perfect time for a refresher.

The Physical Body ~ http://www.kinesiologist.eu/physical.htm

Yoga Teacher Training programs generally have some information about anatomy & the effects of yoga on our body, but this is something that I have struggled with. I’m not a biologist by any means, and trying to correlate a map of the skeleton and all its pieces to a class and what we are doing & using is not always an easy task. If you have never taken one of Bernie’s classes, I highly recommend it, and knowing this I knew this workshop would really not be the boring mundane put me to sleep talk about bones and muscles, and I was right.

We spent 8 hours looking at the dynamics and bones of the human body & how unfortunately for some of you hardcore yogi’s some poses may be very challenging for you to accomplish just because of the way your bones & body have developed. We learnt the difference between compression, two bones compressing into each other – there is no where for them to go, and tension, tight muscles that are restricting the movement you are trying to accomplish and how to tell the difference between both of them.  Compression is what you feel in the direction of movement and tension is what you feel on the opposite side, ie. raising your arms above your head you would feel compression in your shoulder/humerus & tension in your triceps.

Of course this was just the bare bones of the workshop, no pun intended, and what is happening in your body when you practice yoga and is all dependent on what you are trying to accomplish from the pose, either a stretch or building muscle. It was another well spent weekend at Semperviva and am looking forward to Bernie’s Energy Body workshop taking place this Saturday at the Sea Studio. From the Semperviva website check out this four hour workshops, here’s what you can expect;

“In this workshop we will investigate the various models the Yogis of India, the Yogis of China and the Medical Scientists in the West have developed to explain the workings of the body’s energy and its associated systems. We will explore the world of prana and the energy channels and vortexes of Indian Yoga (called nadis and chakras) and contrast it to the world of Chi (Qi) and its associated network of channels (called meridians) utilized in China. Then we will discover how modern scientific investigations in the West (Energy Medicine) are finding remarkable parallels to these ancient models.”

Be Kinder This Year

It was New Year’s eve, we were in a pub, just past midnight. A friend asked everybody around the table what their resolutions for the year were. I hadn’t really formulated that for myself yet, so I decided to make them up on the spot, one of them was to be kinder.

Kindness, to me, is an important aspect on my yoga path. It’s a labour of love when you really want to be serious about it, in all areas of your life. It can be painstaking, but your time and thoughtfulness are never wasted. Some practice karma yoga and seva – selfless service – which is quite admirable.

There are many opportunities in your life to make more mindful decisions and be purposefully kind to yourself and others.

Here are a few reminders and suggestions :

  • Metta: why not practice this Buddhist loving-kindness meditation? You can learn it at your local Buddhist center.
  • You first: as Metta meditation teaches us, kindness starts with yourself. If you treat yourself well, you’ll treat others better. Be more aware of your inner judge on the mat, at home, at work, and practice acceptance.
  • At home: with your loved ones, be more understanding of their shortcomings, more patient and compassionate. Try to really feel how it is to walk in their shoes. Listen to them mindfully. Say yes more often: do things that are not your cup of tea, but that will make them happy. Cook them healthy and tasty meals!
  • At work: make tea, coffee and maybe home-made cookies for your co-workers. Offer your help if you see that they are busier than you are.
  • Your yoga mates: try to ‘shine your heart’, radiate positive energy and loving-kindness during your class practices.
  • Difficult people: I find ‘kill them with kindness’ quite harsh and rather passive aggressive. Compassion is a more constructive way, even if it can seem tricky. This post on Tiny Buddha gives good advice.
  • Animals and plants: adopt a rescue pet, volunteer at an animal charity, buy a plant and take care of it.

Vancouver Aquarium Otters - Loving and Kind

[source: http://defendingotters.blogspot.com]

  • Random acts: be a discreet hero, and be randomly – and maybe sometimes secretly – kind to strangers, friends, family. Why not signing up for daily suggestions?

Above all: mean it. Be creative and inspired, make it fun, and remember that sometimes the simplest act of kindness is just to smile more often! 🙂

Delve a Little Deeper

So perhaps you want to delve a little deeper into your yoga practice, learn more about the history and the philosophy behind yoga or perhaps even teach, what do you do?

http://www.exhalestudio.com/

We are lucky to live in such a huge yoga community with endless options on styles, studios and teachers so how do you decide where to take your training? I’ve come up with a Top 5 List of questions that you should ask yourself before taking the plunge.

  1. Availability – How much time do you have to commit yourself to training? The first part of teacher training is 200 hours, or you could go for the full meal deal & do all 500 at once. Do you work full time, go to school, only have weekends, evenings available or maybe you only have weekdays available? Do you want to get it all done in a month or would you prefer to take a few months to complete your training?
  2. Style – What style of training do you want to take? Vinyasa, Hatha, Hot, Bikram, Anusura? Make sure that you determine what style of yoga the studio offers before signing on the dotted line.
  3. Location – Maybe you live in the Fraser Valley or maybe you live right downtown, where you live will also determine on where you take your training unless you are planning on relocating for the duration.
  4. Cost – Since teacher training is certainly not a cheap affair, make sure you research what the studio has to offer. Do they offer payment plans or want it all paid up front?
  5. Teachers – After narrowing your studio selection down, make sure that you take classes with the instructors of the teacher training program before you sign up. Do you like their style and personality, remember you will be spending 200+ hours with them.

