“When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.” ~African Proverb
A recurring theme that comes up in a lot of our classes is self-talk. You know, the internal commentary that goes through our heads non-stop, EVERY. DAY? You know you do it, right? We all do it! We talk to ourselves so often that we don’t even realize that we’re doing it!
Self-talk isn’t a problem when the commentary is benign, but when it turns negative, it can have a huge affect on how we feel and how we behave. Let’s face it. We can really be our own worst enemy and the truth is that most of our commentary consists of cruel, inaccurate, unhelpful, unsupportive, negative statements about ourselves and others. How many times have you said to yourself “i’m never going to be good at this” or “this person doesn’t like me” or “you’re such an idiot, how could you have locked your keys in the car,” etc? We can be really hard on ourselves and when we are hard on ourselves on the inside, it shows on the outside.
So this weekend we challenge you to get your negative self-talk in check!
In this week’s Overheard in Yoga Class, Marc Holzman reminds us that whatever happens in the body will reflect in the mind and whatever happens in the mind will reflect in the body. So when we meditate or when we begin the practice of Hatha yoga, moving the body, it brings you in sync.
Whether you are new to yoga or have been practicing for many years, we all have a “moment.” A moment where something shifted and our practice allowed us to see ourselves and the world around us in a different way. A moment where we fell out of a pose and laughed and it was everything. A moment that showed us we’re stronger than we realized. A moment where we finally kicked up into headstand on our own and couldn’t believe it. A moment where we could finally let it all go and just be.
That “moment” is different for everyone and this summer we want to celebrate YOUR yoga moments. We also want to acknowledge the many yoga studios all over the world that make so many incredible yoga moments possible.
Here’s how you can share your yoga moment with us:
1) Share a yoga moment (up to 350 words)
2) Share a link or name of the local yoga studio where you had this yoga moment
3) Email this info to email@example.com by May 31st.
We can’t wait to celebrate all of your yoga moments together and shine a bright light on the wonderful studios that have helped us all along the way!
All of your favorite teachers have done you one significant disservice: they’ve made teaching yoga look easier than it is! Teaching yoga—or any subject for that matter—is a wonderfully fulfilling experience, but it also requires a major learning curve. Here are a few tips for navigating the unfamiliar—and sometimes rocky—waters of being a new teacher.
You will feel very raw and exposed
Teaching yoga requires you to be transparent. It requires you to speak to a group of students and orchestrate sequencing, verbal cues, manual adjustments and—perhaps—a playlist. It requires you to give direct commands about the position of the body while encouraging your students to notice the sensations, feelings and thoughts that arise. No, your class is not about you; but, in fact, you are the medium for the teachings and if you feel deeply enough about them you will feel raw and exposed. This is not always easy, but it’s an intrinsic part of your job. Allow yourself to notice these feelings if they arise and go with them—learn about yourself from them. And, get used to them, they aren’t going to go away if you continue to teach from your heart.
Practice being clear, simple and straightforward
Clear, simple, straightforward teaching is timeless. New teachers often feel compelled to be tricky, edgy and complicated in order to validate themselves and show “authenticity.” But, remember, teaching is an actual skill that takes a ton of practice. Even more, bypassing the fundamental skill of being clear, cohesive and cogent with your teaching will lead to a confused hodgepodge of offerings. The feedback that I give 95% of new teachers is this: “edit yourself, simplify your sequence, and trust that the practice is strong enough that you don’t need to force it.”
Repetition is a good thing
You will say and teach the same thing many, many more times than any given student will hear it. So, you are going to feel like you’re repeating yourself all the time, but it’s not going to sound this way to your students. You may have said the same thing 10 times this week, but any given student probably only came to 1 or 2 classes so they’ve only heard what you said once or twice (if they were even paying attention). Even more, most students love repetition—and, aren’t there some things in your life that you need to hear time and time again?
Teaching skillfully requires you to make many, many mistakes
Teaching requires several specific skills and developing these skills comes from making mistakes. New teachers are often afraid to make mistakes because they are insecure, and they worried that their mistakes may lead to injuries for their students. If you are a sane, reasonable, semi-adjusted person your mistakes are probably not going to lead to injuries. If it’s an issue of your insecurity—or perfectionism—well, you just have to put mistake making in it’s proper context: remember that mistakes are normal, natural things and you will learn more from them than anything else. Relax and be accommodating with yourself.
