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.

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

Yoga, Parenting, and (Usually) Keeping my Cool – by Melanie Lora Meltzer

I haven’t taught public classes in almost 3 years—I stopped just before the birth of my daughter Luciana, who will be 3 at the end of July. My husband and I welcomed a little boy, Huck, in early January of this year. Parenting is yoga in action 24 hours a day—along with the indescribable love and joy I feel for my kids there are the skills of staying present, navigating the uncomfortable or the unknown, being willing to get back up when I fail miserably, and showing up no matter what.

When I was pregnant with Luciana I had many of my students say to me “You’ll be a great mom—you are so nice—you must never get mad.” That always made me laugh—ask my husband: I have a hot temper and I’ve unleashed it in plenty of moments I’ve regretted. Since I’ve become a mother it’s been more important to me than ever that I not let myself fly off the handle on any sort of regular basis—and anyone with a toddler knows that’s a tall order on some days.

For me, as I’m sure for many of you, the physical and spiritual elements of my practice are intertwined. My soul feels lighter as my body lets go of tensions on my mat, and if I’ve had a breakthrough in my spirit my asana practice reflects that in more stability, more agility, more ease. As I’ve thought about how to regulate emotions when it seems impossible, I’ve found myself thinking of what I do on my mat when I’m overwhelmed, frustrated, or feel defeated. They work on my mat and they work with my kids.

1. Breathe: Luciana has sat and watched many times as I’ve closed my eyes and taken some deep breaths. It may look weird, but it’s much better than using a tone I’ll want to take back. Yoga is where I feel like I learned to breathe.

2. Observe: Much as I observe my body and my limitations and abilities while I practice, I try to observe myself in a challenging moment as a mom. I try to let any judgement go. If I have the wherewithal I ask myself what’s coming up; I remind myself this is a moment, it’s not forever, and that I can stay calm. I can stay calm.

3. Faith in myself: at the end of the day I can beat myself up (and I have. Lots.) for the moments that were so wildly imperfect. Or I can rest knowing I did the very best that I could and I’ll get to try again tomorrow. Kids—and adults and yoga poses—are always evolving. There are no last chances.

I do get mad. But that it’s not the first or even tenth thing that someone notices about me lets me know that, as always, my practice reaches over and helps me in my life as long as I keep showing up for it.

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IMG_0619_RMelanie is a Los Angeles based actress and yoga teacher. Her acting career has been largely in theatre (what? in LA? Yes. There is great theatre in LA.) and television commercials; though she’s had forays onto the large and small screen, most recently in the beautiful film I am I with Simon Helberg and Jason Ritter, premiering at the Newport Beach film festival. Melanie is also a yoga teacher, and was on the schedule at Yoga Works from 2001 until 2011, when she stopped teaching classes a month before her daughter Luciana was born. She currently teaches privately and online at myyogaworks.com.  She started her blog, Figs and Feathers, as a way to have a creative outlet that she was in charge of. It’s evolved into a place she posts about being a mother and an artist and where the two worlds meet.

Let’s Grow Yoga – by Vytas

Untitled copyI teach yoga every day. Yep. That’s right, every single day. I don’t have a day off. That’s because I love what I do and am more than happy to make yoga a big part of my life’s purpose. I will admit though, it is difficult to stay inspired day in and day out. Sometimes the greater good of what I’m doing gets drowned out in its repetitive nature. Even though I firmly believe that sharing yoga with people is making the world a better place, I’m guilty of losing perspective from time to time.

Recently I led a challenge with some fellow yoga teachers on social media to help grow yoga. The idea was to ask participants to share yoga with people they knew that had never practiced before. For some of us, finding people who don’t do yoga was quite a task – all of my friends and family have at least tried it before. But living in a city as diverse as Los Angeles, there are opportunities abound. When I left my social circle and began asking different people in the city if I could teach them yoga, things began to unfold beautifully. I met so many people from different walks of life that had never tried yoga before but were eager to learn. The response was overwhelmingly positive and I was reminded of why this discipline is something that I’ve devoted my life to. In giving of myself to others, I was given a newfound inspiration for what I do.

Yoga has the ability to heal people. Not only physically, but on deeper levels of the mind and the heart. I challenge all of you that have been touched by this practice to reach out and share it with someone new. Bring them to a beginner class. Gift them a few months subscription to MyYogaWorks. There are still millions of people out there that need yoga. You have the power to help. Lets Grow Yoga!

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Check out Vytas’ online yoga classes on MyYogaWorks or take his live class at YogaWorks Main Street in Santa Monica, California.

www.vytasyoga.com