Apr 19, 2013
I was asked the other day: “What makes yoga so different from other types of exercise.” I paused. I meditated on it for a moment. Then, I muttered some lazy reply about the spiritual component or something along those lines. Truth is, I didn’t really have a solid answer in that moment. Perhaps a part of me didn’t really want to reflect on it. I already know and feel yoga to be different than any other physical practice I have experienced. It’s super experiential. Knowing and feeling it is enough for me. Sometimes understanding it all doesn’t really matter.
But then, it hit me…
I was, per usual, striking up an asana chat with a fellow yogi. On and on we went about arm balances, hip openers, twists, physical limitations, and asanas we considered (or would soon consider) walks in the park. All very riveting stuff, I know. And then…this escaped my mouth:
“The thing about yoga is even when you feel you have mastered a pose…there is still room to go deeper or learn something new.”
I called the poses microcosms of infinite potential.
Then, I realized (as I have in many different ways at many different stages) that the yoga practice is totally a metaphor for life.
That’s what makes yoga so different. That’s what makes it stand out from the crowd of physical practices. Yoga is a metaphor for life.
Then, hours later, the conversation picked up again with the same yogi. We briefly touched on romantic relationships and the potential “tests” that arise in relationships. Me and my idealist of a brain said something along the lines of, “Well, there should be no tests…not with your partner.” Then, this was handed to me:
“The thing about relationships is even when you feel you have mastered one…there is still room to go deeper or learn something new.”
Well played, my friend. Well played and so true. You can apply this yoga-inspired lesson to just about anything.
Because, really, there is no mastery. There is only the journey – a journey of unfolding possibilities and infinite potential. That’s yoga. That’s life. The mat is a powerful place because it continuously teaches us that there is infinitesimal ways to go even deeper and raise our vibration (and the vibration of others around us) even higher. As long as we are living and breathing, there is no stopping point. There is no end goal. There is, instead, constant evolution.
So, don’t get caught up in this illusion of an end goal in yoga or in life. Your practice teaches you that there is no such thing. Heck, I’m still discovering and rediscovering Warrior I and I started my relationship with it about 10 years ago. That’s a good thing! We want our practices, relationships, and lives to keep us on our toes. We want to keep evolving and elevating. So, if you think you’ve mastered something, think again, yogis. There is still room to go deeper or learn something new.
Try out these advanced online yoga practices. Then, get back to me.
- Inherent Potential: A Shakti Class (Anusara) with Sara Strother
- Master Sadhana Practice with Sri Dharma Mittra
- Guided Full Primary Series with Kino MacGregor
Embrace the journey,
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
Jan 11, 2013
The practice of backbending requires lots of energy, commitment, motivation, discipline and mindfulness; all good things to cultivate in life. True to life, backbending presents obstacles. Sometimes we go too deep. Sometimes we force it. Sometimes temporary damage is done. In order to have an intelligent, safe practice, it’s important to realize your limits.
To practice consciously, it’s important to constantly check in with your breath. As I approach my backbending practice, I especially check in. I use my breath as an indicator to gauge whether or not to stay put, go deeper, or back off. The moment my breath stops, becomes irregular, or feels stressed, I know I’ve pushed beyond my limits. So, I back off a little or I back off all together. Allow your breath to guide you.
To plunge into this backbending challenge, explore a new sutra style online yoga class with Sara Strother. This alignment-based online yoga class is a steady, mindful progression towards backbends, culminating in Uttana Mayurasana. Thematically, this is a sutra style class, weaving and sewing together a thread of postures and specific alignment cues to bring students into an integrated backbending practice. These threads of alignment ultimately lead to a pinnacle pose – a pose made more accessible due to the intelligent buildup. Postures to look forward to are Baddha Parsvakonasana, Eka Pada Dhanurasana, Viparita Salabasana Prep, Gherandasana I Prep, Chatush Padasana, Eka Pada Uttana Mayurasana and Sarvangasana. (60 mins.)
“Pigeon Droppings” into Kapotasana with Sara Strother – In this free online yoga video, learn how to gracefully drop back into Kapotasana. Learn a sequence of pulsations before you attempt the full expression of the pose. Work to fully engage the legs and build a solid foundation before your head kisses the earth. If you’re not ready to take it all the way to the ground, continue to practice the pulsations.
