Yoga for Clarity YouTube Video

Yoga to the Rescue: The Other Side of Confusion

Have you made your resolutions for 2011?

I can't say that I've ever been in the habit of listing my New Year's Resolutions at the years end. For one, I am constantly striving to be a better me. My goals and inspirations come to me throughout the year. However, this awareness of my un-involvement in, and in fact apathy for this very popular tradition has me indulging in introspection.

Is it because in the past I haven't seen myself as the deliberate creator that I am? Am I prone to a victim mindset (you know, faulting the economy, the job market, my upbringing, and other endless excuses)? I am simply too lazy to take responsibility for my life?

The question often contains the answer

Ouch. The truth sure stings sometimes. Still, I prefer it to living a life of illusion (not the Joe Walsh song – actually, I really like that song). With all of this in mind, I have begun a new practice, a "resolution" if you will. When I have a tendency to question, I turn it into a statement. The result is that I find clarity where there was previously floundering. With clarity I am more likely to take action. It is like this: When I state that I haven't recognized my power for intentional living and that I use excuses to let myself off the hook and that I can claim my power and my responsibility at any moment, a pretty wonderful thing happens. I know what my next step is.

Practice is the key word here. I am not always as present for myself as I intend to be. Fortunately, my default response to feeling knocked off my center is internalization and questioning. And as I mentioned earlier, the question and the answer are usually very close indeed.

Bonus: I always have my yoga practice which continues to reveal me to me.

Yoga Sequence for Clarity and Inspiration

I have designed this short asana sequence to relax and sooth stressed nerves and reveal a clear headed, confident state of mind. Practice when you feel confused or unclear about what you want, your life purpose or simply what you should do next.

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So there it is, my gift to you as we enter this new year (and new decade!). Please return to it whenever you need. I plan on posting more videos soon. Please let me know if you have any requests.

Also, I would love to hear your thoughts about this video or about your New Year's resolutions. How do you find clarity amidst the chaos? Please share!

Happy New Year!

Lindsay

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Things They Don’t Tell You About Hot Yoga [Funny]

Time for Some Smile Therapy.

I like to think of it as my contribution to the popular Laughter Yoga movement. Here’s a list of 10 things they leave out of the oh-so-enticing, hot-yoga-will-change-your-life brochures.

1. The stink. Your clothes and towels will find it.  After a few hot yoga classes you will notice it.  And it won’t go away on its own.  Fortunately, there is help.  Here is what has worked for me: White vinegar in the rinse cycle does wonders.  You just have to run an extra rinse cycle at the end.  Baking soda added at the beginning of the wash cycle also helps.

2. Drama Queens If you have been to a yoga class before you may have noticed that some people like to vocalize their yogic experience in the moment, usually with moans of pleasure or sighs of release. However, in hot yoga the vocalizations manifest a little differently. The pleasure moans are not unheard of, mind you, but you are more likely to hear load grunts, groans, scoffs, and even some swears as the so-called drama queen curses the sadistic teacher, the unbearable heat, the invasive smells, their own limitations, etc.

3. Emotional Outbursts Sometimes you might be the one making all the noise a la “#2 Drama Queens.” Giggle-fits a.k.a. “the giggles” are fairly common.  On the other end of the spectrum, you have tears. Yes, right in the middle of class, you’ll begin sobbing for no apparent reason. In hot yoga class you are bumped right out of your comfort zone and confronted with yourself, your limitations or perhaps where you are holding on so strongly that when you are unable to control something (the heat, your body, etc.) you are forced to just LET GO.  It can be pretty intense.  Along with the physical release, you also let go of some serious emotional sh*t (as I affectionately refer to my “breakthroughs”).  Fortunately, the yoga room is a safe place to be vulnerable and you are sweaty enough to hide the tears. So, cry (or laugh) it up. It’s good for you.

4. Creatures of Habit Whatever you do, don’t, seriously, don’t EVER mess with the regulars. You can tell these people by their rituals and routine. They arrive extra early to ensure their “spot” in the room and get pretty darned protective of it. If you do have a run in, best way to avoid a all-out brawl in the yoga studio: quietly pick up your mat and move. That’s it.

5. Bodily Function Overload. You are likely to fart or even throw up in class. Yoga postures twist and compress the abdomen and stimulate the digestive organs. It’s kind of the point. So, yes, farts in yoga class happen. They’ve “happened” to us all. So, it is safe to  say that no one will judge you because of a little tootage.  However, if you have the “death farts,” maybe you should consider skipping a class, you know, out of consideration for others. Also, backbends stretch the lining of the stomach and leave you feeling a little queezy (Holy Camel!).  Often the heat and excessive sweating is enough to make you feel nauseous. It is for this reason most yoga studios and teachers recommend that you don’t eat for two hours or so before class. Either that or they don’t want to clean up your “leftovers.” Ew.

