Never Judge a Book By Its Cover…
by Kim Blanc, RCY Yoga Teacher
We’re all familiar with the phrase, but how often do we make snap judgements based on outward appearances? I recently began teaching yoga in a studio which is housed in an old print factory. Although the studio space inside is warm and inviting, many have commented that the outside of the building, to say the least, lacks charm. Well, this got me thinking …
I once attended a Zumba class at a local gym. While entering the dance studio, the woman in front of me, upon noticing the teacher, who was a little curvy, remarked “oh, come on, you’ve got to give me something to aspire to.” Clearly, in this woman’s opinion, the teacher lacked the body image expected of a fitness instructor. Feeling a little less than perfect myself, I hid in the back row and watched this amazing twenty-four-year-old, with youthful and vibrant energy, swivel her hips and dance with effortless ease and amazing grace. I thought to myself ‘wow! She’s amazing! Thank God she doesn’t let the judgement of others hinder her creative expression, her passion, her gift.’
On British television, Simon Cowell once stifled a laugh at the appearance of a woman who took the stage only to have to hold his jaw up with two hands when Susan Boyle began to sing with the voice of an angel. Susan Boyle, not exactly fitting the physical image of today’s musical idol, moved the world with her passionate and exquisite voice. If you’ve never heard her sing, you should.
Which brings us to the little yoga studio that could. Revolution Community Yoga in Westford may be a little rough around the edges, and you may need to go over a river and through the woods to reach us, but what lies within promises a warm and peaceful refuge.
My Journey to the Mat by Deirdre McWade, 200 Hour Certified Yoga teacher
Like many other Yogis and Yoga teachers I’ve met, chronic pain was what first brought me to my mat. In my early 20’s I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I had pain everywhere, from my neck to my feet. A friend suggested going to Baron Baptiste’s Power Yoga studio in Cambridge. So, I fought rush hour traffic to make the 5:45 class and I was hooked, from the first class. I bought the t-shirt, book, and the DVD:,’Journey into Power’. Oh, and a Krishna Das CD.
The heat and the poses unlocked tension, relieved pain, and the sequence offered a full body workout. To my achy bones, it felt like I was the Tinman who found the oilcan. The challenges of the backbends and the arm balances nurtured my competitive streak. Although, in all honesty, I did not yet appreciate the quiet of Savasana. That was almost 20 years ago, and there are days I still practice that DVD, which now lives as a video on my iPhone. It’s a sequence I never get tired of, and always find comfort in, like my Mother’s Shepard’s Pie.
I’ve tried other types of Yoga, like Bikram, Ashtanga, Yoga with weights, even Yoga on a Paddleboard. I draw the line with goats. And then, life aligned itself in a way that gave me the opportunity to become a teacher at Revolution Community Yoga in Acton and Westford.
I’ve been practicing under the guidance of Revolution Community Yoga teachers for quite a while now (no goats there…yet) and trained with Cindy to become a teacher. It’s been here, at our studio, that my practice has been truly nurtured. I was introduced to meditation, and Restorative Yoga, which brings calm and balance to my life off the mat. I now use Savasana to ground myself to the present moment, and I sneak in a little gratitude practice in that final side lying child’s pose, every time😊
I continue to seek Power and a good Vinyasa flow, it’s my shepard’s pie after all. Patanjali (OG Yogi) offered the perspective, that we achieve yoga by identifying and removing the kleshas (affliction or suffering) in our systems. For me, that used to mean a sweaty Vinyasa flow to get my joints moving in all directions, but I know that on the days that doesn’t show up for me, a slow flow or a restorative class gets the job done too, if the intention is there. Clearing the Kleshas of my mind and being able to find comfort while being still is a greater challenge than Crow, Wheel and Pigeon all Vinyasa’d together!
So, maybe you are considering taking a yoga class for the first time, because of your aches and pains, to relieve stress, or to kick your Kleshas to the curb. Or you want to tone up, lose weight, gain strength, find a sacred space, I don’t think the motivation that brings you to the mat matters. What matters is: you are opening yourself up to the possibility of change. And maybe you’ll get hooked. And buy the t-shirt.
The term “hatha” is traditionally defined as the “yoga of force”, which relates less to a forceful state and more to a state of discipline in the practice of asana (yoga poses). In practical terms “hatha” is the foundation of all asana practices in yoga including vinyasa flow and power. So, chances are if you are currently practicing flow-style yoga, you are well-versed in the poses of hatha. What differentiates hatha yoga from flow-style yoga is the absence of the flowing movements in and out of asana. Emphasis is placed on the breath while holding poses statically for 5-10 breaths, then simply moving into the next pose. Hatha allows for more time in each pose to practice using breath to open up the pose, as well as consider how the mind responds to periods of stillness.
Below is a list of what to expect in a Hatha class.
Meditation & Breathwork (Pranayama): Hatha classes traditionally begin with meditation and breathwork. Your teacher will lead you through this work as you focus the mind, recognize the breath, and create space for movement.
Warm Ups: After meditation, a series of classical or gentle sun salutations may be used to warm up the body. Sun Salutations are generally done slowly and may not follow a “one breath, one movement” principle often experienced in vinyasa. Once sun salutations are completed, they are not returned to in the practice.
