Why AntiGravity Yoga

It’s really awesome to find new and exciting ways to practice yoga. One new discovery I made recently is AntiGravity Yoga.

AntiGravity or Aerial Yoga was established in 1991 by Christopher Harrison, a former gymnast, and Broadway aerial choreographer. It involves a series of techniques inspired by yoga, Pilates, calisthenics and aerial acrobatics in a hammock, in order to achieve a whole-body workout.

Christopher Harrison created what he called the “silk hammock” and discovered that the use of this hammock had health and fitness benefits for everyone. So he created “AntiGravity™ Yoga & Fitness”.  His techniques are now available in gyms and studios around the world.

So, what sets Antigravity Yoga apart from other types of yoga done on the ground?

For starters, you don’t have to have previous yoga experience. While it is an advantage to have experience with other types of yoga, it’s not a requirement in order to practice Antigravity Yoga. As you begin to learn this form of yoga, you will be instructed on its foundations.

Want to improve your core strength? Antigravity Yoga definitely will help you with this. You are off the ground, so it gets you engaging your core right away.

AntiGravity YogaAlso, those headstands or handstands that are so hard to master for some will actually become easier after you are able to experience how they feel with the support of the hammock. Overall, Antigravity Yoga will boost your confidence in some of the more challenging poses you do on your mat – such as the inversions.

Antigravity Yoga is also very easy on the joints making it a great workout for people with knee problems.

It also provides strength-building benefits according to some students of aerial yoga. It increases muscle mass and decreases fat mass. It can be a very cardio-intensive form of yoga which can be comparable to power walking. However, it does also provide a relaxing and stress-free experience as with many activities that involve whole body-mind exercises. At the end of my Antigravity yoga classes, I get to lie down in Savasana, cocooned in the silk hammock as my teacher gently swings the hammock side to side.

Then, there is the thrill of it! It’s so much fun to play acrobat for an hour and be able to do all these acrobatic tricks I wouldn’t try without the help of something suspending me off the ground. I look forward to my next class every week!

If you have tried Anti Gravity or Aerial Yoga, let me know what you thought or just leave any comments or questions you might have.

Yoga On Your Own

Yoga at the Beach

Recently during one of my Hatha Yoga classes, one of my yoga instructors talked about the asana and the importance of doing yoga on your own or self-practice.  I found it extremely useful to have that discussion on that topic because, by tendency, I rely too much on assisting to the classes instead of practicing on my own.

Naitauba IslandInterestingly enough, I was away for a month at the Hermitage Island of Naitauba in Fiji where I went for a service retreat. As part of the morning routine, while you are on the retreat, there is time for yoga. However, it’s not guided by anyone, so I had the opportunity of doing the yoga practice on my own.  It was ecstatic because I really wanted to challenge myself to do a yoga routine every day. I took one day off though as I felt that was necessary.

It was truly about discipline and listening to my body for what it needed each day as I began each yoga session, and after each one, I felt very energized and strong which was extremely helpful in meditation and in performing my service there.

Since I have been back, I have tried to practice whenever I don’t go to class. I find that doing yoga on my own has also helped me to feel more confident about teaching yoga classes soon. It’s my next challenge and with the self-practice, I can get creative trying different routines. It’s fun!

The Story About Marichyasana

Marichyasana Yoga Posture

Today I learned the interesting background about the yoga posture called Marichyasana – sometimes called Marichi’s Pose or the Sage’s Pose. Marichi means Ray of Light, either from the sun or the moon.

Marichyasana yoga postureMarichyasana  is a seated, twisting yoga posture that strengthens and stretches your vertebral column and it stretches your shoulders, releasing tension and stiffness in your back, your shoulders and your neck. Watch this video on how to do this posture.

According  Hindu mythology, Brahma, the divine creator had seven sons or “Mansaputras” and Marichi was one of Brahma’s sons. Marichi’s own children include Kashypapa, who was known as the ‘Lord of Creatures and Marichi’s grandson was the sun god Surya, the giver of life who is the god to whom Surya Namaskara or Sun Salutation is dedicated and his great-grandson was Manu, the father of humanity. The Sanskrit root for the first three letters of Manu is ‘to think’ and this gave rise to the word man in the English language.

The following story describes what Mariachi was like:

“One day Marichi went to the forest to collect wood and flowers and returned to his home extremely tired. He called to his wife, Dharmavrata, and told her that she was to wash his feet for him. Just as Dharmavrata began to wash her husband’s feet, Brahma arrived. Dharmavrata did not know what she should do, should she continue to wash her husband’s feet, or turn her attention to Brahma, who was Marichi’s father. She chose the latter and suffered the wrath of her husband. Marichi became extremely angry and put a curse on his wife, turning her into a stone. Dharmavrata was naturally upset by this, believing that she was being punished unnecessarily. As a reaction to this, Dharmavrata began many years of meditation which were noticed by Lord Visnu who, impressed by her devotion, granted her a wish. All Dharmavrata wanted was to have Marichi’s curse lifted. Unfortunately, Marichi was such a powerful sage that this was impossible to do. Instead, Dharmavrata was transformed into a holy stone, which was desired by all gods.”

