What is Asana?

What is “asana”?

asana

Asana is just one part of the deep, rich practice that is yoga… but in our western culture, it is, more often than not, the only part people practice. They might occasionally use a few breathing techniques but rarely are the other limbs of yoga taught.

eight limbs of yoga

Somewhere on FB someone posted a question about what movements and poses are ‘actually’ yoga, and then that same week someone new to my classes said to me that they loved I was putting ‘pilates’ and ‘regular’ exercise in the yoga class.

The thing is for me, and this is my interpretation, and I am certain I will get a lot of push back on this, BUT I think all movement has the potential to be an asana practice…..All movement.

Jogging, pilates, hiking, trail running, weightlifting, Zumba and step aerobics. All of it can be asana. Well sort of.

Let’s look briefly at these limb of yoga and try to take into consideration the 7 other limbs (besides Asana) of yoga and see if weaving them into whatever movement you’re doing makes it yoga.

Runners have always used the term “hitting the wall” to imply the place where they can no longer run, extreme fatigue sets in and they cant finish. But most experienced runners know when they may be hitting a wall. When they feel that coming on, they actively turn their awareness back inward, to an internal focus, a concentration on their breathing, on simply putting one foot in front of the other. That internal focus is Dharana, the 6th limb of yoga, meaning concentration, a meditative focus. That’s just one of the ways that running marathons can be yoga. Let’s look at more.

Here are the 8 limbs of Yoga:

1) Yama (The ethical standards and how we live off the mat)

          Ahimsa Non-violence

          Satya Truthfulness

         Asteya Non-stealing

         Brahmacharya Right use of energy

         Aparigraha Non-attachment

2)Niyama (The inner observances)

         Saucha Cleanliness

        Santosha Contentment

       Tapas Self-discipline

       Svadhayaya Self-study

       Isvara Pranidhana Surrender to the Divine

3) Asana (posture, the poses you do on the mat or the movement)

4) Pranayama (breathing techniques/breathwork)

5) Pratyahara (The withdrawal of senses)

               “the checking and curbing of the outgoing tendencies of the mind so that awareness can be directed inwards.” ‘Swami Satyananda’

6) Dharana (Concentration / meditative focus)

7) Dhyana (Uninterrupted flow of concentration / complete stillness of mind)

8) Samadhi (Bliss/transcendence of the Self)

 

So, let’s look at our marathon runner again. To achieve that level of physical and mental fitness required to run 20 + miles, they have probably lived a yoga life and maybe didn’t even know it.

We already looked at using concentration Dharana the 6th limb, but what else?

How about the Yamas and Niyamas, Ahimsa, which means do no harm, so maybe for our runner, that means don’t over-train, and don’t neglect stretching.

Saucha, meaning Cleanliness, could be eating healthy foods that will fuel the body, and avoiding recreational drugs and alcohol.

These are just 2 of the Yoga Ethics, look back at the list and see if you can see where our runner might have use Tapas or Brahmacharya or any of the other Yamas and Niyamas.

Looking down the list at the other limbs we know our runner couldn’t be successful without having some control over his breathingthis is Pranayama.

And Pratyahara, this is the withdrawal of senses, in the case of our runner, this might be the ability to not let the rain or the heat or the bugs or the occasional dog chasing you, to interrupt your concentration.  The ability to curb the tendencies of the mind towards negative thoughts.

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So, this for me is how all movement can be yoga… because it’s really about intention. It’s about being intentional with your movements, about being mindful and kind to your body. It’s about understanding the tendencies of your mind that limit you and how to overcome them.

It’s about an understanding that your practice of movement is about so much more than just exercise. So much more than just core strength and great glutes. So, the next time you’re in a Zumba class and think you can’t finish think about these 7 other limbs of yoga and see if you can apply them to help you live your best yoga life off the mat. And in your next yoga class notice how those movements that are NOT sun salutations are in fact Yoga.

Om Shanti

Cheryl

Be you’re own teacher

“When you are ready to see it you will see it” … “When you are ready to find it it will be in front of you”

Two simple things I say a lot to my students. Yoga has a similar phrase that goes something like this

Image result for when the student is ready the teacher will appear”

That phrase has been attributed to Buddhism and several other Philosophies and great teachers, but no matter its origin it has merit.

It can be taken in its literal form to mean that when you are ready to learn something then a teacher, an actual person will appear in your life.

Say for example that you’re thinking of taking up hiking, you’ve never been hiking, and walking in your neighborhood doesn’t count unless you live in a national forest.

But you’ve been to the park and you liked that and now you’re ready for more and then Boom, you meet someone at your Zumba class who hikes all the time and she invites you to head out up to some cool trails on the AT for a day hike and there you go. Hiking.

You were ready and a teacher appeared.

But experience has taught me that its rarely the external teacher that appears the most often, more the internal one that shows up unexpectedly.

