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Finding Balance Anywhere

Oct 15, 2012   //   by Staff Writer   //   The Blog  //  Comments Off on Finding Balance Anywhere

Flipped Dog in SFO’s Yoga Room

For those of you who have been known to wake up in cold sweats because your life feels dangerously akin to George Clooney’s in “Up in the Air,” this post is for you.

One of my favorite things about my current job is how much I get to travel. It is also the greatest challenge to my personal commitment to leading a healthy and active lifestyle. No matter how good my intentions are to maintain a workout routine and nutritious diet while on the road, I have a hard time sticking to it. Honestly, it’s hard to find time between meetings and emails to fit in your fitness. And when your job involves networking events and client dinners as mine does, it’s not always so easy to resist temptation when the friendly waiter offers you another yummy cocktail or the dessert menu.

So how do you avoid blowing all your hard work in a week or two on the road? Find balance.

First of all, do what you can, when you can. Over the course of the last two weeks on the West Coast I managed to go for two runs, attend one yoga class, do a 30-minute yoga podcast, fire-up my Jillian Michael’s “Butt & Thighs” DVD twice, and get my ass kicked in my first TRX circuit training workout (so much fun!). Not bad, but not my normal regime. Each of these activities took 30 minutes to an hour–i.e. long enough to maintain my fitness level but not so time-consuming that they threw off my tight meeting schedule.

Second of all, be compassionate with yourself. It’s easy to start feeling guilty for a few days without a workout or splurging on that delicious huevos rancheros with a side of bacon at breakfast, but cut yourself some slack. Always keep in mind that life is to be enjoyed–remember moderation–and stressing won’t do you any good. In fact, it activates Cortisol, a hormone found in your body which makes you store fat, in particular around that muffin top/love handle area–fun fun! So relax because we all fall off the horse at times. The important thing is that you don’t throw in the towel just because you let yourself indulge a little in that bomb brunch or red velvet cupcake. Rather than wallowing in self-judgment after an indulgence, get up and go for a long walk or skip the elevator and take the stairs. Balance.

Finally, be creative. While it is important to work physical activity into your busy days and be forgiving of occasional gluttony when you’re on the road, it’s also important to take advantage of opportunities to be good to your body. Case in point, San Francisco International Airport’s “Yoga Room.” Not every airport or city will have a tranquil space devoted exclusively to yogis just after getting through security, but when it’s there, you best use it! Since I always travel with my yoga mat as carry-on–and tend to be in Lululemon pants and slouchy tops on my travel days–I was prepared to capture this golden opportunity and get in 45 minutes of playful flow before heading to my gate. My 5+ hour flight back to DC was so much more manageable having had the opportunity to move and stretch beforehand.

Whatever you do, wherever your busy life takes you, be kind to yourself—both in body and mind. You’ll come home feeling much happier, relaxed and prepared to take flight again.

Yoga teachers training program for me

Oct 5, 2012   //   by Staff Writer   //   The Blog  //  Comments Off on Yoga teachers training program for me

     The yoga teachers training program has matured me instantly.  Studying the Sutras, Meditating and Practicing Asanas all at the same time, which I had never done before, has made me feel a sudden upliftment. I feel more comfortable with my mind, body and soul. It has brought a certain calm in me and I feel control over myself. I feel like my body is safe for my soul to reside.  With all the command you need over your body while doing the asanas and all the discipline you need over your mind to meditate and all the focus you need on your soul to understand and apply the sutras, I am confident I now have the knowledge and tools through the Eight Limbs of Yoga to take care of myself. I feel assured that my body is capable of peace. This revelation is HUGE. It is necessary and has made me feel very powerful. I would love to see people around me benefit in the same way I have from Yoga. 

      The teacher’s training program has opened new doors for me. For the first time, I am seeing Yoga as love. Before, it was just a way to make my body look better. But now, I feel like I am doing so much more for myself than just changing how my body looks. I am teaching my mind and body and soul that they can love and harmoniously care for each other and pass on that energy of love back into the universe. 

