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. Sweatpants and a tee-shirt, leggings and a hoodie, or you skiing baselayer will all work. Make sure that your clothes fit well enough not to accidentally expose anything and double check for holes in the wrong places. 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. Most studios will rent or allow you to borrow a mat. A well managed studio will have sanitized mats and tools for use. Don't buy a mat until you've decided the style of practice you enjoy and the type of mat that will best serve you.
During class, if you are in need of some extra support, a good teacher will notice and provide you with assistance, a variation on the posture or improvise a tool. You should feel comfortable asking, "Am I doing this correctly?" or saying, "I'm not sure I've got this posture set up correctly."
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 ask 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.
Becoming fit and flexible can help you to better manage stress in both body and mind.
What is Fitness?
I used to hear the word fitness and an image of Jane Fonda or Arnold Swarzenegger would pop into my head. After years of living a fit and healthy life as a yogini the images that come to mind are, now, very different. My perception of fitness includes more than physical appearance. I define fitness as: overall wellbeing. I strive to feel fit in body, energy, and mind.
My day begins with a mindful focus practice. Either the sun or my alarm wake me each morning. I prop myself up to a seated position and begin. I mindfully focus upon a mantra (sound vibration practice) while setting an intention for the day. I like to do this practice in the morning before I actively engage in the world because it is the time during which my mind is most clear and my body is naturally relaxed.
The rest of my day is driven by the intention I set. It is guiding me throughout my day as a reminder to keep practicing with care for myself and awareness. I think about it while I move around, sit at my desk, teach others, take a walk, eat, etc. Sometimes I forget, or get distracted, but as soon as I catch myself I get right back to my practice.
I've been known to call out practitioners who rely on mobility instead of strength to access postures. There is a delicate balance between flexibility and strength that, when found, provides us with deeper access to our selves. To be overly mobile can result in injury just as being overly strong can do the same.
Consider your parents. Possibly, one was very strict and the other less so. When my parents divorced my Dad became the strict one, while my Mom became more flexible with the rules. The imbalance allowed me the opportunity to break rules and push limits that I never would have had they remained together. In your body and mind the same imbalances are present. It's up to you to identify and address them.
As one of my clients recently said, "It's nice to take an hour to do something for myself and to get away from work." It's easy to become rigid in our work schedules, weaken our self care, and too flexible when it comes to indulging.
One way to engage in self care and create balance is Yoga. It helps to reduce rigidity, build strength, and manage mobility. Allowing an hour of time to engage in self care during a Yoga practice can have a significant impact. Embedded in that hour is more than movement. The combination of intentional posturing, directed breathing, mindful movement, and guided focus can transform your perception; it can shift the way you in which you engage in the rest of the day.
Fit & Flexible
If you could set one intention for the rest of your day, week, month, what would it be? Try beginning your day with this intention in mind - use it to help you feel fit. Allow it to lead you as you live, work, eat, engage, and experience the world.
Consider the things about which you are rigid/strict/stuck, etc. and, in compliment, in which ways are you are too willing to be flexible or "go with the flow." How can you bring these ideas into balance?
Engage in self care; practice, play outside, create, explore. An hour a day is more powerful than you think.
Simple changes create significant effects. Practice becoming fit and flexible to reduce stress and feel more balanced.
Jenay guides Private Therapeutic Yoga Practices that focus upon your specific needs. To learn more or to begin developing your fitness and flexibility visit: https://www.therealignmentcoach.com/
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.
When a pandemic hits the best practice is one of consideration. Learn more about how Lake Tahoe Yoga is adjusting to the changes brought on by Covid-19.
As most of you know one of the best parts of sharing the practice at Lake Tahoe Yoga is receiving physical adjustments. All of the teachers trained at the Lake Tahoe Yoga School learn how to provide supportive and effective adjustments that help you to either deepen or develop awareness during your practice.
Well, we can't be doing that anymore. So, we're adjusting our approach. Rather than provide hands-on support we will be improving our verbal instruction while continuing to demonstrate every posture during the practice. As always, we ask that you ask questions for clarification. If you think you have misunderstood, the teacher misspoke, or you have just become confused feel free to speak up. We are here to teach. Help us to improve by letting us know what you need to know.
Keep It Clean
Yoga studios are notorious for sharing. We share space, tools, products, thoughts, philosophy and conversations. We can continue to share the latter, but spaces and tools have to change.
Now is the time to invest in the tools that you like to use when you practice. Lake Tahoe Yoga has access to wholesale pricing and discounts. Reach out with questions about the best mat for your practice, which blocks will last, the best strap, bolster, or blanket.