The Poses: The practice continues with a series of poses held for 5 to 10 breaths organized through the energy centers of the body from root (feet, standing) to crown (inversions). A combination of standing, seated, and supine poses will be explored with periods of rest. Yoga poses such as Mountain Pose (Tadasana), the Warriors, balancing poses such as Tree or Eagle pose, and Twists such as Revolved Chair and seated twist are common. In addition, more challenging poses such as Boat or Camel may be practiced with variations so that students of all levels can benefit from the practice. The sequence of poses is varied for each class.
Savasana: The class ends with a silent or guided savasana.
Room Temp, Lighting, and Sound: The hatha class is taught at room temperature with soft lighting and soft music. Emphasis is placed on a meditative state with limited distraction.
Is Hatha a form of Gentle Yoga?: Not always. Hatha yoga is set at a slower pace than a vinyasa class, which can benefit many students. It is important to note that sun salutations are offered as a warm up, and challenging poses may be explored with variation. Students are encouraged to take the class at their own pace. As with any class it is important to discuss any limitations with your instructor before class so that options can be provided to you.
What if I need a break while holding a pose? No problem. You can always ease out of the pose for a breath or two before returning. A full array of props is available, and blocks, blankets and straps are encouraged.
Hands-On Assists: Hands-on assists may be offered in class when appropriate. Flip chips are used when assists will be offered so that as a student you can decide whether or not you would like an assist, and can flip back and forth at any time in your practice.
Hatha yoga is a terrific way to take time to explore poses and to take time to learn more about yourself in your journey of yoga. This style of yoga is suitable for all levels, and is a wonderful compliment to a vinyasa or flow-based practice.
Does the idea of laying around supported by blankets and pillows for 60-75 minutes sound heavenly, like ahhhhhhh, or create an instant tightening of the jaw and that catch of anxiety in the belly? Either way, Restorative Yoga may be just what you need.
In teacher training, Restorative Yoga was one of the final segments taught. In my experience, lying down in Yoga was something that happened at the end, not for the whole hour! The kind of Yoga that I sought out was usually preceded by hot, power or sculpt so that when you reach Savasana at the end of class, you feel like you really earned it. So, how did I go from that mindset to embracing and even teaching a weekly restorative class?
My teacher Cindy is fantastic, seriously, if they gave Yogi’s PhD’s she’d have two. She trained with Bo Forbes, so we learned Bo’s postures and practice philosophy. Bo is a yoga therapist superstar who believes yoga therapy it to be a more effective intervention than talk therapy in the treatment of anxiety and low-level depression. If you’re interested in the science, check it out: Interactive Journal of Yoga Therapy Article
So, I was curious, but by first restorative practice didn’t go well. I couldn’t relax, no posture was comfortable, and my thoughts were negative and judgmental, I felt like I wasn’t ‘doing it right’. When I told my fellow teachers, ‘I just don’t get Restorative’, without judgement, they would say: ‘that must mean you really need it.’ My lovely friend even left a copy Relax and Renew on my doorstep. So, determined to crack the relaxation code, I re-read my notes, did some light Bo Forbes cyber stalking, read my book cover to cover, and started to practice.
It wasn’t so much the weight loss that triggered my curiosity, rather the reason for it. By consciously relaxing, and observing the relaxation response, the participants in the study likely reduced their cortisol levels, and that lead to not only weight loss, but subcutaneous fat loss. Sounds like a mind body connection, right?
The postures lower cortisol levels by moving the nervous system from fight or flight to rest and restore. And we are in fight or flight a lot. However, if you can move yourself to rest and restore, the vital functions of your body, like circulation, digestion, hormone and immune system regulation kick in. It takes about 20 minutes for that transition to occur, hence the longer holds for restorative postures. The practice is cumulative, so, the more often you practice the postures, the quicker you can settle into rest and restore. So, it wasn’t that I wasn’t doing it right, I wasn’t doing it enough, I didn’t have enough practice.
Because, here’s the thing, you must give it some time. When you first settle into the posture, your body relaxes, your breath slows down, you feel supported and grounded with your props, and then, suddenly, the committee upstairs starts to chatter. You start to ruminate, worry, rehearse conversations, re-run the reel of your mother in laws/bosses/spouse’s greatest hits. It starts to get really busy up there, think Disney Pixar’s: Inside Out.
Now, I practice the postures regularly, and I see the benefits. I set myself up when my house gets quiet at night, after 9pm. I always anticipated doing a posture or two, but end up going from one posture to the next and before I know it, an hour has passed. I find I sleep much better. When I practice, I noticed a gripping, or tensing in my left hip, I breath into the gripping to release the hold, and when I notice the same gripping while sitting at my desk, or driving, I breath and consciously release the tension there. It really helps! So, better sleep and less hip pain, I’d call that a productive use of an hour after all!
So, give it a try! If you would like a guided practice, I teach Sunday nights in Westford at the Revolution Community Yoga location in Millworks. See you on the mat😊
My first 5 years of yoga only happened along side a VHS cassette in the privacy of my own home. I was terrified to walk into a yoga studio. I was terrified to fail, to be seen, to be seen as fat. I judged myself so harshly and was sure others would only see the bad I saw in myself. It wasn’t just yoga that was affected, my dreams of surfing, shopping and doing anything physical in front of others was also indefinitely on hold.
Today, I teach 10 yoga classes a week, using my body, my voice, my whole self. I surf, I bike, I feel comfortable coming in last when I am learning something new. My body is stronger, and I am more confident in my body. Who I am no longer feels separate from my body. I can no longer look at my body with criticism and blame because I feel its voice and support within me all the time. Today I love, appreciate and trust my body and myself.
