The Urban Yoga Den

…where it's all yoga.

Focus Wrap Up: Back to Basics February 2, 2011

Over the weekend I taught the final classes in our January Back to Basics focus. To complement our fine-tuning of alignment, review of three-part breathing and return to proper resting, these last sessions invited students to deepen their commitment to setting an intention.

Personally, I can’t imagine getting on the mat without exploring some kind of purpose for my practice.  To set an intention, I like to let the thoughts naturally flow through my mind while arriving, and see which one most strongly asks for my attention – it might even be a thought that’s been tapping me on the shoulder for a few days.  Maybe weeks!  Or longer!  Then I shape that thought into a dedication, affirmation or reflection.

Using the three-part Deergha Swaasam breath, I deepen my reflection by imagining filling with intention on the inhale, and simple resting with it on the exhale.  Later in my set, during the internal focus and natural surrender of seated forward folds, I inhale to fill with intention, and exhale to surrender (dissolve and let go of) any obstacles (distractions, old stories, self-imposed limitations) that might stand in the way of realizing my intention.  And I reconnect with my intention before settling into Yoga Nidra – a process of deep relaxation, between a state of sleep and consciousness.

Although I’ve been shying away from the word “resolution” this new year, I will say that having a Sankalpa (a firm, prayerful, resolved intention) during my time on the mat makes a huge difference in my practice, my day and my life. Different traditions approach Sankalpa with unique perspectives – for example, setting a Sankalpa during Yoga Nidra so this process of yogic sleep helps us realize that intention; belief that Sankalpa can erase negative Samskara (imprints on or patterns in our lives); or using Pratipaksha Bhavana (replacement of negative thoughts with positive) to create a resolution.

There’s that word again!  Resolution.

I can’t escape it – if I am going to reflect deeply on intention, I must have resolve.  So I’ll try to ease up on my anti-resolution attitude!  Your encouragement is always helpful; I’m not the only teacher around here.

I hope you’ve found something useful during this Back to Basics month of reviewing and fine tuning Asana, Pranayama, Yoga Nidra and Sankalpa practice.  Looking forward to starting a 9-month look at the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Eight Limbs beginning in February!

Wishing you peace, joy, love and light.  OM Shanti.

P.S. Remember, the fine-tuning tips for Asana and Pranayama that I’ve taught over the past month can be found on the Tips-n-Tools tab of this blog.  Enjoy!

 

January Focus: Back to Basics January 26, 2011

Luscious.

That’s how I would describe, in one word, the yoga class I just took with veteran Asana teacher Sandy Kavalier up the street from my apartment at Yoga Chai (http://www.yogachai.com/).  Breathing emphasis and mechanical cues.  Nothing more, nothing less.   My hips feel heavenly, my arms stronger, my shoulders intact, my lungs larger.  My entire body is vibrating with fresh oxygen.  My mind feels serene.  What a gift.

The focus in my yoga classes this month is Back to Basics. After a few months of conceptual themes (“Abundance,” “Yoga in Action,” “Why Yoga?”), we are returning to the nuts and bolts of Asana, Pranayama and Yoga Nidra.  And after a few months of almost completely abandoning my own personal yoga practice due to end of year busy-ness, I myself am enjoying those nuts and bolts at home, and in classes like Sandy’s.

I’m noticing that many studios around town (Yoga District, The Studio DC, and more) are featuring fundamentals and basics classes, most likely in answer to the abundance of New Year’s resolutions to start practicing yoga.  I know that Kelly’s “Virgin Yoga” class at Past Tense brought some newbies into our mix!

So welcome newbies and experienced yogis alike! There’s nothing like fine-tuning to awaken a long-standing practice or to start a new practice off on the right foot.

For more on the Principles of Alignment and Pranayama, please check out the Tips-n-Tools tab of this blog.  More later!

OM Shanti.

 

Focus: Why Yoga? – Healing Physical Injuries August 19, 2010

One year ago, I couldn’t raise my right arm above my head.

I’d started teaching at Past Tense Studio when it opened last July.  Just before that, I’d jammed my right shoulder and neck while bracing my fall, tripping up some stairs at my dad’s house.  As usual, I went straight to the chiropractor and started rehabbing the damage.  Then, about a week after we opened Past Tense, I tore my right rotator cuff while grabbing a guard rail, slipping down a flight of stairs.  (It was a bad summer for stairs.)

