Author Archives: thenoviceyogi

I’m Back! + The Year 2012 in Review

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This is really just a post to say that I’m not dead, seeing as I haven’t updated since October! I left off on Weeks 3 & 4 of the 40 Days Challenge (Round 2), and I’m happy to say that I made it through Weeks 5 & 6 as well; unfortunately, life got kinda crazy and I never got the chance to update anything here.

Even though work and life kind of kicked my butt from mid-October until basically the end of 2012, I was still really happy I could take part in 40 Days again. breathe yoga currently has another challenge happening now, but because I’m starting another teaching gig and slightly hectic schedule in just four more days (eep!), I had to drop out. However, if 40 Days is still happening sometime this spring, I should be around for it and ready for the challenge.

One thing that was really great about this last 40 Days was that all of those who finished this time around got to participate in a master class led by several of the instructors at breathe. Each portion of the class was taught by a different instructor, all of them sort of working within their specialties, so to speak. The only drawback was that they took the group photo of about 50 or so of us after a very sweaty vinyasa practice. Somewhere, there’s a picture of me with pigtails in my hair and a tired-but-ecstatic grin on my face surrounded by a bunch of other sweaty yogis. But hey, what are you gonna do?

By the end of 2012, the momentum that I’d had throughout the year with trying new types of yoga and being really strict about my practice kind of waned. Sure, I still went to classes semi-regularly, but as the weather became colder, I had a more and more difficult time motivating myself to go. For a while, I sort of berated myself for it, too—seems counterproductive, right? Thankfully, this past week I’ve gone twice so far and will probably be in class tomorrow morning, so I think I’m starting to get past my “winter funk” as I call it. (The nice weather we’re having right now helps.) To be fair, too, the same thing happened to me at the end of 2011, and look how great 2012 turned out!

One thing that got me past chiding myself for skipping out on classes (since there was a period of about two weeks where I didn’t go!) was looking back on this year and seeing all the great experiences I had related to yoga. Yes, I know, I still haven’t written about Baron Baptiste and Bryan Kest—give a busy English teacher a break, okay? I promise at some point I’ll type up my notes and you can marvel and laugh at both teachers’ wisdom and humor. (And seriously, out of the three big names to come to Rochester this year [Seane, Baron, and Bryan], Bryan Kest was hands down my favorite!)

So here, somewhat in order, is the great list of yoga accomplishments for 2012!

January

  • got into doing yoga on a regular basis
  • tried Bikram yoga at Bikram Rochester and also tried not to run away screaming from the very intimidating Bikram yogis (I respect you guys, but man, you’re intense!)

February

  • started an unlimited membership at breathe and attended classes multiple times per week for the first time ever
  • did restorative yoga at breathe and wondered why I wasn’t doing that all along (and I’ve gone back a couple of times since then!)

March

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April

May

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Amanda and me at the Memorial Art Gallery, and yes, my phone case is shaped like a cassette tape.

June

  • tried Iyengar yoga at the Beyond Center in Brockport
  • debated signing up for teacher training (thinking I’d have the time to do it), but was thankfully offered employment for the fall semester!

July

fourth

August

  • attended a Hatha class with Amanda at the Memorial Art Gallery, where someone probably should have skipped the bean burrito before class (this isn’t an accomplishment, really, but it still makes us laugh and/or become nauseated at the thought of it; I never wrote about this one and you should probably be glad)
  • started to get excited about the upcoming semester and about the upcoming 40 Days Challenge (v. 2.0 for me)

September

courtesy of breathe yoga. (I'm actually in this pic--points if you can see me!)

courtesy of breathe yoga. (I’m actually in this pic–points if you can see me!)

October

  • completed 40 Days for the second time this year
  • attended a wonderful master class with the breathe staff
  • attended a wonderful and kinda wild master class with the very funny but still insightful Bryan Kest

November

  • attended classes (does this count?)
Winter makes me feel like this guy.

Winter makes me feel like this guy.

December

  • attended some classes, did yoga in a hotel room at one point because the mood finally struck me, and took a much needed break (hey, I guess this counts!)

