Category Archives: Yoga Philosophy

YOGA SO GOOD

I am five weeks into my yoga teacher training and learning so much not only about my own practice but how the body works and how the yoga postures work. The more time I spend on my own mat the more I’m building my sequences and working through what works for me and what doesn’t. Not that everything that works for me will work for others but it gives me a good sense of what someone might be feeling. I also really use the experiences of the other women in my training. For instance we were talking about Warrior I and how when she does this pose and adds a slight back bend in it, her back really doesn’t feel very well. I don’t have back pain, have never struggled with back pain, and unless I’m in flare I really don’t give much notice to my back so I had to get on my mat and try to imagine at what point one of my students might notice some discomfort in their back. It is so amazing to really start analyzing the body, the moves, the postures, the good and the bad and come up with something that might work for most people.

I spend a lot of time noticing people modifying in weight training, Insanity classes, and yoga classes. I do modifications in my classes as well so it is important to show different modifications as well as what the final posture should look like and let others use their bodies the best way they can to do the postures without compromise. With each posture there are several ways to modify and some might feel really easy, some might need to start in modification postures and move slowly into full postures, some may never reach the final posture and that is ok too. I think of Insanity and doing high knees for me. That high intensity trying to get my knee hip level doesn’t work for me and so I modify that move by bringing one knee up and then the other but not in a fast, intense movement but a controlled movement. My range of motion is much better, my posture is much better, and my body isn’t exerting unnecessary energy doing something that could potential hurt me if done wrong. Same can be said about yoga postures.

There seems to be more focus on people getting hurt during yoga classes and if we think about what is happening we can see how this could be true. We are trying to combine kickboxing with yoga, or we are trying to power through our yoga flows and classes to the deepest, intensity we can muster. As I spend time on my mat I am really starting to see the benefit in slow moving through my postures and really feeling what my body is doing. Sometimes I think I can go farther and in yoga millimeters can be enough progression. I will move slowly into deeper postures and then back out to a more comfortable posture. My body is working hard, my mind is working hard, and my breath is the power to help me reach deeper. Yoga is about reaching new places on the mat and seeing where your body is tight, where it can relax, where does it need to push a little, where do you need to pull back, where are you holding tension, where can you let go, what feels good, what is discomfort and making adjustments.

Take this philosophy off the mat and we constantly need to evaluate where we are in life, where we are in this moment and do we need to adjust. Many times throughout my day I need to step back, adjust, start again and even try a new focus. In life I need millimeters of change not grand changes to make really changes.

YOGA TRAINING

My life is on a new path and I am very excited about it. We have moved into a new month and October is one of my favorite months. Even though it isn’t summer hot in October, I still love the beauty of this month and as the trees change and get ready for winter so do I. Not only am I enjoying this month to prepare for winter but I am also using this month to prepare for new journeys in life.

Last night I started yoga teacher training and feel so blessed to be given this opportunity. This will not be easy and the commitment is big but the life changing experience is worth all of it. I will write about it as much as I can find the time to because I believe this experience is probably going to be one of my most challenging, rewarding, and beneficial of my life.

I will give a little back ground but not too much as many of you have been reading and know my story pretty well. The brief version is that a couple of years after being diagnosed with MCTD I made major life style changes with regard to nutrition, exercise, stress, sleep, and anything else that my doctor and physical therapist asked me to do at the time. I was feeling really desperate and wanted to feel some relief from pain, stiffness, soreness as well as feel some hope that I could manage a life with MCTD. I turned to Bikram yoga. I walked into a Bikram studio, felt that 105 degree, 70% humidity room and realized there was hope. My body instantly felt looser with the heat and the stretches made me realize with a regular practice I could do this. I committed to the Bikram practice and went 5 days a week for a little over 9 years. I had made other changes in my life but at that point I knew yoga was for me. I went into all different kinds of studios, hot vinyassa, regular vinyassa, spent time at Kripalu, tried YIN, restorative, and many other types of yoga.

As I was feeling better, yoga was becoming medicine for me and I was talking to everyone who would listen about my positive experience with yoga. I realized after a while that I wanted to actually teach others the principals of yoga and all the benefits of a regular practice. However, I did not want to train with Bikram or teach Bikram yoga full time so I spent some time figuring out what kind of yoga I wanted to teach. I committed to the studio near my home for easy access and have a regular practice there and at home now. The owner of the studio and my yoga instructor offered a teaching training course that started last night. I was thrilled, and thought the universe was trying to tell me something so I signed up.