6. Over-Sharing You will get up close and personal with complete strangers. Like, in ways that, if it happened outside the sacred space of the yoga room, would induce bodily function overload. Here are some examples: The Sharing of The Sweat No it doesn’t stay neatly within the confines of your own mat and towel. It’s messy, it splashes, and sometimes on the most inconvenient of places (like in your eyes or in your mouth!); The Roaming Strands of Hair When you finally make it down to your mat after a standing series you notice not one, but two hairs stuck to your arm and neither one of them are from your own body; Your Smells Are Telling Whether it is the garlic in the italian food you had for dinner or perhaps you had tee-many-martoonis last night, the sweat, gives you away every time.

7. T.M.I.! Along the same lines as #6 … You might get an eyeful, i.e. wardrobe malfunction.  In other words you’ll gain MUCH more information about somebody than you want to in this particular, sweaty, bendy context. To avoid wardrobe malfunction: ladies, wear clothes that fit and cover all the right places and guys, please wear fitted shorts, or at the very least, wear skivvies under those swim trunks. Which leads me to …

8. Modesty, Schmodesty You really won’t care that you are practically naked in a room full of strangers/mixed company/acquaintances, also mostly naked. Sheesh, I mean isn’t it enough that you are there – and willingly so?

9. It’s Not The Most Ideal Singles Hang Out Seriously. You will look like crap immediately after – sweaty, flushed, splotchy. And don’t forget about the aforementioned bodily function overload and over-sharing.  It can be a bit much for even the most desperately seeking individual.

10. You will become adept at strategizing as you will find yourself plotting your escape at certain points in class. Okay, after this pose I will roll up my mat, navigate through a weave of sweaty people to the back of the room and tiptoeing quietly, I will scale the back wall until I make it to the door, at which point I will stealthfully open the door and make my way out to cool fresh air FREEDOM!!!

Mostly, I want to tell you that you won’t always like hot yoga and it will probably push your boundaries a little (okay – a LOT). I personally enjoy being bumped out of my comfy zone. I find that is when I really learn something about myself.

Having a sense of humor is important when diving head-on into personal transformation like we do in hot yoga. It is also helpful to know that you are not alone. So, please share your stories and comments below!

By the way, I highly recommend smiling in class, as much as possible.

Love,

Lindsay

 

For some added smiles, here is Nina Paley’s comic “Why I Quit My Yoga Class”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

chakrasana

FAQ: Top 5 Frequently Asked Questions About Yoga

Okay, so you've heard about yoga, you're even thinking about trying a class, but maybe you still have some lingering questions.  Duuuhh, that's why you decided to cruise the online yoga scene.  Well, I'm glad you did.  Here is a Top 5 frequently asked questions about yoga … and whaddaya know, answers, too!  🙂

What exactly is yoga?
The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root "yuj," meaning "to yoke" or "to unite."  People have many different reasons for practicing yoga.  For example it can be for physical exercise, mental well being, healing an injury, relieving chronic pain or finding a deeper spiritual connection.  Hatha Yoga is the physical form of yoga where we practice a series of positions, known as asanas, designed to purify the body, increase physical strength and stamina, and restore balance to all of the body’s systems.  The benefits of practicing yoga asanas as it relates to the idea of union can be described simply as uniting our awareness of all of our physical sensations, our breath and our thoughts.  How far, and to what aspect of your life you want to apply the lessons of yoga asana is up to you.

Is yoga a religion? No.  Yoga as we know it today finds its roots in a philosophy developed in India 5000 years ago.  Sometimes yoga practice is combined with philosophies like Buddhism or Hinduism but the beauty of yoga is that it brings union within yourself and meets you where you need it most.  You can choose to focus on the physical, the mental or the spiritual aspects or any combination of the three.  It is not necessary to study any particular religion or philosophy to practice yoga.  Many people find that it compliments their religious beliefs.

Isn’t yoga just stretching? Actually, depending on the style of the yoga class, it can be a physically demanding, even aerobic, workout.  While there are more gentle classes that focus on lengthening muscles and restoring range of motion, Hatha Yoga is translated as “Forceful Yoga” whereby we willfully and intentionally work to restore balance to the body.

