Four Tips to Start your own Home Yoga Practice (and to keep it going).

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Yoga at home has new distractions- like this cute dog! Photo by Evieanna Santiago on Unsplash

Home and yoga may not always seem like the go together, but these tips will help you flip your perspective and give yoga in your abode a go.

1. Make a supportive, even meaningful space.

Okay this one is easier said than done, but it can be created by reflecting on what you actually need. Doing his will give the space meaning and help connect your needs to your practice.  You don’t need a designated permanent space, but a space to lay your mat with a bit of room to wiggle into a wild thing (if that’s what you’re into). Consider what you need in your space- What features of a space help you to support your practice?

You might want to reflect on this and consider:

  • How much room do you need?
  • Should you be near a wall for inversions or support?
  • Is there anything breakable around?
  • Is it the right amount of privacy for you?
  • Is it an appropriate temperature?
  • Do you prefer natural light?
  • Is the level of noise ok?
  • Do you prefer music?
  • Do you prefer a clean, clear and safe?

You can define your space anyway you want. It can also move- no need to tie yourself down. If you are just starting a home practice, think about what you like about the studio- can you recreate some of features in your home? Just make sure it supports your current needs and subsequently your yoga practice.

2. Find an online platform with classes.

Like creating a space, this one requires a bit of reflection and willingness to test out different teachers. One of the best places to start is naming the yoga style(s) you like. Many platforms offer a variety of styles that fit every lifestyle. My personal favorite is YogaDownload (you can download the practices and keep for offline) but here are a few other recommendations:

3. Practice on your own.

This may seem rebellious, but you don’t have to practice with the guidance of a teacher. This doesn’t mean you should immediately hop into an inversion and break your neck or pull a hamstring! But you can read online resources (Yoga Basics is my personal favorite) for posture tutorials and information. Practicing on your own can be very empowering as well- you are your own teacher after all. It is important to be safe- literally don’t jump into anything without doing some research and building your practice.

4. Create a yoga habit.

Habits are easier said than done. They take a plan, concerted effort, and time. A yoga journal can help you build this habit by offering daily structure and prompts to reflect. I’ve also used a calendar to map out the practices by length and style. You could also write a reminder on a whiteboard or sheet of paper: DO YOGA TODAY. Make a commitment and see what works for you.

Home practices are amazing. I hope you start yours. Like anything, nurture it, adapt and give yourself space to grow. It is something you can always have with you.

 

 

Rogue Yogi: What to do when a yoga student doesn’t follow your cues.

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Something surprising recently happened in a class I was teaching. It unfortunately wasn’t an epiphany or jolt of kundalini rising – it was a student gone rogue. A student, who although attending the class I was teaching, did an entirely different postural yoga sequence.

Picture this. I start the class as I normally do, with a brief introduction, asking students if the have any issues or injuries, followed by pranayama practice. In this class, I asked students to lie down and begin breathing evenly. While the class began to lower down, I noticed one student in the back row did not. This student remained in sukhasana, choosing a balancing nadi shodana practice over the cued sama vritti.

Okay. Maybe has an undisclosed injury or issue that is preventing the student from doing this. No worries.

Breathing practice concluded and students rose to sukhasana. ‘This will put us all on the same page’ I thought. But as the group united as a cohesive unit, the rogue student pushed back into balasana.

Odd. Maybe the student needed a shift from shitting cross-legged? It’s cool.

 From here students travelled table top pose and began a cat/cow flow. The rogue student? In happy baby pose of course.

At this point, I began to doubt myself a bit. Am I cueing poorly? Does the sequence not make sense? Why is my teaching not resonating with this student?

I consider talking to the student directly, but I weighed this option with the effect it would have on other students in the class. As the rogue yogi was in the back row, most students couldn’t see the parallel practice. I opted to leave the student be.

As class progressed, the student entered various poses, but none that I actually cued. Sometimes the poses were more advanced- other times not. I shifted my focus away from the back corner the student occupied and focused instead on students actually in the class.

For the remainder of the class, the student did whatever their own flow, though oddly seemed to be in sync with when the poses changed. When we were in camel, the student was in halasana. At one pointed there was a non-directed handstand. At the end of class, the student left without saying anything. I let them go. Was it the right choice? What is the best thing to do in this situation, when you have a student who flat out is not listening to you?

The answer is more complex than you may think and requires reflection on your own teaching style as well as some context.

The student thinks you suck and wants to do their own thing.

Some teaching styles just do not vibe with students. If a student doesn’t like what you’re doing, they may opt the rogue yogi route. That said, they could also get up and leave, or remain in the class. If this is the reason, the plus side is that the student will most likely not return to our class in the future.

The student likes practicing in a group but not with the group.

There is something special about practicing yoga in a group of people. The shared energy, experience and community is inviting for most of us. So it could be that a student wants that experience but without following the flow. Kinda weird, but weirdness if what makes life so interesting.

The student has an issue or injury that the don’t report to you.

I always ask students to let me know of any injuries they may have before class begins. That said, they don’t have to report anything to you. As long as they stay safe and adjust poses to suit them,

The student is jerk.

Jerks exist in every culture, country and sometimes, your yoga class. Unless you are a psychologist or really into investing in shitheads, there is no need to worry about this student. If you don’t feel like dissecting an ego other than your own, don’t. Move on and up.

