Thursday, April 26, 2012
About six weeks and counting til retreat season kicks off...and LUXE Cowgirl Yoga is one of the first trips. Pre-retreat time is filled with anticipation...of meeting all the new Cowgirl Yoginis and sharing this healthy, high-energy adventure together. And LUXE CY just got a big, fat LUXE shout out in the May/June issue of Stamford Magazine, in their article on the 10 top luxurious solo trips. It lists exotic locales Italy, Spain, South Africa, Indonesia...and MONTANA is the only US mention, as "perhaps the only place where yeehaw and namaste intersect". Indeed.
If you're in the NY area, go grab it, hot off the press. And then reserve your spot - for a little extra incentive, we're offering 10% off our season "bookend" LUXE trips June 14-17 and September 27-30 - but ONLY TIL APRIL 30! which is next Monday. So giddy up and get on it, book online now. You know you want to. The original Cowgirl Yoga is here in Montana - accept no substitutes. Yeehaw & Namaste.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Practicing yoga chez vous sounds like an awesome idea, but it can present unique challenges. When you go to a studio class, you pretty much feel obligated to stick it out, almost no matter what: you made the time and effort to get there, you paid the $, your family/pets are not there to distract you, etc. At home, if the phone rings, you just might be tempted to leave your mat and answer it. And then not come back.
So how to create a home practice that has staying power? I've been doing this for years, with reasonable success, so I thought I would share some of my tips and techniques. I will say that I have mixed feelings about complete beginners trying this at home, without a few good solid yoga classes under their belts...do yourself a favor and invest in a few classes to get a foundation in the basics. Then your home practice can blossom from those carefully planted seeds.
My favorite at-home yoga - the Sun Salutation. And don't tell me you can't remember it on your own. Because you can, and it's great work for your mind-body connection to memorize it. If you have this sequence ingrained in your memory - and it comes from within vs. without, with someone always leading you through it - you'll notice how effortlessly it will flow for you, even on low-energy days. This is the cornerstone of my yoga practice. 3 As, 2 Bs. Or any combination thereof, up to 5 of each. More help with Surya Namaskar here.
Any at-home yoga is a good thing. So, you might not get your 90 minutes of sweaty yoga flow on, but even one pose has potential. Don't be intimidated by being alone or without a teacher. Choose a few poses you remember from classes that you know you like or want to work on (after warming up with Sun Salutations), check out all the yoga tutorials online (choose from many of mine on the Athleta Chi), or get on iTunes and try a podcast. There are many podcasts out there, so you have to explore a bit to find a good fit. My current favorites are by a Jivamukti teacher named Jessica Stickler, and by a Baptiste Power studio called Three Dog Yoga (note that these are not really for beginners).
Dedicate space. You don't have to have an official at-home yoga studio, although it's certainly nice - I myself finally took the plunge (my studio space is pictured above), after years of rolling out my mat in the middle of the living room. All you have to do is clear an area that is somewhat removed from potential distractions. Approach with this determined attitude: if you can’t find it, make it. Set the intention to dedicate a small area to your well-being, because you deserve it. It may take some time and effort, but eventually family members, pets, perhaps even inanimate objects will respect this space. Create a small “altar”, where you can place objects that you like and that inspire you: your journal, flowers, photos, books, candles. Find out more about creating an at-home sanctuary here.
Invest in a few yoga props. Truly, all you need is a yoga mat...but the addition of a block, blanket and strap can open up new worlds in your at-home yoga practice. And they've become so ubiquitous that you can get them at the grocery store, and if not there, Target. And if not there, google yoga props and order them online.
Go ahead - try some yoga at hOme. Namaste.
Thursday, April 12, 2012
This is my 6 year old, in our new at-home yoga studio before we did some mom-daughter partner yoga. I have no idea what she is doing (pretty sure she is not bowing down to my lotus feet), but it's bliss, isn't it?
There are something like eighteen billion cells in the brain alone. There are no two brains alike; there are no two hands alike; there are no two human beings alike. You can take your guidance and instruction from others, but you must find your own path.
- Joseph Campbell, from Pathways to Bliss
Friday, April 6, 2012
Let's shift out of yoga musings into a little Friday frivolity...inspired by fashion, and - a new, après-yoga shoe. While I am simultaneously attracted to and skeptical of an après-yoga shoe (I mean, aren't any shoes après-yoga?), I'm impressed with the company Ahnu, so I decided to give the Karmas a whirl...because this active slip on offers style and comfort without compromising any aspect of yoga-chic. And because the last thing I need is to have my yoga-chicness compromised.
