There is a lot of “yoga” out there right now. A boom has occurred and every gym, fitness spot, grassy area, and beach is now offering “yoga.” There are live streams, videos, Youtube channels, memberships, subscriptions and more. Learn to differentiate between those that are Yoga and the rest.
What Is Yoga?
There are 8 specific aspects to the practice of Yoga. When all are included, you are practicing Yoga.
1) Yama: Restraint/Direction/Control
2) Niyama: Observation/Self Control
3) Pranayama: Directed Breathing
4) Asana: Intentional Movement
5) Pratyahara: Sense Withdrawal
6) Dharana: Focused Concentration
7) Dhyana: Meditation
8) Samadhi: Integration
To explain each of these in depth is a much deeper conversation. For those of you seeking a deeper understanding or wishing to learn more about the history and philosophies of Yoga, begin by joining a class. A high quality teacher will incorporate these terms and explain them as they apply to what happens on and off of your mat.
Technique is Important
Asana (Yoga poses) change the way we move. The technique behind each position is important because it forces us to think and focus upon the way in which we are habitually using our bodies. Your teacher should be cueing postures in very specific ways in order to encourage you to redirect your attention and consider your habits. The value lies in understanding how to execute the postures well. Once you have developed this skill, then you can begin to move more quickly and gracefully through them.
Did you know that Yoga has influenced most of the major spiritual practices in the world? Ancient Indians were seeking answers. They wanted to know why the world is the way it is. They were studying the stars, the Earth and human nature. During class you should be learning about the philosophies and history of Yoga as well as how to integrate the practices into your life. Learning about the history of Yoga and the various practices that stemmed from it will help you to develop a deeper understanding and discernment among the various styles that have branched from the roots of the practice.
Yoga is something that we do all of the time. It happens on your mat, in the lobby, in your car and as you travel through the world. Your teacher should be giving you homework. As they teach, they should be offering focus points and concepts to consider. After you complete your mat practice (Asana) you may feel calm, steady and at ease. In your mind, though, there should be something that you carry out with you. Something that you consider beyond the mat. You should feel as though you are ready to make a tiny change or shift in your life that might just make things better. If you leave sweaty, tired and feeling like you got a work out, then you did, but it wasn’t Yoga.
The saying goes, “It’s the thought that counts.” In Yoga this saying is Truth. Our approach to every aspect of the practice is effected by that which we intend to cultivate. The sanskrit term “Sankalpa” is translated as; intention, declaration of purpose and determination. At Lake Tahoe Yoga each practice begins with a Dharma Talk intended to provide an opportunity for learning and establishment of Sankalpa for your practice.
When I work out my intention is to burn fat, gain muscle and get my heart pumping. I am seeking a workout and health of body.
When I practice Yoga my intention is completely different. Every aspect of the practice was developed to help me refine my awareness. When I move my body I do so in a way that helps me to identify limitation, restriction, freedom and strength. As I breathe I am doing so effort-fully and with a focus upon drawing in and expressing as much breath as possible.
When I come to the mat my intention is direction, awareness and contentment. I am seeking more than perfection in posture. I am seeking awareness of my Self.
What is your intention when you come to the mat? Are you hoping to sweat and get a good workout or is your focus upon healing, awareness and depth of self?
Our minds are very powerful. They have power over our bodies, thoughts, actions, speech, and experience of the world. When your mind is effected by toxins or damaged the way in which you perceive the world and yourself can shift completely. The practices of Yoga are intended to help us to learn how to direct our minds. When recovering from injury Yoga can help heal and control our minds, and thus, our lives.
The intention of Yoga is not to provide a workout it is to encourage work within. Set intentions to heal, recover, establish peace, love yourself, etc. and you will become better at directing your mind to perceive the world clearly.
Health & Healing
When you step upon your mat consider your intention for the practice. What are you hoping to manifest or encourage to grow in your life? Consider your mind, your thoughts, your habits. Reflect upon past injuries and pains that have effected you. Establish Sankalpa and then begin to move. Notice how this effects you throughout the rest of your life.
Hatha Yoga describes the Shatkarma in the second chapter of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Shat is Sanskrit for 6 and Karma is the word for Action. The ancient Yogis believed that in order to understand the universe you needed to first clear out the impurities, toxins and distractions of humanity. To do so you had to begin by cleaning out your body.