To be fair, I have no idea what this student was thinking because I didn’t ask them. These are speculations.

You can always say something to this student, though choosing confrontation is up to you. I know in some yoga lineages (ahem, Ashtanga and Bikram) getting shouted at and pushed to the limit can be a regular part of class, so feel free to tell this student to GTFO.

Or you could go the route I took- tolerance, assuming this student won’t return to my classes. I ultimately took this stance because I encourage students to (to quote YouTube Superstar Adriene Mishler)to “find what feels good’ and adjust their practice to the one I am cueing. That said, this student was an extreme example of this- most students take a balasana or knees down in plank as a customisation. If the student cam regularly to my classes, I would find a time to speak with them away from others.

That said, I think these are situations to speak up and ask the student what the heck is happening. These situations are:

 The student is putting themselves at risk by doing postures incorrectly.

If the rogue yogi is doing postures in a dangerous way, this give you the green flag to say something. While this runs the risk of embarrassing the student in front of the class, it lets them know you are watching them, which was maybe their goal in the first place.

The student is affecting the practice for fellow students in the class.

When someone deviates from the norm, they bring attention to themselves. If the student is visible to others in the class and clearly affecting their practice, it is perfectly in line to ask them to step in line or leave. It isn’t fair for their concept of a practice to distract other students.

So there it is: how to deal with a yoga student gone wild! Feel free to speak up if it suits the style or you teaching, but also feel free to not. There are a lot of variables to consider here, so trust your knowledge and gut feeling.

Have you ever dealt with a direction challenged yoga student? Share you experience!

What is your yoga story?

Our stories matter. What is your yoga story? An oldie but goodie, from January 2017.

In order to own your yoga, you need to have a good understanding of where you are in your yoga story. We will be exploring the concept of a story and how it can empower our practice in the next few blog posts. Read on and start exploring, discovering and empowering yourself!16122235_823014924957_462437040_o

How do stories affect us?

Stories are powerful. They help us relate to one another, creating empathy and allowing us to share experience beyond ourselves. Telling a story is not only entertaining- it can also help people spread valuable information to one another. In fact, stories may have played a valuable role in human evolution, allowing cultures to pass down information to sustain survival in challenging environments.

Stories are powerful. They help us relate to one another, creating empathy and allowing us to share experience beyond ourselves.

Have you ever thought about your own story? What about your…

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7 Udemy Courses for Yogis

One thing I love about yoga is that you are always learning. Even though I have been teaching for over three years and practicing for ten, I find myself consistently curious about yoga and interested in learning more about the philosophy and the practice. As a yoga teacher, I enjoy realizing I’m a yoga student with a lot to explore.

Online Learning in Yoga

Yoga’s popularity, as well as the emergence of online courses, has combined to create high-quality online yoga courses at your fingertips. Gone are the days when the teaching of yoga is restricted to the guru-student model. We now have access to multiple yoga-related online courses to improve our knowledge and explore our practice right in the comfort of our homes. If you can’t make it to a studio or don’t have the cash for an upcoming training, online yoga courses can be a valuable tool. In addition to keeping learning flexible by adjusting to your schedule, it can also be a great way to learn with a teacher that you may not be able to afford to see.

Gone are the days when the teaching of yoga is restricted to the guru-student model. We now have access to multiple yoga-related online courses to improve our knowledge and explore our practice right in the comfort of our homes.

Udemy for Yogis

Udemy is an online teaching and learning platform where you can purchase courses from instructors all around the world. The platform provides incredible access to a range of topics and boasts over 80,000 courses, all of which you can explore at your own place.

Is Online Learning for You?

A quick note on online learning: it isn’t for everyone. The experience requires self-direction (i.e. Getting off your butt and doing things yourself), reflection and responsibility. So try a course and see if online learning works for you. It can be a great way to learn not only about a specific subject, but also about yourself and your learning processes.

7 Yoga-Relates Courses to try on Udemy

1

Basics of Meditation with Deepak Chopra

Whether you love him or hate him, Deepak Chopra is a well-known figure in the New Age movement, authoring multiple books, befriend Oprah and at times offering kooky wellness advice.  He is also a popular meditation teacher. This course is a good option for anyone looking for guided meditations and starting a meditation practice.

2

Yoga Medicine’s Guide to Therapeutic Yoga

Author, yoga teacher and founder of Yoga Medicine Tiffany Cruikshank presents a well-rounded course for anyone looking to deepen and customize their yoga practice to their needs. Cruishank’s training in both Eastern and Western medicine makes key trainings unique and effective.

3

Sounds True Presents: Yoga mystic Flow- The Yoga of Awakening an in-depth training with Seane Corn

Seane Corn is a renowned yoga teacher, founder of non-profit “off the mat into the world’ and proponent of connecting yoga practice to humanitarian efforts. Her charisma carries over into this online course, exploring the chakras and concepts of energy.

4

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras

Many yoga teachers and students have Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, considered by many to be the root of modern yoga teaching penned by the mysterious, ancient yoga sage Patanjali at least 1,700 years ago. The 196 aphorisms are translated, discussed and debated by many yoga scholars, and it never hurts to touch up on your knowledge. If you find reading about the sutras is difficult to engage with, consider watching it with this course instead.

