Browsing articles in "The Blog"

Why 108 Oms?

Jan 24, 2012   //   by Staff Writer   //   The Blog  //  Comments Off on Why 108 Oms?
One New Year’s Eve I participated in a special class at Yoga District to bring in the new year. At the end of class we chanted 108 oms. I was wondering what the significance of this practice was so I did some research.
According to Yoga experts, the following are some reasons for the power of Om:
  1. The chanting of Om drives away all worldly thoughts and removes distraction and infuses new vigor in the body.
  2. When you feel depressed, chant Om fifty times and you will be filled with new vigor and strength. The chanting of Om is a powerful tonic. When you chant Om, you feel you are the pure, all pervading light and consciousness.
  3. Those who chant Om will have a powerful, sweet voice. Whenever you take a stroll, you can chant Om. You can also sing Om in a beautiful way. The rythmic pronunciation of Om makes the mind serene and pointed, and infuses the spiritual qualifications which ensure self-realization.
  4. Those who do meditation of Om daily will get tremendous power. They will have luster in their eyes and faces.
As for the number 108, the individual numbers 1, 0, and 8 represent one thing, nothing, and everything (infinity). 108 represents the ultimate reality of the universe as being simultaneously one, emptiness, and infinite.

108 has long been considered a sacred number in Hinduism and yoga. Malas, or prayer beads, come as a string of 108 beads. A mala is used for counting as you repeat a mantra, similar to the Catholic rosary.

Mathematicians of Vedic culture viewed 108 as a number of the wholeness of existence. This number also connects the Sun, Moon, and Earth: The average distance of the Sun and the Moon to Earth is 108 times their respective diameters.

According to yogic tradition, there are 108 pithas, or sacred sites, throughout India. And there are also 108 Upanishads and 108 marma points, or sacred places of the body.

Some other interesting 108 references:

  • In India, 108 is the toll-free emergency telephone number, our version of 911.
  • 108 degrees Fahrenheit is also the internal temperature at which the human body’s vital organs begin to fail from overheating.
  • An official Major League Baseball baseball has 108 stitches.

Saying 108 Oms was a bit tiring for me, but not nearly as tiring as doing 108 sun salutations, a tradition I have heard practiced on New Year’s day in some studios!

Are You Over-Breathing?

Jan 20, 2012   //   by Staff Writer   //   The Blog  //  No Comments

When practicing yoga and meditation, it’s important to focus on the breath.  Deep breaths are encouraged.  But in everyday life, it’s easy to put your respiratory system on auto-pilot, shortening your inhales and exhales.  Shortened and shallow breaths mean more breaths per minute, and this increase in quantity isn’t exactly of best interest.  The more breaths we breathe per minute, the more chance we have of diminishing the quality of our blood, oxygen, and overall health.

While resting, an average adult has a normal respiratory rate of 12 to 18 breaths a minute, but a sick or anxious person might breathe more than that, from overcompensating or from a nervous habit.  To break it down, many people hyperventilate without really knowing it.  The term hyperventilation usually brings upon an image of someone breathing in and out at a rather quick speed, being given a brown paper bag to breathe into.  The idea of breathing into a brown bag is to increase the body’s CO2 levels.  But one doesn’t need to be a rapid breather to be hyperventilating.  Just a couple of extra breaths per minute is all it takes to alter the body’s levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide, and those extra breaths can easily go unnoticed.

It’s important to keep oxygen and CO2 levels in balance, due to their effect on the body and blood.  We release CO2 upon exhales, but our blood also depends on CO2, for CO2 helps transport oxygen throughout the body.  Hyperventilation creates the effect of “excessive expulsion” of circulating CO2, which raises the blood’s pH, which constricts blood vessels, which effects oxygen levels, muscles, the nervous system, and in turn, everything.  Not knowing this, it might sound surprising to keep your CO2 levels in check, as CO2 is mainly known as a waste product.  But in turn, CO2 plays a vital role in respiratory and circulatory processes.

The first step to overcome problems like over-breathing is to become more conscious of your breath, when you can.  Take a moment and see how you are breathing.  Where does the breath feel like it’s focused at?  Your stomach? Your throat?  Are you breathing with your nose, or your mouth?  And are your breaths short and rapid, or calm and slow?  Find out what a normal breath feels like to you, and chances are, it might not be a normal healthy breath.  More next time on improving breath.

