Browsing articles in "Yoga"

Bringing a beginner’s mind with me…

Oct 13, 2011   //   by Yoga Lisa DC   //   Blog, Events, Yoga  //  No Comments

I have struggled for nearly the last two weeks trying to write about my last advanced teacher training (“ATT”) weekend. I’ve wanted to share all the information I learned about knowing your flow and anatomy trains, and I’ve tried to keep it short (but there was so much good information). I was at a loss of how to approach it, until I taught a yoga class again last night. My studio selects an asana and a theme of the month, and teachers have the responsibility to work both into class. This month’s theme is having a beginner’s mind and as I taught class night, it struck me that it’s with that perspective that I would approach sharing what I learned.

some of my fellow teacher trainee's with Jane & Buckminster (the studio skeleton)

Of all the workshops this last ATT weekend, two of the workshops led by Jane Bahneman – Know Your Flow and Ride the Train – resonated with me the most. I found a beginner’s mind in these workshops that helped me to be open to learning new material and now I am really seeking to bring the elements of what I learned into my teaching and personal practice.

In Know Your Flow, Jane emphasized that by achieving proper alignment of the bones, you could then train the proper muscles to engage (from the deepest to the most superficial). Since we have many muscles that we can’t touch physically, the only way to activate them is through proper bone alignment. I’m way oversimplifying this, but this was the general idea. And on Friday evening of that weekend, we did a 90 minute alignment-based flow that demonstrated this point and also reinforced that some of the smallest changes we make in our form, can have a significant impact on the end result – it was like doing some of this asana for the first time. There are many examples that I could walk you through, but I will limit them to these two (and for the record, I had heard some of these before, but they didn’t sink in until this ATT weekend).

1)     Lunge – before coming up to a full lunge, check that the knee of the front leg aligns over the ankle; place the same thumb as front leg in the hip crease and roll the thigh out (externally rotate it), while drawing the inner thigh towards the midline of the body; draw up through the pelvic floor and draw the lower belly in and up (belly button pulls towards the spine); now that you’ve made these adjustments sweep arms up alongside the ears.

2)     Warrior II – back foot is parallel to the back edge of the mat, toes just slightly angled in; front foot pointing straight towards the front of the mat, heel perpendicular to the arch of the back foot; bend into the front knee (knee aligned over ankle); draw up through the pelvic floor and draw the lower belly in and up (belly button pulls towards the spine, as the tailbone lengthens towards the floor); feel the hips energetically pushing down towards the floor as you lift the inner arch of the back foot, pressing the outer edge of the foot into the ground.

And in all cases, the breath is extremely important, so always breathing in and out through the nose, feeling the diaphragm fill on the inhale, feeling it collapse as it empties on the exhale. And in general, engaging the pelvic floor and lower belly (mula and uddiyana bandha) help to draw the body into better alignment. Engaging these bandhas and breathing help to tone the deep core muscles, which are not always reached when doing traditional core work (such as abdominal crunches).

In Ride the Train, we learned about the 7 myofascial meridians as discussed in the book Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridan Manual for Movement Therapists by Thomas W. Myers. (After the workshop, I ordered this book and it now sits on my coffee table, since I am seeking to dig deeper into this topic.) My biggest take away here was that when something happens in one part of the body, it causes a vibration that has an effect on other parts of the body along the same line (or train). What does this mean: “pain, tightness, weakness, mal-alignment, and injury in the body are likely set in motion from strain likely occurring in other parts of the body.” (Jane Bahneman, Ride the Train handout)

So, that’s all well and great for me, but how do I know what connects with what? After some discussion of the general concepts of anatomy trains, we discussed the 7 lines/trains. I won’t bore you with the details about all of them. Some things that I would like to “bore” you with though. Did you know that working the muscles and fascia in the bottom of the feet through massage or MFR (myofascial release) can help relax your shoulders and potentially help to alleviate a tension headache? The Superficial Back Line (“SBL”) runs from along the back of the body, starting at the tips of the toes on the sole of the foot and travelling all the way over the skull connecting about your eyebrows. So, releasing parts of the fascia anywhere along the SBL can help to release other areas of the SBL. Similar things can be said about all of the lines, take the lateral lines (“LL”), that run from the outer ankle along side the body up to the ear (this includes the iliotibial band or IT band, which tends to be very tight on many of us). Releasing the LL through foam rolling the IT band may help release stress on the knees.

The trickiest part about these anatomy trains is that many areas of the body are part of multiple lines, so a well-rounded program that works to open up all lines can be extremely beneficial. A great example is the knee; it is directly impacted by all lines, except for the Arm Line (“AL”). The AL has an indirect impact though, as the AL includes part of the muscles of the back and shoulder, which are part of both the SBL and the Superficial Front Line. It’s all connected.

