Wednesday, December 30, 2009

My little Rant on the Myth of Yoga & Flexibility

I always get so bummed out every time I hear someone tell me they would love to try yoga...BUT..."they're soooOOOooo not flexible."

If you've been using your inflexible body as an excuse to not do yoga, you may not want to read this. :P Because I am here to convince you:

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE FLEXIBLE TO PRACTICE YOGA. Flexibility may seem like it is a prerequisite to practicing yoga. I understand, I've seen the magazines too! It can be intimidating at first, when your association with the practice of yoga are these slender lithe beings who seem to easily contort themselves into pretzel like shapes. Well here's food for thought: The men & women you see on the covers of magazines are generally teachers who have spent YEARS i mean 10-15 years practicing and teaching. Just sayin'!!!!

It's actually quite simple: Whatever you lack in your body, a yoga practice will give to you. Not overnight, but with extended and dedicated practice, the parts of your body which are stiff and inflexible will become more supple and movable. You will soften where you need space, stabilize where you need balance, open where you need length and tone where you need strength. AND, as a little "icing on the cake" as they say...These qualities that you begin to cultivate in your physical body will then manifest themselves into your more subtle energies and you will notice that they will begin to have an affect on how you express yourself and live in the world. Yoga is a transformative, alchemical, creative process!

My personal journey has been about gaining strength in areas that were once weak. Flexible, but weak, and therefore at great risk for injury. Because yoga came naturally to me, I never even realized that I didn't have much muscular strength in my thigh muscles. I would just thrust myself into the posture, not even realizing that instead of using my muscles I was instead sinking into joints. It's been a long journey, but I now have stronger quadricep and hamstring muscles that I know how to use to protect my fragile flexible joints. As it so happens I have also started to feel a lot more grounded and rooted in my life.

B.K.S. Iyengar says; "...My own body was the laboratory, in which I saw the health benefits of yoga, but I could see that yoga would have as many benefits for my head and heart as it did for my body....The miracle is that after seventy years these gifts are still increasing for me. The benefits of practice cannot always be anticipated. When they come, it is so often as unexpected bounty in forms one had not expected. But if you think that learning to touch your toes or even stand on your head is the whole of yoga, you have missed most of it's bounty, most of its blessings and most of is beauty." (Light on Life)

So, now try and see for yourself! Who cares if you can't touch your toes???!!! A beginners Iyengar class is a great place to start if you're unsure because you're not flexible. The teachers are true guides who use a lot of props to help each individual yogi and yogini to get into the poses in a way that is aligned with what their body is capable of.

Next up: I will debunk the Myth that yoga is just an elaborate stretch session. Stay tuned!


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

next hoop-yoga session 12/17 @ 9pm

hoop-yoginis and yoga-hoopers!
We know you're craving a wonderful work out experience, so to quench your fun-loving thirst here it is: our next HOOP YOGA session! We are so very excited to meet up for another workshop integrating yoga (led by our own talented and certified instructor Nicole) and hoop dance. Our first class had such a great turn out and can't wait to share this great workout experience with more of you!
If you were able to attend class last time, it would be amazing to see you again. It's going to feel great to have that hoop around your body again - you may be surprised by how easy you get it this time! For those who are new to the list or weren't able to make the last class, we would LOVE to see you! and don't you worry about being behind on your hooping - We use larger, weighted hoops which make it much easier to catch on (and provide better exercise too!)... in fact, we haven't yet met someone that we couldn't teach to hoop, so trust us, you can do it! Just about everyone in the class are inexperienced or beginner hoopers, so you'll be in good company!
Where: Sounddance Studio - 281 N. 7th Street between Havemeyer & Meeker (BQE), Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Trains-- take L train to Bedford or Lorimer, or G train to Metropolitan/ Lorimer and it's just a couple of blocks away
When: Thursday, 12/17 9:00-10:15PM
How much: Free! Though donations are greatly appreciated!!! Since it's our second class and we're still working with each other and with you to make this the best class EVER, we aren't charging... But if you can afford it, please give a donation (whatever you can afford to give us... $5? $10? :) the donation is to help us cover the cost of the rental space and to supply the hula hoops for the class.
What to bring/wear: Just comfy work out clothes that you can move around it and your beautiful self - we'll provide the rest! We have the hula hoops, mats and yoga accessories needed for class
Why: ....Because it's awesome and it'll make you feel great!!! as we noted in the last email - 1 hour of hooping burns the same amount of calories as running on the treadmill for the same amount of time at an 8 minute mile pace!!! If you're feeling a little pokey after Thanksgiving or want to get a head start on holiday cookie calories, it's a fantastic and fun way to work your body and tone your core and arms specifically.
Hope to see you on Thursday the 17th! Please let us know if you think you can join us(Friends welcome too! Just let us know a head count) If you aren't able to make it and want to be removed from our list as to not be contacted in the future, let us know... no hard feelings :) Please feel free to email if you have any questions. Can't wait to see you all!
hug n kisses and happy hooping,
Becca, Mary Beth and Nicole

