Jump on this Groupon if you love Exhale Studio in Yaletown! This is also a great opportunity to try Exhale Studio for the first time if you’ve been thinking about it. $49 will get you one month of unlimited yoga, pilates, and dance classes – a $150 value. We voted Exhale as one of the top 5 yoga studios in Vancouver, you can read about it here.
As mentioned in a previous post of mine, I have just recently had an operation; an operation to remove my gallbladder and gallstones. As this is right in the region of the core muscles, and having practice yoga for over 13 years, I was nervous as to how this would affect not only my ability to practice but also my ability to teach.
When I asked my surgeon how long my recovery would take the expected response was “as long as it takes, it depends on each individual”. What about yoga, I asked. Again the response, “take it easy and play it by how you feel; your body will tell you how slow or fast you should go”.
When he said that I was curious, but also hopeful that my body would tell me what was okay, hopeful that my mind would not get in the way of my recovery. As we have all experienced, the mind has its own set of rules, expectations and judgements. Sometimes these expectations are perfectly reasonable. Other times we can be very critical on ourselves.
As I am just on the early side of recovery I am hoping I will not fall into any false expectations or overly critical judgements of myself, but really I won’t be surprise when I do. It is natural to set up goals for oneself. I am hoping that if I keep reminding myself to take it easy, be kind and just accept whatever happens as being exactly what is supposed to happen, things will be fine.
I know that at least I have a foundation of yoga within me. That yogic breathing sets one up to regulate the body, to slowly calm and focus the mind away from all the rushing thoughts and expectations back to what is truly important: to remain focused on the breathe and try to relax.
It is also important to note that when trying to manage pain, a three pronged approach of yogic breathing, relaxation and meditation has be proven to help. According to an article in WomenFitness.net, meditation can have a 40% reduction in pain intensity. As muscles tend to relax when exhaling, it seems only logical that to extend the exhalation could only help reduce any built up tension. When in pain there is an increase in stress and tension, as the body tries to push the pain away. But by allowing yourself to remain focused on your breathing, allowing yourself to relax, this gives you an opportunity to move through the pain rather than resist it.
Of course this is all about taking baby steps back to a practice that is so important. I am hoping that if you or anyone you know are dealing with an injury or possibly chronic pain that you will continue to give yoga a try. And please remember to be kind to yourself.
I am currently going through a phase where I really like Flow Yoga.
With all the different types of yoga out there you might be wondering what exactly is Flow Yoga. According to About.com Flow yoga would be classified under the broad umbrella of Vinyasa Yoga. A breath synchronized class where poses or postures are strung together smoothly. Following your instructor’s lead you are asked to match your inhales and exhales to a specific posture, flowing from one pose to another creating a very rhythmic meditative dance.
Some instructors are very good at creating this illusion of a dance; their choice in poses is well thought out, they synchronize smoothly, the inhale & exhale comes naturally and their choice in music complements the overall feel of the class.
I have run into all different types of Flow classes. That is the beauty of Vinyasa Yoga; it allows for so much diversity in teaching styles that you would never get bored. It does require you to come with an open mind as you might find it can take a few tries to get the teacher you like.
One instructor’s choice in music was not to my liking, but I learned a lot about Plank pose, and Chaturanga. I have found that even if I don’t like everything in a class, there is always something I have learned that I can take from the class.
This past week I was lucky enough to catch a Yyoga flow class with Christie Baumgartner. She is a wonderful instructor. A beautiful soul packaged in a tiny dancer’s body; playful yet welling with good informational tips on posture and proper alignment.
Her arrangement of postures seems to flow naturally, allowing for maximum breath and ease of motion. Without even thinking, your inhales and exhales seem to flow naturally with each pose she suggests.
This is where the dance begins. She varies her Sun Salutations with enough freshness that it never seems to get dull. She builds each pose upon the previous so that the muscles slowly warm up, yet you do not feel fatigued. From beginning to end I feel as if I have been skilfully guided to achieve what I set out to do; experience my body in all its beauty of movement, to breathe with fullness and to awaken to a new sense of calm.
You can tell that Christie is very passionate about yoga, her enthusiasm is contagious. She makes you want to strive higher, not for her, but for you. To push yourself just a little more in order not to miss a step in the dance she is sharing with you.
She makes yoga fun! She laughs through-out her class and truthfully I appreciate that. Why not have fun?
I have yet to disagree with her choice in music. I literally caught myself singing along.
Even though you will sweat through-out her class, you will be so engaged that you’ll hardly notice until the end; at which time you will be very grateful for those Yyoga showers.
If you get the chance try out one of Christie’s Flow classes at Yyoga Flow Wellness on Burrard Street; I highly recommend it. She just might make you fall in love with yoga all over again.
Among the many benefits of yoga, I believe the most important is it has allowed me to be more present in my life; to be more present within me.
From the moment I step into the studio I feel myself connect more fully to my body. I feel my shoulders relax. I concentrate more on my breath. I start to notice the tenseness in areas I didn’t realize until I took a moment to listen.
All throughout our busy day we shut the voice of our body down; we don’t have time to listen to what it is telling us; the slight twinge of an achy hip, the tense area between the shoulders, the pull of the muscles down the back, the knee that continues to slightly throb. All these tiny voices of the body are being drowned out by the mind. I have to get this done; I need to pick up groceries, what am I going to make for dinner? When will I have time for me???
