Yoga Together

The Girls 067When I think of Partner Yoga I think of Yoga Together because of the building of personal relationships that results from practicing Yoga together. So what is Partner Yoga? It’s the Yoga practice that brings people together through movement. play, breath, touch and yes, intimacy. It can be practiced by ANY two people and is a great way to strengthen a relationship by fostering trust and communication. Typically Yoga is seen as a solo journey and individual experience, but the practice of Partner Yoga brings a whole new aspect of what this practice of Yoga can be.

My first experience with partner Yoga was in my teacher training ten years ago. It was one of the best experiences of my life because it brought me into an innocence and playfulness I had never felt before in my Yoga practice. I turned and laughed at my competitive nature in my practice and truly realized that Yoga, like my body, isn’t always serious or perfect. I have continued to practice Partner Yoga with friends, family and well, yes, my partner. Of course, you will feel more connected with those with whom you share the practice.

By touching, holding, stretching and observing their body language you create deeper intimacy. You begin building pathways to better listening and communicating with each other and you walk away feeling more connected to yourself. It is so fun to try poses you have done by yourself, maybe for years, and figure out together what is being experienced in the body.

I can say that Partner Yoga is one of the greatest gifts I have given myself, and I look forward to sharing Yoga Together with you.

Embracing Individuality

Today in the digital age it is easy to eschew paper-and-pen planners, datebooks, and lists for apps on our smartphones. In the same way my planner in college outlined every last assignment, appointment, meeting, and social event, my smartphone held every detail of my life – at least for a time.

In recent months I noticed that I forgot things every now and again – small tasks, meetings that slipped my mind until only hours before, things I forgot to buy, and so on. I out that all the apps in the world were useless if I did not check them or use them – and as you might guess, I didn’t use them because they didn’t fit into my life.

I’d been wanting to return to a paper-and-pen planner for some time but found that many planners didn’t have the exact features I wanted. Not entirely by accident I stumbled upon bullet journals, which are planners that can be customized from scratch. Armed with a blank notebook and a pen, you literally draw up a planner that is completely unique to you, complete with all the pages you need (be they weekly or daily breakdowns, meal prep notes, shopping lists, books to read, or a stick figures in yoga poses). The system worked for me because it was simple, adaptable, customizable, and best of all, could roll with the changes in my day-to-day life.

While teaching a yoga class and adapting the class to the students who were practicing with me that night, it suddenly occurred to me that yoga can be viewed much the same way. There are no two yoga practices that are alike – no two practitioners require the same combination of elements in their practice, and even those needs can change from day to day. Even someone new to their yoga practice will start realizing quickly that they must adapt their practice to themselves – over time modifying poses with props, slowing down or picking up the pace, changing their diet, waking up with meditation, or ending the day with half an hour of restorative yoga – modifying ‘yoga’ and everything it can encompass to suit their lifestyle, and find what works best for them.

It’s easy to look at other students (or the teacher) in class and think that is what our own yoga practice should look like – not just the poses, but also the spirituality, diet, attitude towards life, and so on. But we are all different and unique, and similarly, our yoga practices will look and feel different as well. Our bodies will look different in poses, as will our words and philosophies, and as tempting as it is to look outward for guidance, sometimes it is actually turning inward that will help you find the answers and understand what you need in your yoga practice and your life.

I would be the first to admit that it can be scary to embrace your individuality – every nuance, every swear word (if applicable), every quirk and goofy habit. But it can also be incredibly fulfilling and peaceful to be at ease with yourself – unapologetic for looking different and walking a different rhythm than those around you.

Ancient Wisdom for the New Year

IMG_3980So what are you doing this New Year’s Eve? Watching the ball drop over Times Square or looking for a party to attend? For many of us, the typical New Year’s celebration can feel like old hat after a while. As time passes, we tend to look for different ways to transition into the New Year. We start looking for more profound ways of honoring the space between letting go of the old and embracing the new.

