It smells like Summer! That unmistakable combination of heat, water, sunscreen and sweat is beginning to permeate the air. Are you thinking what I am? Let’s go to the beach! Before we do, though, let’s consider a few Yogic practices.
1) Bring only that which you can easily carry (Bramacarya)
A beach umbrella, a chair, some snacks and drinks should do it. Why are you hauling that Easy-Up? Why are you dragging that gigantic cooler? Why did you bring a full meal and where are you going to attach that kitchen sink? When you pack, think about what you really need and what you want to carry out with you. Simplify and spend more time enjoying the beach or your hike rather than overeating, drinking too much and exhausting yourself. Less is more. When you set up camp, consider how you do so. Is your umbrella blocking the view of the lake? Are you taking up more space than you really need? Can you leave more room for others to pass through and access the water? The more we consider each other while in a shared space, the better the space becomes.
2) Consider Your Impact (Ahimsa)
From parking your car to establishing your spot on the beach, everything you do impacts the lake. Ride a bike to the beach and it will not only help you to reduce what you carry in, it will also have a lesser impact on the environment. Bring your bike lock so you can park it safely off the beach and allow for more space on the sand for others. If driving is the only way to get there, bring your friends along for the ride. Pack into the car together rather than taking multiple vehicles. Reduce your impact on the roads, your stress level, and leave more room in the parking lot for others.
3) Tone It Down (Mantra)
There are some beautiful natural sounds in Tahoe. Every morning I wake to the songs of the black beaked chickadee, morning doves, chipmunks and other critters rising with the sun. It’s one of my favorite moments of the day. When I’m at home, in the woods or at the beach I enjoy listening to the sounds of the mountains and lake. Whether you’re in the house, hiking, riding or relaxing, keep the volume down on both your voice and music makers. Consider how the sounds you’re making or listening to are affecting the space around you. Lower the volume on your speaker so only you and your group can hear the music. Speak in a tone that keeps the conversation among your crowd. Close the doors and windows while you party in the evenings. Lower your tone and your vibration so that everyone can enjoy Tahoe in the way they like.
4) Remain Focused (Dharana)
The Tahoe Summer scene is a good one. It’s easy to become distracted while you walk, bike or drive around town. Remember, that you’re visiting a place where people live and work. It’s important to remain focused and follow the same travel rules that exist everywhere. If you want to check something out, pull over and stop to look instead of slowing traffic down. Be sure to check your mirrors for passing bicycles or scooters before you turn into that vista point. Check the map and directions before you head out so that you have a general idea of where you’re going. Move off to the side if you have to check the map or assess your situation while walking or riding. Don’t hesitate to ask for directions or information from a friendly Tahoe resident if you do get confused.
Enjoy Tahoe! It’s a magical place! While you’re here, treat it better than you would treat your own home. Show that you care and honor this place so that we can all continue to enjoy everything Tahoe offers.
Remove knots (Granthi) through Bandha and free yourself from the binds of the past.
Throughout your life you have gathered memories, experiences and impressions. Your body holds within it past injuries and discomforts. You may even be able to draw a direct correlation between the limitations in your body and an injury or experience from the past. Scars and bruises are visible expressions of past experiences. As we practice, we reveal that which we carry with us, but no longer need. Through the application of bandha we can both reveal and remove that which weights us.
Granthi = Knots
Have you ever had to comb out the knots that have collected in your hair or had to remove something that has gotten stuck in it? The practices of Hatha Yoga are intended to work similarly. At first, you may experience discomfort and they require much effort. As you continue to practice, the work becomes more subtle and the effects less noticeable. You slowly eliminate the obvious expressions of the past. Then, as you work more deeply, you begin to “smooth” the Granthi or knots that have grown.
The Subtle Body
The gross, or meat body, is visible and tangible. We can see the changes that happen as we practice. We feel the difference as our body becomes fit, mobile, and healthy. Less accessible is the subtle body. Made of emotion, thought and energy, the effects are evident only when we pay attention. The doorway to the subtle body is breath. As we move, we breathe. When we breathe consciously we stir up the residue that has settled over time. The dust of the past can then be released so that it no longer blocks the flow of Prana.