I think it’s important to realize that just because you have limits, doesn’t mean that you are limited. In time, and with tons of practice, you will rise above your limitations. You will gradually conquer obstacles on the mat (and beyond). Your practice has infinite potential. To realize greater potential, you have to devote time and conscious effort to it. Forcing it or overdoing it will set you back. The solution: Recognize and appreciate your limits. Then, set out to intelligently and safely prevail over them.
Photo Credit: Sara Strother’s Website
Dec 14, 2012
Yesterday, one of my teachers began class with the mantra Om Ritam Namah: My intentions and desires are supported by the universe. My teacher asked the class to set an intention for the practice, per usual. What’s more, she probed us to think of our intentions for the New Year and to also reexamine old intentions. That got me thinking: What are my new intentions? What were some of my former intentions – intentions that were perhaps forgotten or forced aside?
The dawning of a New Year inspires lots of intention setting. It’s great to forge ahead with commitments to fresh goals and desires. But what about former goals and desires? Where did all those go? Were they ditched prematurely? Or were they let go of for good reason?
While the upcoming New Year is a great opportunity to look to the future, I think it also presents an opportunity to look back – to reflect on old intentions and desires. Maybe you’ll find that you want to revisit a former intention. Perhaps, you’ll realize that you never fully committed yourself to something. Or, maybe you will see that you were meant to let go of something – to detach from a once-held desire. Whatever the outcome, I think it’s worth the revisit.
This weekend, take some time to reflect on your intentions – the old and the new. What are your 2013 intentions? What are some of your former intentions that you’d like to rekindle? Be clear of these intentions. Write them down. Commit yourself to them fully. Then, detach from the outcome.
In light of all this intention setting, it’s important to practice present moment awareness. It’s natural to reflect on the past and exciting to look ahead to the future. The present moment, however, is where the magic is really happening! So, consider this day or this moment. What is your intention for it? What will your intention be for your practice when you hit the mat today? Stay true to the present.
For more intention setting exploration, check out these intention-based online yoga videos.
Intention-Based Slow Flow with Jamie Elmer – Join Jamie for an online yoga class that is an intention-based, breath-focused slow flow through the Sun Salutation series. End with a special pigeon variation to ease and open up your hips. (90 mins.)
Alignment + Intention = Integrity with Jessica Bellofatto – Enjoy this online yoga class with KamaDeva Yoga founder, Jessica Bellofatto. In honor of the work that Jessica has recently been doing with the Handel Group, this online yoga class takes you through a well-rounded Vinyasa journey, all the while looking at how when we set intentions in yoga, we must then ALIGN ourselves with that intention to remain in integrity with our highest goals, our highest purpose. Thus, we move from asana to asana with awareness, lining ourselves up again and again to fully express our intention. From this, the practice is elevated to a magical state where what we think, feel, and do is actively and rapidly propelling us towards our goals. Join Jessica on this magic carpet ride! (70 mins.)
Strong Roots = Strong Tree with Gigi Yogini – This is an invigorating online yoga class with a theme of grounding with gratitude. This yoga practice will activate your inner power through intention setting, core strengthening, balancing, and a fun (but challenging) Tree Pose flow. (67 mins.)
Backbending: Harnessing the Power of Intention with Kelley Gardner – This online yoga class is a backbending practice culminating in Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel Pose). Begin by reversing the old adage, “I’ll believe it when I see it,” to remind yourself that it is also true that, “I’ll see it when I believe it.” The power of setting a positive intention and working with that intention through breath, body, and mind is transformative. Every pose in this sequence is purposeful to open your body to the invitation to deeper backbends. Enjoy! (60 mins.)
Set your intentions. Be clear of them. Align with them. Then, drop back into the present moment and trust the outcome – trust that all of your intentions and desires are supported by the universe.
Nov 13, 2012
I hear it whined all the time: My shoulders are so tight. Yes, perhaps they are, but the truth is, the muscles and joints of the shoulders allow for a remarkable range of motion. In fact, the joints of the shoulder are the most mobile joints in the human body. I mean, can your knee rotate a full 360 degrees? I think not (unless you are an exceptional, contortionist of a human being). So cut your shoulders some slack. They are actually doing pretty well mobility wise.
