June 9—Moving Beyond Asana

MOVING BEYOND ASANA: A YOGA PHILOSOPHY WORKSHOP

Sunday—June 9, 2019 — 1:30-3:30 pm at Yoga Yoga in Newhall.
 
What’s this workshop about?

Yoga is a journey of the self, through the self, to the self. It is a practice of internal transformation through observation, which gives way for the light of your true self to shine through.

I believe that when we come to yoga, we are following an instinct to live well and to be happy. Most of us begin our journey of yoga with asana—or yoga posture—as a form of physical exercise or to heal a part of our body. Many of us then yearn for a greater understanding of the practice and how it can help us with our relationships with others, and to our self.

In this workshop, we will discuss the five niyamas; cleanliness, contentment, self-discipline, self-study, and surrender. By learning about the niyamas, we can begin to understand how the whole practice of yoga is a process of examining our attitudes and habitual behaviors. By becoming aware of our thoughts and actions, we can begin to unlock the magic of internal growth on and off the mat.

What to expect:

· Lecture: Introduction to ancient yoga wisdom – Niyamas.

· Practice: Become more aware of yourself in your postures.

· Reflection: Use creative exercises to learn how to step more fully into your life.

Where: Yoga Yoga Studio—24421 Walnut Street—Santa Clarita, CA—91321

Pricing: $45 per person

May 19 and 26—Moving Beyond Asana

MOVING BEYOND ASANA: A 2-PART WORKSHOP ON YOGA PHILOSOPHY –

Sunday—May 19 and 26, 2019 — 2:30-4:00 pm at Prema Yoga Flow in Granada Hills, CA
 
What’s this workshop about?

I believe that when we come to yoga, we are following an instinct to live well and to be happy.

Most of us begin our journey of yoga with asana—or yoga posture—as a form of physical exercise or to heal a part of our body.

Many of us then yearn for a greater understanding of the practice and how it can help us with our relationships with others, and to our self. 
 
In this two-part series, we will discuss the five niyamas: cleanliness, contentment, self-discipline, self-study, and surrender.

By learning about the niyamas, we can begin to understand how the whole practice of yoga is a process of examining our attitudes and habitual behaviors.

By becoming aware of our thoughts and actions, we can begin to unlock the magic of internal growth on and off the mat.

All are welcome! No prerequisites are required.

What to expect:

Part one –

  • Lecture: Introduction to yoga philosophy – Saucha and Santosha.
  • Practice: Become more aware of yourself in your postures.
  • Reflection: Learn creative exercises that encourage right attitude, thought, and action.

Part two –

  • Lecture: Introduction to Kriya Yoga – Tapas, Svadhyaya and, Ishvara Pranidhana.
  • Practice: Learn the art of setting an intention. 
  • Reflection: Learn creative practices for further contemplation. Intro to pranayama and mantra.

Where: Prema Yoga Flow Studio—17617 Chatsworth Street—Granada Hills, CA—91344

Both Part 1 and 2: $50
Part 1 or 2 only early bird: $30
Part 1 or 2 only day of $35

TO SIGN UP – CLICK HERE

OR EMAIL christine@premayogaflow.com

Getting back to nature

Spring is here!

Isn’t it wonderful to see the planet light up each year during the spring season with colorful flower blooms?

I can’t help but feel the surge of creativity all around me reflected through nature.

The planet is really good at inspiring creativity, joy, and happiness.

I watched an inspiring movie recently called Dare to be Wild. It’s a film based on the true story of Mary Reynolds, the Irish landscaper who shares her passion for wild places and forgotten landscapes with the world by competing in a prestigious garden competition. 

Her story brings to the surface the issue of the forgotten connection between us and the planet. She believes that “nature is man; man is nature.” 

I remember my connection to nature. Realizing that the more I understand the importance of a choosing a personal and spiritual practice, the more I am able to reconnect to my own true nature.

In yoga, we have the sandskrit word santosha. Santosha means “joy and contentment.”

Over the course of history, we have learned many behaviors like relying on our devices for entertainment to produce joy, and looking for satisfaction through means of consumerism for contentment in our daily lives.

These things aren’t inherently bad.

It’s just that they have a way of disconnecting ourselves from who it is we really are inside.

