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Om Yoga Blog
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Experience Om Yoga and be encouraged to deepen the awareness of the body, mind and spirit bringing forth your highest qualities. Be Inspired to live daily in a way that promotes peace, mindfulness, humility and growth.
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1:29 am

Yoga's Greatest Gift: A Present Mind

unnamed_copyWhen I think of what yoga and living a yoga lifestyle means to me, many things come to mind. I always think back to my first yoga class in Manhattan over 15 years ago.  A former dancer friend who practiced yoga regularly asked me to go to a class and I thought, “Sure, I’ve got this.” I was a competitive gymnast growing up, and I can never remember a time when I didn’t work out – I thought I knew what to expect.

So I walked into this beautiful, quiet room packed with yogis. It was a little dark; a lovely painted tree on the wall, and a single burning candle in the front. The teacher introduced herself, gave a brief talk (which now I know is called a sutra), and began the class with an Om and a chant. I thought, “What did I get myself into?”  I sat quietly and listened to the resonating sound of all the voices. Next, we were on to breathing, and I found myself thinking again, “What is this all about? I know how to breathe.” Next was movement, what I know now as the Asanas. Despite not knowing the names or really any of the poses, I looked around and followed. I loved the flow, the balance, the challenge, the strength, and the flexibility. At the end of the class we lay down on our backs (aka savasana), and again, I found myself thinking, “What?”  This calming, still ending to a workout was completely unexpected and unfamiliar to me.  We ended the class seated, with our eyes closed, a cleansing breath, and an Om – and that is when it all started for me.

I have to admit that my initial draw to yoga was the physical practice. It was a different kind of work out for me; however, over the years I’ve found myself seeking yoga, not only for the physical benefits, but also for the effects I was experiencing as a whole person. I can only describe it as a sense of “awwhhhh” after every practice.

I sought out yoga teacher training in 2014 to learn more about the physical practice, but mainly to learn more about living a yoga lifestyle, especially when it came to raising 2 young daughters. It is very important for me to be a role model in their lives. I want to lead by example based on so many of the wonderful, guiding, inspirational sutras and lessons I have heard in my many yoga classes. I really wanted to practice “taking my yoga off the mat and into my life.”

Now, at this moment, if I were asked what it means to live a yoga lifestyle, my immediate answer would be to be present, as cliché as it may sound. This concept of truly being present was the biggest and most life-changing lesson for me in teacher training. Being a working mom, raising 2 young daughters, and juggling all other aspects life, I began to realize that my mind was constantly in a state of chaos. I was always trying to get everything done, planning for the next event, and making sure everyone was where they were supposed to be. This constant multi-tasking (which I thought was just what every mom was supposed to do) was in fact a distraction. It inhibited me from completely enjoying all the special moments that I intended to savor forever. Time was just passing me by. When I really sat down and thought back to various moments, I was actually having a hard time recalling details, as at the time, my mind was not present. This was eye opening and quite scary!

I believe I have made progress when it comes to being present, but I still have a ways to go – and I can’t wait to see the outcomes of an increasingly present mind. Through my efforts to become more present, I have already noticed a greater joy and sense of contentment in all aspects of my busy life, as well as a greater connection to what it means to really be in the moment. Remember this, as it is so true: ”The best gift we can give each other is our presence.” xx Allyson Rooney

12:11 pm

Grateful

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I grew up with a loving and supportive family, amazing friends, an athletic background, and a limited potential to truly fail. I was a hard worker no doubt, but still – potential was all around me. I didn't know hurt, I got mostly what I wanted, and I expected to be good at whatever I did. 

But this life – this crazy, beautiful, humbling life happened. In fact—shit happened! And it changed my whole story, like many people in their 30s. I never thought I would say this but—thank you, world. Thank you for opening my eyes, and for being different than I expected. These experiences have changed my whole way of thinking, and living, and wanting.

That idea of "happily ever after" as an easy road did not last – instead my deepest fears were realized. I lost people that I never thought I would, I had enough surgeries to make me question my sanity, and my heart has been broken so badly that I lost faith in myself. I’ve asked myself, “What am I doing with my life already?” more times than I'm comfortable with.

Life is hard—really hard—sometimes, but thank you. Seriously. Thank you for making me feel more alive, and for making me less afraid. Thank you for making me happy. My gratitude is magnified because of what I’ve seen – both light and dark phases of life. Thank you for love that is even stronger because I now know hurt. Thank you for making my smile more real because I remember how hard it was to get it back. Thank you for giving me the awareness and courage to question myself, and to make sure I'm moving towards more of what I love.