Directing the Wind
Can you remember a moment in your life when you felt uplifted? The moment gave you a feeling as though you could float right off the ground. As we practice directing Prana through bandha the intention is to reverse the downward flow of Apana and make it rise upward. In doing so, you might experience a feeling of upward rising or euphoria. The more subtle this practice becomes, the more knots we untie and the lighter we feel overall.
I recently took one of the worst practices I have ever attended. Had I been in the back of the room I may have walked out. I wasn’t. I was second row and far from the door. I had to make a decision and I chose to stay and do my own practice. I have never done that before. I have walked out of a poorly guided practice, just once. As a teacher I am comfortable allowing those who join my guided classes vary the postures, within reason, but if someone in one of my classes began doing completely different postures than the ones I was suggesting I would definitely be concerned.
Symmetry Is Important
Vinyasa translates to mean configuration, order, connection, composition. It is often translated as "a sequence of postures linked together to create flow." If you watch video of B.K.S. Iyengar you can see him both working slowly on the technique of the postures and then demonstrating that technique in Vinyasa.
Technique is the key to the grace and control of a postural flow. Each movement begins and ends in the same way. Everything done on the left, is then repeated on the right. The symmetry of the sequence and in technique creates the beauty of Vinyasa.
Learn How Your Body Moves
Have you tried belly dancing? Pole dancing? Ballet? Attempting any of these without first establishing the roots of the movements can result in serious injury. Yoga Asana should be seen in the same light. Don't jump into a Vinyasa practice. Learn how to move intelligently and then slowly increase the pace.
A rapid paced series of movements are useful when you already understand how to go though them slowly. Taking your time to feel each muscle engage and release, support and expand, gives you the awareness necessary to move more and more quickly in safe ways.
Find a Knowledgeable Guide
Thousands of people are now calling themselves Yoga instructors. Thousands of training programs exist. Thousands of Vinyasa classes are available. How are you to choose the "right" one?
Instead, begin with a more simple practice like Hatha. Even if you aren't new to the practice. These classes will help you to develop the roots you will need. The teacher should allow you the time to find and remain in the posture an experience all that happens while you are there. The sequence may repeat and build as you move through each new series. As you gain prowess in the postures, you can ask your teacher what class is most appropriate for you to attempt next.
Afterward, You Should Feel Good
After a quality Vinyasa practice you should not feel like you've had your ass kicked and a good workout. You should not be exhausted and beat up. Because you have prepared your body, mind and energy, the flow of movement and breath should give you a sense of inner awareness and depth of self. Your body should feel supple, your mind quiet. As you rest in savasana you may experience Nidra.
If you are ready to learn Asana techniques that will help you move toward Vinyasa join the practice at Lake Tahoe Yoga. Not sure where to begin? Contact us for suggestions.
Bond with Your Babe
After having a baby your life may feel like periods of rest between bottles, diapers and feedings. Yoga classes that allow you to include your newborn are opportunities to get out of the house in a safe and clean space with other parents dealing with the same issues.
The practice may include movements that encourage you to include your little one, or focus upon you while your infant rests upon the mat. In either case you are given permission to care for yourself while still being present with your newborn.
Love Up Your Little One
Touch is one of the most beneficial treatments for baby (and parent) ailments. Hugs, squeezes, rubbing and rocking can have beneficial effects for all of us. While practicing Yoga Asana that allow your body to stretch and slowly release you are afforded an opportunity if mutual benefit. As your body opens, you can give some physical love to your babe.
Gnelte stroking if their faces aces and arms can induce a calming effect. Rubbing bellies and backs can encourage digestion’s and bowel release. Hand and foot rubs help baby to develop the sensitity necessary to open and close, flex and extend, in preparation for grasping and waking.
While caring for your newborn, toddler or preschool-aged little one you may become lost in the repetition of actions. Your day might feel like a repetitive rhythm of folding and holding. Yoga Asana provides a variety of movements that help you recover from repetitive movement.
