I DON’T REALLY HATE THE WORLD AND SEVERAL OTHER REASONS I NEED TO MEDITATE DAILY

The following article was published on  oregonsportsnews.com on 3 June 2013.

 

Yoga

There’s a saying in yoga that “the pose begins when you want to leave it.”

As a yogi, I’m supposed to be patient in order to achieve the ultimate benefits of my practice. Conversely, “supposed to” isn’t in the yogic dictionary and what can I say? I’m flawed.

Patience is something I’ve been working on for years, but what I believe is more necessary for yoga practice and can help in numerous facets of day to day life is meditation.

Life can be hard. People can suck. Sometimes, the two can merge so conveniently that you may just want to call it a day and flee to a jungle island in Thailand.

Maybe that’s not really an option, but the truth is, we all have struggles and we all need a way to decompress.

While meditation may sound like a daunting practice to some, it can take on many different forms, immediately showing positive and powerful effects on the body and mind.

Guided, silent meditation is one of the forms I practice. I began silently meditating at the same time I started my asana practice. I decided to focus my practice by recognizing abundance in my life and by practicing compassion. I meditated on these words by Deepak Chopra: the more you give, the more you receive.

This had a profound impact on my day to day. I was a full-time kindergarten teacher living abroad, applying for graduate school, and studying for the GRE. I exercised every morning, attended yoga class nightly, and kept up with an active social life. I was extremely busy, productive, but most of all, I was happy.

Meditation proved to me that life can be beautiful. People can be amazing. Sometimes, the two can merge so elegantly that you want to love the world and everything in it, rather than focusing on its flaws.

Sounds nice, right? So how does one reach such Zen?

I mentioned that silent meditation is not the only kind of meditation. I’m taking the liberty here of calling anything that calms and clears your mind “meditation.” Running is one of my favorite forms, as is practicing yoga with music.

Whether you find calm through cardio, weight lifting, playing sports, or sitting silently, discover your meditation and use it to your advantage. It’s a tool to improve your life – both inside and out – which you will never regret.

Om shanti and namaste.

Ready to get started? Check out these events in the Portland area:

Portland’s Living Yoga is a non-profit which brings the practice of yoga and meditation to “prisons, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, and populations that would otherwise not have it” (http://living-yoga.org).

Living Yoga’s annual Yogathon has asked new and seasoned yogis alike to fundraise through their own practice to benefit their community. The event began in April, but you can still join in on their closing celebration on Saturday, June 1st at Ecotrust in the Pearl (living-yoga.org).

Not quite ready to make the leap into yoga this weekend? Think ahead to July 13th when the annual Yoga Rocks the Park comes to Portland. Every Saturday until September 14th, Laurelhurst Park will be filled with music, world renowned yoga teachers, yoga for kids, demos, vendors, and a great community to let go and feel a bit more shanti with. Tickets can be bought in advance from yogarocksthepark.com or at the door.

THE POWER OF PRANAYAMA – BREATHING TO FIND CALM WITHIN THE CHAOS

The following article was published on oregonsportsnews.com on 24 May, 2013.

image

Whether you’re new to yoga or you’ve practiced for years, you may notice that your mental state can easily affect your physical performance. Good thing for us yogis, though. It’s our belief that our practice can train our mental state and vice versa. The two can work together to create a balance. Asanas, or yoga poses, are designed to keep the body functioning to their best ability. They’re designed to both physically and mentally prepare us for the more difficult challenges of the mind.

