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Holiday Challenge: Practicing Self-Care

The holiday season is upon us – start preparing your body and mind for the craziness of over-eating and mall madness shopping!

Research shows that the best way to defend ourselves from burnout and fatigue is strategic self-care – every day activities and commitments that allow you to relax, rest, and restore your body, mind, and soul. Your yoga and meditation practice, along with thoughtful healthy nutrition, is a key component of quality self-care.

Think of it as putting on your own oxygen mask before helping others. Just imagine: With each Holiday Challenge sticker added, you fend off holiday stress, mall madness, and soon, those chilly December doldrums. All the while, you become stronger and more compassionate for family, friends, and loved ones.

Don’t leave yourself unarmed! Visit the studio for a toasty warm practice and an extra dose of strength and serenity to carry you through the holiday season.

See ya on the mat!

December Pose of the Month: Seated Meditation


Even for many practiced yogis, sitting silently in meditation can be overwhelming, intimidating, and… well, just plain hard! We are so used to doing in order to achieve the goals we want for ourselves that “just sitting” can seem counter productive and, quite frankly, a waste a time. On the contrary, the benefits of a regular meditation practice are sung far and wide by not only yogis, but doctors, psychologists, and scientists as well. Studies show that as little as five minutes of meditation a day can lead to physical and chemical changes in the brain associated with relaxation and positive mood. It slows emotional reaction time and decreases stress, fear, and anger. Meditation also measurably decreases blood pressure and blood sugar levels, lowering your risk of heart disease, and bolsters the immune system.

So what exactly is meditation and how do you do it? Meditation is simply sitting in quiet awareness of your mind and body without reaction or distraction. In order to focus your attention, you may choose to repeat a mantra, count your slow and purposeful breaths, or bring your attention to a particular point in your body. When outside thoughts intrude on your zen, avoid getting carried away by them, or getting frustrated at their presence. Simply acknowledge them (“oh hi, Thought… see you later, k?”) and return to your focus. Like our yoga practice, it is a practice that takes time to develop. Some days you will feel more successful than others – just keep practicing! Over time, you will experience fewer distractions. More importantly, you will begin to notice that you are able to focus longer, be more aware of your surroundings, and slow the speed at which you give in to stress, anger, or other reactive emotions in your daily life.

During the month of December, your YogaSport instructors will guide you into some helpful exercises to get you started and then allow a few minutes of space for you to get your meditation on. With a little practice, you’ll be totally zen just in time for the holidays!

Being Present On and Off The Mat

By YS Assistant, Twyla McCarthy

Many if not all of us have had one of those days. As much as we plan ahead, the universe seems to have a different plan. Take for example, one of those days that are perfectly scheduled to a tee. The lunch is packed, and appointments are made. When you look at your calendar, you just hope to be able to pull it off. There are appointments booked back to back all day, an interview, and yoga classes to teach.

Of course obstacles come up such as a nail in your tire, or a rescheduled interview. When these kinds of situations arise during a perfectly scheduled day it’s really challenging not to get extremely agitated and panicked. What is important to remember when these situations arise is to stay present.

Baron Baptiste talks about presence in his book, 40 Days to Personal Revolution. He says, “My ego screams out that there is so much to do, but I’ve learned that saying present in anything is a practice. As often as I forget and get distracted, I must remember and simply begin again.”

Beginning again can happen for you at any moment you choose: stressful situations, traffic, or even on your mat while practicing yoga. Calm, presence, and breath can be applied when situations arise in life. It is a choice to be present in the situation or pose that is happening right now. Instead of fighting what is happening, ease into it with breath, and everything will fall into place.

After recalling Baron’s words, I approached my hectic day with the calm centeredness that I learned in yoga. It worked! It was easier to tackle any bumps with a sense of ease. Presence works when dealing with schedules, work, and people. Presence works everywhere!

No matter how perfectly we plan, there is always an instance where we need to breathe and channel all of those hours spent on the mat instead of yelling at traffic, or being agitated. Practicing the asana life brings us while practicing presence allows us to start again if we need to. If our eyes and ears are open, the windows of opportunity will open around us. Yoga is a practice that unfolds when we need it. We just need to be conscious of it. Eckhart Tolle says in Meditations from the Mat, “You can’t think about presence, and the mind can’t understand it. Understanding presence is being present.” By learning to stand in power and breathe, we are able to use presence in day-to-day life. Yoga isn’t necessarily about being this enlightened being and quoting all of the masters; yoga is about using what you learn in class and bringing it into your life.

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September Pose of the Month: Double Pigeon

Our September Pose of the Month goes by many aliases… box pose, firelog pose, yes, even dwa pada raja kapotasana. (Whew, what a mouthful!) But it is best known by the name double pigeon. This is a pose that may send cyclists, runners, and other tight hipped yogis running for cover. But don’t be afraid! During the month of September, your YogaSport teachers will help you ease into a kindler, gentler double pigeon. Outside of the studio, this month is a great time to practice folding into tight spots and easing into uncomfortable situations that you confront in your daily life. Before you know it, you may just find yourself experiencing a new sense of openness and equanimity, both on and off your mat!

Benefits:

  • Stretches the hips and groin
  • Relieves stress
  • Regulates digestion and metabolism

Key Alignment Points:

  • Bring shins parallel
  • Stack knees and ankles
  • Externally rotate thighs
  • Keep active feet to protect knees

Step by Step:

1. From downward facing dog, step forward into half pigeon.
2. Bring your back leg around to the front and stack it on top.
3. Push both feet forward until ankles and knees are stacked and shins and parallel.
4. Lift your hips and untuck your tail.
5. Draw shoulder blades together to open heart and straighten back.
6. As you are able without pain, reach forward and rest over your shins.

 

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August Pose of the Month-Forearm Balance

Happy August everyone! This time of year can find us edgy and reactive due to our Texas heat. No better way to stay cool and be cool than a fabulous forearm balance! Yes, your August Pose of the Month is Forearm Balance, or Pincha Mayurasana. We all know that an inversion, such as shoulder stand, is excellent for calming the nervous system and restoring a sense of balance and equanimity. Forearm Balance provides the same benefits, with a lot of core thrown in for good measure. Enjoy this challenging pose and we look forward to seeing you on the mat!

Benefits:
* Improves sense of balance and calms the brain

* Strengthens shoulders, arms, back, and core

 Key Alignment Points:
* Engage your core muscles

* Look between your arms

*Drop your shoulder blades down your back

* Ground your forearms and palms down and push away from mat

Step by Step:
1. Come to dolphin with arms shoulder width distance.

2. Take feet together and walk them forward a step.

3. Lift right leg in a full internal rotation extension.

4. Bend left knee and gently kick up.

5. Make sure both legs are extended when in the air.

6. Internally rotate thighs and press the balls of feet up.