“yes please!”

At Westport Yoga KCwe have these little green consent cards that say “Yes, please” on one side and our logo on the back. We use these cards so students can communicate with our yoga teachers to tell us if they consent to hands-on adjustments or if they really just want to be left alone. (Often, our students really just want to be left alone. I get it; me, too.)

I love these “Yes, please” cards because they remind me to be very clear about what I am saying, “Yes, please” to. The cards are a perfect example of practicing brahmacharya, which means moderation and conservation. Brahmacharya is an appeal for a balanced lifestyle and healthy self-care, as we discussed in last week’s post.

Brahmacharya asks me to conserve my energy, refusing to spend it on worry, shame, frustration, crappy coffee, donuts and Twitter, saving it up to use it only on what’s really important. (Coincidentally, love, acceptance, humility, Roasterie Coffee, pumpkin bread and Instagram are pretty darn important.)

Asking myself what I’m actively saying, “yes, please!” to helps me simplify my intentions, my practices and my daily choices. It helps me live a full, abundant life and say ‘no thanks’ to the things that tend to drag me down and deplete my energy.

Are you saying, “yes, please!” to self-care, simplicity,mindfulness and grace? Are you saying, “yes, please!” to conserving your energy in order to spend it on what’s precious and beautiful and life-affirming? Are you saying, “yes, please!” to living a balanced, whole and consecrated lifestyle?

Literally, what are you saying “Yes please!” to? I’d love to hear from you?

-lisa

how to balance your mind in an unbalanced world.

Springtime. I come out of hibernation and act like a maniac. I want to take all sorts of yoga classes all over town, attend all sorts of events, run all sorts of trails with Russell Clive, plant all sorts of herbs and be ridiculously active until the sun goes down. I think, “I have so much energy now that the sun is shining! I am invincible!”

And then the next day, I need a 2 hour nap and am wearing pajamas by 3 pm.

My reality slackens its grip on the wisdom of “a balanced lifestyle,” something I wholeheartedly endorse as a yoga instructor. In yoga, we call wisdom “ishvara.Ishvara is the collective consciousness that we all have access to if we are quiet enough to listen. However, if we are unbalanced– if our energies and attentions swinging wildly between frenetic activity and forced hibernation, then we are not listening to this wisdom.

Ishvara is a wisdom tradition and also a teacher. Ishvara teaches us to humility by reminding us that there is a wisdom bigger than our individual ego. Each of us has direct access to these teachings through yoga and through meditation.

Isvara doesn’t demand or cajole or plead, it teaches and leads our life back into balance when we are at the end of our tether.

My go-to fix for finding balance in an unbalanced world is a pranayama technique designed specifically to restore balance to the mind and increase focus.  

Nadi Shodana: Alternate Nostril Breathing

  1. Use your right hand. Make a ‘mudra’ of first two fingers extended, other fingers lightly folded in to the palm.
  2. Rest the first two fingers lightly between the eyebrows. The knuckle of the thumb rests lightly on the right-side bridge of nose and the knuckle of the ring finger rests lightly on the left-side bridge of nose.
  3. Take 3 cleansing inhales and exhales.
  4. On an inhale, apply light pressure to the right side of the nose and inhale through the left side of the nose.
  5. On an exhale, apply light pressure to the right side of the nose and exhale through the left side of the nose.
  6. Continue alternating the breath in the nostrils for 10 rounds.
  7. To finish, rest your hands lightly in your lap. Take 3 cleansing inhales and exhales.
  8. Quietly affirm to yourself: “I maintain focus and balance.”

Emerge from this practice feeling focused and balanced. Use it as often as needed throughout the day. It’s perfect before an important meeting, after lunch break or anytime your mind slides towards imbalance.

Happy Balancing,

-lisa

(editor’s note: a version of this story was published April 10, 2017 on mayayoga.com. used with permission.)

how to start a home practice.

Berkeley, California

When it’s sunny I recommend taking your home practice outside. :)

 

Nearly every week I get a Facebook message from a friend saying, “Oh, I WISH I could come to your classes, Lisa, but…<enter any number of legitimate or not-so-legitimate reasons> so could you recommend yoga for me to practice at home?

