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Archive for the ‘Yoga Articles’ Category

I’ll Try Anything Once

I have never tried a Bikram class.   I’ve looked at the 26 poses a few times, but I’ve never gone to a class.  I have a bit of an aversion to Bikram for some reason, but I think I’m ready to give it the good ole college try.

Recently, I’ve seen two articles about different styles of yoga.  I get asked almost every week about the different styles of yoga, so here’s a great in-depth review from Yoga Journal of some of the major styles of yoga.  If you are an experienced practitioner, but you’re ready to shake it up a bit, think about trying out a new kind of class. 

Rebecca over at Om Gal also recently posted about the different schools of yoga, and has a great writing style, so you might enjoy her take on yoga.  

As I’m preparing for the Yoga Odyssey, I’m thinking about how I’ll use the 28 days of daily practice in a new and interesting way.   I think I’d like to try out several new classes around the Boston area in the month of October.   Though I’ve been practicing and teaching for awhile, there is so much I don’t know!  This could be a great way for me to do something a little different for myself as a yoga student.

I’m curious to know, dear readers, what you’ve wanted to try recently.   There is constant innovation in the yoga world, so some of you have doubtless heard of something I haven’t!   I’d love to know.

Enjoy your yoga adventures,

Barrett

Keep Moving Forward

This interesting article just came through my email yesterday.   It’s from Patricia Walden, a wonderful teacher here in Cambridge.  My favorite part of the article is the emphasis on just continuing to practice, even when it isn’t apparent that you’re “progressing” or benefitting.

It reminds me of how I’ve felt the last few months as I’ve been running.  During the two 5K races I’ve run, I’ve had several moments where I just keep moving forward.   It doesn’t matter what I look like doing it, it doesn’t matter if I’m going fast or slow, it doesn’t matter if it’s up a hill or down.    I couldn’t believe, both times, that I actually finished the race!   Apparently, even when I didn’t believe it, I was “progressing” – I was moving forward!

I realized reading this article that this has applied to my yoga practice as well.   Over the years, of course I’ve been in a rut at times.   I feel run-down, preoccupied by other things, or just a little un-creative.   But I’ve known, deep down, that the more I can just get the on the mat, and keep practicing, the better it will go.   Sometimes I’ve just sat on my mat.   Sometimes I’ve danced through a yoga practice.   But the commitment has always been there, and so has the evolution. 

As part of the upcoming Yoga Odyssey, my online program that helps you create a daily yoga practice, I’m so excited to commit to taking a class once a week.   In that way, I’ll keep moving forward, because it’s been awhile since I’ve gone to a regular class.  

How are you moving forward, in life, and in your practice?   I look forward to hearing about it here, or during the Odyssey (early registration for the Odyssey ends September 10!).

Be well,

Barrett

Foot Foundation

 

 

Some of you may have heard me talk about my chronically sprained ankles.   When I was a teenager, about once a year I’d sprain one of my ankles badly enough that I’d have to ice it and wear an ace bandage for about 4 weeks (often in the summertime – boo!).   Every morning I’d wake up and my ankle would be so stiff and swollen, and I’d wonder if it would ever be back to normal. 

 

One of the worst times this happened was in Israel, where I studied abroad in college.   I was really getting into yoga at the time, and practicing a lot on my own.   I sensed that working with yoga might help my ankles feel better over time.  

 

And I was right!   The last time I sprained my ankle was the next summer.   By then, I was committed to yoga, and was taking my first teacher training.   I remember spending every morning practicing slow sun salutes, and working on kneeling and downward dog back and forth.    My ankles quickly grew strong and they’ve never had a problem since!   I credit yoga with it.

 

Recently, the NYTimes Well blog featured an article about sprained ankles, and the importance on balance (thanks for the tip, Angela!).   I read it today and really got excited by the fact that my love of balances probably really helped my ankles all those years ago!

 

Today I taught a leg practice in yoga class – lots of strengthening of the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and gluteal muscles.   We did a few foot and ankle strengthening postures as well, and I mentioned the NYTimes article.  