I have a client that has some knee issues and while she is very strong and her practice has evolved so beautifully in the year we have been working together, one of her knees has been a bit slower in gaining strength. A few weeks ago, I re-introduced a movement pattern, in a different way, and she was apprehensive about doing it, but tried it anyway. It was a very simple (or so it seemed) movement but it allowed her knee to move differently and now that knee is getting stronger, even faster than it was before. And she asked me why we hadn’t been doing it from the beginning, the simple answer was she wasn’t ready. Physically her body didn’t have the strength and mentally she was still protecting the knee. The more complex answer was that since she wasn’t ready the teacher wasn’t there. She wasn’t ready to see it and so she couldn’t. It was a pattern we had tried before, just in a different way, but now she was ready, and she could see it. She was her teacher here, not me. She had to make the decision to try and she had to overcome the fear of the movement and she had to step up and step out and try.

We are all like that, there are times in our lives when we must step up, step out and face our challenges and when we are ready to do that our inner teacher shows up.

I have had students and private clients over the years who have experienced this with their yoga practice. After months (or years) of practicing they suddenly have a breakthrough in a pose. Where they couldn’t even conceive of sitting in prayer squat pose a few years ago. Suddenly in a class they try and find it more accessible than they ever imagined.

Why? Why now? What changed?

The mat is the same, the sequence is the same, hell even the teacher was the same, Me! Maybe what changed was something inside themselves. Their confidence level or their understanding of the anatomy of the movement or maybe their courage to try new things changed.

What ever the reason, they were ready, and they made the effort to change. They were their own teacher.

Remember this when life gets frustrating, when you’re in a situation that feels impossible or at the very least more challenging than you expected. Know that perhaps you are still within the lesson, you’re still learning and that someday you will be able to recognize the value of that lesson. 20/20 hindsight right!

When the student is ready the master will appear. Be your own teacher, learn to recognize when you are ready and then call on the master within yourself.

Om Shanti

Cheryl

Movement the energy of life

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When you think of exercise what comes to mind? Well merriam-webster.com has this to say about exercise

  • physical activity that is done in order to become stronger and healthier
  • a particular movement or series of movements done to become stronger and healthier
  • something that is done or practiced to develop a particular skill

but here’s the thing it isn’t “exercise” that we should be promoting, it’s movement.

Friends and I were talking the other day and someone mentioned a trainer she knows and this trainer has a lot of injuries, old and new from ‘working out’, from pushing her body to its limits. And while we can do that (esp when we are young) it will most likely come back to haunt us, in the form of damaged connective tissue, extremely tight muscles, and arthritis. But exercise is good for us you say and we have been told we should do it, need to do it, but now they tell us it could be bad for us….. sheeeshee, its hard to know what’s what anymore.

But here’s the things….. pay close attention please…

Ahem:
It isn’t really exercise we need, it’s movement. But isn’t that the same thing? Nope not really. Exercise is a specific physical activity, based in movement but movement isn’t always exercise.

Think of it this way…An object in motion stays in motion. Right?, thats just physics.

Its movement we need to stay healthy, to age well and to become stronger. And from a yoga standpoint it also about balance. The balance between too much, too little and just enough, we all need to go Goldie Locks on this idea of exercise.

We think of movment as something that happens to us, even if we are doing the exercise, we think of it as being an outside endeavor. Instead think of Movement as starting from the inside, movement in the body, movement in the breath and then moving them together, the synchronicity of movement. First, we move the body, then we move the body with the breath and when they move together then the energy within the body moves. It flows, its an ebb and tide it contracts and expands. It’s movement. From our cells flowing with prana to the earth revolving around the Sun its movement we need.

So what can you do to increase movement in your life? To make movement your lifestyle, not just some exercise you do for an hr 3 times a week.

**Walk your dog, every day.

**Play outside, with the kids, without the kids, with the dog. Make “Play” part of your life too. Climb trees, play kickball, hit some golf balls.

**If you have a job that requires sitting for long periods of time, set a reminder and get up for at least 5 mins every hour and for at least 15 min every 4 hours. Or better still if you can, get a standing desk.

**Dance while cleaning…. Crank up your favorite tunes and Dance like to one is watching. And if you find they are watching, smile and invite them to join you in the dance.

** Wash your own car instead of going through the drive-through car wash

**Limit how much TV you watch. There is so much to choose from any more cable, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu ect ect ect… that we probably spend more time surfing and “looking” for something to watch than actually watching something… If your guilty of that raise your hand

  Image result for raise your hand Yea me too!

**Keep a pair of sneakers & a change of clothes in your car in case the opportunity to walk arises… Plan for that opportunity.

**Park a few blocks away from your destination and walk the rest of the way

**Do toe raises and calf raises while standing in line at the store or bank

** Instead of meeting a friend for coffee meet at the park and walk while you catch up

There are endless possibilities for getting more movement in your life……Oh there’s one more

**Take some exercise classes several times a week, Dance aerobics, Zumba, Pilates, and of course Yoga… they are fun and you can make new friends, just be sure they are a part of the movement in your life, not the only movement.

See you at the park, I’ll be the one climbing a tree 😊

Om Shanti

Cheryl

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Yoga, 31 one Blissful days!

Join me on the mat as we take time to practice Sun Salutations for 31 days.

You have several ways to join us on this journey. 1, you can come to classes, I will be highlighting the sequence in my flow classes and variations in my Gentle classes, yes you can do Sun salute all on the floor! And my two vinyasa classes at Fit One Gym are based on the Sun Salutations. 2, You can come to the workshop I have planned for January 12, Foundations in Yoga. A workshop that helps beginners get ready for a class highlighting the SS sequence and also assists the regular student in building their practice.