I am not flexible. Can I still practice yoga?  This is a common misconception.  You do not need to be flexible in order to practice yoga.  If it happens to be flexibility that your body needs, yoga can help.  You become flexible by doing yoga.  You do not have to look like the yoga models we see in magazines to benefit.  Listening to your body and finding a position that is right for you is all you have to do.

How often should I go to class? Obviously, the more you practice, the more benefits you are likely to receive.  2-3 classes (60-90 minutes long) per week is usually recommended to start.  However, just 1 hour per week will still bring wonderful, healing benefits that you will quickly notice.  Even a simple 15-20 minutes of yoga whenever you can is beneficial!

Thanks for stopping by and please feel free to post any additional questions below!

Peace out,

Lindsay

And for funsies check out my Top 5 Yoga-Related YouTube Finds!

Photo courtesy of Anna Ferguson.

ambiguousteacher

Meditation For New Yoga Teachers

FINDING YOUR CONFIDENCE

In the matter of dealing with yoga teacher jitters, confidence doesn’t always reveal itself as expected.

Certainties: You love yoga.  You know this from a deep place inside your being.  Everything about yoga practice screams a loud, ethereal “YES!”  You’ve dished out the big bucks and completed a rigorous and intensive yoga teacher training that involved some pretty deep, soul-searching work on your part.  You’ve emerged as not only a committed, lifetime student of yoga, but now a certified teacher with a vast world of possibilities before you.

But, darn it, what’s with all the nerves and anxiety? Surely, your training and passion is sufficient for the role of teacher.  Your heart is in the right place.  You truly want to share and help others because, let’s face it, we yoga teachers don’t do it for the money.  We are driven like the prototypical “starving artist”, by what seems to be a force much larger than our physical bodies, something older, wiser — the voice, the calling.  Who cares if we have to eat pinto beans and rice for a year? You’re happy doing it because it feels right and it is groovy, man.

Not-So-Certainties: Can I be successful as a yoga teacher or will I meet that dreaded f-word (yes, I am referring to failure)? Can I run a business? Will studios hire me? What if I mess up or offend someone or, lordy-heavens-almighty-in-the highest, hurt somebody? What if students hate my class?  Hate me?  What if studio finally hires me and then (the other dreaded f-word) fires me? What kind of teacher am I?

Exhausting, isn't it?

To this, I will simply say: Teaching is another form of yoga, really a practice in itself.  Not all of these questions will be answered right away just as you weren’t able to do every yoga posture in your first class (perhaps a bit presumptuous, but in regards to people that do not struggle with asanas, well, I will restrict my comments to my own mind space).  In other words, you will never “get it done.”  It’s the journey, not the destination and other such whimsical metaphors … you get it.

So, yep — been there, done that.  Here is something that helped me when I first began teaching and feeling, at times, as though I might not be successful.  A meditation of sorts, to be read before you teach a class:

Meditation for New Yoga Teachers

It is not about me.
It is not about whether they like me
or whether they are going to come back to my class.

It is not about my performance.

It is about helping people to have the best experience possible,  
helping them explore their bodies safely.
It is about empowering others to seek their potential.
It is about sharing, giving, and offering myself completely.  
And by opening up in this way,
giving others permission to do the same —
fearlessly, joyfully.

It is not about me.

So, you see, your confidence comes not from validating yourself and your credentials, or even from trying really hard to be the best teacher ever, both of which the outcomes are an intense focus on yourself (you selfish son-of-a …).  It comes from letting go and allowing your focus to be in the present moment, which when you are teaching a yoga class, is on instructing others in their postures.  When you are present and fully engaged in the moment, you are genuine.  You are not focused selfishly on your performance.  Confidence comes from that deep, intrinsic place, that voice that speaks so loudly to you, “YES!”  Let go of the chatter, the questions and insecurity.  Be honest, be genuine.  Here you will find success that really means something.

Fortunately, from experience in yoga classes, you already have the tools to make this all possible.  You have practiced letting go and being present and without judgement.  Time to practice what you teach.  Incidentally, we teach what we most need to learn.

So go on, you know you've got this.

Lindsay

If you enjoyed this post, please share with fellow newbies or yoga teacher trainees using the buttons below!

Photo courtesy of Anna Ferguson.

Yoga Foundations: Mountain Pose Basics and Benefits

Mountain Pose
Tadasana

This is the starting position for many standing postures and is also used as a transitional position between standing postures.  It is easy to bypass this posture in your practice, however it is a posture and even on its own has many benefits. 

My tip: try to stay present and fully connect in Tadasana.  You will quickly notice how this awareness of subtleties benefits your practice as a whole.

