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All options are equal.

Apr 11, 2013   //   by Staff Writer   //   The Blog  //  No Comments

If you have taken a class at Yoga District (or hopefully, if you’ve taken a yoga class anywhere), you have heard these words. Your teacher has moved the class from Warrior II to Extended Side Angle. Your forearm is resting on your front thigh, chest opening to the side of the room. The pose is difficult, and your front thigh is beginning to shake, knee bent to 90 degrees. Then, as if she has no idea that this pose is freaking hard enough as it is, your teacher begins to offer modifications to deepen the pose. “If you feel comfortable, you can lower your bottom hand to the floor”. As a student, a teacher’s well-meaning modifications can come across as, “If you’re a good person, wrap your hand behind your back and take the bind” Okay, hopefully not in those words – but that’s how it can feel. Too often, we begin to equate our self worth to our physical ability and how we compare to those practicing around us. We judge our own practice by how closely our poses resemble the photos on the cover of Yoga Journal. When you hear the phrase “all options are equal”, it may not sound sincere. Clearly, you think, all options aren’t equal, and the girl next to me who has somehow wrapped her hands behind her back, around her thigh, and lifted her front leg straight into the air is winning.

imageWhile I have never felt competitive against other students in a yoga class, I have definitely been competitive with myself. I have pushed myself to achieve a fuller expression of a pose, even when I haven’t been ready or when it has caused me pain to do so. I have gone beyond my limits; driven by ego and the fantasy that teacher will love me more if my body can do more.

The 200-hour teacher training at Yoga District has opened my mind to the truth behind that phrase I’ve heard so many times: All options are equal. More than just equal – the decision to back off, do what is right for your body in the present moment and respect your limits is often the much harder choice to make. It is easy to show up for class and push yourself too hard, sacrificing your alignment or your breathing for the goal of getting to that next pose. It is actually more difficult to allow yourself to drop that bottom knee to the floor when you need to. It is a challenge to realize that your body is not ready to take a headstand today, even though last week you were able to hold the pose for two minutes. It is difficult to quiet your mind enough to listen to your body. To accomplish this is to truly practice yoga. Getting in touch with your body, your limits, and achieving the type of self awareness and confidence that it takes to back off and make decisions based on your needs will take you further on the path of yoga than a hands-free headstand ever will. When in class or practicing at home, listen to your teacher and to your body. All options are equal. Choose the one that works for you.

– Kate Adams

Thai Yoga Massage – Class – 2 April ’13

Apr 3, 2013   //   by Staff Writer   //   The Blog  //  Comments Off on Thai Yoga Massage – Class – 2 April ’13

Notes for the past 2 weeks might still make it online, or not.  But here is what we did last night: 1. Start with the Dancing Cossack, which is beautifully taught here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGnQ99bkHqA I don’t know this teacher, but to give … Continue reading

Thai Yoga Massage – Class – 12 March ’13

Mar 19, 2013   //   by Staff Writer   //   The Blog  //  Comments Off on Thai Yoga Massage – Class – 12 March ’13

Here are notes from last week’s class!  These are being provided as a reference for those who took the class and should not be used by those who were not there. Remember: You can never be too slow and rarely … Continue reading

Tumeric

Mar 9, 2013   //   by Staff Writer   //   The Blog  //  No Comments

Many plants are harvested for their seeds, but turmeric, a sterile plant, can’t be.  Instead, it’s roots, or rhizomes, are gathered for all sorts of purposes.  First applied as a dye thousands of years ago in India, turmeric soon enough took form as a spice and as prominent component for curry powder.  From condiment and coloring, the rhizome naturally progressed as a cosmetic.  It doesn’t stop there as a pigment or powder; turmeric is also a highly-regarded herb in Ayurvedic medicine.

Turmeric can be used both internally and externally.  It adds a gorgeous golden tone and dishes to drinks, but that yellow tint can also linger on your skin when the spice is used as a first-aid ointment.  Don’t let that scare you off, though!  Turmeric is highly regarded for its health benefits.  If you were looking to hire a spice for all sorts of ailments, you’d be highly impressed by turmeric’s CV.  Turmeric would be the cream of the crop!  Or, uh, to be more technical, the powder of the root!  Curcumin (not to be confused with cumin), a compound found in turmeric, is highly responsible for turmeric’s extensive curriculum vitae.

