Yoga Revival – Week 5: Fighting Gravity

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I am now more than a month into my Yoga Revival. It began with a free outdoor class on the Solstice, which was the first international yoga day as declared by the United Nations last December. My goal was to have a ‘regular yoga practice” – and so far I do! Woo-hoo!!

“Talk to me in a year,” immediately pops into my head. “It’s only been a month.” In my adult life I’ve had periods of serious dedication to yoga – but moreover, I’ve been rather a dabbler. Particularly over the past 8 years since becoming a father.

Many people have been surprised. They assumed since I’m part owner of a yoga supply company that I must do yoga regularly. I did at times in my life. And, I suppose in my mind I have told myself that I am practicing yoga daily. Generally I do – even if just for a tiny piece of the day while waiting for the microwave, or the water to boil. And there are times when I am waiting in line for something, and feel a little impatience starting to grow, and turn inward, and listen to my breath, while staring at a little speck on the wall (“drishti” definition here. Source: Drishti Yoga Journal article)

On a particularly turbulent coast to coast plane ride the other day a thick line of people formed in front of me when the air smoothed out and seatbelt sign finally went off. It was a big claustrophobic crowd in the aisles, then a dad and his toddler cut the line, and we were all trying not to look at each other, and it felt like the oxygen might be running low in that tight little space. I logged about 10 minutes of meditation, and almost took a picture of my drishti point, or some sort of selfie, but I feared someone might wrestle me down in the aisle because of suspicious activity. People were probably already a bit suspicious by the way I was smiling about this.

I believe these are valid, very useful moments of yoga practice. There are 8 limbs to Yoga after all, lest we forget. Here is a good description of them by Yoga Journal:  http://www.yogajournal.com/article/beginners/the-eight-limbs/

Reading over this reinforces something I know and love about yoga. It is BIG. And it is comprehensive. It is spiritual. I’ll never forget when my East coast Catholic mother was visiting in San Francisco in the late 90’s, and she was flipping through the Yoga Sutras sitting on the couch. I thought she might be just judging that here was further evidence of my deepening plunge in hippy oblivion. But much to my surprise, she was pleased by the similarities in the messages of the Yoga Sutras to what she had learned in church all those years. Her acceptance made me so happy.

For my purposes now – I am NOT looking at the BIGNESS of yoga. When I set out for a Yoga Revival in June, I intentionally set my sights on small (half hour) increments of yoga per day. When I first started practicing yoga regularly in the early 1990’s I was recovering from having a disk (hastily) removed from my lower back (L4-L5).  My yoga teacher friend visited and showed me a SHORT yoga routine that took roughly a half hour, stretching and strengthening muscles all around my back, without straining it. She made some crude stick drawings to ensure I remembered the poses.  A week into this, I felt the results, and kept doing it, and the results got better and better.

The briefness of this practice (25-45 minutes) helped me to DO IT DAILY back then. But even so, when I eventually felt like I’d never had a back problem – I quit doing yoga so regularly. I have discovered through my conversations with injury prone friends and physical therapists that most people stop doing their rehab exercises once they feel better – even though these are often meant to go on and on to help prevent further injury. So my conclusion is it’s our nature to take the easy way out, and so – for now at least – I need to “fight gravity” – to keep this yoga practice “regular.”

One of the best examples of fighting gravity is when my alarm goes off in the morning. Seattle’s cool nights make for some sweet sleep – so given the choice between staying in my warm comfy bed and getting into downward dog – I’m going to need some motivation to beat gravity.

Today gravity and the snooze button won for an hour, but I finally staggered to the mat, and salvaged a good 40 minute practice before work. Which means no full belly meditation tonight. And also, I have felt a balance and peacefulness from it, which might be the motivation I need to make tomorrow’s fight against gravity a bit easier.

