Q: Could you describe any best practices in sharing yoga that you apply regularly in your classes, especially those you feel would be helpful to share with aspiring yoga outreach teachers and yoga therapists?
A: When I began teaching yoga, I would stress about presenting a specific experience to students, and worry afterwards whether or not we had a ‘good’ practice. As I’ve grown as a teacher, a student, and a human, I am learning that the most important practice that we can focus on as teachers is simply to hold the space for our students to engage in their practice. Towards the beginning of class, I always remind students that this is their practice. Not mine. Not their neighbor’s. This is all for you.
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As the snow falls and temperatures keep dropping, it’s becoming painfully clear that winter is truly upon us. It’s so frigid that yoga may be the last things on our minds. We may found ourselves more interested in bundling up and thawing out at home than venturing out again into the cold to attend a class. But if you’ve been missing your mat and your fellow yogis here are five great poses to warm our bodies up to face the cold a little stronger:
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A new year brings new opportunities and gives us a fresh start to take in where we’ve been, where we are, and where we’re going in our lives. Perhaps you made a resolution, or maybe you’re still working towards goals you made last year. If you didn’t make determinations or if you’ve already fallen out of sync with your best intentions, don’t worry! Rather than being hard on ourselves because of what we haven’t accomplished, this is actually a great time to practice self-compassion. Yoga offers us the opportunity to be compassionate with ourselves. It encourages us to notice and appreciate where we are at any given moment. Adopting this kind attitude is incredibly helpful when we’re faced with demands and expectations that come with a new year.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the three A’s: Awareness, Acceptance, and Action. By incorporating these practices into our daily routines, both on and off the mat, we can learn to be gentler with ourselves, a habit that will help us to more fully enjoy many new years to come.
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The poem is titled “Illumination” (it’s by Merle Shain) and is quoted in the book Bedside Prayers by June Cotner:
It is better to light candles
than to curse the darkness.
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Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life. ~Rumi
Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form. ~Rumi
There’s a complicated relationship between grief and gratitude. They can destroy each other. Gratitude can be just as much about having as not having.
Kelly, a student who came to YD’s philosophy class on Sunday, has the kind of eyes that are inspired, smiling in the corners– the kind of eyes that remind you everything is going to be all right. Kelly described how she spent two hours on top of Old Rag Mountain the other day, freezing, until everything just disappeared.
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Dear Yoga District,
My relationship to yoga is constantly evolving. It shifts and offers me different things in different times of my life, as I’m sure it does for all of you, too. Recently my practice has been deeply empowering and clarifying and strengthened some of my beliefs, and I’d like to share some of my observations and thoughts.
Yoga teaches us to not get caught up in our mind, to try and let moments of frustration and anger go and to rise above in pursuit of our highest-self. That said, I don’t believe that these teachings tell us to remain quiet or to let go at the expense of losing our voice, our courage, our strength, our individuality. In this regard, Audre Lorde is my guru: “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”
By Bree Barton
“I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind.” ~Khalil Gibran
I recently traveled to Malaysia for a friend’s wedding where I spent four delicious days communing with wild monkeys and feasting on sticky rice. The people were kind and warm, the culture rich, the trip magical.
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“The men, I think, are missing out,” explains Yoga District instructor Mike Graglia, on why there are relatively less men in yoga classes than women. In this Washington Post video, Henry Kerali wonders why so few men take to yoga.
Well guys, Yoga District offers a Men-only all-level flow class on Thursday nights at 8:15pm. Make it your space to explore the benefits of yoga.
Thanks, Yoga District, for inexpensive and “gentle” yoga in our neighborhood.
I did it. After over a year, I returned to a yoga class. A “gentle” yoga class. Pregnant, I had tried following prenatal yoga DVDs, but I gave up after quickly feeling (even more) nauseous.
I had been taking yoga classes on and off for the last four years. The regular stretching and exercise helped to center me physically and mentally. Yoga helped me when I was grieving and trying to return to my body after witnessing death. I finally found the courage to attend a class hoping that the movements would connect me to this new body of mine.
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It’s a question that I get often. Accessibility, I usually reply. It’s my attempt to make yoga accessible for women regardless of cultural or religious backgrounds, to accommodate a diversity of levels in modesty and comfort in exploring a physical asana practice.
Yoga Just for the Ladies began as response to a need first identified within the Muslim community. When I first began teaching yoga about 5 years ago, a lot of women from my community, especially those who are veiled or muhajjiba, were reluctant to attend my regular yoga studio offerings. Those classes, they explained, were not a guaranteed safe space for them to explore a physical asana practice if men were potentially in the room.
And so it began; I offered my students a space that was held just for them, where they could enjoy the benefits of this ancient healing system to increase strength and flexibility, reduce stress, and relieve pain.
Dalia Mogahed began practicing yoga five years ago. The practice, however, became particularly important for her a year ago when she made the leap: moving back from overseas to the DC area and launched her own consulting firm specializing in Muslim societies and the Middle East. The transitional stress took a toll on her body. By the time she came to the ladies-only class, she had developed back pain that made it hard for her to walk, work or sleep. Our yoga practice together provided her relief during that time in her life.
Students cultivated personal yoga practices that informed not only their physical bodies and consciousness, but even their devotional practices.
Nada Zohdy, a student at the Harvard Kennedy School has been practicing for almost 7 years and was one of my very first regulars in the class. Yoga offered her tools create deeper spiritual awareness and connection. She writes:
“As a person of faith who prays on a regular basis, I really find that practicing yoga actually can help me be more conscious and present in my prayers by training me to detach myself from distracting thoughts that always arise and work toward being fully present in what I am reciting during my prayers. Yoga also helps make me attuned to my breathing, which for me is a beautiful, constant reminder of the physical miracles that happen with us all the time.”
It’s purpose and the communities it serves continues to evolve. It’s not just a class for Muslim women. It’s a space for women — all women — to truly explore their breath and their bodies without worrying about who’s watching.
We often see a very sexualized image of yoga in popular culture, in part because the consumer audience is traditionally male. For many women who already struggle with self and body image, what’s projected and perceived, this is a space to not play into that imaging.
“Some women,” Nada explains, “might find themselves becoming more self-conscious at a co-ed gym. I enjoy being able to practice yoga in a women-only, judgement-free space.”
The ladies-only environment provides a venue for all women to tune out those nagging image issues and be fully present in their yoga practice, fully present in their breath and its innate reserves for healing.
“It’s wonderful,” Dalia says, “to have a ‘room of one’s own’ to practice.”
By Dahlia Shaaban, Yoga Instructor at Yoga District and founder of Dahlia Nutrition & Wellness.
- Some Encouragement As We Head Intro Spring!From Daisaku Ikeda’s “To My Friends” Series: Determine to face and challenge any suffering or hardship head on! Continuous, ceaseless efforts to challenge your situation will enable you to strengthen […]
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