I'll admit one of the hardest parts of yoga for me is showing up! Sometimes life gets in the way and I don't prioritize my yoga practice as much as I should. When I'm cozy in bed on a Monday morning it's hard to remember why I thought I'd like to go to Sunrise yoga at 7:15am anyway. 'I'll go later' I think and then slip back into sleep.
Any habit is hard to commit too. As humans we prefer instant gratification to the gratification we know we'll get at the end of a yoga session, or at the end of a month when our bodies look better, or at the end of a week when our minds feel clearer because of a consistent yoga practice.
So how do I get myself to go? It's not always easy. But I love to schedule the classes online a week in advance. That way I know I signed up and I'll feel guilty if I don't show up. Then I can base my schedule around yoga. There are so many class times I can always find one that fits.
Or I think of something to get myself excited about going to yoga – trying out a new class or studio or teacher. I also check in with my sister via e-ail daily and let her know what exercise I've done that day. It motivates us both to do something so we'll have an activity to report!
What works to get you to yoga???
Envy is a tricky beast and she knows me well.
On a spiritual and intellectual level, I know that the goal of yoga is not to achieve handstand in the center of the room. And yet… And yet…
I want to stand on my hands. I want to stand on my hands like a real yogi!
There’s that silly mind again, pulling me away from the true purpose of the pose and the practice. Yoga is not about achieving this pose or that pose. It’s about taking the body to its edge and resting there with a heart full of love and devotion. It’s about challenging the body to do what the mind says is impossible. It’s about lifting up the body to lift up the spirit. And it’s about cultivating strength of body and strength of purpose. This is yoga.
It takes a lot of effort for me to release the ego and honor myself where I am in my practice. But once I bring my mind to that place, my legs are suddenly much lighter.
The DC Global Mala is a group of yoga practitioners who dedicate a collective practice each fall. The Global Mala Project is a worldwide project initiated by Shiva Rea, Sean Corne, Michael Franti, and yogis, yoga studios, performers and activists around the world.
The mala is made up of 108 beads and a symbol for the prayer for peace, hope and charity. The purpose of the Global Mala is to unite the global yoga community from every continent, school or approach to form a “mala around the earth” through collective practices based upon the sacred cycle of 108.
Sacred activities can include:
- 108 Sun Salutations (or variations of 27, 56)
- 108 rounds of mantra such as the Gayatri or Maha Mrityanjaya
- 108 rounds of a kriya
- 108 minutes of meditation, kirtan or movement meditation
On September 18, 2011, Anahata Grace, a local non-profit will host the annual DC Global Mala!
Learn more here: http://www.anahatainternational.org/index.php/dc-global-mala/
Have you ever been to the DC Mala? Tell us about it!
- 108 Sun Salutations led by DC teachers
- Dharma Talk and Meditation
- Mindful Marketplace sponsored by like-minded local studios and businesses
- Fundamentals Clinic for first time Mala practitioners — all are welcome!
- Yoga Nidra led by Anahata Founder and DC teacher Angela Cerkevich
- Live Music thanks to amazing friends in the DC Drum Circle!
- A chance to raise our community vibration beyond the borders of mat, studio, and style!
- This year, all proceeds will support the work of Anahata Grace, a Washington DC-based nonprofit that works to share the physical and mental health benefits of yoga and holistic wellness services to individuals in need.
Take a deep breath. Concentrate. Move forward. Trust your strength. Engage everything. Gaze ahead. Be mindful of your neighbors. Move with grace. Imagine that it’s possible. Relax. Relax. Relax.
Wait, was that my yoga teacher or my life coach?
It took me a long time to realize that they’re the same person. That was quite a lightbulb that went off and it brightened every corner of my life: everything I ever needed to know, I learned on my yoga mat.
Of course, the tricky part is having the presence of mind to be able to actually translate life on the mat to life in this world. That’s the focus of my yoga practice right now: to bring that same disciple I have on the mat into my relationships at work and at home. In class, I’m always able to muster that last bit of strength to sink deeper into a pose. Now, the challenge is to bring that same strength and that same breath into difficult situations off the mat.
And maybe I’ll find that the peace I find in headstand will allow me to have peace in my mind and heart when the world is upside down.
In my last blog entry, I wrote about a few awesome transformational experiences that emerged through my 200-hour teacher training program at Yoga District. Another transformation (that I haven’t mention yet) really surprised me because, unlike so many of the other internal yoga-inspired changes I’ve encountered, this one was totally external—my yoga sangha.
