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“I  learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The  brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that  fear.” ~~ Nelson Mandela

Lolasana
Photo Courtesy of Yoga Journal

Last Sunday in class, I taught Lolasana for the very first time ever. It’s a pose that I’ve still not mastered myself, which is probably why I’ve never taught it before. If only I could get my darn feet up off the ground!

But these past few months, it seems the things that have been holding me back in terms of my yoga teaching have been melting away. The things I’ve held back from teaching and sharing have been bubbling up to the surface and staring me straight in the face as a sort of challenge — a challenge to face my fears and see what I’m made of, so to speak.

If you’ve been to my classes over the past several months, you may have noticed my “transformation”. I’ve tried a few new things with you, and the feedback from you all has been so wonderful…it definitely fuels me to keep going with this newfound confidence I seem to have.

Lolasana (Pendant Pose) was actually a new pose for everyone in class last Sunday. That was the first time ever, in my over 10 years of teaching, that I’ve taught a pose to a class that not one student had ever done. So I have to admit that I was a little afraid, since it’s a pose that still eludes me. And I won’t lie, it looks like a scary pose, doesn’t it?

Though it does require arm strength to get into the full pose, it’s a great pose to work on, as it  it will strengthen your arms, wrists, hands, upper back, and abdominals. So even if you don’t have the arm strength needed when you first begin, don’t give up…eventually, with practice and patience, you’ll get there.

This coming week in class, we’ll be working on Lolasana. If you’re trying this pose on your own at home, the following tips can help if this is a new pose for you:

  • Make sure your back is rounded. Think about having a Cat back.
  • Engage all the muscles of your arms, but don’t lock the elbows.
  • Pull your belly in, as if you’re “buttoning it” to your spine.
  • Use blocks to elevate your hands…blocks can do wonders with helping you lift the feet off the ground initially, until you build the arm, wrist and belly strength needed to do the pose.

The most important thing to remember is not to get discouraged. This is a very challenging pose, so don’t expect that you’ll be able to get into it right away. And don’t be afraid of it. Conquer your fear and give it a go…you’ll never know what you’re capable of if you never try. As I mentioned above, I am still working on this pose myself. I’ve not been very good about practicing it regularly over the years, so that’s something I’ve resolved to change. My goal is to practice it a little each week, until I finally get it. However long it takes. I am no longer afraid. I want to see what I’m made of and how far I can go…how about you?

Namaste,

Melanie

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I came across the following poem and felt like it was just the right thing to be focusing on when we are in Savasasana (Final Relaxation). So this week, reflect on this as you relax and rejuvenate, whether in class or not:

Just For Now

Just for now, without asking how, let yourself sink into stillness.

Just for now, lay down the weight you so patiently bear upon your shoulders. Feel the earth receive you, and the infinite expanse of sky grow even wider as your awareness reaches up to meet it.

 Just for now, allow a wave of breath to enliven your experience.

Breathe out whatever blocks you from the truth. Just for now, be boundless, free, awakened energy tingling in your hands and feet. Drink in the possibility of being who and what you really are so fully alive that when you open your eyes the world looks different, newly born and vibrant, just for now.

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“Be melting snow.  Wash yourself of yourself.” ~~ Rumi

SPRING-CLEANING1
Photo Courtesy of http://www.wrighthomes.com/spring-cleaning-new-homes-utah/

This week will mark the official beginning of the Spring season, and I can’t wait! Though I get miserable hay fever, I love this time of year. To see the trees and flowers blooming, the air warming up and smelling so crisp, all the people enjoying the outdoors — it makes me happy! Everything is thawing and softening, which is something we need to remember to bring in to our yoga practice.

In order to encourage softening all the tight and frozen parts of our bodies, we need to make sure to include poses in our practice that deeply stretch the muscles and encourage releasing tension. I always use the last part of my classes for these types of poses, so we’ll be continuing to do that this week. We’ll be including such poses as Pigeon, Reclining Big Toe Pose, Knee Up the Wall Pose, and Camel Pose among others. For any deep stretch we focus on, I encourage you to focus on letting go of the tension and tightness in the areas we’re working, allowing the body to soften and warm, just as the earth does when spring arrives each year.

When we can do this, we may find that this spills into our minds as well. If you’ve been feeling stagnant or “frozen” in certain areas of your life lately, then see if you can take this same concept of softening and warming, and apply it to your way of thinking. Open yourself to new possibilities and see what happens.

These past couple of weeks have been amazing for me in a variety of ways, and I am convinced it’s because I’m finally allowing myself to be a little more adventurous and open to taking some chances. I’ve been complaining for years about certain areas of my life, but when I started really thinking it through recently, I realized I was doing things the same way I’ve always done them. Staying in my comfort zone. But these past couple of weeks, I’ve changed things up in a few areas, and though it was scary, it was SO rewarding. Some of the things I tried turned out better than I’d hoped, some made me realize I’ve got more work to do, and others were a complete failure. But that’s OK. It’s the only way for me to grow. And I know that in the end, I’ll be able to say, “At least I gave it a go.”

So what about you? Let’s use this time of year to be like melting snow. Let’s thaw ourselves out, and see how we flow.

Namaste,

Melanie

“It’s amazing what ordinary people can do if they set out without preconceived notions.” ~~ Ben Stein

trysomethingnew
Photo Courtesy of UrbanVox.net

For all you yogis out there, even you teachers, I’ve got a challenge for you this week. SWITCH IT UP!

What do I mean by that, you ask? Switch it up? Huh?