Despite the fact that our shoulders are incredibly mobile relative to the rest of the joints in our bodies, they can absolutely acquire stiffness and tightness, especially due to the nature of our forward folding (more like forward hunching) lifestyles.
That’s where yoga comes in. Do yoga to release the tension and tightness with some sweet shoulder opening goodness.
We’ve recently released 3 online yoga videos that explore some yummy shoulder opening asanas and sequences:
First up, find release in a Power Hour, Shoulder Opening online yoga flow with Ashley Turner. In this online yoga class, shoulder openers lead to the peak pose of Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Balance). Learn to internally spiral both hemispheres of the body to collect your core power and accurately align the shoulders in preparation for arm balances. Get pumped for a strong, 67-minute online Vinyasa flow class.
Next, open up the shoulders with Full Wheel and Shoulderstand in Class 8 of Sarah Faircloth’s Anusara yoga videos. Life is a continuum of experiences. In this yoga video, merge extremes together for experiencing an opening. In this online yoga class, move your arm bones in one direction and your chest in the opposite. These opposing actions work to create an opening. Main poses explored in these 50 minutes of yoga online: Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana), Plow Pose (Halasana), and Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel Pose).
Lastly, get in more Shoulderstand practice with Joan Hyman in Wind Down with Shoulderstand. Grab a blanket and a strap for this 60-minute online yoga class focused on delicious shoulder openers. End with a long Shoulderstand to help you wind down and deeply relax at the end of your day.
To relish in more juicy shoulder opening delights, explore these free online yoga videos featuring shoulder opening asanas and sequences:
- Forward Fold (Uttanasana) with Shoulder-Opening Variations with Tingting Peng
- Chair Yoga Break: Wrists, Elbows, and Shoulders with Margaux Permutt (Gentle/Restorative Yoga)
- Snail Pose (Halasana) with Jennifer Beyt Coffin (Yin Yoga)
- Plow (Halasana) and Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana) with Joan Hyman
- Wrists, Shoulders, and Neck with Gigi Yogini (Gentle/Restorative Yoga)
Award your shoulders a pleasant shoulder opening practice. Say farewell to your days of shoulder stiffness and sorrow.
Nov 6, 2012
Life is always going to send you setbacks. Relationships fall apart. Rejection is received. Friendships fade. Races are lost. Goals aren’t met. Mistakes are made. Jobs are lost. That’s life. If life handed us everything we wanted when we wanted it, it’d be a rather boring, meaningless world. There would be no drive, no passion, and no fireworks! That’s the thing about failure: It can be a motivator if you let it be.
You have one of two choices when things go sour. You can either choose to see it as a catastrophe or you can choose to see it as an opportunity – an opportunity for new beginnings, experiences, knowledge, wisdom, and self-discovery. Failure can be your friend.
As a recovering perfectionist, failure used to make me sick, figuratively and physically. I would obsessively trace back my every move and action to the point of insanity. Instead of moving forward, I remained a slave to the past. This trip down not-so-merry memory lane clouded my perception. Rather than embracing the possibilities of what this perceived failure could do for me, I considered only limitations. I blamed myself. I blamed life’s unfairness. I played the blame game.
You are allowed to play the blame game to a certain point. It’s a natural response, especially if you did mess up. It’s important to realize a mistake so you don’t make it again. It’s not necessary, however, to blame yourself for that failure over and over again. Let the wound heal. Don’t keep reopening it. You’re human. You will mess up. You will fail. It’s all a part of the game, my friend.
This game called life may not always be much fun to play, especially if you view failure and struggle so poorly. The only way to get over fails and losses is to change your perspective. Instead of freaking out over disappointment, consider let downs as gifts. Consider failure as the universe’s way of steering you in another, more appropriate direction for your life. Embrace failure as an opening into something new and even better. Be excited! Then, take action.
You can’t sit back and expect anything to be handed to you. Stay busy. Do yoga! Be involved in things that make you and others better. Be drawn to that which you love. Detach from the past. Detach from outcome. Jump enthusiastically into the unknown and see where “failure” leads you. It could be somewhere really beautiful. It could be the place you’ve always wanted to be in your life.
