As for my experience with injury and alignment in yoga class, something I learned that really changed my teaching, as well as my own practice, is to work with your own body’s alignment rather than trying to fit your body into a “universal” alignment. There is no “universal” skeleton, so “universal” alignment is an impossible task and a belief that can lead to injury and unnecessary frustration. Not listening to the maximum edge of resistance of one’s body, but rather forcing oneself into a picture perfect image of a pose can not only lead to injury, but to a practice void of self-awareness. This lends to the old adage of “use the pose to serve your body, not your body to serve the pose.
A second common thing I often notice that can lead, not only to injury, but to a disconnection from one’s practice is to slip into what I refer to as “Watchasana” – the habit of constantly “watching” others and comparing oneself. It is so important to get out of the practice of “watching” to see if a fellow student is doing a pose “better” or looks different and then trying to make one’s own body do what the person next to them is doing so as to not be outdone. This is a sure recipe to eventual injury as everyone’s body “resonates” in the postures differently. Instead, to avoid injury, one needs to keep the focus on their own mat and stay connected and aware of their own practice and keep constantly aware of what their body is telling them.
Mercedes Ngoh has spent most of her life studying creative movement and its use as a form of self-expression and spiritual exploration. Having studied various forms of yoga the primary style she now teaches is Vinyasa Flow. Most of Mercedes studies have been in California where she has completed many different certifications. She views yoga as a lifelong, never ending study. For her it is a living science, a practice and an art form. She is constantly learning alongside teaching and has been very fortunate to have studied with various wonderful teachers. To find out more about Mercedes and her next teacher training, go to her website.
Posted by Shannon Paige Schneider (Circle of Grace member)
Simple advice to avoid shoulder injuries in Vinyasa yoga!
When LOWERING from plank to the earth or chaturanga dandhasana, keep the shoulder blades on the back and the collar bones wide and the back of the neck as long as the front of the throat. In fact, consider dropping the knees and gaining authentic strength before trying to power through a bunch of full on repetitions just on the other side of empowered alignment. When the caps of the shoulders collapse forward, one is not only more prone for shoulder tweaks and injury, but also, strength remains elusive.
Shannon Paige Schneider is an author, sacred activist, inspired life coach, and dedicated teacher of Shiva Rea’s Prana Flow Vinyasa Yoga. She interweaves her students’ unique purpose driven inspiration into the divine play of body and breath to unlock the secret wisdom held within the heart. Shannon is the founder and yoga director of om time yoga centers and Anjali Restorative Yoga. To learn more about Shannon and where she will be teaching next, go to her blog.
Over the next week, we’re going to share yoga tips from our Circle of Grace members. Keep yourself in check with the right alignment and instruction.
Kino MacGregor, of Miami Life Center, shares this YouTube video on how to jump back in Padmasana. Not only does she give you a step-by-step demonstration, but she looks good wearing her Zobha outfit too!
Kino MacGregor is dedicated to carrying the torch of Ashtanga yoga throughout the world and sharing the amazing tradition of Ashtanga yoga with everyone who is inspired to practice. Kino will be traveling around the world (literally) this Fall including Italy, China, and Japan just in the month of September. To learn more about Kino and where you can find her, go to kinoyoga.com.
As a prenatal yoga teacher and yoga mama myself, there are a few questions I get asked all the time: “When is it safe to start going to prenatal yoga classes?” or “If I’m pregnant and have a yoga practice, can’t I just modify postures in my regular class?” Here are a couple of easy answers. A Mama who is having a healthy pregnancy can start attending prenatal classes whenever she’s ready and her care provider gives her the okay. Pregnant Mamas that already have a yoga teacher, who is trained and has experience working with pregnant women, can continue taking “regular” classes well into their pregnancy. While these answers are short and simple, there is a deeper explanation for which yoga class best fits a pregnant woman’s needs. Read on.
To be sure, practicing yoga while pregnant has a long list of physical benefits. The practice increases energy, maintains strength, improves circulation, promotes good postural alignment, encourages relaxation and helps to relieve some of the common discomforts of pregnancy. Any one of these physical benefits gives pregnant women a good enough reason to practice yoga, but any teacher or regular practitioner knows that the holistic benefits of yoga go far beyond the body. Yoga gives practitioners a deeper, multi-level support, especially those who are experiencing great change in their lives. And since pregnancy is such a profound transition, many women find that yoga is perfectly suited to meet their physical, mental and emotional needs. Practicing yoga makes sense for the Pregnant Mama, but the question of what kind of yoga class to take is something to give careful consideration.