The Encyclopaedia of Traditional Asanas describes hundreds of seats; various ways in which to move the body in an effort to eliminate the limitations that result in discomfort. The Sanskrit word "as" means "to sit." Asana can also be interpreted as "establishment in the original state." The postures were designed to create heat (Tapas) allowing us to eliminate toxins and impurities in the physical body so that we could move into svabhava (introversion). The practice of Asana eventually provides us with steadiness and inner awareness of our True Self.
Breath and movement are the keys to Yoga. Every breath directs and deepens movement. Directed breath or kripalu.org/resources/why-do-pranayama Pranayama specifically directs your body, mind and internal energy. Proper practice of Pranayama can lead to the creation of body heat, spiritual experiences and energetic shifts. The formal practices described by Hatha Yoga are done so with a specific intended use and course.
By today's standards some of the practices described by Hatha Yoga are downright disgusting. Swallowing a milk soaked rag (Dhuati Karma) doesn't sound like something I want to do. However, there are many practices that we continue to apply today in order to keep our bodies clean.
Neti: Nasal cleaning involved the use of a string threaded up the nostrils and through the sinus passage. Today we use neti pots, sprays and tissues.
Dhauti: Cleansing of the digestive tract included milk soaked rags and forced vomitting. Modern science has helped us to identify foods that can clean our system.
Bhasti: Thank goodness for modern science and doctors who help us to keep our colons healthy.
Trataka: Blinkless gazing was used to clean the eyes. Many of us practice this just because the view is so beautiful. Eye drops assist us when we are ill or require a little help on a dry day.
Consider that which you do to keep your body healthy and clean. Many of our current practices and habits have roots in those of the ancient Yogis. What practices can you add to you life to clear away the toxins from the world around you, eliminate that which you do not need and create a bit more space for internal focus?
One Thing at a Time
You may think that you are getting a lot done if you are doing many things at once. However, studies have proven that you actually complete less in the short-term when you multitask. Yoga provides us with the tools to expand our focus over time by offering guidance in the form of one practice at a time. To begin we address that which is most accessible; the body.
Discipline in Practice
Discipline is learned. Embedded within the eight limbs of Yoga are practices that are ineffective unless done with discipline. As we practice, consistently, we develop focus, control, awareness, discernment and more.
Consider the practice of Satya: non-lying or truthfulness. You may think, “I am not a liar.” According to Yoga; Satya is as much about what you say as what you do not say. It is a practice of consideration of your thoughts and words before they leave you; a practice of considering if what you are about to say will help or hurt yourself and others. Often, we will not realize we are lying until the words have left our mouths. Yoga teaches us to become observers of our behavior at all times. This discipline of observation helps us to become aware of habits that are rooted in self preservation. As we continue to practice, we refine our vision and begin to see more clearly.
The Resulting Heat
Have you ever made custard from scratch? In order to do so you must heat is slowly, over a period of time, while stirring constantly. The effect of the slow heat, time and consistent movement can result in a perfectly prepared custard. A lack of discipline and focus could lead to higher heat, shorter time and reduced movement resulting in an unconcealed liquid or a thick, gelatinous mess.
Tapas has many translations: heat, cook, purify, detoxify, zeal of practice, discipline, austerity. Tapas is both the means and the end. Through discipline in movement, breath, mindful focus, time, awareness, observation, effort, restoration, etc. we create heat, purification, detoxification, clarity, transparency, awareness of the Self. Our practice of creating Tapas results in Tapas. Our discipline results in discipline. Our focus begets focus.
The heat/intensity/discipline/passion of our practice cooks impurities out of us and refines us to our base - the Self.
More Than Poses
If you are ready to remove that which you do not need, lighten the load you carry daily, purify and clear away the impurities that poison you so that you spend each day feeling healthier, happier, more joy and ease in your life then you are ready to begin the practice of Yoga.
Chose wisely, for not every practice is guided equally. According to Hatha Yoga a Vinyasa (Flow) Practice is for the advanced practitioner. Would you begin running and start with 10 miles? Would you join a gym and on your first day and lift 100lbs? Approach Yoga in the same way. Begin with a practice that aligns with your current knowledge, strength, flexibility and ability levels. Begin here to develop the discipline and, as you create Tapas, you will know how to progress.
