The Right Way to “Do Yoga”

As many of you may know from the multiple articles posted on our Yoga East Facebook page, I read a LOT of articles on yoga. Some of them are about alignment, some of them are about meditation (those are my favs), and recently, I’ve seen a lot of articles on the “right way” to practice yoga. The sentiment in these articles is that America is doing it wrong because we’re obsessed with (insert negative characteristic, i.e. money, power, fame, fitness, asanas only, etc). If you aren’t an avid reader of yoga articles, here are a few examples:

Mind, Body, Green

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In fact, if you just google the distortion of Yoga in America, you’ll come up with several articles on what’s wrong with yoga in our western society. And to some extent, I can see what they’re saying. Yoga was originally something that was passed down from Guru to student, not in a classroom setting, not for money, but as a spiritual practice. It was not something that one would use for profit and it definitely did not focus on the physical practice as much as we do now. So yes, we’ve taken something not originally “american” and made it into what we, as Americans, know it as today. 

I was talking to a fellow yogi one day and I mentioned the artist, MC Yogi. I personally enjoy MC Yogi’s music and use it in my classes a lot. My fellow yogi, on the other hand, felt that his music was disrespectful and was not liked/supported by the “real” yoga community. I felt embarrassed at first, because I had never thought of it that way. It was a blow to my yogi ego, as I thought I was one of the “real yogis”. And as I always do, I began to re-evaluate the conversation in my mind and really think about what yoga, and the culture of yoga and means to me. 

For me, I began yoga as an exercise. I wanted to get fit, I wanted to stretch my body because I kept getting injured in other forms of exercise, and that’s it. I, as many other Americans, was not looking for a spiritual practice or a journey through the Yoga Sutras. I was obsessed with being skinny, thinking that if I only weighed this much (insert optimal weight for my body type), I’d be happy. Yes, that was my motivation. Fast forward years later, yoga has brought me so many other gifts beyond my body that I never even thought to ask for. Yes, I am more fit. I am also more connected to my body, my mind, and my spirit than I’ve ever been. I am more calm and connected to my intuition. I have realized that money is not my ultimate goal in life, so much so that I left a successful career in order to stay at home with my 8 month old. I am learning to trust in the world and have a more positive outlook i life. I’ve connected with a community of people that are like minded and supportive in each other. I’ve had the courage to travel to Africa, BY MYSELF, for the purpose of charity. And I’ve become stronger in my faith, a faith that is different than Hindu. I think that yoga was a catalyst in all of those positive changes, for which I am grateful. 

What if the requirements for attending yoga class were that I worshipped Shiva and studied the Bhagavad Gita? What if my teacher told me that because I was wearing Lululemon pants, I couldn’t come in because that wasn’t the true meaning of yoga? Or worse yet, what if it just wasn’t there because our teachers weren’t “yogi” enough? I think I’d still be the same anxiety ridden, career obsessed person who hadn’t had the chance to change from the body to the mind. There’s always backlash when something becomes super popular, and there are always going to be people who “are the most yogi of all” or “were the FIRST yogis in America”, because no matter how enlightened one is, we can still buy into our ego. And that’s what that is, ego. 

What can I take away from this? I’m going to take away the fact that yoga has been a blessing in my life. That I’ve done with it what I’ve done with everything else and that is, take what serves me and leave the rest. That we are all one on this path, so why not celebrate the differences in our perceptions and be happy that it’s there for us, in whatever form works? There’s no “right way” to practice yoga. If all it is to you is an asana practice, then I hope that it gives you joy in exactly that way. If you love chanting and meditation and incense (all of which are utilized in the Christian faith as well), then I say, chant away and I hope you become a more positive, connected person in your life. At the end of the day, I hope that I can honor what exists in you in the same way you honor what exists in me. We are all one and we are all on different paths in the same journey. May we find peace. 

Connecting with our Bodies

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from Yogi Times

 

I started flirting with yoga again around 2008 as a way to get in shape. I have struggled with weight issues my entire life, not necessarily just putting on and losing weight, but the mental aspects of it as well. What I mean by mental aspects is the idea that I think I’m fat whether I actually am or not. I always see the meme below and it makes me laugh, because it’s so true!

