Yoga

Here, find insights, teachings, and explorations into all things yoga.

Posted on August 21st, 2012 by in Yoga

Nourishing the Teacher

The other weekend in a yoga teacher training, we had a lovely woman guide our group in the basics of restorative yoga. At the end of the night, seeing my students in the sweet, post-practice daze, I tried to recall the last time I put my legs up the wall and covered my eyes with my lavender eye pillow. It had been a while.

Life as a yoga teacher can get busy. E-mails, cooking, writing, leading classes, planning, marketing, meeting with students, Facebook updates, and studying are only the beginning. Throw in social engagements, kids, community work, an additional job, and phone calls to loved ones, and there are simply not enough hours in the day.

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Posted on August 20th, 2012 by in Words from the Wise, Yoga

Talking with Seane Corn: Activism Starts from Within

Right away, Seane Corn will have you know: She is not perfect. Although she is one of the yoga community’s best-known teachers—a gifted orator, physically beautiful, and, as the founder of the grassroots outreach effort, Off the Mat, Into the World (OTM), certifiably giving—the Los Angeles–based yoga star can be impatient, controlling, short-tempered, and reactive. She has a mouth like a truck driver. Corn makes it clear, however, that she hasn’t succeeded despite these shortcomings—rather, she has succeeded because of them. Learning to recognize, and claim, those imperfect parts of herself has, she says, made her a better teacher, friend, daughter, and partner, and directly benefited her efforts as an activist.

Corn began her relationship with activism at an early age. As a recent high school graduate living in Manhattan, she participated in emotionally charged rallies concerning women’s and gay rights. Before giant, angry crowds, she’d hop on stage, grab a megaphone, and release her point of view in bouts of rage, thinking that she needed to be loud in order to be heard. Eventually—and largely, she says, through her yoga practice—Corn began to understand that change happened only when both sides were willing to see, and hear, the other’s point of view, which first required her to learn to truly appreciate her own.

“For a long time, I had a need to change or fix certain circumstances but an unwillingness to look at my own issues,” says Corn. “I realized that if I was going to change the world, I needed to start with myself.” She came to understand that being a good activist meant taking responsibility for her feelings and respecting those of others even—especially—those with whom she might not necessarily agree, a philosophy that became a natural extension of her yoga practice.

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Posted on August 18th, 2012 by in Healthy Living, Yoga

On Being Flexible

The practice of yoga can help bring balance to our lives. We all have particular tendencies and patterns and, without awareness, these patterns can create imbalance. By becoming aware of our habitual tendencies—and consciously applying their opposites—we can release stuck patterns and bring body, mind, and spirit back into union. Here are some polarities you […]

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Posted on August 14th, 2012 by in Yoga

Ancient Wisdom on a New Path

Where Yoga and Shamanism Meet, Bold Directions Unfold

In 2006, Kripalu faculty member Ray Crist was recovering from a debilitating illness. A yoga teacher, martial artist, and Reiki practitioner, Ray had spent four years traveling the world seeking those who could heal him. His quest took him from the Buddhist monasteries on the borders of Cambodia to the clinics of the National Institutes of Health in Maryland. But when he ventured into the jungles of Peru to study with Incan shamans, the experience opened new doors of perception—and healing—within himself.

Guided by Don Manuel Portugal, a shaman in Cuzco, Peru, Ray discovered the culture, mythology, and practices of Incan shamanism. “Shamans are the medicine people of their tribe,” Ray says. “Their methods of healing center on the ‘energy body’ and plant medicine.” The deeper he delved into Incan shamanism, the more he began to notice profound similarities with yoga. “Yogis and shamans view the world as a physical world,” he explains. “Traumatic experiences are embedded in the body—near a joint, muscle, meridian, internal organ, or chakra. Yoga and shamanism help us delve into the root of our traumas to find healing on physical and emotional levels.” Ray began incorporating shamanistic principles into his yoga practice, imbuing it with a new richness. “Shamanism brought to my practice a direct awareness of energy moving through my body, a visceral understanding of what each asana offers,” he says.

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Posted on August 13th, 2012 by in Ask the Expert, Yoga

Ask the Expert: Movement and Meditation

In this edition of Ask the Expert, Cristie Newhart, yoga advisor for Kripalu’s Healthy Living programs, deconstructs two foundational postures—Triangle and Standing Forward Fold—and explains why meditation doesn’t just have to happen on the cushion.

When I practice Standing Forward Fold, I tend to hyperextend my legs. Any recommendations for practicing this pose safely?