Celebrate Yourself by Celebrating Others
The practice of Santosha is defined as having an attitude of contentment through which unexcelled happiness, mental comfort, joy and satisfaction is obtained.
We humans seem to always be seeking satisfaction in the external world and our internal fantasies. Only when we comfortably accept what we currently have will be able to do the practices that lead to the highest realization.
Begin to practice Santosha by celebrating those in your life who help you to feel happy, comfortable and joyful. Realize the satisfaction and contentment that results from having them in your life.
Practice Yoga Everyday, Everywhere
Just because September has been designated as "National Yoga Month" doesn't mean that you should stop practicing when the month has ended. Just like any other lifestyle Yoga is to be practiced regularly in order to have the best effect.
Remember that Asana is just one eighth of the practice. There are seven other fabulous aspects that you can incorporate into your life. Conscious breathing, mindful focus, inward awareness, etc. can all effect you at home, at work and while out enjoying the world.
Your health depends upon more than just one month of Yoga. The best time to begin is now and the best time to continue is forever.
Contentment Happens When We Let Go
Most of our lives are driven by control. We have schedules, responsibilities, places to be and people to see. Add the practice of Yoga to your daily schedule. Join a class, follow a video, book a private session. Booking the time for yourself will allow you the opportunity to let go.
Your time in the practice is time to let go. Release the worries and stresses of the day. Relax and know that there is no where else to be. Learn to practice taking time out for yourself. Learn to change your lifestyle with Yoga.
Practice Yoga, Change Your Life
Yoga is, if nothing else, a practice in mind over matter. The more we practice, the more we begin to change the way we feel, see and engage in the world. Join us and learn to begin creating change. It may not happen quickly, but that feeling of Santosha (contentment) will slowly express itself as you continue to focus upon Discovering Your Self.
One of the instructors at LTY recently approached me to ask for advice on how to differentiate her classes and make them more accessible for beginners. I was overjoyed to hear her say that she wanted to improve her skills so that she could help make everyone feel more comfortable in her classes. Teaching beginners is not an easy skill to learn. Many teachers approach their instruction from where they are; they teach based upon their abilities and knowledge. Learning to break down the poses in a away that is accessible for new practitioners and exciting for those with experience takes practice.
Teaching for You
One of the topics covered in the Lake Tahoe Yoga Teacher Training Program is how to teach FOR our practitioners rather than TO them. Those of you who have joined the practice at LTY know that no two practices are ever the same. We change up the postures, sequences and focus in every session. Our goal is to keep you focused, but also to challenge ourselves as teachers. Our intention is to create practices that are for you. From the poses to the breath and the energy of the space (even when outdoors) we are constantly considering ways in which to make Yoga happen in every aspect of the practice.
Every Body Can Do Yoga
Just like you, our team of teachers have a variety of styles, talents and abilities. We are proud to offer classes that are inclusive for all bodies. We use tools to help ourselves access postures and are honored to share our knowledge of tool useage with you. We accept all practitioners as themselves. We want to know what your goals and intentions are, what you hope to get out of the practice and how you intend upon growing, changing and transforming through the practice. Come to us with your requests, needs and wishes. We are ready to guide you upon your path.
We Love Our Small Class Sizes
Our studio space can fit just 20 mats (25 if we really want to get cozy). In a typical scheduled practice we will have just 1-10 practitioners. This leaves plenty of space for movement, tool placement and expression of each individual in the space. As teachers, we love this. We are able to give everyone attention. Whether offering specific guidance for an individual’s body, answering a question asked during the practice or providing an adjustment to each and every participant, we enjoy spending time with our practitioners and knowing that each individual has been noticed. You will never be anonymous at Lake Tahoe Yoga. You will always be welcomed into the studio as a member of our intimate community of Yogis.
Do Not Be Fearful
Regardless of your ability, age, knowledge or comfort level with Yoga, we invite you to join us. Try one of our classes. We would be honored to have you join our community. Give us the chance to guide you through the poses, breath and mindful practices of Yoga. Give yourself the chance to feel better, every day, through the practice of Yoga.
You have probably already heard that you should exercise to support your addiction recovery, and you have maybe told yourself you’ll work on that when you get better. However, the benefits of exercise in addiction recovery are extensive, proven, and tangible, and the sooner you start building fitness into your recovery program, the better.