Thank you for giving me more potential to gracefully get through the harder times—the times that will inevitably come, the times that I now have more experience with, the times that may help me "gracefully fall back into the arms of grace” –as the Lifehouse song, “Breathing,” goes—when I question my sanity.  I have come out more than okay—I have come out trusting myself a little more, and a little bit more me. I'm a work in progress, but I’m finding out that this life really is what we make it.

Remember to be grateful not just for the good, but for all of it.

Yoga helps me to reconnect to that, it helps me to know that I am caring for myself in the good and bad days, and it helps me to remember that I just have to keep breathing, and moving, and trusting as gracefully as I can.

With love,

Kari

9:27 pm

Yoga is a Moving Meditation

pose-mountain_copyI began my yoga practice years ago when I started to fall in love with meditation. I would sit with my legs crossed in silence as I focused all my attention on my breath - trying to slow down the momentum of my mind, as it had been building for the last 22 years of my life. I didn't know exactly how to do it; I tried to research various techniques, but I found it to be a very mysterious topic. Many people say they meditate and share all the benefits of a practice - yet very few actually explain how to do it.

So I then started seeking teachers to help guide me on this new hobby of mine. I found Thich Naht Hahn and Eckhart Tolle. They helped tremendously, and I started to experience deeper and deeper states of bliss. I was very satisfied with my meditation practice; however, once I ended each practice, I noticed that my peace would slowly fade as I got sucked back into the overwhelming world of ego. Sometimes I would lose it sitting in traffic, often I lost it at work, or while dealing with certain "difficult" people.

Eventually, I would get back home and find my peace again by sitting in silent meditation - but I wanted more! I wanted to be able to live every second in these higher states of experience. Then I was introduced to mindful walking. Mindful walking is basically moving very, very slowly so you can experience all the muscles and sensations of each step, rather than walking to get from point a to point b. This was the bridge that helped me understand how I could take my meditation practice to the next level. If I could meditate while I walked, then I could reset much more easily than when I had to find a quiet place to sit.

Yet the walking meditation was not very challenging as far as the physical body is concerned, so when I found myself in a stressful situation, it was still difficult to overcome the drama. Then I tried yoga, which allowed me to keep a mindfulness state while overcoming higher levels of stress on the body. I felt every muscle (many I didn't even know I had) as I transitioned through the countless poses. Yoga teaches me how to move through various strenuous positions while keeping a centered state. This increases my resilience, which then has a tremendous effect on helping me maintain stillness when I find myself in more stressful situations, such as work.

To me, yoga is more than just a physical workout designed to create strength and flexibility. If it is practiced with a mindful perspective, it can also become a moving meditation. Once you master the art of finding stillness, even in the midst of intense physical movements, then you become an unstoppable force of peace and bliss. Every second holds the opportunity to find and cultivate peace, regardless of the level of stress or challenge.

It reminds me of a powerful quote I heard somewhere: "It is one thing to be a monk in a monastery, it is another to be a monk in the midst of our chaotic world."

Much Love,
Ryan Astheimer

Check out Ryan's blog!

9:19 pm

Inversions Everyday: The Benefits of Getting Upside Down

IMG_9492_copy Try it even if it scares you!

As a child, I took gymnastics and was fearless in trying new things.


Fast forward 30 years to having two children, and being in a completely different stage in my life - and somehow I can still do a headstand. I will never forget the first day I was able to put my head on the mat and kick one foot up in the air…maybe I wasn’t as old as I felt?

I used to thunder to the floor, flipping over again and again. Sure, it was embarrassing - but I just knew I could do it. I remember the elation and  perma-smile that lasted for many weeks when I started to hold my headstands. It didn’t matter what was happening in my life, I could handle it. If I could do a headstand at my age, I could do anything!
I believe in getting upside down everyday! Inversions are beneficial for everyone.

Here are 5 reasons why you should get upside down:

1. Face Your Fears: Inversions bring a child-like sense of joy once you start to catch some air. Bringing your hips over your shoulders can be scary at first, but once you start to let go and trust your body, you can bring that inner tapas (fire, root to burn) into all aspects of your life!

2. Increased Blood Flow and (Caffeine-Free) Energy: Throughout the day, it's highly beneficial to add inversions into your practice and cut back on other items that give you a kick. Before a large meeting, press up to handstand against the wall for 30 seconds instead of going for that second cup of coffee ;-)! Inversions give the inner spirit a different perspective to view life. Inversions are great all year long, but are extremely beneficial during the winter months when we are indoors more, and stagnant energy seems to be more of a challenge.