But my body is the same size it was a decade ago when I was in hiding. It wasn’t an external transformation that made the difference – it was an internal one. What I’ve learned from working with dozens of people all shapes and sizes is that learning to love your body rarely comes from trying to change it.
What is Body-Shaming?
Body-Shaming is the action or practice of humiliating yourself or someone else with mocking or critical comments about body, shape, size, eating habits, or dress. Essentially is it judging the physical as though that were an accurate representation of the whole person – and unfortunately it is common practice today. Shame, embarrassment, self-hate, insecurity and isolation are common but silent results of sometimes casual and sometimes cruel comments.
Body shaming can come from media, from mothers, from friends. A recent study interviewing over 1000 people showed that 83% of men and 93% of woman have been body-shamed in their lives. It also showed that if you have been body shamed you are 34% more likely to body-shame and judge someone else.(1)
Have you ever heard: “You’re too skinny, too fat, too short, too tall to ever get a girlfriend/boyfriend… your nose it too big… your hair is too curly… you’ll never be taken seriously in that outfit…are you seriously going to eat that?!” You are not alone!
This kind of body shaming translates into a belief that if something were physically different about you, you would be better, more lovable, more capable and worthy as a person. It comes with a need to either hide or exploit this “bad” part of you in order control the way others perceive you. You might be dealing with body shame if you:
• hate being naked in front of your partner or wearing a bathing suit on the beach
• avoid having your picture taken because you don’t like how you look
• have a hard time standing up for yourself because you don’t feel powerful in your body
• have not gone to that class or applied for that promotion because you are afraid how you will look to people
Whether you live your life the way you want with occasional insecurities or if you regularly hold yourself back, it is possible to break free from the shackles of body-shame! It is possible to become a cheerleader and chariot for others!
From Body Shame to Body Love
1) NOTICE. Notice when you are internally judging yourself or someone else. Notice when you hear someone being judged – whether it is on TV, in a magazine, on the internet or in person. What deeper patterns are going on in yourself and in the world? What do people get out of judging each other’s bodies? When and why you do you find yourself believing the judgments? Where do you notice positive body messages being shared?
2) CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE. Gandhi said, “He who does not see God in the next person he meets, need look no further.” Most of us, thanks to the media, to fairytales, to cultural messages from our families have been very stunted in our ability to see beauty. But beauty, wisdom, grace, love… it is everywhere, and it is in everyone! Whatever your judgment is towards – create a quest to find beautiful people who hold those qualities.
3) IT’S WHAT ON THE INSIDE THAT COUNTS. Yes, you have a physical body that needs to be cared for – but there is also an intricate and vast inner world filled with a unique combination of gifts, strengths, passions and perspectives that only you have to offer. Have you spent time developing, understanding and awaking your inner beauty? Have you spent time falling in love with your true self?
4) ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS. No matter what’s going on, no matter how you feel about yourself, you still need to love and care for your physical form on a physical level. The act of loving and caring will bring you deeper into the feeling loving and caring. Choose to recognize positive features when you look in the mirror. Choose to find the good. Choose to keep your body clean, well nourished, well rested, take it on dates and out for walks. Challenge your body sometimes – so you can know what it’s capable of. Give it a good massage to celebrate and appreciate it. Be devoted to your body’s care the way it is devoted to holding you.
5) YOGA. There are many styles of yoga you might fall in love with – but yoga doesn’t always have to happen on a mat. A dear yoga teacher of mine claims his first regular yoga practice was actually while playing tennis. Yoga is the experience of getting out of your head and into your body. It is about observing the union of your body mind and spirit in the present moment. Yoga takes practice. So, find something you can do everyday that inspires you to land in your body and feel every sensation with curiosity and non-judgment.
Body-shaming is a serious problem that affects most of us but some more than others. If you need more support than what this article offers, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me, a therapist, teacher or someone you trust. I’d like to end the same way as I end all my yoga classes: I invite you to take a moment to bow to your own heart, to the light and love in you and the light and love that lives in all, “NAMASTE.” If we can practice living and seeing ourselves and each other from this place, there would be great healing, freedom and possibilities for ourselves, our bodies and the world.
How many times have you run down the stairs, lunged for door and shouted (nicely!) over your shoulder, “I’m going to yoga. I just need SPACE!”. Demands of work, family and life in general can leave us feeling drained, smothered, cluttered – and all you think is that if you can get to the studio and put your mat down, you will find that space. As you open the studio door, maybe a few minutes later than you would like, you are shattered to see that each perfectly laid yoga mat has a 3-foot perimeter surrounding it and the students are giving you that wide-eyed look that says “Please don’t make me move my mat. It will get crowded!”. Alas, it appears there is no…space.
Let’s think about the fundamental idea of space in yoga. We come to our mats to find space in many ways. Space from the challenges and responsibilities which keep our brains churning for far too long each day. There is even a concept now that we need “white space” in our lives to balance all of the visual noise. We also look to our poses to find space in our bodies – moving energy that gets stuck, lubricating joints, and lengthening our muscles. We can all agree that these space concepts are inherent in the yoga practice.
But when we come to physical space, the space gets grey. Some sources say a 2’x6’ yoga mat with a 5-inch perimeter will need approximately 16 square feet of space. Others say 21 square feet. In a studio of 800 square feet, that is between 38 and 50 practitioners – that is a big variance, but NYC studios have been known to “Tetris” people into fitting. That was a lot of math, let’s take a breath.