The end of the year may not have been ideal, but some good came from it. One of my favorite instructors, Dahn, actually raised $20,000 for the SEVA Challenge this year on her own (not an easy task), and in order to raise money she held a silent auction back in November. I went to help support her and ended up bidding on and winning a private lesson! I’ve never had my own yoga lesson, but in a couple of weeks Amanda and I will be there, so we’ll see how that goes. I also won on a bid for lessons at another area yoga studio, and since I think they have a Kripalu class, which I haven’t tried yet, I’ll attempt to make it over there sometime this winter. Also still on my list to try are Kundalini, Ashtanga, Yin, and Raja classes, although these seems to be pretty rare in the area; most studios around here have Vinyasa, Hatha, Iyengar, or Anusara classes. At one point during my search last year, I also found a “Spinyasa” class (half spinning, half vinyasa). Maybe I’ll get to that this year, too.

I’m at the point right now where, surprisingly, I don’t have any goals for the new year. It’s not that I’m unmotivated, but currently I’m just trying to see where I end up and what my schedule will allow. In the coming weeks, though, I should have a better idea of my direction for the year, but for now I won’t stress over it.

Do you have any yoga-related goals for 2013, or do you not let yourself plan when it comes to your practice?

40 Days Round 2: Weeks 3 & 4

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I’m two-thirds of the way through 40 Days, and to be honest I’m actually surprised! It’s a lot more difficult this time around. My teaching schedule keeps me incredibly busy, and there are days when I have to choose between getting a stack of papers graded or going to yoga (and that’s not even factoring in the lesson planning and other grading I do, too). Unfortunately for my practice—but fortunately for my students—I tend to choose work instead, but I’ve been lucky to be able to have such a flexible schedule with regard to my own “homework.”

I have been loving the workshops this time around (just as I did before). It’s Week 5 as of my writing this, and I’ve just returned from a workshop on handstands. I didn’t get all the way up into one, but I have a better idea of the foundations for a handstand now. Week 3’s workshop was Detox & Cleanse—one I wanted to go to last 40 Days, but for some reason didn’t get to. I learned about cleanses in this workshop and got information about the breathe 3-day juice cleanse. (More on that in the next entry!) Best part of the workshop: when Cyndi had different participants read the long, complicated lists of ingredients on Power Bars and Slim Fast. Gross! During Week 4, I took a workshop on arm binds. I could do some of them, but I’m still working on the full bind for Bird of Paradise. I only began taking the full bind during side angle pose shortly after the last 40 Days, so it may be a while before I can get Bird of Paradise, too.

I don’t have too much to add this time around; mostly, I’ve just been trying to find the time to go to classes, get my work done at home, and maybe blog about 40 Days! My friend Amanda has been keeping me motivated by coming to class with me each week. Thanks, Amanda!

Some good news before I go: vinyasa teacher Bryan Kest is coming to Rochester next week on October 24 for a three-hour master class. I had signed up too late and wound up on the waiting list, but I got a call yesterday saying that there was a spot available! I’m so happy that I’ve had the opportunity to see Seane Corn, Baron Baptiste, and now Bryan Kest this year. (And I promise that the Baron Baptiste entry will appear here eventually.)

As Jon Stewart says on The Daily Show, “And now, your moment of zen”:

40 Days Round 2: Weeks 1 & 2

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It’s ba-aaaaack!

 

Yes, those are my toes, and yes, they say “40 Days!”

I’m happy to report that I’ve made it through the first two weeks so far. It’s been difficult this time around; unlike last time, I have a very full schedule involving teaching four English classes this semester (and having to read a seemingly infinite number of student essays!). Fortunately, I feel as if I’ve set a rhythm these past two weeks, and if I’ve managed to fit yoga into them so far, I should be all right for the month of October. The requirements are the same as last time: five studio classes (on five separate days) plus one asana or “lifestyle” workshop each week.

The very first day of 40 Days kicked off with a workshop entitled “Tadasana in Every Asana.” This workshop emphasized the Tadasana posture in a few poses—including crow. I’m still not very good at crow, but I liked the workshop and I can always use advice on alignment. The rest of the week went by pretty uneventfully. I took a Foundations class mid-week, which between my teaching schedule and the other 40 Days commitments was a nice respite. At the end of week 1, my friend, Amanda, came with me. She’s been going with me consistently since the end of my first 40 Days challenge, and she threatened to beat me up if I don’t complete it this time. Nothing like the threat of violence to keep you motivated!

