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Winding Down on Winter?

I don’t know about you, but it feels like I’m in some kind of “in between” place where at any moment winter could turn into spring or visa versa!  It’s hard to know how many layers to put on in the morning or what kind of coat to put on in the afternoon.  And, then there is the question of how to spend one’s free time – inside with a good book or outside on a hike?

With time seemingly weirdly suspended, I’ve been working to figure out how I can use my yoga practice to help me find a sense of stability and ease.  The word yoga means “union” and often is interpreted to mean the union between the body, breath, and the mind.  The choices that we make in on our yoga mat potentially impact all three.  Here are a few examples for times that you may want to make a shift in how you feel.

Strengthen and Lengthen – If winter has meant too much time on the couch, yoga can be a great way to build strength and increase the flexibility you need for spring and summer activities.  When you want a strength-based practice think about downward facing dog to strengthen the arms, shoulders, and back while stretching hamstrings and calves, plank pose to build the core, and triangle pose to build leg strength and endurance.

Energize – When you are looking for more energy think about expansive standing asanas that emphasize opening the chest and deep breathing and adding backbends like camel, cobra, and locust pose once you are warmed up.

Calm – When you feel like there is just too much going on think about including child’s pose, crocodile pose, simple twists, and legs up the wall.

No matter what combinations of asana you choose, combining breath control with movement is key to the final link that yoga promises to make between body, breath, and mind.  At the beginning of your practice, take the time to tune into the sensation of the breath and keep checking in throughout your practice.  “One to one” breathing (inhale and exhale equal in length) and breath connected movement (expanding on the inhale and softening on the exhale) not only make the physical exercise of yoga more attainable – they create the sense of calm and ease we are looking for during AND at the end of our practice.

Thanks for being part of the First Street Yoga community.  Looking forward to seeing you soon.  

Carol

 

 

 

Creating Space

During my own weekly yoga class today, my teacher, Fannie Hungerford, talked about the Sanskrit word, sukha.  Sukha is literally translated as “space” and in yoga philosophy space is considered to be something that is inherently beneficial.  The space of sukha allows for a sense of ease, comfort and lightness in the body.  Space also provides us with room.  This can be something as straightforward as room to maneuver, but also with things less tangible like the room to change our minds, room to change position on long held beliefs, room to change our habits, and room to see things from a new angle.
 
Restorative yoga is a practice of creating space.  During restorative yoga, props are used to support the entire body in a position of comfort.  Because we are comfortable, it becomes effortless to rest in a position designed to release tight muscles and relieve accumulated stress.  As we deeply relax, the body has an opportunity to replenish stores of energy and recover a sense of ease.  It is here that the body and the mind are brought into balance to quietly support one another and promote healing.  No matter where you are in your journey of yoga you will find restorative yoga a perfect adjunct to your regular practice.
 
Our usual first Sunday of the month Restorative class is this weekend on SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 2, FROM 4 – 5:30 pm and we hope that you can join us.  This class does require pre-registration which you can do by contacting us at First Street Yoga or by directly emailing Carol Daly. She will confirm your registration and send a reminder email on Saturday, the 1st.  Cost is $10 or one class punch for current students and $15 when dropping in for this special 90 minute class.
 
Looking forward to seeing you soon!
Carol
 
Contact info for Restorative Yoga: 
firststreetyoga@gmail.com or carolt.daly@gmail.com 

Why Come to Yoga Class?

I spent some time recently talking to students in my yoga classes.  I was curious about what they were thinking about when they made the decision to start coming to a yoga class.  Some were new to yoga and others had years of experience, but there were some common themes in what they had to tell me.

Most people I talked to told me they had decided to come to yoga for its physical benefits – strength, flexibility, balance, and endurance.  Within this conversation about physical fitness, however, there often emerged a second theme – the need for stress relief, time for personal growth, and an opportunity to practice mindfulness with the support of others.

Despite initial uncertainty (“…maybe I’m not flexible enough to do yoga”), these students found that yoga allowed them to slow down and open to present moment awareness.  Instead of comparing themselves to others, they found their attention moving away from distracting and negative thoughts and toward the way that yoga made them feel.  Yoga class gives us a designated time to experience the unique combination of much needed physical movement and breath awareness without self-judgement.  These words by Buddhist monk, Pema Chodron, say it all.

“Practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better.  It’s about befriending who we already are…We experience moments of being right here that feel simple, direct, and uncluttered.”

We hope to see you for a yoga class here at the First Street Community Center whenever you can join us!  Check out our Classes and Calendar at firststreetccyoga.com.

Carol

Give the Gift of Yoga

The holidays are a special time full of enormous beauty.  Part of that beauty is the tradition of gift giving.  Gifts, whether large or small, extravagant or practical, reflect both the giver and the receiver.  
Let First Street Yoga help you give a meaningful gift this year – one free yoga class – on us!  
 
Pick up a “Gift of Yoga” free class card when you come to class or stop by the Focus Room at First Street Community Center.  Looking for more?  Contact us  – we have “Six Class” gift cards available during the holidays and year round.   
 
Wishing you peace during the holidays and always!
Trude, Ann, Jen, Devon, and Carol

Give Thanks

Thanksgiving is my very favorite holiday.  I love the warmth and the gathering of loved ones with just one simple purpose in mind – to remember how much there is to be grateful for.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could feel uplifted by gratitude everyday?

I just returned from a trip to the Himalayan Institute, where I had the privilege of attending a lecture by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait on the topic of “Calming Our Inner Turmoil”.  According to Pandiji, our inner turmoil is the direct result of our minds becoming trapped in a cycle of thinking.  This endless cycle of thinking impacts our ability to be open to new ideas creating more and more inner turmoil (i.e. “stress”).  During his lecture, Pandiji gave one firm recommendation for a strategy to break this cycle, “Remember how much there is to be grateful for.”  

According to Psychology Today, Pandiji is right.  Developing an attitude of gratitude enhances our self-esteem, improves our relationships with others, increases empathy and resilience, and even helps us to sleep better.   

At First Street Yoga, we are grateful for each of you!   We look forward to seeing you in a regular class, at monthly restorative yoga on December 1, or at Full Moon Yoga with Singing Bowls on December 8.

Carol

Yoga – The Original Exercise Program

Yoga, with its 5,000 year history, could be considered the “original” exercise program. Why, when other things seem to come and go, has yoga lasted this long? Perhaps the key is yoga’s unique combination of physical, mental, and emotional benefits.

On the mat, yoga improves flexibility, muscle strength, physical endurance, and balance while providing beneficial weight bearing exercise to help strengthen bones. Yoga has been shown to help lower blood pressure in those with hypertension and lower blood sugar levels in those with non-insulin dependent diabetes.  And, recent scientific studies demonstrate that yoga reduces the harmful effects of stress and increases brain health.  WOW!   Yoga has benefits “beyond the mat” by encouraging mindfulness, reducing anxiety, and encouraging the development of a positive body image.  

Most importantly, yoga is for everyone regardless of age or fitness level.  If you have questions about yoga classes at First Street Yoga, give us a call.  We would love to hear from you!

Carol