I certainly think so! I am relatively new to writing as a practice of sorting out the tangle of ideas, inspiration and emotions that is me but I find that just like yoga, writing helps me unwind and let go. Yin Yoga, with it's long time in supported postures, sets the scene for noticing the held emotions and patterns of inner dialogue that might be running unnoticed most of the time. While being in positions that target deep stretching in my body, there is time to check in on what other parts of me that may be stiff and stuck. Both Yoga and writing are ways we can loosen and release what is held within. When I do these practices together the result is greater than had I done each practice in isolation. I feel like there is forward motion and the writing gives the experience of actively releasing. Sometimes I am surprised by what comes to mind or heart during a yin practice but if I approach what I discover with curiosity instead of judgement more layers of experience are revealed. Writing works in the same way - if you follow threads with a sense of curiosity who knows what might be revealed.
In my work as a yoga teacher, I actually do quite a lot of writing. Most of it is everyday correspondence - emails, promotional copy, newsletters and other business necessities but there is also quite a lot of class planning and themeing that involves writing. I have worked hard at being succinct and clear in my written communication and I believe that this directly translates to my teaching style. From my informal (sometimes) daily writing practice I derive inspiration for classes, work out not yet fully formed ideas and process personal stuff so that I can be grounded and fully present to lead classes that have clear intentions and solid foundations.
I am really excited to collaborate with my friend and writer, Claire Sicherman, in offering you the experience of Yin Yoga and writing on October the 5th from 1-4pm at the Studio. With Yin Yoga we lay the foundation of openness in our bodies to let held emotions arise and then we journal with writing prompts. These prompts are designed to guide and support, allow for connection, reflection and sharing of writing, if desired. Go here for more information and to register.
I have traveled with the same yoga mat for many many years even though it is heavy and cumbersome. It has been rolled out in airports, on beaches, in friend's gardens, on balconies of hotel rooms and even on the side of a golf course on Dafuskie Island, South Carolina, at a family wedding (not at the ceremony). My mat has been to Cusheon Lake dock, Beddis Beach, Peace Park, Maricaibo, and many other beautiful places on Salt Spring. While I have the luxury of a yoga studio in my home, I really enjoy taking my mat and practice outside during the warmer months of the year. I find the meditative state of my yoga practice creates an immersion in nature that I long for and I am fully there with the sights, sounds, and smells of the natural world around me.
Recent studies show that we are more disconnected from nature now than we were 100 years ago and one contributing factor is the rise of indoor recreation. This study shows that connecting with nature increases self esteem, improves mood, reduces mental fatigue, improves productivity, reduces stress, and increases inspiration. A well researched article written by Yelena Moroz Alpert published in Yoga Journal shows 4 ways that practicing yoga out side can have the positive effects:
"1. Spending time in nature can replenish depleted energy.
Our nervous system evolved in a way that punctuates moments of stress with bursts of energy—a survival tactic used when we were part of the hunter-gatherer community. Spending time outside sends signals to the brain that the body is back in its native environment and recalibrates itself to stay alert,. Not surprisingly, when people spend time in a forested setting, feelings of vigor and vitality are increased, according to a study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. We say that’s fuel for a dynamic Vinyasa flow.
2. Natural scenery can heighten awareness.
When you leave the four walls of a studio, all of your senses wake up—scent, sight, and touch, in particular, activate parts of the brain that make you more present. “Fresh air heightens breath awareness,” says Devani Paige, a yoga instructor who teaches outdoor yoga at L’Auberge de Sedona in Arizona. “I can really feel the oxygen flowing through me, clearing my mind and empowering my practice.” What’s more, researchers at the University of Southern California found that looking at beautiful scenery releases endorphins, the feel-good chemicals that bring us pleasure. “Perhaps the color green is the default mode for our brains,” writes Esther Sternberg, M.D., in her book Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-Being. Touching grass or a sandy beach further provides stimulation. Bonus: a slightly uneven surface engages and strengthens your core. As we become more fluent in processing a sensory experience it morphs into a sensuous experience that shuts off the list-making part of our brain and zeros in on the now.