I believe yoga can help to reconnect us to ourselves and to the planet.

Yoga takes us on a journey of internal discovery which increases our awareness of feelings; physical, mental and emotionally.

Yoga also increases our awareness of our relationship with the planet. We become more aware of our own natural cycles like circadian rhythms, which are “physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle.” Circadian rhythms are influenced by our environment and exposure to natural sources of light and dark; sun and moon.

Yoga also equips us with the tools for how to care deeply for one another. Community or sangha is something I came to understand through my experiences with fellow yoga students and teachers in class and in teacher training.

Many life long friends have been forged. We support one another on our path of self-discovery. We encourage one another to strive for personal growth and development into our best and truest version of our selves. I’ve also learned the importance of a deep and loving connection to the environment.

To care for the planet means we are also caring for each other’s well being on Earth.

Yoga has taught me the importance of slowing down, letting go of expectations and deeply appreciating my life as it is.

Instead of living on the constant merry-go-round of I’ll be happy when…I have this product, this amount of money, this body or this relationship (this list can go on forever), I find myself being happy with seeing the trees in my backyard, feeling the sun on my skin, wiggling my toes in the water and breathing in fresh air.

I’ve also found from personal experience, that when difficult emotions arise, turning to nature helps me to remember that there is a constant calm energy available to me at anytime. The trees are still there, the sun is still shining and the breath is still flowing in and out of my body.

Santosha is a choice. A great practice to get you started on choosing contentment is the practice of gratitude.

Gratitude is the practice of appreciation and it is a sure quick-fire way to feel happy with who we are and what we have.

It takes courage to say yes to rest and play in a culture where exhaustion is seen as a status symbol – Brene Brown

Just for today, let go of what you are striving for and lean into appreciating the beauty of nature. Our big beautiful planet Earth is here to support us. Feel her love because what we appreciate, appreciates.

Moving beyond asana.

The 5 Niyamas are personal observances that allow us to see how we carry our energy inside.

Niyamas shed light (awareness) on the parts of our personality that we do often see clearly. 

They offer us a way to see our own personal obstacles that come up and give us hope for resolve.

By using the Niyamas in our personal practices of meditation and yoga, we can observe the things about our self that we want to shift on an internal level.

Saucha – Purity, cleanliness.

As a physical practice, we can apply saucha as a way to practice purification of the body. Sweating and releasing and toning and stretching the body allows for our life force or prana to flow freely.

Saucha is also a means of observing mental and emotional fluctuations.

Cleanliness of mind and body, cheerfulness of the mind. Cleanliness of our personal and shared spaces.

Personal example – this one helps me become more aware of my behaviors, thoughts, and actions. Where can we refine and smooth out our edges physically? Where can we celebrate our uniqueness? When to negative thoughts arise and are they of service?

Santosha – Joy, Contentment

Finding ease and letting go of expectations.

Personal example – This one has been a game changer in my practice. I learned to slow down, pay closer attention, and practice with respect to my limitations and abilities. Lean into what feels good. Yoga will present some difficult experiences where we feel challenged, but it will also ask us to find the ease within it.

Find what feels good inside and out. It doesn’t mean we are incapable if we choose an action that is kinder to our body and mind.

Tapas – Dedication and Consistency

Building heat for means of purification. Fire. Discomfort.

Creating change on purpose. Intention. Purpose. Heating up the element of gold is a great example. You can heat gold, and transform it into a different shape.

This one teaches us that the quality and integrity of our movements is more important than the speed and range of motion in our body. Where do we get caught up in old patterns? When do we lose our motivation?

Personal example – For me, this one shows up when things don’t go as planned. Do I want to abandon all hope? Yes sometimes. But in my own way, I find the strength, creativity, and courage to find a way to move forward. Not allowing myself to feel defeated by the unexpected setbacks.

Svadhyaya – Self Study

The process of continually seeking the truth. Reading, learning, and inquiring about the self. Using introspection as a means of discovery. Curiosity about who we really are deep inside.

This one helps explain the experience we are having in our body through non-judgmental observation. We are learning about our self through yoga.

I love this quote for expressing svhadyaya – “Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” – Bhagavad Gita

This is what separates yoga from another type of physical exercise. Meditation, breath work, and physical movements are all combined to have a “whole body” experience.”