Prenatal yoga classes are unique in a couple of ways. Unlike “regular” yoga classes, they are specifically designed to accommodate the needs of women at all stages of pregnancy and all levels of fitness and yoga experience. Even if a Mama is new to yoga, modifications of postures and detailed instruction are given so that she can begin practicing safely. Prenatal yoga classes also present women with an opportunity to soften and open in order to make room for their babies in their bodies and in their lives. Women are encouraged to tune in and listen to their bodies as well as to their babies, so they can make choices that feel good for both of them. Through yoga, Mama can tap into her innate wisdom to know what is right for her and her baby. Throughout the prenatal yoga classes, a woman is encouraged to connect to herself and her baby. Just with her breath she can create a line of communication and begin to bond with her baby on the inside.
Another unique aspect of the prenatal class is that Mamas have an opportunity to gather with other pregnant women. Classes often open with short introductions and the opportunity to share pregnancy experiences. Women are welcome to share information and insight with one another, and many Mamas often realize that the other women in their community are one of their best resources.
Like I said earlier, I give the thumbs up for Mamas to go to “regular” classes and modify postures, but I think that sometimes, prenatal classes might be a better option for her. Here’s why. The instruction of an experienced prenatal yoga teacher reminds her that she is sharing her practice with her baby, encouraging her to let her practice evolve to support her changing needs. In a prenatal class that is just for Mama and baby, the practitioner might find that the old makes way for the new, giving her deeper insight into her already established yoga practice and making room inside herself for her baby and preparing for the birth. Prenatal yoga classes are not just about pregnant women doing yoga together; they are so much more. They are about honoring the mother, the baby and the relationship of mother and child.
And finally there are the many tools that prenatal yoga gives women for their birth experience. Yoga is invaluable in preparing for the softening and opening necessary for labor and birth and in helping Mama gain confidence and trust in her innate ability to birth her baby. Although there are no guarantees that birth will go as planned (there are no guarantees that life will go as planned!), prenatal yoga classes can help prepare women for whatever turns their birthing might take. By being present in her experience Mama has the opportunity to maintain connection to not only to her baby but to herself so that she can birth consciously and with awareness. One way or another she will open to birth her baby and herself. Yoga supports her in softening, so she has more ease in opening. As Mama moves deeper and deeper into labor, she can use the skills she practiced in her prenatal class: softening into the effort of birth, breathing to release tension and to let go of fear, opening and creating spaciousness through breath, movement and sound so her baby can move through her.
Whether a woman decides to take prenatal yoga or to stick with their “regular” practice and modify postures, yoga just makes sense for pregnant Mamas. I tend to encourage Mamas to take prenatal yoga because it offers them a deeper experience for their pregnancy and their birth.
Shop our Maternity tops, bottoms and layering that will grow comfortably with you and your baby.
Jane Austin is passionate about yoga and the transformative power of motherhood. She specializes in teaching prenatal and postnatal yoga. For two decades she has worked with mamas, not only as a yoga teacher but also as a midwife, doula and childbirth educator. As a mother, she knows first hand the physical, emotional and spiritual benefits of yoga during pregnancy and beyond. It is her mission to help make yoga available to all mothers who wish to practice.
Jane recently released a Prenatal Yoga DVD. For more information on Jane and her classes, go to janeaustinyoga.com.
The word “Inspiration” is derived from Middle English to express the experience of ‘Divine Guidance’.
In February 2006, I left a relationship of 14 years. Throughout the last 4 years, my connection to the aforementioned words has been nothing less than the most magnificent roller coaster ride.
Ending my relationship, I left behind the identity that had become my prison. Don’t get me wrong. I was safe, and comfortable. I wanted nothing, but needed freedom and space. The confines of my relationship with the most wonderful person had begun to strangle me. Safe, stable and comfortable are words that I would never have used in describing my life prior to this relationship. The lifestyle of uncertainty and comfort of change is how I was raised. I missed the familiarity of the unfamiliar. In order for me to grow, I had to go.
I think I felt this realization on a cellular level before I took action. I stuffed away my emotions of doubt and eventually became a shell of myself. Finally, I had no choice. My body told me it was time to go, ready or not. Sometimes we can prepare for the earthquakes, sometimes we see them coming. They still have the power to shake us to our very core, and completely change our landscape. Other times we are blind-sided by that lone phone call which, within an instant, changes our lives. So, what is the recipe for making it through? How do we gather the courage to release from comfort or an unhealthy environment and leap into the ring of change, the ring of fire?
For me, I had to recognize that through the cracks there was a great light shining, a light that was fueled by spirit itself. Ultimately I had buried my light all on my own. No one else can do this for you or to you. We give away our power, it isn’t taken from us. I had to remember that being Empowered comes from within. It was up to me to go through rather than around the fire. So I did. I moved out of the house that I owned with my partner, I took nothing with me but my clothes. I moved consistently without laying down roots for the next 3 years.
