Blog

Yoga is the Playground for Life

Screen Shot 2018-03-15 at 7.16.30 PM

I’ve said in many classes that yoga is a practice or “the playground for life”.  It’s where we get to try things out, practice them over and over, then use the skills in our everyday life.  I do believe this to be true.  And I got to witness it in myself on a recent trip for work.

I have always hated flying.   From my corporate days when I spent much of my life on planes and in hotels.  I am a homebody.  So, all that travel did not agree with me.  I hated everything about it – starting with packing, security checks, being crammed in a metal tube in the sky (all those germs!)  to all the hundreds of delayed flights I dealt with over the years.

Yoga has consumed my life for the past year.  Buying the studio, running the business, getting my teacher certification, and finally starting to teach.  Because yoga has consumed my life, I guess it’s no wonder that it impacted my trip from the very beginning.

First, my anxiety level was a 1-2 rather than the 6-7 it always has been in the past.  When I was packing, I chose to go minimalist.  I usually pack way more than I actually need.  Part of my strategy was to lessen the weight I’d be hauling around on my back as I ran from one side of the Atlanta airport to the other.  But simply taking only what I really needed just felt good.

When I arrived at the security gate, I was the only person there (gotta love the Lexington airport).  So, I wasn’t rushed to empty all of my belongings into plastic totes.  As I entered the screening station (barefooted – yuck) and was told to step on the feet decals, I lifted and spread my toes.  I grounded my feet and raised my arms and hands overhead.  Well, this felt kind of natural, I thought.  How many times have I done this in the comfort of the studio?   The most amazing thing was happening…..  I was paying attention.  I was actually flowing through each moment with awareness rather than fighting and resisting the whole ordeal – which is what I had done for years.

Once I got to the gate, I’m pretty sure I was the only one reading an old fashion magazine.  Like everywhere else in society today, almost every single person was sitting with their head hung forward, pecking away on their smart (stupid) phones.  Families, friends…. few were actually speaking to one another.  I stopped reading and just paid attention to what was going on around me.  It made me sad that no one was talking.  (But that’s another topic)   The plane loaded.  We left on time.  And THAT is a big deal to me……

There was a time about 10 years ago that my co-workers didn’t want to fly with me.  I’m pretty sure they started purposefully booking different flights because I had a black cloud over my head when it came to flying.  I am not exaggerating when I say that every single flight I flew was delayed (by hours, not minutes) or flat-out cancelled.  I now believe that I caused all those delayed flights with my negative attitude.  I didn’t just verbally predict the flight would be a disaster – I felt it with every cell of my body.  I manifested those disastrous travel experiences.  (I apologize to all those people who flew with me over that decade).  How do I know this to be true?  Well, I don’t think the airlines have improved all that much.  But my attitude has.  I no longer anticipate the worst.   And instead of the dread I used to feel about all those wasted hours in airports and on planes, I now appreciate the uninterrupted downtime when I’m not distracted by a million other things.

So, how does all of this relate to my yoga practice?  First, I really do find myself being more present and finding joy (if not joy – at least contentment) in each moment.  Second, I find I’m more patient.   I can come back to my breath when I need a break from the chaos or when I’m simply experiencing discomfort (like when the plane is really cooolllddd).  But I’m enjoying a physical benefit too.  After getting up from a cramped seat or walking for 8 hours on a concrete trade show floor, I don’t ache and hurt like I used to.

So, if you ever wonder if your yoga classes are brining any real benefit, start to pay attention.  Take notice.  Be awake.  Yoga has this crazy way of changing us.  Bringing us peace.  But if we aren’t paying attention, we’ll never notice the changes and therefore won’t be grateful for the small (and big) things.    In every single class we practice mindfulness.   We practice patience in a Yin class.  We practice ways to be with whatever arises during that hour.  Yoga is the playground.  And life is where we get to put all that good practice to use.

