When I think back to some of my most favorite yoga classes where I had a defining a-ha moment, one in particular came to mind this past week as I started the new year. At Easton Yoga (where my yoga journey began) there would often be a short dharma talk given by the teacher before class started- it gave the students something to focus on and think about to drown out the external noise of all they had going on in their lives or on their busy to-do lists. It helped me to remain present, focused, and in tune with myself and my practice. It was also a really cool way to add variety, personality, laughter and point of view to each class. Sometimes they were based on excerpts from a book, other times – musical instruments were played.
This particular day the story was about selling the goat and I thought what better way to start 2018 than by selling some goats….so today we worked on this in class. The story goes – there was a man who had five children, a difficult job, a house, a wife and property to take care of and he was feeling overwhelmed so he went to ask the local town wiseman for help. He told the wiseman “I have five children to feed, a wife, a hard job, and property to take care of and I don’t know what to do?”. The wiseman told him to “Buy a goat”. He went out and bought a goat and 2 weeks later came back to the wiseman looking quite panicked and said to him “I still don’t know what to do. Now I have 5 children, a wife, a hard job, property to take care of AND a goat”. The wiseman said “Sell the goat”. A couple weeks later the wiseman ran into him at a market and he looked quite jubilant and the wiseman asked him “How are you?” and he shouted “Great, I sold the goat!”
This got me thinking about that air of rejuvenation I often feel when something gets lifted from my to-do list. For example, if I travel and don’t have to prepare and clean up after EVERY meal, I feel a sense of lightness OR if the pup gets the runs and I find myself feeling dragged down with cleaning poo for a few days…then when he is better – it feels as though I am lighter as well. And this all for me, goes back to keeping things in perspective which can often fall to the wayside in a busy life and a busy world. So during our practice, with every inhale we took in light free clean fresh oxygen to fill our lungs with life and light and love and with every exhale we let go of something we no longer need that weighs us down – it could be guilt from what didn’t happen last year, thoughts of maybe not being enough, or possibly the extra donut you had the other day while standing in line at Dunkin’ Donuts because you missed the US of A (Present company excluded – ha!!). As you move the body, engage your muscles and relax into the breath – you can really reap the benefits of a yoga practice. So whatever may be bogging you down as you begin the new year, chose to let it go (sell the goat), come back to the present and enjoy each and every moment.
Class resumes tomorrow and I am running a special for the month of January. It is a perfect offer if you have been thinking about trying yoga but unsure or if you are looking to enter 2018 with some self love, rejuvenation, and increased focus and energy to achieve those NEW goals for the NEW year. For 50 francs, you can attend as many classes in January as you like. I recommend taking at least 8 classes (2 times per week) before you take notice of the subtle effects a regular yoga practice can have on the body and maybe even fall in love.
Hope to see you on the mat. Many Blessings in the New Year ahead! – Becky
Last week during class we spent some time in malasana or garland pose, the yogic squat. While this pose may feel foreign or uncomfy at first, when practiced regularly, it helps one get connected to their root, aids in digestion, strengthens the lower half of the body, and taps into our downward flowing energy. This pose used to be more present historically (child birth, eating, potty breaks) but in modern day societies, we rarely sit like this. Malasana is a very calming and grounding pose that is beneficial when leading a busy lifestyle. It helps bring us back to our center or our root.
Over the weekend, I saw on Facebook one of my favorite yoga teachers back in Easton PA post an article about the forgotten art of squatting. See full article here: https://quartzy.qz.com/1121077/to-solve-problems-caused-by-sitting-learn-to-squat/
The article helps explain the benefits of the squat and how rare we are in this position and the downstream ramifications of not squatting over time. Synovial fluid in our body is what helps lubricate our joints and keep us a fine, healthy, well oiled machine. If we do not continuously use and bend our joints in all directions and ways then production of this fluid is stopped leading to tension, reduced range of motion, and eventually maybe even injury not to mention slower digestion, lack of focus and rootedness. The more we root down, the more we rise up.
So if you don’t want to lose it – use it. There are squat variations for those of you that are super tight and cannot get into the fullest expression of the pose. With time and practice, many of you shall. The beauty of the body is it’s ability to adapt, change, and heal.
Below are some pics to help you bring back your squat!
I hope you all enjoyed a lovely FALL BREAK and found some time to breathe and maybe even take out your mat and yoga!
This coming week we will focus on twists so before we begin on Monday, I wanted to write a blog post on the numerous benefits of twisting. Before I get all yogi and technical though, today I started thinking about all the different twists that brought joy to my heart. And I made a list:
1) The infamous Chubby Checkers Let’s “Twist” Again
2) A vanilla and chocolate ice cream cone with the flavors “twisted” around and around until the peak forms at the top and just screams lick me
3) The way my Zumba instructor on Tuesday “twisted” her hips like Shakira
4) Vines and foliage all around me with “twisted” curling branches
5) Garland twisted around Christmas trees (it’ll be here before we know it!)
