Holiday Season

Let me take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Holiday Season, whether you celebrate Christmas, Honukah, Kwanza, Festivus, Solstice, or nothing at all, I hope it is the best season ever!

My wish for you is to have a fun, safe, and happy celebration season. I hope you are surrounded by loved ones, indulge, celebrate, and embrace the coming of winter with joy.

As we move closer to the 25th, our stress levels increase. We want to find that perfect gift for everyone on our list as the store stocks diminish by the minute. We have less and less daylight every day as we approach solstice, we prepare meals, plan vacations , wrap gifts, cook food, bake…. it seems to be never-ending. Just remember with all of these added responsibilities that YOU are important as well. Take a minute here and there to relax, reflect, stretch and breathe! Sometimes all we get are these glimpses of ‘me time’, take advantage of them and just breathe. Let your breath remind you that you are important, you are loved, you are needed. These little mini-vacations from the ‘real world’ can do a lot to improve our focus, attention and our sense of well being. Of course I always recommend movement, even if it is just a few poses in the morning or when you are feeling overwhelmed, remember that every little bit helps!

While you are spending so much time thinking about others, (don’t get me wrong, I think that if we all spent a little more time thinking about others, our world would be a better place), but ALSO… think about YOU! Remember, you are important as well. Taking the time to breathe, to get some fresh air, to clear your head, and to move your body, you will be more able to meet the needs of others and it will be less stressful and tiring for you. So at this time of added expectations, whether real or imagined, take that time… even just a minute … for YOU! Make this your gift to yourself, and BREATHE….January will be here before we know it!

Merry Christmas, Honuka, Kwanza, Festivus, Solstice, or whatever season this is for you……. May this be the best one ever for you, and your loved ones.

What is Yoga?

You could ask this question to a thousand yogis and get a thousand different answers. The reason being that each of us understand yoga a bit differently. Our different backgrounds, lives, beliefs, needs and goals all help to shape our belief of what yoga means to us. I find this to be a fascinating thing about the practice; it is whatever it needs to be. The practice is as individual as we all are. We can take what we need, and what works for us that day. We see the benefits that ourselves and others get, and the beauty is that this does not have to be the same from day to day. Yoga is fluid.

Some yogis found yoga in search of a physical challenge. There is certainly this aspect when we push ourselves into poses, breathe as we move and focus on deepening into our stretch, working from simple to challenging poses. Some practices increase exertion levels, moving with every breath, generating a cardio-vascular workout. Other classes focus on muscle conditioning by holding challenging poses for several breaths. We stretch, condition and strengthen our muscles, fascia, tendons, ligaments and their corresponding attachments when we practice, so yes, it can be a very physical practice.

Others found yoga when searching for a spiritual path. When we open ourselves to the universe, we accept energy from the planet, from the universe, and from others practicing in the same room with us. This energy or spirit guides us through our practice, gives us strength and courage and encourages us to go deeper. When we allow our focus to be on the here and now, the present, we can find this spiritual side to yoga as we become more aware of ourselves, and the world around us.

Our emotions can be triggered during a practice as well, and some are in search of a deeper emotional connection when they find Yoga. As we move our bodies, stay connected, search for deeper meaning, we often find that this brings up emotions we would have otherwise kept suppressed. As we work through tightness and resistance in our physical bodies, we release energy back into the body. This energy can, at times, manifest itself as an emotional response.

Still others simply want to have an experience whereby they can sit in stillness and find clarity and peace of mind. We begin on this journey when we come to rest on our mat and draw awareness to our breath, and encourage our outside thoughts to blur in the background. As we live in a hectic, busy world where we are always connected, we often find Yoga to be our solace. This is where we come to get away from the “rat-race” if only for a short period of time. This time on our mat becomes sacred to us and we strive to practice daily, even if just to escape for a while.

While I have highlighted some of the benefits of a regular practice, and offered some of the reasons we come to our mats, there are still myriad reasons people find themselves in Yoga. There are as many reasons to practice as there are practitioners of Yoga. Each of us on our own individual journey, always striving, always growing, always seeking stillness. As Yoga combines breath and movement, body mind and spirit are guided through a series of poses. We move our joints to their full ranges of motion, we stretch, contract and rest our muscles, our internal organs, our connective tissues. What we get out of our practice depends on what our goals are, and the effort we put into our practice.

Whether you are brand new, just thinking about it, or a seasoned yogi, there is always benefit and reward to coming onto your mat to practice. You need not have any experience, you will get exactly what you need from the first time you try a class. You don’t need to be flexible, you do not need a particular body type or level of fitness. In fact, Yoga can be done by everyone. Age, gender, race, religion, socio-economic background, size, shape, fitness level…and any other box we put ourselves into become irrelevant, the only thing we need is a desire. Yoga is inclusive, Yoga is love, Yoga is life. Try it, you might just surprise yourself!

Why Yoga?

One of the questions I am often asked is “why do you do yoga?” Yoga is a very personal practice and while many of you may share my reasons for taking the first step onto the mat, there are as many other reasons as there are yogis.

I began my journey to the mat because I was searching for balance in my life. At that time I was working several jobs and spinning my wheels trying to keep up with a hectic work and social schedule, pay bills, and all of the other trappings of life. At that time, I didn’t realize what I was searching for, but I knew that life wasn’t meant to be what it was at that time. On one particular visit to my chiropractor to get yet another adjustment to my locked SI joint, and my subluxated cervical spine, she asked me if I had ever considered Yoga. I hadn’t. I immediately thought back to my Mom doing Yoga in our living room in the mid 70’s, certainly not something I was interested in. At that time however, I had come to realize that any suggestion to help alleviate pain and increase my range of motion was worth at least investigation.

I walked into my first yoga studio knowing nothing. I had no idea what all of the different class offerings meant, I had no idea what my goals were, nor really what yoga was. My first class was certainly over my head and I really should not have been in that class. My ego was leading me through poses as I tried to keep up with the bendy, pretzel shaped regulars, and I had no idea what I was doing. The next day I was stiff and sore, but I had had something awoken in me. I wanted to attend another class. I wasn’t sure what drew me back, certainly it wasn’t to try and contort myself into the myriad shapes of these crazy poses! Looking back now, I know that it was the feeling of being grounded, and centered. Learning to breathe and integrate that with movement gave me more than I could even articulate, and this is why I returned.

Luckily, I found a more beginner’s paced class and everything about that class felt right. I could move to the asanas (poses) easily and I could focus on breathing, listening intently to the masterful guidance of the teacher, and letting go of my ego. From there, every class got easier and I started to understand what I was doing.

Since the early days of my practice, I have spent many hours on my mat, and every time I do, I feel better. I feel more connected, I feel more grounded, balanced. I have a much increased range of motion, and I rarely need to visit a chiropractor. I am flexible and I injure myself less often, and when I do injure, I heal faster. I know that all of these benefits are directly attributed to my yoga practice. Aside from the physical, I can focus better, I can deal with challenging situations in life easier. These are the reasons I do yoga.

What are the reasons you do yoga, or, what are the reasons you haven’t tried it yet? Comment and tell me about your yogic journey or what holds you back from it!