You need to practice more, not less (it’s your research and education)
If you get so overwhelmed that you are practicing less and less you’re headed in the wrong direction. Sometimes we get a little lost and this is okay. In fact, many of our best changes come from realizing that we’re off our path and we need to correct our course. The problem is that teaching yoga without practicing yoga is unsustainable. If possible (and, it probably is), stay committed to at least one weekly class with your teacher and find make time to do your home practice several days of the week.
Jason Crandell was recently named one of the next generation of teachers shaping yoga’s future by Yoga Journal for his skillful, unique approach to vinyasa yoga. Jason’s steady pace, creative sequencing, and attention to detail encourage students to move slowly, deeply, and mindfully into their bodies. Jason credits his primary teacher, Rodney Yee, teachers in the Iyengar Yoga tradition such as Ramanand Patel, and ongoing studies in Eastern and Western philosophy for inspiring to him bring greater alignment and mindfulness to Vinyasa Yoga.
Jason is a contributing editor for Yoga Journal and has written over 13 articles for the magazine and website – many of which have been translated internationally (including Japan, China, Italy and Brazil). His integrative and accessible teachings support students of every background and lineage, helping them to find greater depth, awareness, and well-being in their practice – and in their lives. Follow Jason on Facebook and Twitter.
In this Pose of the Week, Elena Brower demonstrates Dolphin Plank Pose or Makara Adho Mukha Svanasana. Start by coming on to your hands and knees and lower down to your elbows with your hands flat on the floor. Walk your legs long behind you until your toes are tucked and you are in plank pose on your elbows. To align, lower your heart down toward the floor, bring your shoulder blades together, but keep your pelvis lofty. Lengthen your tailbone long toward your heels, gaze forward and breathe.
The wrists are among the weakest parts of the body, so it’s very common (especially if you are at a computer all day or you are doing a lot of weight bearing yoga postures) to experience some kind of wrist pain.
Looking for a way to relieve wrist discomfort or just looking to give your wrists a break? Well, yoga to the rescue! This week’s featured classes will help to build strength and flexibility in the wrists, as well as help to eleviate any tension or discomfort due to overused wrists.
You can use our Search Feature to search through all of our Yoga for the Wrists classes on your own. To get you started without searching, we’re highlighting six wrist classes in a variety of styles, levels and durations that will be sure to help you build strength and flexibility in your wrists.
Wrist Love with Amy Ippoliti: Have wrist issues or trouble doing things with or on your hands? This sequence may be used regularly to help build strength and flexibility in your wrists. Opens the shoulders and neck, and includes a restorative with a blanket. Have a block and a strap available if you like.
Give Your Wrists a Break with Jason Crandell: Back by popular demand–and, even longer! This 45-minute practice will take you through a strong, satisfying vinyasa practice without bearing any weight on your wrists. If you’ve been wanting a strong practice and you’re giving your wrists a break, this is tailor-made for you.
Help for Your Wrists with Tiffany Cruikshank: Ten minutes of help for your wrists. This is a quick series of exercises for your wrists. You can use it every so often preventatively or as needed for tension or discomfort. This practice is helpful if you spend a lot of time at the computer or play sports that use the forearms or wrists a lot. It is also helpful if you are new to inversions or are doing a lot of inversions in your practice.
Eleviate Wrist, Hand & Elbow Pain with Elena Brower: If you’re having wrist/hand/elbow pain and would like to explore a practice to alleviate the issue, this 20 minute practice may help. We’ll explore ways to strengthen shoulders, elbows and wrists, using only a couple of carefully instructed weight-bearing postures, and some standing poses without hands/wrists at all.
Listen to Yourself & Accept Yourself with Christina Sell: This level 1 class is great for those days when you need to rest your arms and take the weight-bearing load out of your wrists and shoulders. With focused work in the legs and plenty of alignment cues, this practice offers encouragement to listen to yourself, to accept yourself, and to practice yoga in a way that is mindful and healing.
Last week, Steven Espinosa reminded us that doing something faster is not always better. Often times doing something faster or rushing through something means that we are “checked-out” or not present. In addition, you can actually end up hurting yourself. So this weekend, whether you find yourself rushing around the house, rushing your kids or rushing through your practice, we challenge you to SLOW DOWN. Mindful, conscious movement is always a better choice.
