Modern Mindfulness – by Sarah Ezrin

2014-05-23 09.41.39My computer screen is open, music playing in the background. The dog sitting by my feet. I am composing an email and yet I am meditating. Is this possible? Yes! And such is the life of a modern yogi.

There are many misconceptions about what meditation is and should be. Most think you should be holed up in a cave somewhere “emptying the mind” of all thoughts. But like there are multiple types of yoga, there are many forms of meditation.

Mindfulness is my absolute favorite style. It is the practice of being fully attentive and present in whatever you are doing. For example, if you are composing an email, you are 100% aware of the content and your motivations. Regardless of if Sam Smith is blaring in the background or the dog is nudging at your feet.

Today’s world has become increasingly attention deficit. Everything seems to be shorter and faster, the options more infinite. It is hard to find grounding when everything moves so quickly.

Mindfulness practice acts as an anchor, keeping one connected amidst the movement of life. When grounded and present, one is able to respond to the environment rather than reacting to it. Decisions come from a deeper, intuitive and heart-based place.

Mindfulness also teaches us to be fully in the moment. Most people spend their day half asleep or on autopilot. We fall into routines. We have mastered the ability to be in ten places at once, yet rarely are we in the place we actually are. It may seem like multi-tasking makes you more productive, but many studies show it is in fact less efficient.

Another great thing about this style of meditation is the accessibility of it. The best place to start is simply watching the breath. Observe the differing temperatures of the inhale versus the exhale. Be aware of every vibration and movement. Feel where the breath rises and falls in the body. Try to watch without judgment. Being present means accepting what is. If the mind wanders off, you rein it right back in. Some days will seem like you’re hardly in the moment, but the mere fact you were aware of that is the practice! Set aside five minutes a few times a week to sit with your breath.

At the same time that you have begun your sitting practice, pick one thing you do every day and make that a mindfulness practice, as well. Checking Facebook is a great place to start. Most of us are on the site a few times a day (okay, maybe more!), scrolling through the newsfeed, being unconsciously triggered. Can you make checking Facebook a meditation practice? Notice how many times a day you go on the site. Observe what feelings and thoughts arise for you. If you post, be fully present with what you are putting into the universe.

With mindfulness, everything we do can become a meditation, we just need to pause and pay attention. Modern yogis need not step out of the world to find peace; instead they must step fully in.

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IMG_0731Sarah Ezrin, E-RYT-500, is an energetic and humorous yoga teacher, writer, and YogaWorks teacher trainer based in Los Angeles. With a profound love of travel, Sarah runs around the globe leading trainings, workshops and retreats. For Sarah, yoga is not about the tricks or the postures; it is about finding one’s center amidst the challenges and chaos of the world. She believes that life is short and that it should be spent laughing, with the people and animals we love, and doing the things we most enjoy, like yoga! For more information on Sarah please visit her website or connect with her on Facebook.

Yoga for Summer Travel – by Mia Togo

10367733_578213915630475_6501382604162028387_nSummer is here and the heat it is on. Whether you’re traveling to an exotic destination or taking a weekend getaway, the extra light in the sky allows us to do more and have fun. That said, it can be hard to stay dedicated to your practice, and sometimes it’s even helpful to tone it down or shift it around during the summer months. Here are a few ways to keep your practice inspired and your summer sizzling – even when you’re on the road.

If you’re taking a long flight, you can do plenty of stretching in the back of the plane. In general, international flights are more flexible – I’ve even struck up some interesting conversations and recruited a few other passengers to stretch with me! You can try ankle knee pose, a forward fold, or puppy dog against a stable surface (not the emergency exit:) ). If you’re not allowed to stretch in the back of the plane, try to get up every few hours to walk around and stretch from your seat. It’s amazing how much better you’ll feel when you arrive!

When I get to my hotel, the first thing I do is put my legs up the wall for 5 minutes to help alleviate the swelling in my feet – flying makes me feel like a puffer fish! My hips also get really tight, so I’ll also do ankle knee pose with my legs up the wall. It’s a great way to get the circulation moving in your hips so you can hit the streets and check out the local scene.

Keeping up with your practice while you’re out of town is simple with online classes from myyogaworks.com. You can also find a local yoga class and see how it’s done in other cities. We all have our favorite style of yoga and teachers, but it’s nice to spice it up with something different once in a while. Last summer while I was in Ibiza, Spain, I took yoga on the beach. It was mostly stretching and very different from the rigorous vinyasa that I practice, but it was refreshing to tone it down, smell the ocean air, feel the sun on my skin, the breeze blowing through my hair, and to luxuriate in the simplicity.

