Tadasana Knee Lift

I've been practicing a lot of Viniyoga lately and I continue to be fascinated by the teachings of T Krishnamacharya and TKV Desikachar. Connecting the breath with a dynamic movement has offered me the opportunity to experience āsanas from a refreshing perspective. Holding an āsana after practicing the corresponding dynamic movements have proven to be less taxing on my joints and limbs and allows my body to settle into an āsana with an equal amount of ease and effort and allows me to experience "sthira sukham āsanam".

I've been playing around Tadasana Knee Lift in my classes and I've found it to be very helpful in preparing the core and the legs for balancing āsanas such as Virabhadrasana III. Try it before you practice your next balancing āsana!

If you want to play around with dynamic movements, join me at Yogalotus Austin: Tuesdays Hatha @10:30am and Fridays Restorative+ @10:30am.

Breathing Room

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships. Friends, family, strangers - we have a relationship with many people in our everyday lives and not always are those relationships ones that serve us well. Sometimes, social and family obligations put us in the path of those who cause frustration, irritation, and leave us feeling drained. Instead of allowing our “day to be ruined” or being “in a bad mood”, there are ways we can work through these feelings inside us and not allow others to affect our peace of mind.

In the Yoga Sutras, a lot is said about our lens, and about cleaning our lens so that we can see the world for what it is and not what we perceive it to be. A lot of times, when we react negatively to someone or something, that feeling stems from our mis-perception of the other person or object. For example, I have a really good friend, whom I think of as quirky and fun and whom I generally admire for her free-spiritedness. But the other day I found myself getting really annoyed by everything she said. She did not change - she was being her normal quirky self. But why was I reacting so differently to her? It had more to do how I was feeling within myself. I was generally in an irritable mood, which affected my lens and ability to perceive correctly, and my perception of the same good friend was marred by that blurry lens.

If misperception can happen with the people we care for and who care for us, are we also mis-perceiving people whom we don’t know? When someone hurts our feelings and we react with pain, anger, irritation or what have you, we can allow that to be the set patterned reaction towards anything that person says or does. Our perception of that person is being filtered through previous pain, and we continue to suffer while we are in their presence. For example, somebody backs out of a parking spot without looking and crashes into your car. This results in an argument with an unapologetic driver and you walk away from the situation feeling scared and angry. Now every time you drive past a car that is backing out of a parking spot, you feel anxious that you might get hit again by another insensitive driver. This misperception comes from the emotional residue that was left behind from the accident. You know that you’re not going to get hit over and over again, but the fear can encourage our misperception of similar situations and can leave us in an agitated mental and emotional state.

So how do we come out of this unbalanced state?

Meditation. Meditation, when practiced correctly and under guidance, has the ability to heal emotional hurts. A daily practice in mindfulness - observing our reactions, and identifying our misperceptions is the first step. Then the practice of sitting down to meditate, and connecting to an object that embodies the opposite qualities of our unbalanced state can help to rewire our brains to more positive patterns of thinking, perceiving, and behaving. It also gives us room to step away from our negative emotional residues, analyse the root cause of pain, and create new emotional patterns and perceptions for the same object or person that previously caused us suffering.

If you’re feeling anxious about driving through a busy parking lot, it might help to meditate on a grounding object like a tree. The tree has the ability to help us feel rooted, it can bring our minds down from the air of anxiety, and can even embody a larger than life spirit. These qualities can help us find stability in our perceptions, and can allow us to react in a way that may be more beneficial to our peace of mind. When you find yourself reacting with fear or anger while driving, call to mind a tree with thick, deep roots. Take a few breaths as you connect to the tree and slowly feel a sense of grounding down through your feet. You can also chant “It’s going to be okay”, over and over, until you connect with the perception that it really IS going to be okay.

When we practice mindfulness in our daily activities, we develop a knowing that we’re not always going to experience the worst possible outcome. Once we begin to correctly perceive the smaller things, we can begin to correctly perceive the more important things in life. When our perceptions are clearer, we are able to experience the many benefits of a Yoga and Meditation practice. By taking care of our minds and bodies through these practices, we are able to find an inner guidance to living a more peaceful and satisfying life.



 

Studying the Yoga Sutras

Art: Henck van Bilsen

Art: Henck van Bilsen

The Yoga sutras have eluded my understanding for a long time. I have tried to read about the Yoga Sutras in the past but nothing seemed to sink in, and I was convinced that the study of the Sutras was probably reserved for the true Yoga scholar. During a couple of my 500-hr training courses, we had a wonderful teacher - Chase Bossart - who weaved the teachings of the Yoga Sutras with the study of Meditation and Yoga. Everything was starting to make sense, and I found myself wanting to know more about Pantanjali’s approach to Yogic studies. So I signed up for the online Yoga Sutras course with Yoga Well Institute.

What I found fascinating was how each Sutra was broken down - word for word - and each word applied to life as we live it today. There was no - “You have to go live in the mountains and give up all worldly desires in order to be enlightened!”. The beauty of the Yoga Sutras, and specifically Chapter 2, is that Pantanjali recognized that we are all human with the same wants, needs and desires - and in understanding our own behavior we can quiet the mind to better manage our desires and strive for a deeper human experience.