During this same time, I was teaching percussion at a summer camp, which meant lots of drumming, tambourine-ing and shaker-ing – and therefore, lots of shoulder stress.  Plus, I was busing tables at a pizza joint, which meant lifting stacks of heavy white Italian plates.  (It was a good summer for work.)

For that first month at Past Tense, I was in excruciating pain while teaching.  I would wince when raising my arms to start a Sun Salutation.  Demonstrating Warrior 2, my right arm would weakly sink to my side.  Cleaning up the studio after class, I couldn’t lift the blankets to pile them atop the storage shelf.

Little by little, with lot of ice, chiropractic, massage and conscientious yoga practice, the injuries started to heal.  While this combination of therapeutics was important, the daily – all-day – awareness and application of yoga’s alignment principles brought the most ease, decreased the pain and supported the healing.  The wonderful lessons learned from structural yoga teachers like Sumi Komo (also an Alexander Technique expert – http://www.alexandermovingarts.com), Megan Davis (yoga therapeutics wonder – http://www.yogaforliberation.com) and Dr. Steven Weiss (chiropractor and yoga teacher – http://www.alignbydesignyoga.com) gave me everyday tools for feeling and getting better.

When camp ended in August, I took off for an Alexander Technique and Yoga workshop taught by Sumi.  This was the beginning of my healing through yoga.  Later in the Fall, I attended an Anatomy and Physiology Teacher Training with Dr. Weiss.  His fine-tuning of the shoulder area reinforced that healing.  And thankfully, a library of structural cues was stored in my mind from so many past classes with Megan.

(For more background on these teachers and their modalities, check out their websites, plus my “Why I Spend So Much Time On Alignment” post from February 2010, and, “Alignment Principles in Tadaasana” on the Tips-n-Tools page of this blog site.)

Increasing mobility was the first step in using yoga to heal my injuries.  Rather than focusing on the strengthening benefits of Asana, I stuck with the safest versions of every pose – for example, tracing the mid-line with my palms during a forward fold vs. doing a swan dive, and, doing knees/chest/chin vs. Chaturanga.  I avoided shoulder stand completely and did wall-based alternatives.  In Downward Facing Dog, I paid special attention to the pressure between my thumb and forefinger, and gently curled my upper arms down and inward toward my face.  I moved slowly and deliberately – even in fast-paced Jivamukti classes!  This took a lot of patience!

But it paid off.

After a few months, my mobility had returned and the pain had decreased immensely.  Now it was time to strengthen the muscles.  Chaturanga became my best friend!  Thankfully Dr. Weiss taught us a really cool strap prop trick to guarantee proper alignment in that pose.  In addition, I attended a Shoulders Intensive workshop with Emma at Past Tense, where her simple use of a block and my own two arms subtly brought the power back to my rotator cuff.

I won’t lie, the healing took an entire six months of rehabilitation.  And lots of patience.  By January, I was in top form.  I’ve heard through the grapevine, “No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.”  Not only did I rise-up from my injured state, I was prepared to impart my experience to the Catholic University Swim Team and an infielder for the Tampa Bay Rays’ minor league system.  I shared how to prevent and rehab shoulder problems, and, was not limited by my own injury while teaching.

Someone once told me that, when I talk about the benefits of proper alignment in yoga, I sound like a Volvo ad!  Indeed, following the alignment principles maximizes mobility, power and safety!

OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

 

Focus: The Eight Limbs, Pt. 2 – Asana & Pranayama June 5, 2010

In our yoga classes, the May/June Focus is The Eight Limbs.  Each week, we practice a pretty pure Level 1 Integral Yoga (IY) Hatha set accompanied by background on the Limbs from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

To review Weeks 3 & 4, Asana & Pranayama:

Continuing our process of growth through the Eight Limbs, we now transition from the moral observances and purification guidelines of the Yama and Niyama to the more tangible Hatha practices that support these philosophies.

The 3rd Limb – Asana (postures or poses) – addresses physical limitations so we may cultivate more comfort during the limbs that follow.  When we practice Asana we decrease stiffness, aches, cramps and digestive dis-ease.  The classic IY set is my favorite for effectively aligning the body, stretching the muscles, stimulating digestion, toning the thyroid gland and eliminating toxins.