On that note, we have a new online yoga class to recommend with Sarah Faircloth: Twists & Turns – Class 7 of her online Anusara yoga series. As we all know, life twists and turns. There are no linear, predestined paths even though we may try to construct them. In that construction, failure is bound to go down. Yet, failure is just evidence that you tried:
“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” ~ Michael Jordan
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” ~ Winston Churchill
In this 65-minute online yoga class, learn to accept failure as an opportunity and use it as a motivator to keep forging ahead. Physically, focus on opening and strengthening the arms/shoulders, hips, hammies, and twists for Headstand 2 (Sirsasana 2) and Astavakrasana.
Consider failure a blessing. The universe is just looking out for you.
Oct 25, 2012
Headstand is often dubbed the king of all asanas. It makes sense. A Headstand practice develops the masculine qualities of will power, mental sharpness, and mental clarity. So, it’s kind of a big deal. As such, it’s not an easy asana to master. It not only presents a big physical challenge, requiring a decent amount of core and upper body strength; it also presents, for some, a mental challenge. As we work toward a Headstand practice, many of us encounter resistance to turning our worlds upside down. We experience a bad case of Inversion Dysfunction. We throw our hands up in self-defeat. We hold ourselves back from even approaching it. Why? You know why. Fear.
If you find yourself experiencing resistance to Headstand, find and confront the source of that resistance. Is it a fear of losing control? Is it a fear of hurting your physical body? Is it the fear of looking like a goofball when you fall unexpectedly? Whatever it is, face that fear. Acknowledge that fear. Use Headstand as an opportunity to explore, approach, and, eventually, overcome that fear.
Once you do (because you will!), you’ll be happy you did. Being the king of the asana hill, Headstand offers many amazing healing benefits to those willing to change their perspective.
- Reduces anxiety and stress and enhances self-confidence
- Promotes heart relaxation by directing blood to the brain, allowing gravity to do the magic
- Heats and cleanses the body
- Very stimulating and revitalizing
- Stimulates the nervous system, increasing mental power, concentration, clarity, and balance
- Feels centering, calming and soothing
- Helps recovery from loss of sleep and memory
- Fortifies the spine, neck, shoulders and arms
- Tones the abdomen, legs, and the neck muscles
- Stimulates lung tissue, relieving colds, coughs, tonsillitis, bad breath and palpitations
- Cleanses and massages the internal organs
- Reduces muscular strain and stress
- Boosts metabolism and alleviates IBS and other digestive concerns
- Directs blood flow to the face, providing an organic facelift and facial (A free, self-administered facial? Sign me up!)
- Dissolves stress, sadness, depression, and lethargy due to pituitary stimulation – the endorphin, “happy hormone” releasing gland
- Encourages a sense of lightness and ease
- Gives you a fun party trick to show off!
- Offers anti-aging perks (some say it prevents grey hair and may even reverse grey hair!)
Ready to give this anti-aging, awesome asana a whirl? Yea, you are.
Work toward Supported Headstand (Sirsasana I) mastery in Sarah Faircloth’s new, 59-minute online yoga class – class 6 of her series of online Anusara yoga videos. Keep your mind in conjunction with your heart and body. Listen to all the ways of intelligence. Focus on alignment and learn to maintain the integrity and natural curvature of your spine.
Also, with Sarah, practice this free online yoga video outlining the foundational principles of Supported Headstand (Sirsasana I). Play with several hand positions and ways to enter the pose. You got this!
Stay tuned for tomorrow. We’ll be talking about the benefits of Shoulderstand – the Queen of all asanas.
In the meantime, while you’re practicing yoga at home, approach (maybe even achieve!) Headstand. Soak up all of its mind-blowing benefits. Live like a king.
Oct 17, 2012
Sure, it’s scary. Sure, it seems damn near impossible to even try it and let alone stick it once you’re there. I get it. Yet, reversing gravity has some undeniable perks. Your fear of the flip and self-doubt are just your own mental constructions. Handstands are not inherently scary. You know that. Remember when you used to flip upside down as a kid with no inhibitions whatsoever? It was no big deal. As adults, we create inhibitions; we construct fear in an effort to protect ourselves. It makes sense. No one wants to get hurt.