Establishing a practice

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 8.55.17 AM

 

There are many instances in life where we might think that more is better. Well, we find that is not the case with most things.  Everything is better in moderation.

I think that I can say with confidence that yoga is an exception.   More IS actually better.  The amount of yoga you do should be based on your needs, your body, and how it feels.  One yoga student recently said that 2 classes felt good but that 3 felt even better to her body.  So, the question becomes – what is right for your body?   What I can say with absolute certainty is that one day a week is not enough for anyone.

I have slight scoliosis in my spine.  I say slight.  But I don’t know how slight it really is.  From my earliest memories of going to school, I have always had to have my pants hemmed at different lengths (an inch different – is that slight – I don’t know) because one hip is hiked up higher than the other.  As I started to get older, the years of my body being torqued in a way it was not meant to be torqued started to take its toll.  Somewhere in that period of getting older…….I found yoga. After several years of practice I realized that there was a possibility that without yoga, someday, I may not be able to get out of bed in the morning.  So, with the exception of a few periods of time in my life, I have managed to have a regular yoga practice.  For me, I have always set a minimum goal of 3 days a week – with the promise to myself to do 5.  I have found that the more I do, the better I feel.

So, what is the right number for you?  Listen to your body.  But what I can assure you is that once a week is not enough.  It’s not enough to see any kind of change, much less a lasting change.  Twice a week is probably not enough either, if we want to be honest.

“In 2010, researchers at the University of Maryland School of Nursing published a comparative analysis of 81 studies that examined yoga’s health benefits and the health benefits of aerobic exercise. The researchers found yoga to be especially effective at reducing stress. This may not be news to those who practice yoga, but even die-hard enthusiasts will be surprised at the number of other health benefits yoga can confer—often to a larger degree than aerobic exercise. The researchers found that yoga outperformed aerobic exercise at improving balance, flexibility, strength, pain levels among seniors, menopausal symptoms, daily energy level, and social and occupation functioning, among other health parameters.” (You can read the entire study here:  https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2012/983258/)

The research also concluded that you don’t have to practice for years to see results.  It seemed that it was the frequency of practice that predicted health outcomes.  The study talked about a home practice.  And I will admit that my home practice was always important to me – just as important as going to class.  But for some, it is just not feasible to establish a regular home practice – either we don’t have a dedicated space, we can’t find a time that we are uninterrupted, or we lack the motivation to get dressed and walk into the next room to do yoga.  For some, the act of getting ready and leaving the house is part of the ritual.  For others, doing yoga in a social setting provides motivation.

Over the next few weeks, we are going to explore the idea that more yoga is better and try to help you find the amount of yoga that is right for you.  We will also look at the reasons you are doing yoga – what you want out of your practice, and how to make yoga a regular part of your day.

So, as the weather starts to turn nice, don’t forego yoga for other things.  I’m not telling you not to take that bike ride.  You will most certainly see me out on my bike this summer – and maybe even my skateboard……But I won’t skip yoga class.  Because I want to make sure that I will be able to be able to get out of bed so that I can keep getting on that bike.

(Infographic by Jan Diehm for The Huffington Post)

Bored yogi

zen stones jy wooden banch on the beach near sea. Outdoor

Most of my blog inspiration comes from articles or even just quotes that I read that I am somehow drawn to.  So it is for today’s blog.  In an article written for yoga teachers, I was captivated by a few sentences.  To put it in context, the article was written to teachers to remind them they should understand the scope of the class before they offer to sub.  And one of the last paragraphs reminded teachers that “…..sometimes the less is more approach is better.  The worst that can happen is that they (the students) will be bored.  Bored is OK.  Bored is information that stillness is challenging for them.  That means yoga might be a wonderful addition to their life”.  (Terry Littlefield, Yogadork blog)

Have you ever been bored in a yoga class?  I certainly have.  I feel like I run at 100 miles an hour all day, every day.  My to-do list is always over-flowing.  There are always things that “need” to be done and things that I “want” to get done.  There are always emails and texts to read and answer, work to do that I didn’t get done when I was at work, house cleaning (which is a never ending battle with 3 dogs), and yard work (now that spring is near). And there are always things that are on the to-do list that are quite fun – but that often become just another task (bike riding, skateboarding, hiking, gardening, etc).