3. Gives Your Heart a Break: Inversions allow gravity to pull your tissues, fluid, and blood in your body downward, reversing blood flow and giving your heart a break. I like to finish class with an inversion before I take Savasana. 

4. Keeps You Focused: You have to stay focused to invert upside down. Practicing Dharana, or concentrating to connect with steadiness, empowerment, and one pointedness, will release you from distraction. Allowing you to remove the clouding of your mind and remain in the present moment will bring tranquillity to your practice.

5. Provides a New Perspective without EGO: Inversions take core strength, dedication, and perseverance. You will shed the layers of ego, and gain a new perspective of what your are capable of. You will also practice Ahimsa, or non-attachment. You will appreciate being in the present moment more than nailing the yoga pose or posting it on FB ;-).

However, if you are darn proud of yourself or you want to inspire others to join you in this awesome journey - I say share it and rise the vibrations! Together we rise! Don't be afraid to be judged for just shining your light!!! SHINE ON! ;-)

Be your true self and shine on!

Be Well,  
Michelle

9:16 pm

You Might Fart: Insights for new (and not so new) yogis


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You did it: you’ve started a yoga practice. You’ve heard everybody and their brother talking about it -- friends’ friends, the babysitter, and even your 76-year-old aunt have gotten into yoga. So you said, "What the Heck? I’ll give it a shot." And here you are, embarking on a really cool new adventure. Being new to anything is both exhilarating and a little crazy, and there’s a lot you don’t know yet. To help you navigate the practice and etiquette of yoga, here are some of my top tips for yoga newbs (and not-so-newbs).

You will not be kicked out of a yoga class for wearing socks, a Hanes t-shirt, and 1970’s sweat bands.

Newsflash: Americans are a nation of consumers - materialistic achievers who really like to have their “stuff."  Yoga has not been immune to this mindset; hence, the giant success of brands like LuLu Lemon. Nothing made me sadder than the time I overheard some moms talking while waiting to pick up their kids, when one of them said, “I’d really like to try a yoga class, but I don’t have the clothes. And if I did, everybody would run the other way if they saw me in yoga pants!!”  People – I’m going to write this in all capital letters because it is so important:  IT DOES NOT MATTER WHAT YOU WEAR TO YOGA! Yes, you will see people decked out in matching ensembles, with the latest water bottle, mat, headband, and a monogrammed sweat rag. If that’s what it takes to get them off the couch and into a down dog, then great! But what you wear and how you wear it is a personal choice. The only thing that matters is that you’re rolling out your mat (or towel, or just using the floor), and practicing yoga. There are no fashion police in yoga. In fact, the traditional garb worn by the Indian men practicing yoga very closely resembles a giant white diaper. Even today, those studying Iyengar yoga often wear traditional Pune bloomers, which look a lot like a huge diaper cover. Hey, if they can wear that stuff, you can wear whatever the heck you want to yoga.  I am known to practice in mismatched random get-ups in the studio, and my husband’s boxer shorts at home when the mood strikes, god help us.  And guess what: nobody cares. Throughout my years of practice, I’ve developed a well-rounded squad of makeup-less, sweaty, ponytailed friends who know and love me for what’s on the inside – not for what brand of yoga pants I’m rocking. Yoga simply doesn’t care what you wear or look like, and neither do true yogis. So throw on some socks, if that’s what floats your boat, and get yourself to class.

Make like Darth Vadar and breathe.

The room is packed and steamy, music fills the air, the teacher is very nonchalantly telling you to lift your leg over your head, look at your butt, and wrap one arm behind your back -- and to breathe. Breathe-?! You’re thinking, WHAT?! You’re just trying to make it through the twisting, turning, and balancing without falling on your face. Breathing is about the last thing on your mind. No matter how many times the teacher cues inhaling and exhaling, many newer yoga students simply don’t think this is for them. In fact, many view breathwork as the gravy on top of the yoga practice. They get so caught up with executing poses that they nearly skip the breathing altogether, deteriorating into panting and puffing wherever it conveniently fits in.