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

DIY Restorative: Upper Back Opener (free massage anyone?!)

This delicious posture can be done without a mat on any hard surface, and you don't really need too too much space. All you're going to need is a towel, blanket, or sheet, and your beautiful self.

First, take whichever "prop" you have, fold it, and then roll it into a cylindrical shape that is approximately 3 inches thick and at least a few feet long. You want it to be AT LEAST a few inches wider than your shoulder blades on each side for the pose to be held comfortably.

Position yourself in front of the rolled up prop with your knees bent and soles of the feet on the floor.

Now, find the very bottom of your sternum (breast bone) and place a finger there. Draw a straight line from that point around your rib cage until you're touching your spine. If you move your finger from side to side you will graze the very bottom of your shoulder blades, your "wing tips". This is the part of your back that you want to be resting on the cylindrical roll up you just made.

Lean that part of your back onto the roll up, keeping your knees bent and soles of the feet on the floor, allowing your shoulders to pour over the roll up onto the floor. Tops of the shoulder blades should meet the floor. If they don't you should adjust the thickness of your roll up.

You should feel a "sensation" in the space in between your shoulder blades, and it may be uncomfortable (BUT NOT PAINFUL) at first. You are placing a great amount of pressure on some very deep, very thick upper back muscles where we all hold A LOT of tension. If you don't feel any sensation whatsoever, you should increase the thickness of your roll. If the top of your shoulders do not touch the floor, decrease the thickness of your roll.

When your settled at the right thickness, bring your arms out to "T" shape with the palms facing up, then bend to a 90 degree angle. (This is called "Cactus Arms")

breathe, smoothly in and out through your nose.

relax, your forehead, your eyes, your jaw, your throat.

surrender, allowing your body to melt into the floor and the support, no tension, no muscular effort at all.

This pose feels soooo good and is a stimulating, invigorating, deep, but passive backbend. A great way to experience the benefits of deep backbending/heart opening without the risks that come along with them, especially if you're a beginner. It can be practiced in the morning in lieu of a cup of coffee, or any time you need a jolt of energy! Also great to relieve muscular tension and pain in the upper back.

You're also opening your heart center, or chakra, which is said to govern the heart and circulatory system, thymus gland and respiratory system. In terms of the subtle body the heart chakra represents the seat of your higher emotions like true and unconditional love. You may take your attention to your sternum area and mediate on the following mantra if you'd like: "Yam", pronounced Y-ah-m. NOT like that orange potato we eat during the holidays in the US. :P

If your mind wanders, that's ok, bring your attention back to the mantra or to the the inhale and exhale.

Hold for at least 3 minutes.

To come out of the pose: Gently, gently, GENTLY, roll to your right side. PAUSE, take a few breaths here. Then, letting your head be the last part of your body to come up, gently press yourself up to a sitting position. Find a comfortable cross legged seat (you can sit up on your prop if you'd like), close your eyes and breathe. You may feel a jolt of energy after stimulated those DEEP upper (thoracic) back muscles.