(from http://tirisulayoga.com/marichi/)

Why is Samasthiti and Tadasana Easily Interchangable

Sometimes learning the Sanskrit names to yoga asanas is a challenge but in addition, differentiating the postures can be a challenge as well.  Two postures I was puzzled about for the longest time are Samasthiti and Tadasana – I always felt as though they were the same but called differently, or that I was missing something. I finally felt I needed to understand their differences.

In Sanskrit, Samasthiti comes from the root word sama which means “same” or “equal” and sthiti which means “to establish” or “to stand”.  So in essence, it means to stand in balanced stillness. Tadasana or Mountain Pose is the posture that invokes Samasthiti. The Sanskrit roots are tada which means mountain and asana which means posture.

Tadasana is the basis for all the standing asanas and a very important asana for all yoga practices – it’s is an excellent asana for developing stillness, stability, and strength. If you would like to see a video to the Tadasana posture, I found the following video very useful to practice this posture.

While in Tadasana, Samasthiti is established to ground and balance yourself both physically as well as mentally. The focal point or drishti in Tadasana is the end of your nose and it’s a posture that helps with balancing the root chakra located at the base of the spine, also known as the muladhara chakra.

So next time you hear the two words – Samasthiti and Tadasana – in your yoga class, just know that you are being asked to bring your attention to your posture and establish a balanced stance.

I hope you found this post useful and if you have any questions or comments, please post them below.

Happy practicing!

Beyond Yoga Selfies

Yoga Pose

It’s often easy to get wrap up in the stunning photographs we see of people doing yoga poses including our own yoga selfies. They are definitely beautiful and wow-worthy to look at. However, these photos are usually done in a professional manner and with the ultimate goal of looking good for the camera and not with the intention of doing a mindful pose or yoga practice. The result of the photo is months or years of practicing that pose and being able to show it to the world. But it’s not really our yoga practice.

I feel it’s important to educate others, in particular, those people that really want to learn and get inspired by what yoga truly is. So in addition to the yoga selfies that we love to look at and post, I think it would be great to also post photos of what goes beyond yoga selfies, whatever that might be for each individual.

The aspects of yoga that a photo doesn’t communicate is what people new to yoga need to see more of I feel. A yoga selfie won’t show how a person is staying in the moment for instance, or how yoga practice is the means to help us understand and ultimately transcend ourselves through various supportive techniques and disciplines – not only the physical techniques like the poses or asanas but also the concentration, attention, breathing, etc.

Yoga group classPersonally, beyond those amazing poses, I feel I am practicing yoga when I am given feedback by my teachers correcting my alignment, or when I am able to be nonreactive to others in my day-to-day relationships if someone says or does something that is off. I am also practicing yoga when I meditate in the morning and/or in the evening, or when I am studying or reading something that furthers my understanding and knowledge of yoga, or when I get up early in the morning with the intention and happiness to go to a yoga class.

So, if you feel moved and want share what practicing yoga means to you or you have a photo that shows what yoga practice means to you, feel free to share below in the comments area.

Happy practicing!

What is OM in Yoga

OM with leaves

You decided to check out a yoga class and you are sitting down on your mat in a comfortable meditation position as you begin to chant “OM” and you begin to ask yourself, what is OM? You might start to wonder what is it about OM that makes yogis and yoginis chant this two letters with so much passion and intention?

Om is the eternal sound, the sound of the universe, the primal, core, profound cosmic sound, and it creates a vibrational frequency of harmony in the body. OM aligns our energy and creates a feeling of openness and expansion as well as unity and love.

OM symbolIn Sanskrit, the word OM is made up of the three syllables A-U-M. The sound “O” is a diphthong written as “AU”.  Each letter represents the 3 divisions of time or psychological states, and visually, the symbol OM consists of three curves, one semicircle, and a dot. The large curve at the bottom symbolizes the waking state or A, the middle curve signifies the dreaming state or U, and the curve at the top is the symbol for the deep sleep state or M. The dot is the fourth state which symbolizes the transcendental state of consciousness also known as Turiya. The semi-circle at the top, which separates the dot from the other three curves, represents Maya or the veil of illusion.

When chanting OM I can consciously feel the “A” sound as it originates from the back of the throat opening the heart. As the “U” sound glides from the openness feeling created by the “A”, “U” is felt in the navel or abdomen region of the body. And finally, the “M” sound is felt in the region of the head as my mouth fully closes.