As you know, I am an alignment junkie (an affectionate term that a small group of DC yoga instructors has informally adopted).  So when I teach Asana, I spend a lot of time fine-tuning Tadaasana (Mountain Pose) so students may apply the same alignment principles in their other poses.  Why spend so much time on alignment?  Let’s revisit our promises from the Sutras.

“Heyam Dukham Anagatam” is the lovely assurance that, through yoga practice, future pain can be avoided.  I admit that I take license (under the influence of Dr. Steve Weiss from Align By Design anatomy and physiology program) by making this a literal statement about physical pain.  Various commentary on the Sutras typically explores psychological or karmic pain.  Still, for my previously injured and oft aching body, the promise of less physical pain is relieving.

Consider as well the Yama and Niyama (1st and 2nd Limb) – particularly Ahimsa (non-violence) and Samtosha (contentment).  What if we approached each yoga pose without mild forms of violence such as pushing or straining or hurting – what if we shaped our bodies with ease?  What if we accepted exactly where our body is instead of comparing or contrasting with yesterday’s abilities or the guy on the next mat – what if we were content with our very own Asana, as it is, in this moment?

After all, Book Two, #46 says “Asana is a steady, comfortable posture.”

With physical distractions out-of-the-way, we can move closer to yoga’s goal to still the mind, and deeper into Pranayama (breath regulation) practice.

As previously described, the 4th limb – Pranayama – continues detoxification, awakens our life force energy and balances our nervous system.  Specifically, the following practices (also archived under the Tips-n-Tools page) each have their own powerful and tonic-like benefits.

A BIT OF PRANAYAMA A DAY KEEPS THE DOCTOR AWAY!

  • Sit in a comfortable, cross-legged position or on a chair with feet flat on the floor, hands on the knees.
  • Elongate the spine to create space for the breath to fill the torso.
  • Inhale and exhale through the nose, unless otherwise instructed.
  • The lungs are long and thick, like a barrel inside of the torso.  Fill up the barrel!

DEERGHA SWAASAM

This deliberate deep three-part breath can increase the oxygen intake by up to seven times more than normal; consequently, we generate more red blood cells and therefore strengthen the immune system.

  • Begin with a complete exhale, all the way down to the lower lungs, around the belly.  Contract the belly to empty the torso of air.
  • Begin your inhale at the lower lungs, allowing the belly to relax outward.
  • Continue inhaling into the middle lungs, expanding the rib cage forward, along the sides and into the back.
  • Top off your inhale at the collar-bone.
  • Exhale, releasing the air from the collar-bone, emptying the rib cage, and then contracting and emptying the belly.
  • Continue for three to five minutes then return to normal breathing.

KAPAALABHAATI

This rapid, naval-pumping breath continues your Asana’s detox process, energizes the body and enhances alertness in the mind.

  • To find the correct area to activate for this technique, place the palm of the hand over the belly button, and stretch the thumb upward, toward the lower sternum, where the ribs meet.
  • It is important to sit upright, open the heart and isolate movement to the belly area.
  • To practice before your first round, relax the belly while inhaling just into the lower lungs, then exhale sharply while contracting the belly inward.  Some people compare this forceful exhale to a bellows, to the contraction we feel when laughing heartily (try it!) or to blowing out a candle with your nose.
  • Your inhale will follow naturally, filling up the belly as it relaxes outward.
  • To prepare for your first round, inhale a deep three-part breath, exhale all the way down and out of the belly, inhale just into the belly, then sharply exhale to begin.
  • Find your own rhythm and pace.  Continue with the sharp exhales and natural inhales for 15-20 cycles.  Repeat for three rounds.
  • After each round, exhale completely, inhale a deep three-part breath, then let the exhale slowly seep out.  Return to normal breathing.
  • If the practice becomes challenging during your rounds, focus on the forceful exhale, and let the inhale become more and more relaxed and passive.
  • As your practice advances, increase up to five rounds, with up to 100 cycles per round.
  • This is a complex practice.  Please consult the texts listed above or e-mail me at hmeyers65@yahoo.com with any questions.

NAADI SUDDHI

Use this soothing alternate-nostril breath for balance during stressful times or the change of the seasons.