 

After class, a relatively new yoga student approached me and told me that since he’s been practicing, he hasn’t noticed his chronically sprained ankle feeling stiff at all.   He mentioned that when he went to physical therapy for his ankles, primarily he received balancing postures similar to yoga postures that we practice in class.   He credits his regular yoga practice over the last few months with helping him “fix” his sprained ankle once and for all.

 

Yoga’s the best J

 

So, enjoy the wobbling next time you practice balance postures like Tree, Eagle, Dancer and Half Moon. All that wobbling is helping your feet and ankles stay strong and balanced, so that you are less likely to sprain your ankles.  And check out this mini-article from Body and Soul and this larger article from Yoga Journal about strengthening and stretching the feet.

 

Barrett

Dismantling the Armor

 

A favorite teacher of mine has an article called “Dismantling the Armor” that I read once a year or so.  Here’s an excerpt:

 

“Like the armadillo, we are clad in a protective cloak of armor that clings to our bones and keeps the world at bay. In the human body, this cloak is the buildup of thickened muscular padding primarily around the shoulders, neck, buttocks, and legs. This armor protects against outside forces, both real and imaginary, warding off the unwanted and guarding our inner self.

The practice of yoga melts our armoring, increases our range of motion, and releases us from our physical and psychological burdens.”

–          Tias Little, from Yoga International November 2003

 

When you have a chunk of time, you may want to read the entire article here, because it’s very enlightening.  I think about this when I look around at people, especially because I teach yoga everyday.

 

I think about it in reference to myself, too.  We each have ways in which we’re protecting ourselves from the big bad world, right?   I’ve been thinking about this as I’ve read Lin-Ann’s guest posts over the past few months.  It takes a lot of courage to allow your armor to be dismantled – it’s there for a reason!  

 

In the end, though, all that defensiveness weighs us down.  In ways that feel appropriate and safe for us today, it’s a good idea to practice becoming undefended.  It will feel vulnerable, but it will also feel releasing.  Over time, with practice, the evolution continues and more of our armor will melt away.   I love that yoga is a process that continues for weeks, months, years, our whole life. 

 

You can find out more about Tias Little (a teacher I’ve studied with several times) at:  http://www.tiaslittle.com/

 

The magazine that originally published this is here:

http://www.himalayaninstitute.org/yogaplus/

 

Enjoy your practice,

 

Barrett

 

The Yoga of Taxes

 

It’s tax season, and for some of us, this isn’t a big deal.  And for others, it’s a yearly purgatory. I’ve noticed some of my friends on Facebook posting in their status that they’re in “tax hell.”  Growing up in my family, tax time was full of tension as the business owners in my family struggled with accountants.  

 

This year, as I am personally working on my relationship with money management, tax time reminds me that we can use the valuable lessons we learn from yoga in this realm of our life as well.  Yoga Journal has this article about how the ethical principles of yoga, called the yamas and the niyamas, can help us create a healthy relationship with money.   Some of the yamas and niyamas mentioned include non-stealing, non-hoarding, truthfulness, moderation, and self-study.   

 

In the article, a financial advisor who uses yoga in his work says that money “can become a bell of awakening in your yoga practice just by watching how you react to it. Where am I holding tension in my body as I do this transaction, pay bills, watch my portfolio increasing or decreasing? All of these are just opportunities to be conscious.”

 

We all have our pitfalls.   We all have that yoga posture that makes us groan and protest when it comes up in class.   On the flip side, we all have parts of life (and parts of yoga) that are easy for us.  I find myself turning to yoga more and more to help me through those more difficult parts of my life.  

 

Thinking about this has inspired me to get one of the books mentioned in the Yoga Journal article out of the library. When I decided to work for myself and teach full-time 4 years ago, I read several books that really helped me gain perspective about creating a financially abundant practice.   

 

This year, I feel the fruits of that sustained yoga practice working in my financial life.   I am not in “tax hell,” though I have been in previous years.   I didn’t even complain too much about the project :) 

 

 

 

 

A Ban on Yoga

 

I’ve been loosely following some religious bans on yoga over the years.   First, in the US, some school districts have “banned” yoga on the grounds that it does not keep church and state separate. 