But first you have to make the commitment to a 31 day practice….. On the mat, at home or in class, every day for 31 days. Can you do that. I think you can.

A home practice seems sooooo overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Just set aside 10 mins… Yep only 10 minutes. In 10 min you can do 10 versions of the Sun Salutation and a few cool down stretches. If you don’t have a home practice use the next 31 days to build one. Here’s a few tips.

~ KISS, Keep it short and simple

               The more elaborate you try to make it the less likely you are to do it

~ Try to do your practice at the same time every day

               Schedule it. Put it on your calendar

~ Keep your mat rolled out if you can

               Less fuss, you only have to step on the mat and go

~ Create a fun, relaxing place for your practice

               If you have the space, light some candles, burn some incense and put on some                     music.

~ Track it!

               Like scheduling, tracking can help keep you focused

Check out this link to an easy tracker page, just print it out ( there are 4 options for printing, look for the “Download here US letter”

~ Hook up with a Yoga buddy

             Accountability baby! You tell them about your practice and they tell you or you                   plan to practice together.

~ Take your practice outside.

             Yes I know its January, but south of the Mason/Dixon we do get some nice days in               the winter and I love me some yoga in the woods.

So there you have it, a few tips for building a home practice. If you have others please share them on the FaceBook page. Pass your wisdom on!

Lets get started!

The Sun Salutation, or Surya Namaskara is a series of poses linked in a sequence to create a flow of movement. Each pose coordinates with your breathing: Inhale to extend, and exhale to bend.

Sun Salutations build heat in the body and are often used as warm-up sequences for a yoga practice. The components of a Sun Salutation also make up a “vinyasa” or flow yoga practice.

There are many variations of Sun Salutations. This sequence presented below is often referred to as “Sun Salutation A” (Surya Namaskara A). Consider this as the base for the other variations.

Benefits of a 31-day commitment:

* strength gains

* Increased flexibility

* Mental balance

* Increased confidence

* Greater sense of commitment

* Improved Sleep

* Increased sense of awareness

In short lots of great benefits!

The plan is simple Everyday do at least 10 rounds of Sun Salutations. You can do any version that suits you, the base practice, with or without modifications… You can ramp up version of Sun salute ‘A’ simply moving with the breath. Or you can do the Sun Salutations series ’B’ with the lunges add.

Also you can do more than 10 if you want and you can add other poses if you like as well. Throw in some pigeons (I know how much you love those) or a Warrior sequence if you like. But no what,  do at least 10 Surya Namaskara every day. Use this time to get to know the sequence better, take time to see how the poses feel in your body. Go slow, savor this time on the mat and make this sequence your own. Never rush the process, stop when you need to, modify as you go and remember this is your practice. Explore it!

Check in every day and let us all know how your doing. You dont have to be a big speech, but do pop in to let others know you  did your practice. You never know but your checking in just might encourage someone else!

I am going to pull together a few videos for you to follow I will post them on YouTube, I will drop the links on the Facebook Group page.

I can’t guarantee a video every day, but I will shoot for at least a few a week.

On a personal note I am looking forward to this, my personal practice for the last 2 + months has been very restorative and uber slow, Slow is good I’m a fan, but ‘Uber slow’ not so much…. I’m ready to re-build my strength and endurance.

So here is the first sequence ….. Surya Namaskara A

sun_salutes_A

Here are the basic poses, this sequence leaves out the lunges, that comes into play in Surya Namaskara B. I will lay that out next

Sun Salutation A also known as Surya Namaskara A

  1. Mountain Pose — Tadasana
  2. Upward Salute — Urdhva Hastasana

          ** Transition here is “Swan dive to forward fold”

  1. Standing Forward Fold — Uttanasana
  2. Half Lift or Monkey pose — Ardha Uttanasana

          **Transition here is “Step or jump back”

  1. Plank pose — Chaturanga Dandasana

           **Technically Chaturanga is a transition not a pose you hold

  1. Cobra or Upward-Facing Dog Pose — Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
  2. Downward-Facing Dog Pose — Adho Mukha Svanasana

            **Transition here is “Step or Jump forward”

  1. Half Lift or Monkey pose — Ardha Uttanasana

           **Transition here is “reverse Swan dive”

  1. Upward Salute — Urdhva Hastasana
  2.  Mountain Pose — Tadasana

………………………….

Sal Salutations B

Steps of Yoga surya namaskar sun salutation

This is basic ally the same except we added the lunges / Warrior II. I usually teach the lunge version first the on subsequent rounds I add the Warriors. But again do what feels right for you. Also in the classic SS B, the lunge is taught as you step back from forward fold and again as you step forward out of down dog… I teach it both ways. If you need more warm up time or to progress your practice at a different pace do only one lunge each round

  1. Mountain Pose — Tadasana
  2. Upward Salute — Urdhva Hastasana

          ** Transition here is “Swan dive to forward fold”

  1. Standing Forward Fold — Uttanasana
  2. Half Lift or Monkey pose — Ardha Uttanasana
  3. Step right leg back to low lunge – Anjaneyasana
  4. Plank pose — Chaturanga Dandasana
  5. Cobra or Upward-Facing Dog Pose — Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
  6. Downward-Facing Dog Pose — Adho Mukha Svanasana
  7. Step Right leg forward to low lunge – Anjaneyasana
  8. Half Lift or Monkey pose — Ardha Uttanasana

         **Transition here is “reverse Swan dive”

  1. Upward Salute — Urdhva Hastasana
  2. Mountain Pose — Tadasana

So there you have it 2 variations of the classic Sun Salutations sequence. There are many, many variations I hope we can get to some of them in the next 31 days!

