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.
Include Yoga as Part of Your Next Event or Celebration
A Better Birthday Party
As each decade arrives we begin to value new things. In my 20's I wanted to experience all the things that I couldn't when I was in my teens. When I hit 30 I wanted to remain in my 20's. As I continue to move along the number line in age I have begun to value experience and time with those whom I can have fun and be myself.
When you book your next birthday celebration consider hiring a Private Yoga Teacher to provide a guided practice for you and your birthday buddies. An experienced guide will not only provide all of the necessary materials, but be able to vary the practice to honor the needs of everyone in your group regardless of the number of decades they have been living in their body. It's a great way to bring everyone together in celebration of another circle around the sun.
Fun with Friends
Even though we may think we are doing a good job of remaining connected with our friends nothing is better than spending a few days together. Experiences connect us. Travel, events, exploration and adventures provide us with stories that last a lifetime.
When planning your next friendship getaway consider adding in a Private Yoga class for you and your crew. Not only can it be a good way to limber up before you go out on a hike, mountain bike ride, kayak trip or winery tour, it can also help you to remember why you love each other. From partner postures to Tarot card readings your Private Yoga Teacher should be able to create an experience that honors your group and helps you reconnect as friends.
Pre-Party & Post-Party
Whether you are planning a Corporate Retreat or Bachelorette Party alcohol usually ends up on the grocery list. For those of you who enjoy dancing, gambling or going to a show you might find yourself out at one of the casinos. It can be easy to over-do it when drinking in Tahoe because the effects of being at 6000 feet of altitude can surprise you.
Be sure to add lip balm and water to your list as well as a Private Yoga Practice to prepare for and recover from your nights out in Tahoe. A knowledgeable Yoga teacher will know exactly what postures and how to apply them to get you ready for a night out or detoxify from the prior one. We want you to enjoy your stay. An hour of Yoga can be the difference between getting out and having fun or spending the day on the sofa.
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.
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.
Ancestry Means Something
It's nice to know where you came from. Your individual ancestry can help you to identify who you are. In the same way, the line of teachers that provided knowledge and guidance to the one you practice with can provide you with a better understanding of why they teach the way they do. Lineage in Yoga is a valuable bit of information.
Did you know that Raja is the root of all Yoga? Hatha is the seed of modern Yoga. All Yoga began at the time of the Vedas during which traditions and practices were shared orally. It wasn't until people began to write (The Vedas and Upanishads) that the practices were codified.
Knowing who your teachers are can make a difference in your understanding of the practice. If your teacher can trace their training back to a teacher who is trained in the traditional and authentic practice (Raja and Hatha) they probably have a stronger grasp on what Yoga is.
If your teacher cannot identify the lineage in which they were trained they may not be a teacher at all. Instructors can tell you to move, to breath and to focus. Teachers give you the tools to access Yoga. Those who continue to study, observe and deepen their own practice become guides who can show you the way to practice Yoga authentically.
Religion, Culture, Wisdom
LIfestyle practices including Hinduism and Buddhism influenced the way in which Yoga was described. As the stories of the Vedas were written, they were transformed by the way in which people were living at the time. Each new translation of the stories; from Sanskrit to Persion, then to Latin and eventually English, that which was written was changed. Beliefs, religion, culture and more effected the way in which the ancient texts were translated.
Even today there are new books, insights, perspectives and thoughts on how to practice Yoga. Every instructor has their own ideas they want to share. It can be challenging to find a guide with whom you connect. Keep practicing and searching for the right one.
Yoga In Everything, Everywhere
Every time we read the writings as they are translated by a new story teller, we are given a new perspective. The explanations change as a result of current culture, influence, experiences and individual meta-cognition.
Although the practices remain consistent; Asta-anga (eight limbs) must be practiced in order for Yoga to occur, the approach changes. Dependent upon where you were raised, your beliefs, teachers, guides and circumstances effect your practice.
One thing remains true for all of us: Yoga exists in everything, everywhere. We just need to reveal it. Stick with it. Practice Yoga Everywhere. Discover your Self.
If you would like to discuss or learn more about the history of Yoga and the practices of Raja and Hatha book a Realignment Coaching Session with Jenay or begin deepening your practice through the Lake Tahoe Yoga School 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training Program.