Having a beginner’s mind helped me to be open to learning and feeling these concepts. It enabled me to take a fresh look at each pose and explore it as if it was the first time I did it. It was almost like exploring these very scientific concepts with a child’s mine, not judging the information but taking it in, digesting it, and seeing what happened. 

When was the last time you had a beginner’s mind? When was the last time you allowed yourself the freedom to explore what you were doing with a fresh perspective, a fresh eye and didn’t judge the results?

Yoga teaching and accounting collide…

Oct 12, 2011   //   by Yoga Lisa DC   //   Blog, Events, meditation, Yoga  //  2 Comments

extracted from video webcast, copyright: PCAOB

So, I don’t usually write about my work in accounting, but I had an incredible opportunity yesterday and I wanted to share it. I got the opportunity to present for the first time at an open board meeting. We were finally proposing after nearly 6 months of work on this. I got to present part of the staff opening remarks and answer a few of the Board members’ questions. It was really exciting and a little scary too. It was my first time doing an oral presentation in this format, but then I took a step and realized, I had all the tools and many have recently been developed through my yoga teacher training

One of the first things that they taught us in my yoga teacher training was to take the seat of a teacher when you are teaching a class. This is less about being in command and more about having a certain presence in the space you are in. Apply that concept in this forum and it meant taking my seat as a professional, translating to being and staying present in the meeting and conveying confidence as I sat at the table.

Then in my yoga teacher training, in addition to taking my seat as a teacher, I have to develop my teaching voice. Part of finding that voice includes learning how to be clear, concise, non-repetitive, and articulate as I teach (plus having fun). As I continue to teach, I continue to refine my voice and my ability to learn these skills. These are also key traits of being an effective public speaker. And my teaching practice helps me to refine these skills (I’d like to say, they helped me, but in reality, it’s on-going development and growth), which I brought with me into the meeting.

I also took a comfortable seat in a different way. Generally, we talk about this when preparing for meditation – come to a comfortable seat. In this case, I took what I’ve learned from meditation and brought it into the meeting with me. When you take the seat of a professional, especially in this forum, you don’t want to fidget, you want to be still and focused. So, when I wasn’t talking, I took a comfortable seat (modified for my situation – feet flat on the floor, spine long, shoulders broad, hands in my lap). I then spent the majority of the open meeting breathing softly, focusing on each person who was speaking, using my breath to help me stay focused, not fidget, and be present. It worked rather well. It was so effective and I stayed so relaxed that I intend to try this in other meetings I attend.

I was really happy with how everything turned out. And the feedback I’ve gotten from my colleagues has been incredibly positive. This experience really reinforced to me how yoga teaching is as much of a practice for life outside the studio as the physical asana practice is. I hadn’t thought about it until I was preparing for this meeting.

Do you do anything that helps you out both in life and in the activity (team sports, individual sports, etc.)? If you are a teacher, how do you take what you’ve learned from taking the seat of a teacher into other areas of your life?

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Other tidbits:

Parts of my opening remarks were quoted on the FEI Financial Reporting Blog today and I was almost quoted in a local newspaper.

Click here if you’re interested in hearing any part of this open meeting or just getting some insight into what I do during the day. You can find me approximately at the following markers: 0:07:23, 1:23:00, 1:33:00, and 1:44:00.

Bookending a long drive with yoga

Oct 6, 2011   //   by Yoga Lisa DC   //   Blog, vacation, Yoga  //  No Comments

copyright: Tranquil Space, LLC

This week I’m spending some time in NJ with my sister and nephews. I visit them a fair amount and this trip is special because my younger nephew just turned 1. And 99% of the time, I drive up to NJ. Sometimes, I’ve been fortunate enough to have the time to take a yoga class either right before or right after the 4 hour drive, which I’ve often found can help combat some of the usual stiff and tight feelings all around my body after the long drive. This trip I made a decision that I would bookend my trip with yoga. I had the time, so why not. So, yesterday at 12 noon, I could be found at Tranquil Space‘s Arlington location for the noon on-the-go (a one hour mixed levels vinyasa class). And at 6 PM, I was at Dancing Foot Yoga in Red Bank, NJ in a mixed-levels anusara-inspired slow flow class.

This is the first time that I took yoga on both ends of the long drive and I have to say, it was wonderful. Mary Catherine’s class at Tranquil Space Arlington on the front-end of my drive was a nice primer for the road; it warmed up my body and opened up my quadriceps, hip flexors, and hamstrings, preparing me for sitting for the next 4 or so hours. It also helped me open up my chest and back, as it’s incredibly easy to get closed off and tight when you sit behind the wheel for long periods of time.  If I didn’t end up with the opportunity to take class when I arrived near my destination, I felt like this had been a great way to kick off the long afternoon ahead. Tranquil Space is my yoga home and it’s where I teach. It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to take this lunchtime class, which only happens on the rare occasion that i’m home on a weekday.

