Yoga in the Workplace

If you work a high paced 9-5, there will be times when you are tired, running too many directions, feeling scattered and stressed.  During these times, many of us find time for a coffee break.  This often contains or is combined with high sugar, which is an energetic recipe for disaster.  This is a roller coaster that can lead to exhaustion.   

As an alternative, try incorporating a yoga or meditation break into your day.  I literally go into the room that houses our computer equipment and take a few poses when I'm feeling out of balance.  Here are a few ideas to try.

1.  Breath meditation for anger

If you have a coworker who is having an angry moment, it can be easy to meet anger with anger.  A quick 5 minute breath centered meditation can be the perfect cure.  Instead of building on someone else's negative energy, finding a grounded center will benefit yourself & those around you.

2.  Inversions for a tired, dragging feeling

Ever notice how a well placed inversion like handstand, headstand, or legs up the wall can change your whole mood?  It works when you're outside of yoga class too!  You may have to be creative to find a space, but I find that a large storage room works perfectly.

 3. Gentle backbends for tight shoulders

If you have a job that involves a computer or driving, chances are that you'll notice rounded shoulders.  Gentle backbends or seated cat/cow pose are a great remedy.  They can open the front of the body, move the shoulders back, and release tension in the spine.

These are just a few ideas that I have used in my personal life.  Do you have a need for an additional yogic cure to workplace imbalance?  Maybe you have a favorite solution that you'd like to share in the comments section.  I'd love to hear from you!  


Namaste,

Beth


Dealing with the Unexpected

Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured
— B.K.S. Iyengar

The unexpected isn't always avoidable, but a regular yoga practice will help you deal with it.  You'll become less reactionary, connect with yourself, and live in the present moment.  This can result in an improved experience for yourself, and those around you. 

While traveling earlier this month, our first flight was delayed and we missed our connecting flight.  The seasoned airline employee was less than sympathetic to put it mildly.  The 6 travelers who missed the flight were assigned alternate travel arrangements.  Arriving at the gate just 2 minutes earlier would have saved us 2.5 hours, and we were all feeling unhappy about our situation.  A few simple questions can demonstrate how to handle the situation yogically.

Question #1 - Can this be cured?

Answer #1 - Nope, the attendant at the gate did not have the authority to open the door and let us take the flight.

Question #2 - How can this be endured?

Answer #2 - A meal did wonders for our moods.  We found our new gate, then my husband and son played a game while I set out to explore the airport.

I was delighted to discover an airport yoga studio.  It was a simple space, decorated with plants and silhouettes of yoga poses.  It was located just off a quiet hallway between terminals.  There were yoga videos to stream, mats to borrow, a privacy screen, and a logbook to sign.  Airport yoga studios have been reported at San Francisco International Airport, Burlington International Airport, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Albuquerque International Sunport,  Raleigh-Durham International Airport, and Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.  I highly recommend using these spaces while you are traveling.  It can make a flight much more enjoyable, and healthier too!  If you have experienced others, please comment in the section following this post.

Upon completion of our final flight, we were once again delayed, and folks around me were frantically attempting to position themselves to quickly exit the airplane.  My family and I were waiting for them to pass, and you could feel the nervous tension building in the air.  Imagine my surprise when a woman across the aisle suggested that we chant Om as a remedy to the situation.  Instead of participating in the anxiety, I was able to have a very nice conversation with this California Yogi while we allowed others to go first.  The things that I would have missed by getting caught up in the nervous tension.  Talk about finding a way to endure!  

In yoga, we practice maintaining our breath and focus in difficult situations and poses.  We practice turning inward instead of comparing ourselves to others.   This helps teach us to deal with our daily lives, and acts as a shock absorber for the little bumps that come along the way. It leads to a lower stress, more enjoyable life experience.  

Next time you're dealing with the unexpected, ask can this be cured, and how can this be endured?

Namaste - Beth

 

Yoga Away from Home

If you're like me, consistency in your practice is a vital part of overall well being.  Maintaining a practice while I'm away from home helps me stay grounded and centered.  Here are a few ways that you can keep up with your practice.

1.  Explore a new studio while you're on vacation.  This year I've visited Crossroads Yoga in Corpus Christi, TX, Fine Spirit in Ithaca, NY, and The Yoga School  in Ithaca, NY.  I've introduced 2 people to the practice of yoga while enjoying a variety of styles and fresh sequencing.