I’m sure you’ve heard your teachers tell you that breathing is the most fundamental component of your yoga practice. They’re not lying. Here’s the deal: when you focus on cultivating and controlling your breath, your breathing shifts from the medulla oblongata to the cerebral cortex (the evolved part of the brain). This controlled, steady breath allows thoughts and emotions to be bypassed – so you can experience focus and calm awareness. If you do NOTHING else in your yoga classes, take your teacher’s advice and breathe. There’s nothing more powerful than audible breath in a yoga class, the sound of a sea of focus and calm inhaling and exhaling like the rolling of the ocean, even through the most challenging poses.  If you think, “that breathing thing is kind of stupid, I’m just here to sculpt on my yoga butt”, I beg you to give it a shot. You’ll feel fantastic, and start tapping into the energetic superhighway available to you through your yoga practice.

 A random stranger’s sweat is flying all over you. Do not panic.

I’d only been practicing yoga for about a month, when I took a really popular class. I was all set up in my little corner, with a nice 5-ft swath of open space around me, when the room began filling up at an alarming rate. I was surrounded. I looked around incredulously as yogis coolly set up their mats less than 5 inches from mine. Worse yet, one was a 6’2” Navy Seal-looking guy wearing some form of yoga boxer briefs. WHAT?!  I decided I was definitely going to complain to the management. This was crazy.  How could I be expected to practice with nearly naked complete strangers so close? It wasn’t until two years later and 200 hours of Registered Yoga Teacher Training that I realized that close proximity isn’t something to be skeezed out over: yoga is an internal practice. And besides, pretty much all asana takes place within a 72” x 24” yoga mat – so it honestly doesn’t matter how close you are to someone. So when (not if, but when) you find a stranger lift into three-point down dog and fling their foot sweat onto your mat, and when you bend into a wide legged forward fold and find your head dangerously near someone’s ass, don’t freak out. Come back to your breath, close your eyes, and be grateful for a sense of community. Then go ahead and flip your dog right onto your neighbor’s mat. 

The teacher touched you four times during class. Surely, they’re hitting on you, right?

So, you’re a new yogi, and you look up during paschimottanasana to see the yoga teacher draped over the person in front of you like a cheap suit. Say WHAT?!!  Don’t freak out – you haven’t just witnessed a private inappropriate moment, it’s just a yoga teacher assist.  One of the greatest things about yoga classes at a good studio with good teachers is the practice of assists. Teaching proper form can give you profound benefits in your yoga practice, take you into poses you otherwise may not be able to fully access on your own, and it also protects you from injury. It just happens that assists can sometimes look, well, weird. It’s important for all new yogis to know that your teacher has gone through many hours of assistance practicum, and is trained to not use their fingertips, a lingering touch, or to ever touch you inappropriately. When an assist is done well, all you’ll feel is WOW, and not OMG. If you have concerns about being touched in assists, let the teacher know before class that you’d prefer not to partake – they will not be offended, I promise.

True or False: If you lift your leg higher than the person next to you, you win. 

As a life-long Type A personality and former competitive athlete, nobody can understand the lure of physical competition better than I can. If you’re one of those people who secretly races the person on the treadmill next to you at the gym, yoga is going to be a paradigm-shifter for you. For me, it was like the moving of the Earth’s tectonic plates to get to a mindset where I finally “got it” that yoga is NOT a competitive sport. Every yogi is on a different leg of their yoga journey, and every practice looks different. It’s totally cool to be inspired by those who can do poses (with calm, steady breath) that you can’t do yet. But I remind my students, in nearly every class, to avoid the dirty, dark trap of comparing yourself to others in class.  Ego can crap up your practice really fast. I encourage my students to close their eyes as they practice, take their drishti inward, and strive to feel the poses from the inside out.  I particularly love that my studio doesn’t have any mirrors. This really drives home the integrity of the message I’m sending my students, and encourages them to get away from competing with others around them, and worse yet, focusing primarily on what they look like while they’re in a pose. This isn’t Instagram, my friends – this is real life, and yoga is an inside job.

Someone farted. And it was you.

With all the conscious breathing, inward focus, OMing and everything else, yoga can start to take on a serious modulation. I mean, you’re on your mat to achieve ultimate enlightenment and transform yourself into a unicorn, right? The truth of it is that yoga can ABSOLUTELY be a life-changing pursuit. But the tone it takes is entirely up to you. If you step onto your mat with a sense of openness and adventure, you will be delighted by what the practice can bring. If you step onto your mat with intimidation, seriousness, and dramatic expectations, you’re going to not feel too great at all. And besides, when you start getting all caught up and taking yourself too seriously, the universe has a way of putting things back in check. Case in point: while on a business trip, I took a class at a “fancy” studio in Los Angeles. These people were SERIOUS about their yoga. You could cut the enlightenment in the room with a knife, it seemed. I admit, I was intimidated. And then somewhere in the midst of a prayer twist, somebody farted. (No, it wasn’t me, but it sure could’ve been after the huge lunch I had earlier that day.) The class kept right on going, but since there was no music in the studio, it was a pretty sure bet that everybody in the room heard it. After that, it was kind of impossible to be intimidated the practice, and by what I had considered to be “superior” yogis. Nope, these were just people, and this is just life. That’s all.  It was a great class that I’ll never forget, because I couldn’t stop smiling the entire 1.25 hours.