In yoga, all fear is believed to stem from a fear of death – the fear of losing the physical body. It is thought that once we detach ourselves from this ultimate fear, we live life without any fear. We are liberated. Ah…liberation!
Take a deep look at what’s holding you back from trying this. Is it a real reason? Or is it simply fear? If it’s fear, you gotta kick that fear in the asana. Now you’re thinking…well, okay, but how?
From my experience, it requires a series of small wins combined with a disciplined practice, lots of faith and patience, and the help from many teachers and fellow yogis.
Take it from someone who thought they would NEVER invert. I was so scared, I wouldn’t even practice Handstand against the wall or even do an L Handstand using the wall. I’m embarrassed to even admit that because, now, Handstand seems so simple and incredibly exhilarating! Just because it’s simple, though, doesn’t make it easy.
Once you overcome your fear, you will create a path for Handstand triumph. With constant practice and unwavering discipline, you will make way for Handstand mastery. Don’t get me wrong, though: It will be a challenge. Are you up for it? Yeah…you are.
Once you meet the challenge, you’ll be happy you did. The benefits of Handstand are enormous. You will…
- Improve your balance, strength and flexibility
- Build upper body strength
- Enhance circulation throughout the body
- Relieve pressure on your feet and legs
- Feel energized and calm simultaneously
- Experience improved mood, which may relieve minor depression
- Stimulate the entire endocrine system
- Stimulate the pituitary gland, which helps you maintain your individual set point for a healthy weight
- Bring blood to the thyroid glands to help regulate the production of T3 and T4, which regulates metabolism
- Send blood to the adrenal glands to help reduce cortisol, the “stress hormone” that is released when you are overwhelmed or stressed
- Direct blood to the head, which can relieve a minor headache, improve digestion and elimination
- Experience supreme focus
- Feel like a kid again because handstands are fun, elating, and liberating!
To prepare for Handstand, practice this new online Anusara Yoga class with Sarah Faircloth. Welcome to Class 5 of her Anusara yoga series – a series of online yoga videos intended for beginners to yoga or those desiring a refresher course on some basic asanas. In Class 5, build the foundation to at least prepare for something new. Take it from the wise, ol’ Benjamin Franklin: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” No one wants that. In this 62-minute online yoga class, prepare to turn your perspective upside down. Build straight and strong arms, feel a connection at your core center and prepare the shoulders for some fun. Get ready to attempt Adho Mukha Vrksasana (Handstand)!
Haven’t had enough Handstand practice? Check out Sarah’s free online yoga video with tips for achieving Handstand glory.
Keep up the faith!
Oct 9, 2012
Yin and Yang are qualities of nature according to Chinese Medicine. These qualities are not inherently good or bad. They just are. You, being a part of nature, are also a combination of Yin and Yang qualities. Ideally, you strike a Yin/Yang balance.
If unfamiliar with Yin/Yang qualities, they may seem like mere opposites. However, nothing in nature is wholly Yang and nothing absolutely Yin. Everything in nature holds Yin and Yang qualities, as do you. Something may be more Yang compared to something more Yin. For example, Ashtanga yoga is more Yang compared to Anusara, but Ashtanga has moments of Yin-ness i.e. Savasana. Anusara yoga has moments of Yang-ness i.e. Sun Salutations. It’s all relative.
Yin qualities: Passive, negative, darkness, earth, cloudy, low, water, soft, female, moisture, nighttime, downward seeking, slow, consuming, cold, odd numbers, and the calm aspects of things.
Yin personality traits: Introspective, introverted, solitary, spiritual, considerate, liberal, slow to alter opinions, and emotionally stable.
Yang qualities: Active, positive, bright, heaven, sunshine, fire, hard, male, dryness, day-time, upward seeking, restless, producing, hot, even numbers, and the dominant aspects of things.
Yang personality traits: Self-motivated, active, emotionally erratic, ambitious, optimistic, passionate, serious, prone to jealousy, confident, and pragmatic.
So, at this moment, are you on the more Yang or more Yin end of things?