In some studios I have practiced in, I have been “lucky” to have 2 solid inches between me and my new best yoga friend. In my early years of practicing, like most people, I had a few thoughts about how close this stranger was to me: where were arms and legs going to land, am I going to feel his/her breath, and what if, heaven forbid, we actually touch each other?! But I remember back to one of my trusted teachers who addressed this in teacher training. She said if you find yourself a little nervous about your proximity to your neighbor, acknowledge it (in your head!), breathe and most importantly, remember what Yoga actually means! Yoga translates to many of the following: to unite, to join, to yoke – you are coming to this practice to be together!
So I took this to heart, and when I am in those busy classes, I always find after a little bit of flow, my neighbor and I figure out to navigate each other; I take my arms forward instead of outstretched, he takes an extra breath in forward fold and comes to stand after me, or I skip a side crow so as to not put my foot in her face. And usually, I find there is a smile after class, we part and probably don’t give another thought to that feeling we had at the beginning of the class because we respectfully welcomed each other into our space.
The philosophy of this space idea is well and good, but we do need a few tactical ideas how to make this work. Here are some thoughts:
When you put your mat down, you do NOT have to line up in perfect rows. A little staggering of the front edges of your mats will give you each some space when take arms horizontally. Also consider taking your arms vertically rather than out to the side and bringing hands together through heart center. When a student sees you do it, they will do it too! Space created!
If you already have your mat down and are settled but see that downtrodden person come in late looking for a space, take the initiative to move your mat a few inches – others will see your good deed and do the same. A few inches here and a few inches there, adds up to the space for a yogi! And think of how that small gesture of literally making room for a yogi could make that person feel so welcomed!
Keep your props tidy! If you have a blanket, 2 blocks and strap, fold the blanket neatly, stack the blocks on top, strap on top of the blocks and place the bundle the back of your mat. Your mat space should NOT look like a 16-year-old’s room exploded!
When in doubt, ask the teacher! It is part of our job to “manage the room”. If I see a busy class forming, I will often step into the room and instruct how many rows we need and how many people in each row. Don’t be offended if a teacher asks you to move – we want each person to feel as welcomed as you did.
Remember, you may not get Taylor Swift tickets, the seats on the train might be taken and someone might put their towel down at the beach and block your ocean view, but in our studio, we always have, and will make, space for you.
ALTRUISM “May I do a great deal of good without ever knowing it.” – Wilbur Wilson Thoburn
In the early seventies, my passion for biology and the sea led me to serve as a volunteer at Lerner Marine Laboratory in the Bahamas. I assisted a biologist from Brandeis who was researching the ever-so-brief life cycle of the intelligent and wondrous Octopus vulgarism, which we know as the common octopus.
My work afforded me the rare chance to witness a captive female octopus spawn her eggs after she was fertilized. Hundreds of thousands of translucent, tear-drop-shaped eggs, each the size of a grain of rice, were spun out of her mantle into long, lacy strands that hung in the water of the aquarium where she was captive. As the weeks passed, she floated like a cloud above them, not hunting or eating, just gently moving the water around the knotted thread of eggs that were slowly maturing. Hovering over her eggs, keeping them aerated, she hardly budged, and her body slowly began to disintegrate, becoming food for her brood as they hatched. The mother octopus died to feed her offspring, her flesh the communion meal for her hatchlings.
I was puzzled and moved by the strange sight of this beautiful creature dissolving before my eyes. Although her sacrifice was not true altruism per se, but part of the natural life cycle of her species, this octopus mother brought up a lot of questions for me about human behavior—questions about altruism, self-sacrifice, and harm. When is human altruism healthy? When do we give so much to others that we can harm ourselves in the process? How do we recognize when our altruism might be self-centered and unhealthy? How do we nurture the seeds of healthy altars in a world where being hurried and uncaring is so often the order of the day? How does altruism go off the rails and over the edge?
To act altruistically is to take unselfish actions that enhance the welfare of others, usually at some cost or risk to our own well-being. When we are able to stand firm in altruism, we encounter each other without the shadow of expectation and need lurking between us. The recipient of our kindness may discover trust in human goodness, and we ourselves enriched by the goodness of giving.
However, when our physical and emotional safety is at risk, it can be challenging to keep our feet planted on solid ground; it’s all too easy to lose our footing and free-fall into harmful forms of serving. We might help in a way that undermines our own needs. We might inadvertently hurt the one we’re trying to help by disempowering them and take away their agency. And we might “appear” altruistic, but our motivation is not well grounded.
Standing at the edge of altruism, we gain a view of the vast horizon of human kindness and wisdom—so long as we avoid falling into the swamp of egoism and need. And if we do find ourselves stuck in the swamp, our struggle doesn’t have to be in vain. If we can work with our difficulties, we might be compelled to figure out how we got there and how we can avoid falling of the edge again. We might also get a good lesson in humility. This is hard work—but it’ good work that builds character and helps us become wiser, humbler, and more resilient.
How can we transform annoyance into compassion? I have come to know that one way, for sure, is through understanding. In other words, by coming to know the truth.
Recently, I attended a 3-day meditation retreat where I sat with about a hundred people in complete silence and stillness for periods at a time. After a few sessions, I came to treasure the experience of complete silence, with nothing to focus on but my breath. On the second day of the retreat I came into the meditation hall, took my seat and we all began our meditation. A few minutes later I noticed a sound coming from the person beside me. I thought to myself “what is she doing?” It then became clear to me that she was swallowing hard. This swallowing went on for the remainder of the session. I kept thinking that it would eventually stop but it didn’t, it continued consistently with a swallow about every 30 seconds.