In this week’s Overheard in Yoga Class, Tiffany Cruikshank explains that most of us don’t realize how much of an impact that fear has on our daily lives, the power it has to limit us and our capacity for greatness. Once we pinpoint exactly what our fears are and are aware and work on them, eventually our body starts to release some of that fear and starts to move forward in a new pattern.
So here we are, at the penultimate limb of yoga. Dhyana, or meditation, is described as the “continuous flow of cognition” toward an object – the object being the one we’ve been concentrating on from the last limb, dharana. But as teachers will tell you, there are lots of ways to practice meditation, and as many different objects to focus your attention on – inward or outward mantras, the breath, a physical item, or nothing at all besides the space between your ears. Meditation is a spectrum in itself, and can fit all sorts of different definitions. So you don’t necessarily have to become “one” with the object of your attention (although it would certainly be nice to experience that from time to time). But rather, meditation can be as simple as spending a few minutes observing your mind every day, coming back to the same physical practice, or just spending a moment each day in appreciation of the universe.
Sri Dharma Mittra of the Dharma Yoga Center in New York City, who’s taught students for some 45 years, says that what’s initially important is the coming back to – that return to something, every day or every week, whatever that something may be (within reason, of course). “All these are facets of concentration,” he says. “All of these are better than the other one where you just sit there and you don’t know where you are or what’s happening to you.” He talks about students who come to class every week without fail for over a decade, and of people who simply spend a minute of each day remembering god. “That is concentration,” he says. “That is the very definition of steadiness. So, to meditate is more about steadiness than it is about how you sit or the quality of your concentration or anything else. This steadiness in concentration brings fruits.”
So that is one form of practice. Another way is, of course, to sit in stillness, or to “retire in solitude,” Sri Dharma says, which allows your brain to reboot. For this, he advises people to sit for five minutes and work from there, just being still and watching your mind as an observer. “It is in the absence of mental activities that you get recharged, that you come to operate on higher levels.” If your mind is just too restless and you can’t do it yet, not to worry – you can go back to concentrating on something specific, and work from there: “if you are not ready for this,” Sri Dharma says, “you may concentrate on a picture or a diamond, the sun, a flower, or anything. But, the best thing is to sit comfortably for this with the eyes almost closed. There you remain unconcerned, watching the activities of the mind… This is not this kind of meditation that you lose your consciousness. No, it’s just to sit quietly and keep watching, observing.”
One of the loveliest points he makes is one that’s true when we’re meditating and when we’re not. He urges people to remember that “We are not the body or activities. So it is good always to sit quietly like a witness watching the activities of the body and mind. You realize through this that everything is passing away all the time.” The idea that we’re not our bodies, our reactions, or even our thoughts, is sort of mind-blowing, and it may be one of the most important messages that yoga can impart.
So, however simple or barebones our practices may seem at first, the reality is that we can all meditate in some way. It’s not easy to quiet the monkey mind – and thankfully, everyone, even the most practiced teachers, agrees on that – but it gets incrementally easier the more you try. Sri Dharma ends by saying this: “Meditation is available to anyone regardless of where you are starting from. For those who are not in good physical condition, lie down. Lie down in a very comfortable position, but don’t fall asleep! And there you stay, also trying to be unconcerned just like a witness. All these techniques lead to what: for the mind to become sharp. And then you’ll be able to find answers.”
How do you meditate? Do you notice that it gets easier over time? Please share your thoughts below.
Alice G. Walton, PhD is a health and science writer, and began practicing (and falling in love with) yoga last year. She is the Associate Editor at TheDoctorWillSeeYouNow.com and a Contributor at Forbes.com. Alice will be exploring yoga’s different styles, history, and philosophy, and sharing what she learns here on the YogaGlo blog. You can follow Alice on Twitter @AliceWalton and Facebook at Facebook.com/alicegwalton.
In this Pose of the Week, Stephanie Snyder demonstrates Side-Reclining Leg Lift or Anantasana. Start by lying on your right side and get the body as straight as possible. Bring your right hand to the side of the face and then lift your left leg as high as you can. Reach up and grab your left big toe with your left fingers and balance.