  • Raise the right arm and place the palm in front of the face; make a loose fist; release the thumb, pinky and ring finger into Vishnu Mudra.
  • Inhale into both nostrils.
  • Plug the right nostril with the thumb and exhale through the left nostril; keep the thumb where it is and inhale through the left nostril.
  • Now plug the left nostril with the fingers and exhale through the right nostril; keep the fingers where they are and inhale through the right nostril.
  • Switch and plug the right nostril; exhale/inhale through the left.
  • Switch and plug the left nostril; exhale/inhale through the right.
  • As you become comfortable with the pattern of exhale/inhale/switch/exhale/inhale/switch/etc, begin to lengthen the breath to deep three-part breathing (into belly, ribs, collar-bone; out of collar-bone, ribs, belly).
  • After about three minutes, and after finishing an exhale on the right side, relax the right hand to the knee and return to normal breathing.

Happy breathing!

Next week…Pratyahara (withdrawal from or discipline of the senses).  I will be out-of-town, so if my subs do not address this 5th Limb, I’ll be sure to combine it with Dharana when I return to teach on Wednesday, May 16th.

LIMB OF THE WEEK!

Each Sunday at the 8:30am “Ahhh-some” class at Past Tense, we’ll launch our “limb of the week.” Together, we can deepen our practice by exploring each limb through special poses, breathing exercises, meditations and Sutras excerpts.

  • WKS 1 & 2 (MAY 9 – MAY 22) – YAMA/NIYAMA
  • WK 3 (MAY 23 – MAY 29) – ASANA
  • WK 4 (MAY 30 – JUNE 5) – PRANAYAMA
  • WK 5 (JUNE 6 – JUNE 12) – PRATYAHARA
  • WK 6 (JUNE 13 – JUNE 19) – DHARANA
  • WK 7 (JUNE 20 – JUNE 26) – DHYANA
  • WK 8 (JUNE 27 – JUNE 30) – SAMADHI
 

Why I Spend So Much Time on Alignment February 12, 2010

…only true Silence is eternal speech, the one word om (inner sound), the Heart-to-Heart talk.  Silence is the true advice.  – Swami Satyeswarananda Giri

As many of you know, I try to guide an internal and meditative practice when teaching yoga classes.  Paradoxically, I can talk your yogic ear off with detailed alignment instructions.  I talk about safety, mobility and longevity a lot.  And I use the words “engage,” “fine-tune,” “become aware” and “alignment principles” a lot.  Take our January/February Bi-Monthly Focus for example – who needs four separate directions for opening the HEART?

Well, I do.

I tend to shut down in my heart center. My shoulders round forward, my ribs cave inward, my lungs shrink upward and my poor little heart hides behind it all.  And not just in the winter.  Due to multiple neck and shoulder injuries from car accidents, falls and other traumas over the decades, this area of my body can be a little vulnerable.  Yet without fail, practicing yoga’s alignment principles helps my heart find its way back to a balanced center.

This is one reason I spend so much time instructing alignment in our yoga classes!

In addition, for me, there is a connection between physically caving in and emotionally shutting down.  It’s as if the physical distortion causes a psychological darkness – or vice versa.  (Check out the February issue of Natural Health’s article on Anusara Yoga’s approach to the heart and well-being).  So tending to an open heart center is key for this gal.

My favorite teacher for heart-area alignment is Megan Davis, who passed on her knowledge of engaging the intercostal muscles to control the movement of my rib cage and shoulder blades.  She recommended moving the intercostals backward, around the sides of the ribs, then down to “relax the shoulders” by releasing the shoulder blades toward each other and down the back.  That was a true “Ah-ha” moment.  For years, I’d been “relaxing my shoulders” by forcing my shoulder joints down and back.  Utilizing Megan’s tips, I erased a long-term neck ache and was finally able to expand my heart wide!

My second “Ah-ha” moment for the heart center was with Dr. Steven Weiss – chiropractor, yoga teacher and founder of Align by Design experiential Anatomy and Physiology workshop.  The tip he shared was to broaden the collar-bone by curling open the upper arms.  Lining up my middle finger with seam of my pants, he moved my biceps out and back and my triceps under and in.  What an amazing lift and expansion in my chest!