 

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Haha

 

Why is it that women feel the need to constantly degrade ourselves, to compare ourselves to others, to feel like we always have something we need to change? Do this experiment; begin to complement women that you see on their weight, their hair, something about their appearance and take note how they respond. I started doing this years ago, not as an experiment but because I really wanted to start putting some positivity out into the world. If I could see the beauty in others, maybe I could begin to see the beauty in myself. What I noticed is that, women will always respond with an ” oh thanks, I need to do this” statement. Example, “have you lost weight? You look skinnier.” “Oh no, actually, I’ve gained weight. I need to get back to eating healthy again.” Or, “I love your hair, have you done something different to it?” “Oh no, I need to get it cut.” I’m guilty of it too. The point of what I’m saying is, why can’t we just love ourselves exactly as we are? Why can’t we take a compliment that’s given to us? Why don’t we love and respect our bodies for exactly where they are?

How can yoga help? What yoga has done for me is help me to connect to the present moment. The best way to do that is to really “experience” the movement in class. I don’t have to worry about what happened at work, I can let that go because it’s in the past, it’s over, and there’s nothing I can do to change it. I can make amends if need be, but the action has happened so it is what it is. I don’t have to think about what we’re having for dinner, or what I need to do once I get home because I’ll deal with it when it happens. I can clear my mind, be in my class, and experience each movement. Wow, I feel so strong as I lower myself in Chaturanga Dandasana. Gee, my hips feel kind of tight in Virabhadrasana I. I am so excited I actually held Bakasana for 3 whole breaths!!! When I teach a class, I love to start the students lying on their back and hands on their belly to begin Ujjayi breathing. I instruct them to begin with fingertips touching. As you inhale, fill your belly with the breath, expand your belly until your fingers being to separate. Allow the air to fill your lungs like a balloon until you can no longer bring in another breath. Exhale as though you’re fogging a mirror, allowing your balloon to deflate, the breath to leave your lungs until your finger tips touch again. Leave your thoughts and put all of your focus into your breath. Clear your mind and be present, here in this very moment. In this very moment, you don’t have to worry about paying bills, losing weight, feeding your family, because it’s not happening. The only thing that is real is this very moment, the rise and fall of your belly, the expansion of your ribs and the breath that you take. You are forgiven, you are whole, you are here in this very moment. And in this moment, your body will tell you what it needs. This is how you can begin that practice, by listening to your body in class. If you feel powerful and strong, push yourself. If you’re feeling tired, sit back and do all of the modified poses. Yoga is where you can begin to treat yourself and your body with the respect you deserve. You have to do it for yourself, because if you don’t, no one else will. You have to teach people how to treat you and that can begin in yoga by learning how to treat yourself.

Here is an exercise to do at home, to help you connect to the present moment. I do this in my class as well. Begin in savasana, lying on your back. Right foot over the right corner of your mat/blanket. Left foot over the left corner of your mat/blanket. Hands down my hips, palms of hands facing up and completely relax. Allow your breath to be normal, just notice the rise and fall of your belly. After a few minutes of that, allowing thoughts to leave your mind, begin to engage all 5 of your senses. How does the floor feel beneath your skin? What sounds do you hear? What do you smell? How does the light appear behind your closed eye lids? What do you taste? Really experience the world through savasana. Then let go of your senses and pay attention to your heart center, the center of your chest. How do you feel? what emotions are you experiencing? No judgement, just listen. What do you need? Breath into it. Then let it go. As thoughts enter your mind, take  your focus back to your breath and remain in that pose for 10-15 minutes. Once you’re done, bring your knees to your chest, roll onto your right side and sit in a comfortable seated position. Say thank you for your practice and get out a pen and paper. Write down what you felt and see if anything pops up that you need. Maybe you need a pedicure, a bubble bath, a smoothie, anything! And follow through with it!