As this imagery came into my head, the best one a teacher has used to describe what a yogic twist does for the body is the ringing out of a dish towel. Twists help cleanse the internal organs, stimulate digestion, and circulate new blood flow to areas that help naturally detoxify our body from the wear and tear of daily life and aging. There are physiological benefits to the circulatory system and internal organs, structural benefits to the musculoskeletal system, and focusing benefits to your consciousness. Enough said right?
And the beauty of them is you may think that you have to twist your body into a pretzel to release these benefits but there are a few seated and laying down twists that are great for beginners and to do at nighttime before bed or upon first waking up. Don’t forget to breathe length into the body during these twists and on the exhale see if you can twist deeper without compromising the breath or causing any pain. You want to feel something but you don’t want the face to cringe in agony. Find your twist sweet spot and build from there using your breath.
Below are a few photos of some twists that we will dive into this week. Hope to see you in class on Monday! Namaste
So as we move into fall, the leaves change and I begin to notice differences in my body when I wake up as well. A few more creaks and a hair more stiffness. I feel the changes of the season and this reminds me that my yoga practice as well as my coffee order or vegetable purchases may shift as well. Pumpkin Spice latte anyone? So last week I read this short poem and we pretended to be trees as we got into poses feeling the rootedness and downward energy coming from our base (whatever body parts were touching the mat) and noticing that when you feel rooted on the mat, you are able to lift more elongating your spine and creating space for your branches to grow.
Advice from A Tree
Stand up tall and proud.
Sink your roots into the earth.
Be content with your natural beauty.
Go out on a limb.
Drink plenty of water.
Remember your roots.
Enjoy the view!
We practiced tree pose standing with one foot on a block to create some extra lift. Some things to remember in tree pose. Take the leg variation of your choice playing with all three of them and seeing what your body wants in that given moment. Notice differences in each side. Try to find that balance between a subtle stillness but not locking your entire body because you don’t want to fall. Embrace the sway. And as the poem says – enjoy the view! The more you root down, the more you grow up and out. Namaste!
Do you have a friend who has one of those really joyful laughs where it feels like they are laughing from the belly? Sort of like Santa Claus when he Ho Ho’s? Or have you noticed the belly on Buddha- round and plump? Or that of a child? I have often watched my 4 year old strut around the room with a belly as round as could be and a smile across her face. As a woman, I don’t know about you but in the past, I was often more concerned with sucking it in then letting it out. But, the belly breath is an amazing tool to bringing a rootedness, calmness, and centering to the body. And the breath is key to helping all of the body’s processes.
Mastering the breath takes time and there are so many different breathing practices within yoga, it can be intimidating where to start and a dis belief as to how powerful it is. Today in class, we focused on the belly breath. To try, come to lie on your back, knees bent and place both hands on the belly. Close your eyes and inhale as you bring air into the belly and you feel your hand rise. Exhale through your lips as your stomach muscles contract and air is released causing the hands to fall. Try this for 5 to 10 minutes each day feeling the rise and fall and the undulation of the belly.
Have fun with it, play some music that relaxes you.
Benefits to belly breathing include:
Relaxation – as busy people, we can sometimes spend more time in fight or flight response than the rest and digest. This breath engages the parasympathetic nervous system to help calm the body. Belly breathing activates the parasympathetic system.
Improves Exercise Recovery – Athletes often endure exhausting workouts and as adults and parents – we sometimes have exhausting days where we may not have taken a moment to sit down. The body is able to recover more quickly and stay balanced with time to “rest and renew”. 10 minutes a day of belly breathing helps.
Improves Digestion and Glucose Levels – I don’t know about you but I know what a spike or fall in blood sugar feels like. Studies are showing that belly breathing helps balance blood sugar as well as improve digestion. Try belly breathing before a meal and sit down to eat! What may require slightly more time in the beginning has numerous health benefits long term.
Strengthens the lungs – The stretching and constricting of the diaphragm also helps strengthen and open the lungs resulting in increased lung capacity.
Changes Gene Expression – The body’s ability to relax can have a powerful impact on the immune system, energy metabolism, and gene expression. Studies have shown that deep breathing techniques enhanced energy metabolism, mitochondrial function, insulin secretion, and telomere maintenance while decreasing the inflammation response and stress related pathways.
So this week’s focus is to make our bellies bigger! With air! Practice for 10 minutes a day and if you have time 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening. Comment below if you’d like to share what you experience.