Practicing my meditation, I watched as my annoyance with this sound became more intense. By the end of the session my annoyance had turned to anger. I was so mad at this woman for being so annoying. When the bell rang, signaling the end of the session, I opened my eyes and saw that this woman had tears streaming down her face. In a split second, my anger was gone, and I felt nothing but compassion as I realized that the reason she was swallowing so hard was because she had been trying not to cry. (You know that hard swallow if you have ever had to try your hardest to hold back tears.) Wow! What a lesson! I felt my annoyance and anger melt and compassion engulf me. By understanding the truth of the situation, I felt only compassion and empathy for this woman. She wasn’t trying to be annoying, the truth is, she was suffering.
I am so grateful to this woman who taught me so much. For example, when someone comes late to yoga class, I take a moment to think “I’m glad they made it to class” and I am happy to do my part to ease them into the class by moving my mat if need be. You see, people don’t want to come into a yoga class late. For most, it’s actually quite embarrassing. As a teacher, I have had students who came late to class explain to me that they had a hard time breaking away from a crying child, they got a speeding ticket because they were hurrying to be on time, and a woman who explained that she drives over thirty minutes to get to the studio and on this particular day there was an accident. Imagine going through any of that only to arrive and feel unwelcome.
Throughout my life, I have often wondered why we are here on this earth. To date, through a lot of study (self and otherwise), the best answer I have come up with as to why we are here on this earth is evolution of the soul. And I have found that one way to evolve our soul is to serve one another. So, whether it’s helping someone reach an item while in the grocery store or moving our mat to accommodate a fellow human being, service is service. Try it! You’ll see that doing a kind act for someone else lifts your spirit and, if you ask me, that’s the same as evolving our soul.
Om Shanti, Shanti.
Peace, Peace, Peace
July 13, 2018
Self-care is a very popular topic these days. There are a multitude of articles and social media posts dedicated to this subject. What exactly is self-care? Wikipedia defines self-care as “any necessary human regulatory function, which is under individual control, deliberate and self-initiated” . How does self-care look and why is it so important to your well-being?
I will tell you a tale and in doing so will attempt to answer the two questions above. I lost my mother at a very young age and was raised by my maternal grandparents. While my grandparents provided a home for me there is nothing that compares to a mother’s love. I grew up with friends who complained about their mothers and all the while I would think how I would love it if my mother were around to annoy me. Growing up without a mother made me envision all the ways in which I would interact with my children when I had them.
I had my children, three exactly and continued to work full time. I did my best not to miss a school assembly, parent/teacher conference, art show, or any school related activity. While in attendance at these school functions I would monitor the time, think about work related deadlines and plan out the night’s dinner. I was a serial multi-tasker! I also grew up with a grandmother who cooked all three of our meals. Preparing home cooked meals for my family was also very important for me. I began to burn out but I kept pushing forward. I did so by decreasing my sleep time, decreasing the time I spent going to the gym, decreasing the time I spent with friends, and I gave up yoga completely. I had no time for all of life’s extras, as I thought of these activities at the time.
Slowly but surely I began to dislike cooking and dreaded leaving work because as I joked I was off to my second job. There would be laundry, dishes and homework waiting for me. There would also be behavior issues to deal with as my children began to try to grab hold of my attention. I no longer found any joy in helping my family. I assisted my family out of obligation and not love. After finding my way back to yoga I began to slow down. I began to take time for myself. In doing so I began to appreciate life and all its moments. I stayed with my breath and calmly helped navigate my children through the moments when they asserted themselves, as I saw this as practice for when they needed to advocate for themselves. This simple change had an enormous effect, as I did not allow my children’s roller coaster emotions dictate my riding this roller coaster with them. I no longer monitored the time when I chose to be at school for an event, because I would never get this moment back. The joy on my child’s face when they saw me in the audience helped me remain present.
Just as everyone’s yoga practice is different and personal so is self-care. Some may need more rest, others may need more activity, some will need time alone for self-study and reflection, and others will need more time with family and friends. In order to determine what care you may need to become your best self I urge you to come to a quiet place and just observe the thoughts that enter and leave your consciousness. Journal these thoughts and hopefully a pattern will arise that will lead you on the path to your self-care journey.
My name is Tina and I teach a slow and mindful Vinyasa class every Sunday @ 4:30pm at RCY Westford. I invite you to attend my classes to check in with your breath and turn your attention inward.
This is one of my favorite meals once the weather warms up! It’s so refreshing to have as lunch or dinner outside in the grass, usually with a nice cold beer! This dish is also super easy and requires no oven or stove or anything as well! You basically chuck a bunch of ingredients in the food processor and whiz that around, let it hang out in the fridge for a little while then its done. It’s a perfect go to for those hot days when you can’t make yourself turn the hot appliances. This is seriously so good and so refreshing! Perfect for the warm summer weather! As always, let me know if you make this! (Read more from Kristen’s food blog at http://www.beetsandbarefeet.com)
Ingredients / Serves 4-6
4 large tomatoes chopped (make sure they are fresh and really ripe!)
1 large zucchini chopped
1 stick of celery chopped
1 large english cucumber chopped
1/2 a red onion chopped
2-4 cloves of garlic
2 11.5 oz cans tomato juice (you would use 23-24 oz any type of tomato juice you choose, I personally like just plain tomato juice.)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
salt and pepper
Mix all the chopped veggies together
In a food processor add the tomato juice and garlic and process until smooth.
