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

stress less. #MeditationThoughtMondays

stress less

That’s great advice… but, um, how can you possibly “stress less” when life is hectic? My meditation students never fail to ask, “When am I supposed to give time to sitting around and meditating during the day?”

You might not have twenty extra minutes in a day to experience the stress relieving benefits of meditation.  But, when time is precious, do you have extra minutes in a day to GIVE To Stress? Stress steals moments.  Stress steals your ability to be effective, efficient, and compassionate.  Because your body is most concerned with survival, it doesn’t have time to be concerned with anything else, even staying healthy.  You can read more about stress and your immune response here.

Stress is a normal physiological response to, well, just about everything in your current environment.  Your body does not discriminate between physical stress and emotional stress: it reacts to both by releasing the same hormones and vamping up your sympathetic nervous system to all stimuli– real, imagined, positive, or negative.

During April, National Stress Awareness Month (yes, one more thing for you to stress over forgetting!), my Introduction to Meditation Workshops at Westport Yoga have been packed.  The best part?  In between our afternoon Sunday sessions my students have shared with me inspiring stories about how a one-minute morning meditation has reduced their daily stress levels.  Kara told me how she didn’t even get upset when her car was rear ended at a red stop light because she was practicing Mindful Breathing.  (I assigned the homework called “Red Light Breathing” to encourage students to stay mindful even during a stressful commute!) That’s extreme; I’d still get upset if my unsuspecting Subaru was hit by some knucklehead who was driving too fast.  But Kara’s Red Light Breathing must be super powerful.

Even one minute of mindful breathing can reduce stress and create relaxation in the body.   Whether you have one minute, or sixteen years, here are 9 tips you can utilize to reduce your stress level and lead a happier life.  (Number 9 is my favorite!)

The following was featured in Outside Magazine’s October 2014 Issue.  You can read the full article here.  It was written by Eric Beresini

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If you have: “10 Seconds: Laugh

Even just anticipating a chuckle is enough to relieve stress and elevate hormones that combat depression and boost immunity.

If you have: 5 Minutes: 
Chew Gum

Chewing two sticks a day for two weeks can fight off anxiety and fatigue and improve mood.

If you have: 15 Minutes: 
Meditate

Research has shown that a quarter of an hour of guided meditation performed in the office can kick psychological and physiological markers of stress. You don’t need someone in the flesh to help lead your thoughts; UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center offers free weekly meditation podcasts to download or stream.

If you have: 30 Minutes: 
Go for a Run

Five days a week at a moderate pace of around ten minutes per mile can boost your mood, concentration, and sleep quality—not to mention your cardiovascular health and muscle tone.

If you have: 45 Minutes: 
Take a Nap

A 45-to-60-minute daytime snooze boosts your cardiovascular system, bringing spiked blood pressure back down to normal.

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yoga and movement help reduce stress.  check out Lisa’s yoga teaching schedule here.

 

If you have: 90 Minutes: Stretch It Out

Studies have shown that yoga relieves tension in everyone from medical students to flood survivors. Ninety minutes twice a week erases anxiety and replaces it with calm, though sessions half that long can also work. (Check out Lisa’s full yoga teaching schedule here.)

If you have: 1 Day: Walk in the Woods

Shinrin-yoku is a Japanese term meaning “walking or staying in forests to promote health.” Just a day in the wild, researchers have found, is enough to reduce stress, even in chronic sufferers.

 If you have: 1 Year: Move to Switzerland

The country topped the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Better Life Index for life satisfaction. A strong sense of community, high life expectancy, and low unemployment make the Swiss life sweet. That and your in-laws probably don’t live there.

If you have:16 Years: 
Get a Dog

A pup will lower your blood pressure and generally improve your psychological well-being. And bringing it to the office can increase job satisfaction.”  – Eric Beresini  You can read the full article here

Russell Ash being coy

Every time you come home, your dog will welcome you with open arms, no matter how stressed you are.  You should get one.  

Which of these tips can you utilize tomorrow?  Which one is your favorite?

(I’m sure you have time to stress less.  I can’t imagine you have time to stress more.)

Happy Living,

-lisa

stress less

Ashtanga Alignment Workshops: January 24 and January 31.

kurmasana WEB SMALL

Ashtanga Alignment: Primary Series Poses

Workshops: Saturdays January 25 and January 31

with Lisa Ash @ Maya Yoga

SOLD OUT

 Saturday January 25, 2015.  2:00-4:30: Standing Postures.

 Saturday January 31, 2015.  2:00-4:30: Seated Postures.

 Pricing: $35 for one workshop or $60 for both workshops (tax not included).

Do you have an Ashtanga Primary Series Practice but are still thinking: ‘I’m not sure where my body goes in this pose?’  This workshop is for YOU!