It was at one of my temporary homes that I opened my first package of Zobha clothing. My friend, and now fellow Circle of Grace member, Shannon Paige Schneider had recommended that I would be a good example of Zobha’s message. I felt the farthest from this! However, when I wore my Zobha, I felt feminine, connected, and graceful for the first time in a very long time. It felt so good.
As I traveled and connected with my extended yoga family, everyone noted the difference in me. They said I looked lighter. I felt lighter, I was lighter. I realized that I had felt like a fraud. Mostly because I was! I wasn’t living my truth, following my Sva-Dharma, my heart’s true purpose. Now that I had begun pursuing this it was clear that it wasn’t an option.
We must recognize that the feelings of safety, stability and comfort can only truly come from within. No matter where I am or what the resources may be, I have the deep depths of my well of faith, perseverance, grace and strength to draw from.
Our yoga practice can heal the deepest wounds. Sometimes it is our practice that reveals where the wounds are residing. By recognizing where our imbalances are, we can create a practice that correlates to the energetic body or Chakra(s) that need nourishment. Through this balance and strength we are prepared to face whatever the Universe provides.
I get incredible joy from teaching yoga, from my holistic (mental) health practice. I aim to cultivate an environment that fosters healing and integrating not only body, mind and spirit, but inspiration, faith and truth. Live your Truth. This is my passion and my ‘Divine Guidance’.
Coral Brown, is a certified senior teacher and teacher trainer for Shiva Rea’s Prana Flow Yoga. She leads retreats, workshops, and teacher trainings worldwide.
Posted by: Circle of Grace Member, Shannon Paige Schneider
My mother would laugh at me as a child and marvel at my creativity with language. I would sometimes hear words as I heard them and offer definitions that I felt made contextual sense. I would make words and their definitions my own.
“Empowerment” was one of those words. I remember hearing it and in the conversation it seemed clear to me that the power in question was something that made a person feel good on the INSIDE. I began to use the four-syllable word in the everyday, feeling really, REALLY, really big in my little boots.
Only, I was saying, “IN-powerment.”
My mom asked me to qualify it once. She cocked her head to one side and said, “You know, I think you are right.” So she did not correct me. In fact, she NEVER let on at all. I do not actually remember who DID finally point out the snafu but it kind of stuck with me my whole life and I think about it every once in a while when I feel small, contracted, or a little uninspired.
Who does NOT like to be powered on the inside? Who does not like to feel lit up and in the seat of solid decisions and following truth, joy, inspiration, and intuition?
Everyone can operate from a sense of internal power. This is actually the sustainable state. It is like GREENING one’s decisions and life-lived patterns. When we live without this, our energy falls, we push ourselves to the limit and burnout, exhaustion, fatigue, and depression are not far behind.
Power is something very different from force, though both can be internalized and can find a strong presence in the day-to-day. We can force ourselves to sit in front of a situation and take it in. We can force ourselves to show up in a situation where we are diminished or told we are not enough, screwed up, somehow not quite right. We can force ourselves to act as though we feel a certain way to attain a certain outcome. We can force a decision to feel right and righteous. We can simply force for the sake of force.
OR, we can soften and listen to the questions we are asking inside. We can soften and listen to the vibrations of grace we are answering to ourselves on the inside. When we soften and tap into the way life and love and energy moves through us, we realize that it is our nature to live in connection to an expanding universe. In lining up to that pulse of expansion, remembrance and placing ourselves in tandem to universal embrace, we too power up from the inside.
We find ourselves IN-powered.
When IN-powered, we are much less likely to make a decision for a small outcome. When IN-powered we don’t really feel the need to push a single agenda. When IN-powered, we look for grace, goodness, and a win-win in service to the expansion of the universe herself. When we live in a state of IN-powerment, there is less fear, there is more creativity and there are rows and rows and rows of more love blossoms blooming. When we are IN-powered, we give unconscious permission for others to do and live the same.
So the exercise is to sit, to soften, to listen, to re-spond rather than re-act and therein lies the work of a lifetime. However, the power certainly outweighs any sense of force, leverage, or sense of unsustainable lack.
Make a list of all those activities you have in your day that lift you up. Make a list of all those people in your life who make you feel held, safe, and present. Do you realize that these people, places, things all live in the vibration of you, your memory, your body, your capacity to connect? At ANY one time, you, me, we can turn within and see them, feel them, know that they are part of us from the inside out. We are, therefore, constantly IN-powered by those we love.