 

Posted under Health and Fitness, Meditation, Styles of Yoga, Yoga Supplies

This post was written by David on July 29, 2015

Yoga Trends: Laughter Yoga

 

Laughter Yoga, also called Hasyayoga, was created in 1995 by Indian doctor Madan Kataria and his wife Madhuri, a yoga instructor. The Katarias created laughter clubs that met in the parks of Mumbai, and soon the concept grew into a worldwide phenomenon. Today there are thousands of groups in dozens of countries!

The practice of Laughter Yoga combines yogic breathing, stretching and laughing as a form of exercise. It has many benefits, such as relieving stress, reducing depression, improving cardiovascular health, and enhancing the immune system. When practicing, it’s not necessary for participants to have something funny to chuckle at; even simulated laughter has the same benefits as a genuine belly laugh. And as practitioners quickly find out, with good eye contact and an open mindset, even self-generated laughter quickly turns into the real thing when you’re practicing with a group.

To participate in Laughter Yoga near you, you can check out a number of websites including Dr. Kataria’s website LaughterYoga.org and Meetup.com. And for all your yoga needs, visit barefootyoga.com!

“We are paying very high price for taking life seriously. Now it’s time to take laughter seriously.”

– Dr. Madan Kataria

 

Posted under Health and Fitness, Styles of Yoga, Yoga News

This post was written by Lauren on July 24, 2015

Coming Back to Yoga: Vacation Mode and Natural Yoga Props

Day 26

On vacation. Ahhh, sweet summertime in my East Coast homelands of Connecticut and New York.

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I’m happy to say – more than halfway into week 4 of my commitment to “regular” yoga – I am still committed. I will admit, week 2 I did yoga 5 days instead of 6, between travel days, and celebrating my daughter’s 8th birthday on the Fourth of July. But I managed 6 days of yoga during week 3, with a little added time to compensate for my missed day in week 2.

In the name of traveling light, I did not bring such luxurious props as my Barefoot Yoga Zafu meditation pillow. A couple of evenings I found myself full of dinner, and still with no practice under my belt. I stacked a bunch of pillows which squashed down when I sat on them. Although this did not provide the comfort I’m used to from my mediation throne at home (a Zafu on top of a zabuton) – it definitely sufficed.

 

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At this point in my “yoga revival” I have become much better about getting up early, and doing a morning asana practice – which is sometimes still difficult to motivate myself for – but seems to be getting easier. I have found rolling out a mat, setting my watch to 30 or 35 minutes, and just starting it without thinking too much about it works best. Also, I have done many of these practices outdoors, and have reconnected to the joy of yoga in nature. In a few instances, when I took my almost 90 year-old mother to her 3 day a week work out at the hospital, I walked to a small park/playground a few minutes away, and practiced on a nice flat patch of grass. I am looking forward to visiting this spot for a final time tomorrow.

I have also enjoyed yoga on the beach for the past two days. One of my favorite spots to meditate is where the water hits the beach, and creates a shelf. As one who has always been stiff in the hip and groins – a lift for my seat is a necessity for comfortable meditation, and the natural lift I get on the side of a hill, or the shelf on the beach works perfectly. I believe the roar of the ocean is as good a background sound for yoga/meditation as I have found, although birds chirping the sound of breeze in the trees is pretty darn nice too.

During some of these asana and meditation practices I have felt elation. I have felt increasing strength, and uplift. At other times, I have had to push myself to keep going. But in every case, I have felt better, more balanced, more even-keeled as a result of my almost daily practice.

Normally I accompany my words with pictures of various yoga tools our 17 year-old company Barefoot Yoga offers. Today, I’m providing a picture of me meditating on the naturally formed cushion that is without question one of my favorite for meditation. As we at Barefoot Yoga have said from the start, we offer these products as tools to help achieve more peace and stillness through the practice of yoga when there is restlessness of the mind, intellect and spirit. These tools are only external props that we have personally enjoyed in our experiences. The true pathway is within yourself.

 

Posted under Health and Fitness, Meditation, Styles of Yoga

This post was written by David on July 17, 2015