Did you know that postures were not originally included in the practice of Yoga?
Raja Yoga is the oldest form of Yoga and included mindfulness practices. Later, kriya (purification) techniques were added. Later, still, asana was added.
According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika Yoga is the union of prana and mind with the Self. Getting there isn't so easy. For you cannot control the mind with the mind. Thus, Hatha Yoga and the practice of asana is done to initiate the process of physical awareness so we can become better aware of the more subtle aspects of ourselves.
Hatha Yoga is the process of establishing prefect physical, mental, emotional and psychic equilibrium by manipulating the energies of the body.
We don't do Yoga poses to look good. We do them to feel well. The better we become at doing poses with awareness, intention, steadiness, and balance, the better we feel. If we become skilled at moving through poses with grace and they become a part of our daily lives we have developed equilibrium.
Strength can be weakness. I was recently reminded of this as my left trapezius muscle tightened up into a large marble. I had been repeatedly turning my head to the left without rotating the rest of my body. I know better, but wasn't consciously moving. The result was neck pain and an inability to turn left (I was stuck like Zoolander :D). Awareness, rest and heat were the only cures for the damage I had caused. The strength of my muscle had become a weakness.
Every pose has aspects of strength and mobility. We may be steadying ourselves with our legs while attempting to open our arms and chests. In every sequence of postures we should be moving our bodies in all directions so as to awaken areas that have become rigid and engage the parts that are overly mobile. Practice observing your bodies strengths. Where can you become more mobile? Where can you actively engage?
The main objective of Hatha Yoga is to create an absolute balance of the interacting activities and processes of the physical body, mind, and energy. This is perfection.
Nothing is flawless or perfectly symmetrical. All things are always transforming, transmuting, and metamorphizing. We practice Yoga asana to change our bodies, pranayama to shift our breathing, pratyahara to become more aware of our energy and emotions, and mindful focus to develop self control. Continuous practice results in continual change. All of the systems of body, mind, and energy interact and effect each other. They are in a constant state of transformation. Rather than remaining stagnant, still, and stuck, practice Yoga and become perfect at change.
When you have a small light in a room at night, the whole room is illuminated. Sadhana is your practice; your light. Like a seed, you must protect it, feed it, and nurture it.
If you talk about, demonstrate, and boast your attainments it develops your sense of ego or "I-ness." You have probably heard me say, "It's not a Yoga show." When guiding a practice my demonstration of the postures is not to a performance, it is a visual aid intended to help you see the intended result. My personal asana practice is done privately. My sadhana is my lifestyle. The pictures I post of myself in postures are intended to enthuse you to try, to join in, to continue to practice, and to engage in your own sadhana.
Keep practicing; keep shining your light. Allow the seed of Yoga to be protected and nourished so that it, and you, may access equilibrium.
To join a scheduled class or book a private session visit our website. Learn more about the practices of Hatha and Raja Yoga through the other articles on our blog. We look forward to sharing the practice with you.
Considering attempting this 5000 year old practice that has somehow become a modern phenomenon? Nervous? Don’t be. Here are a few secrets to know before you jump in.
1) What To Wear
Back in 2000 when I first began exploring Yoga I would show up for classes in anything from whatever I had worn to class that day to my running shorts and a tank. "Active Wear" was not a thing. It wasn't until I started attending classes at a local gym that I began to seek out clothing that would better allow me to stretch out and bend my body.
There's no need to go shopping for the "right" clothing to wear to your first Yoga class. Wear whatever you feel most comfortable in. A little hint: before you choose those tights you ordered online, do a forward fold with a mirror behind you and make sure they aren't too revealing.
2) What to Bring
You don't need any special tools to do Yoga. In fact, Yoga mats are a modern phenomenon. It wasn't until B.K.S. Iyengar came onto the scene that things like blocks, straps and bolsters became synonymous with the practice of Asana. If you are in need of some extra support during the practice a good teacher will notice and provide you with assistance, a variation on the posture or improvise a tool.
Bring water and, if you have long hair, tie it back so that it is not a distraction during the class. How you look while you are doing Yoga is of little importance compared to how you feel.
3) What to Do
Observation is the key to learning anything. If you are just beginning practicing Yoga feel free to look at the teacher and around the room. This is not so you can compare yourself and attempt to be like everyone else, but more so to gather information and decide if this is the right place for you to be. We all get uncomfortable when outside of our elements, and a Yoga Asana class can certainly make you feel like you are on a different planet. The only way to learn more about what to do is to observe.
A good teacher will not only demonstrate the postures, but describe them well. Watch, listen and do your best to follow the instructions. The more you do, the more comfortable you will become.