copyright: Dancing Foot Yoga

I was fortunate yesterday that the traffic was moderate and I made it to the local area in time to have an option of yoga classes to take. For as much as I thought I would take a class overlooking the beach, I decided to go with my go to yoga studio, Dancing Foot Yoga. When I first found Dancing Foot Yoga, they primarily offered Iyengar and Anusara style yoga classes. They’ve recently updated their schedule to include more varied offerings. The studio space is on the third floor of a three-story walk-up. It has high ceilings and hardwood floors. This was the first studio that I found in NJ, when I started looking for yoga studios near my parents. And I’ve found that almost any trip that I have time to get into a studio for my yoga practice, I have visited them. Last night, I went to Emily’s mixed-levels yoga class. What was cool is that she recollected me from when I attended a workshop she lead back in the winter – Anusara-inspired Neck & Shoulder Workshop. Emily is certified in the Anusara tradition, but began her practice with the Ashtanga tradition. So, last night, she lead us in an anusara-inspired slow flow. Lately, I’ve been craving slower more alignment based flows, so this was perfect. It was exactly what I needed after the drive. I came out of the practice feeling very relaxed and my body felt very open.

Bookending my long drive with yoga felt so great. It completely combatted the usual stiff and tight feelings that I often have after a long drive. I feel like I can say that this would feel great on any long trips, where you sit for hours at a time – trains, planes, or automobiles. It’s definitely not always feasible, but to the extent it’s an option or that even a short home practice to bookend the trip is possible, I am going to try to start making this into a habit.

What are things that you do to help prepare your body to travel? How do you avoid the stiffness that often comes with long trips where you sit for hours?

Turning my world upside down…an update

Sep 27, 2011   //   by Yoga Lisa DC   //   Blog, headstand, inversions, Yoga  //  No Comments

my friend Johnna in headstand

On September 12th, I decided to challenge myself to turn my world upside down, every day for 100 consecutive days. Here’s my progress so far…the first 16 days…

Days 1-4: successful! Turned my world upside both at the wall and away from the wall.

Day 5: took a break

Day 6: wonderful headstand where my teacher helped me correct some misalignments (twisted body, collapsed side body, and position of feet)

Day 7: took a break

Days 8 & 9: success! Headstand in class, invigorating and relaxing all at the same time.

Day 10: Headstand at home after teaching, felt relaxed.

Day 11: took a break

Day 12: headstand at home

Day 13: took a break

Day 14: Headstand as I prepared for class.

Day 15: allergies acting up, so no inverting. :(

Day 16: Headstand before class… felt really invigorating, but a little unsteady. I wasn’t completely relaxed.

So, I haven’t been as consistent as I had hoped I would be, but I’m still doing it. With a pose like headstand, you really only want to get into the pose when you know you are ready for it and when you know you are in a frame of mind and body that you will protect your neck. If I’m too tired, not feeling well, or sometimes, when I’m by myself, I prefer not doing this pose. It’s scares me to think that if I move wrong I could injure my neck. That being said, when I’ve come into headstand in these last two or so weeks, I have felt incredible. The craziest thing about headstand and any inversion is that when you are properly aligned the asana doesn’t feel like work, you have the perfect balance of sthira and sukha (effort and ease) and feel light as a feather.

Sthira-sukham asanam (the practice of observing effort and ease) is one of Patanjali’s yoga sutras. (Sutra II.46) As with all of the yoga sutras, there are many translations of the Sanskrit. As translated in Living Your Yoga (p. 23), “the posture should be steady and comfortable”. As translated in The Secret Power of Yoga: A Woman’s Guide to the Heart and Spirit of the Yoga Sutras, Kindle edition (location 3547-3557), “the natural comfort and joy of our being is expressed when the body becomes steady (asana)”. Both of these translations, plus my very simplistic interpretation all focus on one thing, finding a balance. You push yourself so as to challenge yourself, but not so far that you it takes incredible effort to hold. This has been our theme of the month at the studio – finding that place where we can find effortlessness.

I love thinking of this in my inversions. In a headstand, when I find that perfect balance, I feel like as a feather (as if the asana is easy), and I am not pushing myself extremely hard to stay inverted, yet because I am not pushing myself, I almost feel as if the pose is too easy, and I may doubt myself and release sooner than I need to. It took me a long while to get to this point of being able to find the balance in my headstand and I know that when I am ready to begin growing into handstand and forearmstand, I expect that it will be a slow journey there too. This is reflective of life off the mat too, finding the balance between trying to hard to make things happen and sitting back and waiting for something to happen.

On my mat, every day is different. I strive to achieve the balance between effort and ease in each asana, while accepting that how deep I can go may be different than the day before or the day after. I continue to learn to laugh when I fall out of a pose and to not forget to breathe when I am unable to come into a pose. I am learning not to be frustrated and to take each experience on the mat and use it to grow my practice. Off the mat, I sometimes struggle applying effort and ease. I continue to seek to learn from my experiences and not allow myself to get frustrated when things happen that don’t go as planned or the way i thought they should or how i want them to. This is an evolving process and as I have continued my practice on the mat, I have found that it is easier and easier to do this off the mat. As I continue this journey to know myself, to be present, and to give up control, I sometimes find the balance between effort and ease, and with that comes a contentment that is indescribable.