 

Oh Shanti!

Cheryl

 

Change

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”– Lao Tzu

Life can change in an instant…. One minute your waltzing through life and the next Bam! something happens and things change. Maybe its a big change, a traumatic change, a death of someone close to you or an injury that will take your life in another direction. In my case it’s been an unexpected illness. So no real trauma, but definitely unexpected. I spent 3 days in the hospital and took almost 3 weeks off from work.

I never take off work.

I rarely cancel classes and clients, as a self employed person taking off from work means money out of my pocket. So it had better be a big deal that keeps away from The Centre.

But heres the thing about change it is inevitable. There will always be changes, little changes and big changes and often we dont have a choice about some of the changes that come our way, but how we handle change is a choice. 

I learned a few things as I recovered over the last few weeks, big things and little things.

I learned that Yes I can just sit here on the couch. Oh but my monkey brain really wanted to ‘get things done’ the body on the other hand needed rest and lots of it. So I listened to what the body needed and I complied. I learned that I can be patient. Patience is not my strong suit, but I learned I do have some if I dig deeply enough.

I learned that food isn’t always a comfort. Yea I said it..! Food is not always what the body needs. I had a very difficult time putting anything, and I mean anything on my stomach. Even just little sips of water could make me nauseous. I pretty much just ate what I lovingly referred to as the maternity diet. Soda crackers and Sprite, with the occasional apple sauce thrown in. So maybe I will use this time to reassess my diet, clean it up a bit. Less fatty foods and more fruit and veggies. So maybe positive changes can come from the unexpected changes too.

 The biggest thing I learned though was about me and my relationship to breath…. 

Breathing is my happy place. Pranayama, breathing practices, are at the heart of my personal yoga practice and at the heart of my teaching. But this illness changed my breathing. I found it difficult to take a full breath, and deep breathing was out of the question. Simple little breaths were all I could managed. I sat in the hospital bed and practiced Sama Vritti. Balanced breathing with a deep mindfulness on relaxing….. well, everything. I am only just now getting to a place where my breathing practices are getting back to ‘normal’. But my awareness and my intention well that has changed.

I have had many students and clients over the years that found ‘breath work’ to be challenging and I have always (at least I hope I did)  approached their concerns with compassion and taught them from that place. But I have to admit that I have practiced Pranayama for so very long that for many years I couldn’t truly relate. I didn’t remember what it was like to not be able to breath deeply, efficiently and with a richness that breath awareness brings. I think I have a better understanding now of how difficult changing your breath must be for those new to yoga.

And the most important thing I think I learned is not to take your good health for granted and if you don’t have ‘good health’ you should try to get some. It’s never too late to start. Find a health coach, a trainer or yoga therapist who can help you. Changes in our health are probably one of the hardest things we do in life. But I give all the credit to my speedy recovery to being in pretty good health to begin with and that credit goes to yoga and to what I call being Wellness Aware and to a consistent movement based practice and to pranayama and meditation.

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” - Wayne Dyer

There is a lot of good advice out there to help you deal with life changes, 

*Know that Change Is Inevitable. …

*Separate Your Feelings from Your Reaction. …

*Practice Mindfulness. …

But for me the simplest  way to accept change that is hard to handle is to try to look at it from a different perspective. Look for something that might be a good outcome from the change. I know, I know…. Looking at something thats well, crappy, in a different way is hard. Who out there remembers the movie Pollyanna? Yea the old Disney version. In the story Pollyanna played a game called the glad game and no matter how disappointed or sad she was she always looked for something to be glad about. She looked for the light. She looked for a something in a bad situation that she could be glad about.

Well folks I am a card carrying Pollyanna. My ex-husband & my oldest son used to call me “Pollyanna” like it was a bad thing. An insult. But its not. Seeing the good in a bad situation makes you resilient, it does not make you an ostrich with its head in the sand. Being able to look ahead and see that this new road maybe taking you in a good or better direction comes from a place of strength. It take courage to look at your current situation, this new normal, and think ‘I can make something good come of it’. And personally I think that makes you more of a realist. Always being fearful of change or resisting it causes pain and keeps you stuck in a present moment that is meant to become a past moment. A memory. 

So remember that change is essential to life, if we always resist changes that life brings, we would never begin new relationships, make new friends and meet new lovers. We wouldn’t take that job we always wanted. We might never go to the new yoga class we heard about…..  Learn to at least welcome change and to meet it somewhere safe, but outside your comfort zone.

Life is all about change and begin open to what comes next. Learn to stay focused on the positives in life. 

Embrace your inner Pollyanna!

Om Shanti

Cheryl

ship

 

The Magic of Slowing Down

FITONE

So this Article talks about something called ‘conscious movement’ …. Like it’s a new thing…..

Yea, well its not a new thing, but it is a great article highlighting the magic of slowing down.

