ON THIS PAGE YOU WILL FIND A VARIETY OF inspirational TEXTS WRITTEN BY YOGIS.
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18 July 2017
Yoga, the union of mind, body and spirit, is a perfect fit for the expectant mother. Growing new life is hard work, and requires the breath, strength and flexibility which yoga provides. Experienced yoginis know this already, and may be reluctant to leave their favourite practice in order to join a pregnancy class. However I strongly urge all pregnant women to give pregnancy yoga a try.
People who may have never thought of themselves as human pretzels can be encouraged by the physical constraints put on people during pregnancy. With that bump, no-one will end up as a human pretzel. We all work with the physical body we are given, and often the babies also have their own ideas of what is possible during pregnancy. Due to the extremely different pregnancies women experience, your needs will change many times throughout a pregnancy and certainly from one pregnancy to another. And it is all good. We do only what feels right. So pregnancy is a perfect time to begin a yoga practice.
From a biomechanical point of view, hormones in your body released during pregnancy, most notably relaxin, work starting from the first trimester to loosen all the joints in your body so that eventually your sacrum will detach from the ischia enough to get a baby out of your body. All your joints are relaxed and this process works more efficiently with each subsequent pregnancy, making your joints more unstable with each pregnancy. As yogis, ahimsa (non-injury or non-violence) is the first rule of yoga and we want people to be healthy and happy on their mats and in their lives. So avoiding overstretching becomes an important part of a yoga practice. People think back ache and hip pains are a normal part of pregnancy but this is emphatically not true! It is a sign of imbalance. Likewise, sore wrists or knees, which may not occur to you as being pregnancy-related, are indeed caused by hormonal changes in your body.
From a spiritual point of view pregnancy is a liminal time. (Liminal literally means “passing through the doorjamb”.) It is a time to leave your old self behind and discover the next stage in your evolution as person, woman and mother. This is true of every pregnancy, whether first, second or even seventh. It is a time to connect and start to build a relationship with the new person inside of you (which, from a neurochemical viewpoint has huge benefits for the baby.) It may be true for you (as it was for me the first time) that you couldn’t believe the person inside of you was real, and that is perfectly normal as well. It is a case of “fake it till you make it”, and trying to establish that connection is as important as achieving it.
In yogic philosophy normal asana classes are all about building prana, the masculine upward-moving energy leading ultimately to enlightenment. However, women who are pregnant and devoting themselves to prana-making activities have babies that may not want to descend into the pelvis. On a gross level, we would say that having a too-strong pelvic floor (from all that moola bandha) will not be flexible enough to allow the baby out. So for yoginis with a long established physical practice, it may be more important to learn to relax the pelvic floor than to strengthen it. Women newer to yoga will likely need to strengthen their pelvic floors. Pregnancy yoga is concerned with apana - downward-moving, feminine, grounding energy. Giving birth is the strongest use of apana there is, and being prepared physically, mentally and emotionally makes up the content of pregnancy yoga classes.
Like all yoga, pregnancy yoga begins and ends with the breath. Certain normal pranayama practices are actually dangerous for the baby. In pregnancy yoga we teach a breath which focuses the apana. Energizing and relaxing at the same time. It is also extremely useful on a practical level to get the baby out.
So yoga? Yes, definitely! There are different yogas for every stage of life, and choosing a prenatal yoga class when you are pregnant opens up a whole new world of yoga for every body.
Om tat sat.
Lorien attended her first yoga class in 1996 and has pursued it continuously since then. She was qualified as a yoga teacher in 2011 and in that same year began her specialization in women´s yoga and perinatal yoga. She is the mother of two, and taught at the yogaloft. before her move to the Philippines.
© Lorien Roback 2017
santosha - contentment
by simone zeimes
19 june 2017
Recently Dr Itai Ivtzan held a workshop at yogaloft "Moving deeper into Yoga –integrating positive mindfulness" which was so inspiring. A big thanks to Pamela for inviting Itai to yogaloft!:)
The workshop was so inspiring, Itai talked about the "Yamas and Niyamas"- the ethical and moral principles in yoga, keys to true yogic strength, power and transformation, on and off the mat.