Have you turned your world upside down lately? When was the last time you found the perfect balance between effort and ease? How did it feel?

It’s the journey, not the destination…

Sep 22, 2011   //   by Yoga Lisa DC   //   Blog, Yoga  //  1 Comment

Many of my yoga teachers say that it’s not about the end of result (the asana or posture), but it’s about the process that you take to get into an asana.  And to me, this process is a journey.  As you begin to practice and study yoga, you begin to realize that it’s about more than just landing in a pose, holding it for a while, and then moving onto the next one.  It’s about flowing seamlessly from one into the next, smoothly transitioning.  And when you are taking a class, it’s about learning not to anticipate what the teacher will say next and listening for the next direction.  Even though you think you will flow from a plank into a chataranga, this time it may be a plank to a high lunge or back to a downward facing dog or stepping up to a forward bend.

So many times in life, and in yoga, we try to anticipate what will come next.  Instead of being open to seeing what the future will bring, we try to plan out every step – as if we are event planning our lives or strategizing how to pay off our debt.  It’s extremely hard to go with the flow and just see where you end up.  We often forget that life is a journey, not a destination (very cliche, I know).  On this journey, we have to savor all the moments and recognize that there are many twists, turns, bumps, and detours along the way.   But most importantly is that it is a journey.

My yoga practice has opened up my mind and helped me to find clarity.  I have more than ever started to recognize that I don’t know where I’m going and I don’t know if I even want to know.  If you asked me five years ago where I thought I would be today, I can with absolute certainty tell you that it’s not where I am today.  If you asked me if I thought I would be a yoga teacher or would have had three jobs in a 12 month period, I think I would have let out a big laugh. That’s just simply not where I was at the time (and happily I can say I’ve only had 1 job for the last 20 months, but 18 months ago, I couldn’t say that).  The universe brings you what you need when you need it.  Although often, we ignore it because our heads don’t agree with what our hearts or intuition tell us.

Recognizing that everything is about the journey and savoring the journey are two things that have been clarified for me.  As it states in one of my favorite books, The Tao of Pooh, “If we add up all the rewards in our lives, we won’t have very much. But if we add up the spaces between the rewards, we’ll come up with quite a bit. And if we add up the rewards and the spaces, then we’ll have everything – every minute of the time that we spent. What if we could enjoy it?”

If you see everything as a journey and savor every moment of the journey (the beginning to the end and all the bumps inbetween), you will feel more fulfilled and much happier, and you are less likely to miss out on life waiting for something grand to happen… well, at least, that’s how it is for me.  I can’t speak for you, but try changing your perspective and see what happens, you might be surprised.

Isvara Pranidhana … to let go, to surrender.

Sep 21, 2011   //   by Yoga Lisa DC   //   Blog, Yoga  //  No Comments

In the yoga sutras, there are 5 restraints (the yamas) and 5 observances (the niyamas). These restraints and observances are almost like 10 commandments for living your life (and in some cases mirror or are very similar to the 10 commandments found in the Old Testament in the Christian bible and in the Torah, for example ahimsa, the practice of not harming yourself or others is similar to “Thou shalt not kill”, and asteya, the practice of not stealing, including time, possessions, is similar to “Thou shalt not steal”.). I have found that in the last 9 months, the niyama of Isvara Prandihana has particularly resonated with me. The idea of letting go and surrendering to that which is greater than myself is very powerful and liberating. And practicing it (or diligently trying to) forces me to give up one thing that I particularly have difficulty giving up – control.

During my 200-hr yoga teacher training, we did a yoga philosophy take-home exam and I wrote the following about Isvara Pranidhana:

“Isvara Pranidhana is the practice of letting go of control. It is recognizing that one cannot control everything and by losing your grip, you can achieve true happiness. Change is a constant in life, some change is controlled by you, some change is controlled by those around you, and other change is contributed by your environment. By allowing yourself the freedom to live in the moment and not dwell on what might be or what was, you free yourself from pain and suffering and are able to grow through and appreciate what life has served you.”

So on the last part, it’s not to say that you will never have any pain or suffering but by letting go of control, you move forward rather than dwell and be stuck.

Our take-home exam was a collection of our personal reflections and thoughts about various elements of yoga philosophy. And here, I was reflecting on something that I must work very hard at. At first, the idea of surrendering was very daunting and honestly, quite scary. I had to give up control (and for a type A personality, giving up control is really difficult). Giving up control for me is really a lot of getting out of my own mind (sometimes I think way too much), to allow life to just happen. And by no means am I even close to having mastered this, but I’m on a path that helps foster the ability to let go. Letting go of my preconceived notions and my insecurities allows me to not be as judgmental as I might otherwise be and allows my natural confidence to shine. I stop trying to be something I’m not and just get to be me. And letting go of my desire to take charge of everything has enabled me to add a little more fun to my life.