Add 3/4 of the mixed chopped veggies and the red wine vinegar and the cilantro and pulse until chopped small but still a little chunky. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste, I usually end up adding 1/2-1 teaspoon of each.
Cover and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, the longer the more the flavors meld and the better it tastes.
To serve top with some of the reserved mixed chopped veggies, some more cilantro. I love serving it with crusty bread topped with avocado.
Springtime has arrived! Here in New England, spring is gradually making its’ presence known, between the warmer temperatures, greener trees, and the increase of bird species at the feeder.
For many, spring is a time of anticipation and fondness for warmth after the cold winter season. The energy of spring brings an excitement for getting outside and back to our gardens. The sunny, longer days give us motivation to fire up the grills or meet friends for an evening stroll or an outdoor dinner on the deck.
You may also notice a natural shift in your energy levels, where you want to move more, as opposed to winter when the inclination is to rest and stay indoors. All of these exciting changes that we witness in the Spring are simply signs that our bodies are in tune with their natural rhythm. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory, Spring and Summer are ‘yang’, (representing male, creativity, heat, and light), seasons, where Fall and Winter are ‘yin’ (representing female, earth, dark and cold), seasons. Yin and yang, (pronounced ‘y-ahhh-ng’), represent balance, and like in nature, our body, mind and spirit needs to be in balance in order to remain healthy.
Simply, in the Spring and Summer, we may notice we naturally feel more energetic or excited about starting creative projects. In the Fall and Winter, we notice a desire to hibernate, stay indoors and turn inward.
Every season in TCM has an associated organ. In the Spring, the organ is the Liver. The Liver Channel is in charge of the smooth flow of qi and blood in the 12 Channels, or Meridians of the body. If you think of the body as a roadmap, the 12 channels are like highways, and ideally, we like to travel on these highways without traffic or interruption. When there is an accident or an excess of traffic, we are no longer traveling in a smooth, consistent manner. This analogy can be applied to the body as well. When we are healthy, we feel good, our blood is moving efficiently and nourishing all of our tissues, and we are in balance. When an injury, an illness, or a lifestyle choice offsets the balance, we become sick, irritable, or just off. Furthermore, the liver controls the muscles and tendons, and the associated emotion is anger.
If you notice that you’re more irritable, impatient, or your muscles are tighter or more sore than usual in the Springtime, this is an indication that the liver is out of balance. Diet, yoga, sleep and meditation are all great ways to address this imbalance. As a practitioner, I have noticed a trend with patients in the Springtime–I often see more pain cases than usual, and emotionally, they often report that they are feeling depressed or irritable. Amy Yapp, one of our RCY teachers, shares her observation that class attendance tends to wane in the springtime: “It can feel counterintuitive to stop and take time for a yoga class while the weather is improving, and the calendar is filling up. Yet, carving out time for yoga is the perfect anecdote for feeling out of balance. Keeping up a regular yoga practice keeps our joints healthier and our muscles more supple for all of the things we love to do during the warmer months. One of my greatest joys this time of year is hearing from our students that they are noticing a deeper sense of connection to the many gifts of spring.” And knowing the connection to the liver and the muscles, doesn’t it make sense to keep practicing?
Learn how Yoga & Acupuncture are The Perfect Team at our workshop this Friday, May 11th at 7:30 PM at Revolution Community Yoga. In this 2-hour workshop, you will flow through a calming, supportive yoga practice focused on balance and releasing stuck energy patterns that can lead to pain and tightness. During the second hour, you will relax in Final Resting Pose and receive an Acupuncture treatment designed to help balance the liver and calm the spirit. You will leave feeling relaxed and ready for a great night of sleep. This workshop is ideal for all levels and the perfect way to kick off Mother’s Day Weekend!
According to traditional health care systems like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine, spring is a time of transformation and detoxification. Whether you look at it through the lens of energy moving, alignment with the seasons, or the liver and kidneys stepping up their detoxification activities, it’s happening! This spring you have a powerful choice to make – partner with your body in this endeavor or no. If you choose the former, and we hope you will, you can harness this natural process and clear months and even years of toxins, sludge (called “ama” in Ayurveda or plaques and biofilms in the west), and stagnation, reduce inflammation, and set your body back to its default state is that of radiant health. When you do that, you have energy, your skin glows, your brain works, you lose weight… and you will feel amazing! It even improves your outlook on life.
To do a very simple Ayurvedic cleanse on your own, you could drink water with freshly squeezed lemon in the morning, drink lots of water throughout the day, exercise, get restorative rest, and eat a mono diet of kitchari for a few days or a week. Set the time frame you can commit to, get your supplies, and just do it! We do this version occasionally when we need a reset.
That’s just one easy example but there are many cleanses you can choose from… we know because we’ve done most of them! Some were completely insane, some didn’t seem effective, and some were way too unpalatable for our palates. Like the Buddha choosing the middle path after experimenting with the extremes, we have found that a moderate approach to cleansing that is sustainable and even enjoyable is the best approach for long term success. In our luxurious, 28-day program, we slowly transform our lifestyle and diet to create more wellness. We focus on anti-inflammatory, healing, nourishing whole foods and lifestyle practices, with a powerful synergistic effect. Our cleansers have had amazing transformations in their health, reversing chronic conditions like arthritis, psoriasis, digestive issues, and more. One woman near and dear to our heart credits the cleanse with her conceiving a baby!
Have you always wanted to begin an early morning yoga practice but have been too tired to try?