Anyone doing yoga, pilates, TaiChi, and many other types of movement that require an attention to detail, has known about this for a long time. Back in the day, it was referred to as ‘Functional movement’ and ‘Everyday Exercise’ and of course a slower more precise movement based exercise like ones I have already mentioned were thought of as something you do once in a while to stretch or as exercise for older adults who had physical limitations preventing them from doing ‘real exercise’.

Let me be clear that when I say precise or talk about details, I am not referring to any thing akin to perfection or to the idea of a perfect alignment. I am talking about the precision or attention to detail that comes from simply slowing down enough to feel the pose or the movement.

I haven’t given what I teach a fancy name or label, I just call it yoga or movement. But even when I was still teaching STEP and other forms of aerobic exercise I taught a slower version, a more mindful way to move. And although the Mindfulness movement is fairly new (in the main stream anyway) that’s what we are talking about, Moving Mindfully.

One of my wonderful teachers calls it Subtle Yoga and I like that. It speaks of a softer, gentler way to move. A subtler approach to movement. But in our fast-paced culture where everything must be faster, harder, bigger and more complicated for you to get any real results this style of movement is overlooked or worse its degraded as something not worth doing. I remember when STEP first became a ‘thing’, it was everywhere in the late 80’s and early 90’s and it was taught (and I was trained this way) as a slower way to do aerobics that had you stepping up and off of a platform to around 125 BPM, but by the mid to late 90’s the normal BPM had jumped up to 135+… setting people up for all kinds of injuries. I had a few loud conversations with gym managers and other instructors about my classes. I kept the BPM’s well under 130 and I still do today, when I get a chance to teach. I have also taught Pilates and in classical Pilates, and in a style of Pilates known as The Method, precise movements require you to move slowly, Mindfully, but again the fast-paced folks weren’t sweating enough, so it morphed into something else looking more like boot camp classes. And guess what, people got hurt.

“Extreme soreness has become a celebrated experience in our culture, but pain is often an indication that you’ve gone too far, too fast.”
― Katy Bowman, Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement

And the same thing has happened in yoga. Yoga 50 years ago wasn’t taught in hot rooms with jumps and hops and crazy positions. Oh there were some crazy poses, well my hips think their crazy, but they were held for longer and they were taught over years, to students who practiced daily, that’s every day guys, yep people can do yoga every day… Just sayin’….. What has happened over the last 20 years or so is that our culture has once again taken the deliberateness and precision out of yoga and now everything is vinyasa. Fast paced movements designed to keep the heart rate up and burn calories. 

So what’s my point? Well there are good reasons why we need to move with more attention to detail. Moving more slowly actually allows you to recruit more muscle fibers. Moving deliberately takes a lot of momentum out the movement giving you a chance to feel how you move, to live for a moment in the foundation of the movement. In a slower paced practice, you can take time to notice the breath, to move with the breath. In a subtler practice you allow the body to move in a more natural way, increasing strength and pliability more slowly, therefore more effectively.

And the practice of moving more deliberately increases the flow of Prana through the body. Due to stress, lack of movement, poor diet and even aging, the body can become stiff. It becomes heavy and dense. And when that happens the movement of Prana, vital life force, is inhibited.

One of the reasons we do a yoga asana practice is to free up the physical body. To release tension and allow more freedom of movement, and when the body is free from tension then Prana flows more freely.

Moving slowly and holding poses for longer periods of time encourage a deeper level of relaxation. Holding a pose or a stretch for 15 to 30 seconds may feel like a stretch or that you are relaxing muscles but in reality, while the muscles may relax a little often times the connective tissue can actually begin to resist the stretch. If the posture is held for 2 minutes or longer, the belly of the muscle will begin to release and lengthen, and the connective tissue can then release old stuck energies and the result is more permanent elasticity and flexibility.

And along with that increased flexibility the Prana can begin to move and to release the mental, physical and energetic blocks in the body.

And I have nothing against a hot sweaty practice, or a practice that is intense and hard, but if that’s all you do you are missing out on creating greater balance in your body as well as your mind and spirit.

So know and understand that a slower style of yoga along with restorative yoga, practices that seem simple are not at all “beginner’s yoga, they can be quite challenging.  These practices offer significant returns on the investment of your time and more importantly your attention.

These practices may seem simplistic, but they are incredibly profound.

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Try slowing down and let me know what you think

Om Shanti

Cheryl

Tennessee is taxing Wellness? What?

Tennessee Sales Tax for “Fitness” Classes starts Sept 1st

2018-tax-laws

The Tennessee Dept of Revenue recently ruled that all fitness classes are subject to sales tax under the Tennessee Amusement Tax 67-6-212. Amusement tax  …. yep its called the amusement tax….. I am not amused. 

This does NOT include Yoga Therapy sessions or Private Yoga lessons, I had a lovely conversation with my accountant who assured me that Yoga Therapy, Private or Personal Yoga falls under the exemption for Personal Trainers, Yep Personal Trainers and PT studios are exempt, its an arbitrary rule…. Although to be clear what I do is as different from personal training as my classes are from pilates fitness classes.

This ruling specifically references “fitness” centers and classes and goes on to clarify that “fitness” includes “yoga.” I am not a fitness center and I do not offer any kind of fitness classes.

