beginning yoga

‘Tis the season for comfort & joy

by Tedrah Smothers

Tedrah.headshotThe Christmas season is upon us and before we know it, our minds become filled with all the many things left to do before the big day.

With shopping, wrapping, socializing, cooking, and baking, our yoga practice can fall by the wayside.

We begin to feel like there isn’t time or we’re too exhausted  for even a little yoga practice.

But the truth is…
When we make time for practice, we discover we actually have more time.

Our minds slow down and we focus on what is important.
Our bodies become filled with energy and ease.
We can rest in ourselves and connect to our world in a way that feels calm and alert.
All that needs to be done, gets finished.

We feel joyful and we are actually able to enjoy the season.

Doing just a little yoga can ease feelings of anxiety about the holidays by bringing us home to our truest self.  This is the place where we find comfort, happiness and peace.

Here it is, direct from the yoga sutras:

When we slow down the to-do list in our minds, we are able to dwell in our own true splendor. (Sutra 1.2-3)

Now is the time for practice!

Here are some poses everyone can do:

Urdvha Prasarita Padasana: Legs up the wall
Ardha Uttanasana: Half forward bend with hands on the wall.
Bharadvajasana (sitting in chair): Simple Twist
Gomukasana (arms only):  shoulder stretch with or without a strap. any simple shoulder stretch will do. interlacing hands behind your back and stretching arms
Adho Mukha Svanasana: Downward Facing Dog Pose
Supta Baddha Konasana: Reclining Bound Angle Pose

When you take time for yourself, you will have more time for others.
Make this holiday a happy one.

Treat your self this season, and join me for one (or more) of the holiday classes.
xo Tedrah

Yoga poses to restore tired legs

Several EYC yogis & yoginis will hit the Memphis streets tomorrow to benefit of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
UrdhvaPrasPada.arms at sides
Here’s a little yoga sequence to help you recover when you’ve challenged your limits in the running/walking department.

These poses help your whole system recover — and help your legs after you’ve exerted your energy.

Poses where you relax while you elevate legs your legs can have a profound effect on your whole system.

The top picture shows Rochelle practicing Upward Spread Foot pose (Urdhva Prasarita Padasana), and it is appropriate for nearly everyone.
  It can also be done with arms down at sides.

For experienced students, practice the inverted pose Viparita Karani.

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 10.17.45 AMFinally, Virasana (Hero Pose @ left), can be done every day — but particularly after exertion.

Virasana helps improve circulation to your lower legs and can restore flexibility and proper alignment to joints your feet, ankles and knees.

This is the pose that Mr. Iyengar had the Indian Army do after their long training marches.

Click on the pic for instructions on this pose.

Mala Yoga Blog has spelled out a whole sequence for runners.  You can benefit from (and learn special ways to practice) Virasana even if you have tightness in knees, ankles and feet.

my top 7 tips for yoga @ home

In 18 years of practicing yoga, I’ve found that I will always have questions. Most days I have to make a Herculean effort to get on my mat and do something – anything.

With all of life’s ups and downs, here are my top 7 tips for your home practice:

  1. 1. Believe that you are worth the time.

  2. 2. Make an effort.

  3. 3. Go easy on yourself when you don’t rise to your own challenge.

  4. 4. Don’t judge yourself when you miss a day (or a month!).

  5. 5. Don’t judge yourself for judging yourself.

  6. 6. Do 1-2 poses that make you feel good.

  7. 7. Ingest a homeopathic dose of dark chocolate & get your ass on the mat.

 

Some of you will get on your mat for a few minutes every day. Some of you will do it once in a blue moon.

And it’s all ok!

Our community is open wide — enough to hold us all.  From the uncertain new beginner to the mild-mannered weekend warrior to the most seasoned and strong yogi. It takes all kinds!

We are happy that you have chosen to associate yourself with our center.

We will support you as you seek to be well, to feel good and to connect to yourself in a deeper way.

And we look forward to guiding you in your yoga for a very long time.

Leahsignature

 

Overcoming Overthink

Getting started with your home yoga practice

legsSometimes I spend so much time thinking about doing something that it feels like I’ve already done it.