Here’s to living IN-powered.
Shan, as she is known to her students and friends, is the founder and muse of om time. She is an activist, an eternal optimist, and a lover of the flow of grace within everyone. Shannon has been featured in Alternative Health Magazine and Yoga International. She leads weekly classes in Boulder and Denver, as well as workshops, intensives, teacher trainings and retreats nationally and internationally.
Shannon will be teaching a Zobha-sponsored community class along with fellow Circle of Grace member, Coral Brown, at the Yoga Journal Boston Conference on April 10, 2010 from 1-2PM. For more information on the community class, see our events page - http://www.zobha.com/t-events.aspx
The experience of your first yoga class feels like embarking on a mysterious adventure into a whole new terrain. As your curiosity peers into the incense-filled hallways lined with Ganesh and Shiva the open-hearted calm beckons you to travel into your own sacred inner realm. The seductive power of yoga is an addictive calling to go deeper into yourself. Once you experience firsthand how magical yoga is, all resistance becomes futile.
Regardless of your intention, when you plant the first seeds of your lotus flower, the transformative power of this ancient spiritual science works on a deep level of your being. Many people start yoga for fitness reasons only to find that yoga changes their lives in ways far beyond the physical. Even if you are not a true believer and only wish to receive the physical health benefits of yoga, merely attending a yoga class regularly will have a lasting impact on your life. The beauty of the physical yoga postures is that you do not actually need to believe in them in order for the healing power of yoga to work. Hatha yoga approaches the transformation of the human spirit from the body first and then works its way subtly through to the mind and soul. The body itself is an avenue to the spiritual that works from the inside out. As you water the seeds of padmasana, the full blooming lotus opens in your mind and soul.
Entering the new world of yoga is the first conscious step to live a more peaceful life. The initiatory phase of yoga is your chance to powerful create your life moment to moment and live your highest potential every day. As a neophyte, it is important to remember that it is natural to feel overwhelmed when you realize just how demanding spiritual discipline really is. Rather than a recreational activity that you can keep separate from your life, yoga asks you to transform your whole life to abide by yogic principles. If at first you find yourself drawn to the physical display of power in advanced asana, you quickly see that the heart of yoga reaches far deeper than the postures themselves. Indeed the asanas are only used to purify the body, practice meditative states of unified consciousness and prepare the physical form to be a home for divinity in the world of mind and matter. The more advanced asanas are not ends in and of themselves. Instead the real work of yoga happens on the inner body and is actually the seed of your own enlightenment beginning to flower.
Like an open invitation to the spiritual path, yoga never places commandments on practitioners from above. When you start practicing yoga, the body itself becomes more sensitive and then asks you to live a more pure lifestyle. While the moral and ethic codes of a yogic lifestyle ask practitioners to be an instrument of kindness, compassion and healing in the world, the choice to live a peaceful life is meant to be a sincere feeling that each practitioners feels for themselves before acting upon it. Practicing asana makes the body more sensitive so that you feel more clearly the impact that unhealthy behavior, negative thoughts and destructive emotions have on you. Yoga never tells you what you can and cannot do. It is a path of liberation not bondage. It is a path of direct knowingness rather than rules and edicts. The practice of yoga itself opens your body and mind to desire wholly a new way of being, living and interacting with yourself and others. It is the heightening of your own awareness that facilitates the transformation. You change not because your teacher tells you to but because yoga opens the door to a new way of being that you choose to walk through with joy, ease and grace. The journey into the lotus heart of yoga is a lifelong spiritual practice that bears flowers in this life and beyond.
Faced with the seemingly insurmountable goal of ultimate enlightenment many new students doubt their ability to ever progress along the arduous path of yoga. They look at their teachers or other accomplished practitioners and wonder how they will ever get from their relative feeling of confusion to the clarity, grace and precision they see in the masterful art form of yoga. Yet small seeds do not doubt whether they will become trees. They trust the natural process of evolution and growth that takes them from seeds to sprouting seedlings to flowering, fruitful trees. With proper nutrients, care and love, the flower of your inner lotus is sure to grow to maturity in the fertile soil of your own consciousness. Every accomplished yogi today has benefitted from the guidance of their teachers and been nurtured by the yoga community. Every yoga teacher today has also nourished their own journey with their own dedication and devotion. If you are a new students of yoga remember that you hold the key to the power of yoga. It is in your own heart that the seed of spiritual investigation must take root, watered by the flow of your own consciousness. When you embark on your own operation lotus, know that this journey is a timeless one that never ends – it only deepens. Small treasures abound when you attempt challenging postures that seem impossible that with time, dedication and guidance, evolve into possibility.