A Quick Note for Yoga-Phobics

Jan 16, 2012   //   by Staff Writer   //   The Blog  //  No Comments

Ever had someone try to turn you onto yoga, but you felt no interest?  Or perhaps you frowned in recollection upon that one time that you gave it a shot, and were too turned off by the quick movements of a Vinyasa flow class.  Granted, if you haven’t tried yoga before, and if you aren’t physically active already, then an hour of sun salutations might appear to be challenging, frustrating, and possibly discouraging.  But what you might not be aware of is that there’s multiple permutations of yoga styles, and quite a few classes in the city that offer a slow, gentle introduction to the practice, like Restorative Yoga and Yin Yoga.

Many normal aches and pains come from wear and tear, the passing of time.  Setting aside at least an hour a week for stretching can do remarkable things for your body, from increasing blood flow to overall energy.  Perhaps what you need to break down your fear and/or misunderstanding of yoga is to just stretch it out with long, drawn-out hip-openers rather than down dog, plank, cobra, cow, repeat, ad infinitum.

And another thing you should be reminded of, before entering a class that might be too rigorous at the beginning?  Breathe.  As Anna Nalick says (or sings)…”no one can find the rewind button, so cradle your head in your hands and breathe…just breathe”.  Perhaps though your hands will be stretched out in front of you, your cheek gently resting on a yoga mat or bolster as you just breathe.  And breathe deep and constant.

I’ve probably been a shallow breather all my life, reserving deep breaths for trips to the doctor’s office for that moment when they put the stethoscope on your chest to get a reading of your lung capacity.  Of course we all know that breathing is a fundamental to living, but it is incredibly easy to skimp on the quality of your breath.  Yoga really serves as a helpful avenue to advocate for healthy, deep breathing.  With the combination of giving your body much-needed stretches and breaths rich with depth, you’ll begin to feel completely different, and perhaps, more willing in time to give yoga a better chance.  Just remember, whether it’s for you or your friend, start with the basics, at your own pace and flow.

New Year, New Me

Jan 8, 2012   //   by Staff Writer   //   The Blog  //  Comments Off on New Year, New Me

Every year I make New Year's resolutions. I resolve to eat healthier and to exercise more. I want a better body and better habits.

This year I am resolving to commit to myself. I want to be true to my inner self and do everything I can to live a life I'm proud of. I've spent the last few months trying to get others to like me. And I just realized, I need to stop wanting. I need to take desire out of my life. I'd like to try to be at peace with who I am in the present moment and know that everything I need will find me.

Part of practicing yoga is being present and tuned in to the present moment. I think that if I'm living my best life, and being true to myself, doing things I want to do – the other necessities will fall into place (a relationship, a job, happiness.) I'm going to try to wake up each day and do something adventurous and fulfilling for myself. I find myself with more free time in these winter months and instead of ruminating over the things I don't have, I'm going to commit myself to being the person I want to be.

I want to be a scholar, a yogi, and a positive presence in the lives of my friends and family.

Perhaps I can let go of resolutions and just be me for a little while. I like myself.

The Many Places of Yoga Nidra

Jan 5, 2012   //   by Staff Writer   //   The Blog  //  1 Comment

How does one practice Yoga Nidra?  By sleeping?  Not exactly.  The definition of sleep states that you cease to be awake and consciousness is for the most part suspended.  Those who pursue Yoga Nidra explore a state of consciousness while in the deep sleep state.  Like meditation, it takes a lot of practice.  And while lying down in corpse pose, it’s easy to slip into the kind of sleep that we know of.  Sleeping is not looked down upon; if it happens, it happens.  But the goal is to stay aware, not just awake.

It helps to have a guide alongside for the journey.  Although it contains all our thoughts and memories, the unconscious mind is often a rugged terrain.  Having a guide helps with the navigation process of staying focused and aware of ourselves.

The lights will be dim as to take your sight away from your environment, but as you lie on the floor, you’ll be asked to make note of the outside world around you.  Take note of the searing wail of the siren, the humming of the heating unit, the shuffling of someone’s feet along the sidewalk.  Take note, but do not be distracted.  Just be aware.  Secondly, your guide will lead you through body awareness.  At a slow pace, you’ll acknowledge each of your toes and fingers, both of your legs and arms, and all the other parts of your body that may be holding tension.  The tension won’t necessarily release immediately, but it’s important to recognize its presence rather than brushing sensations aside.