In this text I would like to tell you about the Niyama “Santosha”- the practice of contentment, which I have found through my yin yoga practice.
Perhaps one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned on my mat is the practice of contentment, a quality greatly nourished by gratitude. Embracing Santosha—being content with who and where we are, as well as what we ‘have’ can be extremely challenging. But when contentment is joined by gratitude, this practice reminds us that we are whole, even when we might otherwise view ourselves as living in lack.
Santosha assists us in welcoming our successes and failures with good humor and grace. Santosha teaches us to embrace ourselves with kindness and gratitude so that we may find the lessons in all of life’s seasons and events, no matter how joyful or devastating they may initially appear to be.
Learning to be content in any given moment has taught me to view my life from a place of wholeness rather than one consumed by lack. By observing and developing awareness without JUDGMENTS, we are led to accept ourselves and our circumstances and through this acceptance, our ‘real selves’ emerge. When our perspective broadens in this way, we can let go of the need to change, understand or fix various situations that may present themselves in our day to day lives.
Experiencing contentment reveals the present moment as full and complete, with no need for change or longing. Through santosha, we learn to say “thank you” for whatever is present in any given moment, because we realize that this moment is perfect as it is. This practice allows us to stand in a profound place of self-realization and gratitude for all of life’s circumstances that lead us to these moments of insights.
Even the moments in life that might not traditionally be perceived as “blessings” guide us to places of deeper knowledge of the self.
My best teacher was and is still my yin yoga practice.
'Yoga + Running' an Interview with David Swenson
by Fernanda Rubim
21 MAY 2017
Yoga + Running
In spirit of the ING night marathon of Luxembourg held on May 27, I interviewed David Swenson, one of the world’s foremost practitioners and instructors of Ashtanga Yoga, about his experience of running two marathons and keeping up with his 6 days a week Ashtanga practice.
Why did you start running marathons?
David: I was a physical person, I did martial arts, I was surfing, hiking, and climbing mountains. I heard about a marathon happening in 2 months and I thought, “I will run it!”…. but I never run that far before so I will try 5 miles. I did not have a coach. I had not really prepared, but I was young and enthusiastic. I was not trying to win. I was interested to see if I could do it, as a kind of personal challenge.
How do you feel when running a marathon?
David: It was like a meditation. I enjoyed the feeling of moving my body and getting at that zone that runners will talk about, hearing my breath, moving through space, and feeling my body moving. It was great, I enjoyed it. My second race was harder than the first. My father wanted to run half of it with me. I wanted to stay with him but his pace was slower than mine. Because I was trying to run slower and not in my natural cadence I felt more tired. Yoga flow and vinyasa, helps with this understanding of cadence and rhythm.
Did you practice yoga before, during and/or after the marathon? If yes, did it benefit your running?
David: I just did my practice. I think the yoga really helped me. For instance, as you become tired as a runner, your gaze tends to drop down to the ground in front of you. So if you activate these energy centers, it helps you to lift up and your gaze will also rise from the ground in front of you to the horizon. Because it was a distance race, I was able to see how long could I run just breathing through my noise and how many steps I could take in each inhale and exhale. As a sprinter, this wouldn’t work.
Besides the bandhas and ujjayi breath, are there any physical poses (asanas) that were beneficial?
David: If you do 3 ‘surya namaskar A’ it will take 3 minutes and your body will be hot, read to go. Or you can do 3 ‘sun salutation A’ plus ‘3 sun salutation B,’ it will take 5 minutes and your body will be really warm before the race. When I finish running, I do a few sun salutations again to help me to wind down and I also do some seated asanas.
What would be your advice for yoga runners?
