Although Americans have made a business of teaching asana, we can never make yoga into a business. To find bliss is an individual pursuit and, according to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, requires a guru - someone who is Javanmukti. Unfortunately, that means those of us worried about red lines, income, practitioner numbers and advertising, aren't there. So, how do we, as yogis, as teachers, as business owners really follow and guide others on the path of yoga while still surviving the commercial world? We must not lose sight of what this practice is all about. It's not about getting more people in the door or becoming a "famous yogi." It's about quality. To teach is to guide, to give others the knowledge of ages, to help them to find their path. It's about sharing all that you have learned and helping others to seek out more while you do the same. It's about satya and ahimsa. To be a yoga teacher, a studio owner, a guide for others, is to always keep the mind of the beginner and to follow your path to enlightenment not the one of fame and fortune. Are you teaching?
Guest Blog by Ashley Burns
Traditionally, healthcare providers treat mental health conditions with medication and forms of therapy. Alternative methods of treatment are not considered as often. One alternative method for specific mental health conditions, yoga therapy, and thrives on a calm and patient environment. Yoga inspires body awareness through poses and controlled breathing techniques. When yoga therapy is used as complementary treatment for both anxiety disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, it can reduce physical stress responses such as high heart rate, blood pressure and respiration levels in the same vein as exercise and self-soothing techniques.
Multiple studies reveal how yoga therapy can improve mental health and become proper treatment for symptoms of depression or anxiety disorders, according to a Harvard Mental Health Letter.
Controlled breathing techniques, which are a significant aspect of yoga, can aid in the treatment of depression. In 2005, a German study evaluated two different groups of women with emotional distress; one group practiced yoga and the other did not receive any intervention. The yoga group practiced yoga two times a week for three months. The researchers noted that the women in the yoga group reported improvements in stress, depression, anxiety, fatigue and other factors associated with emotional distress at the end of the study. The women also reported less physical pain and better sleep compared with the control group.
Along with depression symptoms, yoga therapy has also been shown to help with PTSD symptoms. Individuals with PTSD experience unwanted flashbacks or nightmares, a feeling of constant fear or danger, depression, anxiety, insomnia, irritability and more, according to the National Institute for Mental Health. A study revealed that a group of United States active duty military personnel deployed in Iraq who practiced yoga felt less combat stress than a group that did not, according to an article in the Huffington Post. In the study, 35 United States Air Force and army personnel participated in nine sessions of the “Yoga Warrior method,” a mash-up of hatha yoga and sensory-based occupational therapy techniques. After the nine sessions, the yoga group reported increased feelings of relaxation, reduced anger and sleep improvement.
Yoga therapy has proven to be a capable addition to the treatment of people with depression or anxiety disorders like PTSD. A handful of descriptive preliminary studies show that yoga therapy can improve the symptoms of the participants with specific conditions. Yoga therapy is a low-risk option for all involved, so medical malpractice or side effects aren’t as widespread as they are in traditional healthcare.
A wedding day can simultaneously be one of the most exciting, memorable and stressful days of your life. There are guests to greet, food to arrange and all sorts of speedbumps that can derail your sense of inner peace on your big day. Lake Tahoe weddings are always beautiful and memorable, but even these beautiful venues can’t hold off all of the stress and nerves that a wedding day can bring.
On your wedding day you want to look and feel your best, physically and emotionally, and yoga is the best way to bring out the best you on your wedding day. From the physical benefits a morning yoga sequence will have on your body to the balance and harmony that will keep you calm throughout the day, there’s no better way to start the most important day of your life than with a trip to Lake Tahoe Yoga.
Setting aside some time to devote to non-wedding talk and preparations is important and can actually make the whole day go more seamlessly. It’s important to be ready to take on any challenges that may present themselves with a relaxed demeanor to help you keep everything into perspective. A yoga session gives brides (or grooms) a chance to take a moment to herself on the busy hours leading up to the walk down the aisle. This is a perfect way to bypass pre-wedding jitters, and avoid the "bridezilla" stereotype.
Weddings are all about making connections - sharing a special moment with your family, friends, and most importantly, making a new connection with your long-life mate. Before you connect with all of the wonderful people in your life it’s important to take some time to connect with yourself; focusing on your breathing, gently stretching and energizing to be truly present on the day you've been waiting for your whole life.
The exercise aspect of yoga is yet another reason to fit a session into your wedding day itinerary as it will get your blood flowing and endorphins pumping. After the previous days of rehearsal dinners and get-togethers, an hour of yoga on your wedding morning goes a long way; resulting in a confident feeling as you slip into your wedding dress. In addition to these benefits, having a jump-started metabolism can make alcohol easier to process as well, which may be another perk, if you are planning on sipping on champagne and enjoying your cake and catering throughout your wedding day.
Lake Tahoe Yoga offers several yoga wedding packages, whether you want an hour alone in the morning, want to spend it connecting with your future hubby, or want to share this time with the girls who will be by your side when you say “I do.” Couples can seize this as an opportunity to complete an hour of yoga together, as often times the bride and groom are so bombarded with requests, a regimented schedule and people to see at the wedding, that they don’t get the much-needed one-on-one time. Yoga will have both the bride and groom calm and ready to take on this magical day together.
A pre-wedding yoga session is also a wonderful way to bond and connect with family, friends, the bridal party and other loved ones who have possibly traveled long distances or at least many miles to be there with you on your special day. Weddings are supposed to be about connecting but, sometimes this idea gets overlooked, when juggling all the different factors that go into ensuring the wedding goes off without a hitch. Since friends and family are usually scattered across the country an hour yoga session is an ideal way to not only work in this calming heart-based practice but, also bring everyone together in a shared experience that there sometimes isn’t time for otherwise a midst all the festivities. Include many people in the session or, have a more intimate group of just the immediate family or the bridal party.