Because of the habitual and toxic pace I’ve set for myself, it is often difficult to settle in a yoga class.  Difficult to quiet that monkey mind.  Difficult to believe that the world won’t blow up because I took an hour for myself to do yoga.  And because of this, I sometimes find myself wanting the pace of the class to move faster.  Let’s get on with it, get to the next pose.  I feel like I need my yoga class to match the pace of my life.  Sometimes I even want class to end so that I can get back to my to-do list.  That never-ending to-do list.  Surely the world will end if I don’t finish everything on my to-do list.  Right?

So, the quote from the article struck a chord with me.  Bored is information that stillness is challenging.  Boredom is information.  We live in a world full of an overwhelming amount of information.  Yet this boredom issue seems like important personal information I should take note of.  But what am I going to do with this information?

Well, in yoga and meditation, we are taught to acknowledge the thoughts but don’t attach to them.  Do not judge yourself for having them.  Just bring awareness to them, acknowledge them and then let them go.  So, the next time I’m feeling a little anxious to move on to the next pose, perhaps I’ll acknowledge my anxiety and my thoughts and then let go by breathing and relaxing into the current pose.  I will try to focus on the pose I’m in rather than anticipating the one we are going to move into.  I will focus on my alignment and the physical sensations that come with the pose.  I will try to find the joy in this pose.  Because the next pose will come in due time.  As will the next task on my to-do list.

If I can learn to do this in yoga, pose by pose, then I can learn to do this throughout the day.  And that to me is one of the most important things about attending yoga classes.  We do not change our toxic thoughts and behaviors simply by attending a yoga class.  Much to my chagrin, It does not happen through osmosis.  But rather, change happens by trying something in class and experiencing the joy or the success and then taking that same approach outside of the classroom.  That’s how yoga changes lives.

My yoga journey

Silhouette of a beautiful Yoga woman

Over the next few months, I hope you’ll walk with me through my yoga journey.  Like I said in my last post, I continue to wonder why anyone would want to read – what will be somewhat like – my public journal.  That’s still kind of a foreign idea to me.  But what I hope to do is share with you some of the things that I learn along the way.  The next few months are going to be jam packed with learning.  And I hope that by sharing, you will learn something new or maybe begin to explore your practice in a way you never have before.

Before moving to Berea 2 years ago, I had signed up for teacher training.  Not necessarily because I wanted to teach yoga, but more because I wanted to learn more about yoga.  If teaching was a byproduct, that was ok.  But my first desire was simply to learn more about yoga than I could through attending classes.  But that all changed when we decided to move.  Teacher training went on hold indefinitely.  New jobs, learning curves, travel, and no spare time hindered me from attending class on a regular basis, much less thinking about teacher training.  Add to that, the fact that I was now 2 years older and 2 years stiffer.  I placed yoga teacher training on the shelf titled “things I wanted to do but didn’t get around to”.

But then, as we all know now, I dove back into the world of yoga through the purchase of Broadway Bodywork.  My intentions were pure.  I simply didn’t want Berea to lose the studio.  But as I tread through all the things I needed to do and to learn about the studio, my interest in learning more about yoga was once again piqued.  I wanted to be more than just a business owner.  I wanted to be invested in yoga.  I wanted to be an authentic yoga studio owner.   What better way to do this than to immerse myself in teacher training?

I have decided to take vacation time in June and head to North Carolina for a 3-week intensive teacher training.  For me, I feel like I will learn more this way than spreading it out over months of weekends.  I find that I am easily distracted these days and I know that weekly homework  would have fallen into the abyss.  But this way, I’ll have no other chores to do.   No other responsibilities.   So, I can fully immerse and fully concentrate on the matter at hand – yoga.