Instructions:

  • Stand with your feet parallel to each other and maybe touching the inside of the big toes and heals together.  Lift the toes and then spread them wide including the connecting bones in the front half of the foot.  With your feet stretching and widening, return the toes to the mat and lift the arches of the feet by pulling the muscles of the inner ankle gently upward.
  • With your weight evenly distributed across both feet, engage your thigh muscles just enough to pull the knee caps up.  Inner thighs are also active and rotate inward slightly.
  • Activate the muscles of the pelvic floor and core, drawing the navel towards the spine while at the same time scooping the tailbone in a subtle movement, visualizing your tailbone rooting downward.
  • From this rooted position, visualize your vertebrae stacking one on top of the other, following the natural s-curve of the spine, all the while the muscles of the abdomen and back are supporting you.
  • Roll your shoulders down and back, opening and lifting the chest slightly.
  • Feel your head balancing lightly on top, chin parallel with the floor, and the crown of the head is centered over your hips.
  • Hands are positioned by your side, palms facing outward in a nice, open and anatomical position for the shoulders.  Alternately, you can bring your palms together in the center of your chest, a position known as anjali mudra (mudras are symbolic gestures or positions of the hands), namaskar, namaste or prayer position.

Benefits:

  • Improves posture.
  • Strengthens core muscles – pelvic floor, abdomen and back.
  • Therapeutic for flat feet, backaches and sciatica.
  • Strengthens thighs, knees and ankles.

 

“Mountain pose teaches us, literally, how to stand on our own two feet…. teaching us to root ourselves into the earth…. Our bodies become a connection between heaven and earth.”  ~Carol Krucoff

 

 

 

Rock Your Tadasana

Thanks for reading!  If you enjoyed this information, please share using the buttons below.  As always, I welcome any questions or comments!

Namaste

Lindsay

Original photo courtesy of Anna Ferguson with addition design & magic by Adam Fields.

supta

Yoga Class Etiquette

Here are some basic yoga dos and don’ts to help you feel comfortable attending a class if you are new to yoga, or perhaps as a refresher for more seasoned practitioners. These simple tips can help create an enjoyable, productive experience for everyone. Be on time. Try to arrive 10-15 minutes early for class. This will allow time for registration and payment and help the teacher to start class on time for everyone. Also, arriving early will help you prepare for class by finding your spot in the room and beginning to get centered and relaxed. If you do arrive a little late, that’s okay. Most teachers are very understanding. Just try to enter the yoga room as respectfully as possible as others have already begun to relax and prepare for class. Try to scope out an open spot first then move carefully through the room and unroll your mat quietly. Turn your cell phone off. A phone ringing can be very distracting to both teacher and students. If you are on call, you can let the teacher know before class begins and set your phone or pager to vibrate. Also, if you have a watch or an iPod that beeps, leave it outside the yoga room or set to silent. Take your shoes off. Most studios have a place outside the yoga room to keep your shoes. You will spend a lot of time on the floor and practice in bare feet. Removing your shoes helps to keep the floor clean for everyone. Refrain from wearing perfume or scented lotions. This is out of consideration for others. Some people have sensitivities to fragrances. Even natural essential oils can be too much for some people, especially when breathing deeply as we do in a yoga class. Keep talking to a minimum. Comments and loud conversations can distract others from their experience in class. If you have a specific question about something as it occurs in class, you can feel free to ask the teacher (not another student) at the time. It is likely that another student has the same question. Just keep it to a minimum and not too chatty or lengthy. Also, try to refrain or to at least speak quietly just before and after class as people are relaxing or meditating. You can have your conversations outside of the yoga room. Final relaxation is part of class too! This is so important. This is the part of class, arguably the most important part, where we integrate the benefits of the body work, the breath work and focus of the yoga class. If you absolutely have to leave early, let the teacher know before class, position yourself near the exit and leave as quietly as possible. Thanks for reading!  If you enjoyed this post (we could all use a reminder now and again), please share using the buttons below. Namaste, Lindsay Photo courtesy of Anna Ferguson.

warriors

What is Hot Yoga and How Is It Different from Other Yoga Styles?

I am simply amazed at the popularity of yoga these days.

With so many styles and talented teachers out there, it is relatively easy to find a style that is right for you, but what is "Hot Yoga" exactly?  A common misconception is that Hot Yoga is synonymous with Bikram Yoga.  While Bikram Yoga is a type of Hot Yoga, there is so much more to this wonderful lineage from Calcutta.  Here is  a brief description of Hot Yoga, its origin and evolution.