5

8- Hour Yoga Alignment Course with Leslie Fightmaster

Whether you are a beginner or advanced yogi, exploring alignment can be the key to deepening your practice and keeping yourself safe. This course, developed by the founder of Fightmaster Yoga, focuses on building alignment in popular yoga postures and flows, such as sun salutations, to avoid injury. The course is a great starting point for beginners building a practice, as well as for advanced looking to refresh or re-established safe alignment habits.

6

Hand Mudras in Yoga

Mudras are often overlooked in modern yoga practice (with the exception of the Gyan and Anjali mudra) despite their connection to the body and earthly elements.  Adding a unique mudra into a pose can add a great finishing touch, connecting subtle movement with meaning. With so many mudras to explore, this course can help explain the variations, starting with the minor connections of the fingers to the general connection to the body and the elements.

7

Laughter Yoga for Beginners

Have you ever heard of yoga trend that you wanted to try but were too nervous about? Or perhaps you live in a ‘yoga desert’ without a lot of class options available, and you are looking to try new things. Look no further than laughter yoga, a quirky yoga that engages laughter and lifts the mood. I’ve never been to a laughter yoga class, but would be willing to try it out in the comfort of my own home!

Explore more….

Didn’t find a course you were interested in? Then explore the Udemy platform on your own. With nearly 400  courses related to yoga, there is bound to be something for everyone.

Happy exploring!

 

 

Your Yoga Space

I’ve been thinking a lot about the way space affects a person, especially mentally.

Many people venture to yoga studios to find space in their minds, bodies…. And often space to get away from their house. Although practicing yoga at home is wonderful, it is also a luxury. Many people simply don’t have the space to practice at home without being interrupted by a dog, a family member, or a pesky piece of furniture that you thought was further way from your mat.

In my own home, I try to keep things organized. Not like crazy color-coded organized, but enough to know where things are when I need them. When I feel like things are becoming cluttered (which most often happens in my closet due to my affinity for thrift shopping), I clear them out, going through each item and deeming their value in my life at the moment.  I try to keep my space balanced with comforts (decorative pillows) as well as functionality (a place to rest). But when something doesn’t feel right anymore, I change it to suit what I need.

This past weekend, I taught in a beautiful studio in Cambridge. The studio is not your traditional studio. It consist of four walls, one being an open brick with a large Union Jack, another being a large mirror. The two shorter walls are covered with images of books- one looks like a full bookshelf, while the other is adorned with covers of popular books by the British publishing company Penguin. The decorations are minimal, yet effective. The ceiling is a dark blue with soft golden lighting, creating a space where it could be evening, morning, or high noon and you wouldn’t know or care. The studio provides the perfect balance of lighting, texture, color and decoration. It is a powerful space to practice yoga, because of the balanced feel it creates. Yes, you could practice yoga in here, but easily host a dinner party (with bringing in the furniture, of course). The studio looks good, and the studio subsequently makes you feel good.  This is the key.

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The studio looks good, and the studio subsequently makes you feel good.

So how do you know what space is best for you?

Explore different spaces. Find what colors, textures, and things feel like they create space for you.

Make you own space. Find what feels good to you- not what Ikea or a minimalist tells you. The design of our environment, from the design on the wall to lighting, evoke emotions. Your space can tell you a lot about yourself, and often surprise you.

 

 

Unbranding My Yoga Image: Time to Get Real

When I first started AnthroYoga, I was in a major transitory life stage, like the type of life stage that resembles a hybrid creature on an evolutionary tree. I was basically a tiktaalikswimming in the water while simultaneously developing features to walk on land.

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Now extinct, tiktaalik were techincally fish with flat, crocodile-like heads, unusual fins that helped prop them up.

I was struggling finding work that would pay a living wage with my anthropology degree and decided to focus more on developing my yoga practice and my yoga teaching. I decided to dedicate me time to learning how to grow, improving my skills and exploring exactly how I wanted to share yoga.

I started to teach myself how to set up a website, which took a bit of time and practice but was also readily available with cookie cutter templates through WordPress ( I also hear Wix is a good option). After I figured out how to set up a basic platform, I looked into ‘branding’ myself and creating a presence of social media, specifically Instagram and facebook since I use those platforms the most. Like most newbs who start to dip their toes into the proverbial puddle, I looked to what others had done to garner attention, which in in the virtual world at least somewhat equates to success. Or so I thought.

When I came up with the Anthroyoga brand, I ran into the usual issues- what colors should I use? Should I capitalize the Y in the ‘yoga’ or keep it one word (by the way, I’m still unsure)? What image do I want to portray and hence market to the outside world?

All I knew was that I love anthropology, and I loved yoga. I wanted them to work together, as I thought both complimented each other well.

Anthropology is the study of humans in the past and present, and yoga is the study of the self. Anthroyoga helped to bind the connection between self and community, and the influence yoga can have on the singular self and wider community network. At the time, AnthroYoga came from a place of curiosity, passion, excitement and confusion. It is and always will be my first step in marketing my own yoga experience.