Are you new to the Ashtanga Primary Series Practice and still thinking: ‘I’m not sure where my body goes in this pose?’  This workshop is for YOU!

 In these two workshops, Ashtanga Yoga Teacher Lisa Ash will teach essential alignment of the essential Ashtanga Primary Series Poses with special focus on accommodations for your body and proper skeletal alignment for practicing with ease.

Recommended Reading: The Ashtanga Yoga Practice Manual by David Swenson.  Copies available for sale at Maya Yoga for $30.00 (tax not included).

 Location:

Maya Yoga

215 W 18th Street, KC MO

www.mayayoga.com

 

 Saturday January 25, 2015.  2:00-4:30: Standing Postures.

 Saturday January 31, 2015.  2:00-4:30: Seated Postures.

SOLD OUT

tips for yoga beginners (and not so beginners!)

tips for yoga beginners (and not so beginners!)

I’m just finding out that some people (read: a lot of people) have never tried a yoga class because they are too scared: they don’t know what to expect!  These beginners are imagining that every person in the class will be able to stand upside down on one hand, or something equally as crazy intimidating.  Since I spend more than half of my waking hours in a yoga studio, I forget that there exists a large majority of people in this world who aren’t familiar with yoga… and they are nervous to be a beginner!

Here’s the good news: All of it Begins at the Beginning.  

“The grace to be a beginner is always the best prayer for any artist.  The beginner’s humility and openness lead to exploration.  Exploration leads to accomplishment.  All of it begins at the beginning… with the first small step.”

 

So, Beginners, and Not So Beginners… this article is for you!

Our guest blogger is Yoga Teacher Gretchen Robinson, owner of Mark Blanchard’s Progressive Power Yoga in Overland Park, Kansas.  Gretchen has been teaching yoga for over fifteen years and has a wealth of expertise to share.

Gretchen

Gretchen Robinson

She says, “My teaching is an honest and true expression of what I feel and learn in my own personal
practice, combined with what I have learned (and will continue to learn) from others. The greatest teacher we all have resides inside ourselves.”   Gretchen truly believes that yoga is for everybody and every body.  She works with yoga students who are nearing 80 years old and yoga students who are barely 8 years old.  She works with yoga students who have physical impairments such as a prosthetic limb and yoga students who are marathon runners.  If you need physical healing or are interested in learning the deepest alignment of Power Yoga poses, Gretchen is for you!   You can find a full bio here and the full class schedule here.

Enjoy Gretchen’s article entitled:  Tips for Beginners (and not so beginners)

Tip #1:  Don’t Give Up
It usually takes at least 3 times of doing yoga before you feel like you are ‘in the flow.’ The first time, you may spend more time trying to figure out just what it is you are doing, the second time is easier, and by the third time, you are ‘in the flow’ so Don’t Give Up!
Tip #2:  Don’t Give Up
You are doing so much more than your realize! You are working on deep internal muscles, your endocrine system and glands, and using both sides of the brain. It’s a lot to take in and may be more than your body is used to doing. You may be more sore than you have ever been in your life… BUT get back to class as quickly as possible and we promise, you won’t be so sore the next time so Don’t Give Up!
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Tip #3:  Don’t Give Up!
Allow yourself to take your time to become strong and flexible. Practice non-attachment to the poses. Let yourself fall in love with the process. You might work on a particular pose for years before coming into what some would consider the full expression of the pose. Some poses might not ever come. Or some come today, but not tomorrow. And that is fine! Create an intention and work with it with patience without being attached to a goal or end result. Life is better that way. Practice and all is coming, we promise, so Don’t Give Up!
Tip #4  Don’t Give Up!
Come to the mat without having expectations of what you can do.  Please don’t put limitations on yourself; you may be surprised to learn you can do more than you thought. Relax and breathe! Allow your breath to be your guide. It is ok to be challenged to keep your breath but if you cannot control it, you are working too hard! Take child’s pose or simply back out of a posture until you can be in a place that allows you to control your breath. The word asana means ‘comfortable seat.’ Find the place in the posture where you can be in it comfortably. Just breathe and Don’t Give Up!”-
-Gretchen Robinson.
practice
Do you remember being a ‘yoga beginner?’  What did that experience teach you about how you learn?  If you are a seasoned practitioner, do you have the strength to approach the mat as if you were a beginner?  
Remember:
“The grace to be a beginner is always the best prayer for any artist.  The beginner’s humility and openness lead to exploration.  Exploration leads to accomplishment.  All of it begins at the beginning… with the first small step.”

defy gravity: arm balance workshop with Lisa

defy gravity workshop advert

(click to enlarge)

Defy Gravity Arm Balance Workshop : Saturday, September 20, 2014  3:00 pm – 5:00 pm

Special workshop with Lisa Ash. Learn the structural integrity of arm balances and benefit from personal attention to learn new variations of traditional arm balances.  Must have yoga experience, but proficiency in arm balances is not required.  Limit of 15 students.

