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TashaYoga Has Moved!

Moving!Tasha is now blogging at www.mergeyoga.wordpress.com

For more information about Tasha and about MergeYoga, see the “About” pages on the new site…

All previous blog posts (from TashaYoga) are available at MergeYoga, and you can subscribe to the new blog as well!

Thanks so much for following — More to Come!

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Type-Casting.

So…

I’m not the type of person who gets into random meet-and-greet chit-chat.

I’m not the type of person who reveals a lot about myself.

I’m not the type of person who’s into team sports.

Hmm, this could go on.

I’m finding that one of the brilliant rewards of Yoga is its teaching about limited definitions of self.  For instance, just a few months ago, I didn’t think I had the type of body that could “do” Pigeon Pose:

Pigeon Pose

Instead, I said I was “the type with tight hips.”  Which was somewhat true.  Relative to other body types, (and even other parts of my body) my hips were (and are) rather tight.  I could always sense a flowing availability in my muscles, except when it came to postures that asked more of my hips, such as Pigeon or Cow Face Pose.  

Cow-Face Pose.  (Such a strange name.)

But in Yoga, there are no “types.”  There are only different bodies.  And each of those bodies is different one day to the next!

If I hadn’t seen pictures of these poses (like the ones above), all I would have known was the teacher’s instruction, the movements, and the resulting feeling of my own body as it moved.  And that’s all I needed to know.  It’s all that matters. 

In Yoga, you’re encouraged to pay attention how your own body truly feels in any given posture.  When you do, you’ll find that the feeling changes over weeks and months of practice.  (For instance, as you may have guessed, I can now sit in Pigeon Pose, although I give myself plenty of time, and I make sure I’m plenty warm).

Changes.  Oh my, the cheesy pictures never end!

But the feeling of each pose will also change with each breath!  You don’t have to wait weeks or months to see change… You can see it in every passing moment.  It won’t be some earth-shattering change, and it probably won’t be noticeable to anyone else.  But everything changes, and it changes constantly.

So in Yoga, the attention given to breath, and the invitation to really be present in your own body for whatever is happening right now — Both teach us about change, and about our inability to pin ourselves down.  Why would we want to?

With each breath, there’s new air, there’s a new rise and fall of the belly, there’s the smallest bit of letting-go on an exhalation.  And the mind changes too, flitting all the time from one thought to the next.  

So you’re the type of person with a lot of tension in your neck and shoulders?  What about after a massage, or after a restorative Yoga class?

You’re not the type to touch your toes?  What about in six months?

You’re not the type to do a backbend?  What about a mild one, such as Cobra?

A gentle Cobra Pose

And beyond Yoga… You’re not the type to eat healthy foods?  What about when you eat something delicious and then you find out that it was healthy?

You’re not the type to enjoy exercise?  What about the way you feel when you’ve done something good for yourself?  (Maybe the “type” here is not you, but your idea of what “exercise” is or has to be.)

You’re not the type to open up with strangers?  What about that one moment when you felt confident and let loose, and it felt freeing?  Are there ways to recapture that?

The truth is, there simply are no types.  Any category in which we place ourselves (or allow ourselves to be placed by another) is too limited to hold us.  We change with every moment, every breath, every dying cell.  

And that’s good.  Yeah, I totally went there again with the emerging butterfly thing representing positive change.  I can't help myself sometimes..

And the beauty of this truth is available not only for us, but for the other people in our lives.  How much (or how little) do we expect of other people, based on the limited categories in which we’ve placed them?  Every moment is a decision.

The (very cool!) truth is, we all get to decide in any given moment what type of people we are.  Nothing is set in stone except the past.  And while the past can inform and advise the present, it doesn’t have to determine it.  

Whoever you were yesterday isn’t who you have to be today.

You’re not the type to do Yoga?  What about when you wake up and stretch your arms overhead?   🙂

You’re the type who constantly limits yourself with small ideas like “types?”   That’s only true until you stop.

 

Try this simple exercise for experiencing the your ever-changing awesomeness.  (You’ll just need a toy ball, soft & rubber-ish (not a softball), about 3-4″ in diameter.)

Lie flat on your back on the floor (this won’t work on a bed), legs outstretched and arms down at your sides.  (If you’d like, roll up a blanket or towel to place under your neck, or grab a thin folded blanket to use as a pillow.)

Notice if there’s any space between your back and the floor.  Space is neither bad nor good; just notice.  Most likely there will be at least enough space to slip your hand underneath your back.