 

Now, in several Muslim countries, a fatwa (religious ruling) has been put out banning yoga, most recently in Indonesia.   This is interesting because the island of Bali has a lot of yoga retreat centers, and I have a lot of yoga teacher friends who have moved there or visited there over the years to teach and practice.  

 

I’m curious to see how this will play out, because yoga truly can be practiced by anyone, no matter their religious background or practice.   However, it’s true that yoga’s history is steeped within Hinduism, and to a lesser extent, Buddhism and Sikhism.  And of course, we sense that still in a lot of yoga classes – we say, “Namaste” and we sing “Om.”   We listen to traditional Hindu mantras in a lot of the popular yoga music. 

 

And so many people feel much more “spiritual” in their yoga class than they do in a traditional religious setting.   So how do we reconcile yoga?   How do we create a yoga space that’s welcoming and inviting, but also true to yoga’s roots?  

 

Somehow I don’t feel the paradox much in my personal life.   I don’t have a problem practicing yoga and also feeling connected to my religious tradition.  I’m curious if any of you have thought of this, or struggled with it in your personal life? 

 

A Balancing Act

 

I read this interesting article a week or two ago, and it has me thinking. The author is a well-know Iyengar teacher named Aadil Palkhivala, and it’s about creating a yoga practice that works for you, not just one that seems good on paper.   He maintains that most of us are out of balance in some way, so the correct practice for us may “appear to be imbalanced to the untrained observer.”   But in reality, it’s perfect for what we need in that moment.   What we need to do is create a practice that balances *us.* 

 

How do you do that when you’re in a class being led by a teacher?  And for that matter, as a teacher, how does one teach so that each student can figure out for him/herself an individually balanced practice?

 

The rest of his article goes on to talk about ways to use the Ayurvedic doshas to help you figure out what you need in your yoga practice.   There are three doshas (types) in Ayurveda (the sister science to yoga).   The type is based on your physical characteristics as well as your personality.  In Ayurveda, it’s helpful to know what your dosha is, either Vata, Pitta, or Kapha, because that will help you learn how to keep yourself  in better balance.  I’ve been surprised over the years how accurate dosha balancing suggestions have been for me. 

 

To find out your dosha, take this quick quiz  There are several others online, but this one is short J

 

One thing to think about that this article did not mention is that we are a combination of all the doshas, and therefore we are out of balance in different ways at different times.   He mentions that each of us have a dominant constitution in Ayurveda.   That’s true, and that doesn’t really change over our lives, but often we’re a combination of 2 out of the 3 doshas when we’re given our “diagnosis” of our constitution.  For example, I’m Pitta-Vata.  I’m a pretty even mix of the two, and right now, Vata is more out of balance for me than Pitta (The quiz just told me that – and I concur!).  I know that I feel out of balance on all 3 at times, and have really different home practices throughout each month or season as a result. 

 

Now, if you’re thinking this is mumbo-jumbo, take a pause.  This is just a way to ascertain who you are and how you act in the world, and consequently, the ruts you sometimes get caught in.  And I guess this is why I love home practice so much.   The more you practice, the more you know yourself.  The more you know yourself, the more you know how to balance yourself out – and you’ll probably be surprised that it’s the same prescription over and over again as we fall into the same ruts :).  And the more you know all this, the more insight you can gain from any yoga you practice, whether in a class or on your own.

 

Enjoy your practice!

 

Barrett  

 

 

YOGA JOURNAL ARTICLE

 

Last month, I was featured in this article. A sister yoga teacher and blogger wrote a piece for Yoga Journal online about teaching in a gym versus a yoga studio.  I currently teach in both studios and one gym, and over the last 10 years, I’ve taught in a lot of situations! I’ve gotten to know the pros and cons of working in different environments, and so reflecting on this for an article was interesting and fun for me!