I always try to be helpful, because I understand that attending a yoga class led by a teacher is not always feasible. Babies require babysitters, Kids need rides to gymnastics, co-workers schedule mandatory lunch meetings, work deadlines must be met, happy hour specials should be enjoyed.  Or, it’s snowing.  Or raining.  Or sunny.  Or hot.  Or just too stinking early in the morning to get to a 6:00 am class.

If any of these excuses ring a bell: you need a Home Practice.

Home Yoga Practice has benefits: I engage in home practice at least twice a week because I’m usually teaching my own classes at ‘yoga class times of the day.’  I also use this time as exploration of poses and sequences that I’m going to teach; my classes are always intentional and my lesson plans detailed.

However, I strongly believe you NEED A TEACHER.  The Yoga History is very clear on this subject: yoga was originally taught from teacher to pupil in a 1:1 ratio.  Teachers can offer you the appropriate modifications for injuries and for body type. Teachers can point out to you when a pose needs to be tweaked to avoid injury.  Teachers can offer pointers on breath control, guide you through meditation, and share their own wisdom regarding the philosophy of a yogic lifestyle. They may show you a few poses, but that’s not the important part. Teachers actually, um, teach you.

During your search for your yoga teacher (if you don’t already have one or live too far away from me to attend my classes) here are some tips for “Starting a Home Practice.”

  1. Find a space.

My home yoga space is actually a home office.  (And a ‘bike room’ a perk of living with an IronMan.)  It’s not a state-of-the-art bamboo-floored softly lit yoga haven like you would imagine a yoga teacher would own.  Actually, we don’t even own my office, we live in a 900 square foot rented house.  Read: there are a LOT of distractions in my ‘yoga space’ including my computer, my books, my to-do pile, a closet, a doggie bed, and an area rug always in need of a vacuum.  My point?  No space in your home is ever going to be ‘perfect’ but do not let that be an excuse.  Turn down the lights, clear away a space big enough for your mat (preferably not carpeted) and light some candles.  Commit to your space and invite the Sacred to meet you there.  In my yoga space are pictures of loved ones, landscapes of mountains, reminders of the beach, and a small altar.  Make the space meaningful to you.

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my home yoga space. please note the presence of Russell Clive, who cuddles with me in savasana.

  1. Outfit with Yoga Props.

You’ll need the following: your own yoga mat. Everything else is optional.  Seriously. But if you do want to buy props, here are my recommendations:

  • 2 Yoga Blocks.  I prefer foam blocks which can be purchased at retail outfitters such as Target and Sporting Goods Stores.
  • 1 Yoga Strap.  I prefer an 8 or 10 foot yoga strap with a plastic buckle available from Yoga Direct.
  • 1 Yoga Bolster for Meditation.  I love this “Sukasana Pillow” which helps me sit in ‘easy-pose’ for meditation.      
  • 1 Eye Pillow for Savasana. I love this Hugger Mugger Silk Eye-Bag with flaxseed filling.
  1. Choose a Guide.

Again, there is no substitute for the guidance and expertise of a teacher in the room with you. However, if you are looking for a guided session at home, here are my recommendations from trusted teachers.

Yoga Upload with Maris Aylward.  Maris teaches for me at Westport Yoga and is an excellent guide.  Her YouTube channel is free, but it is quality.  A unique class that caters to beginners is her “Wrist Free” Yoga Class which doesn’t require Downward Facing Dog or Yoga Push-ups. Ideal for strong beginners and anyone who has a wrist or shoulder injury.

YogaGlo is an online forum of yoga classes from some of the most popular and respected yoga teachers in the country.  YogaGlo requires a monthly fee of $18 but the first two-week trial is free. Classes can be sorted by class level (making it easy for beginners to find an appropriate pace) and time frame (for busy-bees!).  You can also add classes to your ‘que’ and for easy referencing. My teacher Tiffany Cruikshank of Yoga Medicine is featured on this website and her classes are super fun!

YogaVibes offers the option to purchase per-online-class.  If you are an Ashtanga Practioner and need to practice at home, you can download a Full Led Primary Series Class with my teacher Wade Mortenson here.