Now bend your knees so that the soles of your feet rest on the floor, maybe 6-10 inches from your buttocks.

Place the toy ball directly under your sacrum — That point just above your buttocks where the spine meets the hips.

Get comfortable and balanced, and breathe steadily.   (This should be very easy.  If you’re rolling all around, or if it’s hurting your back, the ball probably doesn’t have enough give.  Just look for a softer one.)

Stay in this position for at least four minutes, and up to eight.  (If you tend to get antsy, it’s a good idea to try this while watching a TV show.)  Let your breath be steady and easy.  Imagine that your back is melting around the ball.  

When 4-8 minutes have passed, gently remove the ball from underneath your back.  Keeping your knees bent, allow the sacrum area to settle and relax more.

Finally, stretch your legs out and lie flat, as you did when you began.  

Notice now whether there’s any space between your back and the floor.  

Notice any differences?  Let me know!

The Possibility of Beginning. Maybe.

Well friends,

It’s a New Year.  We huffed our way through the holidays (in a spirited, good-natured way, one hopes), and we’ve crossed the threshold into 2009.  

I’ve often felt that this (somewhat arbitrary) point in one’s calendar should elicit some kind of significant transformation, some sacred renewal, some refreshing sense of purpose, meaning, intention, whatever. 

Yes, I went there.  The Caterpillar representing Transformation.

But I’ve rarely actually experienced anything of the sort — At least on or around January 1st.

However, many people regularly do.  And if you’re one of the regulars – It may be worth giving a quick thanks for such a palpable sense of Beginning.  

And I’d like to request membership into your club, perhaps just this time around, as I’m feeling a small bit of transformative Good happening beneath the surface.  

The purpose of Yoga, to whatever extent you practice it, and during whatever time of year, is actually… transformation.  Which makes the New Year a great time to let it shed some light in your corner…

Tree Pose

I describe Yoga as a physical, mental, and spiritual practice that leads you to your next and better place — Regardless of where you start.  

I started Yoga in a very isolated and frightened place.  At the time, I was dealing with undiagnosed depression and a hefty bit of self-doubt and self-hatred.  I was accustomed to working out in order to reach specific physical goals, and Yoga, at first, was another work-out option for me.  

The jarring thing was that the practice was so hushed.  Even when I felt like I was sweating through it, the idea of counting breaths made me… breathe.  And it made me listen to the breaths.  

I slowed down.  I felt calm.  (Unintentionally I assure you!   Calm was scary!)  It was utterly different than anything I’d done before.

Not to mention that in some of the poses, as I breathed, I would feel my body loosening and letting go.  I saw how physically uptight I was, how closed in… And how, with a bit of time and attention, it was possible to open up.  I saw distinct parallels with my emotional life, although I didn’t want anyone drawing them at the time.Gavel.  (Sentenced; get it?)

From the beginning, I think Yoga gave me a vague sense that nothing was sentenced.

Everything was changeable, even my own self-perception.  A lovely new idea.  

I still grapple with my will: With wanting to overtake a posture rather than allowing it to show me something about myself or my body.  I’m Type A, so it’s likely that this will continue to be my greatest Yogic challenge for some time.  But I also credit Yoga with teaching me a couple key Type-A-Take-Notice things:

1. You can always breathe – No matter how stressful or difficult the situation is…

2. and you can always let go just a little bit more.

Letting Go.

The practice of Yoga, even when seen only as a physical “workout,” will bring about some amazing transformations.  In addition to a more toned physique, increased strength & flexibility, lower blood pressure, improved respiration, reduced stress, supple joints, and better sleep…

…you may notice some sweet bonuses along the lines of greater ease with your body, a more objective view of anxieties, a practiced kindness toward yourself, more mindful consumption, a sense of having done something healthy… Etc.

This comes as a result of Yoga’s peculiar approach (at least in the world of physical training): In which you enter each posture not only to reach a physical goal but to truly take notice of where you are, right now, here on this mat.  

What is your body truly capable of?  Does it need rest?  Where do you feel the most sensation?  Are you clenching your jaw?  Can you take one more deep breath?  Can you relax anywhere?

The noticing is the beginning of the Change.  

Right now, my personal practice of Yoga is teaching me about vulnerability.  I often hide from my emotions, using physical or mental challenges to busy myself away from issues of the heart.  So you could say that it’s my practice of Yoga that’s given me a sense of Beginning this year…  

Here’s why:  As I mentioned, I’ve often gone about my practice by attempting to overtake each posture by sheer will and strength. (“I will get into headstand without a wall, I will not arch my back, and I will stay up there so help me until someone else falls down first!”)