Here is another great quote to help us understand svhadyaya – “Be as interested in what’s going on inside of you as what’s happening outside of you.” –Ekhart Tolle

Personal example – I like to think of myself as a scientist in a lab. I am doing experiments with concepts and movements, and by being curious about my results, I practice self-inquiry. I accept the results no matter if they are good or bad. I accept and work with it all. I am brave enough to choose what is appropriate for me and my body.

One more great quote – “Yoga is skill in action” – Bhagavad Gita

Isvara Pranidhana – Surrender

Faith, sacred practice, finding peace within, destiny, higher power, intuition, divine self.

Traditionally the definitions in the sutras are connection and surrender to God, Universe, Great Spirit.

Personal example – This one taught me the importance of trusting my body and letting go of the need to control outcomes. I learned the importance of listening deeply to my body and trusting the inner wisdom, stories, and emotions that it holds. Surrendering to what is and having faith in the practice became a mantra.

A great quote by Pattabhi Jois – “Do your practice and all is coming.”

In the physical practice, when I feel over whelmed, I show up and remind myself “I will breathe.” The breath is your life force. It is what keeps you alive. The breath is a good example of divine within you.

Creating a Sankalpa

Did you make a resolution for the New Year?

By a show of hands, how many of us made a resolution last year that didn’t quite pan out the way we had hoped? If you “raised your hand,” you are in good company!

Last year, I made the resolution to cook and sample all the recipes from an Ayurvedic cookbook. Ayurveda is the sister science to yoga, and I thought that this hands-on approach would be the best way to understand it. I admittedly made a handful of recipes, yet quietly abandoned it shortly after the new year.

I told myself that my schedule had changed, health and diet had changed, and that maybe it just wasn’t the right time to commit myself to the project.

Resolutions can most certainly set us up for disappointment in ourselves when we don’t follow through. Is it just me?

Ponder the word “resolute.” It’s absolute in that it means we are to be radically unwavering and tenacious with the goal we are setting out to achieve. This leaves no wiggle room for fluctuation and doesn’t really tend to the matters of our spirit.

Resolutions tend to focus on what we perceive to be lacking. This implies that we are not enough.

Fortunately, Yoga offers us a great alternative to Resolution: Sankalpa.

A Sankalpa is a heartfelt intention stated in the affirmative. It is a way to connect the heart and the mind in a positive way. The focus is shifted on to what we want to call into our life.

Think about what you want most in life. What is your biggest wish? Take as much time as you need—a day, a week, or more! A Sankalpa encourages us to tap into our limitless potential, so allow yourself to listen deeply to what your heart and mind desires.

Then, create your Sankalpa using nonjudgemental language to affirm the positive qualities you want to cultivate. Refrain from making statements like “I won’t be so lazy this year, drink too much or eat too much.” 

Instead, create your statement with a positive, uplifting, and affirmative tone, as if it has already happened. Here are some examples for your consideration:

If losing weight is your goal, your Sankalpa could be “I love my body and I make a daily effort to exercise. I nourish my body with healthy foods.”

If saving money is your goal, your Sankalpa could be “I successfully plan my finances and always have money left over to save.”

If experiencing more love in your life is your goal, your Sankalpa could be “I happily give and receive love every day. I attract loving people into my life.”

If self-acceptance is your goal, your Sankalpa could be “I love myself and I am grateful for my life. I release negative, limiting thoughts and embrace my worthiness for love. I trust myself”

Creating a Sankalpa is like planting the seed for our life’s purpose. State it in your meditation and yoga practice. Write it on a sticky note and place it on your bathroom mirror. Or set a reminder in your phone to read it during your coffee break at work.

Consider all the ways you can water your seeds for self-potential and tend to the matters of your spirit.

I wish you a wonderful, joyful and blissful new year! Namaste.

Living yoga: Dharma and activism

Yoga teaches us to take the seat of the observer. Whether a student of yoga or not, this type of awareness helps one live life wholeheartedly. On my most recent trip to Boston, my intentions were to learn something new, take photos of important moments to remember and find ways to connect deeply to my higher self. Travel has always had its way of uplifting my spirits by opening the channels of inspiration to bring to the surface what makes me the happiest.

Joseph Campbell said, “If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living.”