At the end of my yoga practice, I often describe savasana (final relaxation) as surrendering into the floor and letting go of stress and anxiety, allowing new energy to refresh me. I joke that I don’t want to know what is really swept up when the studio assistants sweep the floor, as everyone leaves something behind. It took me several months of practice to learn how to let go and release in savasana and I use that experience to help me learn how to let go and surrender control in life.

In a half dozen translations of the yoga sutras, there will likely be a half dozen slightly different translations and just as many varied interpretations. This is my interpretation of this niyama and my present experience with surrendering and letting go. I continue to work to let go of control (it’s a long road for a type A personality, but it’s rewarding when it happens) and I’m sure that I will for a long time.

Have you “let go” or “surrendered” recently? Was it scary? How do you feel now about your choice to let go?

Turning my world upside down… My 100 days of headstand

Sep 14, 2011   //   by Yoga Lisa DC   //   Blog, inversions, Yoga  //  No Comments

my friend, Johnna, in headstand

After this weekend’s yoga on the beach, I decided that I would start a personal 100 days of headstand challenge. My friend and yoga teaching colleague, Mary Catherine, did one of these herself a few months ago. At the time, I thought it was a great idea, but wasn’t exactly ready to commit to it. However, after my little ego trip this weekend, I am ready to turn my world upside and get comfortable in what used to be my favorite inversion.

I developed my love for headstand last summer after I bruised my tailbone and found that shoulderstand was completely uncomfortable as I would have to put pressure on my tailbone. I started working with it a little over a year ago. Headstand was a nice opportunity to invert and didn’t require any pressure to be put on my tailbone.  Unfortunately, I  stopped practicing headstand in February, after I hit my head on the floor falling out of a different inversion. And for the most part since then, I haven’t been very comfortable approaching headstand at all. And since February, I probably have tried headstand all of a dozen times and most of the time decided that it didn’t feel right, so I didn’t even fully invert. Well after my weekend, this Monday, I decided to give headstand another whirl. It’s been more than 6 months since I hit my head and I’ve decided it’s time to see how it feels. Before class, I came into it at the wall and it felt great, staying up for 10-15 breath cycles. Last night and tonight, I came into it away from the wall (by a good 3 feet), holding it for 5-10 breath cycles. It felt incredible and I remember how free I feel when the world is turned upside down. It completely changes your perspective.

During these 100 days, my approach is: turn my world upside down once a day, do the headstand at the wall or away from the wall whatever I feel like that day, take it one day at a time, and take my time – don’t ever rush coming up to the full inversion. That’s it. It’s simple and straight-forward, nothing fancy and no fancy rules. The most important part is taking it one day at a time and not rushing; anything is achievable if you take it one day at a time, one moment at a time.

Each day is a new day, each headstand is a new headstand. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be comfortable with headstand away from the wall again after these 100 days. I love turning my world upside down. And I can’t wait to do it more often.

Have you turned your world upside down lately? Do you have a favorite inversion?

Yoga on the Beach

Sep 12, 2011   //   by Yoga Lisa DC   //   Blog, Yoga  //  No Comments

part of the view from the practice space

This past weekend, Lululemon Athletica sponsored their second annual Salutation Nation. I missed the first annual in Washington, DC in 2010, but knew once it was announced that I wouldn’t miss it in 2011. And I did miss it, in Washington, DC. I went to visit my family in NJ, who I hadn’t seen in the last months. I decided I would venture out to the beach and take part in the even with the yoga community in Monmouth County, NJ.

This was the first time that I have ever practiced yoga on the beach. I love taking my yoga practice outside and am always looking for opportunities to do so. There is just something about the energy of being outside. And this first experience on the beach was incredible. I haven’t been to the beaches on the jersey shore in nearly 4 years and that last time was for a work training. I had forgotten how incredibly picturesque they can be.

the incredible sky after a week of rain

This saturday morning was especially gorgeous… clear blue sky with high and sparse clouds, ocean water slamming against the shore, a light breeze, and firm, clean sand. After the week of rainy, dreary weather, this saturday morning was a refreshing change. It was completely worth getting up early and making the drive down to the beach.

the waves hitting the shore... made for incredible sounds during savasana

From my parents’ house (where i stay when I’m in NJ), it was about a 35 minute drive and around 20 or so miles away. It’s not that far, but it’s far enough, and definitely the furthest I’ve ever gone, just to enjoy a yoga practice. I hadn’t taken a yoga class in 2 days and not only was my body craving a practice, but I really wanted to see what a beach practice would feel like. And this practice didn’t disappoint in the slightest. The ocean was our music and the sand was our prop.