All the while, you should be taking conscious deep breaths.  Perhaps your guide will lead you into a breathing countdown to help you keep a steady flow of breath and energy through your system.  And somewhere throughout this yogic sleep, your guide might bring you through a series of visualizations.  Once, my guide told us to imagine that we were walking through a park.  I found myself struggling to keep my mind focused on one park, and without control, envisioned over five parks.  At first, this was frustrating.  My dream-like mind had crept in, and nothing stayed consistent.  Except for the theme of parks.  At least this ounce of awareness stayed with me as I dabbled through my unconscious mind, and in result, I realized the beauty of how my mind took me through Malcom X Park, Central Park, and various other woods and meadows of my memories.

Like many other forms of yoga, Yoga Nidra is essentially about letting go while still staying present. You enter something close to sleep, but stay on some level awake.  Your mind explores, but remains focus.  And who knows where it will take you?

Can Yoga Be Owned?

Dec 29, 2011   //   by Staff Writer   //   The Blog  //  4 Comments

Bikram Choudhury, creator of Bikram Yoga, has sued Yoga to the People of NYC and Evolation Yoga of Buffalo, NY for using his pose sequence to offer Bikram style classes. Yoga to the People is a group of studios similar to Yoga District. They offer a wide variety of classes at their five New York studios for a $10 “suggested donation.” In New York, where most classes cost upwards of $20 each–this a unique and valuable model to reach all people through yoga.

Bikram Choudhury Teaching YogaBikram's sequence is a 90-minute class with a scripted dialogue to guide students through 26 postures, each completed twice in 105 degree heat. Having practiced Bikram yoga at Evolation Yoga in Buffalo, I can say its a worthwhile practice for a certain type of yogi. Bikram yoga is not for everyone. It's an intense form of exercise that involves pushing your body to extremes for health benefits.

The United States copyright Office has decided that yoga poses are “exercise” and not “choreography” and thus cannnot be copyrighted. They are instead public domain. The chief of the Copyright Office's Performing Arts division said that exercises like yoga “do not constitute the subject matter that Congress intended to protect as choreography. We will not register such exercises (including yoga movements), whether described as exercises or as selection and ordering of movements.”

Bikram Yoga lawyer Robert Gilchrest countered that the Copyright Office has in the past issued copyrights for exercise videos. “But now they’re saying they’re looking at it again and they’ve changed their mind?” Gilchrest said. “It is meaningless to this litigation.”

Greg Gumicio, owner of Yoga to the People said, “I very much regret that Bikram has brought this lawsuit. He was my teacher. I continue to respect him and to honor his accomplishments. He has done more than perhaps anyone else to inform people — in the United States and the world — of the benefits of yoga. The particular style of yoga he has popularized has improved the health of countless practitioners. Arguably, Bikram deserves the material rewards that these accomplishments have already brought him.”

Gumicio has created an online petition for people who believe yoga should not be copyrighted or privatized. Can someone “own” yoga? What do you think?

Yogic Consciousness

Dec 24, 2011   //   by Staff Writer   //   The Blog  //  2 Comments

The nature of the unconscious mind creates an easy and frustrating predicament that comes along when one is beginning to learn of the process of meditation and yoga.  Close your eyes, let your mind relax…and without your consent, it drifts off into some region of your unconsciousness, perhaps leading you through a strange trail of thoughts of the day, or into imaginative and perplexing dream territory.  It happens again as you lay down to go to sleep, and as you tinker between waking and slumber, hypnagogic hallucinations begin to spiral and blossom throughout your mind at a rapid pace.

How do we go through the day, having complete control of our actions, words, and thoughts, only to be transported to another realm of thinking when we take a moment to rest?  Why does the unconscious mind dominate our personal will to move toward clarity and ease?  How can one control the unconscious mind?

Truth is, it can’t be controlled, but, it can be possibly understood through various techniques, such as Yoga Nidra, or Yogic Sleep.  Yoga Nidra is a sleep-like state of meditation, where participants, lying in corpse pose of course with eyes closed, explore the multiple layers of consciousness.

Ever heard of the iceberg metaphor? Imagine that our waking life and conscious mind is the tip, exposed to the elements of everyday life.  The massive, submerged chunk below the surface is our unconscious realm, containing memories, manufacturing dreams, preserving intuition, and manifesting imagination.  And the oceanic water that the iceberg is floating in?  Perhaps that’s the energy of collective consciousness.

Like all mass, consciousness is pieced together by density and volume.  There’s a lot of terrain for one to reconnoiter.  And, as said before, it’s difficult to consider the idea of controlling the unconscious mind, but, through practices like Yoga Nidra, its energy can be harnessed, and used positively to reduce stress, restlessness, and a handful of other things.