There are many reasons why people hyperextend the knees, and most of the reasons are due to the relationship of hamstrings to the quads. It’s important to practice in such a way that the muscles around the knee protect and stabilize the knee. In most cases, it’s helpful to lift the quadriceps muscles in the front of the leg. Also, remember to lengthen the front of the body as you fold. The top of the pelvis tilts forward as you bend at the hip crease—think of the way an old-fashioned Rolodex flips forward. Don’t be overly concerned with your torso coming to your thighs—instead think in terms of spinal length. Be aware of the support of abdominal muscles below the navel. This support allows for greater flexibility in the lumbar spine. If your arms don’t reach the floor, try resting them on blocks rather than letting them dangle. Pressing the hands into a stable surface can help you find more length in the spine. Please do not be afraid to practice this posture with bent knees until you have strengthened your hamstrings.

I don’t have time to meditate for more than 5 or 10 minutes early in the morning. Is that enough?

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Posted on July 24th, 2012 by in Studies, News, and Trends, Yoga

Hot Yoga: How Hot is Too Hot?

It’s been a record-breaking summer so far, with early-season heat waves pushing temperatures along the typically seasonable Northeast into the upper 90s and past 100. Those of us who are fans of hot yoga— whether we’re talking about mildly heated vinyasa or Bikram, where the room is set to a sweaty 105 degrees F—know that the practice can be a welcome relief in the cold winter months. But what about when temperatures outside the studio are hotter than temperatures in?

Whether induced by vigorous exercise, high heat, or both, sweating is the body’s way of cooling us down, by absorbing heat and releasing it into the atmosphere. The process of evaporation is key to this function; that’s why doctors say to avoid wiping sweat if you can, letting it dissipate on its own instead. (If you’re dripping, however, you might as well wipe; anything that hits the floor won’t get a chance to cool you down.) But when we’re so used to “sweating it out,” how do we know when hot may be getting a little over the top?

It’s a simple matter of self-awareness, says Devarshi Steven Hartman, Dean of the Kripalu School of Yoga and a fan of hot yoga. “Sweating is detoxifying, while the heat itself can make our bodies more amenable to certain postures,” he says, noting that people with high blood pressure or heart conditions should use extra caution—or, even better, get the okay from a doctor first—when doing yoga in high heat. The downsides, of course, include the risk of dehydration and becoming overly exhausted. “Levels of tolerance are very individual, and can vary day by day,” he says.

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Posted on July 16th, 2012 by in Outside Our Walls, Yoga

Outside Our Walls: Yoga Everywhere

In this series, we hear from recipients of KYTA’s Teaching for Diversity and Rachel Greene Memorial Fund grants, as they change the world one posture at a time.

Melinda Atkins, Guest Blogger

Introducing yoga to a group of middle-school students is an enlightening experience, especially after teaching yoga full-time to high-school students. Middle-school minds are more impressionable, and their bodies more malleable, than those of their older counterparts. Eager to learn discipline, most are still children who want to be grown, and the success the practice rewards them with along the way encourages their self-confidence.

Today’s student typically suffers from poor posture, poor eating habits, and poor self-esteem. For middle schoolers, with an overt awareness of their changing bodies, classroom performance is hindered. With surges and shifts in hormones, along with excessive technological stimuli, students are hard-pressed when it comes to focus. This ultimately causes stress and, for many—especially those struggling to assimilate—failure.

Years of teaching high-school English has instilled in me an empathetic view of the physical, mental, and emotional demands involved in adolescent development. Armed with a master’s degree in Education and an understanding of the impact a pedagogic approach to yoga would have on adolescents, I created a semester-long yoga course and taught it as part of a high-school curriculum.

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Posted on July 13th, 2012 by in Nutrition, Yoga

The Yoga of Nutrition

How does yoga philosophy apply to healthful eating? According to Kripalu Lead Nutritionist, Annie B. Kay, MS, RD, RYT, in her R&R retreat lecture, The Yoga of Nutrition, examining our nutritional choices through a lens of mindfulness can help us become more aware and empowered.

When there’s balance in all areas of our life, Annie says, when we’re eating whole plant-based foods, getting enough physical activity, and managing our stress, we are nurturing our whole beings—physically, emotionally, and spiritually—and nourishing our deepest selves.

One of the cornerstones of the yoga of nutrition, Annie points out, is mindful eating—slowing down, paying attention to what’s happening by focusing the sensations occurring while we eat. “Are you a fast eater, or do you savor every bite? Do you zone out and eat in front of the TV?” Annie asks. These questions can lead us into a new understanding of what guides our choices and allows us to examine our cravings.

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