What’s sangha? The term, “sangha” was among the dozens of new Sanskrit words I learned during teacher training. Although it can be loosely defined as “community,” the word, sangha, originating in the Buddhist belief, traditionally refers to two very specific types of groups, either 1. a community of Buddhist monastic monks and nuns, or 2. a community of awakened beings.
I’m not sure my sangha necessary fits either of those definitions in its strictest form, but regardless of what it is called, the community I developed through Yoga District is, no doubt, something very special… and pretty big too!
To be honest, I was a little dismayed when I first learned that my training would be unusually large—30 teacher trainees! I generally prefer working in smaller, more intimate groups, but I’m so thankful that it turned out the way it did. Over the weeks of teacher training, my yoga practice deepened and I came appreciate the value of practicing yoga in large groups for several reasons:
1. Energy. Have you even done about 30 sweaty Sun Salutations in a room filled with 30+ yogis all in synch in breath and movement? It’s amazing! Talk about a natural high! There is something magical about doing yoga in a large group that is incredibly uplifting, even when you’re tired.
2. Inspiration. Knowing that if I get myself to the studio, I will see familiar friendly faces often inspires me to go even on days when I’m tempted to skip. I have never regretted going a yoga class, whether I am taking or teaching the class. The energy around me during a yoga class often inspires me to go even further into my practice than I might otherwise during my home practice… and inspires me to come back for more.
3. Learning. Having such a large teacher training, you can imagine that there were A LOT of questions and comments. During training, we would often find ourselves pretty far off topic, but I actually enjoyed those conversations and practices because it was usually when I learned the most. I have learned so much though the vast diversity of backgrounds and yoga styles of my fellow trainees, and I continue to learn from both my teachers and students every day.
4. Sharing. My yoga community is extremely generous. At home, my bookshelf is stuffed with several borrowed yoga books, replacing the spaces of books that I have leant out to others, and my computer if filled with yoga music that has been given to me by my fellow yogis. The reciprocal sharing of resources has been immensely helpful for me while on this journey through yoga.
5. Friends. It has been so encouraging to have so many people in my life who understand the internal shifts I have been experiencing. These shifts are much more subtle than being able to do cool arm balances, but of course those are fun too. All of us came to yoga looking for something. All of us are on a journey, and as fate would have it, we met on the mat. Since my training, I have been amazed at the outpouring of love and support I’ve received as I find my footing as yoga instructor for the very first time. Thanks to teacher training, I left with 30+ friends to cheer me on, and my yoga community, my sangha, continues to grow.
The article mentions yoga classes held on the National Mall, and the DC Global Mala Project.
The other “Fantastically Yoga Friendly Towns” are Asheville, NC; Austin, TX; Boulder, CO; Encinitas, CA; Minneapolis, MN; Portland, OR; Salt Lake City; New Orleans; and Woodstock, NY.
It's so great to see DC mentioned among all these “hippie” cities! It's a welcome observation, as most of the country likely views DC as a buttoned up, serious town. However, once you move beyond the tourist spots on the National Mall downtown – yoga studios abound; especially in Woodley Park, Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle yoga mat toting locals are plentiful.
Before beginning my yoga 200-hour teacher training program, I talked with several of my yoga teacher friends about their own training experiences and they all had the same message – be prepared for a transformation. I was almost certain my training, in some way, would be a life changing experience, but exactly how, I was not sure. I tried to release any expectations, although this was easier said than done. Knowing and believing full-heartedly that it is not supposed to be about who can do which yoga poses, I secretly hoped that upon graduation I would enjoy deeply meditating in Padmasana (Full Lotus Pose), and then maybe from there, transition into some crazy arm balance. In a nut shell, I hoped that I would have: 1. stronger arms, 2. more flexible hips, and 3. the ability to focus and meditate.
1. Strong Arms: Well, as life would have it, I had an accident and injured both hands and wrists two days before training started, so arm balances were definitely out of the question for at least two months. This was a very humbling experience and a struggle to respect my body during its healing process by keeping pressure off my hands and wrists, thus practicing the yama, Ahimsa, meaning non-harming. It was also a good lesson in finding acceptance—observing the niyama, Santosa, meaning contentment. This honestly was harder than lifting weights at the gym, but it definitely made me “stronger”!