4) What to Say
Personally, I like it when the studio is buzzing with conversation before I begin teaching. I think it is important to meet the people with whom you are sharing the room and the class. This helps everyone feel more comfortable practicing and helps to eliminate the "silent competition" that can be created when people do not talk to each other.
I also think it is important to ask questions. If the class you attend begins with a chant or invocation as what it means and why it is being done. If there is any sort of saying, expected practice or movements that everyone seems to know and join the only way you will learn is to ask why and how.
I recently took one of the worst practices I have ever attended. Had I been in the back of the room I may have walked out. I wasn’t. I was second row and far from the door. I had to make a decision and I chose to stay and do my own practice. I have never done that before. I have walked out of a poorly guided practice, just once. As a teacher I am comfortable allowing those who join my guided classes vary the postures, within reason, but if someone in one of my classes began doing completely different postures than the ones I was suggesting I would definitely be concerned.
Symmetry Is Important
Vinyasa translates to mean configuration, order, connection, composition. It is often translated as "a sequence of postures linked together to create flow." If you watch video of B.K.S. Iyengar you can see him both working slowly on the technique of the postures and then demonstrating that technique in Vinyasa.
Technique is the key to the grace and control of a postural flow. Each movement begins and ends in the same way. Everything done on the left, is then repeated on the right. The symmetry of the sequence and in technique creates the beauty of Vinyasa.
Learn How Your Body Moves
Have you tried belly dancing? Pole dancing? Ballet? Attempting any of these without first establishing the roots of the movements can result in serious injury. Yoga Asana should be seen in the same light. Don't jump into a Vinyasa practice. Learn how to move intelligently and then slowly increase the pace.
A rapid paced series of movements are useful when you already understand how to go though them slowly. Taking your time to feel each muscle engage and release, support and expand, gives you the awareness necessary to move more and more quickly in safe ways.
Find a Knowledgeable Guide
Thousands of people are now calling themselves Yoga instructors. Thousands of training programs exist. Thousands of Vinyasa classes are available. How are you to choose the "right" one?
Instead, begin with a more simple practice like Hatha. Even if you aren't new to the practice. These classes will help you to develop the roots you will need. The teacher should allow you the time to find and remain in the posture an experience all that happens while you are there. The sequence may repeat and build as you move through each new series. As you gain prowess in the postures, you can ask your teacher what class is most appropriate for you to attempt next.
Afterward, You Should Feel Good
After a quality Vinyasa practice you should not feel like you've had your ass kicked and a good workout. You should not be exhausted and beat up. Because you have prepared your body, mind and energy, the flow of movement and breath should give you a sense of inner awareness and depth of self. Your body should feel supple, your mind quiet. As you rest in savasana you may experience Nidra.
If you are ready to learn Asana techniques that will help you move toward Vinyasa join the practice at Lake Tahoe Yoga. Not sure where to begin? Contact us for suggestions.
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.
Everyone has their own preferences. Some of us are followers, some leaders, some travel to the beat of their own drum. Luckily, Yoga does not come with a rule book, but more so a set of guidelines.
Yoga is the practice of: Movement, Breath, Mindfulness, Focus, Awareness, Observation, Direction and Intention. Generally speaking, if you have all of that, then you are practicing Yoga and you can do so anywhere.
How to Practice Yoga
The fact that Yoga is a lifestyle and should be done everywhere is what makes it so great!
You can practice in a studio, on your lawn, upon a roof deck, on a boat, in an airplane, you name it! So, why haven't you tried Yoga yet?
Be A Beginner
We all begin at the beginning. Be forgiving of yourself when you try Yoga for the first time. No one knows all of the moves or understands what everything means upon their first try. If Yoga was easy, we wouldn't call it a practice.
How to prepare:
Be ready to really listen to your instructor or teacher.
Take your time and look around to see what others are doing.
Stay calm and take breaks as you need to.
Practice with Friends
Book a Group Private Session for yourself and your friends. In this way, you get to try out Yoga with people whom you have fun. You also might make some memories along the way and introduce some of your friends to something they never would have tried.
Get your colleges and coworkers together for a corporate practice. Who knows, it might even turn into a new tradition.
Seek out a unique offering that goes beyond that which is expected. Book a session that includes a boat ride, live music or cocktails to follow. Find a studio that offers on-location practices and have them visit your house, hotel or dock.
Focus Upon Your Self
Address your individual needs. Focus upon getting stronger, more flexible, sleep, energy, lifestyle or mental health. Learn how Yoga can be therapy.