Even if you have no intentions of teaching, you can gain so much from a Teacher Training Program with benefits to your life and your yoga practice.

To Break or Not to Break During Your Period

There are many different opinions in the yoga world as to if a woman should practice yoga while on her period and if so, how she should practice.

On one end, some say to avoid inversions such as shoulder stand, headstand, plough pose and handstand. Others say to only do restorative poses. And, on the opposite end of the spectrum, some say to completely refrain from yoga practice all together.

The fact is that every woman experiences her period differently making it difficult to make a definitive rule that applies to everyone. However, listening to and understanding what is going on inside the body during this special time of the month can help us make intuitive decisions about our practice.

[cnyhealingarts]

Why it could be a good idea to avoid inversions:

An inversion refers to a posture where the lower body is above the heart. During menstruation, the body is using energy to cleanse the reproductive tract from the inside out. Doing powerful inversions at this time such as headstand, shoulder stand or handstand divert the energy from the reproductive system to the muscles necessary to do these postures. And, why is this bad? It’s not necessarily ‘bad’, but it does stress the reproductive system and can be taxing for the body. The result could be a running out of energy and fatigue.

Philosophically, the downward flow of menstruation represents ‘apana vayu’ or downward flowing energy. This energy is said to nourish reproduction elimination and digestion. Some say that doing inversions during this time disrupts the natural flow of this energy.

Restorative poses that could be helpful for alleviating menstrual symptoms such as lower back pain, cramps and mood swings:

  • Reclined bound angle pose: for stress relief, grounding and helps sooth menstrual cramps.
  • Cat and cow pose: provides a gentle massage to the vertebrae and belly organs.
  • Sitting forward fold: relief of menstrual discomfort, stretches spine and helps headaches.
  • Legs up the wall pose: helps relieve minor backache and helps calm the mind.
  • Child’s pose: calms the mind and helps alleviate cramping.
  • Supported corpse pose (with pillow under knees): provides relaxation for the entire body.

Why it could to be good to refrain from doing yoga during your period:

If you happen to have a very heavy flow or are extremely tired during your period, perhaps the best pose is rest and relaxation. There’s absolutely no shame in it and your yoga mat will be patiently awaiting your return.

I have experienced both the desire for a more active yoga class while on my period and have sufficed with gentle sun salutations, and I have also felt my period was the perfect time to slow down and completely rest. So, the best advice I can think of is to sincerely do what is most optimal for you and your body.

Namaste.

Be Good To Your Bones

Last year in January, I decided to visit my lovely doctor in London, because I had been carrying a knee injury for too long. As I was pointing at my tibia, she instantly thought I had vitamin D deficiency. I protested, saying that I had a good diet and took oily fish supplements. She explained that Vitamin D deficiency is mainly due to lack of sun exposure.

I went for my blood test and the results were quite a revelation, I was severely deficient in vitamin D and also in calcium. It’s really common nowadays she said, there is a mini epidemic, and people don’t realise it until they experience bone pain.

[source: liveinternet.ru]

The pain in my tibia was due to my tendon pulling on a soft bone. In order to avoid further injuries, I decided to stop going to yoga classes until my vitamin D was back to normal. I practised a bit at home but I could feel how tender my back bone had become, so I stopped for good. My immune system was low as well and I caught a terrible flu. I felt like an eighty year old woman, very fragile.

The problem is that it takes several months of supplementation – almost six months in my case – to see levels of vitamin D rise to normal, which can be incredibly frustrating.

How did that happen? – I wondered. It’s quite simple, my skin is pale and over the last few years, I’ve hid from the sun as much as I could in the summer.

We’ve all heard that sun exposure is damaging to the skin, but due to this new outbreak of D deficiency, doctors are now recommending to get from 10 to 15 minutes of sun everyday, or as the NHS mentions in their website time “typically short and less than (…) needed to redden or burn”.

Vitamin D can also be found in oily fish, liver and eggs, but absorption by food is not as efficient.

I’ve noticed it rains quite a lot here :), so each time there is a ray of sunshine if you want to be good to your bones, go and sit on the beach for a while to stock up on vitamin D!

Also, if you want to read more, here’s the link to the NHS article on sun and vitamin D as it is recent and helpful.

Groovin’ Yogis!

Yoga Music http://yogasuper.blogspot.com/2010_03_01_archive.html

People have a strong like or dislike for the music that they hear in their yoga classes, I’ve even heard people comment that they won’t take a class BECAUSE of the music. People seem to find a strong connection to music, whether its something that triggers emotions, lets them let go, or dance or smile or even sing a little, there is a “type” for all of us.

