Saturday, July 12, 2014

Yoga and the 7 Dwarfs

Do you feel that some days that you go through the personalities of the 7 Dwarf's (and then some) in the matter of a day,a hour or mere minutes? Trust me your not alone

Doc, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy and Dopey....Sassy, Worn-Out, Snarky, Exuberant, Sad, Relaxed....if I missed any feel free add them on.

To quote Timber Hawkeye (I think that's his real name) author of Buddhist Bootcamp "You can't calm the storm, so stop trying.  What you can do is calm yourself. The storm will pass". 

How do you learn to calm yourself.....that's where the magic of yoga comes in.  Before we proceed I feel we need to have a little bit of clarification first. In the Western world when we hear the word yoga we think that it's all about the physical practice (Asana), and that's it.  But in reality the word Yoga (which means to join or yoke) encompasses a whole lot more. Meditation, breath work (Pranayama), chanting, study of spiritual texts (Swadhyaya).  I may have mentioned this before in previous blogs but the importance of it is worth mentioning again and again.

What the true essence of yoga does is help give you the tools to calm yourself so can get through the storms of life that are inevitable.  I have been reading the book "The Five Things We Cannot Change...and the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them" by David Richo. He lists the 5 things we can't change as: 
  1. Everything changes and ends.
  2. Things do not always go according to plan.
  3. Life is not always fair.
  4. Pain is part of life.
  5. People are not loving and loyal all the time.
When I first read them I said to my self "no duh!" and then I was instantly reminded of my reaction the first time I heard the first of Buddhas' Four Noble Truths...the first being Life is Suffering. It was the same reaction "no duh!". But then Buddha then goes on to share with us The Eight Fold Path to end suffering, he gives us the tools.

We need guidelines, we need the right tools to help us calm ourselves through the storms, the suffering in our lives. Not really into Buddha, that's OK, read Mr. Richo's book. Learn breathing techniques, learn to meditate (both by the way are suggested in Mr. Richo's book). Read Mr. Hawkeye's book. Come and join us a Santohsa Yoga on the 3rd Sunday night of each month to learn how to meditate or just re-charge the practice you may already have.  It's really not as weird as you may think. Learn how to stop feeling as if you are alone lost at sea and your life raft has a hole in it.  Look around you, ask for help and guidance.Come to a yoga class and discover it so much more than getting a strong core or yoga butt. Stop the madness!

I could suggest so many different ways to help you calm yourself and not have to become so different personalities to get through your day, which can be soooo exhausting. But you have to want to change, you have really want it, you have to believe that you have the capability to change, which we all do. To quote Anais Nin "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom"

Take that first big step, you will never look back.....and most importantly don't forget to breathe.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Hello? Hello? Where are all the men in Yoga?

Well....where are all of the men when it comes to practicing yoga?  I am still waiting for an answer. Hello? Anyone out there?  Still no answer?  I guess I will have to throw out some ideas of my own.

First of all a little history about men and yoga. Way back when yoga was traditionally  practiced only by men, women had to practice in secret. In fact Master teacher and healer, Sri Krishnamacharya had to be somewhat strong armed by the Maharaja of Mysore at the time (1938) to accept a woman as his student. Indra Devi went on to become a renowned guru in her own right, passing away in 2002 at the age of 102.  There are a few theories out there as how this shift in gender may have happened. One is that Indra Devi moved to Hollywood in 1947 and opened her own studio and became teaching the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Greta Garbo. She then became friends with makeup guru Elizabeth Arden and the rest is history.

Now that you know the back story lets get on to the original question at hand, where are all the men? First of all you don't have to wear spandex to a yoga class in fact we highly recommend that you don't wear spandex! Just messing with the men out there, just wear something comfortable for you.  My stepson, who is in the Navy, finally tried it when he was home on leave and loved it.  I asked him what took so long since he gets a great family discount, his response....he was afraid of farting in class.  We have all passed gas (that's what us ladies call it)  in a yoga class at one time or another.  It's the effect of all of the wonderful twists that we do that aid in our digestion.

I think that some of the reluctance has to do with the ego, men come into class and see a 60 year old woman doing poses they can't do.  My first yoga class was 15 years ago and I couldn't do them either. It's a process guys just like anything else. Concerned that you might be uncomfortable with all those women doing down dog.  Well, your not suppose to be looking at them, your suppose to be paying attention to your breath, your practice and your mat.  Trust me, we're not looking at your down dog.

Are you aware of the many benefits that yoga will have in other aspects of your life!  Did you know that yoga can improve your golf swing, your flexibility and strength, greater mental focus and improve your balance. How about for basketball which is a total body and mind sport that requires you to be both physically and mentally quick.

Yep, even Elvis did yoga!

Baseball?  Again improving your swing but also increased range of motion for all of you pitchers out there. The 2014 FIFA World Cup for Soccer starts this week in Brazil. Soccer players tend to have tight leg muscles because of all of the running, yep yoga can help that as well as increasing stamina.

For all the musicians out there, front man of Maroon 5 Adam Levine is a yogi.

