Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What is Yoga?

You can read a number of articles and books on yoga and get many different interpretations of what yoga is.  You will find historical background as well as religious theologies.  The beauty of yoga is you can make it what you want.  You can delve as deeply as you wish.

There are eight limbs of yoga that are commonly taught from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.

1. The first limb, yama, is the moral standards we place on ourselves and others.  They include: Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (moderation), Aparigraha (non-covetousness or non-hoarding).

2. Niyama, the second limb, revolves around self-discipline and spiritual observances. They include: Saucha (cleanliness or purity), Samtosa (contentment), Tapas (heat and spiritual austerities), Svadhyaya (study of the sacred scriptures and of one's self), Isvara pranidhana (devotion to a higher power)

3. Asanas are the postures practiced in yoga, comprising the third limb. Through the practice of asanas, we develop discipline and the ability to concentrate, both of which are necessary for meditation.

4. Pranayama, or breath work, is the fourth limb.  The idea is to gain a mastery of the respiratory system.  This can be done alone or while doing asanas.

5. Pratyahara, the fifth limb, means withdrawal or sensory transcendence. We essentially draw our sense inwards, removing outward distractions.

6. Dharana is about concentration, focusing on one thing at a time, rather than jumping from one thought to another every few seconds.

7. Dhyana is meditation.  This would be the cessation of the monkey chatter in our minds.

8. Samadhi is the final limb of yoga.  It is transcendence from this body and a connection with the divine.

In the US, the first experience with yoga is typically a yoga posture class.  Depending on the type of yoga, one might experience asanas and pranayama together.  Occasionally, the teacher will bring in some of the other aspects such as the Yamas, Niyamas, and Dhyana during the class.  The teacher might bring up one of the ways we conduct ourselves and expand upon that, and then invite the students to meditate on it while practicing the asanas or during the final resting pose at the end of class.

In my classes, I tend to talk about issues I face in daily life and how I am working to overcome them.  I know that religion and morals tend to be very personal, so try not to expand upon those aspects.  I primarily focus on the asana and pranayama, creating a type of moving meditation.  When students are more focused on where their bodies are in space and making sure they are breathing in and out at the proper times, they can quiet the chatter in their minds.  It is something that is vital to our busy lives. 

Light and love,


Monday, August 25, 2014

Practicing Mindfulness in Asana

Saturday I spent the evening dancing in Manitou with my troupe.  The sun was beating down pretty hard in the beginning, so much so that sweat was just rolling down my legs.  Eventually the cloud cover moved in and it was very nice weather to dance in.  After two hours of dance, though, I was exhausted.  Sure, there were breaks between sets, but I was on my feet the whole time. Have I mentioned I have a desk job?  Yeah, that was pretty rough on my body.  It was so much fun that I would do it again, despite my physical discomfort that evening and yesterday.

Yesterday I went to yoga in the park.  There is, now, only one more left and one of my favorite teachers was teaching flow yesterday.  I had to go!

We started with some gentle seated twists, moved into Cat/Cows, and then into Child's pose.  From there we moved into (the sometimes dreaded) Downward Facing Dog.  This one was extremely difficult for me as my whole lower body was tight and sore.  Eventually we moved into a Forward Fold and I realized that I would just have to take it easy.

For much of the class I would either sit back, drink a little water, and watch what others were doing or I would sit in Child's Pose.  I didn't beat myself up for it.  I knew my body was overworked and needed a little rest.  Yoga isn't just about the poses, it's about being present, about mindfulness, maybe a little meditation too.  I was at peace with my body and how I was feeling.

During the middle of the class, we had the opportunity to do an assisted hand stand.  While my lower body wasn't very happy with me, my upper body was up for the challenge.  My friend assisted me and it was one of the best hand stands I've done so far in my little yoga journey.  I'm grateful for that opportunity and my friend being there to help me feel stable.  That's half the battle in inversions really.

It may seem that I am harping on this subject a lot.  We really need to be ok with listening to our bodies.  Just like we should try to get exercise and eat healthier foods, we need to actually listen and not overdo it.  This is the only body we have.  Medicine can help us in some ways, but I don't want to have surgery to fix something when I could just back off a little.

And you know what?  This class was one of the best ones I have had.

Namaste my friends,


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Recap of my most amazing week

I posted earlier that I was headed to St. Louis for a fabulous week of belly dance.  It was four days of going over the moves we use in ATS® and becoming certified in that style of dance.  We also had half an hour of yoga before class, and plenty of time in the evenings to hang out with the other students, chatting about everything under the sun, and exploring the area.

The steps themselves weren't too bad.  My instructor did a very good job of preparing us for this trip.  I spent the whole week with three other very lovely ladies from Colorado Springs, two of which I roomed with.  I loved going out to Historic St. Charles with them, as well as staying in and just relaxing.

There were 73 of us, so I also met some other fabulous dancers.  It was amazing to feel the collective energy when we were all dancing.  Carolena and Megha even complimented the whole group on how well we danced.  I met a few people that I truly loved, though I probably would have found more if I'd had more time.  I came away with a few more friends than I had going out there.

As for the inspiration, it came from the half hour yoga class in the mornings.  I loved spending that half hour doing the other thing I truly love.  During this trip, I came to the realization that I really should work on getting my two passions merged.  I am looking at creating a "yoga for belly dancers" class in the near future.  I have had little success getting students on Monday nights, so maybe I should make that the night I have this class.  Though this class would focus on the muscles used during belly dancing, I'm sure it could translate to other dance forms.  Additionally, just because it is targeting dancers doesn't mean others couldn't come as well.

I truly feel like this trip was a life changing event.  On top of becoming certified in this type of belly dancing, I decided where I should take my yoga business a little.  I also discovered that the money will work out.  We can go on trips and still have enough to pay the bills.  I can spend a week away from my husband and dogs and be just fine.  I learned it is better to have so many great memories than to not go on a trip for fear of not having enough cash. It is really nice to take a complete break from life to de-stress a bit.

I hope that you too can find some time to get away and do something you truly love.  Who knows what that will Spark?



Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Traveling Yoga

I am flying out to St. Louis today for a big belly dancing event today.  It is a type of certification for the type of belly dance I do.  It has been a long time coming, and I am nervous and excited all at the same time.

In some of the planning emails we received I noticed there will be a yoga class in the morning.  Imagine how excited I was!  It is a half hour Vinyasa for belly dancers.  It is a melding of my two passions!!  Vinyasa is the type of yoga I teach, and I have wanted to create one for belly dancers.  I just haven't had the time to research what poses would be best.  I figure most of them would work as long as you change it up.  But now I get to take this class and see what I can learn from it. Plus, it will be nice to do something that is relatively normal when my routine is completely shaken up.

I am very much looking forward to this time away from regular life.  While I won't be teaching class this week, I will be working on gaining a little more experience. Growing and learning is what keeps me going.

Namaste my friends,