5 Last-minute Gifts for Yogis (or Yourself!)

Dec 20, 2011   //   by Staff Writer   //   The Blog  //  1 Comment

Happy Hannukah. It’s almost Christmas. And Kwanzaa! If you consider yourself a humanist, ’tis the season to spread a little joy – am I right?

Do you have a special yogi in your life that you’d like surprise this holiday season? Are you stuck on what to get them? In the mood to treat yourself? (“TREAT YOSELF 2011!”)

To thaw your gift-giving brain freeze, or inspire your own wishlist, my top 5 yoga-themed gifts after the jump! Read more >>

Winter is Setting In

Dec 7, 2011   //   by Staff Writer   //   The Blog  //  Comments Off on Winter is Setting In

It's December. It's cold and rainy. I feel like getting under a blanket and hibernating in my warm house. But I know it's also the perfect time to walk myself to the Bloomingdale studio and get back into a regular yoga practice.

Rainy day for yoga in Washington, DCThe winter brings out something in all of us. For me and many others, seasonal depression kicks in when fresh air is rarer and the sun seems to have stayed in bed. For others, the holidays bring on stress over what to buy, how to decorate, and which holiday party to go to. There is a kind of natural lethargy that comes about, which is healthy, I think to an extent. I love having time to slow down, spend more time at home with my roommates eating delicious food.

However, while entering the winter it's important to create some space in our lives for yoga. Going to a class forces me to be present and connect with my body. If I'm feeling low, I can use yoga to appreciate my body and what it does for me. The yoga studio is a respite from everything else that's going on in our lives and outside. On top of all of that, it's a healthy and inexpensive indulgence.

Sometimes I look for a “pick me up” in the form of a cupcake, or watching my fave TV show (30 Rock), or reading a good book. And these are all usually enjoyable, but I really feel like an hour of yoga is more effective. Afterwards I feel rejuvenated, more balanced, and happier.

This blog post is as much for me as it is for you. Margaret! Go to yoga! That's what I'm saying to myself. You won't regret it.

Taking flight with Yoga

Oct 23, 2011   //   by Staff Writer   //   The Blog  //  3 Comments

I am getting ready to embark on a month-long adventure across Southeast Asia.  Leaving in just a few hours, I’m very excited but also incredibly anxious.  Until now, I didn’t believe that I had any phobias, but the mere thought of the plane taking off the runway makes my heart race and stomach feel like it’s doing somersaults.  Thinking back to every plane ride I have previously taken, I remember experiencing a minor panic attack each time.  I completely realize the silliness of my fear, but still, it’s easier said than done to tell myself to just relax.

Taking Flight with Yoga.  By Yoga District blogger Marybeth in Washington DC.One of my good friends, a very mindful yogi, often says, “We are all going to die someday… and it might be tomorrow.”  Her words are true and wise.  As morbid as this may sound, thinking this actually makes me breathe easier and with more gratitude for the present moment.  We really don’t have as much control as we think we do.  Nonetheless, I am still prepared to totally freak-out the moment I feel the plane move.  Since my recent trainings in aromatherapy and herbal medicine, I’m stocked up with essential oils with relaxing scents and herbs with calming properties.  I am also planning to take my yoga practice on the road … um, well, up in the air, rather.

Of course it’s not likely the flight attendants will tolerate me rolling out my sticky mat in the middle of aisle to do some Moon Salutations, but the beautiful thing about yoga is that it adaptable to virtually any situation.  One of the most effective ways to calm and balance the central nervous system is simply to breathe.  The breath and our current emotional state are so intrinsically linked.  If one is in harmony, then so is the other.  Normally our bodies breathe without us asking it too; however, in times of acute stress, we often “forget” to breathe enough.  When our brain senses too little oxygen, it signals danger to our body, which then responds by taking in even less oxygen with short and shallow breaths, thus the cycle of anxiety continues.   Something as simple as consciously taking a slow deep breath is enough to break the cycle and relax the mind and the body.

I will be facing over 30 hours a traveling within the next couple of days, so although my pranayama will be helpful in dealing with the stress and anxiety of flying, my body will probably be a bit stiff after so many hours of sitting.  Oftentimes in a plane, standing stretches aren’t always an option, especially if you get stuck with the window seat.  Check out this three great yoga poses that can be done while sitting in an airplane seat!   http://www.yeeyoga.com/staying-alert-while-sitting

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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