Yoga reminds us to be flexible in our bodies and more importantly our minds so we can adjust to the challenges we face. Traveling can be full of obstacles, so take some time to practice so that you can feel centered, balanced, and in gratitude. Where we stand on the earth is always in flux, but how we stand is a choice. Take a deep breath and as you exhale into your summer fun and travels remember, “wherever you go, there you are.”

Enjoy and celebrate your light!

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online yoga classesMia Togo grew up in the small town of Murrieta, Ca. She was an avid equestrian and dancer, both of which helped pave the way to her love and devotion of yoga. It was in the practice of Vinyasa yoga that she began to feel her body as a temple for healing rather than struggle. She studied with many teachers, finding wisdom from different styles and philosophies. With much respect for all forms of yoga, her passion is Vinyasa. She has been a Yogaworks certified teacher and teacher trainer since 2004. She is also a mentor for the 300-hour program at Yogaworks. Mia teaches with an emphasis on detailed alignment so there is an intelligence and a purpose to her sequencing.

You can practice yoga with Mia Togo at YogaWorks or online with her online yoga classes with MyYogaWorks.

“Practice and all is coming” Sri Patttabhi Jois — by Angela Botta

Yoga teaches us to be in the now – but how can we avoid re-living and forecasting events that are beyond our control? How can we tame the “monkey mind” clamoring for our attention at every turn? We spend precious amounts of time telling ourselves stories, often times with negative emotions based on fear and self-doubt. These thoughts are limiting and lead to struggles with confidence, second-guessing our every move, and slowing our process of productivity and success.
The thing is, these thoughts are totally normal. We ALL have them, pretty much every day, about all sorts of things. It’s what you do when fear and self-doubt kick that makes all the difference in the world!
The very first of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the foundational book of yoga, in sanskrit reads Atha Yoga Anushasanum, translated as “yoga is the exploration of now.” One of my teachers, Chrissy Carter, offered her translation, which is my most favorite “Sutra 1.1~ Yoga begins when you meet yourself where you are”.
During my first yoga teacher training at YogaWorks in NYC, the pressure I put on myself was simply unfair. How will I remember all the sanskrit names? Anatomy and alignment, philosophy, pranayama, smart sequencing, prenatal, subtle body, oh my…I must retain it all NOW or I’ll be a complete failure! The information was powerful and challenged everything I thought I knew – about myself and how I relate to the greater whole, about my physical practice and really listening to my body, and, most importantly, about my ideas of what I truly AM capable of. It was only the beginning, yet, it was when I softened my expectations that I was able to fully hear the information.
If I had simply met myself in the moment, I would have seen that I was simply a student in the early stages of a learning process. This is not unlike many new life experiences we face – becoming a new parent, starting a new school or job, moving to a new city, just to name a few. Sure at the onset we’re scared, confused and uncertain, but isn’t that to be expected?  We’re learning somewhat of a new language and absorbing information that will become part of our daily existence. The work is to embrace these precious moments of being in a new experience, and relish the gifts to seek, explore, question and evolve through the practice of NOW. Looking back at my initial teacher training experience, I would’ve paused to let my heart be more gentle and kind than the unhelpful thoughts filling my head.
Many years later, I’m happy to report I’m able to more fully stand in my power and not waste time expecting to be anywhere but exactly where I am. After resisting, over-analyzing and putting unnecessary pressure on myself, the most valuable thing I learned in my first teacher training is to trust in the process; to do the work and surrender to my efforts! It will take many more years for me to find my truest voice as a teacher, and in doing what I love, I welcome the unfolding 😉
In the words of Rainer Maria Rilke “have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now.  Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
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Yoga grounds me! On my mat, I feel I can be the most honest and true version of myself.  We all seek health, happiness, peace, contentment and unity; yoga feeds all of that within me and inspires me to guide students to explore and unfold through their own practice.  In class, I offer clear instructions of alignment and breath, challenge physical awareness, stamina, flexibility and concentration, while encouraging students to look beyond the physical and take the state of being that remains after a practice, off the mat and into their life.  What inspires your practice?
Check out Angela’s class at the Union Square YogaWorks in NYC, visit her website, or follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

10 Universal Reasons to Take a Yoga Teacher Training – by Sarah Ezrin

One of the more common questions I get at information sessions for trainings is “what if I don’t want to teach?”

Believe it or not, about half the people who take trainings don’t actually want to teach! Some of you may be thinking, then why take a teacher training versus attending workshops or regular group classes?