I'm Fiercely Ambitious and Unaware!

Such focused ambition can be helpful in some arenas, but mostly what it does for me is block out anything unsavory.   By making my goals the only things that truly capture my attention, I give myself  a way out — A way to ignore the process, the moment, my actual life — with all its difficulties, questions, doubts, disappointments, and depression.  (I should note that I also wind up missing its joys, loves, inspirations, celebrations, etc…)

Choosing Not to Look.So as the year begins, I’m contemplating the idea of process.  In Yoga, I’ve seen that it’s possible to be fully aware of each moment, and to be truly kind to myself  — Even if I’m still on my way toward my “goal.”  

I’ve also seen that when it comes down to it, that very kindness is the whole point.  

And that it takes a lot more mastery than headstand.

Headstand.

Lovely news for Yogis (and Yoginis).

It’s an exciting time to be practicing (and teaching) Yoga.  Every time I read health literature (or any kind of ‘trendy’ magazine), I find new research published that shows more ways in which Yoga is a glorious boost to one’s health: physically, mentally, emotionally, even spiritually.

Yoga T-Shirt

Here are a couple recent finds from a random read today on the treadmill… Fabulous.

Taken from Fitness Magazine, December 2008  

Fitness Mag Website Screen Shot

Outsmart Your Fat Hormones:

Hormone Culprit: Cortisol

Wreaks Havoc: During stressful situations

The Science Behind It:

When you’re tense, your adrenal glands increase the release of cortisol, the infamous ‘stress hormone.’  Your body interprets the sudden surge as a response to a fight-or-flight situation, causing you to crave high-fat and high-sugar foods — meant to replenish the energy your body believes it spent warding off danger.  What’s worse, cortisol is also partly responsible for the unsightly – and unhealthy – belly bulge, a known risk factor for heart disease and diabetes, say researches from teh University of California at San Francisco.  ‘Because the abdomen has a greater density of cortisol receptors than other areas in the body, stress affects that tissue the most.  So eating sugary or fatty food in combination with high cortisol levels tends to cause fat to be deposited around your middle and central organs,’ says Emily Newman, Ph.D., lecturer in health psychology a the University of Edinburgh.

Your Outsmart-It Plan:

Exercise.  Elite athletes have lower levels of cortisol under stress than nonexercisers, find a recent study from the University of Zurich.  Physical activity triggers the release of endorphins that ‘signal to the brain that everything is okay, helping to drive cortisol production down,’ says neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine, M.D., author of The Female Brain.  Not a marathoner?  Yoga and meditation suppress the hormone too.  In fact, cortisol levels dip as much as 25 percent after just one 50-minute yoga session, according to the Center of Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.  

CobraAnd another, from the same issue…

Get 5 Pounds Thinner This Month!

…Perfect posture is the easiest way to look as if you spent a week at a weight-loss spa.  To stand taller, start your day with yoga.  An hour and a half twice weekly for nine weeks added a centimeter to the stature of women, found a recent Temple University study. 

Yoga class, anyone?  Oh how I’d love to see you some more.  Cheers!

December 7, 2008.

Thank you fine friends for weathering the snowy cold for our Sunday evening class!

Our focus was on Balance: The balance in Yoga between effort and ease, between strength and surrender, between grounding and reaching.  

We began with some centering, neck stretches, seated quarter-moon… And then moved on to the Cat/Cow (or Cat/Dog), and focused on the “Dog-Tilt” of the tailbone: The scooping-up action of the tailbone when in the Cow position.  This scooping and pelvic tilt is the same action you apply over time to the Downward-Facing Dog: Tilting the tailbone toward the sky as the heart sinks low between the arms.

Cat/Cow Stretch         Down-Dog with Chair           Downward-Facing Dog  

After Puppy Pose (the modified version of Down-Dog, where we rest on our elbows) and Child’s, we moved on to Table Balance: From all fours, the right arm and left leg reach out from the torso in a straight line (then repeated on the other side).  Table Balance helps to engage the core so that there’s more stability… It’s a great balancing posture (obviously), and a great way to pay some attention to the abdominals.

Table Balance

We moved on to Downward-Facing Dog, trying it with that dog-tilt, bending knees and coming up on the toes to see if the spine could scoop in just a bit more.  Then we found Modified Warrior 1 again (on one knee), and then up to standing poses, beginning with Mountain.  We emphasized grounding down through the feet: Understanding that the more grounded we are, the further we can reach out.  (Note how true this is of life in general!)