2. Study using an online resource, such as Yogaglo, Youtube, or Yoga Journal.  A computer and an internet connection is all you'll need.

3.  Set up your mat & do your own flow.  Start with sun salutations or work on something that you've been studying during your regular practice.  

4.  Take a break from asana (poses) and take time for meditation and reading instead.     

5.  Consider a yoga trip.  I've recently attended Yoga Journal Conferences and the Finger Lakes Yoga Festival.

6. Enjoy new practice space outdoors.  Classes are often offered on the beach, on standup paddleboards, or at local parks.   

Take some time to connect with yourself while you're away and put something fresh into your practice.


Namaste - Beth 

Intentions and Real Change

Several yoga classes begin with a meditation, or setting of an intention.  This is a great time to bring focus to the question of you want/need from the day's practice.  You may want to consider setting an intention on a daily, weekly, monthly basis or longer.  

It takes practice to turn inward and discover what you truly want or need.  Many of us were brought up to do as we were told.  Sports were based on performance, and winning was the primary goal.  The feeding of the spirit may have been a rare or completely void aspect of our everyday lives.  

The practice of intention is well worth the investment.  In January of 2014, I set my intention for the upcoming year.  I asked myself who I wanted to be, and how I could make my life better.  I decided that the wall I had built around my heart must come down.  I had been able to do the work at my local yoga studio, but returned to my old habits during the rest of my life.  The journey has been incredible and life changing.  I have made connections with family, made new friends, and began recording my thoughts in this blog.  I am more available for others now that I am more connected to myself.

All of this work on intentions and heart opening has allowed me to come to a simple conclusion that really shocked me.  Maybe I could open up and ask for what I want in other situations.  I thought of a situation that was far from ideal, and asked myself what my dream outcome would be.  When I contacted the other parties involved, the final solution worked out better than the one that I proposed.  This is so simple, but was also very profound.  Imagine asking for what I wanted - shocking!  I was able to use my energy to maintain connections with others, rather than using my resources in maintaining the wall around my heart.

Call it an intention, a dream, or a resolution.  You can set goals that leads to emotional and personal growth.  When you do this work, it improves all of your personal and professional interactions.    

To get started, you need to reflect during some quiet time to yourself.  You may prefer a daily walk in nature, prayer, meditation, yoga asana (postures), or a combination of a few of these things.  Here are some steps to help you begin to find and work toward your intention.  

1.  As you begin, ask yourself what changes you'd like to see, and begin to visualize that change in your life.  

2.  Notice if there is any physical tension that is connected with that emotion or change.  Breathe deeply and try to soften that tension.  

3.  When you find that feeling or situation arising in your everyday life, return to your breath and the softness.  Remind yourself of the change that you want to make.

4.  When you feel that change becoming habit, ask how you could expand it to create a better world.      

You do not have to be satisfied with, "that's just the way that I am".  You have the power to set an intention, make a change, create better thoughts and a better life.  It will improve things for those around you as well!  Change your inner dialog, change your physical response, and you can change the world!

Live your yoga every day - Beth

Yoga in the Media

This ad from Yoga Reebok wants us to work harder.  "There are two ways to do things, the hard way or the easy way...it takes grit, sweat, resolve."  Check out the expression on the face of the model at the end of her yoga session (not the usual post yoga buzz I'm going for in my classes).  Reebok obviously wants to portray the fierce determination of a great competitor.  My biggest problem with this idea is that yoga IS NOT a competition.

That is not to say that you won't work hard in yoga classes, it's just that the size or complexity of the poses isn't the goal of yoga.  Some may easily accomplish a beautiful physical practice such as this, but it is not necessary.  A yogi can find calm while remaining determined in movement (or stillness).  A yogi can appreciate the subtle aspects of poses, making them seemingly new every day.  

I've lived "grit, sweat, and resolve", but currently, my yoga is teaching me to work smarter as well as working hard.  My yoga is teaching me to look inward and love myself.  Because of that, I've begun to ask for the things that I really want when I'm off the mat.  This has taken a great deal of work on my part!  