Week 2 proved to be a bit more difficult. While I attended all vinyasa classes, two were basics classes because 1. they fit my schedule better, and 2. I began to feel sick in the middle of the week! I have no idea what I had, but I wound up in bed for an entire day just trying to regain my strength. Week 2 also finished (almost, at least) with another workshop, per the 40 Days requirements. This one was on goal setting—not necessarily related to yoga, but it seemed like a really good lesson to assist my Type A-style thinking! We started out with a meditation on imagining a typical day in our lives ten years from now. We thought about the following questions:

Where do we wake up? What do we do upon waking? Who are we with? What do we do in the morning? Where do we work? What is our mid-day like (lunch, working, meeting with others, etc.)? What do we do once we get home for the evening? What’s for dinner? What’s our ritual before bed like?

After thinking about this and visualizing where we each wanted to be, we then wrote down our visualization and tried to connect any common themes and images. We then broke down our goals on how to get there in increments of one, five, and ten years with measurable, declarative statements and with deadlines in mind (e.g. “I save $10,000 for my MBA by September 12” as opposed to something like “I will save money for school”). We shared our goals in small groups and were instructed to share our goals with those involved in them (such as your family and friends) and with everyone. Since I want to participate in this requirement as well, here are some of mine:

In one year (or slightly more, really), I finish my novel by December 2013, I submit something for publication by December 2013, and I consistently practice yoga at least three times a week throughout the next year. Within five years, I own a house with my husband by no later than September 2017. In ten years, I teach English full-time and practice yoga on a daily basis—consistently! I have more goals than that, but I feel like that’s enough to share for now. Really, my goal list is almost complete save for one space (out of eighteen!). I feel like I really needed this workshop to remind myself of my plans in life, and although I recognize that I’ve accomplished a lot so far, I still have a long way to go and plenty to work towards! Because I’m such a productivity geek, I’m keeping the goal worksheet from class in the back of my Filofax to refer to and revise whenever I need it.

Finally, week 2 finished again with a yoga class with Amanda. Before that, we attended a meditation class at another studio called Nirvasana Yoga (over near the always awesome Record Archive). Go figure that last time when I did 40 Days I kept bringing up the fact that I couldn’t seem to find the will to meditate, and this time I actively sought out a meditation practice. The class itself wasn’t so bad. For $5 you can get a cup of tea, a quiet place to center yourself, and a little bit of philosophy to ponder once you’ve left. The only part I didn’t enjoy was that we would sit for fifteen minutes, and just when I was getting comfortable and really clearing my mind, we would get up and walk for five minutes. We repeated that process two more times, and although I found the class relaxing, I’m not sure I would go back. Other than being there causing me to force myself to focus on my meditation, I didn’t really learn any new techniques to help me quiet my mind. However, I do find that letting my mind wander and visualize tends to be a fairly relaxing experience anyway.

I didn’t get to go to yoga today for the start of week 3 because I’ve been home all afternoon reading students’ rough drafts after a busy morning and mid-day teaching! Tomorrow night, though, I go back and get to take the workshop on detoxing and cleanses—something I was interested in learning about last time but somehow managed to miss out on. I haven’t been following along in 40 Days to Personal Revolution this time, but who knows—maybe I’ll get to do that cleanse Baron talks about in there this time around.

Speaking of Baron Baptiste, his master class in September was amazing! I’m sorry I’ve been so late with writing about it, but I promise to talk about it soon. I can safely say that I enjoyed the three very intense hours with him far more than I did Seane Corn’s class (even those hers had its benefits).

Another thing I’ll talk about soon was the Hatha class Amanda and I went to in August at the Memorial Art Gallery. It was very different from what we’re used to, and it was, shall we say, memorable. I’ll have more details on that soon.

I may be updating my 40 Days coverage in two-week increments depending on how my schedule is in the coming weeks, but I promise there will definitely be more!