We have always used antimicrobial mats and regularly washed all blankets, blocks and straps. If you've ever met Jenay you know that she is just a little intense when it comes to cleanliness and tidiness. You can rest assured that when you practice with LTY everything will be up to the CDC cleanliness standards.
Yes, it is more difficult to breathe when something is covering your nose and mouth. Engaging in physical activity with a mask on is no one's preferred way of doing so. Getting sick is way bigger bummer. I like to breathe. I enjoy being healthy and active. I would rather wear a mask than get or give Covid-19.
Find a mask that is an expression of you, how you feel, what you're thinking, or spreads joy. Make it an additional accessory that expresses who you are. Work on making your eyes sparkle, stretch out your upper face muscles, and express your third eye.
Let's practice together while remaining considerate of the effect we could have on those around us. Stay and keep others safe by wearing a mask while in groups and classes.
Lake Tahoe Yoga remains open for businesses. We have been continuing to offer classes via Zoom. You can purchase access on our website.
We continue to accept and book live sessions for the future. Book now and we can practice together later. There are no cancellation or change fees. We are flexible and ready to adjust to any changes that have to happen.
Paddle Yoga and Beach Yoga plans are in the works. Our scheduled and privately booked sessions will be made available as soon as possible. We look forward to practicing with you, outdoors, safely.
Wishing for individualized treatment to address your specific needs? You can request private therapeutic sessions to be in-person or virtual. Don't put off returning to health, creating harmony and developing wellbeing. Now is the time.
At Lake Tahoe Yoga our motto is "Practice Yoga Everywhere." Yoga is what you do beyond your mat and while out in the world. Join us to learn more.
Yoga is Time with Loved Ones
Attending a scheduled class at a Yoga studio is a great way to be guided in movement and be around others who enjoy the same thing.
If you're looking to connect with family or friends a Private Yoga Session is the best option. It reduces the variety of aspects that make people uncomfortable. The teacher is there for you, there are no strangers to compare to, you get to choose when and where to practice.
1) You all know each other
2) You can share your private jokes, converse and enjoy each other's company
3) The session is catered to your wants and needs
Yoga is Body Fitness
We use the hashtag "more than poses" in just about every social post we create. This is because we know that Yoga is not limited to the postures you see people doing on mats, or on Instagram. Any physical activity that keeps your body fit and allows you to clear you head is Yoga.
Of course, combining the postures described by Yoga Asana practitioners to compliment whatever physical activities you enjoy can make a significant difference. Be sure to stretch before and after aerobic activities to keep your muscles happy and your body moving well.
Yoga is a Long Walk
There is beauty all around you. Give yourself the opportunity to enjoy the space in which you live. The practice of Tantra Yoga includes feeling passionate about all things, including the mundane.
A slow walk around your apartment or home may reveal things to you that you typically ignore. Take a slow walk around your building or neighborhood. Cruise around the edge of your property. Do your best to view these areas as though they are unfamiliar. Enjoy a long walk.
Yoga is Self Care
Spa treatments are nice, but the best way to get to know yourself is to take care of your self. When we wash our hair, trim our own nails, apply a face mask, even brush our teeth we are spending time gazing upon our own bodies. The more we do so, the more familiar they become.
Treat yourself to a deeply moisturizing hair treatment. Soak your feet in essential oils. Apply your own paraffin to soften your hands. Paint your toe and finger nails in crazy colors. Do it for yourself and to get to know your self.
Yoga is Knowing Your Sign
tYou don't need to be an oracle to use cards, crystals, feathers and incense. Maybe you like to collect pretty rocks. Perhaps you're into plants. Some of us look to the stars for guidance.
You already have practices that you enjoy, make your day a little better, and even though they might be considered weird by others, they provide you with some comfort. From making your bed a certain way to having fresh flowers in the house, we all engage in practices that give us peace of mind. Stick with whatever it is that serves you. If you want to explore other practices, we can probably steer you in the right direction.
Try It Out
I've been practicing living a lifestyle of Yoga since 2000. When I first began practicing it was because my friends were going, it was free and I liked the physical workout. The first practice I tried was in the style of Svarupa; a gentle practice which uses blankets and blocks and requires a lot of stretching. At the time, I was living in Boston and, once my wallet got a bit fuller, I was able to experience a variety of other styles simply by wandering the city and looking at posted schedules.
The Yoga Lifestyle
When I moved to Tahoe I couldn’t find a studio that aligned with my lifestyle. Living here afforded me many opportunities to explore, adventure and play, but I didn’t feel at home at the only studio in town.
I was the local school counselor and had been hired to teach a few Private Practices. As people got to know me, they asked me to begin offering classes locally. Soon, I had a following and I begun developing a small business. Now, I share my lifestyle with people in my studio, at various homes, on the beach, paddle board and am happy to practice with anyone, anywhere.