Just like when doing physical yoga asanas, I find chanting OM can be energizing and calming as it moves the life force to integrate the three main centers of the body-mind (head, heart, and navel) into its inherent wholeness – all the while consciously breathing in time with the chant.

Fractal-UniverseWhether I am chanting OM at the beginning or at the end of yoga class, or in a meditative setting, or in the midst of everyday life, I can really feel the impact this mantra has when I deeply feel its meaning. It’s such a primal sound prior to everything and anything that as I begin to tap into its essence, which is nonseparate from the universe, consciousness or myself, I can really just let go and tacitly know that OM is all there is.

Before OM, there is silence and after OM there is silence, but silence still exists while the sound is uttered because OM really helps to tune-in into that silence like no other sound does. Silence feels to me like the ever-present, timeless nature of existence or consciousness itself, because consciousness doesn’t have any sound yet is present and aware at all times.

Next time you hear the OM chant or you are invited to chant it, I hope you can find its calming and energizing nature too. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave them below and I will be happy to respond.

Namaste

 

 

 

 

 

Taking One’s Love of Yoga to a Deeper Level

This year I decided to invest in taking the 200-hour yoga teacher training program. I wanted to take it to deepen my practice and to learn how to teach. I feel I have come to a point in my practice where the passion I have for yoga needs to grow — there is so much about it that I am just beginning to learn and grasp. I also feel an impulse to share my passion with others via teaching yoga, because I have felt how inspiring it is to see others grow in their own practice and to see new people get excited and committed to practicing it.

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Why are Headstand Poses So Challenging?

Yoga Headstand

This is a question I have had for many years, and I have been avoiding headstand poses any way I could. In a few occasions, I stopped attending some really good classes because they included headstands or handstands and I simply was too scared of even trying them.

When I began to take yoga classes in my current studio, I started trying some classes that also encouraged them but I began to get more curious. I simply watched the students doing them and some of us just rested on the baby pose or tried the preparation steps to the headstand. I was getting frustrated as I knew it was all just fear that drove me to avoid the pose, and I felt the little I was attempting was not going to get me far. However, I did know that at least my body was getting a tiny taste of what it involves to do a headstand.

One day, as I entered the studio to get ready for a yoga class  I saw a poster regarding a headstand workshop. I immediately signed up. I was both scared but excited to finally be properly instructed in a pose that I had become so afraid of.  I had no idea what to expect as I knew how terrified of trying it I was, but deep inside I knew I wanted to learn it, to transcend that fear that was keeping me from discovering something wonderful and new.

The two-hour workshop was really good! We started with breathing exercises which are important to do as it is necessary to remember to breathe deeply during the headstand pose.  They also help to relax your body which is important as well. I learned what poses are best to warm up the body and stretch the areas that need to be stretched for headstands:

  • Sun salutations
  • Warrior I and II
  • Forward bends

Yoga headstandWe were then taught the steps to prepare ourselves for the headstand. The way you position your elbows and hold your hands on the floor was really useful to understand so that you can support your neck and be relaxed during the pose. Keeping your shoulders back and down because the tendency is for them to relax in the wrong position and so your back is not supported properly. I also appreciated knowing that I could bring in my feet towards the head with my knees bent if I needed to. That allowed me to begin feeling the pose more as I got as close as I had to and then I could get my legs up beginning with the knees.

With the help of the instructor, I was up against the wall and breathing with it and remembering all the little but important details. I tried it several times but I couldn’t get myself up alone so the instructor would help me a bit and reminded me of a few things. Then I just stayed up there playing with my core strength and trying to separate from the wall a few inches. I then would gracefully lower my legs down.

I felt the teacher’s support and instructions were paramount to my ability to transcend the fear I had – though not completely gone, I was able to relax on the pose and feel happy.  So why did I think it was so challenging? I think I just needed to really understand the pose and be in a place where I felt safe to try it. Without the basic understanding and preparation, I think the body just contracts itself and the mind shuts off any impulse you might have to open up for a new challenge.

I hope this post inspires you to learn and/or try headstands in your yoga journey and please feel free to share your adventures with this wonderful yoga pose below in the comments area.

 

Dharma Yoga – Graceful Yet Challenging

Yoga pose

“When you are quiet you see everything with love”
Dharma Mittra

This past weekend I learned a form of yoga call Dharma Yoga.   I signed up for a weekend workshop and I had no idea what I was getting into but I was ready to immerse myself in yoga and learn something new. After the workshop I did a little bit of research and found that Dharma Yoga is a graceful but challenging form of yoga that has roots in Hatha, Raya, Karma, Kriya, Bhakti, Japa, Laya, Jnana, and Ashtanga yoga. It emphasizes good health, mindfullness, and kindness with the ultimate goal of  self-realization.

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