AnthroAnthro copy 2Anthro (1)The name meant a lot to me, but I quickly learned that it didn’t mean that much to other people. Despite anthropology being around for well over 115 years, it is still not widely known to people, making the word ‘anthro’ obscure and confusing instead of interesting and clear. I also noticed that making the decision to ‘brand’ myself didn’t have a lot of myself in it- instead, it was focused on outward appearance and the false vision that it was bigger than it really was- than it really is.

I maintain this blog mainly on my own, with the exception of a few guest posts. Yoga has been an incredible tool for me. It continues to be a valuable tool for me, and I want to share that with others. That’s all.

Although Anthroyoga ultimately came from a good place, it now is simply a veil that I hide behind. I don’t want to look like every other yoga brand, every yoga teacher. I don’t want to fall into spouting platitudes about yoga and love and mindfulness. I don’t want to express my yoga by falling inline with the dominant, corporate narrative. I need a change. I need to practice my yoga not just in class, but on my blog. And that is why I will be changing Anthroyoga and being known instead my name. And my yoga.

Don’t get me wrong-I still love Anthroyoga. The entire process of building it has taught me a lot. It is important to b true to yourself, even if you kind of suck,  and not hellbent  an idea for success, as well as clarifying that you really want by having an online presence. My primary goal is to share yoga. And I want that to come a lot more form my authentic self vs.a brand.

In the very near future, Anthroyoga will be taking a step back to a more authentic voice, one that is more connected with just being myself and not trying to look like anything other than that. There will be failure. There will be imperfection, maybe even a bit of ugly. But this is how I want to explore and share, from my self, whatever stage I am in.

My primary goal is to share yoga. And I want that to come a lot more form my authentic self vs. a made of brand.

Stay tuned!

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Add Yoga to Your Bedtime Routine for Better Sleep

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Yoga is good for your body at any time of day. But, if you’re having trouble sleeping, it can be what you need to help you get a full seven to eight hours of high-quality rest. Yoga has some impressive effects on your mind and body that lead to better sleep, starting with its ability to reduce and manage stress.

Stress and Sleep Loss

Stress is the body’s fight or flight response to perceived danger. While stress in and of itself isn’t dangerous, chronic stress is, especially when it causes you to lose sleep. Unfortunately, stress and sleep loss have an interconnected relationship.

 

Stress often causes the initial sleep problems, which may be a delay in the onset of sleep or waking during the night. However, when you’re sleep deprived, the emotional center of your brain becomes more sensitive to negative stimuli while the reasoning center of your brain becomes less active. The changes in your emotional state brought on my sleep loss can lead to an increase in stress.

Yoga Reduces Inflammation and Cortisol

A study published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity followed 90 participants who, for 12 weeks did 90 minutes of yoga five days a week. Researchers found that yoga reduced the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their blood, which in turn reduced inflammation.

 

Another study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience measured the effects of a three-month yoga retreat on inflammation and stress on the body. Participants in the study went through several intense hours of meditative yoga each day, which increased the levels of anti-inflammatory markers in their blood. The same participants reported less depression, anxiety, and fewer physical ailments.

Yoga Improves Mood and Reduces Fatigue

As stress goes down, the benefits of yoga go up. A study published in Palliative and Supportive Care monitored the effect of a 90 minute, twice a week yoga regimen over the course of three months. All participants were cancer survivors who suffered from pain, anxiety, and fatigue. For the group of participants that follow the yoga regimen, inflammation was decreased with an improvement in mood and energy levels.

 

A similar study conducted with nurses found that yoga reduced work-related stress and improved sleep quality. Participants practiced yoga twice a week for 50 to 60 minutes for six months. Even after the conclusion of the study, participants reported less stress and better sleep.

How to Add Yoga to Your Bedtime Routine

The benefits of yoga add up, but how do you incorporate it into your bedtime routine – a few simple poses at the time. Bedtime routines help your mind and body recognize when it’s time to start the release of sleep hormones. The routine should be performed at the same time and in the same order each day to help trigger the onset of sleep.

Gentle yoga poses can be done next to your bed or even in bed. If you perform yoga in bed, your mattress type will affect the depth of your stretch. A softer mattress may lead to over-stretching, so you might want to consider if it’s time to buy a new mattress. But, the depth of your stretch isn’t as important as following the deep breathing meditative methods that go along with yoga. Child’s pose, legs-up-the-wall pose, and corpse pose are only a few poses that can help you let go of stress and get the high-quality sleep you need. Building a consistent yoga routine can help you gain control over stress while increasing your mental and physical well-being.

 

About the Author

Samantha Kent is a researcher for SleepHelp.org. Her favorite writing topic is how getting enough sleep can improve your life. Currently residing in Boise, Idaho, she sleeps in a California King bed, often with a cat on her face.

What’s Up with Mala Beads?

 

We’ve all seen them- small beads with various colors and textures wrapped around the wrists or draped along the neck of yoga practitioners, sometimes with a tassle, other times without. These beads are known as malas, but what exactly are they? A yoga accessory?  A fashion statement? A fleeting trend? The truth is mala beads may seem trendy in yoga communities, but these seemingly simple beads hold ancient history and tradition ultimately focused on connection. To understand them, we need to start at the beginning- the roots.

What Exactly is a Mala?

A mala (Sanskrit for “garland”) is simply a string of prayer beads. It is used as a tool to help guide a person in meditation, recitation of a mantra or to pray.