Lake Tahoe is home to some of the most beautiful wedding venues in the world so, it’s hard to imagine there will be any stress on your wedding day. But the unexpected is bound to happen and including some time for a yoga session in the busy and somewhat overwhelming hours prior to a wedding is a great way to relax, fit some exercise into your morning and connect with loved ones, friends and yourself. Be ready to take on any of the little mishaps or miscommunication that can happen at least once during the course of the day with an improved attitude, calm body and serene spirit.
-Lizz Riggs, Tahoe'sBest.com
Goodness gracious! Sometimes things just don't go your way. How easily we get caught up in the frustrations of life, whether it be someone driving terribly in front of you, running late to a meeting, your computer won't work or your kids won't stop bothering you. The little things do tend to drag us down.
Yoga reminds us to review the big picture. To remember that those little frustrations will go away. Think about it, do you remember every little thing that's bugged your throughout your entire life? Do you even remember the big things that got to you? Hopefully, you remember the good stuff much more clearly. For example, your favorite birthday celebration, your best friend's wedding, your first kiss, your favorite Yoga teacher and class. As you think about these happier events and experiences perhaps it shifts your perspective, even if only for a moment.
The next time your find yourself caught up in life's little moments of suffering, draw upon a past experience to draw yourself out. Life isn't suffering, we just perceive that it is.
Tahoe is a playground. It really is. There is the opportunity to do any number of fun activities in a day. You could wake up and CrossFit, go for a run, mountain bike, play golf, go skiing and finish with a restorative Yoga practice or a cocktail. What a great place in which we live!
In order to keep this place wonderful and sustainable, we have to not only protect the natural resources we have but also the community of incredible people that have made this location what it is. Since the opening of Svadhyaya Yoga Studio in 2008, I have worked to make sure that I feel connected to our community and that I am actively supporting it. I cross the state line in order to visit friends who own businesses, I reach out to local not-for-profits, I support our schools and groups that give back. In turn, our studio is supported by the incredible community of practitioners that have found their way to our space.
Yoga, as you may already know, means union. When I think about what Lake Tahoe Union means to me, it means unity in Lake Tahoe through the connection of all of us including community members, businesses, families, everyone!
Take a moment today, tomorrow and every day. Consider what you have done in order to be a part of your community. How have you supported, sustained or grown the world around you? How can you do more?
Our adventure into the Hatha Yoga Pradipika has brought us to the cleansing practices. Shatkarma, of which there are 6, is the practice of cleansing the physical body in preparation for deepening the practice.
Keep in mind that when the pradipika was written, the people of the time suffered from far more ailments than we face today. Their practices of bhasti, dauti and nauli as well as others were not just for enlightenment preparedness but also an attempt to prevent themselves from suffering disease or death.
As we venture further into this text, please remember that these practices are not for everyone. Today we have medical science and trained professionals who can evaluate our bodies inside and out. If you are considering attempting the shatkarmas please consult with a professional beforehand.
We've learned that Hatha Yoga or Union through Effort focuses on cleansing the physical body first. Unlike the practice of Raja Yoga which focuses upon the Yamas & Niyamas as the beginning of our practice, Hatha Yoga focuses on controlling the body. If we can understand how our body works, then not only can we control it but we can respect it. Cleansing isn't necessarily about using a neti or swallowing a milk-soaked rag. It's about thinking about what you're putting into your body, how you use your body and what you do to your body. When we understand our bodies, we understand ourselves and we are better able to look upon ourselves with honesty. Have you ever viewed yourself with honesty? Without denying the aspects that you dislike or fear to admit to? The saying "you can't make others happy unless you are happy yourself" is about how you view yourself not about how much money you make, the car you drive or the clothes you wear. Know yourself and you'll learn that these things are not you. Know your body and you will find out who you really are.
We've hit that point, the part of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika where we learn about "posture." The word "Asana" means "seat" or "pose." Consider this; 3000 years ago people weren't sitting in chairs at desks or driving around in cars. They were squatting, sitting on the ground, moving along the earth on their own two feet and taking a seat wherever they needed.
In the Yoga Sutra we are taught "Sthira Sukham Asanam;" to take an easy, steady seat. The same is true in Hatha Yoga. In order to quiet our mind, slow our breath and focus inward, we must have steadiness of body. No matter what pose we choose to take, if that posture remains steady, easy and balanced, we will be able to maintain focus.
Tight walkers, slack-liners, acrobats, gymnasts, etc. all have the ability to remain balanced, steady and focused in order to maintain their pose. In Yoga, rather than posing to perform, we are posing to turn within.
As you practice, look not upon how your posture looks but, instead, look within and feel the pose change you.
Having finished the forward of the pradipika or "illumination" on Hatha Yoga, we must now move forward through the verses. What have we learned so far? Hatha Yoga is a practice that involved power, effort and attention to the physical self. We must cleanse, move and breathe. The first verse reminds us of what we learned in the last thread or sutra of the Yoga Sutras: Honor the consciousness that lies within you; it will guide you on your path. In other words: all you need to know, you already now. Hmmm, chew on that one for a while. . .
Last summer we cracked open the Yoga Sutra and dedicated each dharma talk to one sutra. Over the past year, not a single dharma talk has been repeated and we have made our way through the entire book.
4 Padas or feet/portions and 196 Sutras or threads later, we have learned much. As we close this chapter of our study (to be opened again and again, of course), what do you recall? What has attached itself to you? How will you move forward with the knowledge you have gained?
Let us recall two important sutras not to be forgotten:
Book I, Sutra II: Yogas Citta Vrtti Nirodha
Book 2, Sutra 46: Sthira Sukham Asanam
We must remember to quite the chatter of the mind and to do so in an easy, steady seat.