As a long-time yoga practitioner, I remember speaking with my teachers and fellow students 15 years ago about the discomforting fact that images in the publications were almost always those of young, white, athletic women or prominent male “gurus.” Some of us wrote letters to the editor protesting this fact, but nothing really changed.
When it comes to our bodies, we as women tend to place a great deal of pressure on ourselves to achieve certain results. We deprive ourselves and push ourselves in order to whittle down, tighten up, drop dress sizes, and increase our level of attractiveness. We exalt uber-thin (sometimes, dangerously thin) bodies through images of “thinspiration.” We put these images out on social media and tell the world, “This is what I’m striving for.”
Every day I teach and practice is a new day. As I work in my heart and body simultaneously, I begin to see how interconnected the two are. My body informs my feelings, and my feelings inform my body.
It is important that we change with the seasons just as nature does by adapting our daily habits, yoga practice and food choices. During the winter season, the energy of the Earth and its creatures is drawn inward. We can use this time for restoration and introspection, just as many plants and animals use it for hibernation. In preparation for the spring, it is important to slow down and rejuvenate.
An Ayurvedic approach to winter
There is a rule in Ayurveda that “like attracts like.” That is why the kapha and vata doshas can become provoked and aggravated during the dry, dark, cold months of winter. This is because the climate is alike the qualities of these two doshas. If kapha or vata are triggered, digestive fire plummets, leaving you more susceptible to colds, poor circulation, joint pains and negative emotions. Here are some yoga and lifestyle tips that can help you to balance your doshas this season.
Holidays are a time for family, friends and — let’s not kid ourselves — food. I love to go away for a few days and eat things I normally don’t in amounts that would shock a Sumo wrestler. Hence, it may be the season to be jolly, but it’s also a time when it’s all too easy to pack on the pounds along with the cheer.
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.
“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.
Imagine yourself standing on the top of a mountain. The sun is shining. Your hair is blowing in the wind. Your skin is warm and bronzed. You feel fit and lean, strong and powerful. You feel as healthy and alive as you’ve ever felt!
Anyone who’s completed a “successful” detox knows that’s exactly how it is to be standing at the supposed destination you’ve set for yourself. You relish a new-found radiance and are buzzing with pride from the compliments about your healthy glow and flat tummy.
It’s inevitable. You stand there at the top of this metaphorical mountain, with so much accomplishment behind you, feeling vibrant and energized, and you say to yourself, “I’m going to eat this way for the rest of my life.” And from the depths of your soul, you mean it.
And then … life happens.
Everyone has a story about why they took their first yoga class and why they keep coming back. Most involve a desire to slow down, release tension, or recover from an injury. Mine is no different.
I took my first step onto the mat to learn how to let go of tension before it turned into an ulcer, as my lifestyle at that time was very fast-paced and stressful. Little did I know that in taking my first step on the mat, I would not only learn how to tune into my breath and strengthen my body, I would learn that I had the power to transform my life by gaining a clearer understanding of the mind-body connection.
Are you addicted to crack? Cracking your joints, I mean! There were years during my 20s when I could not fathom getting through my early-morning yoga practice without popping my shoulders, low back, hips and neck. I was popping and cracking my way through the day like a one-woman band.
Usually these fast internal whacks felt great, a rush that temporarily relieved aches and pains. What I didn’t know at the time was that all that cracking was not only emblematic of my body’s instability, but it was accelerating my own tissue breakdown.