David: People ask “If I am a runner should I stop yoga?” and I ask them "does running make you happy? If yes, then run and do yoga". The running will not help your yoga but the yoga will help your running. Many athletes who practice yoga have a longer career than athletes that don’t. The applications of yoga are endless. It helsp us with so many things. Yoga is much more than becoming an asana machine… It is beneficial to our bodies and our minds. It is a means, of striping away tensions, helping us to be more calm, enhancing focus and ultimately becoming a better person. So, take something you’re passionate about, do yoga, and use it to enhance your experience.
The Season of Giving- Assists!
By DEVON Healey
17th January 2017
Many years ago, when I walked into a yoga studio for the first time, I distinctly remember thinking- yeah… I got this. At the time I was athletic, young, open to anything new and exciting and certainly physically capable. At least that’s what I thought. During my first yoga class the teacher poked, prodded, moved, disentangled and generally destabilized my entire being. If looks could kill, she wouldn’t have survived the class. Afterwards, I said to my girlfriend – “did you see that?! That teacher had her hands all over me! Good God she touched my belly!” I was incredulous, despite having an open and extroverted personality; I found the physical touch… disarming. My friend laughed, “well yeah” she said “you’re new to yoga, she was just adjusting you…” At the time I didn’t understand what receiving a ‘hands on adjustment’ or ‘assist’ meant. Certainly it had something to do with my not being good enough right? It took a long time in the studio and many, many teachers later before I realized the power and opportunity of a well-executed assist.
In those early years, I felt the grumbling dissatisfaction of inadequacy when the teacher walked over to me- what was I doing wrong? How did I mess up? I thought I was doing ok! I often placed my mat in the back of the class, hoping to remain semi-invisible in the hopes of “not messing up”, the less the teacher touched me, the more I assumed I was getting it right. It wasn’t until I met one of my first yoga mentors that I realized what an assist was actually about. It had been a long day and I wasn’t in the mood for feeling insufficient, I just wanted to move. The teacher got us into a simple pose and then walked over to me, “oh great” I remember thinking “here we go…” her hands were strong but sensitive and she gently adjusted my body into a slightly different position than I had been in before and suddenly the pose felt better, brighter, more grounded. It was in that moment I realized the power of being adjusted in my yoga poses. Instead of being punitive, I started to regard them as pearls, small moments of wisdom from which I could learn about my body and yoga practice and bit by bit, grow and improve. I quickly went from the back of the class to the front, where I hoped the teacher would see me more and thus, adjust me more. What other things could I learn? What other secrets were locked away in the gentle movement of an arm or leg?
Sometime later, when I decided to become a teacher myself, I ran into a different problem. Instead of receiving the assists, I was now giving them. For the first 6 months or so of my teaching, I walked around the studio with my arms outstretched like a sort of yoga teacher zombie, the students were scared, and rightfully so, I didn’t feel confident in touching other people in a meaningful way. But like yoga- I practiced (bless those friends and students who let me “experiment” on them, poor things) and became more confident with time. I also learned important lessons on the intimacy of touching another person, especially one you don’t know well. Assists in yoga are intimate in nature as hips, bellies, legs, chests, shoulders and many other parts of the body are involved, places were not used to being touched by relative strangers. Adjustments in yoga should not feel creepy, weird or ambiguous, if they do- us teachers want to know! And you should feel free to talk with your teacher about how you want to be touched. Of course for many of us that conversation feels awkward (myself included) but I cannot know what’s in your body or mind, the only way I can respect, appreciate and help you grow in your practice is to communicate with you. I often tell a teacher on my way into a yoga class- “my shoulder is sore today, no shoulder assists for me please!” Or, “Its been a long week and my back is tender, would you mind not adjusting me in any forward folds?” I have not once met a teacher who thought I was rude or unfriendly and frankly if they did, I wouldn’t be going back to that class. But in fact, they always appreciate knowing what’s going on with me and how to help me have the best practice I can. The same applies in my teaching, by hearing from you; I’m better able to give you what you need. Indeed there are many times when you’re tired, feeling sad, hurting, or just plain don’t want to be touched, in which case a simple “no assists today please” on your way into class is more than sufficient and I will always respect your decision not to be touched. When you asked not to be touched, I don’t think you’re weird or anti-social, I think you are practicing the deep listening that is so integral to growth and a safe and healthy body. If you want to tell me why, I appreciate it, if not, that’s just fine too.