      The training program has made me aware, that all these revelations I am having are revelations others could also experience. Yoga activism is an important part of the training and I learned a lot from the various speakers who talked about their work with army troops and their work with kids in Haiti. I discovered the various ways in which I can contribute to society through yoga.  I learned about the need and the use of yoga in communities. I soaked up information on what it means to do yoga. I learned that I can trust my mind to operate my body to treasure my soul and keep it safe. I don’t see my body as something I have to constantly worry about wearing and tearing. I now see it as a safe (a treasure box) for my soul to dwell, reside and be at peace. 

      The training is powerful because it has made me value myself more and made me value everything around me. All these personal changes I am experiencing in me are worth experiencing for many more bodies and souls out there. Whether its underprivileged children in Haiti or army troops, we all deserve and want calm and peace within ourselves. I hope to keep yoga and its continuing education as part of my daily life from this point on.  One of my favorite authors said, “My advice to anybody is: Get born”. As a follow up on the same lines, I would like to say, ‘My advice to anybody after getting born is: Try Yoga’.

Ahimsa: Not so Simple With the Little Things

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

Cicadas, spiders, moths, and mosquitoes all come with the territory of summer in the District.  Some insects, like cicadas and crickets, provide months of ambient song, impressively resonating over the bustle of city noise.  Their presence is rather pleasant, as they for the most part keep to themselves, letting their music add to the summer’s sweltering atmosphere.

Then there’s the array of insects, that are just a plain nuisance.  Our culture has it made that the indoors and outdoors are completely separated.  There are huge strides to prevent outdoor pests from coming in, (even when you’re outside) whether its hiring an exterminator, wearing bug spray, or simply swatting the gnats out of existence. These precautions are quite opposite of Ahimsa, the first Yama of the from the Eight Limbs of Yoga, which is set to practice compassion toward all living things.

But how do we practice compassion toward pests that swarm our legs the moment we step outside?  With all the scare of West Nile and Lyme Disease, shouldn’t we defend our bodies from entities that could potentially carry parasites and disease?  Our own well-being is absolutely important, but keeping it in check means blurring the lines on Ahimsa’s fundamental principles when dealing with more insignificantly small life-forms.

I’ve heard a lot of people comment that being outdoors would be more enjoyable if it weren’t for all the bugs, especially mosquitoes.  What’s their purpose of existence anyway?  Well, to be fair, if we’re going to question the existence of a moth, a mealworm, or a mosquito, then we should also question the existence of everything else out there, from clouds to buildings, to our very selves.

Existence in its very self is full of things that are bothersome.  There are plenty of people who frown upon bad weather for instance.  It’s raining, and it hinders them from wanting to go outside, just as much as the fear of mosquitoes.  The thing is, if we shy away from doing things because of hopes to avoid the annoyance of little things, from bugs to raindrops, then we miss out on the larger picture.  All those little things add up to create the whole.

It takes an extreme amount of awareness and practice to break the habits of negative thought and action, but it helps to give it effort over time.  Educating yourself about the patterns of cyclic things like insects and rainfall can help you become better at understanding and accepting things around you.  Know how to positively deal with and remove frustrations and concerns that are around you, and vice versa.  Ahimsa is all about practicing non-violence, which encompasses pure action and pure thought.  Being annoyed by your environment for petty reasons causes just as much internal struggle as a little prick from a bug bite would.  By accepting and embracing things around you for what they are, and for going with the flow of everyday life, you’ll find more peace within yourself.

Tending to the Seeds of Our Emotions

Aug 30, 2012   //   by Staff Writer   //   The Blog  //  No Comments

Throughout our day to day lives, we experience an array of emotions.  Some are positive, like hope, happiness, and affection, while others, such as anger, loneliness, and despair, are negative.  All of them are quite normal and inevitable, and often times we forget that everyone experiences these emotions at some point in their lives.    We tend to embrace positive emotions for all good reason.  Being content contributes stronger to personal well-being than being annoyed, as excitement has to the potential to yield more positivity than anguish or apathy.  Positive emotions just feel like the norm, and when an individual isn’t experiencing one, it leaves plenty of room for other emotions to creep in.