But how do we know that we are doing this?

In ancient yogic texts, dharma is described as the cosmic order of all things. This is your life’s purpose, path or duty. Standing in conviction and letting our true-self shine can be a daunting task, but this is what it means to be liberated by living from a place of truth. When we decide to live from a place of truth, we are asking questions like “Who am I in this?” “What is my purpose here?” “What in life brings me the most joy?” To put simply, dharma is finding your highest happiness through acts of authentic, wholehearted living.

What would make me happiest is to feel better about the current state of the world and to know that I am making a difference toward the people around me. I want to show up in a way that is kind, courageous and zealous. I want to share my love for the planet and inspire others to do so too.

Here is what I have been doing lately in an effort to follow my bliss and lead a dharmic life.

Environmental Activism — The quote “Live less out of habit and more out of intent” really hits home for me. In yoga, one of the goals is to understand who we are and work on ways to better ourselves through self-inquiry so that we can give back to those around us.

Today’s statistics about plastics in our ocean are frightening. By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in our ocean (pasticpollutioncoalition.org). It is time to shift our consumption habits because this amount of plastic in the ocean is having a significantly negative effect on wildlife and our personal health.

I am a part of a movement to end marine pollution and here is why: I pledge to ban as many plastics from my life as possible. The ocean is a sacred place for healing, community, and inspiration. It is also the home of many beautiful animals who deserve love and protection. In order to make a difference, I have taken an active interest in redesigning my lifestyle by reducing my use of single-use plastics.

Here are four helpful tips found in this month’s issue of LA Yoga Magazine. My hope is that this helps spread awareness of how you too can make a difference- 1) Swap out daily basics like plastic baggies and straws for reusable options. Give your plastic bags a second and third life. 2) Eat plastic-free by using a BPA reusable bottle and taking your own reusable utensils. Bring your own reusable to-go containers when you eat out. 3) Design a life of plastic free body care by supporting companies that make earth-friendly products with plastic-free packaging. 4) Become an advocate. Start sharing what you do with your community to inspire others!

Since becoming more of an activist, I have discovered that others in my own community are also taking steps toward helping mama earth; our beautiful blue planet. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me know that so many people are making lifestyle changes. It gives me hope to know that we as a society can shift our consciousness to a higher one by living with intent. The more we share statistics, trade tips with friends and volunteer, the better our future will look. I don’t know about you, but I can’t bear to see a world worth living in without magnificent, powerful creatures like the whale to be humbled by. We are one!

There are as many paths to truth as there are heartbeats, leaves, fireflies in summer twilight – Danna Faulds

 

 

3 ways to take yoga outside!

For many, summer is the time for travel, leisure and spending more time outdoors. Do you feel the surge of life around you? The sun’s bright light and heating energy tend to wake up life on earth. This seasonal shift is a great time to pause and give thanks for existence! Feel the warm light sink into your skin and notice the wind blowing through your hair; summer is here, let’s celebrate!

As we increase activities for summer fun, our yoga practice in the studio and at home may decrease. Patanjali’s first sutra (sutra 1.1), explains that yoga is to “yolk” the mind and body. What this means to me is that at any given time, I have the opportunity to become centered and feel balanced in my mind and body.  Yoga is the connection of our mind, body, and soul and this concept can absolutely pertain to activities outside during summer.

Take a moment to observe the next 3 offerings. Try them,  get some ideas and watch how including an outdoor practice can supplement your daily summer activities!

“May I always cherish the dance that is within my heart!” – Unknown

3 ways to take your yoga outside for summer

= 1) Outdoor Sun Salutations – Surya Namaskar means Salute to the Sun! Traditionally sun salutes are a series of postures linked together to unite the body, mind, and spirit in celebration of our life on this planet. You can choose 2-3 postures or you can practice the whole sequence. Start slow and work your way up. When you practice sun salutes, you are able to connect to your inner vitality. You can detect the fire within as heat builds and the breath moves throughout. If you are outside, you have the sun shining above you and the earth supporting you from below. Notice the unity that is happening between your inner being and outer self. If it is your first time practicing in public, allow yourself the space to feel a little silly. Recognize the discomfort and lean into it with grace. After practice, take a few moments to reflect on the accomplishment and honor your existence and your light on this planet. We all share a home here and you belong. Finish your practice by kissing the back of your hands a couple of times to show yourself some deep gratitude and love.