Nowadays I relish in both the reception and giving of adjustments in asana practice, because I know how good they can feel and how much one can learn. My intention is that my assists are thoughtful and direct (you should know where were going), that the pressure of my hands and body feels right for your body, and if it doesn’t, that you tell me (“Too much Devon!” Or “More! I want more!”) and most importantly that you feel my hands on adjustments come from a place of love and respect. Your practice is ever evolving but you, as a human being, need no fixing, you’re perfect just as you are. When you start to think of an assist not as a “fix” but as an opportunity, you open a door into a whole new world of possibilities. As always, your questions and comments help me grow as a teacher, if you’re curious about a pose, let me know and I’ll adjust you! If you’d like a bit more attention- like I do- that’s great to know too. At the end of the day, I think I can speak for all of us teachers when I say that we are here to support you, with our hands, and with our hearts.
See you on the mat!
What is Yin Yoga?
By simone zeimes
1st December 2016
Yin Yoga is very accessible to beginners, but also interesting for advanced students. It is often more challenging to quiet the mind rather than stay in the pose.
Soft and slow, most poses are done on the floor. Yin Yoga focuses on Yin tissues of the body: connective tissue (ligaments, tendons, fascia) and bones. Gravity and time (poses are held for 3 to 5 minutes) help to release deeper into the pose and apply healthy stress to connective tissues, making them stronger, more flexible and increases circulation in the joints. Connective tissue, which is most concentrated in the joints, responds best to a slow, steady load, which is why we stay longer in the pose. It is critical to keep the joints fluid and active; otherwise the connective tissue will slowly shorten to the minimum length needed for activity. After a few years of neglecting the joints, you’ll notice it’s more difficult to flex the knees or arch your back.
Yin Yoga also balances the meridian lines (energy channels according to traditional chinese medicine), releases chronic tension, as well as negative emotions.
Profoundly relaxing on a physical and mental level, it opens up the body on a whole new level.
There is a sense of peace and serenity that develops in a Yin Class. your body might start to feel space and openness that you don’t stop to feel when you practice a dynamic yang style and you might feel a deep peace within yourself that is completely new to you.
Generally speaking we live in a Yang dominated society and culture. All we need to do is look at the huge amount of stress related diseases to see that this is true. Yin Yoga creates a window of peace and harmony so desperately needed in our fast paced world.
If you haven’t practiced Yin Yoga before you may be surprised at how different it is than more active forms of Yoga. The focus in Yin Yoga is quite unique. In more active or Yang forms of Yoga, the focus is typically on building strength and flexibility in the muscles as well as internal heat. This is done by doing shorter holds in the poses and repetition of dynamic movements. In Yin Yoga the focus is on targeting the connective tissues, fascia and joints. This has a profoundly different feeling in the tissues as well as the nervous and energetic systems of the body.
When you first come out of a Yin Yoga pose, you will have the urge to move slowly and may even want to groan and moan. The sensation in the body after a Yin Yoga pose is often referred to as the rebound effect or the echo of the pose. If you have ever rung a bell or gong, you know the sound is the strongest initially and then dissipates over time, until you eventually no longer hear the sound at all. The resonant sensation of a Yin pose in the body is like that. At first the feeling is strong, then it gradually softens until you can no longer feel it. This is why we typically take a small rest time between poses, to stop and feel.
Yin Yoga is based on concepts of Taoist Yoga, targeting the connective tissues. In Yin restorative yoga we practice relaxed floor based asanas (poses) often using the support of props when needed.
experience it and you will love it!