And...I adore them. It's a seamless transition to slip them off for yoga class, practice barefoot, and then slip them back on après-yoga. They are as light and airy as a shoe can be (read: they don't make my feet sweat). They look good. And although I thought I was taking a chance on the plum color, I'm finding that it goes with almost everything. Plum is the new black for spring.
I've already admitted to being highly brand-aware, so I always do a little poking around company philosophy. It's one thing to use "balance" as a marketing buzzword, but quite another to name your company after the Celtic goddess that embodies the balance between well-being and prosperity. Very nice. From their website: The choice is both deliberate and appropriate, as we balance work and play, as well as business goals with social and environmental responsibility. Read about how Ahnu gives back on their webpage titled Greater Good.
So I say, if you're looking to en-lighten up with a dash of yoga-chic, and support a company that holds do-gooding dear, grab a pair of Ahnu Karmas. I had to try them in a few yoga poses too. Happy Friday!
Thursday, April 5, 2012
I had lunch with a friend yesterday, who like me, has spent the last 10 years+ in the yoga biz. We had a very interesting conversation about the topic what is yoga today? Some of it wonderful, some of it downright scary. Many people have benefited from the popularity of yoga, but there's been a darker side to that as well...what with the recent yoga scandals, the super studios, the thousands of us running around clad in expensive yoga togs. Have we lost touch with the essence of yoga, and gotten caught up in all the trappings?
A few weeks ago in a major metropolitan city, I attended a yoga class at a very popular studio that will remain unnamed. As you may know, I adore good marketing and I'll be honest, a slick brand - but I found myself slightly amused by the well-oiled machine experience that this studio was churning out. There was nothing quirky about this place - everything was über polished and calculated. The teacher was excellent - but it all seemed a bit contrived, as if she was reading from a super script. And then she said something that stuck with me: "As we move through these exercises - I mean, asanas..." Well, that just about said it all. It was an exercise class, with a very slick yoga finish.
Yesterday's lunch discussion got me thinking about what yoga means to me (sounds like an essay assignment for a yoga teacher training, right?). Because I am one of those many, many people who will utter the now-clichéd "yoga changed my life". But what does that really mean, boil down to...? Here's what I came up with: 1. connection, to myself and others. I think I captured that best in words in something I wrote for lifebyme.com. 2. authenticity. Is there something authentic about your yoga experience, or is it just exercise and going through the motions?
Re. #2. I think it's fairly common for people to come to yoga first for the exercise. And usually, that will shift and they will become more interested in the more esoteric reasons as to why this makes them feel so good. Patanjali's Yoga Sutra 1.2 - yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind - is a great place to start exploring the authenticity behind this experience. I wrote more about that moment when the esoteric suddenly makes sense on the Athleta Chi.
Next time you unroll your yoga mat, I encourage you to let yoga help you write your story...don't go by what's in someone else's book. Make it authentic, and make connections. Namaste.
Monday, April 2, 2012
I took an Ashtanga workshop this past weekend, to refresh my yoga roots (Jivamukti and Ashtanga were my first yoga loves. More on where I came from and where I'm at now with Ashtanga here). It was a wonderful reminder of some of the life lessons I've learned from this practice. I may be a casual Ashtangi these days, but these are lessons that affect my well-being on a daily basis, and for which I am grateful.
- Breathe, baby, breathe. In my Ashtanga heyday (I dug up a picture from those days, of me in padangustasana), I cultivated ujjayi breath and imitated Darth Vadar with the best of them. Although I did my best to maintain that breath focus throughout practice, I probably never got more points for consistency as I did during childbirth. Breath focus is a big part of what got me through 30+ hours of unmedicated labor...not to mention innumerable other episodes of physical and mental challenges. I'm a believer that breath can get you through almost anything.
- "You can get hurt doing Ashtanga" - but you certainly don't have to. The benefits outweigh the risk. And you can also get hurt sitting on your ass all day, when your muscles are too weak to support your skeleton. And as with anything else, a good teacher is essential to help you recognize and respect the difference between discomfort and pain. So don't buy into that myth, because...
- Ashtanga yoga is for almost everyone. As Pattabhi Jois, the father of Ashtanga yoga put it: anyone can practice, except for lazy people. There are plenty of people who practice Ashtanga that will never do the full primary series. The sequence is so beautifully designed that even if you only do parts of it, it will make you stronger than you ever imagined. So if you haven't already, I highly recommend trying an intro class.