At YogaWorks we’re famous for saying (and proving) that yoga teacher trainings transform people’s lives whether or not you ultimately teach yoga.

Here are ten universal benefits to taking a yoga training:

  1. Understand the poses more deeply– This is probably the most obvious of the benefits. Workshop style practices, detailed alignment, and in-depth anatomy lessons help practitioners to develop greater comprehension of the postures.
  2. Understand yourself more deeply- Through the work both on and off the mat, trainees look at their habits (samskaras) and tendencies and learn how to make shifts toward healthy patterns and improved self-care.
  3. Learn the whole yoga picture– Though the word yoga has become synonymous with the physical aspect of the practice, asana (posture) is a sliver of the whole picture. In training you will learn how to live your yoga, as well as different types of pranayama (working with energy through the breath) and meditation.
  4. Make lifelong friends- My best friend and I met in a teacher training. Taking an inward journey together profoundly bonds people. Sometimes family or co-workers don’t quite get the “whole yoga thing”. In trainings you’re surrounded by like-minded people who love and respect the practice as much as you.
  5. Back to school element- There is something fun about going back to school as an adult. In trainings we are not only learning poses, we also study anatomy. There are philosophy nights where yogic texts are discussed in a forum setting. Learning is like mental yoga for the brain and an active brain is a healthy brain.
  6. Learn how to communicate- Trainings teach people to communicate clearly. Regardless if you want to apply that knowledge to leading a class, running a business meeting, or talking to your husband, you will learn to speak effectively and with precision.
  7. Accomplishment- Projects provide a sense of purpose, especially when you finish them. Setting a goal and reaching it is good for self worth as it facilitates spiritual fulfillment.
  8. Doing something for yourself- When was the last time you did something special for yourself? Many of us are so busy taking care of other people that we do not take the time to care for ourselves. Unless our tank is full, we have nothing to give.
  9. You May Want to Teach After All– Teaching is fun and rewarding! It is not unusual for people to set out not intending to teach and then catching the bug while in training. Being a yoga teacher is a marketable skill and while you may not end up teaching full time, perhaps you will continue to teach friends and family.
  10. Do what you love- Clearly you love yoga or you wouldn’t be reading this article! Why not spend 200 hours fully immersed in what you love!

Sarah will be leading two 200 Hour Teacher Trainings toward the end of this year:

Beirut, Lebanon- August 4th-August 29th: One-Month Intensive Format; Breathe the Yoga Studio

Los Angeles with Jeanne HeilemanSeptember 5th-November 23rd: 3-Month Format; YogaWorks, Larchmont Village

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IMG_0731Sarah Ezrin, E-RYT-500, is an energetic and humorous yoga teacher, writer, and YogaWorks teacher trainer based in Los Angeles. With a profound love of travel, Sarah runs around the globe leading trainings, workshops and retreats. For Sarah, yoga is not about the tricks or the postures; it is about finding one’s center amidst the challenges and chaos of the world. She believes that life is short and that it should be spent laughing, with the people and animals we love, and doing the things we most enjoy, like yoga! For more information on Sarah please visit her website or connect with her on Facebook.

Love Your Feet! – by Melissa Bourgeois

I’m a planner. Going on vacation? I’m happy to research the destination, compare flights, explore accommodations, find enticing places to eat, and map out a series of activities. Me and Excel? We’re good friends.

One night a few years ago, I was in the throes of planning a trip to Chile, stayed up too late and got cranky. Side note: I only admitted to the crankiness in hindsight. During the cranky period, I would have sternly said, “I’m fine!” Working toward enlightenment is a life long process, so I take solace in the fact that I have more time to observe my patterns! In any case, I said to my sweetheart, “Ugh. You need to HELP with this!” He said, “Happy to. And what would you do if I suggested where we stay during our trip?” I paused and begrudgingly replied, “I would plan the whole thing over again.”

All this is to say that I also plan the yoga classes that I teach. I always have a written sequence of poses with me, even though I rarely look at it during class. I make sure to bring awareness to the particular body parts needed for the more advanced poses. Working toward Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Facing Bow Pose)? We’ll open the shoulders, engage the abdominals, lengthen the sides of the waist, and so on.

Recently, in one such planned class focusing on backbends (including Urdhva Dhanurasana), we moved into shoulderstand as we were winding down. I walked over to dim the lights and surveyed the group to make sure everyone was approaching the posture safely. I saw something that I did not expect: tears. A student was crying while in shoulderstand. Although I know from both my personal practice and from teaching that emotions often surface, I was surprised that it happened during shoulderstand. I gave the student plenty of space to work through her experience, continued as usual and moved into savasana.