 

First of all, I’ve taught (and practiced) in a lot of crazy places. For example, once I remember I was taking a class at a yoga conference (which is *really* expensive, fyi) and we were in Savasana (see yesterday’s post to understand how important Savasana is!).   Dark room, quiet music, resting after a vigorous practice, and then…. POW!   Bright lights going off repeatedly!   Snaps, clicks, shutters sounding.   Two professional photographers had been let in to photograph us, without us knowing! It was quite disturbing and not at all peaceful, and just kept going and going for more than a minute.  Half of us ended up walking out (my only time ever walking out of a class).   

 

And of course, I’ve taught in some pretty crazy scenarios as well – places that were freezing, places that were dirty or loud, places where there wasn’t enough room for everyone who attended.   I feel….very adaptable :)

 

It’s true what the article says – being flexible as a teacher is important – and not just in your hamstrings!   Going with the flow, having a sense of humor, and helping everyone else go with the flow with your cheery attitude, really does help.  I try to remember that most of the students in a yoga class have made some big sacrifices in time, money, and effort to get to class.   I don’t want to let them down, no matter what!   Some of my best class moments have been in less than ideal circumstances, so I know that attitude really counts :)

 

All this being said, I’m so grateful that there are beatiful yoga studios to teach and practice in.   It’s really nice to have a dedicated space that was designed for yoga, and is filled with yoga energy everyday.   Of course, the one gym I still work at (Healthworks for Women) is really good about supporting yoga as well, so I’m not complaining.   

 

Enjoy your practice today, wherever it may be!

 

Barrett

Back to the Blog

 

Triumphant return to blogging!   I’ve actually really missed blogging while I was doing the Odyssey, so I’m psyched to come back.

 

Life has been great here.  The Odyssey went really well, both from a logistic standpoint and personally.   We had almost 100 of us practicing together, and I had some really great practices over the month.  My body feels great – all the little nagging parts (hamstring, shoulder) are feeling a lot better!   And my mind – I’m handling the winter *much* better than usual, especially considering I’m not taking a tropical vacation this winter.  

 

I have so much to write about, but first I’ll just share another tidbit from our Odyssey.  This is one of the daily emails I sent during the Odyssey.

 

THE BEAUTY OF SAVASANA

 

I know it’s hard to pick one most important pose, but if I had to pick, I’d say Savasana (Final Rest Pose).  But the beauty of Savasana is that you really can’t get into it unless you’ve done some of the other asanas.  

 

Savasana works because we practice our other postures enough to feel a difference physically, mentally, and energetically.  If you were just to lie down without the physical stretch of the previous postures, you might not feel much physically.   You might not have much ability to mentally focus on the sensations in your being.   However, after twisting, bending and extending our bodies in all sorts of postures, in all kinds of sequences, Savasana offers a fascinating landscape to gaze over.  Instead of falling asleep, or tuning out mentally, we can immerse deeply into the sensations of being embodied, of being truly alive.   

 

So, treat yourself to Savasana!   You’ve done all the work of the previous asanas to get to this place where you can tune in.    

 

Enjoy your practice!

 

Barrett

 

 

 

 

 

Odyssey Featured in the DailyCandy

Marketing and promotion are not things I naturally gravitate towards. BUT, I’ve really loved these home Odyssey practices that I started in 2008 and I wanted to spread the word to everyone, not just to my Boston students.  

So with some encouragement from Gadi and Zeenat (ok, A LOT of encouragement), I started passing the word along to students, other yoga teachers, and to the press.   Today the DailyCandy featured the Odyssey – check it out!   As a result of this and other promotional work, I think we’re going to have at least 30 more participants than we have had in the past!  The more people who participate, the richer the discussion and overall experience for everyone.  So, I’m pretty happy about that! 

These days, every time I practice, I’m thinking about that exciting group energy that is building from the Odyssey. I love that about really good classes, too – the energy of the other yogis stimulates your own practice. It’s interesting that even though yoga is a personal experience, and highly individual, having some kind of sangha (community) is REALLY helpful.   I’m going to think about that a bit more…

Namaste,

Barrett

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