What – on earth – is an Ashtangi? (Ashtanga Yoga Explained)

* Guest Post by Chris Hodsman*

What – on earth – is an Ashtangi?

Introduction

I once was called an “Ashtangi” by someone in the studio. The word was said with a bitter negative tone, like a curse. I was taken aback! What kind of misunderstanding and confusion existed that another yogi would use this label in such a way? How have we all missed the mark by so wide a margin if some people believe there is such a divide between Ashtanga and other practices?

I have since come to realizes that there exists a great deal of misunderstanding, erroneous belief, and even fear about Ashtanga yoga.

Accessability of the Practice

Many people deem Ashtanga yoga to be inaccessible to them. Many of the postures look too difficult and the vinyasa and some postures appear to require so much strength. As a result, these people do not give it the try that the practice deserves.

It is true that Ashtanga can involve strength, but this is one of the benefits that is gained as one develops their Ashtanga. It is not a requirement to start. Furthermore, beginners are not (should never be) expected to complete the series or even approach the series the way a 2 or 3 year practitioner might. The “Mysore” style of  teaching allows every student at every level to get whatever attention they need to develop their practice. It assures accessibility of the practice for all. However, the majority of North American studios are not structured in a way to support the Mysore teaching style. This is unfortunate since “lead series” classes contribute to the appearance of Ashtanga being intimidating, and thus the lead classes can sometimes make the practice less accessible.

Benefits

Ashtanga is a most potent practice that, when practiced regularly, will transform the whole person (physically, mentally, spiritually) faster than any other practice I know. In addition to strength and flexibility, when practiced as intended, Ashtanga will also purify the body through detoxification, increase balance, vitality, focus of the mind, and openness of heart. That may sound like a lot of  promises from a practice that appears to be about strength and movement. But in reality the deeper practice is what Ashtanga yoga is all about. It is in the correct unification of breath with movement, of finding the bandas (energy gates) in the body and the form and direction the gaze (drishti) that energy is released from the base of the spine and elevated up the spine and out into the nadis (energy channels) in the body. The mind then becomes more focused and stilled in this process. The 8 limbs of yoga (as described by Patanjali) are all built into the Ashtanga practice – some obviously (Asana and Pranayama) and some subtly and unannounced. Arguably, Dhyana and Samadhi are not so much built into the practice as they are the ripened fruit of continuous practice.

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Farewell Message from Chris Beaudette-Hodsman

Until we meet again….

I write now as I travel across the majestic Canadian Shield north of Lake Superior: windswept black spruce on a landscape checkered with igneous rock and clear water, all against blue Ontario sky.

As I leave for my new beginning in eastern Ontario, I ponder the what lies ahead and what lies behind me, and feel great gratitude for, among my many blessings,  Yoga for Today.  This studio is much more than a business, and more that a yoga studio: it truly is a community, a sanga on a path towards a deepened life lived on earth. Community is born of right intent, compassionate and thoughtful action, and, yes, struggle and work, on the part of all its members. I am sure every one of you receives something from Yoga for Today, but in case it has not occurred to you, I wish to tell you all that you also have contributed to Yoga for Today as well, by bringing to the community the best of who you are. So I wish to honour and thank you all for bringing your best selves to the mat which has been a gift to me. Read more >>

Yoga Retreat in Lake Louise

*by Yoga for Today instructor and trip leader, Neve Deol*

On May 4th, 2012, a group of 10 Yogis congregated at one of the top 50 energy centers of the world, magical Lake Louise. Some of the listed ‘top 50’ are: Central Alberta, Sedona, Stonehenge, Easter Island, Bermuda Triangle, and the Pyramids. These are special places – known as sacred, mysterious and magical Earth energy sites. Click here to learn more.

The Yogis definitely felt this power and connection with the earth as they spent a weekend practicing Yoga, Hiking and just being in the powerful energy of Lake Louise.