In preparation for the arrival of your newborn movement is invaluable. Yoga offers more than poses. As you practice, you will become more aware of your body’s needs. In doing so you will be able to reduce discomfort and prevent pain that could result from the carrying if extra weight and adjustments to your internal organs.
Teach Then Peacefulness
New studies are reviewing the benefits of guided focus and peaceful spaces in lieu of detention and punishment. Starting off your little one’s life with opportunities to enjoy peace, quiet and themselves could give them the ability to do so for the rest of their lives. Not only will Yoga Asana give your babe the chance to move and try new things in a safe place, but the peace and quiet of the studio will help them to feel safe relaxing. They might even begin requesting that you do Yoga at home, too!
Learn to Teach
Kidding Around Yoga will be offering a weekend training in Yoga for Kids! Join us on April 27 & 28 to learn how to teach Yoga for children. A free class will be offered on Sunday, April 28.
The saying goes, “It’s the thought that counts.” In Yoga this saying is Truth. Our approach to every aspect of the practice is effected by that which we intend to cultivate. The sanskrit term “Sankalpa” is translated as; intention, declaration of purpose and determination. At Lake Tahoe Yoga each practice begins with a Dharma Talk intended to provide an opportunity for learning and establishment of Sankalpa for your practice.
When I work out my intention is to burn fat, gain muscle and get my heart pumping. I am seeking a workout and health of body.
When I practice Yoga my intention is completely different. Every aspect of the practice was developed to help me refine my awareness. When I move my body I do so in a way that helps me to identify limitation, restriction, freedom and strength. As I breathe I am doing so effort-fully and with a focus upon drawing in and expressing as much breath as possible.
When I come to the mat my intention is direction, awareness and contentment. I am seeking more than perfection in posture. I am seeking awareness of my Self.
What is your intention when you come to the mat? Are you hoping to sweat and get a good workout or is your focus upon healing, awareness and depth of self?
Our minds are very powerful. They have power over our bodies, thoughts, actions, speech, and experience of the world. When your mind is effected by toxins or damaged the way in which you perceive the world and yourself can shift completely. The practices of Yoga are intended to help us to learn how to direct our minds. When recovering from injury Yoga can help heal and control our minds, and thus, our lives.
The intention of Yoga is not to provide a workout it is to encourage work within. Set intentions to heal, recover, establish peace, love yourself, etc. and you will become better at directing your mind to perceive the world clearly.
Health & Healing
When you step upon your mat consider your intention for the practice. What are you hoping to manifest or encourage to grow in your life? Consider your mind, your thoughts, your habits. Reflect upon past injuries and pains that have effected you. Establish Sankalpa and then begin to move. Notice how this effects you throughout the rest of your life.
You are what you eat, and if you're not fueling your body correctly you might feel run-down. After all, your body is a machine. Food is fuel. Although, there is certainly room within the engine for a treat from time to time. There's a reason luxury car owners only put premium in their vehicles. They know it helps the car run better and can extend its life. It can also help reduce the need for some maintenance tasks down the road.
Your body works in the same way. It needs the right food in order to convert it into the kind of energy you can use. This is challenging considering there are a lot of elements in modern-day food that are highly addictive. However, if you focus on thinking of your body as a machine that deserves quality fuel, you’ll get on the fast track to feeling more energetic.
How Food Effects Performance
1. Sugar is arguably the world’s worst drug. There’s nothing wrong with natural sugar in very small quantities. However, most of the sugar we consume today is highly processed, and we consume it in great quantities. Eating sugar influences your sleep, your fatigue level, your mood, and your overall health. Processed sugar can be linked to type 2 diabetes, is highly addictive, and contains empty calories. Plus, we build up a tolerance for sweetness. A person who has never had processed sugar would likely gag at a slice of birthday cake. Re-train your tongue to natural sweetness, such as berries and fruits, and you'll find an energy boost.
2. Caffeine is the most widely used drug in the world. Caffeine is genuinely a drug, but one that is socially acceptable. It affects every part of the body, including the brain and our energy levels. Like sugar, it is also very addictive. It can cause withdrawal symptoms if you have a coffee habit, and many people think they depend on it to keep their energy levels high. It can work in the short-term, but it also comes with a crash. Weaning yourself off of coffee and replacing it with decaf tea over a long period of time can help stabilize your energy levels.