Don't believe me, I will share a blog with you written by a man who tells us  7 Reasons Men Should Yoga.

OK men here's a challenge, I am throwing down the gauntlet, come on and fly in the face of the unknown....or whatever macho phrase will get your attention. Come on give it a try and you just might be surprised!!!

And I almost forgot (not really) the most important part of yoga.....just breathe!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Hot Yoga Isn't for Everyone!

I have been debating about writing this blog for quite some time now and keep on putting it off for various reasons but I can't hold my tongue still (or my fingers) any longer.

First of all for all of you who just love hot yoga, bless your hearts but let me share a revelation with's not for everyone!  It's fun but it's not the whole package.

I can't ever begin to count the number of times someone who has never,ever done a yoga class before chooses hot yoga to be their first yoga experience and usually their last.  It's a fast paced class, with challenging flows and oh yeah, it's 95 degrees in the room (but we're not Bikram) so it's hot.  I talk to them before class and give them a head's up ask if they drank a lot of water, etc. and the rest is up to them. They leave class sweaty, exhausted and sometimes never to be seen again. They usually don't come back to try other classes and take advantage of their free week.

Well meaning hot yoga fans bring their friends, sister's, spouses to share with them what they enjoy but again it's not for everyone.  It's not like sitting in a sauna and chanting "om" you are moving people!  Stories, I could tell you I will. The daughters that bring their moms who haven't done any type of physical activity in a very long time to try out the class, never to be seen again. The bodybuilders who think it's a piece of cake, never to be seen again.  The boyfriends who were ambushed and weren't even told it was a hot yoga class, never to be seen again.  The first time students who didn't know they were suppose to hydrate or not eat heavy prior to class come out of class early (which is fine) but never to be seen again. 

I have taken a few hot yoga classes myself and I have decided that I sweat just fine in a Vinyasa or Ashtanga style class thank you very much.  One size yoga does not fit all. So it's wonderful that we have so many different styles and levels of yoga to choose. For most of us hot yoga is something that you need to work up to. I wouldn't run a marathon or even a half marathon without training for it, I wouldn't bench press 100 pounds without starting at a lower weight.  In a hot yoga class you are using different muscles groups and a lot of stamina and endurance.  You want to get your mom, spouse, etc healthy and off the couch? Do you love them enough to attend a basic/beginners class with them as a show of support? Come on a give it a try you might even find that it's a nice balance with the hot yoga class.

Some of you may be saying that I am biting the hand that feeds me (pays my rent, utilities, teachers, etc) by discouraging students from coming to hot yoga.  Not at all!  I am encouraging them to start out at a level that most fits their needs and take it from there.  Then you can get your asana kicked in hot yoga with your BFF's (does anyone even say that anymore)?

Hot yoga, are you really ready for it?  Don't let it be your first and your last experience of what yoga is really all about, a truly amazing experience inside and out.

....and don't forget to breathe no matter what style of yoga you practice.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

It's Not Always About the Numbers

Which I first started teaching yoga, I would judge the worth and quality of my teaching skills by the numbers of students I had in my classes which in the beginning weren't very many at all. As time went on and I gained more confidence the sizes of my classes increased.

When I first opened up the studio 5 years ago there were many, many a day when only 1 or 2 students showed up for a class or non at all. This time I knew better, that this too shall pass, that it was part of the process of growing and learning. I gained more control over my ego regarding my teaching. If only one person showed up I saw it as an opportunity for both of us, giving and receiving the benefits of a private class.   

Thankfully over time word spread of the many gifts that my wonderful teachers and myself have to offer the community which I am truly grateful for. My landlord is also grateful since I am able to pay my rent as well as my teachers! I have heard from students and teachers about their experiences at other studios or gyms that if only a few students showed up for class they would either cut the class short or cancel it all together. I don't get it, the teacher made the effort to show up and the students came because they needed a yoga class. Again I understand, as a  business we have bills to pay but what kind of message does that send to the students?

Everyone once in a while I feel that I need to be reminded that it isn't always about the numbers, but how we can make a difference.

I subbed for one of my teachers last week who was out ill.  She teaches the chair yoga class which usually doesn't have big numbers because it's such a speciality class.  It's a few minutes before the start of class and no one has showed up yet. I start to close up and regroup the rest of my day in my head when in comes a student for the class.  She apologizes for being late and when she realizes that she is the only one there, proceeds to get ready to leave.  I assure her that the class will be held regardless.

We had a great time!  She has MS and we were able to address those issues one on one.  We shared a lively exchange of questions and answers and I showed her a few more things that she would be able to do at home in between classes. At the end of class, which flew by, she told me that she had dreamed of being able to do a private class one day and she couldn't believed that it had happened.  She was just glowing. Students come to yoga because they need to. Teachers need to remember to teach with the same energy, love and dedication whether its one student or a full house. I needed to be reminded and humbled that it isn't always about the numbers, its about changing peoples lives, one student, one breath at a don't forget to breathe.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Bad Rap for Chair Yoga???

