One of the main goals of a regular yoga practice is to be able to reach Samadhi, a state of deep concentration and meditation resulting in union with a greater reality … a greater universal consciousness. When we are in Savasana, we are working toward this state, feeling the benefits of our asana practice, resting our bodies in order to open up to our breath and release all of the tension and thoughts running through our minds — coming to a place of blissful nothingness.
Fifteen years ago, I was not acting my age. Since I would recoil from any form of exercise, as well as any green foods, I was overweight, inflexible and debilitated by lower back pain. The 40 extra pounds on my frame — plus tight, shortened back muscles and weak abs — left me moving like an 80-year-old version of myself.
I suffered daily from sciatica, back spasms, limited mobility, weakness, you name it. When I got stuck in my car one day, unable to swing my legs out because of my sciatic pain — at age 23 — I realized, “Something’s gotta change.”
I started reading up and realized a shocking number of people suffer with chronic back pain, partly from hours spent sitting in a way that flattens the lower back curve. (BTW, Gaiam’s Balance Ball Chair, the very one I’m sitting on as I write this, is a great tool to help build core strength and re-align your spine.)
Then, I found yoga. Over time, using some of the same poses I’m showing you here, I built a lean and pain-free body.
Recently I was talking with a friend of mine about life and the decisions we’ve made and I came to the realization that practicing and teaching yoga are two of the best choices I’ve ever made.
We’ve all heard of the many benefits of yoga: improved coordination, stronger bones, better posture and balance, stress reduction, body-mind connection, overall strength, and flexibility.
Summer is a time for relaxation and fun with more open schedules, warmer weather, outdoor activities and vacations. However, there can also be a sense of pressure and stress in trying to meet our expectations of a laid-back season.
Just the other day, I looked at my calendar and felt overwhelmed by all of the activities on it. Delving deeper, I realized that I needed to create some space to simply be: read a book, go deeper into my meditation practice, savor the smell of a peach as I cut into it or the smell of flowers while sitting in my yard.
Taking the time to be present in the moment is a beautiful practice in its own right, and yoga and meditation are two ways achieve that goal by creating a space within, bringing your attention inward and turning your thoughts away from distractions.
As the seasons shift, our bodies cycle through an organic ebb and flow of change that serves to harmonize and create balance within us. These changes are usually influenced by the seasons themselves: hours of daylight, foods that are abundant at particular times of the year, weather patterns and seasonally inspired activities.
Although your body will adjust to these changes naturally, it never hurts to integrate some simple tweaks into your routine to aid in the transition and link yourself more intimately with the season that is upon you.
When life gets busy, it’s easy to get out of balance – emotionally, physically and mentally – from trying to maintain equilibrium between the activities that fulfill us and the demands of life. Very rarely are we able to maintain the ‘great Tree Pose of balance,’ as our lives are in a constant state of change.
“As long as you can take a deep breath in the pose, you’re safe.”
How many times have you heard this phrase from a yoga teacher? You may have even heard it from me…
Deep breathing has always been the fail-safe awareness detector for pose safety. The prevailing myth is that your breath is the best way to gauge whether or not you have traveled too deeply beyond your edge in a pose.
I’ve been practicing yoga for close to two decades. The awareness and grounding it offers has steadied me through cross-country moves, crazy deadlines, tragic breakups, getting married and becoming a mother. Yet when I had the second of my two kids in just over two years, I gave up all forms of mind-body practice cold turkey. I just couldn’t take on anything that wasn’t directly related to keeping those kids alive and cared for.
At some point in your yoga practice, you’ve probably been asked to set an intention or San Culpa. Setting an intention is a wonderful way to start your practice, your day, or any new beginning, but in doing so it’s always good to step back and ask why you’re doing it. What is intention? What does intention mean to me?
I will begin with the admission that in this life, I have been extremely blessed. In the course of my work in the natural foods industry, I have been present at nearly every major yoga + music festival around the country. Wanderlusts, Bhakti Fests, Tadasana, Yoga Journal, you name it, I’ve been there distributing snacks, squeezing in some classes and generally reveling in the vibe.