How Fitness Helps Recovery
Scientists have been researching the impact of exercise on addiction for years, and the take away keeps getting clearer: physical fitness can be an invaluable tool toward recovery and can help people avoid relapse and stay sober. There are several reasons for this, from simple brain chemistry to complex psycho-social and environmental factors.
The Best Types of Exercise for Addiction Recovery
The most important thing when choosing your exercise is to do something you enjoy. However, there are a few types of workout that have been shown to be particularly effective with recovering addicts. Essentially, there are two popular approaches, both of which have their benefits.
One option is to do something that is low-impact but has meditative or soothing properties: Yoga is a great example, as are cycling and hiking. Another is to go in the opposite direction, aiming for an intense workout that will get you that “high”: running, CrossFit, and HIIT are good options.
Improving Mental Health
Although classified as a mental health issue itself, substance abuse disorder is closely related to other mental illnesses, particularly anxiety and depression. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an estimated 7.9 million people have co-occurring depression and addiction disorders.
As explained above, exercise is great for your mental health, as it reduces stress. It is also proven to help with depression and anxiety, particularly when combined with more traditional medical forms of treatment. Many recovering addicts fear taking medications like antidepressants, believing they have to be “100% sober,” but if you have a mental health issue you should do everything in your power to get better, which can include getting a medical prescription.
A Healthy Routine
While exercise can get you a long way in helping you stay sober, it is only part of a healthy routine. It is a great first step, but there are other areas in your life you should also be aiming to improve, including your diet, sleep schedule, relationships with others, and how you choose to spend your free time.
The good news is that exercise has been proven to be a keystone habit, meaning people who successfully build an exercise habit are more likely to follow suit in other areas of their lives. Focus on integrating your workout routine into your schedule, and you may see that the rest comes naturally. If it doesn’t, choose one new habit at a time, giving yourself a few weeks or even months to adjust. This allows you to build a stable routine that will stick to, instead of overwhelming yourself with too many resolutions at once.
Whether it’s working on your flexibility and balance on a yoga mat or sweating out the stress with a run, throwing yourself into a regular exercise routine is one of the best things you can do in your journey toward recovery. Take some time to find what works for you and incorporate it into your schedule, while taking time to address any mental health issues, and you will soon find yourself on a path to a healthy, full life free from addiction.
When the thermometer reads single digits, and the window shows nothing but wind and snow, the idea of working out can send chills down your spine, literally. The cold has a way of deterring us from fitness goals and leading us to the couch, fireplace and hot chocolate.
There are plenty of indoor and fun options for staying fit and focused in the winter.
Make a plan
As with any time of the year, an important part of maintaining a healthy routine is by planning to commit to a daily dose of exercise.
Try yoga asana as an exercise at home
Changing up the routine can help you make your workouts a little more exciting and give you new feats to discover. According to Healthline, yoga asana is the easiest way to stay fit in winter. You can be any fitness level to start and it can be done at home. Try a new yoga asana class this winter or commit to a fitness plan that can be done at home, with friends, or at the gym.
Yoga asana can be done almost anywhere, especially indoors, which means you can stay out of the cold while you work out. There are plenty of free online classes and tutorials that can teach you the basics and get you started.
The Yoga Journal maintains that yoga asana can keep you healthy this winter. By implementing certain poses you can increase circulation and help your body clear out bacteria and viruses by filtering them out through the lymph nodes. A regular yoga routine can also help you stay warm and prevent aches and stiffness.
Build your home gym
Taking some time and a little investment in a simple home gym can really pay off in terms of motivation. All you need is your body and a few basic tools to help. Having a specifically designated space in your home for your workouts will set you up for success. With just a few basic tools and equipment, you can ensure a full-body and effective workout, even as the snow falls outside.
Don’t let your body down this winter. Keep it active with a creative approach to in-home training. Remember to make a plan and a commitment to yourself and your goals. Implementing exercise as a regular part of your day can bring years of well-being and health.