I keep on telling everyone that yoga is for everyone. Which it is. We have kids yoga. We have restorative yoga.  You want to really sweat, we have hot yoga (more on that in a future post). If you are recovering from an illness or surgery, you can lay in bed and practice pranayama (breathing) that's still yoga. So why do some people bristle when I bring up chair yoga.  

"Whoa....that's not for me....I am not 110 years old and infirm, I don't need no stinking chair yoga."  Really? Let's put our ego's aside for a while (a long while) and clear up a few things.  Just as with any other style of yoga, it depends on what your body needs at the point in life that you are at.  It's not attached to an age. It's your physical ability.  Maybe your are recovering from surgery and can't get up and down off the floor. Chair yoga. Maybe you have MS. Chair yoga.  You have vertigo and your balance is off. Chair yoga. You  have really cranky knees and it hurts to kneel on them. Chair yoga. Not one of those examples did I see where an age was attached.  Because it's not about the age it's about the need.  

Do you think that sitting in a chair that you won't get the same benefits?  Sure you will, you still breath, twist, and forward fold. Boat pose anyone?  Yes you can still do navasana in chair yoga and with the same core benefits.   The chair replaces the yoga mat and becomes an extension of your body allowing you to take full advantage of yoga’s amazing fitness and health potential. 

I have several students, depending on what their body is telling them, that practice both chair and traditional style yoga and they agree that the benefits are the same. In fact one student told me that the last chair yoga class she took kicked her butt (in a good way).

Are you an office worker that sits in a chair all day, do chair yoga at your desk.  Even if you are in a wheelchair, you can still practice yoga. 

Ok, I will be honest with you that most chair yoga students might be senior citizens, but at least they are doing yoga. They are breathing, moving, increasing circulation, strengthening their lungs, they are off the couch and on the chair. So now that's your learned the truth about chair yoga, what's your excuse...get off your couch and into a chair.....and just breath!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

East Meets West at Santosha Yoga

This past weekend we hosted two workshops at Santsoha but both with a common theme and great information.

Saturday we had the pleasure of hosting Dr. Joel Kahn. Dr. Joel is a good friend of Cindy, one of our wonderful yoga teachers. He is a cardiologist out of the Beaumont Heath system and just authored the book "The Holistic Heart"  and a columnist for Reader's Digest.  He is also a yogi and a vegan. He told me once that he wants to be put out of a job, wouldn't it be great if there wasn't' a need for cardiologists. He quoted many, many studies and research that supported what a plant based diet (not necessarily vegan or vegetarian) can be for our health and longevity. How exercise, moderation in all things and that even a class a wine a day is good for you (the crowd loved that). Dr. Joel isn't saying that there wont' always be a need for his type of medicine, but that he is "extending his tool box".

On the flip side, Sunday Meena Puri from the Ayurvedic Healing Center in Milford.  She came armed with information that taught us what "dosha" or body type each of us were and how to use food to heal our bodies. How if we change just one thing with our diet and life style it can shift everything.  That our bodies "talk" to us all the time but we usually don't listen.  That constipation shouldn't be ignored, our biggest meal should be in the middle of the day, that we can prevent diseases, another fact that Dr. Joel also told us.

It was one of those weekend where I wished I had recorded them because the was so much going on and taking notes just scratched the surface.

But even though they both came from a somewhat different angle, they both ended with the same message. Diet, yoga and meditation.  Both Dr. Joel and Meena stressed their importance and benefits. A student who attended both talks asked me why aren't more people getting it....I didn't have an answer for her....why aren't people getting the message. more thing they both agreed on an important part of a healthy and stress free life style....

don't forget to just breath!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Watch Your Thoughts!

I have a dear and wonderful person in my life whose has been though a lot in his life,  I mean he has really have been through a lot.  I don't want to go into great details so you are going to have to trust me on this one. 

Whenever we talk and I am just the least bit negative (don't be so surprised I told you that I am not enlightened yet, but a work in progress)  he spins it right back into a positive.  Sometimes it's like a ping pong match back and forth back forth with my friend always having the winning point.  I come away from these conversations feeling good but also a little ashamed.  

After a recent conversation with him, I sat down to journal and just let the thoughts and words pour out on the pages.  The pen drifted to my friend and I then had a ah ha moment. Ah ha moments are the best, one of the many benefits of journaling and meditation which both help the dust settle in your mind so you can think clearer. OK, back to my moment. Because of what my friend has been through I always sense that he is teetering on the edge of keeping it together or losing it all together. His defense mechanism for keeping it together is to always have positive thoughts and positive people around him. That was my ah ha moment. 

It reminded me of the teachings from Buddha.  After he came out of 49 days of meditation he told his followers that life is suffering but he also told his followers that he had a plan to help us find happiness which he called the 8 Fold Path.  Number 3 on that path is "right speech: clear, truthful, up lifting and non-harmful communication". 

That is what my friend is try to do to end his suffering.  We really don't pay attention to or realize how much our words not only affect us but everyone we communicate with.

"Watch your thoughts; they become words, Watch your words' they become actions.  Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character.  Watch your character it become your destiny."     ~Laozi~
So the next time you go to open your mouth.....pause.....and just breath.