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Here’s a quick basic summary of turmeric’s benefits, taken from turmeric.co.in:

antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, antioxidant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, appetizer, astringent, cardiovascular, carminative, cholagogue, digestive, diuretic, stimulant, and vulnerary.

Lots of “anti” activity in that list.  But “anti” in all the most positive ways.  For instance, when you have an infection, whether it be a scratch, bug bite, or virus, your body’s go-to response is the inflammation route.  It’s the biological response to trying to remove the problem.  Aarthi Narayanan, a guest on The Kojo Nnamdi Show back in September, talked about how omnipresent turmeric has been throughout her life, and how she often uses turmeric for external inflammatory ailments.  When she had a bug bite, she’d use turmeric with coconut oil as an ointment, and she said everything would be fine the next day.  There’d be no infection, just some yellow residue on her leg.

You don’t need to ingest too much turmeric to get its benefits, just half a teaspoon a day.  Turmeric has it’s proper place cooking, but you’ve got to use it in the right manner.  It walks a fine line between bland and bitter.  Too little won’t do too much, and too much will be a bit bitter in flavor.  That’s why other spices are often paired with it, like cinnamon, cardamom, and cumin when making curry powder, for instance.  Another guest on the Nnamdi show, Monica Bhide, came to the thought that, “people use it in cooking primarily as a healer more than for any taste”.  Perhaps.  What’s the harm really in adding this golden spice to your life?  It seems to have accumulated a lot of credentials over centuries, and future discoveries of its capabilities wouldn’t be surprising, either.

Vegan Zucchini Cookies

Feb 13, 2013   //   by Staff Writer   //   The Blog  //  No Comments

Like carrots, zucchini is one of those vegetables that crosses over delightfully from dinner plates to desert.   Since it goes well into baked goods, here’s a recipe for nutty zucchini cookies.  They’re a wholesome, savory treat, and even though vegan and with a vegetable base, still a little sweet.

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Ingredients:

dry
– 1/2 cup sugar
– 1/2 cup applesauce (substitute butter)
– 2 cups flour
– flax seed water mixture (1 tbs ground flax: 3 tables of water) mixed
(in substitute of egg)
– 1 tsp baking soda

vegetable
– 1 cup shredded medium zucchini

spices
– 1/2 tsp cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp clove
– 1/2 tsp vanilla

fixings

– 1/2 cup of oats
– 1 cups of mixed nuts

1.Get your oven warm and ready for the cookies by preheating it to 355℉.
2.  Shred your zucchini into fine pieces (it’s alright to leave the skin on).
3.  Whisk all the dry ingredients together (sugar, applesauce, flour, flax, and baking soda).
4.  Add shredded zucchini to the mix.
5. Add in the spices, and feel free to add in more if you’re feeling creative!  As long as they’re compatible, of course!  (perhaps nutmeg, or allspice?)
6.  Throw in the fixings.  The more, the merrier, the tastier. Load it up.
7.  Prepare a cookie sheet.  You could line it with parchment paper, or grease it with a vegan kind of oil.  (I’ve used coconut oil before, it works just fine).
8.  Once you’ve got a well-blended bowl of batter, start placing cookie sized drops of batter onto your sheet.
9.  Let the cookies bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
*don’t overbake – your cookies could dry out or burn.  They bake almost like scones, since there’s a lot of dry ingredients in the mix.  The zucchini adds a bit of moisture, though*
10.  Let them cool, and enjoy (possibly with a nice glass of almond milk or some tea!)

Practicing Cactus

Feb 1, 2013   //   by Staff Writer   //   The Blog  //  No Comments

In the midst of winter snowstorms, there’s something satisfying about visiting the Desert Room at the National Botanic Garden. Whereas many of the other chambers throughout the grounds are tropical and humid, the Desert Room’s atmosphere is warm and arid, carrying a simple silence that has a stark contrast to the bitter windchill of our known winter weather in Washington.