Yoga is life changing.  I've lived and loved the "work harder" phase of my practice, but you can miss something sweet if you just go for the "grit, sweat, and resolve".  Work smarter, find rest, work with focus, practice attention to detail, and find peace and stillness.  Yoga is an amazing mind-body connection, and not just beautiful poses.  

Students work in my classes, but I hope there is more.  I want my students to leave feeling amazing and finding a new connection with themselves.

Live, love and practice yoga!

Beth

Support in Yoga and Life

"I do it myself!"  Most children utter this phrase starting at a very early age.  A little later, there is generally a stage when Mom & Dad don't know anything.  Such striving for independence is vital for survival in our culture, and is a necessary evil.

When we get older, we generally learn how much support our parents or caregivers actually gave us.  Without support, it is much more difficult to open ourselves to new experiences. 

Yogis can often behave the same way.  Our vision gets clouded, and we think being able to "do it myself", without the support of a prop (a block, strap,  chair, blanket, the Yoga Wall, Aerial silks, or even our beloved mat), is somehow more valuable.  Sometimes, even if you can do the pose without a prop, a prop can be a huge benefit.      

Here are a few ways that props can be helpful:

1.  They allow the experience of poses that were previously unaccessible.

2.  They help us find the balance between the sthira and sukha (steadiness and ease).

3.  They allow us to have new experiences in familiar poses.

4.  They allow us to experience the benefits of poses for a greater period of time.

5.  They teach us how to engage our lesser used muscles.

6.  They teach us to stretch our less flexible muscles.

7.  They make inversions and balancing poses more accessible.

 

OK, so yoga props can be great tools for everyone,  now what?  We take our yoga back our everyday lives!  Look for a way that you can or BE THE PROP for someone else.  Supporting someone else will bring joy to both of you.  

Be OK with accepting support.  Sometimes when we are able to soften, listen, and accept help, we are able to reach new places on and off the yoga mat.  Your non yoga prop may be a person, tool, discussion group, religious group, or anything else.  Whatever it is, maybe you've been resistant to the prop that is the very thing that will facilitate a new experience or skill.  Using a prop is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of mental strength, and awareness.  

Go into the rest of your day.  Realize that support is a wonderful thing!  Analyze your needs for props on and off the mat, and search for a way that you can be the prop for someone else.

Namaste - Beth 

Also, enjoy this short video of Dr. Geeta S. Iyengar speaking about the Yoga Rope Wall. 

Action

Action is movement with intelligence. The world is filled with movement, What the world needs is more conscious movement, more action.
— BKS Iyengar, Light on Life

How often do you go into autopilot in your daily life?  How often do you take your daily commute, interact with people (including your family), do your daily work, and fail to see the details, satisfied to simply react?  Have you caught yourself saying things like, "that's just how I am, I can't help it".  If so, you are fooling yourself.  We all have the ability to take more action and less reaction if we make the effort. 

A yoga mat is a great place to sort out the difference between action and reaction.  If you haven't tried yoga, try different styles with a variety of teachers.  It sometimes takes effort to find something that feels right.  If you're already a yogi, do you habitually move through sun salutations without even remembering that you have feet?  Are you working to breathe with consciousness?  When you catch yourself thinking about the person on the mat next to you, do you loose the action in your legs?  If so, I assure you that you're not alone, but this constant work is part of what separates yoga from simple stretching.

In addition to taking action in yoga practice,  begin to live consciously on a daily basis.  I was recently at a site overlooking a beautiful waterfall.  I spent some time looking at the falls, and then took a few yoga postures.  My friend is a photographer, and captured the scene with his camera.  Upon looking at the photos, I was amazed that I had missed the heart shape that is formed by the canyon.  I have been to this site a number of times, and have never really looked with enough consciousness to see it.  There is beauty and inspiration everywhere and in everyone when we take the time to notice.  

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  I am on a quest to take more action on and off the mat.  I strive for more intelligent movement and less reaction.  Old patterns can be difficult to break, and I am far from perfect in this endeavour.  By living with increased awareness, I begin to enjoy more happiness when I see the beauty in myself, others, and my surroundings.

When deciding to take action and live and move more consciously, it helps to come up with a plan.  Yoga does help, but so do a number of other efforts.  Some ideas are separating from your electronics, capturing your observations with a camera, or journaling.  Decide what methods appeal to you, and employ them.  It takes practice, but taking action, moving and living consciously, will help us connect with the beauty of ourselves and the life and surroundings that we see every day.