Everything moves in a cycles with a definite beginning and an end. I believe how we end one chapter of our life sets the tone for the beginning of the next chapter. This is true with how we live out our day, how we finish our Yoga practice and of course how we end and begin the year. Ancient wisdom is still being observed in various cultures to transition into the New Year. An example is one that I am comfortable speaking of, the Chinese tradition. The Chinese do not clean on New Year’s Day, all the cleaning should be done prior and the cleaning equipment completely put away before the New Year. This practice has many deep meanings including being cleansed, resolving the old and being prepared to accept and welcome the new. With this idea, the New Year becomes a fruitful opportunity to deepen our introspection, to find new intention as we let go of the old. The new intention should not translate into action that may last 30 to 90 days like a New Year’s challenge, but one you intend to keep for as long as it continues to enrich your life. This new intention should have the power to first connect oneself in mind, body and spirit; and has the potential to connect or build relationships with our surroundings.

Beginning the year with Yoga is a powerful way to start the new year. Yoga has the ability to center, balance, ground and connect. How you spend the first day of the New Year sets the tone for the rest of the year. We are keeping our annual tradition of offering a full day of FREE classes on New Year’s Day. This is our way to give back to the community as well as offering a way to help you find your intention for the New Year.

Change …

The only constant we have in our lives is CHANGE. If you have been practicing at our studio you undoubtedly have noticed the many changes in our shopping center. When I first heard about a diner-style fast food restaurant moving into the space next to us I was surprised since what makes Campbell so special is its many family-owned businesses. When the city approved the permit and waived its own requirement for an additional 32 parking spaces I was confused. Then I heard a comment from one of our students: “Don’t worry, we will make sure we OM louder than them.” I was touched by her support, and further, I was touched by her Yoga wisdom.

I have been asked if I think the upcoming fast food restaurant will bring about positive and negative changes. I believe, just like everything in life, it will certainly bring a little of both. How much good it will bring depends on your own perspective.

With the growth of our human population, remodeling and construction are becoming the signs of economic growth and importance. Many changes are coming our way, including changes we see in our city, neighborhood and even our Yoga home. Changes are not necessarily a bad thing, and can even help us grow. While the world continues to evolve around us, the choices we make are important in driving toward positive changes. Staying grounded and centered is important. Yoga helps us find our inner voice and helps us stay balanced and remain grounded. With regular practice this stays true both ON and OFF our mat.

As for the remodeling our shopping center is undergoing, the big stuff is behind us now. Yoga has helped everyone who teaches and practices at TYS™ stay grounded through the changes. Very soon we are going to have a modern storefront, a new roof and a new air conditioning unit. This is very much like remodeling the kitchen in our home – we are going to wonder why we didn’t make the changes sooner so that we can we have more time to enjoy it.

Hello To Myself

One year ago, in the company of thousands of other people, I sent a lantern up into the sky during a beautiful, surreal lantern festival.

That day I wrote a lot on the thin white paper of the lantern with my thin black marker – mostly fears, some anxieties and worries, but also hopes and goals that I had been afraid to tell anyone or even put down into words. I wrote and I wrote and I wrote, and at some point my mind stopped its chattering; through my pen, I poured my soul onto a lantern that I would later liberate into the sky, laden with heavy words and the desert dust of Nevada and bits and pieces of my story.

Lantern festivals are few and far between, but writing is something anyone can do, even if you are your only audience. This can be a private blog, or an anonymous Instagram; a journal tucked inside your desk, or a small notebook you carry everywhere. So many thoughts pass through our minds – for a few days, try taking a few minutes a day to jot down the things that you want to focus on, and see if that changes how you approach (or end) your day. Those few minutes of daily writing can become a meditation and safe harbor, where your thoughts can come out unfettered, unjudged, and uninhibited.

(You might be surprised at what you end up writing down, too – I noticed that I don’t necessarily write down the “deepest” or most philosophical things, but when I do write my days and short-term goals end up much more focused as a result.)

As a writer myself, I always advocate writing when one needs emotional release – whether it’s a break up or hitting the milestone of a long-cultivated dream – putting thoughts to words makes them incontrovertibly real, and maybe even as a result easier to let go of. Once the words exist somewhere, you can’t take them back – and sometimes, it is that very sense of realness that we need to let us move forward.