Deserts lack an abundance of vegetation, except for their cacti and succulent plants, which are fascinating evolutionary structures.  Growing in dry areas that are subject to drought, cacti do what they must to conserve water.  Over time, they’ve adapted in all sorts of ways.  For one, unlike other plants, they’ve lost their leaves, and in place, have spines, which provide protection and shade from the elements.

cactus practice

Cactus pose in Yoga is a great choice for someone who wants to improve their posture.  Align your spine!  It’s your main source of strength. We spend much of our time forming bad habits of hunching over at desks, so it’s good to get into the practice of standing tall, like a cactus.  Did you know that some saguaro cacti can grow up to 75 feet and live for over 150 years? Another interesting fact; it can take up to 75 years for a saguaro cactus to grow an arm.  The cactus is a slow-growing species, storing its energy and resources, for it lives rainfall by rainfall.

There are multiple variations for practicing cactus, but I’ll share the vertical version.  Not only does it help with posture, but it’s great release for shoulder tightness.  You’ll be blending Cactus pose with Chair pose here.  Stand up, pull some intention into your navel for core energy, and put your arms in cactus position.  Give yourself some saguaro arms by bending your elbows and extending your forearms.  Check to see if your elbows are on the same plane as your shoulders.  Then you’ll raise your palms skyward.  Feel that extension in your hands, from your wrists to your palms and through your fingers.  It’s important to make sure your feet are firmly planted.  Your base is where Chair pose comes into place.  Like any plant, it’s important to stay rooted to the earth.  But give your knees a little bend to add some depth to the pose.  Keep your dhristi forward, and if you feel so inclined, stick your tongue out, paying some homage to Kali.  Repeat as much as desired.

Interview w/ H St. Studio Founder – Hannah

Jan 18, 2013   //   by Staff Writer   //   The Blog  //  No Comments

ha_tt_bioName: Hannah Allerdice
Hometown: Lawerenceville, Georgia
Now Lives In: Trinidad, DC
Year of first yoga class: 2000
Yoga Training: 200 & 500 Hour Dharma Life of a Yogi Teacher Training (NYC)
Education: University of Georgia, B.A.Political Science, Graduate Work, Political Science
Favorite spot in DC: The National Aboretum Herb Garden

1. What drew you to yoga? I was always searching for ways to settle my mind and experience something deeper. I knew there was more to life than making a lot of money or finding the perfect partner.

Yoga started because I was going to be fit in college, I wanted to look nice for other people and feel good in the body. Then I got into meditation after college and I really started to become fascinated with people like Ghandi and Mother Teresa. Both of them, would not typicall be thought of as yogies, but they utilized yoga techniques in one form or another to help them do good in the world.
With my academic work in political science I sought to affect change in world through conflict resolution. The more I got into yoga the more I realized that these are the tools everyone should have.

2. How did you decide to become a yoga teacher? Some folks will do teacher training soon after beginning to practice yoga – it took me nine years, training really extensivesly. I trained in the dharma tradition for two and a half years. I wanted to train with Dharma Mittra as my guru. What held me back at first was the money. Then, I got a call to teach a conflict resolution class. I would be paid the exact amount of money Dharma teacher training would cost. I knew this was the right thing then.

3. What was teacher training like? I did the 200-hour and 500-hour courses with Dharma Mittra in New York City. These two experiences were some of the most transformative experiences of my life. Dharma’s theme is “The Life of a Yogi.” He teaches is how to be a yogi in the modern world and how to take classical yoga teachings and apply them to out present problems.

4. What is Dharma yoga? It’s classical yoga that Dharma learned from his guru. In every class there are asanas that move energy throughout body, an extended relaxation, breathing into concentration. All of the eight limbs of yoga are representated in the class. The teachers try to be quiet, calm, and balanced so that students themselves can find that stillness in themselves.

5. Why do you feel drawn to Dharma? The emphasis on self realization. We become in union with a higher self by settling the mind. When I went to my first Dharma class, there were all these neat poses I’d never seen before. I left feeling so calm and I thought – this is it! I found it!

6. What are your thoughts on the new H st. studio? what it offers to the community?
It couldn’t be in a better place because this community is just right for more opportunities to find healthy ways of living. I live in Trinidad, seven blocks from studio and my neighbors know I’m a yoga teacher. They’ve all been asking where and when are the classes. I sense there’s a real yearning for these practices in this neighborhood. The H Street Studio is a space where people from all walks of life can join together in community, we’re all in these bodies that have the same issues. Yoga philosophy is that we’re all the same. The studio will be the perfect place for people to come together and see our similarities.