Monthly Yoga: July, Jivamukti Yoga

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About this series: For 2012, I vowed to try a new type of yoga each month and write about it here. This is the seventh of 12 reviews–keep checking back for more!

Apologies for the wait in the write-up! August continues to be a busy month as my school year starts. I’m finally back to teaching after a semester off, and while it does cut into my yoga time, I’m incredibly happy to be back!

Before I begin this month’s Monthly Yoga installment, I have some exciting news. The first is big: Baron Baptiste is teaching a master class next week in Rochester! I signed up the day the enrollment opened up. Baron, as you know, is the creator of 40 Days to Personal Revolution, the challenge I completed in the spring, so I’m really excited to study with him. The second bit of news goes along with the first—40 Days is back! It runs from September 17 to October 26, and I’m participating again. Although my schedule will be busier, I am determined to make it through the challenge once more. (Due to time constraints juggling teaching and the 40 Days challenge, there’s a good chance that Baron’s visit will count as my monthly yoga requirement, but if I can, I’ll try to fit something else in.)

For the month of July, I visited Prana Yoga in Fairport for a Jivamukti class, which the studio offers in addition to their usual vinyasa classes. My instructor for the class was Carrie, Prana’s owner and certified Jivamukti instructor. So what is it exactly? Jivamukti is a style of yoga that originated in the 1980s in New York City, created by David Life and Sharon Gannon (who are kind of fabulous) and loosely translated as “liberation while living.” Essentially, it’s a vinyasa flow, but it incorporates a bit of philosophy and chanting. It is somewhat controversial for emphasizing a vegetarian or vegan diet through the principle of ahimsa (or non-violence/non-harming); however, this aspect was not brought up in class. Carrie said, toward the end, that doing yoga (asana) without the philosophical understanding is robbing yourself of a true yoga practice. While studying the philosophy behind yoga was not an initial goal of mine when I began practicing, it reinforced my assertion upon starting my blog that I am a “novice” with much to learn—and I’m glad for it!

Inside Prana’s studio.

This class was fairly small, perhaps because it was a Sunday morning, with only three other students (who all seemed to know each other and sat together, which could be awkward, but I didn’t mind). The class followed a pretty standard vinyasa flow; there were some variations on sun salutations and side angle that I wasn’t used to, but they weren’t too extreme. Carrie was very specific about side angle pose and where each arm goes (lower hand goes outside foot, not inside like I’m used to, and the upper arm hangs at a very precise angle). It wasn’t quite the “anything goes/take a modification” attitude I’m used to at breathe. To be honest, I didn’t really like that, but every studio/discipline is different. Since it was only one part of an otherwise very enjoyable class, I’m not too concerned. Toward the end of class we did frog for our hip opener, and we set up shoulder stand with blankets—something a bit different than what I’m used to.

Before our Savasana we got to the chanting; that day we chanted the mantra “lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu.” It sounded quite beautiful, actually, and has this very long meaning (from the Jivamukti page here):

May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.

Let’s look more closely at the meaning of each word of this invocational mantra:
lokah: location, realm, all universes existing now
samastah: all beings sharing that same location
sukhino: centered in happiness and joy, free from suffering
bhav: the divine mood or state of unified existence
antu: may it be so, it must be so (used as an ending here transforms this mantra into a powerful pledge)

Even though I’m not used to chanting, I actually kind of like this phrase. It sounded very pretty coming from all of us at once. I’m not necessarily sure that the chanting itself does any good, but I think taking the attitude of happiness and love for all off your mat certainly has benefits (power of positive thinking and all that!).

Overall, this wasn’t a bad class; it made me want to investigate yoga philosophy a bit more (especially after overhearing one of the other students discuss her teacher training, which is something I think I could be interested in eventually, if anything for the additional instruction on philosophy). I think studying some of these ideas might be a good way of keeping myself centered for 40 Days and throughout my semester—if I can get the time!

Monthly Yoga: June, Iyengar-based Hatha

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About this series: For 2012, I vowed to try a new type of yoga each month and write about it here. This is the sixth of 12 reviews–keep checking back for more!