3. The starve and binge cycle is doing a number on your energy. There are various approaches to eating for fat loss and muscle gain. Many work in the short-term, but at the risk of our sanity and energy levels. One diet in recent years that has leaked over from the bodybuilding world to mainstream society is intermittent fasting. There are many types of this fasting, but a common one is to have an eight-hour “feeding” window every day followed by 16 hours of fasting. During those 16 hours, only water, coffee, and small items less than 50 calories are allowed. It can help bodybuilders cut weight for competitions, but was not meant for non-professionals or for use long-term. As you can imagine, your energy levels will be all over the place. However, it can be addictive to see those pounds (aka water weight) drop so quickly. Remember that diets should be a healthy choice for life with wiggle room, not a prison that dictates your daily life.
4. Let your instincts drive your breakfast decisions. Should you skip breakfast? Only eat all-protein at breakfast? Keep it light? There’s no one answer for everyone. Breakfast is the time when you “break fast," and your body will tell you what it needs in the morning. As long as you’re not regularly heaping piles of pancakes or other desserts playing dress up as breakfast, you'll be on point. Some people need a generous breakfast while others require a little more time to wake up before their body starts asking for fuel.
5. You’re not feeding your muscles or re-fueling after cardio. When you work out, you depend on stored energy (fat and glycogen) to get through it. With weight-bearing exercises, your muscles demand protein immediately afterward to repair and heal. After a cardio session, your body needs a little BCAA boost. Failing to eat, or making poor food choices, after a workout isn’t just draining your energy. It’s also minimizing your workout.
Feed Your Body What It Needs
When it comes to food as energy, it sounds so simple, but it can be very difficult to choose the right things. There’s a lot tied to food, including emotions and addictions. However, it’s a good idea to simply remind yourself that you’re fueling your body. What do you need, what do you want, and what are you trying to do with food that might be better addressed in another manner?
Hatha Yoga describes the Shatkarma in the second chapter of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Shat is Sanskrit for 6 and Karma is the word for Action. The ancient Yogis believed that in order to understand the universe you needed to first clear out the impurities, toxins and distractions of humanity. To do so you had to begin by cleaning out your body.
The Encyclopaedia of Traditional Asanas describes hundreds of seats; various ways in which to move the body in an effort to eliminate the limitations that result in discomfort. The Sanskrit word "as" means "to sit." Asana can also be interpreted as "establishment in the original state." The postures were designed to create heat (Tapas) allowing us to eliminate toxins and impurities in the physical body so that we could move into svabhava (introversion). The practice of Asana eventually provides us with steadiness and inner awareness of our True Self.
Breath and movement are the keys to Yoga. Every breath directs and deepens movement. Directed breath or kripalu.org/resources/why-do-pranayama Pranayama specifically directs your body, mind and internal energy. Proper practice of Pranayama can lead to the creation of body heat, spiritual experiences and energetic shifts. The formal practices described by Hatha Yoga are done so with a specific intended use and course.
By today's standards some of the practices described by Hatha Yoga are downright disgusting. Swallowing a milk soaked rag (Dhuati Karma) doesn't sound like something I want to do. However, there are many practices that we continue to apply today in order to keep our bodies clean.
Neti: Nasal cleaning involved the use of a string threaded up the nostrils and through the sinus passage. Today we use neti pots, sprays and tissues.
Dhauti: Cleansing of the digestive tract included milk soaked rags and forced vomitting. Modern science has helped us to identify foods that can clean our system.
Bhasti: Thank goodness for modern science and doctors who help us to keep our colons healthy.
Trataka: Blinkless gazing was used to clean the eyes. Many of us practice this just because the view is so beautiful. Eye drops assist us when we are ill or require a little help on a dry day.
Consider that which you do to keep your body healthy and clean. Many of our current practices and habits have roots in those of the ancient Yogis. What practices can you add to you life to clear away the toxins from the world around you, eliminate that which you do not need and create a bit more space for internal focus?