  1. Schedule it in your day.

Write it in your calendar and treat your Home Practice as an appointment that cannot be missed. It’s easy to become distracted during a home practice: you’ll suddenly notice your house needs cleaning or that the laundry isn’t done.  You’ll put it off until after your NetFlix original series ends. You’ll sit down to answer one email and end up on Facebook an hour later.  The key is discipline and commitment.  Set a time for your home practice every week and respect that time.  Make a schedule and stick to it!

No home practice is going to perfect, but then again, no yoga practice is ever perfect. That’s why it is called ‘practice.’  And it’s worth it, because yoga is the good life and can change your life in a million ways (or at least 10).  Remember: when it comes to yoga, there are 2 lessons to learn.

Go. Get learning. Let me know how I can help along the way.

-lisa

2 lessons yoga has taught me.

2 lessons yoga has taught me.

A few months ago, my dear friend and yoga student Stina Hergott blasted a post on her Pink Moon KC Blog called “10 lessons My Bike Has Taught Me.”  It got me thinking.  And thinking.  And thinking: could I narrow my list of ‘lessons that yoga has taught me’ to a list of 10?

Well. As it turns out, I can synthesize my list to two.

  1. There is only today.
  2. There is always tomorrow.
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photo cred Saunders Fine Arts

 

1. There is only today.  Yoga is not a hobby or an activity.  Yoga is a practice.  Which means every time I practice yoga, it’s a practice of learning to be actively engaged in the present moment.  The present moment may be super enjoyable.  It may be slightly uncomfortable.  It is the only moment I have.

Yoga is a meditation on the Spirit that is found within the breath.  I can’t breathe into the future and I can’t breathe in the past.  Which means I shouldn’t let my mind live in the future and I shouldn’t let my mind live in the past.  Which means: there is now.  And there is today.  And if I desire patience, I practice that today.  And if I desire compassion, I practice that today.  And if I desire to be filled with God-light, to spread forgiveness, to find moments of hidden healing joy everywhere I look, I practice today.  When my shoulder was injured last fall, my daily Ashtanga practice was often excruciating.  (As was opening my car door, taking my Russell for a walk, and holding my coffee mug…ugh, much better now, thank you.)  So I challenged myself to ask this question when I was practicing:  “What if this were my last opportunity to take Downward Facing Dog Pose?  If that were the case, how would I want it to feel?  How would I want to enjoy it?”  Turns out: I would want to SAVOR it.  Yoga taught me that there is only today.  And today is to be savored. 

2. There is always tomorrow.  I like to accomplish things.  (Some might call me an over-achiever, yes, you, Mimi.)  Yoga taught me that it’s ok not to be perfect today.  I can attempt a pose (such as Royal Pigeon, which was my New Year’s Resolution in 2008 and I still can’t do!) and not freak out that I can’t do it.  I can’t take the full expression of this pose, YET.  Yet being the key word here, because there is always tomorrow.  I can get back on my mat tomorrow, even if I am sore, or tired, or cranky and: I can try again.  My all-time favorite Yoga Inspiration comes from Rolf Gates’ book Meditations from the Mat and it says this:

“We show up, we live passionately, we burn brightly in the moment, and when the moment is over, when our work is done, we step back and let go.”

Yoga taught me that life doesn’t require perfection, it simply requires me to savor the present moment and do my personal best… then let go of the results.  This lesson, more than anything else I’ve learned from practicing and teaching yoga, has had the greatest impact on my experience with the world and my often-anxious mind.  It has offered me peace of mind, it has calmed my anxiety, and it has truly healed my body and my heart. 

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photo cred Saunders Fine Arts

 

 

There is only today.  There is always tomorrow. 

What lessons has your yoga practice taught you? Please, share with me.  I would love to hear your answer.

-lisa

the benefits of yoga.

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the benefits of yoga.

Like we need more convincing?  I’m heading to Peru for the next few weeks, following a life-long dream of sleeping in the rainforest (kindergarten teachers really do inspire our future). So, while I’m out of the country, here is a little motivation to keep practicing!

June 10

“Yoga makes you happy”… that one is my favorite!

See you soon,

-lisa