Place to Play

While watching a TV series recently, one of the fictional characters uttered a drop of wisdom during an athletics meet: “To truly have fun, you need to have strength.” Of course, yoga is not a sport and my practice is not a game – but in some ways I thought this idea carried quite aptly to yoga.

Once you develop the habit of coming to your mat, whether it is at home or at a yoga studio, your practice generally begins to develop naturally: you learn the poses, find your style of yoga, and know which props to grab on your way into the studio. But sometimes it takes more study to develop a strong foundation that allows you to truly explore and play at the very edges of your limit in your yoga practice. For me, that meant yoga teacher trainings, yoga workshops, reading books and research articles, and learning from (and getting inspired by!) my fellow yogis and teachers, other movement arts, and building a home practice.

Having a solid foundation allows you to go higher and stronger – to find more depth in your yoga practice without injury or compromising your body. A strong foundation is a form of strength that can allow you truly play, finding freedom in and enjoying the challenges of your yoga practice.

What bricks have you laid in the foundation for your yoga practice? We hope you will share your story with us via email or one of our social media platforms:

Our Precious Resource

How often do you find yourself saying or thinking the words, “I don’t have time for ____” – the blank being things that you want to do, things you need to do, or things that you used to love doing?

If you don’t say this, you might be one of the lucky ones.  I’ve said this sentence before, too many times to count.

We live in an age where technology brings the entire world to our fingertips – not just emails and text messages, but also video streaming, angry birds, tabloids, world news, and 140 character sound bites.  It’s all too easy to lose countless minutes to cat videos, articles about random topics, and scrolling through Facebook.

Someone suggested to me that instead of saying “I don’t have time,” I say instead, “It’s not a priority” —
“I don’t have time to work out” became “exercising isn’t a priority.”
“I don’t have time to study” became “learning isn’t a priority.”
“I don’t have time to write” became “my dream to write a novel isn’t a priority.”
We have 168 hours in a week.

It stung when I realized that out of my 168 hours every week, there were hours of time that I idled away doing nothing much at all. I realized how quickly those minutes on Instagram, watching anime, and playing games on my phone added up – time that I could spend doing things that were important to me.

We are in full swing of summer.  Some of us have siblings who are home from college, others of us have children who are out of school.  The days are longer and we might have vacations or long weekends planned with dear friends and relatives. If we took out Netflix, TV, or Facebook, would that translate into more time with friends and family, or more time doing things that are important to us?

If time is our most precious resource, then our priorities are where we choose to spend those hours. Are you making the most out of your 168 hours?

An Introduction to Detox

The Girls 067When the season changes from winter to spring, it’s easy to look at the rebirth happening in nature all around us and mirror that into our own lives. Whether it’s literally seeding a garden in the backyard or cleaning the house to reduce clutter and “noise”, renewal can bring freshness and inspire focus after a long winter.

Have you ever considered that your body might need to go through a similar process of cleaning, or detoxing? One of our own teachers, Natosha, was kind enough to give me (and you!) a quick introduction on the topic:

What is detox, in one sentence?

Natosha: Detox is the process of removing harmful toxins from the body.

Why is it important to detox and/or cleanse the body?

Natosha: Detoxification is so important because it can reverse the symptoms of illness, improve quality of life, enhance immune system function, increase energy, lose weight, and restore balance back to our body’s natural cleansing system.

What are some different ways I can detox in my daily life?

Natosha: A few ways easy ways to detox daily include — sweat in a sauna, dry-brush your skin, drink at least 2 quarts of water a day, breathe deeply, and exercise.

Applying multiple detox methods in your daily life will help you cleanse through different areas in the body and release different forms of toxin buildup.

How do I know if my body needs a cleanse or detox? How often should I be doing detoxes to remove built-up toxins from my body?

Signs and symptoms of the body needing a cleanse may be numerous and very broad but general symptoms include: headaches/ and or migraines, low energy, insomnia, indigestion, bloating, weight gain, low energy, skin conditions, etc.

The amount of detox and cleanse protocol depends on each person individual lifestyle. This is a really good question because if you detox for too long or too often you can lose valuable nutrients along with the toxins and leave your body depleted. For this reason I wouldn’t recommend doing a ‘full on’ cleanse where you restrict your diet for more than 2 to 4 times a year. In Ayurvedic practice, the changing of the season is the most powerful time to cleanse.