Seeing as for the month of May I counted Seane Corn’s visit as my monthly yoga “requirement,” for June we return to our regularly scheduled series. This month, I visited the Beyond Center for Yoga and Pilates in Brockport, NY—not too far from where I live and work! The Beyond Center is one of very few places on the west side of Rochester that offers yoga (although good news on that front is that a studio just opened in Spencerport and there will be another one sometime soon in Greece). Still, it’s a strange trend that we have so few over on this side of the city and so many concentrated on the east, but it looks like this is slowly changing.

Cute studio! (Prop room/office in the back, pilates machines [which we did not use] off to the side.)

The class I attended back at the end of June was actually the Level I-II class offered at Beyond, which basically puts it at the beginner-intermediate level. I decided to try this level, seeing as I hadn’t yet taken an Iyengar (or Iyengar-based Hatha, according to the web site) class before and wasn’t sure what to expect. The owner, Stephanie, greeted me when I arrived and was very friendly, asking what kind of yoga I regularly practiced and explaining some of the differences between Iyengar and vinyasa; Iyengar focuses primarily on holding poses rather than using a flow sequence like vinyasa yoga. This particular class took on more of a foundations-style environment with a focus on correct alignment, so while it moved much slower than what I’m used to (even slower than the foundations classes at breathe yoga), I still found it enjoyable.

Class started with a meditation in a variation of hero’s pose (using a bolster). This definitely started to wake up my feet and calves with how long we were in the pose, and I really had to fight to not be so restless. Oddly, I think just sitting there and breathing in this pose was the most difficult part of the class; if you remember my experience in a restorative class in February, you know that I don’t do well not fidgeting after long periods of stillness.

We used several props throughout class: two blankets, a bolster, a strap, a block, and a sandbag! After our meditation, we moved on to some cat and cow pose to wake up the spine. When we worked our way into downward facing dog, we spent a lot of time focusing on alignment with regard to our shoulders and wrists. One way we accomplished this was by setting a block between our hands and gripping that to get more of a feeling of openness in the shoulders. (We also practiced this by coming down onto our forearms for dolphin pose, still keeping the same alignment in the upper back.) The class also included some forward folds and leg stretches (basically reclining big toe pose, or Supta Padangusthasana, but with a strap), the latter with a focus of keeping our hips even on the ground to work the hip joint.

When I had first grabbed the props I was told to take before the start of class, I was pretty confused as to what we would use sandbags for. I had never actually seen anyone use these small weighted canvas bags in a yoga class. Toward the end, we finally got them out to use. The students in the class stood with one foot on a block and the other foot set on the window sills around the room (about three feet from the floor). From here, we used our straps to hook the sandbag so it hung from our outstretched legs. The idea here was to be able to find flexibility in our hip joints, like with the reclining big toe pose. We then worked trikonasana (triangle pose) into the alignment that we had just found with the sandbags; we all partnered up to help each other find the same action in our hips and legs. Stephanie walked around the room checking students’ alignment and helping them make adjustments and modifications based on their anatomy and any conditions or injuries they may have had. She was very attentive to their needs and didn’t try to overcorrect anyone, from what I could see; correcting students rather than providing assistance or adjustment is a pet peeve of mine, seeing as it tries to make your yoga into someone else’s, in my opinion, and thankfully Stephanie didn’t do this. As she said to one student who mentioned having back problems and was trying to determine whether she did the pose “right,” a little bit “incorrect” can be good, especially if you risk injuring, or re-injuring, yourself! This part of class was my favorite, and seeing as trikonasana is one of my favorite poses, I really appreciated the insight on improving my alignment in triangle.

For our savasana, we took supta baddha konasana by reclining with a bolster propped up with a block and our knees supported by a rolled-up blanket tucked around us. The entire class did not use music, other than a bit of relaxing music before class began. Sometimes silent savasanas like these are very relaxing and enjoyable, so it was a nice change from hearing music. At the end of class, Stephanie read a quote from B.K.S. Iyengar, which I unfortunately don’t remember, as it was rather long, but it was inspiring.