We are working professionals who have commitments, responsibilities, and families that also require our time so we are doing this slowly, regularly, and weekly. Instead of me getting my training done in 8 weekends it will take me nearly a year but the way I see it I have spent all these years working towards this moment so no need to rush the moment I am in. After last night’s training I feel so incredible great about the decision I have made and can’t wait to share my new journey with you my readers as well as the individuals in my life. Through this experience I may find another person who is desperate for hope and balance and I can help them too. This is going to be life changing in so many ways and I’m ready to embrace them all.

FIRST DAY OF SUMMER

 Yesterday was the first day of summer and although many people have experienced summer type temperatures for a while now we cannot say the same in Maine. When summer arrives on the calendar it does not always mean summer has arrived for us to enjoy it yet. We have had complete washout June’s, and mid 50’s in June but this year we are experiencing some very pleasant weather and some much needed sunshine. The summer solstice brought a long day of sunlight as well as a warm enjoyable summer day in all.

Since it was bright and warm first thing I was able to get up early and get first fresh air. Not a lot of people were out enjoying this incredibly beautiful day but I am really one of the earlier ones. I got back to the house and let my husband know I was headed out for a couple of hours of yoga. This is at the studio near my house where I’m practicing vinyassa flow and meeting the people right here in my community. He asked if I was going to ride my bike to yoga which got me thinking that I do need to figure out how to get to yoga on my bike with my mat and if need be change from biking clothes to yoga clothes or try to incorporate the both somehow. However, I don’t really want to practice yoga in my big butt padded biking shorts.

When I arrived at yoga the studio was full and I pleasantly surprised since this was my first Saturday practice at my new studio. Our instructor was explaining the summer solstice is a new beginning and that the Buddhists celebrate this new beginning by doing 108 sun salutations in appreciation. We decided as a group we did not want to take on this endeavor but we were on board with the philosophy of Be Here. Being in the here without regard to yesterday or tomorrow is part of the practice and on the longest day of the year with the warm weather, the energy in the room, and our 5 sun salutations we celebrated the first day of summer. I am looking forward to many more weeks of warm weather and new experiences.  

SILENCE FOR NEW ENERGY

In a typical vinyasa flow yoga class there is some instruction but there are lots of moments of turning your attention on to yourself and feeling what is happening within your body.  In Bikram there is constant instruction and although it is your time you are really moving not with your own breath or intuition until you get really good at it but more moving to the instructions of the instructor.  A couple times a year when we have an early morning class where there is a lower number of attendance we will have a silent practice.

These silent practices are my favorite.  We dim the lights and stand looking the mirror and it is just quiet.  Since we start with a breathing exercise we move through the next 90 minutes using our breath and the only words uttered are “start and change” from the instructor. The remaining time is us looking at ourselves in the mirror making adjustments that suit our needs and enjoy this quiet time that virtually belongs to just us. When we hit the floor for the 2nd part of the class I can really find my breath and feel what my body is doing.  Today I noticed my hips were extremely tight so I took some extra time opening them up.

In these silent practices the heat isn’t that noticeable and there aren’t distractions of other people. No one leaves the room because there is no need for panic or being uncomfortable and the energy is calming and quiet. We had 2 people that had not done a silent practice before and although after class they admitted they were nervous once they heard it about they found themselves really enjoying it.  I think it should be a monthly scheduled part of the practice. Having regular silent practices would add so much benefit to regular practices.   Technically it is not the “Bikram way” but sometimes we have to have to change it up to get the real benefits or enhance whatever it is we are doing.

MBT YOGA

I received an e-mail yesterday about what is MBT.  I decided to write a blog on it because I find it very beneficial as a form of yoga and therapy.  The description as published by the studio where we do MBT states the following:

 

This class encourages stillness within the physical body, deepening of the breath, and a quiet mind. Linking fluidity, inward exploration pauses, positive reinforcement, challenging mind, body and breath, yet completely personalized and manageable at the same time makes a MY Therapy class the most inexpensive therapy for mind and body one can buy in today’s world. Hourglass timers MAY join us in challenge; offering an encouragement of focus, stillness, and patience. Add to this a sprinkling of fluidity and step into a place of balance; mind, body, and soul. Expect the flavor of Yin frosted with Vinyasa.

 

Here is my interpretation of this class.  With most yoga classes I have been to that are flow based the more people in the class the faster the flow seems to go.  I find I’m not exactly breathing in time with my sun salutation and just trying to stay with the class so we are all in downward facing dog and other posturers together. However, if you notice the better yogi’s tend to move slower almost in a slow motion form so they can truly feel every ounce of what is happening in their bodies.