If I can do a detox on my own, why go to a workshop?

Natosha: There are three GREAT reasons!

ONE – If you have never done a detox before it can seem like a daunting task. There is a lot of misleading information out there, and it can get overwhelming and discouraging. Workshops are a great way to get your questions answered and get the correct information you need.

TWO – Detox programs can be complex and everyone’s body is different. Coming to a workshop is a great way to introduce you to the tools you will need to safely and appropriately start a cleanse cycle. It will help teach about moderate and more extreme detox methods. It will help you get the best results and deepen your understanding about your body. It will also help you tailor a detox program that best fits your lifestyle.

THREE – Workshops are designed to teach and improve upon already healthy lifestyles but also to motivate. There is no better encouragement than doing it with a group and feeling inspired.

Beyond the Physical

Jennifer RhodesMy yoga journey did not start as a revelation; my background is not what I call “spiritual”. My dad is a pharmacist and I have a marketing degree. We did not eat kichiri and cleanse every season and we did not sit and find quiet spaces to find “answers”.

I stumbled into yoga because I bought my mom yoga classes as a retirement gift and I went with her to stretch. A year later I went to another studio where I found my teacher, who was deeply spiritual (I didn’t see it at the time, but I “felt” it). During my first private session, she asked me this pivotal first question, which changed everything.

“What do you want to get out of this?”

My answer: “I want to be able to waterski with my kids when I’m 40!” (I was 34 years old at the time.)

My teacher replied, “You know that there is more to it than that?”

That’s when everything changed and the awareness washed through me. Yoga can be more than just doing a perfect handstand!

I then started to explore how the poses (asanas) can channel into deeper levels of learning, healing and finding my true self (and you can too). When I step on my mat, I check in with myself – Am I angry? Overwhelmed? Fearful? Sad? Frustrated? We all feel these things but what do we do with these feelings? You can use the poses and your breath to release your sadness, stress, anger or fear. When I am in a difficult pose I tell myself, “Soften. Relax. Release.” Or, on every exhale I tell myself, “I am going to be ok.” or “This too shall pass.” Simple, yet powerful.

My hope is that we can allow ourselves to be more open in our practice, allow ourselves to “feel” more and “think” less without judgment. Exploring it, welcoming it, trying not to grasp for it and being patient – it’s not always easy! But know that you can use this practice to heal and cleanse so you can grow and evolve into exactly who you want to be.

My hope for every student, myself included, is that you allow the poses to take you beyond the physical into deeper levels so you can access the strength, compassion and happiness that is inside each one of us.

The Scribble to Success

Now that we are at the end of January, you’ve probably heard any number of people in your life – friends, family, coworkers, or that stranger you struck up a conversation with at the grocery store – mention new goals that they’ve set for themselves, or resolutions they’ve made to kick off 2016.

But keeping a resolution or achieving a goal is not always easy. There are distractions, there are ways to procrastinate, we get busy at work, or a personal crisis throws us off our balance. It’s too easy to hit a bump in the road and after breaking the resolution once (or a few times), and then blame ourselves for not having enough willpower when we fail to live up to our own, often very high, expectations.

I have never been much into resolutions, in part because I don’t want to become a statistic (University of Scranton research suggests that just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals) but also because I believe that there is more to a self-improvement than an outcome or result.

Many of my own roads to success are not only not smooth, they are downright Escher-like. Whether it was getting into an eka pada koundinyasana or finishing that online Introduction to Programming class, some monkey always throws a wrench into what was supposed to be smooth sailing. In my experience, these roads are not straight and steady slopes to the top. The path to success is more akin to a two-year old’s first experimentation with crayon on the wall – it’s rough and looks like a massive scribble. Every minor or major obstacle – bumps in the road, if you follow the analogy – can lead to failure, to setbacks, and can make you feel like you’re back where you started.

I firmly believe that every journey will involve some amount of scribble, and by that definition, recognize that failure is almost always a prerequisite for success. I believe that the many infinite moments of a journey are what transform a person, and not just that single instance of success.

So be kind to yourself and enjoy the scribble – even you do not always know where your journey will take you.