The class had been a bit more relaxing than I anticipated, but with how Type A I can get about yoga if I’m not too careful, sometimes this is actually a good thing. Overall, however, I enjoyed my trip to the Beyond Center and would like to try one of the Level II-III classes when I get a chance. If you’re interested in attending, the studio offers one free week of classes on their website. (Just sign up and print out the form emailed to you. Be sure to actually fill out the new student free class request in the box provided; I had forgotten to do so the first time I filled it out.) The schedule changes throughout the year, so there are always new offerings. In addition to the Iyengar-based classes, they offer gentle yoga classes, along with a newer vinyasa class and a community class once a month; the rest of their classes are pilates. In a nutshell, they provide many different types of classes to suit all types of needs, making them truly unique to Rochester’s west side.

In the future, I may try another Iyengar class to get a better idea of this type of asana practice and the philosophy associated with it, so don’t be surprised if you see one here! This is a very popular type of yoga, and with how different it is from what I’m used to, I definitely want to understand it better (and getting more comfortable holding poses for an extended period of time is a good way to do that).

Exciting news coming to The Novice Yogi soon! I’ll announce it shortly!

A Day with Seane Corn

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Again, here I am with a late entry! So sorry! As I mentioned in a previous post, the Seane Corn All-Day Chakra Flow Immersion event will take the place of a regularly-scheduled Monthly Yoga entry, due to how busy I was for the month of May with 40 Days.

For those who don’t know much about Seane, she is a vinyasa instructor who started Off the Mat Into the World, an excellent organization which seeks to inspire yoga practitioners to get involved in charitable activities and act as leaders in their communities. This group also heads the SEVA challenge, which raises money each year for a different cause in a different country (this year, it’s providing resources to victims of sex trafficking in India!). I definitely felt honored to take part in this immersion with Seane, who is a very inspiring woman, yogi, and teacher!

I took a ton of notes, and unfortunately, because I’ve let so much time pass by, I don’t quite think I remember the context of everything I’d written down. I have good and bad things to say about the event, but I’ll cover the good first, which definitely outweighs my criticism.

First off, Seane was an excellent speaker. She wasn’t just sort of there, phoning it in; she spoke passionately and I found her engaging to listen to. She came across as sincere and funny, and rather than using pretty, flowery language, she wasn’t afraid to curse like a sailor at times when it suited her point. She started off by asking if we’ve ever gotten emotional during yoga (i.e. during a hip opener); she said this was a natural part of the mind-body exploration done in yoga, and she then headed into a lecture/discussion on how we should confront our emotions rather than bottle them up. Yoga helps with this release.

One story in particular that Seane told was about her time taking part in the annual SEVA challenges. There were two incidents in particular that stood out in her travels. On one SEVA trip, she mentioned a man she had seen talking near some of the people in their group. From a distance, Seane thought he was wearing a red shirt; when she got closer, she realized that the front of his shirt was covered in blood. He had tried to commit suicide by slitting his throat, and failed, and she could see the sadness in his eyes from his attempt, as suicide was a source of shame in his culture. She said that she felt almost powerless in not knowing what to say or do for this man. Another incident was witnessing the “killing fields” in Cambodia—places where genocides had actually taken place. The worst, she said, was seeing a tree all gnarled in strange places and stained—from the blood of babies hit against the tree. Even just seeing the tree horrified everyone who came near it. Seane said that after everyone saw this place, and felt the unhappy energy permeating it, each couple and group went back to the hotel and didn’t know what to do. Almost everyone, she said, got into an argument—either with someone in the group or by calling someone on the phone. No one knew what to do—except for Seane’s teenage son. He said that he just felt “sad” after seeing the fields. He didn’t get angry or try to bottle up his emotions; he was the only one, Seane said, who actually confronted his feelings. The other incident, with the man who had attempted suicide, almost provoked the same response—not wanting to deal with what Seane termed “big feelings.” Her point was that when we get emotional during yoga, we’re finally letting go of something that we’re holding onto, whether it’s through tears or actually having a conversation to talk about what we feel. It’s healthy, and, to relate to the theme of the day, it balances our chakras so we don’t (in her words) end up “chakrically fucked.” Yoga, with its focus on the chakras, helps us to release these emotions.

