Category Archives: mindfulness

Yoga Teacher’s Quick Tip: Who did I adjust?

Parivritta Trikonasana AdjustmentI’ll be the first to admit that, hard as I try, my memory often fails me while teaching classes. There is a lot to think about and my mind tends toward entropy. Here are a few questions that frequently pop into my head while teaching:

  1. What is the next posture in this sequence?
  2. Did I cue the correct side?
  3. Last, but not least…Who did I adjust on the first side of this posture?

This post addresses #3. When I was first teaching, I used to wander around the room, assisting the people I deemed most in need of an adjustment. This resulted in me zig-zagging randomly around the room. When the time came to adjust the posture on the second side, I couldn’t remember who I had adjusted on the first side.

Here is a quick tip for remembering to adjust the same person on both sides. Break the room into sections (front right, back left, etc.) and stay in one section for a particular asana sequence. Within that section, move from person to person. Place yourself in that section for the second side and you’ll be surprised at how being in the right place at the right time will trigger your memory. Hope that helps bring more consistency to your adjusting.

Mindfulness over lattes

I recently stopped by a local coffee shop to grab a soy chai. It was a typical day, I was going through the motions. A woman ahead of me was attempting to order, without speaking. Yes, no speaking, only hand listening

She communicated her order fairly smoothly. It was apparent she was a regular. When handed her drink, she walked to the side to add her milk and sugar. That’s when things got loud. She was banging carafes around. Metal thumping on wood. Glass clanging against metal. The sounds were punctuating latté orders and chats between friends. Then it occurred to me, this woman was deaf. She was unaware of the cacophony of sounds. My next thought…how often do I, do we, hearing intact people do this? All the time. We clang, rush, close ourselves off, mindlessly going about our day.

The stark parallel between not being able to hear and not listening was made so strikingly clear to me in that short encounter. I think of this day, this woman, when I catch myself disconnected, preoccupied with my thoughts. She unknowingly, taught me a life lesson over lattes.

So, today I took a moment on this unusually warm Winter’s day just to sit outside on my deck. To feel the sun on my face. To hear the wind in the elm trees. To think of this woman with gratitude. Give yourself a moment today, as well, and let me know how it went. Namaste.

How to start a home yoga practice

Most of us start out on our yoga journey by taking group classes. This is a fantastic way to learn yoga. BalasanaYou will be in the hands of a trained professional who can teach safe alignment and keep you injury free. At some point, after you’ve absorbed the fundamentals, you might develop an interest in practicing yoga at home.

This is easier said than done. As hard as it may be to get yourself to a yoga class, once there you are mentally dedicated to staying. Barring illness or injury, it is unlikely you would ever get up and leave.

In contrast, the home environment is full of distractions that challenge our commitment to practice. Phones ring. People come and go. Kids and pets don’t understand the ‘Do Not Disturb’ edict you have laid out for them (I’m talking to you Seabiscuit).

I struggled for a long time to establish a home practice and I’d like to share a little about how I finally made it work.  Here are a list of common reasons your home practice is nonexistent, followed by my tips.

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Yoga: Are you a poser?

What would you think if I called you a poser? Isn’t everyone who practices yoga a poser? Or are we? I guess that Tree Posedepends on how you define poser. I’m thinking of it in 2 ways:

  1. a person who aligns their body into yoga poses
  2. a person who acts like something they aren’t

From my perspective, we all start out being both. Now you might be saying, wait just one minute missy, I love yoga. I’m no poser! Let me explain.

Can you remember when you first stepped on a yoga mat? For me, it was at Innerlight yoga studio in Newport, RI. It was 1996. This was a traumatically whirlwind year for me. I started a new job as a software engineer with IBM. I had recently moved to Rhode Island, having renovated a small cottage on the Sakonnet River with my husband. It was to be our dream home. It was also the year my husband died of leukemia. Looking back, I don’t know how I made it through that challenging year.

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Finding your yogic happy place

A student came up to me recently and said: “After today’s class, I thought, Yes! This is why I come to yoga.”  He was in his yogic happy place and attributed this to the class.  Acknowledging that this is not the case with every class, we mused for a minute or two about what might have been so special that day.  Was it something about his mindset? Was it the energy of the people in the room?  Was it an approach I took? I don’t think we will ever know for sure. The real take away is that every one of us has a yogic happy place an an internal GPS route leading to it.

The route is surprisingly direct, but there are lots of distractions along the way. Let’s call these distractions our sh#&. The anger about traffic, the thoughts of To-Do list items gone undone, feel free to insert your own list here. I can make it to my happy place only when I have left my sh#& at the studio door. My practice begins when I step across the threshold of the studio. My mat is a sacred space, a place of solace  Allowing things like worry and anger onto my mat guarantees a blemished practice. Better to leave these distractions at the door.  Yet, we all know it is not easy to separate ourselves from our sh#&, so I’ll offer one way to try.

First, get to class 5 minutes early. When you step into the studio or the practice room, visualize leaving your sh#& at the door.  Like a befriended stray dog, some of it will follow you.  Mindfully try leaving it again. Whatever still follows you might be important enough that you need to sit with it on your mat. Acknowledge this without getting sidetracked by a self-guided psychoanalysis session.

Gyan Mudra

gyan mudra

Next, sit comfortably on your mat with eyes closed or take a soft gaze. Place hands in gyan mudra (pads of index fingers and thumbs lightly touching, other 3 fingers extended). Gyan mudra is said to ensure mental peace, concentration and dissipate tension. Set an intention to have a great practice

Finally, inhale a sense of fullness and exhale anything you are holding onto that doesn’t enhance your practice. For some reason I keep seeing the instructions on my shampoo bottle.  Lather, rinse, repeat. Applying this to your practice, lather yourself with peaceful focus on the inhale breath. Rinse out negative feelings on the exhale. Repeat as needed – each time moving toward your happy place.

So, what happens when you recross the threshold on your way out?  I’ll bet that most, if not all, of what you left behind is gone.