More Than Poses
When I’m not working, I play outside at any chance I get. During the Summer I ride my bike every day. I ski and hike, swim, paddle, and am always looking for a new experience to try.
I practice Yoga everyday and everywhere. This doesn’t mean I do Yoga poses every day. Nope. I've learned that Yoga is much more than poses. It's a way of living. Yoga is everywhere, all the time.
Every one of us can benefit from a little stretching, balance and strengthening. We can all benefit from peace of mind, and quiet time. Yoga is movement, breathing, mindfulness, wellbeing and contentment. You know that feeling you get when you're floating on three feet of powder? It's Yoga. How about when you’re cruising down the most perfect section of single track without a soul around? It's Yoga. When you’re the only one floating on the crystal clear lake. It’s Yoga. It's always there, even if you don’t consider yourself a Yogi(ni).
Practice Yoga Everywhere
Today take a moment to look at your own life and find those moments of Yoga; moments when you've reached out to others, enjoyed some time to yourself, found balance, strength and calm.
To learn more about finding those moments of peace in your life, join the practice at Lake Tahoe Yoga or book a Private Session with Jenay.
Bond with Your Babe
After having a baby your life may feel like periods of rest between bottles, diapers and feedings. Yoga classes that allow you to include your newborn are opportunities to get out of the house in a safe and clean space with other parents dealing with the same issues.
The practice may include movements that encourage you to include your little one, or focus upon you while your infant rests upon the mat. In either case you are given permission to care for yourself while still being present with your newborn.
Love Up Your Little One
Touch is one of the most beneficial treatments for baby (and parent) ailments. Hugs, squeezes, rubbing and rocking can have beneficial effects for all of us. While practicing Yoga Asana that allow your body to stretch and slowly release you are afforded an opportunity if mutual benefit. As your body opens, you can give some physical love to your babe.
Gnelte stroking if their faces aces and arms can induce a calming effect. Rubbing bellies and backs can encourage digestion’s and bowel release. Hand and foot rubs help baby to develop the sensitity necessary to open and close, flex and extend, in preparation for grasping and waking.
While caring for your newborn, toddler or preschool-aged little one you may become lost in the repetition of actions. Your day might feel like a repetitive rhythm of folding and holding. Yoga Asana provides a variety of movements that help you recover from repetitive movement.
In preparation for the arrival of your newborn movement is invaluable. Yoga offers more than poses. As you practice, you will become more aware of your body’s needs. In doing so you will be able to reduce discomfort and prevent pain that could result from the carrying if extra weight and adjustments to your internal organs.
Teach Then Peacefulness
New studies are reviewing the benefits of guided focus and peaceful spaces in lieu of detention and punishment. Starting off your little one’s life with opportunities to enjoy peace, quiet and themselves could give them the ability to do so for the rest of their lives. Not only will Yoga Asana give your babe the chance to move and try new things in a safe place, but the peace and quiet of the studio will help them to feel safe relaxing. They might even begin requesting that you do Yoga at home, too!
Learn to Teach
Kidding Around Yoga will be offering a weekend training in Yoga for Kids! Join us on April 27 & 28 to learn how to teach Yoga for children. A free class will be offered on Sunday, April 28.
You are what you eat, and if you're not fueling your body correctly you might feel run-down. After all, your body is a machine. Food is fuel. Although, there is certainly room within the engine for a treat from time to time. There's a reason luxury car owners only put premium in their vehicles. They know it helps the car run better and can extend its life. It can also help reduce the need for some maintenance tasks down the road.
Your body works in the same way. It needs the right food in order to convert it into the kind of energy you can use. This is challenging considering there are a lot of elements in modern-day food that are highly addictive. However, if you focus on thinking of your body as a machine that deserves quality fuel, you’ll get on the fast track to feeling more energetic.
How Food Effects Performance
1. Sugar is arguably the world’s worst drug. There’s nothing wrong with natural sugar in very small quantities. However, most of the sugar we consume today is highly processed, and we consume it in great quantities. Eating sugar influences your sleep, your fatigue level, your mood, and your overall health. Processed sugar can be linked to type 2 diabetes, is highly addictive, and contains empty calories. Plus, we build up a tolerance for sweetness. A person who has never had processed sugar would likely gag at a slice of birthday cake. Re-train your tongue to natural sweetness, such as berries and fruits, and you'll find an energy boost.