#1 Yoga is Stretching
Yes, Yoga poses do include stretching. More accurately Yoga poses, or Asana, help you to learn how to lengthen and lift, extend and contract, engage and release muscles as groups and in isolation. The value of Yoga Asana lies in the expression of each posture, not how it looks. When done accurately and with proper technique Asana provide much more than stretching or strengthening, they help you to feel more comfortable in your body and develop the ability to use it safely in every activity.
#2 Yoga is for Women
Originally, Yoga was practiced only by men; holy men. They were held in higher regard than kings and queens. They were considered holy because they had dedicated their lives to understanding why we are here. When Yoga was discovered by the Western world powerful women (queens) began to learn the practice. It’s impact upon American happened by storm. The practices of mindfulness were absorbed by those who were invested in revolution, change of perception and free love – the hippies. The practice spread among men and women like wildfire. There are far more females who practice Yoga today, but if everyone were to practice Yoga it could help to change the world.
#3 Yoga is Expensive
How much do you pay for your daily cup of coffee? Your house to be cleaned? Your chiropractor to adjust your back? Your happy hour? Yoga costs no more. However, the value it brings is immense in comparison. That which you receive from a Yoga practice lasts far longer than any cup of coffee or happy hour cocktail. Consistent and dedicated practice will eliminate your need for caffeine and body treatments. It will enthuse you to keep your house clean on your own. Forget that cocktail, you’ll be able to relax without a sip of alcohol. Attending classes will provide you with the skills and knowledge to apply Yoga to your life and actually save money.
"That which you receive from a Yoga practice lasts far longer than any cup of coffee or happy hour cocktail."
#4 I Can’t Do Yoga
Everyone practices Yoga. It’s not until we are able to identify that which we do that we perceive what we are doing. Have you ever picked up trash? Held the door for someone? Taken a walk in the woods? Listened to your thoughts? Closed your eyes for a moment of peace? Stretched your arms overhead? Told someone the truth? All of these are practices of Yoga. Attending classes with dozens of people and trying to get into a split may not be the way in which you are meant to practice. There are 8 limbs in the Raja Yoga practice. Any of them could be your starting point.
#5 Yoga Doesn’t Align with My Faith
There is Yoga in every religion, but no religion in Yoga. It is like a good stock. Yoga is the bone broth or seafood stock you begin with. It has all of the basics already included: guidance for the treatment of yourself and others, body health, mindfulness and awareness. You get to choose what to flavors to add on. If you place your faith in a single God, worship the Earth, look to various deities for support, or do not believe in dogma, you can add it in. Any Yoga teacher or studio should provide teachings and guidance that allow you to add in your personal flavors to your own practice. If you disagree with the teachings, then try a different teacher or studio until you feel comfortable.
"There is Yoga in every religion,
Becoming A Yoga Teacher
Did you know that anyone can be a Yoga instructor? Anyone at any time can say that they know how to teach Yoga and can easily begin selling Yoga classes. There is no certification required, no registration, no education.
Of course, we know that this is not what makes a person a Yoga teacher. The ability to instruct people to move through various postures does not necessitate special training. However, the skills needed to guide people through a Yoga sequence that intentionally creates physical, energetic and emotional change requires depth of study and practice. The Yoga Alliance provides us with a set of guidelines to follow in our training.
Self Study is one of the most important practices a Yoga teacher must do. While studying the texts, philosophies and practices of Yoga we must apply that which we learn to our lives. We must move with the intention of noticing how it effects our own bodies and live as witnesses and observers of our own thoughts, speech and actions.
Teaching Yoga requires constant practice and study. It requires self awareness, continued study, growth and development. A Yoga teacher is always practicing, but not always posing. They are developing deeper awareness of themselves in order to gain a better understanding of the practitioners whom they guide.
Intense, but not Intensive
The training required to become a Yoga teacher is intense, but it should not be intensive. The quality of the training a blossoming practitioner attends can make the difference between them becoming an instructor or a teacher.
The most common initial Yoga teacher training program is 200 hours in length. A comprehensive program includes everything from history to anatomy and should also cover the philosophy and practices of traditional Yoga. To fully grasp these concepts it is important that a budding teacher apply them to life. To do this, we must walk the walk and talk the talk, everywhere. We must take the time to understand and apply everything we learn. A quality Yoga teacher takes the time necessary to develop themselves, their knowledge and their own practice.