When you experience an emotion like boredom, the initial reaction is to try to get rid of it. by finding something to fill your time with.  Perhaps you find an engaging activity to move you from boredom to curiosity, or maybe you look for the easier route of a simple distraction.  We’re always trying to change our emotions when they don’t sit well with us.  Often times people who experience anger act upon it in as a way to let out their rage, or they suppress it internally as a way to cope with it.  These methods don’t allow any room for healthy progress though.  It only fuels the seed of anger even more.  You would never try to suppress feelings of ecstasy or gratitude, but only try to extend their experience, so why should you neglect negative emotions?

A healthy way to deal with these not-so-pleasant emotions is to recognize them simply as what they are.  They are feelings – they are not you – and they will pass in time.  They will also pass easier with mindfulness.  It’s easy to ruminate on an emotion.  “I am angry, and this makes me angrier!!”  But those sort of thoughts just make the emotion swell in size even more.  We don’t seek out anger, it comes to us, it resides in us, and, in sequence, it leaves us.  It extends its stay when we give it attention or when we hid it deep within us.

These negative emotions might feel like intruders, but instead of getting defensive, take a moment and try to observe them.  Is there a reason why they feel so massive and uncontrollable?  Is there a pattern to their arrival and stay?  Are they triggered by something in particular?  Once you try to understand a certain emotion, you’ll begin to know how to deal with it when it comes back around.  No one wants to feel angry or depressed, and no one really wants to acknowledge it.  But those feelings are normal, and with positive attention, from mindfulness, meditation, and other methods of well-being, one can harvest the benefits of focusing on positive emotions, and keep the seeds of negative ones from sprouting out of control.

Thank you Maharaji

Aug 22, 2012   //   by Staff Writer   //   The Blog  //  Comments Off on Thank you Maharaji

I came home last night a bit drained from a long day, but luckily my beautiful wife was already home and she’s a bigger KD fan than I am… the house was full of rich sound of Krishna Das’s voice. … Continue reading

“C’mon, little guy, hold still!”

Aug 13, 2012   //   by Staff Writer   //   The Blog  //  No Comments

“C’mon, little guy, hold still!” a child commanded toward a frantic African shrew in a display case at the zoo.  “I just want to get your picture!”  The child toted a digital camera that was set and ready to shot an automatic flash photo, but the subject in question couldn’t stop pacing about in its case.  “I don’t think he knows how to hold still,” the child’s mother stated.  “Let’s move on to another animal, why don’t we?”  But before they did, the child snapped a blurry photo of the shrew, just because.

What makes us feel the need to document every sight?  Since when have viewfinders and screens become our drishti, the point of our gaze?  Osho dubbed this phenomenon as “Kodakomania”.  There’s nothing wrong at all with the use and embrace of this technology, but when the use of cameras and computers become more of a habit, they also become a bit of a hindrance.  The focus becomes more about getting a satisfying image rather than observing the subject itself.

The zoo is an interesting place to notice this…when a lion springs into action, everyone immediately reaches for their cameras to catch the moment.  It’s a tempting thing to do, because, really when do you see a lion in movement?  Or any animal besides a squirrel or a starling, at least in this city?  But to have the habit and desire, which is becoming almost instinct, to take a photograph of the moment is really takes away from the moment itself.

Establishing presence is a strong focus in yogic practice.  How do we find the balance between life on-screen and off-screen?  It’s tough to say, as situations vary from person to person.   Perhaps reflecting on this topic could help mediate a balance of some sort.  First off, what draws us to the urge of taking a picture of something?  The subject itself.  Its essence captivates us, and therefore, we feel a need to capture it, as to remember in some way and to share.

But there is much more to notice from a subject or an experience that can be seen and appreciated without the use of a camera.  Ever seen the movie “The Girl With the Pearl Earring”?  There’s a scene where she’s staring at the sky with the painting master and he asks her what color the sky is.  She only gives him one color, but he says something along the lines of how there’s much more than that, yellow, white, grey, and blue.  By taking a moment to see something for more than it is, you’ll notice all the details that come with it.  That in itself is a beautiful way to use of establishing presence and drishti.