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The Roots of Mala: Beads

To explore the roots of malas, we will start with what makes them: beads!  Beads have been a part of human culture for at least 70,000, evidenced by artifacts found in in Northern Africa. Now while we have no indication that these were used in the same way as mala beads, it is interesting to see the long history of beads in the human lineage as decoration and cultural significance. The literal roots of malas can be found in the material they are made from, including sandalwood and or rudrashka seed and traditionally strung together with silk or cotton.

Malas Across Culture

Malas takes on many forms and across cultures.  In Buddhist traditions they are known “Budhhist Prayer beads”, and in Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism, known as japamala in which practitioners engage in japa, Sanskrit for “repetition of a divine mantra or name”. In Chirstianity, prayer beads are often called rosaries, and in Islam known as Misbaha. Although the beads vary across religions, all variations are meant to help draw your focus inward as you pray or meditate, helping to count your prayers or mantras as you move from bead to bead.

Malas in Yoga

In yoga, malas are used for meditation and sometimes a bit of a fashion statement. The tradition of using malas for concentration continues as they are most used in meditation while reciting a mantra or simply bringing your focus back to the present moment. People may wear their mala to help them enter a meditative state, to connect them with a wider intention, or simply as a reminder to stay grounded.

Yoga malas have 108 beads- and auspicious number in Hinduism and in yoga. The mala also has a larger bead- sometimes known as the “guru” or “bindu” bead- that the 108 beads surround. This arrangement of beads is likened to the guru bead representing the sun and the 108 beads orbiting it like planets. Mala  beads are traditionally made from either wood ( such as sandalwood) or rudraksha, a seed that said to protect against negative energies. Regardless of your beliefs it is now common to customize malas to suit your needs by creating bespoke malas with specific gemstones and materials that embody certain qualities.

Malas continue to be a valuable traditional tool to deepen your meditative practice while also representing the individuality of a person. To find a mala that may be right for you, start exploring and reflecting on your intention and see which mala resonates with you and your practice. A great selection to get you started can be found here.

Do you use a mala? How does it influence your practice?

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Five Books for the Curious Yogi

I love reading books. Sometimes I shift toward scientific books, other times fluffy romantic novels- it all depends how I am feeling and what my mind needs. The following list is a diverse collection of books related to yoga to spark curiosity and bring yoga off the mat and onto the page.

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Reading books regularly in many ways reflects the dedication of a yoga practice. First, you must find a book that interests you. Second, you must make time to read. Third, you find you flow when reading when you focus all of your attention toward it. Finally, books are a unique way to share stories, information and perspectives across time. Like yoga, you can choose books that you need, learn from them and also find pleasure.

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I’ve made a list below of some of my (recent) favorite yoga books. Each of these books helped expand my yoga practice in some way and I hope you are able to find a similar benefit!

 

 

Selling Yoga by Andrea Jain

Perfect for:  Critical thinking, academic ventures, exploring who “owns” yoga

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Are you curious as to how modern yoga has morphed from a countercultural practice to a billion-dollar business?  Is yoga Hindu? Is it religious at all? Come to think of it, what is yoga? If you have ever had these question, this book is a must read. It takes the reader on a journey through the early days of yoga with a focus on an introduction to the West. Jain does an incredible job of discussing the intricacies of yoga culture, consumer culture and how yoga operates as a commodity. Jain is a religious studies scholar and this book is focused on the sociology of religion. Although extremely informative, please note that this book can be a dense read. I regularly was googling jargon to understand some of the concepts but left with a deeper understanding of how yoga continues to adapt to various contexts.

 

 

The Yamas and Niyamas by Deborah Adele

Perfect for: Deepening your yoga practice by applying yogic philosophy off the mat.

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When I think back to my 200-hour yoga teacher training, this is a book I wish was on the list.

Although many Western yoga practitioners focus predominantly on physical yoga postures, the yogic path laid out by the mysterious Patanjali describes the eightfold path. The Yamas and Niyamas are the first two limb of this path, respectively describing moral imperatives and observances. Both the yamas and niyamas are divided into 5 distinct subcategories, such as the first yama ahimsa (non-violence) and the first niyama saucha (purity). The yamas and niyamas sound deceivingly simple- at first, they seem black and white. But the more you reflect on each and your understanding deepens, the more complex (and grayer) they become. Adele does an incredible job of laying out the ten yamas and niyamas in a relatable way. She begins each chapter with a story describing how she relates a particular yama or niyama to her own life. At the end of each chapter, she presents activities (or if you are competitive, think of them as challenges) you can partake in over the month to further expand your awareness. It is fair to say I am still figuring out the yamas and niyamas and how exactly they play into my yoga practice, though one thing is for sure: Adele’s book lays out a great platform to explore, reflect and jump into deepening your yoga practice through the yamas and niyamas.

 

 

Yoga Bitch: One Woman’s Quest to Conquer Scepticism, Cynicism, and Cigarettes on the Path to Enlightenment by Suzanne Morrison

Perfect for: Entertainment, a laugh, a shift of perspective

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A yoga practice may be more accurately described as a yoga journey, full of highs, lows, shifts and changes. I’ve noticed that sometimes I take my yoga practice a bit too seriously and I need a shift of perspective- a little joy, a smile or a laugh when I seem to have lost the ability to. When I get in this ‘yoga rut’, I try to search for a new book to help shift my mind out of it.