From there, Seane went into detail on the different chakras. Some of this I’ve already covered in my entry on chakras and essential oils, so I won’t go back into it here. Here, though, was some information Seane gave on the duality of each chakra and what it can stand for, either when it is strong (not too strong but just right) or deficient:

1st Chakra (Muladhara/Root)
Strong: Tribe
Deficient: Fear

2nd Chakra (Swadhistana/Pelvis)
Strong: Relationships
Deficient: Guilt

3rd Chakra ( Manipura/Abdomen)
Strong: Authority/ego
Deficient: Shame
(To clafify, this chakra relates to how we define ourselves. Seane stated that defining ourselves by changeable things is dangerous and can lead to a deficient chakra [e.g. if you define yourself by your money, and suddenly you don’t have any, it can lead to a feeling of shame]. For some reason this point really resonated with me, seeing as I find that I do attempt to continually define—or redefine—myself at certain stages of my life.)

4th Chakra (Anahata/Heart)
Strong: Love
Deficient: Grief

5th Chakra (Vishuddha/Throat)
Strong: Communication
Deficient: Lies

6th Chakra (Ajna/Third Eye)
Strong: Intuition
Deficient: Illusion

7th Chakra (Sahasrana/Crown of the head)
Strong: Thoughts about or relationship to the divine
Deficient: Attachment

During our asana practice, she talked more about what happened when a chakra was too strong, deficient, and just right. Unfortunately, this was a time when I couldn’t really use my notebook, so I didn’t worry too much about wanting to take notes. She rattled off long lists about each chakra, but what I really liked was that she set up our flow so that our poses emphasized each chakra one at a time. In other words, we started with grounding poses, moved on to poses in our hips and abs, worked heart opening poses, and then, to a lesser degree, practiced asanas that concentrated on the throat, third eye, and the top of the head (even if it was just savasana for that last bit). Our vinyasa flow lasted for about two hours, and although it wasn’t really hot in the room like it is in the studio, and a much longer flow than I get in my regular classes, it definitely provided an adequate amount of movement.

After a break, we came back for a question and answer session. Some people got somewhat emotional around her, and actually started to ask some pretty intense questions, almost as if they were looking for advice. Seane kind of chuckled and said that she didn’t have all the answers—wise of her to admit! She was certainly thorough and tactful when giving her responses, but I’m glad she didn’t pretend to be some kind of spiritual guru here. (There was an earlier point, however, when Seane attempted to “read” a young woman in the audience and asked about her early life, then claimed she couldn’t complete her reading because [not making this up] she felt that the spirit of the woman’s mother was “blocking her energy.” This was just weird. I really wish she hadn’t done this, since I was on board with most of what she said that day, but the spiritual medium thing was totally out of nowhere and not really something that I believe in.) At the end, Seane stuck around to talk to people individually and answer their questions.

As I stated before, Seane was a very engaging speaker, and at times she was humorous. Here is some of her wit and/or wisdom (both quoted and paraphrased):

  • We need to learn “light” (our enlightenment) through “shadow” or the bad—no matter how much we want to stay in the land of “rainbows, strawberries, unicorns, and butterflies.”
  • Seane: “Can you define what ‘enlightened’ is?” [Teacher trainee pauses] “‘No’ would be the right answer.”
  • The ego “c-blocks” our soul.
  • If we want to do more in the world—tackle big problems like war, terrorism, famine, rape, etc.—then we need to deal with our own internal war first and forgive and accept those around us; we have to eliminate the “Us vs. Them” mentality through yoga (which means “union”).
  • Seane (on confronting the “big feelings” we all have):“You can’t get to the ‘bless you’ until you get to the ‘fuck you.’”
  • Seane (on opening the chakras in our asana practice that day): “Don’t go into this dark scary place where you’re chakrically fucked.”

To be honest, I think I’ve been putting off writing about the Seane Corn event (for a month now…) because, well, frankly… it was a bit underwhelming. It was good, don’t get me wrong; it just wasn’t quite what I expected. I would love to say that the day was “life-changing” or “mystical,” but really, it wasn’t, even though I did actually enjoy the day.

