Spring & The Yin Yang Balance

by Angela Noelle Martin

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!

Angela Noelle Martin

Harness the Cleansing Power of Spring!

by Charlotte Ott

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!

If you are excited about feeling happy, confident in your skin, and energized to enjoy life, join us for our group cleanse April 15th!  Learn more at http://urcleansing.com/harness-the-cleansing-power-of-spring/

Charlotte Ott

The Benefits Of An Early Morning Yoga Practice

by Kim Blanc

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

  1. 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.
  2. The night before, put the clothes you are going to wear to yoga in your bathroom and set your alarm.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.)
  5. 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.
  6. Sign up for class the night before.  Now you’ve set an intention.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
Kim Blanc

Creating a Home Practice

by Christine Fox

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.
~Christine

Mindfulness, like yoga, is a practice.

by Meagan MacNeill

“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.

Namaste,
Meagan

Ashtanga is Vinyasa

Ashtanga is Vinyasa
© Deb Dowson at Revolution Community Yoga

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.

deborah dowsonDeborah Dowson

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.