Photo Credit: Pixabay
Lessons Learned in the Bahamas: Always carry a Machete
Any job can be made easier if you choose the correct tools. On a trip in the Bahamas I decided to collect various coconuts in order to experience the difference between young coconut water and the meat of a mature coconut. I did my research and knew what to look for, then went around the area collecting. When it came time to open the coconuts I discovered that the only tools available to do so were kitchen knives. Oh how a machete would have made a difference! After hours of whacking, smashing, shaving, and cutting, I opened all of the coconuts and was able to enjoy the fruits of my labor. Had I a machete, the work would have taken one quarter the time.
How to Practice Hatha Yoga
Hatha Yoga focuses on the practice of asana, pranayama and kriya. It is the most popular practice in the United States. As a result, there are hundreds of companies selling products to help you improve your practice. Traditionally, there are just 3 tools you need in order to practice Yoga everywhere: your body, your breath and your mind. However, being able to create a space and access poses with ease often requires some assistance. When you don't have your instructor near, a few tools can change everything.
Tahoe Yoga Tools: A Unique Souvenier
Over time we have tested a variety of asana tools. Due to our small retail space, we carry very few. Those that are on our shelves have been tested and proven. These are the tools we use in our studio and the ones we recommend for you to use during your practice. Manduka Mats stay clean, show little wear (over years of use) and are easy to clean. Our foam blocks are lightweight which make them durable and easy to toss to the side, or lift over head. We also get a pretty sweet bulk discount from Yoga Direct. Our Yoga Straps are sold exculsively in the studio. Our director, Jenay, makes them from organic cotton and YKK clips. You won't find these anywhere else. The same goes for our Lavender Eye Sachets. Filled with organic lavender and buckwheat, they are unique to LTY.
Support Your Self, Support Small Business
As you begin to practice Hatha Yoga more seriously, consider the tools with which you approach your practice. Consider the source and the quality. Consider for whom you practice. Join us for a class and gain more than just awareness. Develop the physical skills to access deeper areas of your own body. Lengthen your breath and become aware of your emotions. Learn to listen to the chatter in your mind and quiet the unnecessary thoughts. Do so with the correct tools and you will develop a stronger practice.
1 Manduka eKO Mat
2 Foam Blocks
1 Yoga Strap OR Eye Sachet
Visit Lake Tahoe Yoga to purchase. Orders may be placed online for pick-up at studio.
Yoga vs yoga
During a recent video stream, the difference between capital "Y" Yoga and lowercase "y" yoga was described. The first being the traditional practice as described by the Yoga Sutra and Hatha Yoga Pradipika. The latter, being the practices commonly engaged in by modern Americans. What is the difference? INTENTION: Yoga practitioners are seeking betterment, contentment, enlightenment, while yoga practitioners are seeking a better body, group affiliation and fun. The traditional practice of Yoga has been copied, cut, split, divided and sectioned out. There are hundreds of styles that focus on just a few of the aspects of the practice. As a yoga practitioner, you are only getting a tiny taste of a very big pie.
Be Willing to Listen
To truly practice Yoga you have to be able to honor the traditions outlined in texts from over 5000 years ago while still existing and functioning as a human living in today's society. This is not easy. Many Yogis are perceived as weirdos who are out of touch with the rest of the world. Look at Jim Carey; he understands Yoga, but his words are falling upon deaf ears. Many of those with whom he speaks are not practicing Yoga. What he has to say is difficult to grasp, therefore, it can sound as though he has lost his mind. Yoga practitioners are willing to listen, even if we don't quite understand. We are ready to learn, to experience, to gain wisdom.
Be Willing to Compromise
You perceive the world based upon your upbringing and experiences. You see the world through your own eyes. You will never be able to see it as your brother, best friend, grandfather, or aunt does. At all times, we must do our best to attempt to see the world in another way, even though it will always be shaded by our own perspective. We can compromise. We can reach out to others and meet them where they are. At Lake Tahoe Yoga we do this by offering our weekly Vinyasa & Vino practice.
We are seeking yoga practitioners who are willing to attempt to see the world differently. We want to meet you and hear about how you see the world. We have opened our door to invite you in to learn about the traditional practice of Yoga and to encourage you to try it out.
We want you to feel good, to look good and to have fun as well as to listen, learn and discover your Self.
Join us on Friday evenings for Vinyasa; a sequence of interconnected movements that encourage grace. Then stay for a glass of wine and Satsang; a conversation among like-minded people.