2. Flexible Hips: After daily asana practices and plenty of hip-openers, my hip joints have become somewhat more flexible, but still not even close to Padmasana-flexible. However, during the anatomy portion of the training, I did learn that there are a number of factors that influence the range of motion of a joint (beyond muscle tightness), such as bone structure—something I never even considered. Therefore, no matter how long I hang out in Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose), those knees might never touch the floor… but one of the best lessons I learned during training was that it really doesn’t matter! So, is it possible to teach yoga poses without having mastered them myself? …Or without even having the physical ability to do them? – Yes, absolutely!
3. Focused Mind: As for my difficulty in sitting still and meditating on my own… yeah, I am still working on that one. Through, like my hip flexibility, it strangely may also be linked to my bone structure in a roundabout way. Studying Ayurveda and learning about doshas, the three subtle energies, I have become aware of my abundance of Vata energy, which is often the case in people who have narrow bones structures. People with more Vata in their constitutions also tend to be quick and lively in thought, speech and action, and make friends easily. I accept that it is the tendency of my nature to be all over the place, but through the lessons of teacher training I learned how to cope with dosha imbalances with certain changes in diet, lifestyle, and of course yoga.
So in conclusion— Did I transform? Yes, no doubt. Did I transform in the way I expected? Absolutely not, but that’s what made it so beautiful.
I am a neurotic type A personality, a Pitta-Vata dosha. What’s your dosha? I like to set a goal and accomplish it within the timeframe I’ve established for myself. I try to apply that discipline to every aspect of my personal and professional life. And when I take up a hobby, I don’t kid around.
So when I started practicing yoga, my mind was firmly fixed on mastery: mastering the poses, the breath, the quiet mind.
Buy yoga is not a skill to be mastered; rather, it’s a journey to be experienced and it’s never over. Ever. Every time I think I’ve “mastered a pose,” I learn that there’s always somewhere deeper to go, both in the body and the mind.
Think you’ve mastered crow? Try moving into tripod headstand or hopping back to chatturanga. Or engage the bandhas and move into firefly. Or stay put, close the eyes, and meditate on a single point of concentration, dedicating every breath to your beloved.
In yoga, practice doesn’t make perfect. It makes more practice. You might find that the practice itself is a perfect gift.
The 2011 International Yoga Asana Championships were this past month in Los Angeles. Seventy competitors came from 19 countries to vie for the title of World Yoga Champion. The competitors are the winners of regional competitions in places like Western Canada, Mexico and Singapore. Last year's female champion was Brandy Winfield of the U.S. and Kasper Van Den Wijngaard of the Netherlands.
I thought in honor of all the spectacular achievements of these INCREDIBLE yogis, I'd post some photos of last year’s World Yoga competitors.
The participants are required to do five mandatory asanas.
1. Standing head-to-knee pose
2. Standing bow-pulling pose
3. Bow pose
4. Stretching pose
and last but not least…
5. Rabbit pose
Though you probably won’t see me at this competition any time soon, it’s fun to admire the best of the best – normal people have football and basketball players to look up to. We have these guys! It’s amazing what the human body can do!
I am a new addition to the Yoga District family, after recently realizing my week long streaks of cocktail lusting and late night McDonalds runs had finally taken a toll on my once toned physique. I had taken some yoga classes in the past: Bikram, Hatha, and various classes at Washington Sports Clubs. I had at least taken enough to where I thought I deserved my own Yoga mat, even though it would usually end up in the back of my closet after a couple weeks.
When I started taking classes at Yoga District, I noticed how all of the classes had numbers by them (1, 1.5, 2, 3), which I had to admit, threw me at first. Since I had taken some classes in the past, I decided that I was at least a 1.5 or a 2. I signed up for my first class with Caroline D. for Yoga 1-1.5, thinking to myself “The numbers are low enough, maybe I can show off my skills a little bit”. Let me tell you, there is nothing more humbling that being in a class that you think is a very basic yoga class and being almost the only one in the class that is not at in head stand. The class ended up surprising me in all of the best possible ways. After getting over the mild embarrassment, I listened to Caroline D.’s instructions closely and was able to hold poses that I had only pretended to do in the past.
It was at that point that I realized that the Yoga “practice” I had experienced before was obviously very cookie-cutter and lacking the authenticity that Yoga District seemed to offer. After just a few classes, I have noticed my strength and flexibility have increased. I have graduated myself to a 1.5 finally and treated myself to a Manduka yoga bag. Next stop, level 2 and a new mat. Of course, I’ll be donating my old one through the Yoga Activist Mat Donation Project!
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 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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