There are so many benefits to beginning your day with a yoga practice, not least of which is that a morning practice encourages health all day. We treat ourselves better, make healthier food choices and exhibit more kindness and mindfulness when we’ve gifted ourselves with a morning yoga practice.
Below are some of the many benefits that come with an early morning practice. Perhaps you will be inspired to give it a try—you never know, it may become your new favorite thing!
You will be calmer all day. Practicing yoga early in the morning will set the tone for your whole day. It will calm and center you before you have to step out into the craziness of life.
A morning practice is easier to keep. When the early morning alarm clock sounds it’s easy to tell ourselves “I’ll go to yoga tonight” and then a meeting at work, fatigue or a glass of wine keeps us from getting to our mat. Having an established morning routine is a surefire way to be consistent in your practice.
You may actually sleep better. Morning yoga has been proven to regulate sleep rhythm and even balance your hormones. Once you make a habit out of practicing upon waking up, your body will become accustomed to the routine resulting in more energy, more balance, and best of all, more restful sleep.
Early morning yoga may boost your metabolism. Practicing yoga early in the morning will warm up your digestive system and help nutrients move more easily through the body throughout the day thus causing it to metabolize food more quickly and efficiently.
You begin your day feeling GREAT! Guaranteed!
HOW TO WAKE UP FOR EARLY MORNING YOGA
FIRST AND FOREMOST: Get rid of the “not a morning person” myth. That’s just a story the ego tells itself. Being a “night person” might point to adrenal fatigue and that can be healed though yoga practice.
The night before, put the clothes you are going to wear to yoga in your bathroom and set your alarm.
When your alarm goes off and you think to yourself “no way!” just put your feet on the floor and go brush your teeth knowing that you can still go back to bed if you so choose after brushing your teeth. When you’re done brushing, look at your yoga clothes and ask yourself “do I want to go back to bed or go to yoga?” Chances are you will be awake enough now that you will put your yoga clothes on.
Grab a quick cup of tea or coffee and get in your car. DO NOT SIT DOWN AT YOUR COMPUTER. Enjoy your ride to the yoga studio by noticing how peaceful and beautiful the world is before dawn. If you’re lucky, you may even see the sunrise. There is definitely something to be said for being up before the rest of the world:) (note: if you drink coffee and have an automatic programmable coffee maker, you might want to set it to brew before you wake. The smell of coffee might be enough to get you out of bed, the proverbial dangling of a carrot, if you will. If you can do this without coffee, go for it. But since we’re discussing ways to help get a morning practice up and running, I think it’s worth a consideration.)
Have faith during those dark mornings when you’re sleepy and stumbling over your two left feet, when you’re cold and crabby and thinking you should just head back to bed, that it is all worth it. And have faith that you are not alone. There are practitioners all over the world doing the exact same thing, probably feeling lots of the same things you’re feeling.
Sign up for class the night before. Now you’ve set an intention.
Believe in why you’re doing this. There are many reasons why we practice yoga, but I think we can all agree that it makes us feel better. The more you can put your finger on why you love your yoga practice, the simpler all the other steps will be.
21 days to make it a habit. Early morning yoga–over time–actually rewires you physically, emotionally and spiritually. It’s in these more relaxed and quiet moments that we, in some way, are most connected with ourselves. By getting up early, we practice before the mind turns on to worry about the rest of the day.
I am often asked by students for suggestions on how to create a home practice. My sense of humility surges to the surface of my being as I take on a response to what I consider a sacred interaction between student to student, teacher to teacher, student and guide. What I mean by this is: I will always be a student of Yoga, students will always be their own teacher, and I am a guide for an experience when they come to class.
Let go of expectations The first thing I say is to let go of expectations. Let go of the length of time you set in your mind about how long to practice, let go of what outfit you’ll wear, let go of having to show up to your mat in a certain mental or physical state—don’t feel you have to feel fit or have a positive mental outlook or have more than an hour to spend on your mat or what poses you’ll do. Let go….of all that. Come as you are—in your pajamas, having a blah mental outlook, and not knowing what poses you’ll do or even if you can sit for a minute. Being able to arrive on your mat just as you are is Yoga.
Breathe Once you are on your mat, breathe. Just breathe. Breathe in the nose and out of the mouth a few times, and then begin taking slow, deep, conscious breaths through the nostrils. Notice a sense of stillness that comes about. Take your time. As you breathe, notice what body part wants to move with the breath and move it. Honor your range of motion and move with breath and intention—this will help reduce the risk of injury. As you warm up, you may find that a few movements with the breath is it for the day. And that is fine. Come back the next day. As you warm up, you may notice yourself wanting to move longer, take on certain poses, or hold poses longer. Go for it. Let your breath guide your movement naturally and creatively, without thinking about it. As you continue, you may notice your body taking on counter poses to balance out the pose you just did. Trust in the wisdom of your body.
Find a time that works Find a time that works with your schedule and be open to the length of time, as mentioned above. If you try and find that a certain time of day is not working out, try another time of the day. Keep trying and know it may be different on different days. Know that one day your body may want to move or only have time for 5 minutes, another day it may be 30 minutes, and the next day it may be 2 minutes of conscious breathing only. Be open and welcoming.
Be curious about space Be curious about the space your beautiful body takes. As you move, notice how your body can move about space…below, above, front, back, right side, left side. You may notice a more intimate sense of being IN relationship with your body.