We practiced the standing Quarter-Moon (leaning to each side), the shoulder-opener with straps, a standing backbend (paying careful attention to our individual bodies and surrendering to where we are now — Rather than trying to force into a pose).  We found a few Rag Dolls throughout the course of the class: Always great for releasing tension along the spine and shoulders/neck, and for complementing any backbends.  

We did some modified Yoga push-ups, (modified Chaturanga), spaced between Child’s Pose — The two of which comprise a great balance between effort and ease.  We were able to do several more push-ups when we had that rest in between them… A lesson that can also translate into life.  🙂

Chaturanga

We found Warrior 1 for the first time in this series; thank you guys for going for it!  It’s a truly beautiful posture and a great teacher… It emphasizes the strength you have in you right now, regardless of how deeply into the posture you’re able to go at this point.  It teaches that you can feel strong in any circumstance: Your body can reach out in all directions at once.  You can breathe through challenges.  You will find rest afterwards.  All of this comprises a great life-lesson…

Warrior 1

We also did the Tree Pose for the first time in our series… A beautiful balancing posture that illustrates strength and groundedness, regardless of your level of practice.  It’s a beautiful balance between grounding through the standing foot and lifting up through the crown of the head, through the fingertips if they’re overhead… feeling the body light as air with the grounded stability of that standing leg.  

Modified Tree     Tree Pose

We found Child’s Pose again, and then Bridge Pose (lying on back with soles of feet near buttocks; lifting hips with arms at side or underneath torso).  This was another first for our series, and we’ll definitely do it again in coming classes… Like all Yoga poses, it’s a brilliant teacher.  If you’re breathing steadily, you can lift yourself much longer than you may originally believe that you can.  In addition, by bringing awareness to that same steady breath, you will notice when it becomes too labored, shallow, and/or rugged.  At this point, you can lower down and offer your body the rest it needs.

Bridge Pose

The goal in Yoga is to find your edge and to see if your body is ready to go just beyond it.  The goal is never to simply ‘endure’ — Any pose should be held with full breaths — though some may be shorter than others!

We finished with some supine poses using the strap: Leg circles (drawing circles on the ceiling/wall with your foot), and a side leg stretch to open up the groins.  Great opportunities to listen to your body and determine who you are on the mat today.  You may want to stretch further,  stretch differently, look differently in the posture.  But the mat is a place to surrender those wants, and to bring awareness to who it is that showed up on the mat.  This body, this moment — is just as it should be.  You’re exploring it, pushing it, accepting it, awakening it, putting it to rest.  That’s what Yoga is all about.

Two Quick Thoughts.

“Going to a class is not about accomplishing the perfect posture.  It’s about learning to build a new relationship with your body.” 

–Amy Weintraub

Want to relax?  🙂

“A small Scandinavian study that measured brain waves before and after a two-hour Yoga class found that alpha waves (relaxation) and theta waves (unconscious memory, dreams, and emotions) increased by 40 percent.  The increase in alpha waves and theta waves…means that the brain is more deeply relaxed after Yoga and that the subjects have better contact with their subconscious and their emotions.

“…Researchers at the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, in cooperation with the Yoga Research Society, found that practitioners experienced a significant drop in cortisol levels after a single Yoga class.”

–Yoga for Depression

Yoga Basics

A great intro to Yoga, taken (with great thanks) from http://yourtotalhealth.ivillage.com

Reviewed By: 
Liz Neporent, MA
 
 

Yoga Basics

YogaYoga is an exercise system that consists of a series of poses, postures and positions. The practice of yoga began in India about 5,000 years ago to promote union of mind, body and spirit.

Yoga is a physical and spiritual practice with roots in ancient India but with relevance to daily life in modern times. The typical workout blends strength, flexibility and body awareness with a series of poses, postures and positions called “asanas”.

While there are many forms of yoga, most yoga newbies find Hatha the best school of yoga to start with. It includes all of the basic yoga moves and breathing exercises, but leaves out the spiritual aspects of some other forms. There are also many different styles of Hatha yoga, some more meditative, some more physically vigorous.

One of the most appealing aspects of yoga is its ability to promote flexibility andrelaxation. Most gyms offer classes or you can check your phone book for a local yoga studio. Most places offer classes in a variety of skill levels and times throughout the week. If classes aren’t your thing, check out a yoga DVD, TV program or book to help guide you through a routine.