Once I was going through this rut phase and browsing the “yoga book” section of my local library. I moved past the classic books of “Light on Yoga” and “The Autobiography of a Yogi” and instead opted for a bright colored book with a silhouette of a woman in upward facing dog smoking a cigarette.  It was exactly the book I wanted to read. As the cover indicated, it was colorful, funny and a relatable experience of a woman doing a yoga training in Bali. The entire book was peppered with comedy, realization and wisdom. After I finished the book, I found that I was not only entertained by also a bit wiser.

The lesson? You can have a laugh and gain wisdom, too- don’t take yourself too seriously!

 Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Yogi Swatmarama (and interpreted by many)

Perfect for: Reading a classic, exploring the roots of Hatha Yoga

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Many Western yogis read the Bhagavad Gita and the Sutras of Patanjali, but the Hatha Yoga Pradipika is a bit more obscure. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika (meaning the light on Hatha Yoga) was written in the 15th century by Yogi Swatmarama. It is one of three classic reads about Hatha yoga, with the other two being Gheranda Samhita and Hatharatnavali, all of which were written between 6th – 15th century AD.

Because the text was written so long ago, many translations exist. It contains four sections focusing on asanas (postures), shatkarmas, breathing techniques, bandhas (internal locks), mudras and samadhi or enlightenment. It is a great read to explore beyond physical postures and reflect on the diverse history of yoga. There is something incredible about reading thoughts (and the interpretations of thoughts) from so long ago. Treat yourself to this classic to deepen your understanding of Hatha yoga and practices within it.

 

Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar

Perfect for: Reflecting, changing bad habits, connecting yoga to modern psychology

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Happiness is a big thing in our culture. Everyone seems to strive for it, but somehow not many people seem to have it. I luckily found this book at a thrift store (which by no means reflects the value of it) and enjoyed it from cover to cover. Happier is the perfect mix of relatable and inquisitive, sef-helpy and realistic. The author is a university lecturer who penned the book after teaching a wildly popular course on happiness. He breaks the seemingly complex concept of happiness down into a practical way that you can use in your life. Like yoga, this book provides tools of self-inquiry and understanding- an ultimate svadhaya. And in many ways, I found these concepts to correlate and intersect with yoga philosophy, revealing that nothing new is under the sun.

 

Books help us connect to ideas and perspectives that we may otherwise miss. Happy reading and keep me posted on your own yoga journey!

 

 

Five Things That Happen with a Regular Yoga Practice

I’ve written quite a bit about how your yoga practice is a tool that you can use to guide you through the varying ebb and flow that is life. Yoga may start out as a simple exercise regimen, but it can lead to changes in your life on physical, mental and social levels. This is the funny thing about yoga- once you start your practice and keep it as a regular part of your life, it turns into a journey. A workout turns into a lesson. Because yoga gives you tools tohelp you navigate multiple areas of life, and soon your practice will extend beyond just the mat.

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Every person is different, and every yoga practice has different effects. Notice if these five things resonate with you and your yoga journey.

Your Body just Feels….. Better!

Yoga has many benefits for the body, ranging from building physical strength to moving in ways that increase your range of motion. There are many different styles of yoga and each can strengthen the body and increase flexibility. Yoga also helps develop an awareness of your physical body, helping you to pinpoint areas of tension and utilizing tools from yoga class to release stress. Many students have told me they come to yoga to exercise, but stay around because it makes their body not just look better, but feel better as well. How has your body changed since you started your yoga practice?

You Feel Strong & Balanced

A modern lifestyle often leads to a more sedentary lifestyle which leads to detrimental effects on our health. Yoga makes you physically stronger by activating the core, arms, legs and back. A regular yoga goes beyond physical strength and helps you strengthen your mind by observing your behavioural patterns, understanding yourself and feeling more balanced in the mind and body. How does your practice help you to stay balanced?

You are More Mindful

Mindfulness is being aware and acting with intention in your life, living in the moment as much as much as you can. Yoga helps you become more mindful toward your own body and self, but it also extends beyond the mat. Your yoga practice makes you aware of your interactions with others and your environment, helping you to reflect and generally be more mindful in your everyday life.

Your Diet Gets Healthier

A funny thing starts to happen when you start doing yoga- you feel physically and mentally better, and this leads you to being mindful of your meals and eating healthfully. Yoga philosophy promotes a sattvic diet, characterized by many fresh vegetables, fruit and vegetarian. The diet is meant to calm the mind, but isn’t necessary to practice yoga. You will notice that your ability to tune into your body and what it needs affects your food choices, leading to healthier diet. How has your practice affected the way you eat and experience food?

You Take Ownership of your Practice

People try yoga for different reasons. Some are drawn to the mental benefits, others the physical benefits. Either way, most people hear that yoga is good for you. There are many styles of yoga, and each provides tools to help you explore your own practice. This suggestion only turns into a reality after you begin to take ownership of your practice. Once you learn and master yogic tools, you can get creative and begin to build your own practice, completely suited to your needs and able to adapt to changes in life. How have you owned your yoga and adapted it to your life?