= 2) Five senses orientation meditation – This meditation is a short and effective way to center yourself. Rejoice in the beauty around you by appreciating it through your senses. To begin, find somewhere to sit comfortably for a few moments. Use your five sense to observe your surroundings. Notice the way the air feels on your skin. Is there a breeze? Are there any smells in the air like fresh pine, the sea salty beach or newly cut grass? Keep your eyes open to observe the textures and shape of the clouds as they float by or you can close your eyes and notice the way the light bounces off of the inside of your eyelids. What shape does the light make? Can you taste anything specifically unique to where you are? Have a mindful moment to yourself by eating a fresh orange and really tasting the qualities of the fruit. Practicing the five senses orientation meditation is an effective way to find peace as a whole being. Our body and mind start working together as one unit that moves us towards an awakening of our truest selves.

= 3) Earthing – Everything is energy!  Our electrical devices like smartphones, computers, and radios are sending out electrical energetic waves at all times.  The cells in our body are sending electrical signals to each other. Our beautiful blue planet has its own special energy too; earth energy. Research over the years has shown that connecting to the energy of the earth grounds the energy of all things on the planet. For us, grounding often results in a reduction of pain, stress, inflammation, and scattered mental patterns. The Deepak Chopra website says “The Earth is like a gigantic battery that contains a natural, subtle electric charge—a special kind of energy present in the ground. For safety and stability, most everything in the electrical world is connected to it, whether it is an electric power plant or your refrigerator. That’s what the term “grounded” means.” Our bodies are energetic too and therefore need grounding for safety, stability and, balance. To ground, simply take your shoes off and stand on the earth! Put your feet in the sand, stand barefoot in a few inches of water or walk in the grass. If you don’t have the ability to go outside, spend some time with indoor plants, touching their leaves and potting them with fresh, warm soil. Breathe deep and take time to reflect on this practice over the course of a few days or weeks to notice any shifts!

“Your body is precious. It is our vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care.” – Buddha

Invest in rest! 3 ways to embrace a restorative pause.

If you had asked me 3 years ago to talk about my yoga practice I would tell you that it was mostly a physical practice. I was and still am very proud of all the yoga poses I could perform and I love to teach asana! The physical is so much fun. Getting sweaty in class, breathing deeply, flowing smoothly from pose to pose through vinyasa and exploring all the crazy shapes I could make with my body took me away from all my worries. I found something so special because it made me feel alive!

A yoga practice can do that for you too, but it is not just the poses that create such big waves of transformation and freedom. 

It wasn’t easy to detect this at the time, but what I didn’t know was that I was pushing myself too hard for the sake of feeling accomplished. I became determined to learn how to balance upside down, twist my body and move my hips in ways that were out of my reach. I think that the “all play and no rest” philosophy didn’t just show up on my yoga mat, but in my working life and personal life too! Eventually, all the hard work and no rest caught up and I got injured.

Read more about my injury

With injury comes the gift of time. In the time I spent recovering, I found the joys of being in stillness and how important it is to invest in rest.

Stillness offers an opportunity for introspection, healing, and rejuvenation. It gave me a chance to absorb everything that I had learned and also process it so that I could discriminate between what parts of my practice were life enhancing and which parts were debilitating and energetically depleting.

HERE ARE MY 3 TOP FAVORITE WAYS TO INVEST IN MY REST

-1) Savasana – Corpse pose, though seemingly simple can be quite the challenge for someone who is learning the art of rest. Considered by some to be an advanced yoga pose, all you do is lie down, get comfortable and do nothing.  To do nothing, in this current world climate, is so brave, courageous and rebellious!! What a gift it is that at the end of your yoga class, you get to lie down, rest well, be well and simply do nothing. How often do we get this precious opportunity to feel the contrast between rest and being busy? This pose helps to soothe your sympathetic nervous system, rejuvenate your whole body, and refresh your mind.* The next time you are in yoga class or practicing at home, notice if you are savoring the moment of rest. Are you allowing yourself to be present with how you feel when you are resting or are you getting carried away by thinking about the next activity for the day?

