I have been teaching yoga for 17 years, and one of the most frequent complaints I hear from students and yogaphobes alike is that they don’t have enough time for practice, so they avoid it altogether.
Avoiding a regular practice of stretching will never get you the healing benefits that come with the work. Even if you only do one pose a day, you will make a huge difference in your body, brain and well-being.
Peep into any of the thousands of yoga classes across the globe and you will find that students are donning more than just yoga outfits. In addition to the latest leggings and tank tops by Zobha, Gaiam and Alo, you’ll also find students of every age, both male and female, sporting a different kind of accessory. These, however, are not made from lycra, mala beads or precious metals, but rather from an overzealous nervous system.
Glance around the room after the teacher calls out “Twisted Half Moon” (Pavritta Ardha Chandrasana) and you’ll see students with arms akimbo, clenched toes, fingers curled and faces contorted beyond recognition. These students are “accessorizing” their poses with parts of their body that don’t actually need to be involved.
Is your yoga practice getting a little stale? Maybe you’ve been going to the same class at the same time each week for the past year. Or perhaps you use a video — the same video — every day. If you’re finding yourself a tad uninspired to get on your mat, you might be suffering from yoga block. And I don’t mean a yoga block “prop,” although if you’re really in a rut then your practice may need a little propping up!
This year, after 15 years of yoga practice and transforming my body, I found myself hitting a plateau. Though my practice regularly involves power moves like jumping forward into Crow Pose and holding Warrior Pose for a long time, my muscle tone seemed to be stuck on autopilot: never decreasing, but never really going to that next level, either.
Ever felt yourself going through the motions of a yoga pose without focus or purpose? I think most yogis who’ve been practicing for a while have this experience, at least sometimes.
Several years ago, I found myself rushing through the Sun Salutation, praying for the series to end so I could move on to asanas I enjoyed more. I hated the way the pose strained my wrist and left me breathless, and it seemed to take forever to get through five or six of them. But since appreciating whatever you’re doing is a key spiritual teaching, I knew I had to do something to change my perspective.
A few months ago I wrote a blog on the perils of overstretching that seemed to strike a chord with many of my students and readers. But for every overstretched yogi or yogini out there, there are four times as many folks who are bound up and moving like the tin man! Most folks I meet want to know how they can become more flexible, not less flexible. So I dedicate this blog to all of you who wish to become more supple and mobile. Let the bending begin!
Is yoga therapy right for you? Have you tried everything under the sun to eliminate an ache, pain or chronic condition? If your doctor has suggested that you try yoga therapy (and not just yoga classes), the first step is to find a great yoga therapist to steer you into a customized practice that may potentially improve the conditions of self-healing in your body, mind and spirit.
Tossing and turning when you should be snoozing? You aren’t alone. More than twenty million Americans suffer from a lack of sleep. In fact, insomnia, defined simply as a “difficulty falling or staying asleep,” is one of the fastest growing epidemics in our society.
Pain, numbness, tingling? Do any of these describe the feelings you have when you come out of an asana? Please heed these warnings! Not all yoga poses are safe for all people. Just follow expert yoga teacher Patricia Sullivan’s story in the October 2010 issue of Yoga Journal. She painfully details a journey of denial in which her headstand caused (yes, caused) crippling nerve pain that eventually culminated in her falling asleep at the wheel and driving off the road into a lagoon.
Sun Salutations are a perfect ritual with which to greet the day, using the rhythm of your heart and the song of your breath to conduct the body into being awake. The beauty of the salutations is that they require the entire physical body to be utilized. From the neutrality of mountain pose, to the inward turning of the deep standing forward bends, to the enlivening openness of the back bending, upward facing dog and the grounding, invigorating downward facing dog, the salutations draw our minds into the temple of the body.