Being Authentic without Fear

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This is a topic that has been at the fore front of my mind over the past 6-7 months. If you’ve been in one of my classes, you probably know that as I always seem to stick in some kind of “authenticity” meditation as well as some poses that help “balance” that piece of ourselves. So what do we mean when we say, BE AUTHENTIC? I’m sure that every teacher/person has his/her own interpretation of what that means for them. We all have different life experiences which help shape that perspective. For me, I mean, being/doing/saying what I want/need without the fear of someone not liking me. What I don’t mean is being mean or cruel. I will address the term ahimsa in another blog post, but it essentially means that throughout our lives, our goal as yogis is to not cause harm. So “saying what I want” doesn’t mean without thought. It means that I can be who I am and not alter that in any way, without the fear of being liked. As a yoga teacher, this idea of being true to myself is scary! I’m putting myself out there to a bunch of people that I may or may not know. I’m being vulnerable, completely unguarded, letting you into a piece of me and that’s truly scary for a person like me. Everything is on the table for judgment, the asanas I choose, the ones that I don’t, the lighting, the music I play – it’s all an extension of who I am. What a metaphor for life!

As you have heard Karen say in many of her classes, and because I trained with her, many of my classes, our body consists of different energy centers along our spine which are called Chakras. The Vishuddha Chakra, or Throat Chakra, is the one associated with our authentic self. It’s a light color blue and when in balance, helps us have a healthy self expression, an ability to share ideas in a positive way, to accept ourselves exactly how and where we are, and to be able to speak in truth and kindness. When out of balance, we may talk too much, yell, be overly expressive even if it means hurting others or, paralyzed by fear and closed off. It can even manifest into a sore throat, ear infections, mouth ulcers, all kinds of things. So what are some yogic ways to balance our throat chakra?

Asanas

Upward Facing Dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)

 

updog

 

 

Chaturanga Dandasana

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Reverse Plank (Purvottanasana)

reverse plank

 

Camel (Ustrasana)

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Shoulder Stand (Salambhasana)

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You can also do Lion’s Breath and Humming Bee Breath.

 

As Yoga East moves forward in the discovery of ourselves as a studio, we teachers will be looking to show you our true selves. We’re inviting you into our hearts and hoping that you learn something that is applicable to your own life. We hope you enjoy!

Welcome to Our Blog

Welcome to the new Yoga East blog. I’m hoping this blog can be a source of information for you. The goal and purpose of this blog is to provide a wealth of information for you including help with asanas, a guide to strengthen and deepen your meditation practice, thoughts on life and our (the teachers) experience through our own practice, etc.

As you all know, our little studio is going through a transition. It all began with our beloved teacher, Karen Noonan, and her studio, Yoganize. Her studio was so much more than just a place to take yoga. It was a community! She knew all of our names, our injuries and many of our issues that extended beyond our bodies. For me personally (Wendi), I learned so much about myself through Karen’s teacher training. I think the most important thing I gained through that training was a trust in myself and the knowledge that I am a beautiful human just as is everyone else. We’re all God’s children, perfect in our own ways! What a beautiful lesson to learn. So when Karen announced that she was moving to Germany, I’m sure that all of us were at a loss. What would happen with the studio? What would happen to our community? Who would be our teacher?

So here we are. Our beautiful Kathy has taken on our studio and entrusted this space to Kelly and the teachers. We’re at a crossroads now and we need your help. We want to grow and while we can’t, and don’t want to replicate what Karen had (we just can’t do exactly what Karen did), we want to be that community for you. We want to be that community for ourselves. And at this point, we’re not sure how to move forward. So we’re leaning on you. We need your support, we need your feedback. Here are some ways you can help:

1) Tell us what you need. We love feedback. You can email us at yogaeastus@gmail.com and just say, hey I need this or that and we’ll do our best to provide

2) We need you to come to class!!! If there’s not one you like, see number 1!!

3) We need you to talk about us. If you love Rose’s class, tell everyone you know that you love Rose’s class! Share any neat articles or statuses you see on facebook. Share this blog! Do whatever you can to help us grow.

Thanks so much for continuing on with us. We look forward to growing together.

Namaste

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