 

Since starting the course in December of last year, I find a noticeable change in myself. In adding the reflection on the weekly lectures to my daily Yoga and Meditation practice, my mind has slowed down for the better. I’m able to navigate through the mental clutter and discard the unnecessary thoughts. I now give myself permission to feel angry, sad, and even joyful, knowing that these are all feelings that come and go. In feeling (not repressing) emotions we can truly allow ourselves to be free.

I’m not perfect, and Yoga isn’t about aspiring to perfection. I have my ups and downs just like everyone else, but now I have the right tools in my chest to guide me on my journey. If you feel stuck, unsure about how to handle life’s challenges, or are generally a curious Yoga nerd like myself, do sign up for the online Yoga Sutras class with Chase Bossart. We will begin the study of Chapter 1 on March 31st (2016). You never know what you might discover about yourself!

For more information visit: www.yogawellinstitute.com
 

 

 

 

disclaimer: These are my personal thoughts and opinions. I am not being compensated for this or any other posts on this website.  

My Love Affair with Yoga

I was first introduced to Yoga when I was 18. My mum was taking an Iyengar class with a teacher who taught in her beautiful home and one day she asked me to go along with her. I had a few months off before I came to the U.S. to start university, so I was looking for something to do. I can’t say that I fell in love with Yoga right off the bat, but the seed was planted. I didn’t have a lot of body awareness at the time, and I didn’t notice any dramatic physical or mental changes, but then again I was 18 and all I could think about was flying the coup.

In my second year of university, I shared an apartment with a couple of roommates. I had settled into a routine at school, and my schedule of classes and working at the library kept me busy. My friends and I spent a lot of time hanging out at the local Borders Books and Music store, as I was always looking for new music to listen to. It was during one of these trips to the bookstore that I came across a Gaiam Yoga mat. And then there were the VHS tapes… yes, VHS! I picked up a very basic intro to Yoga with Patricia Walden, along with a Yoga mat (which I still have to this day), and I was good to go. The tape was a simple introduction to a few basic asanas like Tadasana, Paschimottanasana, and Janu Sirsasana. Yoga seemed easy enough and my next round of tapes were Rodney Yee’s ‘Yoga for Strength’, ‘Yoga for Flexibility’, and 'AM/PM Yoga'. That’s when I was hooked, even though I didn’t quite understand all the benefits of a Yoga practice. I had a morning routine of a 20-minute Tae Bo workout, followed by a 20-minute Yoga practice. Yes, an odd combination, but even to this day I love to run or do a high-intensity workout and finish with a calming Yoga practice.

After university, I moved to Toronto, Canada, and I had a very on again/off again relationship with Yoga. I was busy trying to establish myself in the film industry and festival circuit  in Toronto. Yoga was the farthest thing from my mind and I had never taken a studio class, even though I lived around the corner from one of the best studios in the city, The Yoga Sanctuary.

I took my first studio class during my post-graduate studies. The school I went to offered an evening series of Hatha classes and during these classes I realized how weak and out of shape I was. I’ve always had terrible stamina - I had never played sports growing up, and was easily winded. After my post-grad course, I moved back into the city and joined the Sivananda Yoga center. And that was when I fell in LOVE.  I took their Yoga 1, 2 and 3 courses, which was an in-depth study of asanas and the series in which they should be done for maximum benefit. They taught in a set series: standing postures followed by seated postures, inversions and a head stand before melting into sivasana. Sivananda Yoga was also my first introduction to Pranayama. We were taught different Pranayama practices like Kapalbhati and Nadi Shodhana - and I started to feel the benefits of having a breathing practice in my hectic life. This is also when I learned the proper technique of practising an unassisted handstand, and it took me a few months to get it, but I was on top of the world when I did get up into my first handstand. I now had a steady home practice and will always be grateful to the Sivananda Yoga center for giving me that knowledge.

A few months later, inspired by all my teachers at the Sivananda center, the thought of teacher training crept into my mind. I did my research and enrolled in The Yoga Sanctuary’s YTT (Yoga teacher training) program, which was an Ashtanga based, 200-hr course. I met the loveliest people during my training, whom I keep in touch with to this day, and gained the confidence to go out and teach.

After YTT, I worked at a couple of wonderful studios in the greater Toronto area and that’s when I decided that Yoga was the legacy I wanted to leave behind. Now, I’m still a student first and I have a long ways to go in my own practice. With each of my pregnancies, I was thrown back to square one, as I was dealing with a new body and had to re-learn how to use it. I was incredibly weak after having my kids, but with a slow steady practice of Yoga and running, I was able to build up my strength again. I still maintain a consistent home practice and frequent different studios when I can. My goal for the next few years is to complete my 500-hr advanced YTT certification. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do a Vinyasa jump through, fly into a handstand, or attain Samadhi, but I’m certainly going to try. Trying is the first step, and believing in yourself is the second. The rest just happens.

“Do your practice and all is coming” - Sri K. Pattabhi Jois