I like to think of Hot Yoga as a noun, not simply an adjective describing any style of yoga practiced in a heated room.  It has a very distinct lineage which incorporates alignment principles and subtle variations to the ancient practice of yoga asanas (yoga postures) that differ from other styles of yoga.  These innovations help increase a posture’s efficiency to be more rehabilitative and fitness oriented.

Hot Yoga is a branch of Hatha Yoga (the physical form of yoga).  The goal of Hatha Yoga, or “Forceful Yoga,” is to purify and remove blockages in the body and the mind in order to free oneself from limitations and live a fuller, richer life.

Two basic branches of Hatha Yoga today:

Yoga of Krishnamacharya – Tirumalai Krishnamacharya is referred to as "the father of modern yoga”  and credited as the yogi who brought yoga into the mainstream.  This is probably the most common branch of yoga with offshoots such as Iyengar Yoga, developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, and the Ashtanga Yoga discipline of Pattabhi Jois.

Hot Yoga of Bishnu Ghosh – Bishnu Ghosh was introduced to the healing benefits of Hatha Yoga by his brother Paramahansa Yogananda (author of Autobiography of a Yogi).  He is credited with then bringing what he learned to the common people, that is, people other than sages and holy men like Yogananda.  A Pioneer in the study of yoga asana, Bishnu Ghosh founded Ghosh's Yoga College in 1923 and helped numerous people heal their various ailments.  His student,  Bikram Choudhury, founder of Bikram Yoga, then brought this wonderful healing modality to the United States.

Styles of Hot Yoga

Here are four popular styles from the Hot Yoga lineage:

Bikram Yoga

Bikram Choudhury, as I mentioned, is a direct student of Bishnu Gosh and responsible for bringing Hot Yoga to the United States.  Bikram shattered his knee in an accident and with the aid of his teacher, he embarked on a vigorous yoga rehabilitation that led him to design his own style of yoga known as Bikram Yoga.  Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class is a series of twenty-six postures and two pranayama breathing exercises performed in a specific order, two sets of each, and in a roomed heated to 105 degrees or greater.  It is designed to be rehabilitative, restoring all systems of the body to healthy working order.

Barkan Method Hot Yoga

Created by Jimmy Barkan, The Barkan Method is built on the teachings and principles of Bikram Choudhury and Bishnu Ghosh, but also incorporates postures from other styles of yoga.  Jimmy, who was once given the title of Bikram’s Senior Most Teacher, found that “even though consistency is important to measure results, daily variations are necessary to challenge, excite and help students become unlimited in their practice.”  Jimmy has also developed a Hot Vinyasa (series of postures and movement coordinated with the breath) sequence based on Hot Yoga postures and philosophies.  The Barkan Method has a large network of teachers and studios all over the world.

Moksha Yoga

Founded by Ted Grand and Jessica Robertson, Moksha Yoga is based in Toronto with locations and affiliated studios worldwide.  It is a fundamental sequence of postures practiced in a heated room.  While it incorporates principles of Hot Yoga, Moksha Yoga also integrates the opinions of a wide range of experts and peers in the yoga community.  True to Hatha Yoga tradition, the series works to stretch and strengthen muscles while detoxifying the body and calming the mind.

 

CorePower Yoga

Based in Denver with locations throughout the United States, CorePower Yoga is built on the premise that yoga should be accessible to everyone.  CorePwer studios offer classes at varying levels and varying temperatures ranging from 80-100 degrees.  Classes they offer such as Hot Yoga, Hot Power Fusion and CorePower Yoga, combine a heated environment with the flowing style of Vinyasa and a focus on core strengthening.  They also offer Yoga-Pilates and Yoga Sculpt allowing students to find a practice that is truly right for them.

Related reading:

What to Expect at Your First Hot Yoga Class

Hot Yoga: So, Why the Heat Anyway?

Thanks for reading! I'd love to here from you. Please leave a comment below with any thoughts or questions.

Namaste,

Lindsay

What to Expect at Your First Hot Yoga Class

If you are curious about hot yoga and perhaps thinking about taking a class, read this article I wrote for Hot-Yoga.net first to learn what you can expect before, during and after your first class.

bwcobraIf you have never done yoga, perhaps simply the word inspires images of hyper-flexible people positioning themselves into seemingly impossible, pretzel-like positions. Add the word “hot” to the mix and it really puts an exclamation point on it. Even for those with an already developed yoga practice, it can be pretty intimidating. The good news is that there are some things you can do to prepare yourself, mentally and physically, for the challenge (and, yes, it IS a challenge) …. Click to read full article.

P.S. I love questions! Please feel free to post yours below.