When closing class, I love to cue my students to “turn the corners of your mouth up”.  And, as we sit in anjali mudra (hands at prayer, heart center), I love to ask my students to touch just their fingertips together. It’s a gentle, yet powerful reminder to be light. Ain’t nothin’ THAT serious, my friends. It’s just yoga. 

 
Buffy McCoy Kelly is a writer, Creative Director, and yoga teacher who loves to find the fun in stuff. Join her for class M- 6pm, Th -6pm, Sat- 8am. 

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8:25 am

To Hell With My Ego

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I have been teaching yoga for 4 years – 5 classes a week – 200 miles per week. For the last few months, I kept hearing a small voice telling me I needed to make a change in my life. I didn’t know what that change should be, although I knew I was getting anxious not getting enough time for my personal practice. I was anxious worrying that the classes I was teaching weren’t coming truly from my love of yoga, nor from the love in my heart. I couldn’t help but wonder – where had it gone? I was trying to cram in my daily walk of 3-4 miles in as well; I told myself I was doing this for my sweet Labrador, Sable. I was also being pulled between “my time” and time I needed to spend in the office. Something had to give. My priorities needed an adjustment.

Then, the unexpected reality slapped me right in my Third Eye - this reality was called a triple bypass. Me? Yes. Me.

Ego = a false belief about ourselves, a lie about who and what we really are…living that lie is a terrible anxiety. Ego fights hard for survival. The ego is our self love turned to self hatred.

Wow - did I ever have a change of heart (pardon the pun). Now I am learning to take the time to heal, to rest, to practice returning to love in my heart. It’s been there all along. I look forward to returning to Om to teach and share my love of yoga - but from here on, it will not be all about how hard can we push ourselves. It will be more about how far can we go inside of our own self to find more love - the love we were created with when we were born. The love inside that makes each and every one of us perfect. The perfect love. It is there.

I am now allowing myself to experience quality, meditative, spiritual and self-love time on my mat each day. This time has shown me to embrace my current limitations. Not to force anything. To flow more with what the universe has to offer me. To go deeper with my breath. To find stillness in my mind and my thoughts. To appreciate each moment – and to practice what I preach.

Life is merely the presence of love.

Love, Peace, Happiness, and Joy.

Tammy

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2:07 pm

Yoga calms the racing mind


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Yoga Sutra 1:2 Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind

Translation: Yoga calms the racing mind. By the time I was 19 I had endured many forms of abuse as a child. To say Yoga changed my life is an understatement. Asana, the physical practice on our mats, is only one of the 8 aspects of Yoga in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. It is widely believed that through the practice on our mats, the other 7 aspects of Yoga come naturally. Hence the famous quote “99% Practice, 1% Theory” by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, founder of Ashtanga Yoga. Composed of 4 sections and 196 sayings, these Yoga Sutras give the practioner a blueprint of what is to be gained by participating in this “thing” we call Yoga.

When I began my yoga practice at age 29, my mind raced all the time. I was so fearful of life that I had a backup plan for every relationship and life scenario possible…“just in case” the worst was to happen. Having said that, I can honestly say that surprisingly, I didn’t begin Yoga to calm my mind, be more flexible, become less stressed or any of the typical reasons one might hear about on a normal basis. I’m not sure why I began. But those things began to happen, so I stayed on course.

In 2009 I took my first Yoga teacher training and was introduced to the other 7 aspects of Yoga. If this practice has taught me anything it is that I am not scared anymore. Sure, I worry and have doubts about certain things just like everyone else does. But I do not let fear paralyze me. Through the practice of Yoga, I gradually learned to do poses on my mat that I never thought possible. Yes it sounds superficial and some would argue “that’s not what Yoga is about.” And I fully agree. But for me, when I realized I could do something with my physical body that I never thought possible, it translated itself into miracles with my mind and spirit I never thought possible. I took what I learned on the mat off the mat, and that has made all the difference.







By April Cannon 


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April is a teacher at Om Yoga, she is known for her strong Ashtanga inspired classes, and for giving students wonderful assists throughout her classes! 


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