One of my most favourite parts about attending a class is to hear the tunes that role through my head as my breath guides me from pose to pose. I find an escape in the music, maybe it’s something catchy or something that has a positive message just when things get a little tough that makes you push on or something that I can sing along to, whatever it is, I find that the majority of teachers have created play lists with perfect timing in relation to their class.

I’ve yoga’d to the likes of Pearl Jam, the Beatles, Snatam Kaur, Krishna Das, Florence & The Machine and the list goes on and on including various genre’s from Folk, to Rock, to Kirtan or Reggae. Where can you get the tunes you may ask? Well iTunes of course, but also many studios generally have copies of CD’s that frequent their play lists.

It has been said that music plays a great part in our brain development and stress management. Check out this video Good Vibrations; The Power of Music on the Mind about how music plays a role in our brain functions and therapeutic benefits to our health.

Good Vibrations; The Power of Music & the Mind

What type of music or songs do you like to hear in your yoga class?

How To Stay Limber On An Airplane: In Flight Yoga

I’ll be making a long-haul flight this holiday season – over 13 hours of flying time, one way. Whenever I fly, I always try and drink lots of water to stay hydrated while traveling. I try and get up at least once an hour and walk up the aisles of the airplane. Also, I like do yoga early in the morning, and hit the gym to get in some cardio before my flight.

To stay limber in the air, here are 5 great exercises to do on a plane:

  • Knees Lifts – These are great for engaging your abs, without the need for a yoga mat. Place your hands on the armrest and lift your knees up slowly while you exhale — pulling your navel to your spine. Try to scoot a little bit away from the back of the chair and keep your torso still as you lift your legs. If you are worried about your back, do it one leg at a time. Do this motion about 15 times.
  • Calf Raises – Stand in the aisle, while holding on to the back of a seat. Begin with feet parallel and stand with your feet directly under the hip joints. Your feet should really only be about four to five inches apart. Lift your heels up in a controlled motion, taking two counts to get to the top of the motion. Don’t pop up. Then lower down in two counts.
  • Twists – To avoid rounding your back, sit at the edge of your seat with both feet flat on the floor. Bring your right hand to your left knee and left hand onto the seat behind you. Inhale and lengthen your spine then exhale, twist to your left using your obliques. Do this for 10 breaths and then switch sides.
  • Shoulder Rolls – Sit at the edge of your seat with both feet on the floor. Inhale and lift shoulders up to your ears then exhale, roll shoulders back and down. Do this for 30 seconds to one minute.
  • Neck Stretches – Again, sit at the edge of your seat, both feet on the floor, inhale and bring right ear towards right shoulder then exhale, bring your head back to center. Do the same for the other side. Do this for 30 seconds to one minute.

Are you traveling for the holidays this year?

Safe travels this holiday season!

The Kitchen Yogi

What is The Kitchen Yogi you ask? It is a company created by certified yoga instructor Karen La Du, and Amy Wolochowicz who were both inspired to spread the message of yoga through a unique form: asana shaped cookie cutter kits. Their goal is for people to learn about yoga and maintain a healthy & happy lifestyle, expanding their creativity –  all while baking and decorating delicious cookies!

Each kit includes a cookie cutter, recipe (offering organic, gluten/sugar free ingredients for those with special nutritional needs), and asana instructions.


You can place your order online and they ship to Canada. These would make perfect stocking stuffers this season (set of 3 kits for $20, or purchase kits individually for $7.50 each), especially to get children interested in yoga. Not a baker? Tie a ribbon around the cookie cutter and it instantly becomes a tree ornament! Also, crafty kids like to use them for tracing asana inspired art projects.

The great thing about The Kitchen Yogi is that they donate 10% of their profits to the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary, an organization that serves and educates about animals in need.  Yogis making a difference and putting a smile on peoples faces – who doesn’t love cookies!

Yogalutions!

All of a sudden the holidays have appeared out of nowhere, I have spent the last week thinking that we still had time, but alas there are only mere days left. Not only with the holiday season and the hustle & bustle, but we also have the daunting task of creating our New Year’s Resolutions as 2011 is right on our doorstep.

One trick I have heard from many people and one that I now practice myself is to write down these resolutions or goals, it seems to make them more doable. Not sure what to resolve for 2011? Here are some ideas;

Bob Clyatt’s Scorpion Pose; http://www.clyattsculpture.com/yoga.html

  • Develop a regular yoga or meditation practice, perhaps you only make it once a week or four times a week, whatever your practice is, stick with it, or maybe even bump it up, perhaps you want to add a 2nd class to your week or even a fifth.
  • Go deeper into your practice, perhaps a pose that you want to play with for 2011, master or even perfect…things like headstand, handstand, scorpion, side crow…
  • Sign up for the yoga teacher training program you always dreamed about or take a yoga retreat vacation
  • Set goals for the rest of your life; work, family, health, happiness!
  • Take your dream vacation or at least plan it!
  • Practice Santosha, Contentment or Satisfaction, being content with your actions and with what one has, what one is, where one is, and with what one has done or what one is doing.

If you take a peak across the web there are lots of handy tools to help make your new year’s resolutions actually come true. Here are a  couple;

” Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than be the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Mark Twain

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