Thanks to these fine-tuned adjustments, my Pranayama practice is stronger (and my asthma symptoms weaker), my neck is free (and therefore free of pain), my shoulder joints move easefully (helping to rehab a rotator cuff injury) and my heart center is open (lifting my spirit, as well).

Aside from heart-center issues, I was also plagued by hip and knee injuries. I used to lock my knees when standing still or twist them when walking on uneven surfaces (snow, rocks, etc).  The inside and back of my knee would swell and ache horribly.  Frequently after yoga class, I would experience that same swelling and ache.

Finally, I took a private session with Andrea Franchini – a dancer as well as a yoga teacher – who completely transformed my knee and hip health.  In poses like Tadaasana and Tree, she noticed that I tended to hyper-extend my knee, causing a “blow out” in the tissue behind the cap.  In poses like Goddess or Warrior, she noticed that I would twist from my ankle and knee to open the hip, rather than – duh – opening the hip!  Thus my positive habits of engaging the quadriceps to safely straighten the leg and utilizing the hip’s ball-socket joint correctly were born.  Knock on wood – I have not blown out my knee since that session with Andrea.

Not only did proper use of the hip-joint facilitate knee mobility, it also eased a long-term and recurring pain in my right hip. (I know what you’re thinking – how did this girl become so injured?  That’s another story and an even longer blog for another time, believe me.  Suffice it to say, many of my injuries and their causes are far behind me.  Thank goodness.)

One of my favorite Asana instructions is “Zip up the belly.” Dancer and yoga teacher Leah Kalinosky describes a “zipping up” from the pubic bone to the belly button.  Add to that Dr. Weiss’s instruction to also zip down and in from the sternum to the belly button.  Distinct from sucking in the belly, this subtle lifting and tucking beneath the ribs liberates my hips to float freely over my legs.  So many teachers, so little time.  I could write a book about the many “Ah-ha” moments I’ve experienced in yoga classes thanks to generations of wisdom passed down.

Getting back to the notion of silence, and meditative yoga practices…

Yoga’s eight limbs are designed to progressively prepare the self for Samadhi, or enlightenment.  The limbs are in order for a reason – without becoming aware of ethical conduct through the Yama and Niyama in limbs one and two, without removing physical distraction through Asana in the 3rd limb, and so on, we cannot reach the level of concentration and meditation necessary to reach the bliss of the 8th limb, Samadhi.  And so, by engaging proper alignment during Asana, I silence the body.  Once the physical noise is quieted, I can move on to deepening practices of Pranayama, Pratyahara, and so on.

During his Align by Design workshop, Dr. Weiss pointed out two concepts from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali that promote proper alignment during Asana practice. He opened the workshop by writing “Heyam Dukham Anagatam” on the board.  “The pains yet to come can be and are to be prevented.”  Through proper alignment, we prevent injury and enhance well-being.  He also pointed out that, since the Yama and Niyama intentionally precede Asana, and non-violence is part of that ethical code, it would be unethical for a yogi to stress themselves into a pose.  Proper alignment erases such strain and honors Ahimsa.

A last word about my role, as instructor, in adjusting and fine-tuning Asana.

When I teach, I am not trying to prove that I know more than a student.  I believe each person contains the wisdom of Asana in his/her body.  Therefore my role is to remind students of what they already know (thanks to Seane Corn for reminding me of that during a recent workshop!).  Verbal cues and physical adjustments are not corrections – rather, they are guidance for students to tap into what’s within their bodies.  Honestly, my compulsion to “fine-tune” Asana comes from a yearning to share with others what has healed my body during my 16 years of yoga practice.  Not to mention my deep longing to end suffering and prevent the pains yet to come!  Please!

To make up for my alignment gab, I promise to end every class with a luxurious period of silence during Yoga Nidra!

May you find the wisdom of alignment, live free of suffering and cultivate the silence within.  OMmmmmmmmm.

The tips, tools and “Ah-ha” moments from so many wise and resourceful teachers are what inspired me to take my teacher training.  I have Dr. Weiss (www.alignbydesignyoga.com) and Alexander Technique expert Sumi Komo (www.alexandermovingarts) to thank for cohesively connecting Megan’s, Andrea’s and Leah’s specific adjustments.  For my version of alignment instructions in Tadaasana, please visit the Tips-n-Tools page and scroll to “Alignment Principles in Tadaasana.”