I visit NJ a lot and as I travel, I like to visit yoga studios in the area, to find studios that I enjoy practicing in. This practice was lead by one of the local lululemon athletica ambassadors, Christian Valeriani of EvenFlowYoga, in Long Branch. His presence and energy were incredible.

people settling in for Saluation Nation

The practice started off with a metta meditation (loving-kindness meditation) and an intention for our practice of sending loving-kindness and compassion to all beings was set. The ocean waves in the background and such a calming voice lead us in sending loving-kindness and compassion to others as we sent energy to ourselves, loved ones, difficult individuals in our lives, and all beings on this planet – May all beings be happy; May all beings be healthy; May all beings be free from suffering; May all beings be at ease.

centering and opening meditation, copyright: lululemon athletica Shrewsbury

This happens to be one of my preferred meditation techniques and it was very fitting for the weekend of the practice. A weekend of remembering one of the worst events to happen on American soil and that had a significant impact on Monmouth County, the September 11th terrorist attacks. The attacks had a significant impact on this area of NJ. There are many people from here that have found themselves commuting into NYC on a daily basis at one time or another. I was one of them from 2007 to 2009. Many of these individuals worked in and around the towers and not all of them found their way home after the towers fell. I was fortunate that I didn’t lose any family or friends in the attack but I know others who did. This meditation was a great way to start the practice; it created a positive, healing energy and somehow, I do think that I felt the energy not only of those practicing on this beach, but of all who were practicing at 9 AM ET as part of this coast to coast event.

copyright: lululemon athletica Shrewsbury

After the meditation, the asana (posture) practice began. It was a great gentle, yet challenging flow. I really enjoyed the transitions and hope that I can remember them, as I want to try some of them in my own classes. I recently noticed that I find myself spending more time in classes that I attend listening intently to cuing and paying attention to sequencing that I enjoy than before I started teaching. I’ve been working on refining how I cue in my own classes and bringing more creativity into my sequences, and I hope to learn something from every class that I attend. On Saturday, I found that the cuing really resonated with me, reminders to breathe and smile, seamlessly woven into directions on coming into and out of the various asanas. I always find it a little awkward cuing smiling in my classes, but I think that I will try these cues and see how they work. Smiling definitely keeps me breathing and I love how it brings a certain lightness to a yoga practice. Smiling helps me to take myself less seriously on the mat and I think it can do the same for others.

my mat covered in sand... becoming my new outdoor mat.

Sand created an interesting “floor” to practice on. It definitely brought about a certain instability, that you don’t find in a studio, and made getting grounded in balancing asanas a little more challenging. The sand though also served as a unique prop, while it caused instability in the standing balances, it created a luxurious prop for pigeon pose. We formed a mound of sand under our mats and used it in lieu of blankets or blocks to help maintain square hips.  I don’t think I’ve ever been in a pigeon that felt that good. My knees felt great and the sand “floor” was much more forgiving than a bamboo or cork floor is. Pigeon isn’t always my favorite pose, but Saturday, it was probably my favorite pose of practice. The sand made it easier and more comfortable to open up the hips.

After the wonderful pigeon, as we began to cool down, we were given the option to practice inversions and if we wanted, we could get assists in our inversions (there were 4 teachers assisting the beach practice). So, my ego decided to takeover and I asked for an assist with my forearmstand. I’ve been working on it (definitely not consistently enough) for more than a few months, and for some reason, thought this was the place to try working on it some more. I managed to get up, but my body was so twisted and the alignment so bad, that even assisted, I had to come out of it almost immediately. The yoga practice was still incredible and this definitely didn’t change my perspective on that. However, it did put other things into a little more perspective – (1) practice my inversions in my regular yoga practice (I think there may be a 100 days of headstand and forearmstand in my immediate future) and (2) if I haven’t been practicing my inversions away from a wall, don’t get the bright idea that a beach yoga practice is the place to start. Lesson learned.

All-in-all, this beach yoga practice was absolutely incredible and I will be looking for more opportunities to practice yoga on the beach in the future. And I have found a yoga studio, that I definitely want to take class at the next time I visit NJ. Yoga on the beach was the perfect start to my Saturday and I can’t wait for next year’s Salutation Nation, maybe I’ll find myself in NJ for hopefully more yoga on the beach.

Have you practiced yoga on the beach? Would you do it again? Any other places you’ve done yoga outside a studio?

 

Knitting up a storm

Aug 28, 2011   //   by Yoga Lisa DC   //   Blog, creativity, knitting, meditation, Yoga  //  No Comments

my size 19 bamboo knitting needles from ChiaoGoo

I learned how to knit when I was about 10 years old from my mother’s mother, my grandmother. For as long as I can remember, she would always have a pair of knitting needles or a crochet hook and yarn with her almost everywhere she went. I have several afghans that she knitted or crocheted over the years. And at 89, you will continue to find her crocheting – mostly baby blankets for my nephews. I didn’t do much with knitting after the summer that she taught me, but I did remember bits and pieces of what she told me.