Road Tripping

Aug 9, 2012   //   by Staff Writer   //   The Blog  //  No Comments

Yesterday I packed up my car, and hit the open road for what Google maps told me would be a 7 hour drive from Washington, DC to South Carolina. Ten hours later (thank you traffic!), I pulled up outside my parents’ house, exhausted, but thrilled to see them. Stepping out of the car, I knew that the many hours sitting in the same position might leave my body feeling stiff the next day. Along the route I incorporated some stretches, and before bed last night, worked my way through a few long and lazy sun salutations, lengthening from head to toe. Whether going on a road trip, taking a long flight, (or even sitting at a desk for many hours!), here are some ideas to counter all that sitting.

Before heading out:

1. I find that before I have to sit for a long period of time, it helps to get active – a quick run, bike ride, or brisk walk – to get the blood flowing.

2. Pack some props – I have a small pillow in the car that I can place at my lower back as I start to feel my spine crunching/hunching.

While traveling:

1. Move through a few cat/cow postures when stuck at a light or sitting in traffic. Round through the upper back, dropping the head to lengthen through the neck on the exhale. On the inhale, draw the chest forward, arching and opening the front of the body.

2. Focus on lengthening the spine – root down through the sits bones and feel as though someone is pulling a string up all the way through the crown of the head.

3. Remember to breathe – long, cleansing deep breaths send new oxygen through the body, help to dispel fatigue, and can reduce frustration. And if you are in the car on your own, try a few lion’s breaths – deep inhale through the nose, open the mouth, allow the tongue to stretch out and down, as you audibly exhale. Ahhhhh…

4. I find driving, especially long distances, to be time for meditation.

Post travel (or a long day at the office):

1. Find tadasana/mountain pose, standing straight, lifting up out of the hips, rolling the shoulders back and down. On an inhale, stretch the arms up over head, until the palms are touching. Reach up, look up, feel like rib cage expand. Allow the fingertips to lead the upper body into a side stretch, being careful not to collapse forward (if leaning to the right, roll the left shoulder open). Repeat on each side.

2. Adho Mukha Savasana, or down dog, is an all around, feel good pose. It not only calms the brain and body, it also opens the backs of the legs (which have been in crunched up all day!) and the upper back.

3. I love a gentle inversion in the evening, such as Viparita Kirani, or legs up the wall, to relieve cramping and fatigue in the legs.

Another road trip from SC to Boston is coming up next week. What are some of your favorite ways to keep the body calm and relaxed on a long trip??

*photo from jwblogisticsandtrucking.com

You don’t always know what it will look like…

Jul 30, 2012   //   by Staff Writer   //   The Blog  //  No Comments

About six months ago, I went through some pretty big life changes… moved to a city I had never even visited before… started a new job… turned a new relationship into a long distance one. I should preface by saying that for the past few years, my yoga practice has been my sanity. No matter what I was feeling – happy, stressed, anxious – I could find what I was looking for on my mat – a few quiet moments to revel in something good, think through a problem, or completely forget about everything outside the studio.

Needless to say, I was somewhat thrown off when, with so many changes happening in my life, I seemed to steer clear of yoga. I couldn’t seem to get excited about finding a new studio. I had excuses for why I couldn’t even attend free classes around town. Sure, during this time, I rolled out my mat in my tiny apartment and flowed through a few suns, or I would take my mat down to the park to practice inversions, but I would find myself laying on my mat minutes later. Laying there, eyes soft, mind quiet, breathing steady.

About a month and a half ago, and with just slight hesitation (probably because I had not moved through a full 1.5 hour class in a while!), I began taking classes. Laying in savasana at the end of class, I realized something… something more than just how sore my body would probably be the next day. I realized that while I may have stepped away from the asana portion, I never abandoned my practice. It just didn’t look like what I thought it would look like. At a time when things seemed somewhat crazy in life, I needed quiet, I needed stillness. And now, feeling more secure in my space, I’m ready to amp it up on the mat. It’s just the way these things work – it’s an ebb and flow.