This class tends to be smaller and the people there are encouraged to really slow way down and feel every move, every opening, every twitch, and every edge.  As we flow slowly she will also throw yin type postures into the mix.  Yin is typically done on the floor as a great hip opener but triangle is also an incredible hip opening posture so if you stay there a while and feel it you can see your edges and may or maybe not push through.  Staying in these types of postures is very challenging and fatiguing for the body but it also makes you very aware quickly what your limits are and allows you to decide where to take those limits.

I feel a huge sense of accomplishment when I know I have stayed in a posture like triangle for several minutes and just breathe through the fatigue, discomfort, and the worry that I might fall out.  If I do then I clearly need a break and can go back to it again in a breath or two which is all part of listening to what the body needs.  This type of class is also done mostly with your eyes closed if you have the balance which is a way of not seeing what others around you are doing.  If you don’t know what your neighbors are doing you don’t feel compelled to keep up.

Yin is very much like that as well where you don’t worry what others are doing and often our instructor will comment that she expects to see us all in different forms of the posture because we all have different bodies, challenges, limitations and degrees of flexibility.  She would be worried if she looked up and we were mirror images of each other.  MBT follows that same theme.

NEW STARTS IN APRIL

No time for April fool’s pranks today because it is time to shed large layers of clothing and trade in turtle-necks with t-shirts, no time when there are bathing suits to fit into, summer sun dresses to get ready for and shed winter time fat.  This was evident at the gym this morning and at Bikram.  There are new faces every day on the machines, in classes and trying Bikram yoga for the first time. These faces have started the count down to summer and the need for a rock hard body.

I’m actually thrilled to see new faces and I’m encouraged by some of the people that I see that will stick with this at least for a little bit time. Whatever motivates people to get moving I’m certainly supportive and I too want to look my best in the summer when I’m in much less clothing but do we spend to much time worrying about the outside of our bodies, and neglect the inside?  The outside is the shell that everyone sees, it is our temple and yes we need to keep it healthy, strong, and we want it to look good too.  The inside is where our organs, heart, spirit live.  Our goodness, kindness, and love resonates from this interior place and somehow we don’t make sure it is healthy, strong and looking good too.  I’m learning this myself and seeing that I too neglect my inner being.  I spend hours a day exercising and have found some calm and peace with all my yoga but admittedly I am looking for those areas in my yoga practice that allow me deeper into my postures, make me stronger and enhance my balance.  I don’t spend time meditating and thinking that I could really practice harder and longer on quieting my mind.  I have gotten better at reducing monkey brain but I still have lots of work to do.

I’m searching for my inner spirit as well and although this is new for me and I’m not exactly sure how I will go about this I do love research and it starts there.  Yoga has shown me I’m missing something in myself and I don’t believe the missing piece is the ability to stay in Triangle longer, I think I’m looking for the real love that we all seek in ourselves. Perhaps April will be my new start month also.

YOGA IMMERSION

Yesterday was my yoga immersion class and I had doubts about going since it was 60 degrees here in Portland Maine with bright sunshine but I have committed to learning and practicing yoga on and off the mat and considering summer is on the way I’m still committed to these class. I went to Bikram, headed in town to see a little of the St Patrick’s day parade and then headed to my class. There were 2 new women there. I believe they thought they were joining a beginner yoga class but our instructor let them know this was an immersion class and they stayed.  I have been to 4 different classes over the last 4 months and it is different every time with people.  Sometimes I’m by myself sometimes women will show up but I don’t see them again.  The first class a man was there and I see him a lot in the classes throughout the week but not at the immersion class. 

Yesterday we did series of sun salutations very slowly so we could feel every movement.  There is an idea that one must flow quickly through yoga postures to heat up the system and accelerate the heart rate but the truth is that the slower you go the more you feel and the more you can connect to your body, breath and inner voice.  My focus for the next month is to slow down my practice and feel those moves and recognize them.  She also said that when I’m in classes I don’t have to move quickly with the group that most beginners move quickly so if she sees me slowing down my breath and moving through postures she’ll know I’ve found my own way.

We then talked a little bit about the yamas to get the other women up to speed and since our focus this month was judgmental or not being judgmental as it were I thought at the beginning of the month that I was fairly open to all people and situations and didn’t pass judgment since it is not my right to and at the end of the month I still feel that way.  I wouldn’t want someone to pass judgment on me and therefore I’m careful not to pass judgment on others.  This month is not stealing and I think I blogged before that I wouldn’t take something that didn’t belong to me as in theft but do I steal other people’s peace?  Is taking time at work to get on the internet and do something besides work stealing from my company?  These are the types of stealing questions I will work on this month.