In 2009, I had a desire to pick up knitting again. I bought a “teach yourself how to knit” kit, some yarn, and a few extra needles to get started. That year, I completed one project and started one, which was put down shortly after starting it. Whatever I thought knitting would do for me, it wasn’t doing, so I just stopped. In 2010, while I was preparing to go up to NJ for the holidays, I decided that I might as well bring my knitting stuff with me. Afterall, I would be in NJ for a week, staying at my condo alone. And when I wasn’t visiting with family and friends, I would need something to do, that did not involve eating, shopping, or watching TV. It turned out to be a very smart decision.

While I was visiting New Jersey over Christmas, a blizzard (or near blizzard) decided to come for a visit dumping 5 to 6 feet of snow on us. Needless to say, I was condo-bound for a couple days and needed something to do – that wasn’t eating or watching TV, and reading wasn’t on the top of my to do list. It was the perfect opportunity for me to try knitting again. I found my knitting groove that week. I managed to finish 1 unfinished project and complete 2 short scarves from start to finish. When I was no longer condo-bound, I went out and bought a bunch more yarn to bring back to DC with me.

I got back to DC and the year of the scarf started. I decided that many of the important women in my life would be getting a handmade scarf in 2011. In general, I’ve always felt that there are few things better than receiving a handmade gift.  You can visually see and emotionally feel the thought that went into the gift. A handmade gift may not cost a lot of money, but in my years of giving handmade gifts know, they generally take a lot of time. The giving of time to make the gift is what makes it difficult to put a price on a handmade gift and makes it so special. The year of the scarf started by making scarves for my mother and sister for their birthdays. They were the first 3 scarves that I made in 2011.  I had a lot of fun making the scarves and the act of knitting was very calming and relaxing. Seeing how much my mom and sister liked the scarves when I gifted them cemented why I wanted to keep making and giving them away.

Lion Brand Yarn (clockwise from top left): Fun Fur Orchid, Fun Fur Prints Tropical, Homespun 329 Waterfall

A few weeks into the new year, I started my yoga teacher training and I was the knitting yogini. Training was held almost every weekend (Saturday and Sunday) from February through mid-April. And I would bring my knitting with me to the yoga studio. It was almost guaranteed that you could find me in the yoga studio’s tea lounge for almost an hour every morning of training – knitting. And during the week between training weekends, I would pull out my knitting to help me relax. Over the course of my 200 hr certification, I completed 13 scarves and 2 wraps.  I found that I would get lost in my knitting. It was like sitting in meditation.

I’m still only at a point where I knit and pearl – so I make many scarves or wraps that I can do with either a stockinette or a garter stitch, and garter tends to be my favorite. I find it to be the most relaxing and meditative, since I can get lost in the repetition of the movement and I don’t have to think about changing the stitch. It’s the same reason why I haven’t ventured into patterned pieces or shapes yet.  (One of these days, I’ll try to make a pair of sock slippers. When I do, you can expect that it will find it’s way here.) The repetition allows me to become aware of where I am, aware of my breath, and aware of my thoughts. It’s not quite the same as sitting down for samatha meditation, but still requires finding a comfortable seat and physically stilling the body.

I started a new project – another wrap – after teacher training over Easter weekend. Without teacher training, it took me much longer to finish the project – picking it up and putting it down many times over the last 4 months. Although the need for the meditative benefit still exists, I have not made the time to pick up my knitting needles. However, it seems like kickstarting my knitting goes hand in hand with severe weather conditions. Due to Hurricane Irene passing through the DC area, all of my weekend plans were cancelled or postponed until later in the weekend (Saturday to Sunday) or to later in the fall and I all of a sudden had a completely free weekend to do whatever I wanted. Spending the early morning hours blogging about passions colliding and catching up with a friend over breakfast, I spent the afternoon and evening hours, knitting up a storm.

pattern of finished wrap (used size 19 knitting needles; see below for instructions)

made a cuff with the yarn i had leftover (used my size 17 knitting needles for this)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rainy Saturday was the perfect weather to help bring awareness and calm back to my mind and my body. I finished the wrap, which I really do love, and made a cute wrist-cuff with the leftover yarn. (I’m hoping I have enough of the three yarns left to make a second cuff for a pair or possibly make a muff. I think they’ll be fun in the fall or winter.) This morning the rain continues, but is expected to stop in a few hours. After breakfast and maybe a nap, I plan to pick up another unfinished project and continue knitting up a storm.

How did you ride out the storm? What did you do while being stuck inside the house all day?