When moving with the breath and conscious action, you are allowing the body to respond to what is needed versus using the mind to respond to what is needed. When allowing the mind to enter into the decision-making, it is preempting the opportunity for the body to respond. Notice if you feel a sense of freedom and stillness when you let your body respond. You and this stillness are one.
Let your experience be as it is At the end of your practice, take some time to integrate your experience in Savasana. The Sanskrit word, Savasana, translates into corpse pose signifying the end of practice. It is an important pose as it gives your body the opportunity to take in and integrate the previous parts of your practice. It is a pose where a sense of calm, relaxation, and stillness is encouraged. Find a position on the floor that you find most restful. Take a few letting go breaths, in the nose and out of the mouth. Eventually allow the breath to be free. Invite release and softening in the physical body surrendering to the gentle pull of gravity underneath you. Release any holding there might be in the body and make any adjustments, including using rolled up blankets to support any areas, as you need so that the body can start to quiet and soften.
As thoughts and feelings come, spend time to acknowledge them with a sense of compassion and curiosity resisting the urge to get pulled into them, resisting the urge to ignore them, and resisting the urge to judge what is coming up. After acknowledging, see if you can let these thoughts and feelings be just for the remainder of your practice. Gradually, return attention back to your breath, allowing your breath to be a focal point for the mind. Eventually, as you are ready, let the mind be free.
As you align these layers, the breath, the body and the mind, you might find the idea of relaxing and letting be might be a little more attainable. From here, there is nothing else to do and nowhere to go, but to simply be.
Close your practice Finally, close your practice in some way. Maybe it is bringing your hands in front of the heart center in prayer position, or, one hand on your heart and the other on your belly, taking a breath, chanting the sound of Om, setting an intention, and/or thinking of something for which you are grateful. Conclude your practice in a way that resonates with you in that moment.
Keep an eye out for my next post about “Getting to Know Savasana”.
I honor your wisdom and strength. Namaste.
“We are making this fast, I want to be in and out in a couple minutes”, is what I said to my 8 year old and 10 year old as we went through the grocery store doors. I put my blinders on and raced directly to the items I needed. At one point, at the end of the dairy isle, my kids noticed that the Easter products had been put out. I heard my 8 year old daughter, Cara, saying something about getting a piece of candy. Without hesitation or consideration, I said “no”.
In record short time, I parked the carriage in the shortest check-out line. My daughter looked up at me and said, “Mom, can I please go back and get the caramel Easter egg? It is Eve’s (her older sister’s) favorite candy and I REALLY want to get it for her. I will pay for it myself.” As how I had just been acting came crashing down on me, I lowered my head and said “yes, that would be very thoughtful”.
We pulled in the driveway and she raced into the house to give her sister the piece of candy she bought for her, and insisted on paying me back the 50 cents that the caramel Easter egg cost. Later that night while cleaning the dinner dishes, Cara was sitting at the island behind me. I looked at her and she had tears in her eyes. Immediately thinking something was wrong, I raced over to her and wrapped my arms around her. “What is the matter?” I asked. She responded by saying, “Mom, these are happy tears! It felt really good to give Evie that candy”.
That night, I could not help thinking about all of the events that unfolded. My behavior in the store not only affected myself, but also the people around me. I could have robbed my daughter of the wonderful feeling of being generous, kind and thoughtful. What other experiences did I miss when my head was down and I rushed through the store?
Mindfulness, like yoga, is a practice. There is no final destination or mastery of the art of living mindfully. One day we think that we are doing great and staying present, the next day something happens that shows how human and imperfect we really are.
Yoga allows our minds to slow down as we work with our breath and flow through different Asanas. We focus on what is happening right now and how it feels in our body. The more we come to our yoga mat, the easier it becomes to be fully present in our practice. As we continue to cultivate awareness on our yoga mat, eventually it begins to spill over off the mat into our everyday life.
My name is Meagan MacNeill and I will be teaching the 5:30am heated Power class on Wednesday morning. Come start your Wednesday with me as we mindfully move through Sun Salutations and different Asanas.
If you practice a vinyasa yoga, then you probably know that vinyasa means “movement with breath” and have experienced classes that flow from pose to pose. Ashtanga yoga is designed the same way, and many familiar poses such as sun salutations, triangle, forward folds and twists appear in the beginning sequence. The main difference in Ashtanga is that the series of poses are practiced in the same order each time.
Practicing a set series in this way is beneficial as it allows the body to open and grow stronger through repetition and consistency. It is understood that this takes time and patience, so in the practice there are many opportunities to modify or rest. The most meaningful component of the practice is what is happening internally, and with the focus on the breath it is easier to be aware of what your body needs. There are plenty of ways to approach the practice to make it as challenging or as restorative as you need. Ashtanga is a practice that was designed to be accessible to anyone.
Whether you practice Ashtanga yoga once a day, or once in a while, by turning your focus to your breath in movement you can experience the mindful and healing quality of this therapeutic practice.
When introduced to yoga as a teen, Deb was delighted and intensely curious about both the physical and spiritual aspects of yoga. In 1997 she began to practice seriously and her passion for practice and learning grew into a desire to teach. In 2004 Deborah was RYS certified after a year-long teacher training program where she studied both Iyengar based and Ashtanga Yoga at Yoga on High in Columbus, Ohio. Deb has taught various styles of yoga since then, but for the last several years her focus in teaching and her personal practice has been on Ashtanga yoga. For Deb, Ashtanga yoga is a life-long practice that continues to be transformative, therapeutic and a joy to learn about, to practice and to teach.