Yoga can be practiced to enhance overall health, to improve balance, to heal and prevent injuries, to strengthen muscles and to open the body for meditation. Yoga’s increasing popularity is proof that many people value an exercise system that engages the mind, body and spirit in equal measure. If you’ve never done yoga before, give it a try and see what it can do for you.

Upside of Yoga

  • Most people begin to see and feel improvements in their flexibility, strength and stress levels after only a few classes.
  • Yoga energizes your body and the associated meditation can help calm your mind.
  • Yoga can be done nearly anywhere, just remember to pack your mat on your next business trip.
  • You need very little equipment. A basic class typically runs $5-$20 a session.
  • A sense of camaraderie can develop among students taking the same class. You and your yoga buddies will gently encourage each other.
  • When you master proper positioning, it feels great and then you’ll feel more comfortable doing yoga at home on your own.

Downside of Yoga

  • If flexibility isn’t your strong suit, you need yoga, but trying to get into and out of some of the asanas may be frustrating.  [Note from Tasha: If your teacher is aware, there are always great options for comfortably getting into and coming out of poses, and you’ll be encouraged to do only what’s fitting for you.]
  • Yoga has its own terminology and you may feel as if you’re trying to learn a foreign language as well as get your body into shape.  [Note from Tasha: I will generally be using the English words for postures; if I use the Sanskrit it will be accompanied by the English translation.]
  • Large classes mean less individual instruction from the teacher so you may not use the right technique for the best, most comfortable results.

Is Yoga For You?

This chart can help you see how yoga fits your goals and lifestyle concerns.

Body Parts Worked Overall body flexibility and strength
Calories Burned About 180 an hour for a 150-pound person, 240 for a 200-pound person.
Gear A mat is good if not essential; other props, such as ropes, blankets and blocks, may also be used.
Location Almost anywhere
Time Most classes last 30-90 minutes.
Schedule/Flexibility The range of classes available can accommodate most schedules or you can do your yoga routine anytime on your own.

Yoga Tips

  • Yoga classes range from moderately taxing to extremely challenging, so choose one that suits your abilities and fitness level.
  • A good yoga instructor should appear calm and in control, explaining movements before doing them.
  • When doing yoga at home, be sure you have enough space. Nothing disrupts the peace like knocking an elbow into the leg of a coffee table.
  • Yoga beginners may find classes intimidating, but having an instructor will help make sure you are getting into position correctly. Plus, with support of the group you may push yourself to try postures you’d skip at home.

Liz Neporent, MA on Yoga

Yoga may not seem a great workout for weight loss, but first glances can be deceiving. You won’t burn a whole lot of calories while doing yoga, but it gives other benefits.

For one, yoga will help you build muscle. With more muscle, you’ll maintain a higher metabolism even while at rest.

Yoga also improves your flexibility and posture, which will help you look taller and thinner and may help you burn more calories during other exercises, such as walking. While yoga may not be enough to get you to your weight loss goal, it is definitely a step in the right direction.

iVillagers Say

“Bikram yoga has changed my life and healed my chronic back pain. It doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it handed to you on a silver platter, but if you respect your body and start to believe in the poses, you will find that yoga is the secret to a happy and well rested body. I feel young again!” –An iVillager

“I began my practice of yoga 26 years ago and it has changed my life in many ways: I am both strong and flexible (physically and emotionally); I am able to managestress in my life; and I no longer place value on material possessions — contentment lies in the present moment!” –iVillager jane2256

Beginnings–

Hello friends,

Welcome to the new home for Tasha’s yoga news, tips, and more–

I’ll be updating regularly with insights from teaching, reading, and practicing, and I’ll keep an ongoing journal of the postures/etc practiced in my December classes (so that students can review at home if they’d like).  

Check back to find out what’s been inspiring my practice (like the quote below), as well as tips for managing stress, sleeping better, developing patience and compassion, fighting fatigue, finding motivation, combatting illness, dealing with negative emotions, and improving physical health.  

Yes, more to come.  We’ll make this the tentative and happy beginning.  Cheers!

“The basic teaching of Yoga is to cultivate strength and steadiness of mind alongside the flexibility of spirit that allows you to move through the most challenging situations with wisdom…

“Your response to change reveals your basic notion of yourself…

“Vision is a living, breathing thing whose very inspiration depends on spontaneity… It is the flexible, strong mind of a Yoga practitioner that will have the humility to let go of the past when appropriate, move forward with necessary, and accept the bell of change when it rings…

“You will see in the world what you have cultivated within yourself.”

–From Kino Macgregor in Yoga +