What I do offer is wellness and lifestyle classes based on movement and breathing. But the state of Tennessee has taken it upon itself to declare yoga to be fitness. 

Yoga is wellness and so much more than fitness, or even movement but in our western culture it appears to be much like a pilates class and since it is often taught in gyms, that seems to have been the source of confusion.

All my classes are based on a therapeutic approach to movement and alignment, and include breathing techniques and meditation that are proven to have positive health benefits, and this means that Yoga is very different from a fitness class, even if that Yoga class is taught in a gym, a church basement or a private home.

But I am also not please with this ruling for ANY fitness, wellness or movement based class. Tennessee ranks 45 in overall health… 45th! Just a few of the stats 

  • 45th in cardiovascular deaths.
  • 44th in high blood pressure.
  • 44th in diabetes

These are preventable diseases and disorders…. and fitness, including movement based  classes, are are big part of that prevention. Movement based classes are important for older adults. These classes help them stay mobile and help them combat depression and loneliness. Fitness classes encourage other healthy habits in all age groups like smoking less or quitting altogether, with eating less meat and making healthier food choices. And by taxing only the small businesses that have these classes they will have to raise the rates for these classes perhaps prohibiting some people from taking these classes….. and many fitness facilities have ‘community’ classes that are low cost or no cost these classes may go away.

But the thing that really pisses me off is the arbitrariness ( yes thats a real word I looked it up) of the ruling. 

Sales tax for the following

Aerobic classes (e.g., step or water aerobics,
jazz, Latin, world or other dance-based classes 
Ballet barre workout classes
Yoga classes
Fitness boot camps
Spin/indoor cycling classes
Indoor rowing classes
Boxing and kickboxing fitness classes
High intensity interval training (HIIT)
Cross training

Examples of exempt activities 

***It should be noted, under Sales Tax Rule 122, that fees or charges for instruction in sports or recreational activities are not subject to sales tax.
For example, fees or charges for playing tennis are subject to sales tax; however, fees or charges for tennis lessons alone are not subject to sales tax.*** yea, read that again and then someone tell me how that makes sense! 

These are exempt from taxation 

 Martial arts (e.g., Karate, Ju-Jitsu, Tae Kwon Do)
 Dance lessons
 Gymnastics classes
 Fencing lessons
 Skiing lessons
 Yoga teacher training

So tax everyone or tax no one. Right now its unfair!

I am working on clarifying the language I use to describe the group yoga ‘lessons’ I teach so that, with any luck, in the future I will be able to apply for exemption to this unreasonable tax.

I have managed in the past to keep my rates for classes (and Yoga Therapy & Private Yoga) as low as possible, certainly lower than other studios and gym where yoga is taught, because I want everyone to have a chance to enjoy the benefits of yoga, movement & breathwork  and to move with less pain and more freedom. I hope you agree and will contact your State Rep to see about repealing this ruling.

Here is a link to a petition that is being circulated please sign it and pass it on through Facebook and other social media sites.

https://www.change.org/p/please-help-stop-tennessee-s-sales-tax-on-your-health?recruiter=false&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=sign_checkbox.lightning_share_checkbox_quote.fake_control

State Representative John Ray Clemmons  https://www.facebook.com/johnrayfortn/    is introducing legislation in 2019 to exempt health and wellness classes from sales taxes. If you agree, please encourage your Tennessee state legislators to support this bill. 

Here is the States website with info about the ruling

https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/revenue/documents/notices/sales/sales18-09.pdf

internet-sales-tax

Om Shanti!

Cheryl

Viparita Karani

Hello loves can you believe its august 2!…. Just yesterday someone said to me “can you believe summer is almost over” My first thought was ‘well we live in the South so summer doesn’t end until Oct’ but my second thought was where did Spring go, let alone Summer! Times is flying by and the seasons change so quickly it’s hard to keep up.

Changes come and go but we will always have yoga, right? No matter the season, the month or the year. We have yoga.

It doesn’t matter if we are sick or feeling fit as a fiddle (how fit is a fiddle reallllly?). We have yoga.

Whatever life changes we are dealing with we have our yoga practice to help us navigate those sometimes-turbulent waters. Maybe you don’t have a regular, everyday practice, maybe you try to squeeze a few (or one ) class a week in but we never seem to develop a home practice. We think that yoga at home should look like, feel like and be like that 75 min practice you take at my center or a studio or gym. But you don’t know how to do that full practice at home..… You try.

You roll your mat out, you put the pets in the other room, you wait for the kids to fall asleep and the spouse to be watching their favorite show. And then you stand there, on the mat….. And think now what? You do a few down dogs, even though you hate them in class, but for some reason it’s the one pose you can remember… Oh there is plank, you know that one too, you also hate it too but you do a few of them. Then you remember the dishes in the sink or the laundry in the washer and you roll up the mat and think I’ll try again late.

Look you have enough stress in your life, instead of making yoga a big production or stressing over poses you can’t remember, just do one pose…. Yea, ONE POSE.

That’s all. And that one pose is Viparita Karani, Legs up the Wall pose.

We posted a little article on my Face book page about legs up the wall and it generated more buzz than most posts do so I thought I’d add some tips for you here. I had questions like ‘how long I should stay in the pose and how often can I do it’… And ‘I have tried it but my back doesn’t like it, how do I make it more comfortable.’