Even after all these years of practicing & teaching yoga, I can think myself out of getting started with the first pose on the mat.
 

Planning to do some yoga can take up so much time, there’s no time do actually do the yoga.Maybe it’s pathological — some form of procrastination or resistance, but that’s a story for another day.

3 tips to overcome overthinking & get going:

1. Unroll your yoga mat.
2. Get on it.
3. Do a pose.


How’s that for simple?

Most of the time I put my mat down at the front door. It’s the most un-cluttered spot in the house.

Here’s a list of what NOT to do before you practice:

Do not try to organize your yoga space.
Do not make a list of all the poses you are terrible at, and plan to do those.
Do not call anyone (including a long-winded friend, your mother or customer service.)
Do not weigh yourself.
Do not thumb through your ipod looking for the perfect playlist.
Do not worry that you won’t do the pose like we did it in class.
Do not think that you have to do this perfectly.

Follow the sage advice of that ancient sage, Nike, and…Screen Shot 2014-06-20 at 7.18.22 AM
JUST DO IT!

Yoga In Action:Preliminary Course by Geeta Iyengar (pictured right): a great resource for yoga at home. Available at EYC.

Stay tuned for details about my special upcoming 3-class series on practicing on your own!
Namaste!

Precision & practice

Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 3.33.29 PMLast week in class, a student asked me if I had been a Girl Scout growing up.  She said she wondered this because of the precise instructions I use when I’m teaching yoga.

Her question made me chuckle — because unless you count eating an entire box of Thin Mints by myself in one sitting, I never even came close to becoming a Girl Scout!

But I was a G.A. The G.A.’s were our religious community’s version of the Girl Scouts. G.A. stands for “Girls in Action” — and a precisely accurate description of this busy girl (more about the ins & outs of G.A.’s another time).

The question concerning precision reminded me of my first Iyengar Yoga class – and my own teacher’s exacting instruction. I arrived at the classes ready to charge ahead and push through my limits.

But the classes stretched me in ways I had never considered.  When I forged ahead in a frenzy from pose to pose, my teacher insisted that I stay at the pace she set for the class. I still hear her voice saying, “Leah, stay with us.”

I thought she was holding me back. But over time I learned that was not her intention at all. She was keeping me from getting ahead of myself.

Boy did this go against my grain!

Didn’t she know that I’m the one who put the whirling in the dervish?  I had built a whole identity around earning gold stars by working fast and furious through school and beyond, wearing myself out, and moving on to the next thing.

With my teacher’s insistence and encouragement, I became open to trying a new way.

It eventually occured to me that my entire life I had met myself coming and going, but I had no idea how to stay with myself.

This realization had implications way beyond my yoga mat.

I knew how to set my sights on a goal. I’d start out with gusto — burning bright like a fiery comet. But I was always subject to the fizzle factor. I’d abandon myself at the first sign of trouble. Over-doing led to overwhelm led to over over-the-top anxiety levels, chronic stress-related illness and often some sort of burnout.

I had to learn how to pace myself so I could stay observant of my thoughts and actions. I had to learn how to listen to my body (still working on that one). I had to respect my limitations and uncover their hidden lessons.

The mention of the Girl Scouts piqued my curiousity, so I visited the Girl Scouts of America website.

Turns out that the Yoga Sutras are not that different in concept from the Girl Scouts’ values. Junior Girl Scouts even earn a special badge called “Practice With Purpose.” The award is earned by “setting a goal, increasing endurance, building strength, and practice, practice practice!”

The Girl Scout Promise is worth reading, and below are a few highlights from it.

I will “do my best to stay courageous and strong…and to take responsibility for what I say and do…to respect myself and others and to use my resources wisely.”

My time, attention and energy are among my most valued resources. Practicing yoga at a pace that allows for discipline, critical thinking and understanding is one of the many ways I stay with myself.

It isn’t always easy. In fact, it’s almost never easy – most things that contribute to our positive change aren’t.

The excitement of reaching for the stars might get me going. But it’s yoga’s exploration of inner space that keeps me moving toward true and lasting transformation.