We woke up on Saturday morning to a magical view from our hotel room.  It had snowed the night before and the trees were dusted with soft powder that sparkled in the early morning sun.  We were honoured to be able to practice our morning Yoga in a beautiful room overlooking the lake and the majestic glaciers, followed by a hearty breakfast at the Fairmont.
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After having the morning free to reflect and journal or explore the hotel, we met for our afternoon hike. As there was still too much snow on the higher peaks, we decided to walk around the lake. A few steps out of our hotel led us to a well groomed trail to the back of the lake. We walked single file, with nothing but the intention to be present and drink in nature’s wonder. The tall rust colored cliffs on our left and the dense trees on our right gave us plenty to be amazed at. Penny made snow angels on the way, Kevin made fake beards and moustaches for Dianne, Connie and Monique with moss, and Shirley decided to dump her Fiji water so she could fill it with glacier water straight from the source. Come to think of it, only Carolynn and I did not do anything crazy on the walk. We spent some time relaxing at the end of the trail before we decided to walk back.

Our evening Yoga class was just what we needed after our walk. Our room was sun drenched and Shavasana was pure bliss on every ones faces.

We decided to eat dinner together and after dressing appropriately for the Glacier Saloon in our western wear, we barged in through the leather trimmed, heavy wooden saloon doors looking for trouble. We ate a delicious dinner and some of us indulged in ridiculous deserts which came in Sasquatch sized portions (Lucky they had a Sasquatch to help them finish it). After dinner, we went for a stroll to see the Super Moon. After a few minutes of not being able to spot the moon, we saw a beautiful light between the trees. A bit of a walk took us closer to the most spectacular sight! The moon seemed close enough to touch…and the beams of light radiating from the moon gave it a surreal quality.  We stood entranced by the sight before us. I could have stayed there all night, but after a reluctant good night, we decided to go to bed reasonably early to be able to enjoy Yoga the next morning.

On Sunday, we were able to have a beautiful Yoga class, made even better by the love and friendships in the room. We had fun taking group pictures by the lake. I think Exalted Warrior is the new favourite for Lake Louise Yogis. Lots of hugs and promises to meet again in the lobby ended this beautiful weekend. I am honored to have led this trip with my husband Kevin and met all these wonderful people. I look forward to the next opportunity to explore the mountains with friends, old and new.

Interested in taking part in a Yoga retreat or vacation? CLICK HERE to see our upcoming trips.

Keeping Regular (with Yoga)

*Guest post by Ed Meers, YfT Teacher Training Graduate and true modern day Yogi*

Life is so busy, it’s often easier to neglect one’s Yoga practice. We need to look at Yoga as a complete lifestyle, in my opinion, if one is to truly reap its many benefits. When I say this, I don’t mean that we simply need to do asana every day or go to a class a few times every week. Often I state that Yoga is about all Eight Limbs, as prescribed by Pantanjali. Don’t get me wrong, physical asana practiced daily is a good thing and a wonderful way to start. It is, however, easy to become consumed by the physical as it tends to be the most obvious and simple part of being a Yogi. However, like going to church, the synagog, temple or mosque once per week while not being mindful of the teachings presented there is not quite the same as living by the teachings of one’s preferred path.

The path of Yoga is, by no means a simple one. I would recommend starting with one or two things to slowly transform one’s self. Take, for example,ahimsa – practicing non-violence. On the surface, this appears to be telling us not to be physically violent or harmful towards others. One may believe, since I do not kick puppies, spank my children or get in fist fights to have mastered this concept. While this is a good beginning, it extends far deeper than this. Allowing aggressive thoughts towards others pass through our mind, forcibly pushing one further or deeper into a pose or consuming animals as food are all examples of not practicing ahimsa. Rather than throwing one’s hands up in resignation, it is important to emphasize the wordpractice. This is what Yoga – and life – truly is all about. It’s about the journey, not necessarily about the destination. We often react in a violent manner, whether it is toward the person who cuts us off in traffic or at another who truly aggravates us. Breathe – we are all human. The main thing is to be aware that we are acting as such and endeavour to “catch our selves” and decrease the frequency as to how we might react this way. Over time, like thinking about things being half full as opposed to half empty, or seeing the positives in adversity, we gradually become more mindful and adapt our selves accordingly.

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What is a Family Constellation Workshop?