Authenticity is Important
The boom of Yoga Asana teachers and locations that offer classes in the nation is incredible. In the Tahoe South area, alone, there are at least eight locations within a 5 mile radius that offer some sort of Yoga Asana class. Awareness and interest in Yoga is at an all time high. There are thousands of places to go to try out and join others to do Asana.
As with anything we have to be careful when choosing a place to begin, continue and deepen our practices of Yoga. Just as Amazon has become the go-to for everything, but not everything is what it claims to be; so can "Yoga Studios" claim one thing, but offer something different. Be careful when choosing the place where you would like to practice.
Like so many good things Yoga Asana classes have become the basis of a business model. A "Yoga Studio" is now also a juice bar, retail shop, classroom and training room. The focus has shifted from practicing Yoga to physical prowess and appearance. Think about the place where you go to practice. What is the first thing you notice?
Now, business is business and we all have to sell something if we are going to survive in this culture and climate. However, the practice of Yoga focuses upon so much more than appearances. A smaller studio is the owner, the teachers they include and their energy. Every penny that is earned goes back into the business to make it survive. Remember, that the money you pay to practice in a small studio goes directly to those who are actively teaching, working and making the business what it is. At those larger, corporate or franchised businesses you never know where your money goes.
Refine Your Vision
Yoga teaches us to see the big picture while focusing upon the smaller pieces that make the whole. We easily become blinded by the big, noisy and most noticeable stuff. The more we practice, the more we refine our vision and see that which is important.
You might find yourself blinded by Yoga Tree, Core Power, Hot Yoga, etc. The franchises are everywhere, they have money to advertise and seem to draw in everyone. Keep practicing Yoga and look for the studios that are offering Yoga rather than just Yoga Asana. See beyond the fancy ads and flashy decor of the franchises. Find a place that teaches more than poses.
More Than Meets the Eye
A smaller, locally, often individually owned and run studio offers so much more than you might initially notice. Typically, the owner is also one of the few teachers offering guided practices. They likely practice on their own, regularly and consistently. They probably have deep beliefs and strong practices. If you spend enough time with them, you are likely to learn far more than you do in the hour long Asana class at that big studio you used to visit.
As a teacher, studio owner and practitioner of Yoga I seek out these studios and teachers. Honestly, when I attend a class that is full of people with a teacher who clearly has pre-planned the class I leave frustrated. I am always hoping the attendance will be low and the teacher will be prepared to share in the practice with us. When this happens I always end up leaving with something I didn't know I needed.
Every Day Is Small Business Day
Instead of thinking about small businesses for just one day: Small Business Saturday. Consider seeking out small businesses and, in particular, small Yoga Studios every time you feel the need to join a class. Try new places, new teachers and explore locations, styles and lineages you might not have previously considered. Arrive early and stay after class. Get to know the teacher. Keep practicing. You might even discover your Self.
Our Small Part
As a solo-preneur and micro-business owner I do everything I can to teach authentically, support the community and create practices that honor those who wish to be guided. If you're ready to begin, wish to continue or want to deepen your practice. Join me. I hope we can travel together on the path toward Yoga.
It’s happening, already. You have probably seen them. . .in every store. . .Christmas decorations! Every year it happens: Halloween and Thanksgiving are way-sided by Christmas displays. Here are a few suggestions for how to overcome the anxiety resulting from the displays that are distracting our attention.
No One Can Make You Do Anything
As a school counselor this was my motto. My favorite moment in any session would be when a student would say, “She/he/they made me. . .” I would pause and then look at the student and say something like, “Describe to me how.” After a few attempts at explaining, they would inevitably come to the conclusion that, ultimately, they chose to behave the way they did.
As the pressure of the holidays begins to mount remember that you are the only one in control of yourself. Don’t allow the sparkly lights, shiny colors and pretty displays distract you. Take your time and enjoy the moments and time between the holidays. Reflect upon the wonder that each creates and what you love most.
The best advice I was ever given was for my wedding day. I give the same advice to every bride I meet: eat the food, dance to the music and step back every once in a while to observe. Ferris Bueller knew what he was talking about. Life moves pretty fast. As we age and the percentage of time we’ve spent on earth becomes longer each day, month and year feels shorter.
Yoga teaches us to focus upon one thing at a time (Dharana). The more we do so, the less we are distracted by that which is unimportant. To be present is both to make the time to step back and observe; to watch everyone enjoying the holiday feels, as well as to sit down among those you love and enjoy simply being together.