 

Let Your Heart Bloom Open January 13, 2010

Hunched and hidden hearts, don’t let the cold weather shut you down!

Our Bi-Monthly Focus for January/February yoga classes is HEART.  For the 1st month, we’ll focus on the Anatomy & Physiology of opening the heart center despite our tendency to scrunch up during the winter.  For the 2nd month, we’ll explore and perhaps counteract the emotional/psychological consequences of that classic winter shut-down.

Despite your tendency to shrug forward against the bitter cold, let your heart bloom open.  How?  Start by wearing a warm hat and scarf!  Then, take a brisk walk to your closest yoga class and give the following four heart-opening tips a try.

TAKE IT FROM THE TOP

To have an open heart, one must first have a good head on his or her shoulders.  What I mean is, you must float your head above your neck so your ears hover directly over your shoulders (vs. in front of the shoulders due to a jutting or downward-tilting chin).  Think of the Alexander Technique direction to “free the neck” then allow the crown of the head to extend out of and up from the spine.

The crown of the head is that flat-ish spot in the center-top of the skull where you would place your King or Queen crown so it doesn’t fall off.  This is different from where you would place your tiara (toward the hairline) or a yarmulke (toward the back of the skull) – although I always suspected that the Jewish yarmulke (pronounced “yamaka”) plays the same role as any prayerful head wrap, protecting the 7th chakra energy and also maintaining humility; so I feel a little confused why we place it so far back on the head.

Anyway…

Anatomically, the crown of the head is the point where your spine would pop out if it continued through the top of your skull. Any profile in a basic anatomy book can illustrate this.

To begin our heart-opening process, please stand in Tadaasana (Mountain Pose) with your arms resting at your sides.  Begin your deep three-part breath (aka Deergha Swaasam, described on the Tips-n-Tools page), remembering to let each exhale be long and thorough, all the way down and out of the lower lobes of the lungs and belly, and your inhales strong and complete, through the rib cage and up to the collar-bone.

Now, inhale and reach the crown of the head toward the sky, hovering your ears over your shoulders.  Maintaining that alignment, relax on the exhale.

BAD TO THE BONE

Gliding our way down the cervical spine, we then broaden the collar-bone to create space for the upper lobes of the lungs and top ribs.

To do this, stand in Tadaasana with arms resting down, and press your palms into the sides of the thighs.  Line up your middle finger with the seam of your pants – or where that seam would be if you had one on your yoga capris.

Inhale and continue to press the palms flat.  On the exhale, curl open the upper arms.  Biceps curl out and away from the ribs while triceps tuck under and toward the side body.  As you exhale thoroughly to the belly, the shoulders and collar-bone will naturally broaden and you will feel like a proud yoga soldier.

FILL UP THE BARREL

Next, we have to create space for the heart’s doors to open wide.  They are swinging doors and like the rib cage, they need room to move forward, sideways, backward, all around.

I like to describe the rib cage as a big barrel, imagining myself actually filling up a big cavernous barrel as I breathe through the Deergha Swaasam.  The lungs also expand forward, sideways and backward.  Plus, they are longer than most realize – beginning as low as the upper abdomen, expanding through the ribs and reaching up to the collar-bone.

So let’s fill up the barrel!  Inhale into the belly, ribs then collar-bone.  Hold the breath in the rib cage and explore the expansiveness surrounding your precious little heart.  Then exhale, maintaining that expansiveness, particularly in the side body.

THAT SINKING FEELING

Fourth and finally, we return to the most simple instruction for opening the heart.

Inhale and reach the crown of the head toward the sky.  On the exhale, move the shoulder blades together then down the back. With the head high, the collar-bone wide and the side body long, the blades easefully sink into place.

BABY, IT’S COLD OUTSIDE…

…but you don’t have to hunch the winter away.  Hold your warmly capped head high, wrap that scarf around your perfectly aligned neck and follow your heart down the street.

See you in class.  OM Shanti.

(Jan/Feb Heart Focus instructions are archived on the Tips-n-Tools page.)

 

Welcome to The Urban Yoga Den September 24, 2009

Welcome to The Urban Yoga Den, where “it’s all yoga.”  Thanks to everyone who encouraged and informed this step along my yoga biz journey.

Please see the “About” page for more about this blog and me.