If you’re feeling a bit yang deranged, get grounded with some Yin yoga online. Pacify the Yang with a 60-minute Yin Deep Stretch class with Shala Worsley. Create space in the physical, energetic, personal, and symbolic layers of your being so that the light from your inner body can shine through. In Shala’s Yin yoga videos, you will target the connective tissue of the hips, pelvis, and lower spine. Shala cues modifications for all, making this practice just dandy for all you Yin enthusiasts, beginners included. Note: You may want to have a block and blanket available.
Battling lethargy? Step it up with some crazy, sweaty Vinyasa yoga online. In this hip and shoulder opening flow with Michelle Johnson, begin with a seated meditation that allows you to settle in, focus, and move into a flow focused on shoulder opening and hip opening. Move through creative Sun Salutations that allow shoulder opening and stretching before leading into several variations of Malasana, yogic squat. This 63-minute online yoga class ends with a transition into lizard pose on your way to a sweet, satisfying Savasana.
As a general rule, whenever you need some Yang-ness, turn to a Vinyasa or Ashtanga practice. These active styles produce heat, which will drive you toward a more Yang state. When you find yourself overwhelmed and restless, tame the Yang with some Yin yoga or a slower, grounding, and more restorative flow. Anusara yoga strikes a good balance, falling somewhere in the middle of the Yin/Yang yoga spectrum.
This Yin/Yang balancing act requires you to be highly aware of what’s going on with your mind and body. Look within. How are you feeling? Give your mind and body what they need. Know that what they need, isn’t necessarily what you want. Listen up to your own internal rhythms, your emotions, and the physical aches and pains. All these cues will guide you toward a more Yin or a more Yang style practice. Whatever you need, we got ya covered.
Oct 4, 2012
Come on, baby, let’s do the twist!
Why? Here’s why…
Benefits of Twisting:
- Enhances flexibility of the oblique muscles, abdominals and back muscles
- Relieves non-specific lower back pain
- Improves posture by reversing the positions of modern living, which can leave the back muscles short and tight
- Enhances spinal mobility
- Detoxifying: Twists squeeze the internal organs and promote the flow of oxygenated blood while removing toxins and metabolic waste products. The liver, kidneys, stomach, pancreas and spleen are all thought to benefit from the twisting asanas of yoga.
- Promotes digestive vigor
- Reduces abdominal bloating and digestive discomfort
- Enhances calm
- Removes tension and stress
- Boosts energy
If you want to twist and shout, grab your mat and work through a new online yoga class with Sarah Faircloth. In Class 4 of her Anusara yoga series, explore twists and practice hip openers, including Ardha Padmasana, half lotus pose. Use power and muscular engagement to create opening in this 55-minute online yoga video. Also, open up your mind in this flow. Practice seeing things from more than one perspective.
In order to maintain the natural, healthy range of motion in your spine, practice at least one or two twists a day. Doctor’s orders.
Sep 28, 2012
Erica and Phoebe have reached the midpoint of their epic, cross country journey. They’ve now, impressively, reached the Pacific. Along the trek, they’ve been documenting lessons learned from the road. In a recent blog post, Phoebe shares some rules she’s learned along the way. While these rules of the road pertain to runners and the running community, many also work on a much larger scale.
- Extend a hand and a hand will be extended back: Create good karma in your life. Every action has a reaction. Do good deeds, and good things will come your way. Burn away your negative karmas in this online yoga class featuring a Meditation for The Radiance of Your Inner Fire. Access the divine within you!
- Find your passion and build your life around it: So true. What do you love? What makes you tick? What gets you out of bed in the morning? Use that drive as a tool to develop and enrich your life. Tap into your inherent potential with A Shakti Class – an Anusara-based flow. In this 100-minute online yoga class, you will experience a full spectrum of asanas that unleash your unlimited, unbounded, and creative potential.
- It’s a beautiful thing when an acquaintance becomes a good friend: It’s always a beautiful thing when more friends/connections are made. Be open and receptive to others. Practice this Heart Chakra Healing and Balancing Kundalini Yoga Set to remove energetic blockages from your heart Chakra, so you can connect to yourself with true compassion, and allow yourself to receive the healing, love, and compassion that you deserve. The ending meditation adds clear perception to your relationships with yourself and others.
- Promote your fellow comrades, whether they are runners or yogis!
Here’s to the next half of their journey!