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Reflection is the key to assessing how yoga plays into your life, and how you can use it in the future. What changes have you noticed? Is your practice serving you as it should? Reflect, assess and take action. Your yoga practice is there to support you.

READY. SET. SANKALPA!

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In every yoga class, I like to either “theme” the class around a word or idea to help create a story that we can interweave through the practice.  When ideas are presented in this way, it can be relatable and therefore powerful, helping students relate ideas to experiences through yoga practice both on and off the mat.  It also helps me connect yoga postures to larger issues in life, making yoga a tool to utilize beyond the mat.

When you connect your practice to a larger intention, you can give it different meaning. This meaning can provide focus, drive and connection in your life.

There are many ways of adding intention into practice. Sometimes, it is through mantras or self affirmations which can change to suit your current mind and body. A sankalpa is different. It connects you with your inner self, acting as the ultimate root to connect you to yourself and yourself to your actions.

What is a Sankalpa?

Sankalpa, or connection to your truth, assumes that you are already who you need to be to fulfill your life’s dharma. It is a statement that honors the deeper meaning of your life.  A person is being, but also becoming. You simply need to focus your mind, connect to your desires, and channel your energy toward this truth. It is something you can refer back to when you are feeling lost or uncertain, to keep you in touch with your ultimate truth. And we should all be aware of our ultimate truth, right? This sounds simple but setting your sankalpa can be a difficult process of self-discovery and reflection.

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Sankalpas come in different forms

Sankalpa takes two forms: the statement and the goal. In the statement, sankalpa does not require change. It simple states who you are. Examples: I am whole. I am peace. Fearless.

Another version of sankalpa is through milestones in your life. Looking ahead to determine what path to take to take steps forward is necessary to honor your sankalpa and achieve larger life goals.

How to Discover your Sankalpa (kind of)

I’m not the master of sankalpaing. But I did find these tips helpful in exploring my own and discussing the concept with others.

Listen

Listening is a powerful skill that takes dedication and practice. According to the Vedanta tradition, listening occurs in 3 stages:

Sravana: This is the ability to listen to your innermost calling. What do you, on your inner most root level, desire? Explore this by meditating, journaling and reflecting on yourself and your actions.

 Manana: This means allowing the “messenger” in.  You can do this by Reflecting on your calling and feeling it. How does it manifest in your body? Are you able to listen to what you are actually telling yourself? From here you will activate your sankalpa shakti, or the energy that is needed to carry out your calling.

Nididhyasana: This is doing what your calling asks of you.

Reflect

Once you have listened to you calling, you must think about it deeply to understand it. It is tempting to state your sankalpa in the “want” or “I will” format, but these phrases lack the commitment and truth to your sankalpa. For example, you may start by stating “I want to lose weight”. But consider why you want to lose weight. Is it to care for yourself more? To be able to have more energy? Find your root- that is getting closer to your sankalpa. Your sankalpa should always be stated in the present tense, as it is true now. It is already in you.

When you say you “want”, you are acknowledging that you don’t have something. The more you state that you want, you are reinforcing that you don’t have something. This is dualistic thinking, and your mind needs to non-dual awareness.

 

What the hell is your inner self?

 

Truth be told, I don’t know. But I did find the concept of “two souls” helpful.

 

Two Souls

In Indian philosophy, there is the concept of two souls that can be united through the practice of yoga (should note that not just the physical practice, but the 8-limbed practice). One of these souls is known as your para atman. This is the soul that is in a transcendental state and doesn’t need anything. Think of this as your cosmic self.

Jiva atman (jiv=to breathe, atman= self) is your soul that comes to life with a purpose and destiny and is always becoming. Think of this as your personal self. Your sankalpa is connected to this self. The more attention you give it, the greater it will feel in your life.

Ready. Set. Sankalpa.

Exploring your sankalpa can be frustrating. It takes time, effort, reflection and being comfortable with concepts that are not always easily defined. I liken it to building a fire- you have to put effort in to get it going, and keep fanning the flames to keep in burning.  It may also be helpful to visualize your sankalpa as your root. Just like a tree, the root is the portion that helps to acquire nutrients for growth. You don’t see the roots, but they are there. You can’t see your sankalpa, but it is there, too. You just have to find it.

 

Activity: Departure Point

Want to start exploring? Pick a nonconstructive activity you do on a daily basis (nail biting, daily coffee, browsing the internet) and commit to not doing it for 40 days. Every time you feel the urge to partake in this habitual action, remind yourself of your sankalpa.

Apply this to not just your habitual actions, but to all actions, and see if your inner calling comes to life.

If you want additional guidance on exploring your sankalpa, I highly recommend the book “Finding your Why” by Simon Sinek.

Happy exploring!

A Yogi’s Guide to Norwich

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Photo credit: L. Heggs

Norwich may be known for its rich history, literature and charming eateries and cafes, but the yoga scene is also something to celebrate. Yoga is available in multiple studios, meeting houses and gyms around the city centre that cater to all yogis.

I moved to Norwich a few months ago and have been absolutely enchanted with this fine city and the yoga teachers and students in it. I also wished I had a list to follow when I arrived! So whether you are a newbie, a local, or just a person who needs yoga, this list is a great place to start your journey. Please note that there are more yoga classes and events in the county, too you may just need to explore!