In this 1st post, I am compiling parts of my September and August e-newsletters, including:

  • WORKSHOP: “Meditation Myth Busters”
  • BI-MONTHLY FOCUS: Sept/Oct – Pranayama
  • BI-MONTHLY FOCUS: July/Aug – Shoulder and Hip Alignment
  • ONGOING CLASSES: Studio, Private, Etc.

WORKSHOP: “Meditation Myth Busters” this Saturday

I remember the 1st time that I meditated “successfully” – in 1990, after hitting an emotional, spiritual and physical bottom while living in New Orleans, I accepted an invitation to live with my sister in Florida.  Her home was peaceful – but I was not.  While sitting on the porch one afternoon, I couldn’t take the inner turmoil anymore…so I closed my eyes and focused on the sounds surrounding me.  Little-by-little, concentration on the sounds of bugs, breezes, leaves and water eased my ever-battling brain.  I moved on to the sense of touch, then smell, then taste.  Finally, I gently opened my eyes and took in my immediate surroundings.

My mind was at peace as I arrived in the present moment.

I call that a “successful” meditation because simple concentration shifted my state – I changed from achingly lost to simply here-and-now.  I had attempted different meditation styles before that day, but felt too resistant, too physically uncomfortable, too mentally preoccupied, or too busy to keep up the routine.  Now, I practice meditation styles that defy those obstacles and more.  And, regular practice continues to dissolve the kind of obstacles that led to that bottom in 1990.

In MEDITATION MYTH BUSTERS, I pass on the simple methods that have so generously been shared with me over the decades.  A sampler of one- to 10-minute mini-meditations from various origins and traditions, this lighthearted and open-minded workshop eases doubters and dabblers into a grasp-able personal practice.  Please join us!

MEDITATION MYTH BUSTERS with Holly Meyers

Past Tense Yoga Studio in Mt. Pleasant, DC
At Mt. Pleasant St. & Park Rd., NW
Saturday, 9/26, 1:30-3:30pm
http://www.pasttensestudio.com

Please visit the “Services” page for additional workshops and ongoing class offerings.

BI-MONTHLY FOCUS: September/October – Pranayama

About a year ago, when I was dreaming of teaching yoga to baseball players, (decrease injuries, increase pitching speed), I attended a “Yoga for Athletes” workshop taught by champion mogul skier Anna Eberle.  I expected to get my butt kicked with three days of Power Yoga.  Instead, I learned how to breathe.  No kidding.  She focused on Pranayama the entire weekend.  By the end, I was a believer in nostril breathing and Deergha Swaasam – the deep, three-part breath that increases oxygenation up to seven times as normal (consequently increasing red blood cells and strengthening the immune system), and stabilizes/lowers the heart rate during rigorous activity and stressful situations.

So, for the next two months of classes, we will shift the focus from the physical (see the July/August Shoulders & Hips summary below) to the internal with Pranayama.  By the end of October, you will be calm and healthy enough to defy all holiday challenges!

Here is a sample Asana that we’ll be practicing in classes…

Please visit the “Tips-n-Tools” page for an archive of these instructions.

BI-MONTHLY FOCUS: July/August – Shoulder and Hip Alignment

Whether teaching private clients or studio classes, I am now choosing a two-month focus to shape each yoga set.  For July and August, the focus is SHOULDERS & HIPS.

In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (the scriptures of yoga, recorded about 5,000 years ago), number 2.46 says, “STHIRA SUKHAM ASANAM” – “Asana is a steady, comfortable posture.”  It doesn’t say, “In yogic movement, we push or force our body into positions.”  Nope.  It says steady and comfortable.  Ahhhhh.

Integral Yoga (the style I’m certified to teach) reinforces this approach to movement by encouraging the student to cultivate ease, mobility and safety.  Two body areas that are frequently challenged in yoga and all physical health are the SHOULDERS (including NECK, RIBS, LUNGS, HEART) and HIPS (including HIP FLEXORS, PELVIS, LOWER SPINE).

So during July and August, whether practicing yoga or moving through life in exercise, work and play, consider these easeful tips…

Please visit the “Tips-n-Tools” page for an archive of these instructions.

ONGOING CLASSES: Private, Kids/Family, Trainings, etc.

Please visit the “Services” page for the most updated information about workshops and ongoing class offerings.