Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Yogis for Haiti

By now many of you have contributed in your own way to the worldwide aid effort unfolding in Haiti. If you haven't gotten around to it, or are moved to continue contributing here are a few ways you can help:

- YogaDork is running a "design-a-T-contest" to raise money for aid. Describing how it works YogaDork says "It’s very simple: YOU send in designs. YOU vote on the winner. YOU buy the tee. WE ALL help Haiti." T-shirts will be American Apparel (same tees we sell here in the studio) and will be available very soon. If you want to send in a design get it in asap - the deadline is Thursday morning. We'll be ordering ours and sporting them here in the studio! Check it out here.

- At Shakti Yoga Studio we're offering everyone the opportunity to make a donation to the Canadian Red Cross in lieu of paying for your class (or using your membership or pass card). Just let us know when you check in if you'd like to make a donation (minimum donation of $10).

- If you're in St. John's, teacher Melanie Caines is offering a by-donation class this coming Saturday. All proceeds will be donated to the Red Cross. Check out her Facebook invite.

If you know of any other great ways we can help feel free to post them here in the comments!


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New to Yoga?

So, it's January. A month when so many of us decide "now is the time to..." do whatever it is we've been thinking of but haven't quite gotten around to. For some people that statement will be "now is the time to start doing yoga" - and what a great idea! The cold winter months are a wonderful time for learning to breathe, move and think in a more healthy way.

Unfortunately, for some people the thought of a yoga class is daunting. There's a very disappointing misconception floating around that you have to be 1) flexible 2) skinny and 3) female to be "good at" yoga.

To help bust these myths and make your foray into yoga go more smoothly I have a few pointers:

1. Forget the idea of being "good at" yoga. If yoga teaches us anything it's to let go of these types of expectations and enjoy the moment instead. So as long as yoga feels good, you're doing it right.

2. Yoga helps improve flexibility. If you were already perfectly flexible you wouldn't really need it! Don't worry about how flexible you are when you start. Instead notice how your flexibility improves as you keep practicing!

3. Find a class and a teacher that's right for you. If you've never spoken a word of French, but sign up for a level 3 university French class anyway, you're setting yourself up to be disappointed! Same goes for yoga. If you are a beginner, start in a beginner class. You'll learn the foundations of the practice and be more confident.

4. Men - if you go to a yoga class and you are the only man there (or one of very few) the women in the room are NOT thinking "what's he doing here?". Instead, they're thinking "wow, I wish my man would do some yoga!" Be a good role model for other would-be male yogis and keep coming to class despite the excess of estrogen.

5. If you try it once, and dislike it, try it again. Really. Learn about what's available in your area and try a few different classes until you get a sense of what's out there. There are so many styles and varieties of yoga that there's bound to be one for you. At least give it a fair chance.

If you're a beginner and you're reading this blog, you're already on your way to finding the yoga that's right for you. If you're a regular yoga practitioner and this post makes you think about someone you know who's hesitant to try the practice, send it to him or her and offer to join them for their first class! Either way, enjoy yoga and life in 2010 :)


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Exploring Bakasana

Everyday I learn something new about practicing and teaching yoga. This usually happens by accident. Of course there are also times when I actively seek new knowledge and understanding. For the last few months, something I've been actively exploring is the asana called Bakasana or Crane pose.

For quite some time now I've struggled with this posture. In most balancing asanas there's a "sweet spot" - a place where your body balances in space in just the right way. This place makes the pose feel almost weightless. When you find it, you get a glimpse of all the freedom yoga truly has to offer. Unfortunately for me, that sweet spot had remained elusive in Bakasana...until just a few days ago.

In the midst of a very quiet, relaxed Christmas week at my in-laws, I had a sudden urge to work on Bakasana. On the living room carpet, I crouched and started to work my way into the pose, fully expecting to quickly fall out as usual. But something was different this time. I felt a new sensation in my arms: strength, lightness, length. Suddenly, without even realizing it, I was holding the posture.

Just as quickly the sensation was gone again and I came out of the pose. Notice i said "came out" and not "fell out"; suddenly there existed a new sense of control. Everyday since I've worked on the posture and today I held it for the longest time yet! (we're talking seconds here...not minutes)

So as I continue working on this pose I'll update my progress here. It's a fun thing to experience; finding the perfect sensation in an asana. With dedicated practice, I believe this sensation is available to all of us in every asana we practice. Some feelings of understanding come more quickly than others, just like some asanas are more physically challenging than others. But once you've had that initial "Aha moment" you'll be free to move more deeply into physical, mental and spiritual sensations while practicing yoga postures.

Just for fun, here's a photo of one of my many failed bakasana attempts. The photographer caught it at just the right moment!