Everyone has their own special set of skills. A quality Yoga teacher does more than instruct poses. They absorb themselves into the practice and radiate their passion into the studio as well as out in the world. Every aspect of their life is dissolved in Yoga. Listen to how your teacher speaks, watch them move, notice what they do while demonstrating or moving through the room. Listen for their unique set of skills.
Learn about your teacher. Do they have a degree? In what field? What lives did they live before they became a Yoga teacher? How does their past effect the way in which they teach? Each one of us applies that which we had learned before we became Yoga teachers to the way in which we teach and live. When you practice with a quality Yoga teacher you will be able to see, hear and feel who they are as a result of their past experiences.
Value Your Teacher
Standing on your head, jumping from downward dog to handstand and being able to wrap your legs behind your shoulders does not qualify you to teach Yoga. In fact, many teachers lack the flexibility to access many of the party trick poses you will find on Instagram. In addition, just because your teacher can do these things that does not mean they can teach you to access the positions in your body or that your body can move in those ways.
Think about your favorite teachers in school. What qualities made them memorable? A quality Yoga offers more than instruction during a work out. They offer space, energy, guidance, support, instruction, direction, passion, enthusiasm and themselves. The practice of Yoga is their way of life and they share their life with you every time they teach.
When you find your quality Yoga teacher let them know how much you value them by paying full price, letting others know what makes them different and showing up to support what they do and to learn and grow with them.
Ashta Anga refers to the eight limbs of Yoga. According to the ancient texts, “The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali,” and “The Hatha Yoga Pradipika,” all eight must be practiced in order for Yoga to occur. Yoga is both the means and the end. It is the combination of the practices of right action, speech and thought. What is right is defined by the eight limbs. When we follow the guidelines provided by the ancient Yogis we are more likely to be upon the right path.
The Right Practice for You
Every body is different and each one of us is unique. Just because all of your friends are taking “Hot Yoga” or “Vinyasa,” style classes that does not mean it is the right practice for you. In fact, it is rare that a hot or active practice is the best place for any of us to begin. The additional stress placed upon your body due to warm temperatures and new, challenging movements can actually hurt you. As with anything new, your first Yoga practice should be slow and well directed. You should be given the opportunity to attempt simple movements, ask questions and provide feedback to your teacher about how you are feeling throughout the session.
Living in Pain
I began practicing Yoga because all of my friends were enrolled in the class and it fulfilled a course requirement. I continued practicing because it initially reduced and then eliminated my debilitating back pain.
My pain had begun in high school as a result of scoliosis and growth spurts while competitively running in track and cross country. I continued to run while in college and continued to damage my back further. Adding insult to injury; my role as a teacher for children with autism required that I lean forward to reach desks and be at eye level with my students. There were days during which, due to the pain, I couldn't stand up straight, sit comfortably or sleep.
Yoga for Healing
Yoga Asana as well as the calming effects of breathing consciously and mindfulness practices helped me to heal. The movement was the perfect prescription for my back. The breathing helped me to remain calm when managing stressful situations and aggressive students. The mindfulness practices helped me learn to slow down and focus so that I could pause before putting my body into an unsafe position or activity.
As I continued to practice I learned the differences between the various modern styles and began to explore the various practices. When I met my teacher, in New York, I was granted access to the lineage of Rajahatha Yoga and began to develop my own practices in a way that best works for my life.
Continuing the Healing
Although I enjoy attending group classes at Yoga studios, my personal practice is what keeps me healthy. I spend less time moving actively and more time slowing down. The more slowly I move, the more awareness I have, and the better I am at addressing whatever issues; physical, emotional, energetic or mindful, that I am dealing with.
If you are ready to begin healing and to feel better through Yoga you might consider seeking out a teacher who has experience in more than just teaching classes. That which you experience physically could be a manifestation of something deeper and vice versa. Seek someone who can offer more than just poses. Find a Guru: a guide who sheds light where it is currently darkness.