memphis yoga

Can I?

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The “Can I?” question comes up in yoga class a lot.
You are introduced to a new pose – one that challenges you. It looks interesting but you aren’t sure if you can do it. The teacher says “Let’s do it, but you aren’t so sure.”

“Can I do it?” you ask.

The answer is usually one of 4 things:
Yes.
No.
Maybe.
I don’t know.

The problem with asking “Can I?” is that it implies that there is a simple answer.

But a quest for personal growth & change can bring more questions than it does answers.

While “can I” can be an important thing to consider, there is another question that has given me more fulfillment in my practice. That question is:

How can I?”

This shift in thinking comes straight out of my Iyengar Yoga learnings over the years.

It acknowledges I am looking toward change/growth.

It reminds me that I am not just “going for it” or “giving up.” I am seeking to improve.

The “can I” question makes things seem too pat. And they are not.

BKS Iyengar’s work illustrates that there is always a how.

In the howwe are encouraged to be curious and interested about our challenges. We are asked to challenge our judgements about what is possible. We can shift beyond judgement about what we can and cannot do. We get creative about what we might try now.

This kind of exploration leads to small steps toward what we are looking at. And any small step toward something put in front of us is one step closer than before.

Small steps add up to big changes.

Changes over time will lead to transformation.

This is precisely why I choose to study/practice Iyengar Yoga.

Yoga teaches us to go beyond the resignation of “I can’t.” Yoga moves us past “I can,” as we are asked to improve ourselves rather than maintain our status quo.

How can I grow at a pace that feels right for me at this time?
How can I work hard and let go of the outcome?
How can I keep moving forward when things seem to be at a standstill?
How can I keep from sliding backward into complacency?
How can I create more time to do the things I really want to do?

HOOOOOOWWWW?

Creativity is required. The possibilities are endless.

I have found that these questions are a never-ending process that always takes me to a better place. Contemplating just one of these questions leaves me feeling stronger, positive, and more content.

I love that Iyengar Yoga practice moves me to a fresh perspective and a new part of life to explore

Luck will cost you

…but you’ll find faith on the sale rack at Target

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My recent shopping trip took me on an unexpected turn toward the existential.

 

It’s not every day one sees luck and faith available for purchase — and with faith on clearance.

 

The iphone in my pocket begged to take a picture. I would have loved sending it to Instagram (or Facebook or Twitter). And the right hashtag (#Targetfunny or #faithluckonsale) to underscore the experience.

 

But there were errands to run, and I thought maybe I’d circle back to the idea later on.

 

And just like any yoga nerd, I felt it lingering in the back of my mind.

 

Why couldn’t I just be contented with having a good laugh about it with my husband?

 

Because I have to create meaning out of the mundane, and often where this is none. That’s just how I roll.

 

Still, who wouldn’t be captivated?

I found the holy grail of a happy life – in the aisles of the East Memphis Target!

Clearly some sales executive higher-up deemed luck to be a little more valuable than faith. The powers-that-be slashed a few prices — and voila — the value of faith declined by 50%.

I knew the Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras had something to say about this and wondered if he’d also thrown in any ideas about luck.

So I looked it up.

I found some talk of faith. And very little on luck.

The word “faith” can be a loaded word for many. It can be seen as something religious or spiritual or even out-dated. It brings up early childhood experiences in incense-filled cathedrals and Jesus’ “faith of a mustard seed” speech.

Substituting the word “trust” has been a good alternative for me. 

Trust can be something like a seed that develops little by little. BKS Iyengar says that trust comes with experience. He describes faith as “felt trust” and says that it is instinctive. And then develops with effort and reflecting on one’s own experience.

There have been times when I’ve found it hard to have trust or faith — even in my yoga practice.

But I still do it. (Yes, and sometimes even just think about doing it).

I see results. I understand faith through my experience. Over time, I am able to believe that yoga can be of help. And that makes faith worth something to me.

As for luck, I’ve seen a lot of it. I’ve been at the right place at just the right time too often to doubt my good luck.

Luck can provide valuable resources. But I’ve found that, unlike faith or trust, there are very few actions I can take to create more luck.

Except maybe shop at Target, and be willing to pay full price.