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  1. Explore a few classes.

    Whether you are a total beginner or a seasoned veteran, try out a few classes to find the space and teachers that vibe with you. Teachers usually offer “drop-in” session rates or packages for multiple classes.

  2. Find a time that works for you.

    Yoga classes are peppered throughout the day, starting in the early morning to later evening classes. Reflect on when your body feels right for practice, or when you can fit yoga into your schedule.

  3. Join online groups to stay in the loop.

    Weekend workshops, special monthly classes and guest teachers may always be changing. Join the Love Yoga/Norwich & Norfolk group on Facebook to stay connected with the yoga community. Teachers often post their yoga events and classes here.

  4. Be kind to your yoga teachers.

    The majority of yoga teachers in Norwich work as freelancers, meaning they work for themselves. Sure, this sounds great, but in reality they are paying rent for their space, their trainings, insurance and marketing. This can be a lot of pressure, so please be kind to each of them!

 

Norwich has everything you need to get started in your yoga practice. Start your exploration by checking out the many yoga offerings around the city.
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The Yoga Tree

Address: 50 All Saints Green Norwich NR1 3NB

Website: http://www.theyogatree.co.uk/

Contact: contact@theyogatree.co.uk

Located in a lovely old stable turned dance studio turned yoga studio, The Yoga Tree hosts multiple classes by a diverse group of yoga teachers and wellness professionals. A large, well-lit studio is located upstairs, and a smaller studio is downstairs. The Acorn Café is located in the building and also offers a variety of healthy café food, tea and coffee to sustain you before or after a yoga practice. The studio is located just around the corner from the Norwich bus station. Consider adding this stop to your commute.

The Yoga Studio Norwich

Address: 38-40 Magdalen Rd Norwich, NR3 4AG

Website: https://www.theyogastudionorwich.co.uk/

Contact info: info@theyogastudionorwich.co.uk

Located at the corner of Clarke and Magdalen Street, The Yoga Studio Norwich is nestled on the top floor of the Norfolk Clinic. The studio was opened in August 2017 by experienced fitness professional and yogi Sallie-Anne Sadler and offers a variety of yoga classes, including Hatha yoga, Yin, Yoga Nidra, Pilates, and even a class dedicated to using a yoga wheel. Check out their workshops to go deeper in your practice!

Happy Ohm

Address: Studio 1, 2nd floor Capitol House, 4-6 Heigham Street, Norwich NR2 4TE

Website: https://happyohm.wordpress.com

Contact: Check out the schedule and contact each teacher directly to book into a class.

Climb a few flights of stairs in Capitol House Building to find Happy Ohm studio. The high ceilings, natural light and funky floor make the space inviting and fun. The studio is rented by multiple yoga instructors offering a variety of yoga classes throughout the weekdays and occasionally the weekends. Go to the website and contact each teacher directly to learn more and find your flow at this beautiful studio.

Inner Space

Address: Maude Gray Court St Benedict’s Street Norwich NR2 4PA.

Website: http://www.innerspacenorwich.co.uk/

Contact: info@innerspacenorwich.co.uk

Inner Space is tucked just off of St. Benedict’s Street in the Norwich Lanes. Teachers and therapists use one of the two spacious studios to put on classes and meet with clients. Weekly yoga classes are available, as well as pilates and Qigong, Chinese exercises related to Tai Chi. The venue is also home to a wide variety of treatments including but not limited to massage, psychotherapy, acupuncture and reflexology.

Bikram Yoga

Address: 87-83 Pottergate, Norwich NR2 1DZ

Website: http://www.bikramyoganorwich.co.uk

Contact: info@bikramyoga.norwich.co.uk

Bikram Yoga is the first official Bikram studio in Norfolk and offers hot yoga classes (studios are a toasty 40 degrees C) as well as Yin yoga, Vinyasa Flow and Ashtanga. Not all classes are done in the heated space- check their website if the class is “hot” or not. The studio is also equipped with showers. Find it tucked away on Pottergate Street.

Norwich Buddhist Centre

Address:14 Bank Street Norwich NR2 4SE

Website: http://www.norwichbuddhistcentre.com/

Contact: Drop in, call, or contact the yoga teacher listed on the schedule

The Norwich Buddhist Centre has been a sanctuary in the city for over 30 years. It is run by members of the Triratna Buddhist community and offers classes and occasional retreats in yoga, meditation and Buddhism. The primary goal of the centre is to help spread the teachings of Buddhism in modern life and is welcoming to everyone. If you are interested in mediation, mindfulness and/or applying the teachings of Buddhism to your life, this centre is a must see. Take time out at lunch for drop-in meditations during the week or explore the yoga classes to get your zen on and meet some great people.

Additional Yoga Spots

Many yoga classes are available in clinics and health centres around the city. Classes will vary but start by checking out what these gyms and clinics offer!

Fitness Centres/ Gyms/Clinics

The Fitness Space

24/7 Gym, Riverside

Nuffield Health

David Lloyd

Earlham House  Clinic

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The Norwich yoga scene has plenty to offer every student. If you are totally new to yoga, remember that you only need three primary things to start a practice: a body, dedication and an open mind. The first step is simply to start- from here, you can explore what works for you.

 

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