Within the yoga studio, I am there only for me. I am there to feel my body move. I am there to listen to what it tells me I can and can’t do. The instructor at the head of the class is only making suggestions; only I know what my body needs.
But listening to the body takes practice; it takes time. The mind has huge expectations of us. It criticizes, it judges, it sets goals from out of nowhere. If you take the time to listen and believe in what your body tells you, you will find a sense of peace; a calmness that allows you to believe that you are exactly where you are supposed to be. Your body is perfect in its imperfection.
Sometimes when I come out of a yoga class, I am more aware of that wonderful body. The placement of my foot upon the sidewalk; how the ball of the foot takes the weight transferring it through the arch and on to the heel. As I shift the weight from one foot to the other, I feel my body sway from side to side. The expansion of my lungs as I take in a full deep breathe, the rise and fall of my chest, the long deep exhale. The slight soreness coupled with the deep heavy relaxation, the calmness of the mind.
I exist here and now.
It doesn’t matter that I have laundry to do or that I need to get groceries. That my taxes are waiting to be done.
For those precious moments after a class I can feel a deep sense of connection to the earth as I take in the lush green grass, the profusion of new buds on the cherry trees, the magnolia that are blossoming.
I find myself looking at the quality of light; how different it can be from dawn to sunset. The cool blues of the morning, the deep golden oranges of the afternoon into the sunset; the golden hour, and finally the magenta blues coming just after the sun has set.
What the rain sounds like as it hits the leaves of a tree. How the earth smells different after a light rain.
All the senses of my body are alive with the beauty of life.
The world is a plethora of sights, sounds and smells which I find myself so grateful to be a part of.
Even if I can’t find the time to practice I know that just a small walk out my door allows me to be present in my life. From the knowledge I gathered throughout my practice, I can take a few precious moments a day to breathe; to come back to me.
What does yoga bring into your life? What do you do to bring yourself back to you?
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!
* 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
I woke up to hear about this on the radio this morning and all I can say is REALLY? WOW!
Ganja Yoga Combines Marijuana & Meditation
Excerpts Taken From the Globe & Mail
“As the light of pot smoke dissipates in the Downtown Toronto living room, the ganja yoga session begins.
“When you’re high, you can focus better on your breath,” says Dee Dussault, who runs a monthly session of “cannabis-enhanced yoga” at her home dubbed Follow Your Bliss.
“ Yoga and marijuana, together… It’s like putting salt on your food. It’s just a little enhancement.”— Tanya Pillay
She says smoking marijuana in small doses before a yoga class also makes students more receptive to the poses and philosophies behind the activities. “For some people, it makes them uninhibited and open to the idea of the heart chakra, for example.”
Heart chakras aside, ganja yoga has the THC whiff of being the latest yoga fad, following on the heels of hot yoga, circus yoga, pre- and postnatal yoga, acro yoga (acrobatics), even hip-hop yoga. While cannabis has been deeply entwined with spiritualism over the centuries, some yoga practitioners say that a pure body is ideal for the exercise and that smoking pot could cause an unwieldy imbalance. As one online-forum commenter opined: “Why should we try to purify our body and soul through yoga if we later intoxicate it again with marijuana or other substances?”
Funny, had a look at the website and no where is it listed on there, that I could find, anyways. See if you can find it, www.followyourblisstoronto.ca. What do you think, would you attend a Ganja Yoga Class? Come to think of it there has got to be one in Vancouver with our famous “BC Bud”.
Vancouver BC has a plethora of fabulous yoga studios to suit everyone’s needs. Whether you practice Hot, Hatha, or Ashtanga, you’re sure to find the style and studio you love. Vancouver Yoga Review has narrowed down the studios to our top five favorites. Drum-roll please…
5. West Coast Hot Yoga – A pleasant covered veranda is available to hang out and cool down after your class. Also, they have amazing smelling soap in the bathrooms! Most importantly, they have really great instructors who make everyone feel comfortable – no matter what level.
4. Moksha – Who doesn’t love free things? This studio offers free parking out front and free apples after you’ve worked up a sweat! Every Friday night, at 8:15pm, they offer a one hour hot yoga ‘karma class’. Donations are accepted (minimum $5.00) and proceeds go to the charity of the month.
3. Exhale – Their yoga room is surrounded by windows, so you feel like you’re doing yoga in the trees. This sense of being one with nature adds to the zen experience. They also offer an extensive list of dance classes (hip-hop, burlesque, salsa, belly, jazz, swing, nia, etc.) and complimentary almond tea.
2. Semperviva – This yoga for ‘every body’ company has 4 locations around Kitsilano. This leads to over 115 yoga classes every week! Kits yogis love the convenience of so many classes being offered in their area, almost any time of day. Bonus: no need to lug your yoga mat around, use their yoga mats free of charge.
1. YYoga – Six YYoga locations are offered around the lower mainland. We’ve chosen the downtown YYoga Flow (corner of Burrard and Smithe) as THE best. Recently opened, this studio is truly a spa-like experience. Some perks of this location are an infrared sauna, a chic and spacious lounge with free wi-fi, a huge change room facility with ample showers, ‘conscious cardio’ classes called YYRide (spin class + yoga), and ‘happiness tea’ – just to name a few!
Readers of the Georgia Straight agree with us and have ranked YYoga and Semperiva as tied for the #1 spot for Best of Vancouver, 2009.