In reality, the thing that draws me to yoga is the idea of staying present, to thoughts, to the breath… and ultimately to life. And the beauty of the practice is that it always welcomes you back, no judgement.

Let’s Get Geometric

Jul 29, 2012   //   by Staff Writer   //   The Blog  //  No Comments

Have you ever taken a try at Triangle, or Trikonasana?  It’s a pose that can expose you to the power of applying angles, corners, and shapes to stretching.  Trikonasana taps into three targeted areas, the shoulders, torso, and hips, and turns the extremities into expanding axes.

The hips, the base of the spine, and the lower half all benefit from practicing Trikonasana.  Being a standing pose, the legs serve as the foundation, so it’s important to have solid footing yet enough space between each foot to achieve full potential from the stretch. Blocks come in handy with this pose, so feel free to set one up by your front foot.  The first angle and imaginary triangle starts on the floor with your feet.  Let’s put our right foot forward on the mat with both feet pointing out straight and running parallel.  Then turn the left foot out to about 60 degrees, or to a ten o’clock position.  (Degrees and clock-references vary).  Make sure your heels are still on the same axis, they’re keeping you in firm position!

The second triangle shape forms with your pelvis.  Now that your feet are in position, your legs are like opened scissors, holding a wide stride.  Keep your pelvis facing forward for a moment, as you would in warrior pose, just to be aware of your pelvic plane.  Trikonasana is a great hip opener.  You’ll feel your joints activation once you swivel them to be parallel with your heels.  If your hips and heels stack up though, that means your stride is too short!  Don’t be afraid to slide your front foot forward a bit more to make a wide triangle!   You’ll want to make sure that your front leg is straight and diagonal.  This pose is full of oblique planes!

It’s time to activate your arms.  Let them rise into a T-bar, again, like you would in warrior pose.  Now let your torso move forward so that it hovers over your extended right thigh.  Drop your right hand to the ground or to a block on the outside of your right foot, and extend your left arm and palm skyward. Your arms should now be in a vertical axis, creating a series of angles between hips, shoulders, and the neck.  Make sure your head doesn’t hang, as it should be on the same plane as your torso, but feel free to look skyward.

The Land of Repose

Jul 8, 2012   //   by Staff Writer   //   The Blog  //  No Comments

It’s the last few minutes of class and the quick-moving asanas have come to a close.  There’s only one move left, savasana, and it carries the connotation of being the easiest.  People anticipate savasana in different ways; some embrace it as a moment of relief, while others feel anxious during the pose due to their wandering thoughts.

Perhaps it should be accepted with neutrality.  After all, the body is kept in a neutral position during the duration of savasana.  Don’t get mistaken though; although it’s no shoulder stance or inverted triangle, savasana isn’t exactly easy.  Sure, the body remains in corpse pose with the back on the ground.  Some people even take this physical break as a moment to sleep.  It’s actually the chosen pose to hold during yoga nidra practice (or yogic sleep), but it’s important to acknowledge that staying conscious and aware of yourself it where the activity happens, especially in savasana.

“Why must I lie still for that long?” I heard someone ask before in regards to savasana.  We were discussing the different parts of classes that we enjoy, and they found savasana to be a nuisance, just because they came for the movement of the course.  “The last thing I want to do in yoga is lie down!”

There’s actually a lot of movement happening during savasana.  It’s just really subtle.  The aim with savasana is total relaxation, which for many people, requires practice to obtain.  For starters, it’s simple enough to lie on your back with eyes closed and palms up, but on YogaJournal.com, there’s multi-paragraphs of step-by-step instruction full of intricate details, like broadening “the base of the skull too, and lift[ing[ the crease of the neck diagonally into the center of the head”.

It’s probably best to explore these physical adjustments over time, after you’ve gotten accustomed to calming the mind of thoughts as well as everything else internally, such as your sensory organs.  Things like the sounds around you, the lighting of the room, as well as the temperature, should be taken in as observations that are part of the moment rather than distractions.

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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