**********

Instructions for Wrap (modified from a 2-hr shawl pattern I found on Lion Brand’s website)

Materials: 3 skeins each of Lion Brand Fun Fur Orchid and Lion Brand Fun Fur Prints Tropical; 1 skein Lion Brand Homespun 329 Waterfall (if this color scheme doesn’t suit you, select complimentary yarn shades using the same ratios: 1 Homespun yarn and 3 each of 2 different Fun Fur yarns)

Knitting needles: size 19 for wrap

Instructions: Pull yarn together from each of the three yarns to create one thread. Cast on 20-22 stitches based on desired width. Knit each row until wrap reaches between 68 and 72 inches long. Bind off after reaching the desired length.

To make the cuff, I followed the same approach, using size 17 needles and casting on 7 stitches. I then knitted each row until I reached the desired length to fit around my wrist and bound off the project. I used a plastic needle and the ends of the yarn to sew the two ends together to create the cuff. I think that 16 to 18 stitches and the size 17 needles would have resulted in a cute muff. I may be trying to make one of those later today. Happy Knitting!

When passions collide…

Aug 27, 2011   //   by Yoga Lisa DC   //   Blog, photography, Uncategorized, Yoga  //  3 Comments

Jes & Me - instagram-like effect using elements (thank you to the tourist who offered to snap the photo)

It’s no secret that I’m very passionate about yoga. There was that one day that I came to my mat and something clicked. I found so much more than just a way to exercise. In the last 8 months, I deepened my practice by attending teacher training at my yoga home and became a yoga teacher. Now, I get to share my passion for yoga on a weekly basis with yogis in the Tranquil Space community.

Yoga isn’t my only passion, though. I also have a passion for photography. About 5 years ago, I invested in a digital single-lens reflex (“dSLR”) camera. I’ve always enjoyed looking at the world around me, whatever microcosm I’m in, and seeing something interesting and capturing it. The investment in the dSLR was to take my photography to another level and prompted me to take workshops around DC, online courses, and buy books that taught me how to (1) use the camera and (2) different techniques for capturing images. For about a year, I went out almost every weekend and found images to capture. I always had the most fun finding creative close-ups. I also bought editing software and took online courses to learn how to use it. Then, work and life got busy and I put my camera down for a while (a good 2 1/2 years). About a year ago, I made an effort to rekindle this passion and this summer, I did that when I took a DC PhotoTour. (Check out my photos page for images from the DC PhotoTour.)

protecting my gear from passing thunderstorms (so of course, we got none)

As I worked to build my website, I realized, I wanted images of me in various yoga postures to put on the website. And so over the last few months, I’ve been working on amassing a collection. And I’ve been lucky to have friends, who have taken the pictures for me. One thing that I didn’t have though were images of me in yoga postures down by some of the iconic monuments in Washington, DC. Well, yesterday, my friend, Jes, and I had our first attempt in getting some of those images. Jes and I both love photography and we both love yoga. Jes is actually getting ready to begin her journey towards the 200 hr yoga teacher certification right now. And last night, in the calm before the storm, we went down to the National Mall, dressed in some of our favorite yoga attire, armed with our cameras, and had some fun.

Jes and I both have a creative eye for composition and we each gravitate to our favorite ways to compose. We played with close-ups, taking pictures on angles, different locations, and different postures, learning each step of the way, what worked, what didn’t work, and what we’d like to try again in a different outfit. We even stumbled upon one of the best spots (in my opinion) to photograph the Washington Monument. Here are some of the results:

Me in Camatkarasana (Wild Thing) (photo credit: Jes Hrivnak)

Jes in Anjaneyasana (low lunge)

Up close in Chaturanga Dandasana (photo credit: Jes Hrivnak)

Jes in opening her heart Virabhadrasana I (warrior I)

Me in Garudasana (Eagle) (photo credit: Jes Hrivnak)

Jes in Garudasana (Eagle)

Me in Chaturanga Dandasana (photo credit: Jes Hrivnak)

Jes in Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (upward facing dog)

Me in reverse Virabhadrasana (reverse warrior) (photo credit: Jes Hrivnak)

Jes in Camatkarasana (Wild Thing)

Jes & Me - the self-portrait

After our playtime outside, we hung out for a while (starting with a grocery store run to prepare for the impending storm) ate dinner, had some delicious herbal tea, shared photos, edited photos, and chatted. Plans are in the works for another yoga photoshoot, so-to-speak. There are many more places in DC and specifically around the iconic monuments and memorials that we want to take pictures. It was definitely lots of fun and a really nice way for two of my passions to collide.

What are your passions? Do you ever bring two of your passions together?

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About Lisa

Auntie to two adorable little boys and a beautiful little girl. Sister. Friend. Yogini. Yoga teacher. Accountant. Knitter. Amateur photographer. Very amateur golfer.

Where to Find Lisa

Wednesdays, 8:30 p.m.
Yoga 1 (1 hour)*
Tranquil Space Arlington

Thursdays, 5:30 p.m. Yoga On-the-Go*
Thursdays, 7:00 p.m. Yoga 1*
Tranquil Space Arlington

Substitute Teach, As Needed*
Tranquil Space Arlington and Dupont

*Click here to make a reservation for any of these classes!

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