Focus Upon Yourself
There is a story about a student who comes to the teacher wishing to learn, but having already developed ideas about what will be learned. The teacher explains that the student cannot learn because their cup is already full. Like a teacup that already has tea in it, the student already had ideas about learning. Therefore, they had no room for more.
When you fill yourself up with stress, worry, concern, anxiety, etc. there is no room left for fun, love, relaxation or even yourself. What helps you to relax? A cup of tea, a glass of wine, petting your cat, sitting by the pool, reading a book, or resting upon your sofa are just a few ways to serve yourself. Allow time for yourself so that you can empty your cup.
Spread the Love
Compassion is a very powerful emotion. When shared well, it brings us together. The practice of Karma Yoga is defined as “the Yoga of action.” The removal of Karma begins when we apply our skills in ways that serve others without expecting anything in return. It is our intention to spread love that removes Karma.
When we are in service to others it gives us purpose, fuels our passions and brings us together with those whom we would otherwise never meet. Choose a simple, accessible and fun way to volunteer your time, energy and talents this season. Spread the love and help to create more.
Additional Suggestions. . .
Local Organizations that can use your help:
Big Brothers Big Sisters http://www.bbbs-edc.org/
Keep Tahoe Blue https://www.keeptahoeblue.org/our-work/volunteer
And more can be found here: https://southtahoenow.com/topics/volunteer
What I've learned over a decade of Yoga studio ownership.
Trust is a Tricky Thing
I don't always trust myself.
I love being up high and looking down. I like to climb mountains, ride the gondola, bungee jump, fly in planes, etc. On stable ground, I feel great. If I have to balance on the edge or jump down, I get scared. I have a fear of falling; of failure. For some reason, I keep climbing, though. I keep going even though I know I may eventually have to balance, jump, or fall off in failure.
This is the life of an entrepreneur. I keep trying, climbing, struggling, reaching, and growing. Sometimes I get to stand on top, feeling proud of my accomplishments, and look down upon where I was. Sometimes, I fail. In the moments when I am succeeding, I trust myself. I follow my gut and my dreams. When I fail, I doubt myself. I worry that I'm no good. I consider quitting. . .I never do, though.
It's All Yoga
I'm no Yoga master. I'm doing the best I can and learning as I go. I keep practicing. As I do, I keep learning more about myself. Then, I share what I have learned with those who share the practice. I do my best to articulate how the practices of Yoga help me as an individual, a teacher, and a business owner.
I remember when I first began developing strength and skill in Asana. It was very exciting because I was attending classes at the gym and my teachers seemed to like me. They were encouraging and supportive as I developed my skills. I recall practicing sirsasana. I would try it everywhere I could; at first with a wall and then on soft surfaces. Once I was able to access the posture I started performing it everywhere. I felt strong, balanced and trusting in my own body.
I could have stopped with sirsasana, but I didn't. I kept wanting to learn more, to be better. I continued to practice and develop new skills both physical and deeper. Over time, I have moved more and more inward in both study and practice. As I do so, I have learned more about myself and my interactions with the world. I have learned to be a better person and business owner.
Taking the Leap
Fear is a very strong force. It can freeze you in your tracks or force you into movement. I like to think that I am one of those people that is forced into movement. I used to allow this movement to propel me without paying attention to where I was headed. I was reactive and protective. My practice has given me the skills of observation, reflection and intentional action. Now, I realize when the movement begins and am able to choose in which direction do go.
During periods of transition, rather than becoming anxious, agitated or aggressive I try, instead to take pause and be more reflective, patient and informed. Sure, I am still afraid, sometimes don't trust myself and I know that I still stand the chance of failure. Now, instead of feeling out of control, at least I know that I am the one who chose to balance or jump down.
More Than Poses
Yoga provides us with so much more than physical prowess. The strength, balance and self awareness we develop through the practice can be generalized to every aspect of life. We can connect Vinyasa with the flow of events and learn to make better decisions. We can apply the practice of mindful focus when interacting with others and choosing to commit to something.
To practice Yoga is to change the way you feel, think and live. You may already have noticed the effects that the practice has. Beyond feeling physically healthy, you might also begin to experience your wellbeing expressing. Yoga gives us the tools to see, know and be. It applies to every aspect of life.
If you're ready to balance on the edge or take the jump. If you would like to learn to trust yourself. If you are finished being frozen by fear. Try Yoga. It might help you discover your Self. It might help you be a better person, partner, business owner, teacher, you name it.