3. Practicing yoga in a new environment can build confidence.
Find your edge—no, we don’t mean balancing on a side of a cliff. Practicing outside for the first time can feel awkward. It is easy to feel self-conscious when you’re used to practicing in a set environment. While familiarity brings security, stepping outside your comfort zone opens a gateway to an entirely new interpretation of your yoga practice. Imagine the power of sun salutations under actual sun rays or the vivacity of a tree pose while focusing on a real tree instead of a spot on the wall.
4. The outdoors can further boost meditation’s benefits.
Scientists have already shown that those who meditate on a regular basis have a smaller amygdala, the part of the brain that is responsible for managing the fight-or-flight response. Coincidentally, field studies, published in Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine, show that people who were exposed to a forest environment versus an urban environment had a lower concentration of the stress hormone cortisol."
Judging by the evidence above we need to get outside and practice!!!! Join me each Tuesday starting June 5th at 9.30am for an all levels Vinyasa in the garden class. Let's do our own experiments and see if we can feel some of the benefits of spending time on our mats in nature. Dress in layers for your comfort and sign up here.
Strong grounding and heating practice for the Spring season.
At the Nest, we welcome spring with open arms and delight in the sounds of the birds chirping away in the many trees that surround our cozy studio.
As a time of renewal, the spring season offers an abundance of creative energy and often the desire to release habits formed over the more inward conservative season of winter. Using the principles of Ayurveda, we can tailor our yoga practice to balance out the energy currents of the different seasons so that we are balance within ourselves and with the world around us. Coming out of the heavier winter season there may be residual feelings of a heavy body and even though we want to catch the rising tide of creativity and inspiration we might feel overwhelmed. Practicing strong standing poses cultivates grounding and builds the inner fire we need to pull us fully into the new season. Our digestion is often sluggish at this time of year and we are ready for a change in the way we move and the foods that we eat. Incorporating bitter flavours such as stinging nettle, dandelion greens and grapefruits into our diets will help get the digestive juices flowing and boost the body's metabolism. Adding twists into our yoga practice will also benefit the digestive organs and offers a chance to shift perspective as we focus our eyes somewhere other than straight ahead. I have put together a Spring sequence for you to practice at home or better yet outside with the sun on your face, the sounds of spring in your ears and the fresh air on your skin.
I suggest warming up with a few rounds of your favourite sun salutation done with cultivating a syncronized breath and movement pattern as your aim. This sequence can be done in 15 - 20 minutes or if you have more time and want to cultivate more inner fire stretch it out and take more time in each posture.
Vinyasa up to standing and repeat on the other side
Repeat on the other side
Spend at least 5 minutes in Savasana.
I hope you take some time to practice on your own or with friends. If you have any questions or comments about the sequence, practicing yoga or the studio please reach out and comment below.
Yin yoga holds a special place in my tool box of practices that help me calm down from my busy life. A few Yin yoga postures before bed can help me settle down for a peaceful nourishing sleep. Have a some time before bed tonight? Try out the following sequence of poses to help calm your nervous system and transition into a restful state. Stay in each pose for up to 3 minutes to reap the full benefits. You can practice all but the first pose in bed even!!!! I like to cover myself in a blanket and practice in front of the fire.
As with any posture practice, if you feel something isn't right or being in the pose hurts then ease yourself out. Consider stopping all use of computer technology for 60 minutes before bed time to make falling and staying asleep easier.
There are a few places left in Rest & Recharge: a 2 hour restorative Yin practice on Wednesday June 19th at 6.30pm $25. Register here
We get asked all the time why we offer and teach hot yoga so I thought it would be a great topic for a series of blog posts! Here goes the first one......
Did you know that repeated exposures to exercise and heat produce acclimatization - changes in physiological function by which the tolerance to heat stress is improved resulting in increase in blood plasma volume, increase in sweating rate, and improved endocrine system response?
Well it does - have an in depth peer reviewed read about it here
Have you been to Kyle's Roots of Yoga class yet? It is really quite different than any other class on the schedule and is taught in the true Kyle style!