Tadasana: Mountain Pose

Jan 12, 2013   //   by Staff Writer   //   The Blog  //  No Comments

Like a mountain, it’s important to have a firm base, and prominent peak.  Let’s start of with the base and explore weight placement in our feet.  Take notice of the three weight-bearing parts of your feet; your heel, the ball of the foot at your big toe, and the ball of the foot at your pinky toe. Once you’ve acknowledged these parts, lift your toes for an upward stretch and plant them, then raise you heels.  With each raise, front and back, you should feel the front and back of your calves activate.

Then, make your feet firm, flat and forward.  Your feet may be touching, but you can also keep them separated if you choose, hip distance apart.  Check to see if your hips are aligned with your legs, which should be aligned with your feet, and then let your tailbone drop.  This will extend your lower back, which will in turn, lift your chest.  Remember that the formation of mountains are caused by lateral movement, so bring your shoulders back and center them between the front and back of your body.  This should free your upper back a bit, allowing the head and neck to feel buoyant.

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Mountains are recognized for more than just their height.  You’re not just going to resemble a mountain by being vertical.  Feel the slow expansion and movement inside of you and take note of the symmetry in your body, yet acknowledge each individual physical plane; your left, your right, your front and back…In doing so,you can move slowly by rocking back and forth. Think of how even though mountains are solid structures, they too move, over time, in very subtle ways.

Now find your stillness.  You could to concentrate on your dhristi and gaze forward.  In On the Road one of Jack Kerouac’s characters named Japhy often meditated on mountains and thought that, to him, ” a mountain is a buddha. think of the patience, hundreds of thousands of years just sittin there bein perfectly perfectly silent and like praying for all living creatures in that silence and just waitin for us to stop all our frettin and foolin.”

My job keeps me on my feet for long periods of time.  Sometimes there’s downtime during my shifts, but because I must be ready to step into action, I’m not always allowed to sit down for it.  Practicing mountain pose throughout these lulls not only helps the time pass, but makes me more aware of my own posture and stance.  So take advantage of situations like that too.  Idle time can always be transformed into positive periods of meditation.  You can make a resting pose out of periodic standing.

Speaking of peaks, here’s a moving and humbling video of time-lapse shots capturing the ethereal, yet rugged surroundings of the Matterhorn peak in Switzerland.  Feel free to watch, standing up, in Tadasana.

The Coincidence of the Caduceus

Nov 28, 2012   //   by Staff Writer   //   The Blog  //  No Comments

Two serpents intertwining around a staff topped with wings.

This imagery comprises the caduceus, an attribute of Hermes, messenger of the Greek gods. Take away the wings and one snake, and you’ve got the Rod of Asclepius, the symbol for the Greek god of medicine.  But who came first, Hermes or Asclepius, and why are their staffs so similar?

Perhaps Hermes was the precursor, as some myths say that Hermes delivered Asclepius, who after birth, became an apprentice in the art of medicine.  Modern medical institutions have adopted both the staff of Hermes and the Rod of Asclepius for their logos, but there is a strong debate on the usage of former, for Hermes also carries the reputation of protecting gamblers and thieves.

But we shouldn’t shy away from use of the caduceus.  It’s symbolism is much to similar to other formulas.  For instance, the two braided snakes resemble that of the double helical structure that makes up DNA.    It also corresponds with the structural energies of Kundalini yoga.  In Kundalini, there is a powerful Shakti force that lays dormant at the base of the spine, awaiting activation through awareness, practice and meditation.

This Kundalini force is depicted as a serpent, reposing in a coiled base three times around the spine.  When activated, this force travels through three channels, or nadis; the sushumna, the ida, & the pingala.  These nadis are identical to the parts of the caduceus.  The sushumna, like the staff, is vertical and straight, traveling in parallel motion with the spine.  The ida and pingala channels twist together like that of the two snakes,  intersecting at a handful of point, or chakra centers.

The sushumna is the stabilizing and grounding core, connecting the base with the crown.  Each of the chakras are situated along the column of the sushumna.  Kundalini moves upward through this pathway.  The Ida and Pingala nadis work together in polarity and duality, just like Yin and Yang.  Ida, the left channel, represents feminine and lunar energy as is connected to emotions.  Pingala on the other hand is associated with masculine and solar energy as well as mental and physical endeavors.  Kundalini energy has the potential to activate when both of these nadis are in balance with each other.

