Autumn has arrived, and with it, I always feel the need to turn within to find balance between the lightness I felt during the warm summer days and the sudden desire to stay cozy and warm inside, as the temperatures cool outside.
Watching leaves float to the ground is a reminder that our lives are a mirror of nature’s cycles and that everything is in a state of impermanence. Autumn is a time for letting go and releasing things that no longer serve us.
The yoga practice is a glorious dance of the physical possibilities in the human body. An advanced practice can take your breath away as easily as it can expand your ujjayi. It can twist and turn in directions that make an artist quiver with creative jealousy and inspire even the heaviest of sloths to entertain a change of mind.
That being said — it can also be intimidating as hell.
I learned, trained, teach and practice in Santa Monica, California. It is the mecca of yoga these days and the cream of the crop when it comes to beautiful practices. It’s hard to find a level 2-3 class that doesn’t have at least one yogi soaring through the air in-between asanas or adding what appears to be a level-X variation to every pose. It can often be inspiring and mind-blowing but it can also be, in a word, daunting.
If you’ve avoided yoga retreats as a vacation option because you’re worried you’ll spend all your time contorted in meditative silence, it’s time to take another look. Not only do many yoga retreats blend spa treatments and body work with asanas, but a whole new trend combines contemplative practice with activities such as horseback riding, mountain biking, stand-up paddle boarding and other outdoor pursuits.
Fall is the season of transformation. We can see this all around us in nature: the leaves are falling, the air is changing and we are harvesting an entirely new crop of fruits and vegetables.
It is important that we change with the seasons — just as nature does — by adapting our daily habits, yoga practice and food choices.
Ironically, it is only through change that was can stay grounded during this shifting season.
My husband’s shoulder started hurting him a few months ago. At first it would come and go. Then it started aching and burning at night, so much that he couldn’t sleep on his side. I suggested lots of exercises to help strengthen his shoulder (which, to my dismay, he did not practice), and he regularly used his Yoga Tune Up® Balls for self-massage, but he was still in pain.
By Paula Anderson
“It’s a dog’s life.”
That’s a phrase we hear time and time again. But why is so easy for our pets to seemingly embrace joy? And what is it about these furry descendants of the wolf that brings us such peace? Could it be that they, too, share an innate love of yoga?
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.