‘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.

The yoga practice that changed my life

I sat on my yoga mat in a sunlit studio surrounded by a sea of mats just like mine.  The room held 25 people comfortably. Today we numbered about 45.

We were packed in like sardines for a yoga workshop with teacher Rodney Yee.

And me – I felt like a fish.

Not a sardine, really.  But a fish for sure.

The fish that’s just been reeled in and still connected to the line at the end of the pole — flip-flopping around on the dock in frantic efforts to get back to its natural watery habitat.

That was me.  A fish out of water.  A long way from my home.

I was growing up, getting older. My 33-year-old self was outgrowing some of my long-held beliefs and behaviors.

As a theatre performer, I was getting different roles than I’d ever gotten. No longer the youthful ingenue, I was getting cast as mothers and quirky characters.

I started developing stage fright. I didn’t know who I was. I just knew I wasn’t the same person I always thought I was.

My worry over what others thought of me occupied my mind much of the time. I no longer felt controlled by concern over the changes in my body, mind and experience.

I longed to experience the sense of freedom I once had as a young person.

I hoped that yoga practice might help.

It did.

But this particular day it was not my yoga practice that helped me. I experienced a state of being called yoga just by watching someone else practice.

The class was worn out. We’d  bent, stretched, muscled and moved our way into pose after pose for 2 days.

Some sweaty soul in our group asked a question — probably so Rodney would talk and we could catch a break.

It went something like this.

Sweaty Yoga Student:
So, Rod, what poses do you do when you’re practicing yoga at home by yourself?”

Rodney Yee:
You might be surprised. I keep it pretty simple.  The basic poses mostly.

Sweaty Yoga Student:
Like what poses?

Rodney Yee:
Oh, you know, the standing poses. Sometimes repetitions. Sometimes getting to them in a flow.

Sweaty Yoga Student:
Will you show us?

Rodney didn’t say anything for the next 15 minutes.

Instead, he laid out his yoga mat and stood on it. He was very still, but he stood strong. His eyes in a way I had never seen before.

I could see his ribs spreading as he breathed quietly.

His arms seemed to float up on their own, extending above his head.  Even though he is short in stature, with shorter limbs, his upstretched arms seemed to touch the sky.

Still same focus. His body was strong and working hard. His face, serene and open.

He bent forward to touch the floor, his legs steel-straight and muscles gripped. I could see the sinews of tiny muscles working around his ankles and calves.

With perfect poise, he walked his feet back and his hands forward to show us downward facing dog pose.  His arms and legs working to hold his torso long and full.

He paused there to breathe. But even though it looked like he was holding the pose, there was subtle movement to it.

“This is what a steady mind looks like,” I thought.

My mind was typically all over the place. My way of life twisted me up in all directions. I needed yoga poses to help untangle my mind.

My body didn’t begin to understand what it meant when the teacher said, “The ideal yoga posture is a balance between effort and non-effort.”

That kind of talk just made me crazy!  In my mind, you could hold a pose for a while or you could flow through from pose to pose.

Rodney continued performing his postures for us.

The room fell silent. We watched in rapt attention.

Upward facing dog, chaturanga, Warrior 1.  Lunge. Stay in lunge. Breathe. Back to downward facing dog.

I played the part of audience to a fine performance.  Like a virtuoso, Rodney played his body in this improvised moment.

And just when I thought he was perfect, he stumbled. Lost his balance for second.

To my surprise, his face did not react. He didn’t apologize or lose his way.

Finding his center, he came back to himself.

While he was fully aware of our watchful eyes, his gaze was such that I could see he was tuned into himself in a deep way.

He spoke to use a couple of times, saying things like, “This is one of my favorite poses,” and “Let’s see how this next one will go.”

As he shifted and moved, his focus remained. He was fully committed to each tiny adjustment he made and how his balance changed with each milli-second.

I felt a change in my body, just from watching him.

Physically, I felt light. Mentally clear. And in some strange way, my heart started to sing.

There was a sense of clarity and also freedom that permeated the entire room.

Like a seasoned jazz player, Rodney tuned into himself and improvised with his whole self.

Body. Mind. Soul.

That’s the yoga practice that changed my life.