Only depicted with the right-sided snake, the Rod of Asclepius is somewhat lacking.  Medical advancement definitely focuses around the physical realms, but the healing process cannot be complete without emotional attributes.  Is it a coincidence then that the pairing of these two snakes of the caduceus are extremely similar to the channels of Kundalini, a power that has great potential to not only heal, but raise the awareness of our consciousness?

 

What is a Wat

Oct 17, 2012   //   by Staff Writer   //   The Blog  //  No Comments

Chiang Mai is known as the “New City”, but it’s built around a square mile of ground called the Old City Center.  There are over 300 wats scattered about the area of Chiang Mai, the second largest city in Thailand, and over 50 of them lie within the parameters of the Old City.  What is a wat exactly?  It’s a Buddhist monastery school that’s also commonly called a temple.  Can you imagine 50 temples in one small area, all with their own individual decor, personality, and purpose?

I briefly visited Chiang Mai last month during a trip to Thailand, and stayed with my friends in the Old City Center.  There were three stunning temples sitting just a few streets apart from each other.  Right along her alleyway was Wat Kuan Kama, or what we called the Horse Temple, due to the flanks of golden horses positioned around the wall.  Down the road there was a huge sitting Buddha overlooking Wat Morthean, and directly opposite was Wat Moklee.  A temple with a sparkly mirrored wall sat a couple of blocks west.  Each wat had a wall around it’s parameter, creating a distinct separation of space between temple grounds and the city streets.  Boundary walls are a standard architectural design for wats in Thailand, so those enclosures adorned with equine icons and resembling rectangular disco balls carried both form and function.

I didn’t enter too many wats for I felt a little intimidated.  They’re beautiful pieces of architecture, but they’re also very sacred.  I felt stuck in a “look don’t touch” mentality, out of respect and for not feeling knowledgeable enough to fully appreciate and understand the wats.  At least I adhered to the dress code; when entering temple grounds, the etiquette is to cover your shoulders and knees (no shorts and no tank tops).  No shirt, no sleeves, no service, as it’s rude, but when you’re on temple grounds, definitely remove your shoes.

There are other “don’ts” that I picked up while asking friends how to behave in a temple.  One of them was to always bow at the image of Buddha and to never have your head higher than the Buddha, whether it be a statue or painting.  Also, never, never, never show the bottom of your feet to anyone, and don’t use that part of you to point at anything.  The bottom of your feet is seen as the dirtiest part of the human body in Thailand.

It would of been nice to spend more time exploring the wats, but it was hard to pack 300, let alone 3, into just one day in Chiang Mai.  The ornateness of each wat, from its wall to its shrines, was almost overwhelming.  Some wats had hand-painted panels depicting passages from ancient texts, and those alone sparked so much curiosity.  There were many statues of various animals and characters around the temple grounds, and I wished to know more about each of them.  The temples in Thailand have so much history and living stories inside their grounds, from the stone carvings that have stood the test of time against earthquakes to the monks making their everyday offerings and practicing their rituals.  It’s a wonderful things that Thailand offers secular visitors a chance to experience their sacred grounds.

The Teachers

The diverse family of DC yoga teachers at Yoga District are dedicated to making yoga accessible to everyone through a huge variety of yoga class types, from vinyasa flow to restorative and beyond. Most Yoga District teachers are graduates of Yoga District’s nationally-attended 200 hour teacher training program. All Yoga District classes focus on coordinating breath with body movement to promote flexibility, strength, and peace of mind. We strongly believe in yoga as therapy, so catch one of our classes whenever you need a healthy dose of self-care.
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The Next Step

The Yoga District 200 and 500 hour teacher training certification programs, registered by the Yoga Alliance are unique in their emphasis on diversity of teaching styles studied, personal attention, and trauma sensitive yoga. It's no coincidence that Yoga District is regularly voted the leading studio in the nation's capital, and that most of its classes are taught by graduates of its training program. As a full time yoga school, small group trainings are led up to eight times a year by a dedicated faculty including Jasmine Chehrazi, contributor to the Harvard Karma Yoga Project teacher training, teacher training faculty at George Washington University, Yoga Alliance Standards Committee Advisory Board Member, Yoga Activist Founder, and Yoga Service Council Advisory Board Member. So take your practice and community involvement to the next level by joining a training. There's a reason why our graduates call the training "transformative."
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