 

Namaste - Beth 

Yoga dependency?

While discussing dependency with a coworker,  I stated that I don't want to be dependent on anything, coffee, alcohol, etc.  She challenged me with "you practice yoga every day, so you're dependent on that".  I guess I am, but I have  been pondering the statement since our conversation.

Can one be dependent on yoga?  Well, to some extent, my answer is yes.  I am also dependent on water, food, air and sleep.  Most days I do hit the mat for at least 20 minutes.  Sometimes I'm lucky, and I take an all day yoga workshop.  On the days when I'm not in physical practice, I attempt to maintain a yogic outlook during my daily activities.  Yoga helps me connect with who I am, and I love seeing that yogic bliss after a student has had a particularly good practice.  Sharing that moment is my reason for teaching yoga.  

Yoga offers substantial benefits to the practitioner.  Call it dependent, or call it being a yogi.  Yoga offers numerous benefits.  My students and I have experienced many benefits including, but not limited to increased strength, increased flexibility, improved sleep, decreased pain, decreased anxiety, stress management, improved balance, improved posture, decreased anger, decreased fear, and decreased visits to the chiropractor.  Who wouldn't want to be dependent on something with that many benefits?  

Yoga classes are generally very nurturing environments.  The goal is to learn to meet yourself where you are right now.  There is no competing with others, and no pose that you have to reach.  Yoga can challenge you, or bring you to relaxation and restoration.  Often times, both are experienced in the same class.  If you're not a regular yoga practitioner, find an experienced teacher & start feeling the rewards for yourself.

 

Namaste - Beth

YOGA, MORE THAN PHYSICAL PRACTICE

Yoga's root word means union, or yolking.  When you join the mind, body, and breath, a profound sense of ease and joy can be accessed.  That connection and feeling is what separates the practice of asana (yoga poses) from calisthenics.  As a former distance runner and recreational cyclist, I have noticed similar experiences during those activities.  After the first 2 miles or so, I was always able to connect the patterns of my breath and cadence, and experience an easy, grounded sense of calm.  It was not unlike the feeling that I get during meditation, or yoga practice.

 As a yoga instructor, I find great joy and peace while helping students find that experience.  I am becoming increasingly aware that there are many ways for people to make that connection.  For years, my mother has heard me speaking of my experiences during yoga class, and frequently states, "it's kinda like when I'm quilting".  I'd usually listen respectfully, but I was completely disconnected from her thought process.  Recently, I have observed many true artists, such as the chef, photographer, musician, and painter.  Very much like yogis, these people keenly tune their senses to the task at hand.  What I mean is, that focused ease that is what separates yoga from physical exercise.     

Much like the artist or athlete who is in the zone, the yogi is able to turn inward, and the need to compete with the yogi on the next mat ceases.  As we practice, we begin to carry that grounded, serene feeling into the rest of our lives.  That, is the magic of yoga, and why I practice continually, on and off the mat.


Photo credit Jeromy Dobson

Photo credit Jeromy Dobson

Namaste - Beth 


Atha Yoganusasanam (also known as the what & why of my tattoo)

This is the first of the Yoga Sutras (which is the yoga text written by Patanjali).  Broken down in plain English, it means now begins the study of yoga.  At first glance, the statement simply states here is the information on yoga.  Like many yogis, I tend to look into this statement a little deeper.  So much so, that I got the sanskrit phrase as a tattoo on my arm.

Atha, or now.  To me, this means constant practice, not just when you're on the mat.  Think of the cell phone commercials, but instead of "can you hear me now", think "are you practicing now".  Try to stay in a consistent mindset.  One way of putting this into practice is by not judging yourself (or anyone else) when things don't go as planned.  The practice is now - in the present.

Yoga means union.  So, yoga is a lot more than just bending your body in strange shapes.  That union may be that of your mind and body, your breath and spirit, your connection with other beings or a higher power, or all of the above.  The interpretation can be up to you on this one.

What do I mean with all of this?  Simply take your yoga practice and make it a part of your whole life.  Live the yoga, regardless of what is happening in your physical practice at the moment.  Be a yogi 24 hours a day, not just during your time on the mat.


Namaste - Beth