But first the basics.

Sit on the floor with your left side next to the wall and your feet on the floor. Using your hands for support, shift your weight and lower your right shoulder to the ground so that you can pivot your pelvis and sweep your legs up the wall as you lay down.

Lay back & let the arms relax at your side…..

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Legs up the wall

For more comfort, place a blanket in a single fold (about 1 in thick) next to the wall. When you lay back it should be under your hips and low back but allow the shoulders to drape back.

For more height under the hips, (this makes it more like a full inversion)…. To begin, fold a thick blanket lengthwise and lay it next to the wall. It should be around six inches thick, about 10 inches wide, and long enough to prop up your hips in their entirety. (A yoga bolster works well too.) Place the blanket near a wall with the long edge running parallel to the baseboard, leaving a gap of just a few inches between the support and the wall. And then sit on the blanket, with the hip next to the wall and carefully roll back onto your shoulders as your legs go up. You have to decide how much is too much height. If it is uncomfortable for your back remove the extra height.

leg up 2

If your hamstrings are tight, scoot back from the wall a few inches and roll another blanket up and put it between the knees and the wall. Be careful not to be too far from the wall as you run the risk of hyper-extending the knees.

A few other tips to make this more comfortable, is to wear warm comfy socks, your feet will get cold. And drape a blanket across your body so you don’t get chilled. An eye pillow is a nice touch, but if you don’t have one take a hand towel and cover your eyes.

Stay in Legs up the Wall for as long as you are comfortable.
Start with about 5 mins and work up from there. I have been know to stay for up to 30 minutes.

The benefits of this pose are almost endless. I read some where many years ago that, Krishnamacharya the father of modern yoga, said that this pose was the most important for good health. All inversions are good for us, but not all of us should do the more strenuous versions such as head stand or shoulder stand. Viparita Karani is a wonderful pose for triggering the Relaxation response in the body. It is a deeply relaxing pose.  Just a few of the other benefits are:

  • Facilitates venous drainage and increases circulation
  • Eases menstrual cramps
  • Relieves swollen ankles and varicose veins
  • Restores tired feet or legs
  • Stretches the back of the neck and back of the legs
  • Provides migraine and headache relief,
  • Calms anxiety

So stop making ‘yoga at home’ so difficult, just do this one pose. Try it for a few minutes a day and let me know how you feel.

Om Shanti

Cheryl

DSC03662 BK

Svadisthana Chakra, the chalice of life

36416778 - chakra svadhisthana

I have had many requests for information about the chakra system over the years. I even based the theme of last falls Autumn Retreat on the chakras.

So, I thought that since I am hosting and leading a workshop next Saturday all about the pelvis & Pelvic floor that I would touch on some of the information I will be talking about related to the pelvic floor and the chakra system. Particularly the Sacral or second chakra.

The Svadisthana chakras special gift is allowing us to experience life through feelings and sensations. Svadisthana in Sanskrit means ‘ones own abode or seat’. Another Sanskrit translation has part of the word meaning ‘to take pleasure in’.

The second chakra is the very center of feelings and sensations, emotions, pleasure, sensuality, intimacy, and connection all come from this chakra. And since this chakra is also the center of creativity it helps you to create change and feel transformation within your body.

But there is a problem, we live in a world where feelings are not valued, where passion, and emotional reactions are frowned upon. We are taught not to lose control and encouraged to hide our emotions. And because of this we can get disconnected from our feelings and from our body. Disconnected from our very center.

And the center of the body is the pelvis. From this place we create life. Even if we don’t have children we still have this space within us that creates. From this place we move forward, we use our feelings, our intuition, to guide us through life’s many changes.

The sacral chakra is located in the lower abdomen near the coccyx or tailbone, between the sacrum and pubis. The chakra color of the second chakra is orange, vermillion, and its element is water.

Imbalances in the sacral chakra can lead to:

  • Emotional overreactions or Emotional detachment
  • Excessive neediness in relationships
  • Codependency
  • Muscle tension and abdominal cramps
  • Fear of happiness or pleasure,
  • Lack of creativity and authenticity
  • Low libido
  • Pessimism, depression
  • Pelvis area infections and illnesses

 A balanced chakra can help you be more emotionally and creatively balanced. You will be less likely to be affected by the highs and lows of relationships, life, career, creativity etc.

You will less fearful about expressing your sexuality or other emotional needs. A balanced second chakra will help free from the blockages of ego and control issues. Often, our creative pursuits or focus get driven away by our emotional impulses, anger, frustration etc. A balanced chakra makes the person more self-aware, and able to express their emotions through creative work.

Sacral Chakra Affirmations

  • I have healthy boundaries.
  • I have healthy relationships.
  • I am open to experiencing the present moment.
  • I am open to feeling pleasure and abundance.
  • I know how to take care of my needs.
  • I respect and love my body.
  • I allow myself to experience pleasure.
  • My emotions are balanced.

Yoga poses to open the second chakra

Hip openers are primary in helping energize the second chakra. Poses such as Baddha Konasana, wide angle forward fold, and happy baby pose, just to name a few.