You must pre-pay to reserve your spot in this workshop.

Cost:  $25 for Westport Yoga Members and $35 for non-members.  (tax not included)

Please E-mail lisa@westportyogakc.com to Sign-Up.  Visit Westport Yoga’s Site  for more details.

 

best advice for wrist pain.

I would agree with blogger and yoga teacher Kristen Warren that wrist pain is the most common complaint for new-to-yoga students.  My first advice is always: stretch your shoulders!  Most wrist pain is due to tight shoulders… funny enough.  This article gives detailed explanations and advice regarding the dreaded wrist pain experienced in yoga asana sessions.  I’m reblogging from Kristen’s site:

How to avoid Wrist Pain, or deal with it if you’ve got it!

Wrist Range of Motion (ROM):

To start, it is very important to understand the ways in which a person’s wrist can move. To visualize, place your right arm in front of you with your palm facing away from you and move your wrist as I describe the ways to move it.

Bend right hand towards the inside of your forearm or radial bone (hand is moving left) – ABDUCTION

Bend right hand towards the outside of your forearm or ulna bone (hand is moving right) – ADDUCTION

Bend your hand down towards the floor so fingers point down – FLEXION

Bend your hand up towards the ceiling so your fingers point up – EXTENSION

Rotate your wrist so the thumb is midline to the body – PRONATION

Rotate your wrist so the thumb is away from the body – SUPINATION

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Now visualize the various poses offered in a typical yoga class: All 4’s, Crocodile, Cobra, Upward Facing Dog, Downward Facing Dog, Crow…just to name a few. Think about what the wrist is doing. With these poses, the wrist is often in a 90˚ “EXTENSION” and is this not when the complaints arise?

In yoga, many times wrist EXTENSION is pretty intense and new people aren’t used to this intensity so it hurts. Think about it, in general, how often do any of us have our wrists in full extension? Umm, not too often. So as long as person doesn’t have a wrist injury, past surgery, or even Carpal Tunnel Syndrome there are a lot of options out there to help alleviate the intensity and also to strengthen the wrist so you’ll be able to do those poses more comfortably.

Suggestions:

Props: Wedges, folded towels, or hands placed on edge of a folded mat, will lessen the angle of extension which can alleviate the intensity of the wrist’s pain. There are also “Wrist Assured Gloves” (WAG) which provide support like a brace. And recently these yoga eggs which are a hybrid between a ball and a block also lessen the angle. I’ve seen these eggs advertised in Yoga Journal, and YogaFit offers trainings which incorporate them. Other props change up the hand position. These include small (non-rounded) hand weights or Gripitz or even just creating fists vs. having the wrist in extension is another option. (I’ve found a great selection of these types of props at Dick’s Sporting Goods store).

Choosing Other Pose Options:

Sphinx vs. Cobra/Upward Facing Dog

Hovering Palms in Cobra vs. Cobra with hands pressed in the mat

Dolphin vs. Downward Facing Dog (or use props such as eggs, wedges or towels, straps or chairs)

Focus on Hand Placement and Pressure; Are You/They Actually Doing the Pose Correctly:

  1. Stack the joints (hands under shoulders) and spread fingers out like “starfish” –and ensure your index finger is pointed forward verses angled out. This distributes the pressure.
  2. Press down where the fingers join the palms and allow it to continue down towards fingertips with most weight being on the thumb side of the hand, ensure middle fingers are parallel to each other. The thumb side of the hand is stronger than the pinky finger side.
  3. Engage those leg muscles! When you are in Downward Facing Dog, you aren’t supposed to place all your body weight into the hands; however, lots of people are guilty. Pursue the pose correctly and/or instructors fix their alignment! Exhale as you enter into the pose, relax the head and neck, ears should be between the biceps, shoulders are relaxed and pulling towards the hips, not the ears. And of course, follow the above steps 1 and 2 for the hands.

Daily Strengthening Wrist Exercises:

  1. Place hands together at “Heart’s Center,” lower palms down as elbows lift.  This will help you get used to the “EXTENSION.”
  2. Make a fist, rotate your fist clockwise 10x and then 10x counterclockwise, end with stretching “Starfish Fingers.”
  3. Make a fist, palms up and do wrist curls. Rotate palm down, and do “upward” wrist curls. Try first alone and then with hand weight as the wrist strengthens.

Be kind to those wrists. Send them some love. Enlighten yourself and your participants! Enjoy the benefits of practice!

Namaste, Kristen

 

Let me know if this is helpful to you. ~lisa