Yoga for Today will be hosting a new workshop on May 4-6, 2012: Family Constellation, with Tim Cunninghamm of Washington. But most people don’t know whole lot about this modality. So here is a bit of information to whet your appetite:

What is a Constellation?
Constellations help you shift the way you experience your family, career, and daily practice by creating a heart map of where you stand in relation to all of the above. Working through the map reveals powerful allies and gives concrete insights for moving forward. Constellations allow you to remove the ropes that keep you tied down and re-anchor them to places that lift you up and carry you forward.

What can we explore in a constellation?
Everything you are connected to…..to all your relations……your relationship to beliefs and spiritual practice…….to your daily practice…… to your body, your health, education , direction …… any issue that has as it’s focus “your relationship to it” is a good starting point. If you are stuck…and want to re-imagine how best to move forward, constellations work very well for this focus.

How do we start a constellation?
Constellations begin with a question to explore an aspect of your relationship to family, love or work. We briefly explore the question and find the ‘hinge points’ – what is the real issue?
Physically: One way to imagine the process: We look for the cardinal points of the question/ relationship – and like a compass – we place people in the circle to see how the compass moves around the question. We look for a true north – or where does this question pull or push us towards- in other words we look for our relationship to the whole pattern that surrounds the question.
Technically- we place people to stand in for the elements of the question- and then by re-arranging their relationship to each other- the dynamic becomes clear. Solutions may vary- asking us to look deeper or to stand in our awareness until the next step becomes clearer.

Do the skills learned in a constellation circle carry over into my daily life?
Oh yes. Once you learn to see the world from inside the circle, the issues become much clearer and you get lots better at making ‘place’ for dealing with them health-fully.
Note: I said clearer, but not always easier. Heavy lifting always comes with it’s own price – and it’s always personal. But at least you are clear about that part- and you will get a strong sense of what is yours to care for……and what is not yours to carry. Deepen your heart- lighten your load. That’s my philosophical recipe for walking in this place with grace.

Meet Gerda Krebs

Gerda’s yoga legacy began in 1970 when she joined Friedel Khattab’s first ever teacher training program.  After completing teacher training with Friedel , one of Alberta’s oldest and finest pioneers of yoga, in 1971, at 40 years of age, Gerda was ready to bring yoga into the world.

For 25 years we had the luxury of turning our TV sets to Shaw Cable enjoying “Yoga Fits In” with Gerda and her beloved cat, Tuffy.  Gerda was one of the early pioneers of yoga back in the day when yoga wasn’t quite so cool.  She was committed to bringing health and wellness through yoga into our living rooms and into our hearts for a quarter of a century!  During this time, Gerda taught weekly classes from her home and devoted herself to training and certifying students through her own teacher training program.  The seed of yoga and legacy of Gerda’s passion and teaching continues today through the countless numbers of devoted students and teachers touched, guided and inspired by her over the years. Read more >>

Reflexology – Relaxation as a Key to Balance

**By Optimum Health Vitamins**
One of the many buzzwords in the holistic community is “balance.”  What is balance though?  I could ask ten different people and get a completely different response from each one.  As I’ve reflected on what balance means in my own life, it seems to me that “balance” can be effectively symbolized by a person learning how to walk on a tightrope.  At first the tightrope walker starts close to the ground, learning how to redistribute his/her weight carefully to stay balanced on the rope as it moves.  As the tightrope walker gains skill and confidence the rope can be moved higher off the ground.  Balance is not static or un-moving.  It’s more like constant movement from right to left, forward and back, similar to the motion of a tightrope walker. Read more >>

Bottle Drive

Make a difference abroad, make a difference at home… there really is enough to go around.  Even though Christmas is over, Pat Dobberthein, our Massage Therapist and Sivananda Yoga Instructor has been likened to “Santa Claus” more than once and for very good reason.  For the past 6 years Pat has collected bottles from friends, relatives, acquaintances, whoever he can so he can make a difference in the world.  For Pat it’s been a humbling and rewarding experience to stack his car with as many bottles as he can fit in, drive to the inner city, wait and watch until he sees those who are in real need of help and hand out a bag or two of bottles.  It sounds like a little thing, but for some this simple gesture has meant a lot….the gesture, the bit of help when least expected and Pat’s kind ear that willingly listens to their story.  Pat’s gesture is so touching we’ve decided to get involved by bringing this to your attention and asking you for your bottle donations to Yoga for Today.  As you know, we’re not a bottle depot, so for things to work out well, if we could receive only clean/washed out bottles properly bagged and sealed tight.  During the week of Feb. 13 (Mon.-Sat) bring your bottles on the way to class.  Come through the east entrance doors and place your bottles downstairs along the south wall (from the window side to the mail box area) and Pat will come and collect each day. We’re hoping for success and for clean, sealed and tight bags.  Little things mean a lot, and we can be the difference that counts.