 

DSC03662 BKBaddha Konasana

DSC03671 seated wff Wide Angle Forward Fold

DSC03732 happy babyHappy Baby

Try a few of these poses and let me know how they feel.

Om Shanti!

Cheryl

Breathing Breaks

breath1

Breathe easy……Take a breather……Take a breath ……Catching your breath

These are just a few of the different ways we express using breath to ‘take a break’. It’s in our lingo, part of our culture, and yet it’s something we rarely seem to do. Instead we ‘take a break’ by getting a cup of coffee or surfing facebook or Netflix on our pc…you know you do and your boss knows it too. We all need to take breaks from our work, even if we love what we do taking a break has many benefits ….

Better Circulation, increased muscle tone and flexibility

Sitting all day long can have a negative impact on the body, which is why it’s essential to get up and move at least once every hour. This increases blood flow improves muscle function, joint mobility and genuinely keeps you from feeling sluggish.

Boosts your Creativity

Get those creative juices flowing! Taking a break from the action allows you to recharge your mental batteries, improving the chances of coming up with that new genius idea.

Increased Productivity

Productive and engaged employees aren’t necessarily ones who work 80-hour weeks, it is usually someone who is engaged in the task at hand and productivity should be measured by the quality of the work.

Reduced Eye Strain

Taking just five minutes away from a computer screen is typically all you need to keep eye strain at bay, and it’s crucial to sustaining work for a long period of time.

Lower Stress Levels

Stress is one of the main things that causes burnout. To preserve your sanity, de-stress and improve the quality of whatever you are doing, you need to step back from the action. And remember it’s not goofing off,

it’s really about taking time to Refuel and recharge.

At the Cleveland Clinic they use yoga and modified traditional yoga breathing exercises as a way to help patients manage their pain and disease. Deep breathing is not only relaxing, it’s been scientifically proven to affect the heart, the brain, digestion, the immune system — and maybe even the expression of genes.

Dr. Mladen Golubic, a physician in the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine, says that breathing can have a profound impact on our physiology and our health. “You can influence asthma; you can influence chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; you can influence heart failure,” Golubic says. “There are studies that show that people who practice breathing exercises and have those conditions — they benefit.”  He’s talking about modern science, but these techniques are not new. In yoga, breath work is called pranayama and Yoga practitioners have used pranayama as a tool for affecting both the mind and body for thousands of years.

According to Psychology Today, breaks at work improve employee performances. Below is a list of breaks that may be effective during the work day (Fritz et al., 2011):

  • Meditation helps you detach from work thoughts by clearing your mind and focusing on relaxation.
  • Physical activity helps you increase blood flow to areas in the brain that are necessary for focus and attention.
  • Learning something new or playing a game will help you feel confident and boost motivation.
  • Setting a new goal and thinking about the future will help you see the bigger picture and re-evaluate life in a positive way.

Meditation, physical activity, learning something new, and setting a new goal can sound like a lot of different things you need to do to take that break, but the reality is you can do all these things by simply taking a ‘Breath Break’.

Instead of reaching for coffee to give you a boost, allow your breath to soothe your body, mind and spirit.

If you don’t have time to leave your desk here is a 2 min ‘Breathing break’ you can take to de-stress, invigorate the spine and enliven your brain…

Push your chair away from your desk, place your feet on the floor under your knees, sit near the front of the chair and lengthen your spine.

Now close your eyes and place your hands on your belly and begin to take long slow deep breaths. On each inhale lengthen a little more through the side and back body, while doing your best to keep the chest and shoulders relaxed. After about 5 or 6 breaths open your eyes and let the breath return to normal.

Then begin the deep, calm breaths again, this time taking your arms overhead on the inhale and bringing them down on the exhale, again about 5 or 6 times.

Then place the hands on your knees, inhale to lengthen the body and on the exhale ‘roll forward over your knees’ keeping the hands on your knees for support. Go as low as you are comfortable. Inhale as you bring your body up and exhale you roll forward. About 5 or 6 times.

You can do another round changing the dynamics if you like and if your back is strong enough….

On the Inhale raise your arms up and on the Exhale as you roll forward you release your arms out to the side (swan dive fashion) and towards the floor. If you need to support of your hands on your knees, please keep them there.

If you have more room and time, try the above sequence standing up…. Just adjust from sitting to standing in mountain pose for the first round of breathing, on the second round arms go overhead slowly as you inhale and slowly come down on the exhale. You can add a little bit of fun here, as you go up on your toes slowly raise your heels off the floor.

For the next round (keep the heels down) raise your arms up on the inhale and on the exhale, bend the knees and roll down towards the floor. And on the inhale bring your body back to standing.

Again 5 or 6 breaths for each round. And remember to smile and have fun.

Breathing is the original mantra and just a few minutes of deep breathing is easy, it is an act of self-care and it accelerates the benefits of the work break. And connecting movement with the breath enhances brain function and amplifies the benefits of your ‘Breath Break’.

I could be talked into a wee little video of the above mentioned breath breaks….Hummmm? Interested?

So try substituting the ‘coffee break’ for a ‘Breath Break’ do it every day for a week and let me know how you feel!

Namaste my lovelies 

Oh Shanti

Cheryl

For information regarding events, Classes, Reiki and workshops, please check out the FaceBook page for The Chattanooga Yoga Centre.