Well, many of us get stuck in our yoga practice from time to time. Maybe you only practice one particular style, or you stick with one particular teacher’s classes. If you’re a teacher, maybe you’re so busy teaching that you never get the opportunity to be the student once in awhile. When you keep doing the same thing over and over again, sometimes you get stuck. You go on autopilot and just go through the motions without being mindful. And when this happens, it can make things feel boring and stale. Sound familiar?

For me, it’s manifested itself in the way that I teach my classes. I’ve become so rigid in my sequencing formula that my students ALWAYS seem to know what’s coming next. That’s not necessarily a horrible thing…after all, I mainly teach Power Yoga, so there are some definite things that need to be done in each and every class. And since I am not bound to one particular Power style from the training I received, I am free to be creative in the way that I choose to weave these elements into my classes.

However, I feel like I barely have time to create my playlists and figure out the peak pose I want to focus on each week. With my full-time job, family obligations, health issues, and a plethora of other things that creep their way into my life, I pick a sequencing formula I know off the top of my head and just switch up the poses so that it’s easier for me.

Until a few months ago, I didn’t even notice that’s what I was doing. But I did notice that I was starting to feel “stale” in my teaching, and worried that I was boring my students to death. These past few months, I have been better about attending other teachers’ classes or doing new Podcast classes when I can’t make it to the studio…and that’s when it hit me. That I needed to switch things up.

In trying out new teachers and new classes, I noticed I had to pay attention more while I was on my mat. After all, being with a new teacher or in a new class means I can’t guess what’s coming next, right? So I had to pay attention. As I started to pay more attention, I noticed how my body and breath were responding in a whole new way.

I also started picking up on different ways to string sequences together, and I started getting excited. I found myself thinking, “Ooh…I love how he/she transitioned from X to Y! Maybe I should try teaching it that way sometime!”

So yesterday, I tried it out. I taught a sequence a little differently from the way I usually do. If you were at class yesterday (Sunday, 3/10), I’d love your feedback because to be honest, I felt like a fish out of water. I was unsure of myself, especially when I saw everyone in the room immediately start to go where I traditionally go next. So my confidence and my cueing may have suffered a bit as I struggled to continue on with my plan to be different.

But I stuck with it, and in the end, I feel like it went OK. Not the best class I’ve ever taught, but that’s OK. The point is that I tried something new. I switched it up, so to speak. In fact, though it was scary as hell, I’m gonna do something different again this week. Why? Because I know I need to do this for both myself and my students. How will I ever continue to grow as a teacher if I continue to do things the way I’ve always done them? I’ve got to step out of my comfort zone and put myself out there, and give myself the opportunity to discover something extraordinary. And even though I picked it apart in my head afterwards as to all the things I wished I’d done better in class yesterday, I did see smiles on the faces around me. And that’s good.

If you’re able to come to one of my classes this week, we’ll be switching things up by doing a Mandala sequence. Mandala means circular, so the sequences actually carry you around your mat 360 degrees in both directions. Because of this, mandala sequences tend to be very fluid, which is very therapeutic for lubricating and strengthening the joints – particularly the hips and shoulders. Moving in this circular fashion also encourages more core engagement, so mandalas can be wonderful at helping to improve core strength and overall muscle definition.

Mandalas also provide you with a wonderful lesson that you can take with you off the mat, which is that it’s OK to break away from your preconceived notions and try something new. Most of us aren’t used to moving on our mats in the circular form of mandalas, so it may feel strange to enter a pose from a direction or angle we aren’t used to. Give it a try…you may end up loving the way it makes your joints feel, or the way it makes your focus change. If you can take that lesson with you off the mat, you may discover that switching things up just a bit in some other area of your life may prove to be the best thing you’ve ever done. The opportunities are endless if we can take a moment to be open to new experiences. You never know what extraordinary thing may be awaiting you if you just switch it up. So who’s with me?

“Between  stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our  response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” ~~ Viktor  E. Frankl

YogaMeditation

Photo Courtesy of Dahn Yoga

Many of us begin a yoga practice for a specific reason. To reduce stress, tone our bodies, improve flexibility. Those are all completely fine and acceptable reasons to practice. In my opinion, whatever gets you on the mat is a good thing!

But the longer you practice, you begin to notice that there’s more to yoga than what you may have originally thought. You start to realize that it’s not about getting somewhere. It’s more about releasing and emptying. Releasing and emptying your mind, body and soul of all the “junk” that creates stress, chaos and illness. If we can’t let go of those things, we become consumed by all the negative things, and we feel “stuck”.

So, as you step onto your mat this week, make space. Make space and sit with whatever IS. Pay attention to the present moment and be OK with whatever you’re experiencing in it. To advance in yoga is not about pushing through to find the next crazy variation of a pose. It’s to understand the various layers of yourself and each pose.

When you can approach your practice on the mat in this way, you’ll discover how you must always incorporate equal qualities of effort and ease when moving into your poses, no matter how difficult they may be for you. Many of us muscle through the challenging poses, and let our egos get in the way. If you continually approach your practice in this way, the tension will build up and spill into your life off the mat.

Instead, try to make sure that in each pose, no matter how difficult, you try to find the element of relaxation in it. Find that sweet spot where you feel like you are putting in equal amounts of effort and ease. This is how we grow, both in our physical practice on the mat, and in our lives off the mat. When you can practice in this way, you may notice a newfound sense of freedom permeate your entire being. Now isn’t that worth the effort?

Namaste,

Melanie

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