Kate Potter

Kate Potter is a very special yogini who has been to YFT many times over the years.  You may know any one of her DVD’s or know her from her very popular TV program, Namaste Yoga.  This year Kate was scheduled to return to the studio for an April workshop but instead became very ill, cancelling all workshops.

Hearing of Kate’s ordeal, it was hard to imagine that life could turn so suddenly and yet it has that ability… for Kate or for any one of us. Every day after reading her e-mail I found myself wanting her well, and imagined the yoga community around the world coming together to send our love and wishes for her steady and full recovery. Believing, together, we can influence the rebuilding of Kate’s physical strength, vitality and health.

Please read the post, linked below to Kate’s website, where she openly shares this most intimate journey. Needless to say – our yoga community will miss her coming this year – miss her beautiful, kind, compassionate spirit. Her message holds the experience of what she’s been through as well as her warrior strength and the faith and love for life she holds close.

My hope is that we will come together as a yoga community and be a womb-like blanket of support for Kate to draw upon. May we send her our heart-felt prayers and thoughts, whether we’ve had the pleasure of meeting or knowing her, or not. In out yogic hearts let’s unite and be with her each step of the way… sharing our OM’s, the ultimate universal vibration, for Kate…. OM Recovery…. OM Health…. OM Vitality.

Message from Kate: http://www.katepotteryoga.ca/street.html

3 Simple Steps for a More Restful Sleep

by Survivor Bootcamp.
Please visit www.survivorbootcamp.com for more great fitness articles.

Picture this: It’s 5:27 PM. You’re hungry after a busy day at work, itching to get home to see your family, and now you’re stuck in traffic. Frustration sets in. But you’re used to it since this is an every day occurrence.

You finally stroll into your house at 6:04 PM, your children are clamoring for your attention, and they’re hungry too. You pop some frozen dinners in the microwave knowing they’re not healthy, but also knowing that you just don’t have time to think, much less cook. After a quick dinner your day’s not even close to being over.

Now it’s time to do laundry, read with the kids, and of course a day’s work left over from the office. When do you have time to rest? At night you keep telling yourself.

But every night it’s the same old story. You flop into bed past 1 AM and close your eyes. Your mind is still racing from the day that just passed and the busy day ahead. So you toss and turn, hoping that you’ll be able to get at least a little shut-eye before your 6:00 AM wake up call (an annoyingly loud alarm clock you’ve had for 15 years).

And the next day it starts all over again. You’re tired at work, you don’t have time to eat, you’re stressed, and you can’t get out of the vicious cycle.

So what do you do?

First thing’s first: take a deep breath. You’re probably stressed out just reading this far.

To get a more restful sleep tonight do the following:

1) Get a notebook and take 5 minutes right before laying down to free write. What you want to do is get every thought from the past, present, and future out of your head and on paper where it’s safe and secure. This will free the clutter from your head and allow you to rest easier.

2) Get a new alarm clock that wakes you up gradually with classical music. This will do absolute wonders for your morning routine. What you want to do is set the alarm to go off 15-20 minutes earlier than you usually wake up. It will turn on very quietly and slowly bring you out of your slumber.

3) Add a few very healthy snacks to your daily routine. One of my favorites is a 2 oz pre-packaged bag of baby carrots. They taste good, they’re good for you, and they take no prep-time. When you’re hungry at work or on the way home, munch on these. Another great snack is raw almonds. Eating healthier works amazingly well to help you sleep better.

Please use these 3 simple tips to enjoy a more restful sleep every night.

by Survivor Bootcamp