2. Caffeine is the most widely used drug in the world. Caffeine is genuinely a drug, but one that is socially acceptable. It affects every part of the body, including the brain and our energy levels. Like sugar, it is also very addictive. It can cause withdrawal symptoms if you have a coffee habit, and many people think they depend on it to keep their energy levels high. It can work in the short-term, but it also comes with a crash. Weaning yourself off of coffee and replacing it with decaf tea over a long period of time can help stabilize your energy levels.
3. The starve and binge cycle is doing a number on your energy. There are various approaches to eating for fat loss and muscle gain. Many work in the short-term, but at the risk of our sanity and energy levels. One diet in recent years that has leaked over from the bodybuilding world to mainstream society is intermittent fasting. There are many types of this fasting, but a common one is to have an eight-hour “feeding” window every day followed by 16 hours of fasting. During those 16 hours, only water, coffee, and small items less than 50 calories are allowed. It can help bodybuilders cut weight for competitions, but was not meant for non-professionals or for use long-term. As you can imagine, your energy levels will be all over the place. However, it can be addictive to see those pounds (aka water weight) drop so quickly. Remember that diets should be a healthy choice for life with wiggle room, not a prison that dictates your daily life.
4. Let your instincts drive your breakfast decisions. Should you skip breakfast? Only eat all-protein at breakfast? Keep it light? There’s no one answer for everyone. Breakfast is the time when you “break fast," and your body will tell you what it needs in the morning. As long as you’re not regularly heaping piles of pancakes or other desserts playing dress up as breakfast, you'll be on point. Some people need a generous breakfast while others require a little more time to wake up before their body starts asking for fuel.
5. You’re not feeding your muscles or re-fueling after cardio. When you work out, you depend on stored energy (fat and glycogen) to get through it. With weight-bearing exercises, your muscles demand protein immediately afterward to repair and heal. After a cardio session, your body needs a little BCAA boost. Failing to eat, or making poor food choices, after a workout isn’t just draining your energy. It’s also minimizing your workout.
Feed Your Body What It Needs
When it comes to food as energy, it sounds so simple, but it can be very difficult to choose the right things. There’s a lot tied to food, including emotions and addictions. However, it’s a good idea to simply remind yourself that you’re fueling your body. What do you need, what do you want, and what are you trying to do with food that might be better addressed in another manner?
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?
Ashta Anga refers to the eight limbs of Yoga. According to the ancient texts, “The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali,” and “The Hatha Yoga Pradipika,” all eight must be practiced in order for Yoga to occur. Yoga is both the means and the end. It is the combination of the practices of right action, speech and thought. What is right is defined by the eight limbs. When we follow the guidelines provided by the ancient Yogis we are more likely to be upon the right path.
The Right Practice for You
Every body is different and each one of us is unique. Just because all of your friends are taking “Hot Yoga” or “Vinyasa,” style classes that does not mean it is the right practice for you. In fact, it is rare that a hot or active practice is the best place for any of us to begin. The additional stress placed upon your body due to warm temperatures and new, challenging movements can actually hurt you. As with anything new, your first Yoga practice should be slow and well directed. You should be given the opportunity to attempt simple movements, ask questions and provide feedback to your teacher about how you are feeling throughout the session.
Living in Pain
I began practicing Yoga because all of my friends were enrolled in the class and it fulfilled a course requirement. I continued practicing because it initially reduced and then eliminated my debilitating back pain.
My pain had begun in high school as a result of scoliosis and growth spurts while competitively running in track and cross country. I continued to run while in college and continued to damage my back further. Adding insult to injury; my role as a teacher for children with autism required that I lean forward to reach desks and be at eye level with my students. There were days during which, due to the pain, I couldn't stand up straight, sit comfortably or sleep.
Yoga for Healing
Yoga Asana as well as the calming effects of breathing consciously and mindfulness practices helped me to heal. The movement was the perfect prescription for my back. The breathing helped me to remain calm when managing stressful situations and aggressive students. The mindfulness practices helped me learn to slow down and focus so that I could pause before putting my body into an unsafe position or activity.
As I continued to practice I learned the differences between the various modern styles and began to explore the various practices. When I met my teacher, in New York, I was granted access to the lineage of Rajahatha Yoga and began to develop my own practices in a way that best works for my life.
Continuing the Healing
Although I enjoy attending group classes at Yoga studios, my personal practice is what keeps me healthy. I spend less time moving actively and more time slowing down. The more slowly I move, the more awareness I have, and the better I am at addressing whatever issues; physical, emotional, energetic or mindful, that I am dealing with.
If you are ready to begin healing and to feel better through Yoga you might consider seeking out a teacher who has experience in more than just teaching classes. That which you experience physically could be a manifestation of something deeper and vice versa. Seek someone who can offer more than just poses. Find a Guru: a guide who sheds light where it is currently darkness.