When I signed up, I received a very LARGE stack of books to try to read before June.  These books focus on the poses, the history, and the meaning of yoga.  But there are also books on alignment and anatomy.  It’s February and I’m already behind in my reading goals.  But I am trudging through.  And learning.  And I think some of this is just about opening  yourself up to new things.  So, the first question I have encountered is “what does yoga mean to me?”

I had to think about this.  Because for many years when I started doing yoga, it was simply a physical practice of increasing flexibility.  And some days today, it is still simply that.  There are other days when yoga is meditation.  In a recent class, I found stillness of mind coupled with movement of the body by focusing on the meditative and often melodic voice of the instructor.  That was a sweet spot.

But something I read this morning resonated with me.  Yoga is the practice of removing obstacles that impede the natural functioning of our systems.  If this is true, then yoga can help cleanse the physical or the mental obstacles that impede functioning in the body or the mind.  This book went on to say that “yoga can teach us that everything essential we need for our health and happiness is already present in our systems” (Kaminoff and Matthews, 2012).  I take that to mean that this yoga journey will not only give me the tools I need to become a yoga instructor, but it will also allow me the opportunity to do some cleaning out of the body and mind.

So, I’m curious?  What does yoga mean to you?  Why are you doing yoga?   What do you want from your practice?  I’d love to hear from you.  Feel free to post your comments on this blog.

 

The little cutting from Sarah’s plant

bdudcryslkm-neslihan-gunaydinThis is my very first blog post.  I always thought it would be fun to write a blog.  But then I wondered why anyone would want to read it!  Well, I hope to use this blog to bring you relevant information that may be helpful to you in your yoga practice.  But this first blog is really meant to tell you how this whole thing came to be.

I chose the photo above because it seemed appropriate.  Body Mind & Sol is a cutting from a plant previous grown by Sarah Downs, knows as Broadway Bodywork.  I took a cutting from it and I’ve replanted it in the hopes that it will continue to grow.

When I moved to Berea almost 3 years ago, the first thing I looked for was a yoga studio.  Honestly, my mental picture of Berea was that there would be a yoga studio and a coffee shop on every corner.  I didn’t think that finding a yoga studio would be all that difficult.  That wasn’t necessarily an accurate picture.  But I did find a yoga studio.  A brightly painted yellow studio with big windows and lots of sun.  It was a comforting studio.  Over the course of 3 years, I came in and out of the studio, never really establishing a regular practice.  This was mostly due to the jobs that I held.  When I first moved to Berea I was working in Lexington and managing a 5 state area.  I spent most of my first year in a car with little time for a yoga practice.  Then I changed jobs.  And although it was a less stressful job, it was a new job and with it came a learning curve – that, once again, prevented me from re-establishing my yoga practice.

A little over a year into my new job, my life started to settle down and I was SO ready to start doing yoga again.  Then I got the email.  You know the one.  From Sarah.  It said she was closing the studio.  NOOOOOOOOO.  I thought “This can’t be happening!”.   I emailed Sarah.

Not quite ready to commit to anything, I said, “Maybe I can help”.  She told me she was done.   She loved teaching and simply wanted to be a yoga teacher.  But the business was all consuming.  It was then that I told her that maybe I would be interested in buying the business.

Now, remember, I have a full time job.  And one, I might add, that I absolutely love.  But I could not stand to see Berea lose the yoga studio.  So, my husband and talked about it and decided to buy the business.  I had always wanted to own a small business.  I’ve talked and thought about it for years.  I have practiced yoga for over 15 years.  I love yoga.  So, it would seem that this was somehow meant to be.

I am a true believer that everything happens for a reason.  This worked out for Sarah, for me and Clark, the teachers, Berea, and of course the students.  I hope that the little cutting that I took from Sarah’s plant can take root and continue to grow and flourish in it’s new space on Jackson Street.