In his own words, this is what you can expect from the class"
"This class begins with Meditation, Suria Kriya, the origins of Surya Namaskara, to help break the "karmic cycle" followed by Angamardana, the diamond body or"limb mastery" practice for 15-20 min. Great for joints, strengthening, pumping blood flow and building Prana through rigorous breath. Resting in between movements. This is followed by a gentle Hatha Flow where we hold postures for 2-3 minutes with relaxation after each posture. Followed by Aniloma Viloma (alternate nostril breathing ) meditation and finally savasana."
Check out a video of Angamardana as taught at the Ishta School in South India where Kyle studied.
It was after teaching my first class of yoga nidra that I witnessed the powerful potential of this ancient practice.
A women came up to me, slightly in shock and with a great sense of relief in her being to ask me what “that” was. She said some form of dis-ease that she had been working on healing for a long time had been significantly relieved, maybe spontaneously healed during the session. It was a very positive experience for me to receive her in the space she was in and I remembered being quite surprised and also in awe.
Though not necessarily uncommon, spontaneous realization and healing is not something I’d guarantee in a yoga nidra session, still the experience really accentuated the validity of the method for me. I knew I hadn’t really done anything, basically reading through the steps in my notes; however following the very specific and seemingly random, sometimes comical, guidance had real impact. I guess the ancient yogis were on to something.
Interestingly, because of accounts like these, “[r]esearchers are examining the practice’s potential to help soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder; addicts struggling to get clean; people with depression, cancer, and MS; health care workers; and married couples coping with stress and insomnia.”
So what is it?
Contrary to better known yogas, yoga nidra, translated as yoga ‘sleep’, occurs while lying down and involves as little movement as possible. Through a sequence of instructions, simple imagery, felt senses and the use of paradox, the individual is guided towards a very specific and powerful space of healing and relaxation. A space of awareness where our true nature resides, outside the ego mind. A place rich with potential.
As recognized yoga nidra expert, Richard Miller states:
“Yoga nidra…can be practiced for countless reasons: to induce profound relaxation in your body and mind,; eliminate stress; overcome insomnia; solve personal and interpersonal problems; resolve trauma; and neutralize and overcome anxiety, fear, anger and depression…[y]oga nidra dissolves the obstacles that stand in the way of our leading an authentic life and purpose and meaning, and for those who are interested, it can awaken us into living an enlightened life of self realization as our True Nature”.
Perhaps the most exciting thing for me, is that yoga nidra is not just a body of knowledge to learn but rather an experience to have. Although the concepts of true nature, ego and liberation can be understood easy enough, understanding them rarely brings the change and transformation desired. Yoga nidra provides a unique and powerful arena where these concepts of realization are not just understood but engaged, felt and experienced, and thus the impact can be transformational.
Join me and experience the practice for yourself
Thursday February 16th 7.15 - 8.45pm $17
Friday mornings starting February 24th 9am - 10.15am 6 weeks for $81
Visit www.thenesthotyoga.com for more details and to register.
See you there,
In the Vinyasa Foundations series this past Monday we focused on lowering into Chaturanga Dandasana from both plank on the knees and high plank using a block under the chest as a guide to how much to lower down. It is important to be aware of how your shoulders are positioned during the transition in to Chaturanga as letting the shoulders roll forward can lead to injury. This article outlines some strengthening and activating exercises to ensure proper function and alignment for your shoulders. Enjoy!
On the second Friday of each month I (Sarah-Jane) lead a Kirtan at Omtown Yoga studio in Nanaimo. Kirtan, for those who are unfamiliar, is a devotional singing gathering where we chant call and response style both simple mantras and more complex peoms or verses. One of my favourite chants to lead includes a variation of So Hum - Ra Ma Da Sa Sa Say So Hung. If you like singing and chanting a melodic tune then check out this very sweet version of the mantra, by Kundalini Kirtan artist Snatam Kaur, here.
Plank pose aka Uttihita Chaturanga Dandasa aka Kumbhakasana is a standard pose in most yoga classes and especially in Vinyasa classes. By the time the class has finished you could have easily done plank pose 10 times or more and be moving through it quite quickly on your way to a back bend. Due to the nature of yoga sequencing, the finer points of this foundational pose can get glossed over and lead to misalignment or habits that don't do us much good. Here is a good article to help with the finding more stability in your shoulders, strength in your core and ultimately more power and grace in your practice.
Sarah-Jane loves learning, listening, sharing and doing yoga!