After an intense and surreal month of hot, sweaty asanas, lectures about Kundalini energy and chakras, spiders as big as my face, and geckos crawling above my head on a jungle island in Thailand, I completed my Yoga Teacher’s Training. I became a certified yoga instructor with a plan: I was going to live in the northwest. I moved to Portland to become a yoga teacher. It was a leap of faith, a commitment I wholeheartedly believed in.
I’m now once again on an airplane. This is my ninth flight in just over a month. I’m headed back home to Colorado.
Sometimes life doesn’t go as planned; however, I hold strong to one of the valuable lessons from my teachers in Thailand: everything happens for a reason. My weeks in Oregon were spent preparing and memorizing yoga flows, attending auditions across the city, applying for more jobs, and finding myself constantly disappointed. It was a stressful three weeks, but yoga helped me keep my cool.
A difficult day at work, some off-putting words from a friend, or even getting sick is enough to throw the best of us off in trikonasana or Warrior 2. It doesn’t take a major life transition to fall off balance.
While it may be trickier to balance in a pose if you’re feeling mentally lopsided, finding stillness can calm both the body and mind. While mental clarity was hard for me to find on Indeed.com, finding balance in a pose follows the same protocol no matter what kind of battle one is fighting. Pranayama and meditation are key.
Pranayama techniques are a way to control the breath. They will not only help to focus breathing patterns, but will slow the heart rate and blood pressure, positively affect metabolic and nervous system function, and will help to calm the mind. The first step of any pranayama technique is to remember to inhale and exhale through the nose. The Ujjayi breath is a technique that can be used by anyone at any time.
Ujjayi breath
Ujjayi breathing is a technique which constricts the glottis muscle in the back of the throat. This may make you sound like you’ve turned into Darth Vader when you breath, but don’t worry, that’s totally normal.
With a long and straight spine, inhale slowly through the nose, expanding the ribcage and belly. Hold for several comfortable counts, then slowly exhale through the nose, drawing the ribcage in and tightening the core.
Close your eyes and count your breaths, trying to lengthen the count of your inhales to even those of your exhales. Got that? Now try to double the length of your exhales.
Give Ujjayi a try. Play around with your technique. Stop thinking and focus solely on your inhales and exhales.
Pranayama is an essential aspect of yoga. If you’re struggling to find balance within a pose or otherwise, remember the simplistic beauty of yoga: it’s simply about being. And what’s more vital to being than breathing?
Breathe on, beautiful people. Namaste.

DON’T THINK YOU CAN DO YOGA? THINK AGAIN.

The following article was published on  oregonsportsnews.com on May 16, 2013.
 
 

 

 

Yoga

I’m in love with yoga. I’ll admit it, I’m biased. I adore standing on my head. I have a complete crush on backbends. I tend to stand in tree pose and at any given moment, you can find me sitting in the lotus position or attempting bakasana. Adho mukha svanasana? Don’t mind if I do. Vrschikasana has been my own personal challenge pose since January. Confused yet? Oh, well you must be new to yoga. Welcome!

The physical and mental benefits of yoga are numerous and can be life-changing. I’m not going to try to convince you of those, however; not yet, at least. The first step to believing is trying it yourself. If you’re one of the many who claim to “not be able to do yoga” but find yourself in a yoga class, the following five tips may help your yoga experience to be a little less stress and a touch more Zen.

Breathe.

Don’t hold your breath. You’ll only make things harder on yourself. Remember to breathe!

Stop thinking.

Once you stop telling yourself you can’t do it and just allow your body to be in the pose, you’ll benefit from it most. Yoga is about being. It’s that simple. Let go, have fun, and take a moment to find calm within the chaos of the everyday.

You don’t have to be the most flexible person in the room, and you don’t have to compete with the person who is.

One reason people choose not to do yoga is because they don’t feel flexible enough. You have to start somewhere, though, so why not forward bend into uttanasana and start stretching those hamstrings? Flexibility doesn’t come from sitting still. It doesn’t come from comparing yourself to the super bendy girl on the mat next to you either.

Yoga is self-practice. Yogis attend class for many reasons, but competition usually isn’t one of them.

You can’t touch your toes? Oh well, maybe one day you’ll be able to. Lost your balance and fell out of a pose? It’s okay. Laugh it off. We all fall. One of the best things about yoga is that it’s okay not to be the best, as long as you’re putting forth your utmost effort.

When the teacher corrects you – and he or she probably will – embrace it.

Your yoga teacher is not correcting you to make you feel bad. Yoga teachers love their art and they want you to achieve the greatest possible benefit from your practice. That might mean relaxing your shoulders, bending your knees, or simply moving your fingers a centimeter to the left. Tame that ego and squat a little deeper, feel the burn and get the most out of your practice. Teachers are there to remind us to breathe and to guide us.

No one is judging you.

One of the many excuses I’ve heard from people avoiding yoga is that they’re not good at it; they think everyone else in class is watching them and judging. Stop right there! I’m going to sound like your mother right now, but I’m okay with that. No one is judging you but yourself, and I’m completely serious. Anyone else who is new to class is worried about the exact same thing and any experienced yogi is too tuned into their own practice to pay attention to you. So stop worrying and if anyone is watching you, who cares? It’s just yoga. If all else fails, just remember tips one and two. Inhale, exhale, repeat. Namaste.