I invite you to join me in the practice and to share how it has changed your perception of the world.
Receive a Private Evaluative Yoga Session before you join a scheduled practice.
I Don't Need No Stinking Props!
I have been guiding Yoga Practices since 2006. My practice and teaching style began as Vinyasa. I had no desire to appear as though I didn't know what I was doing or that I needed a prop to access a posture. I was young, fit, strong and (kind of) flexible.
Experience Leads to Wisdom
My teacher, guide and friend, Amy Pearce-Hayden, strongly suggested that I teach an alignment practice. It changed my entire perspective. I had to practice with tools in order to be able to teach with them. I had to focus upon what I was doing accurately, inaccurately and also what I saw my practitioners doing with their bodies. I would practice creating with my body the postures that I saw my practitioners doing. I became skilled at seeing, feeling and doing postures with both accuracy and misalignment.
Begin Where You Are
Rather than attempting to force me into shifting my perspective, Amy gave me the opportunity to experience what I wasn't willing to see. I was allowed to work from my practice of Vinyasa and develop a deeper understanding of the postures through my own practice and desire to be a better teacher.
This is what an Evaluative Session can do for you. Before jumping into one of the practices at LTY give yourself the opportunity to get to know Jenay and the Rajahatha lineage. Give us the opportunity to learn about your practice, understanding and experiences. Then, we can work together to help you choose the practices that most align with your needs and desires.
Are you ready to begin the practice at LTY? Request an Evaluative Session to identify the best sessions with which to start.
A brief explanation of the concepts of Ego, Universe and Integration
Let's Be Selfish
The message that often gets misconstrued as we discuss the practices of Yoga is that it is a practice of selflessness. True: we are to practice Karma Yoga by being in service to others. True: we should detach from desire and let go of that which we grasp. True: ultimately we will realize that all that we think is true is false and reality is an illusion.
Also True: we are Ego driven, Kosha limited, human beings. Our current situation is the result of the fact that we are influenced by the fluctuations of nature (Gunas) and our own consistution (Dosha). Realizing this, observing its effects and changing our behaviors is our basic goal for now. Therefore, we have to be selfish. We have to focus on ourselves, first.
When teaching the concepts of self (Ego) and Self (Atma), I like to relate them to the way in which humans have evolved to understand the universe. First, we thought the Earth was flat. Then, we thought the Earth was the center of the universe. Then, we thought there was only the Milkway Galaxy. Then, we realized there is so much more.
The self (Ego, I-ness or Individual) is who you are now. You perceive the world based upon what you think is important (the Earth is the center of all things). You are the most important thing. Therefore, everything else revolves around you.
The Self (Atma) is a tiny piece in the grand, gigantic, enormous, universe. It plays a part that is both of value, but also minor in the grand scheme of things. It is made up of all the stuff that surrounds it and, it's its own way is a tiny universe in itself (the Milkyway). It is both unaffected by the Ego and also hidden by it.
You know that video that starts out with the viewfinder on one individual or tiny speck and then pans out for what seems like forever until it has broadened the view to contain the the entire universe? That last part, when it's panned out as far as it can go; that's Brahman.
Once we realize that we are "chips off the old block" of something bigger (Atma), then we can begin to See the whole picture. Before, we were caught up in wants, desires, thoughts, nature, perception, etc. (Ego). Realization, observation and detachment has revealed that all that stuff is unreal; illusion. Now we can see. It's as though our vision has panned out from that tiny speck to envelop the entire universe.
Bliss sounds great, but integration sounds better. Would you rather be all zoned out and disconnected or fully aware and detached? This is the difference between bliss and integration. Samadhi is made up of two words: Sama meaning "same" and Dhi meaning "reflection" or "perception." Samadhi is the the ability to see sameness among everything.
When I first started learning about Samadhi it was translated as bliss. In my mind I imagined that I would be in this happy, joyful, euphoric mindset; that every experience would be wonderful. The deeper I dove into understanding Samadhi, the more I realized it isn't a state of bliss. It is a state of integration; a state of contentment. You reach a level of awareness that allows you to stop "sweating the small stuff." You get to participate, observe and be present without having attachments to emotion, energetic fluctuation or mindful chatter.
Want to learn more about the traditional practices of Raja and Hatha Yoga and how to integrate them into your life? Join us at LTY.