-2) Minimalize – Identifying my “needs” v.s my “wants” and embracing them! I’ve learned that living minimally can mean so much more than letting go of material things. It is very empowering and rejuvenating to notice which aspects of life are energetically enhancing, which are depleting and to let go of what is not serving my best and greatest self. Examples of this can be work, food, friends, family, the list goes on. In her article What if all I want is a mediocre life?, Krista O’Reilly Davi-Digui says “And to see so many others with what appears to be boundless energy and stamina but know that I need tons of solitude and calm, an abundance of rest, and swaths of unscheduled time in order to be healthy. Body, spirit, soul healthy. Am I enough?” The answer is YES!

-3) Meditate – In terms of yoga, meditation is one of three parts that make up a practice (the other being the breath). The word yoga comes from the root word “yuj” – to connect, to unite, or to bring together.  Take a few moments of your day to sit down, take a breath and mindfully connect your mind and body through meditation. Here are 3 tips for starting a meditation practice.  

 

*Reference – The woman’s book of yoga and health by Linda Sparrowe

What if I can’t do downdog? How and why to practice supported yoga poses.

A yoga practice is more than an active way to move the body, breathe and feel good. It is also a way to prepare you for how to respond to the changes that happen in life. In general, as we age, so will our practice. Injuries can often occur in yoga too, which can feel debilitating when you can’t do the poses you love. How well we can make adjustments and modifications will determine the longevity of our practice and there is so much to learn when we are open to other ways of seeing. Let’s take a look at one of the most popular yoga poses in our practice — downdog — and one way we can practice it differently to suit our needs.

Downward Facing Dog Pose or Adho Mukha Svanasana

Effects* – This pose increases circulation and calms your mind. It also strengthens and elongates your back, shoulders, and legs. Doing this pose unsupported brings a sense of accomplishment and helps to ground you in the present moment. It is effective for calming the nervous system when feeling anxious.

These benefits are so wonderful and useful, but what happens when we are not able to feel comfortable in the unsupported downward facing dog pose? Let’s explore the other option.

Iyengar Rope Wall-Inspired Downward Facing Dog Pose

Effects* – This supported version of the pose offers you the ability to elongate the back through traction to the spine which can be helpful for those with low back pain. Circulation is increased to the pelvis and lower lumbar spine. This pose brings a sense of expansive relaxation and helps to ground you into the present moment. The wrists and shoulders are not at risk because there is no weight bearing into the hands. The pose is effective for calming the nervous system and clearing the mind.

What differences and similarities did you observe between the two descriptions?

Ready to give it a try? What you’ll need:

  • A yoga strap that’s at least eight feet long
  • A blanket or towel
  • A door with a sturdy doorknob.

Turn your strap into a very a large loop and place the loop around the doorknob on the outside of the door. Hold on to the loop from the inside of the door, and then close the door. I like to use my front door as it is stronger and more sturdy than the bedroom and bathroom doors in my home. It also has a deadlock, so I can feel certain that the door is securely closed and locked.

Step inside the loop with your back to the door and then adjust the loop accordingly. Adjusting the strap loop size may need to happen a few times before you get it right. I am 5 feet, 6 inches tall and I measure my distance standing around 2-3 feet away from the door.

Hold the loop at about hip height and place your folded blanket over the strap—this blanket serves as padding and support for the groins. Walk forward until the blanket rests at your hip crease, then fold forward over the strap, letting the padded strap press into your hip creases and support your weight. Bend down to come towards downward facing dog pose. Walk your hands forward and your feet back until your heels are touching the wall —it will feel like you are wearing high heels in a downward V shape.  Lengthen the sides of your waist and the crown of the head down towards the floor as you allow the strap to lift your pelvis and upper leg bones up towards the door.  This will help to traction your spine. Play with keeping the knees bent or straightening the legs. Both options are great depending on what feels best in your body. The strap is lifting and supporting you in the pose so that you can surrender into the feel-good aspects of down dog. Notice the stretch you get in your back, the space that is created between the ribs and the opening of the hamstrings. Breathe here for 3-5 cycles of breath, and then slowly make your way back to standing. If you get dizzy, turn around to face the wall and place your forehead on the door until you feel better.

Happy downdogging!

*Reference – The Woman’s Book of Yoga and Health by Linda Sparrowe and Patricia Walden