After class, she lagged behind as everyone else filtered out. We had a habit of chatting after class, and I wondered if she’d bring up her shoulderstand experience.

During our conversation she said, “Melissa, I was looking up at my toes during shoulderstand, and I thought ‘I love my feet!’ I felt strong and I thought, ‘Look at my feet up there! I love them!’

She went on to say that she had a history of eating disorders and body image issues, and this was the first time in years that she felt like she loved a part of her body. Her feet! She said she had never cried in a class before, but she felt overwhelmed by emotion and it surprised her.

I could never have predicted or planned for this. It had so much to do with the student’s personal experience, and much less to do with my planned sequence of poses. As a yoga teacher, I am lucky enough to provide a structure and offer space for people to experience emotion and discover new parts of themselves. That’s one reason why teaching and practicing yoga is so vibrant, so dynamic. It’s humbling to witness people putting themselves out there, both physically and emotionally. Moving through the postures in a room with other people requires bravery and vulnerability; it can be just as much an emotional process as a physical one. Everybody (and every body) has his or her story, and each student turns the page at his or her own pace. Once in a while, as a teacher, I get to see the page turn and it’s very, very special.

This was yet another helpful reminder that there is only so much you can plan in life. When you’re open to what comes, you can experience it fully, in this moment – the one happening right now. To quote guru John Lennon: “Before you cross the street, take my hand. Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

So please. Right now, in THIS moment, love your feet! Take time to experience what is happening without a written sequence or organized plan. You will likely discover something new, and that is where the real growth happens.

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Melissa teaches with a full heart and a generous dose of humor. Yoga helps her slow down, gain perspective, and find calm in hectic NYC, and she loves helping others do the same. She completed her 500-RYT certification through YogaWorks NYC under the mentorship of Chrissy Carter, and has pursued additional training in prenatal yoga with Carrie Parker, restorative yoga with Jillian Pransky and kids yoga with Asana Alphabet . She also studied at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and is a certified Health and Lifestyle Coach. She’s currently embarking on her newest yogic journey: being a new mom. Check out more at melissabwellness.com.

 

 

Benefits of Yoga for Fertility – by Patricia Grube

Constant stress can negatively affect our health and wellbeing. For a woman, the consequences of having cortisol and adrenaline constantly pumping through her body impacts her viability to conceive. These ‘fight or flight’ hormones, in excess, compromise the ability to get and stay pregnant. Think of it this way, if you’re constantly running from the imaginary Saber-tooth tiger, your body has the instinct to survive and stay alive. In the presence of stress, it is as if your hormones as saying, “Quick, close and secure the doors to the precious ovaries. It is NOT safe to release an egg here.”  Make sense?

Unfortunately, stress is a part of everyday life. Thus, women (and men for that matter) would greatly benefit from the practice of Yoga. Yin classes like Prenatal and Restorative Yoga brings a fresh supply of oxygen to the body and also calm the mind to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Yoga also allows the mind and body a chance to recover from being overloaded by the ‘fight or flight’ mode and thus enhance the hormones of fertility and conception and maintain a healthy pregnancy.

At YogaWorks, we have a full schedule of classes for prenatal yoga, restorative, Iyengar and Hatha yoga, which would be appropriate for women trying to conceive.

By no means do I suggest doing yoga is the one and only tool to assist with fertility, but rather it can be used effectively in concert with other modalities such as acupuncture, herbs, proper nutrition, and sometimes the assistance of fertility medical treatments. No matter your journey through conception, the benefits of yoga are countless.

Here is a list of a few poses, which are beneficial for fertility:

1) Upavistha Konasana and Parsva Upavistha Konasana – Improves circulation to your pelvis, regulates menstrual flow and stimulates the ovaries.

2) Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand) – Regulates emotional stability and balances the hormones.

3) Viparita Karani – This pose calms the nervous system, brings blood flow to the abdomen and balances the endocrine system. (Or try this variation).

4) Baddha Konasana – Brings blood flow to the ovaries and alleviates heaviness in the abdomen.

5) Savasana – Corpose pose relieves anxiety and nervous tension. It can calm the nervous system allowing the body to move into rest and digest mode, which encourages an internal environment for conception.

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IMG_9059Patricia Grube is a pre/post-natal yoga instructor at Yoga Works South Bay. She is a certified birth doula and childbirth educator. Patricia has authored many articles and has an upcoming book, Bumps in Motion – Pregnancy Yoga Sequences From Around the World. www.serenitybirth.com. Follow her on Twitter @Serenitybirth1