What did I expect? More yoga! Despite coming directly out of the 40 Days Challenge, that day I was definitely bursting with energy. (Maybe that’s why I wanted more asana practice!) I knew that the event would be part asana practice and part discussion, but honestly, about 2/3 of it was discussion with and lecture from Seane. While our asana practice was challenging at times (have I mentioned how much I hate lizard pose?), I expected her to be even tougher on us. She even admitted that she went “easy” on us. I’m sure most participants, self included, wouldn’t have chosen that word specifically, but, well, why? Why hold back for us? If we’re there, we’re in for a challenge!

There were also issues with time constraints; we were supposed to break halfway through for lunch, but instead our break came after four hours! Seane lectured/discussed with us for two, and after a short bathroom break for everyone, we began our asana practice. This lasted for about another two hours. We then took a one-hour break for lunch, which at that point seemed useless (however, probably a good break for Seane, who had done a lot of talking). On the upside, I got the chance to talk to some other yogis at the event. Finally, we came back for another hour/hour and a half of question-and-answer with Seane. Although many people probably didn’t want to do more yoga after eating, I think at the very least a short restorative session would have been an excellent ending to our day, but instead we just sort of ended abruptly after she wrapped up the Q & A.

Still, I’m incredibly happy that I had the opportunity to attend Seane’s all-day immersion. If I ever have the opportunity to take another class with her, I think I will. Although not everything she said struck deep for me, there were a few things that I took away from the day that have stuck with me since then—especially concerning understanding where our emotions come from and letting them release through yoga. Also, now that I have finally finished writing this entry, I can say that it was nice to revisit some of these points as a reminder to stick with my practice and make it through the rest of this incredibly hot summer. They seem far away now, but both the 40 Days Challenge and Seane Corn’s workshop created a new air of confidence and happiness within me, and I intend to take that positive energy into the fall when I start teaching again. (Hooray!)

Thanks for your patience with this entry! Up next, I’ll talk about my Iyengar-based class that I took for the month of June!

Outdoor Yoga for Independence Day? Sure!

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Hello, everyone! I just wanted to throw a quick update on here since I’ve been away for a bit. There are an awful lot of links in this post, so I hope that doesn’t kill your productivity if that’s a concern for you. I will have at least two updates coming relatively shortly. The first is the long-awaited Seane Corn post detailing her visit to Rochester’s yoga scene. The second will be sharing my experience in a wonderful Iyengar-based yoga class in Brockport! The Beyond Center is, I think, one of very few studios on the west side of Rochester, and being a native to that area, I have to recognize them for that! (Seriously, what is with all these studios being on the opposite side of the county from me? We like yoga over here, too!)

Today, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, was the Fourth of July, and breathe yoga held their Independence Day benefit class at their East Ave. location in the city of Rochester, with proceeds going toward this year’s SEVA challenge. Donation-based benefit classes are the norm for breathe every time a major holiday rolls around, but today’s class was different because it was held outside! (They also included a very healthy picnic for afterwards, but I didn’t stick around for it.) The class today had probably about 130 yogis practicing out on the front lawn of the historic Hutchison House for a sunny and energetic practice. As my husband pointed out before I left, “You get to do sun salutations to the sun for once!” Can’t argue with that kind of optimism!

Here is a picture I took before we began. This isn’t even half of the group that was out there today! (Apologies for the awkward candid shot!)

Before the sun was in my eyes!

Some of you may have been directed here from my friend Lex’s blog Weekly Mac! If you have, welcome. Lex nominated me for an Illuminating Blogger Award, which I hadn’t heard of before, but I’m very grateful. The rules state that I must include something random about myself and then nominate five other bloggers, so here goes!

Random thing (I’ll make it yoga-related): Since beginning my yoga adventures, I have brought quite a few people with me to classes, such as Lex at Weekly Mac and my hubby, Joe, who you’ve read about for “Couples Yoga.” I have also brought my brother’s fiancee Lynn and my sister-in-law Angela with me–nothing like sharing yoga with family! Most recently, I introduced my good friend and “satellite sister” Amanda to yoga classes, and she’s been enjoying them so far! She comes with me once a week, which I think is a great way to start (I only did yoga maybe once or twice a week when I first began and just let it grow from there in the past year). Fun fact, though: I have improved my practice somewhat recently (i.e. in the past few weeks) in that I can do a shoulder stand and full wheel (no longer a flat tire), I can do a bind during side angle pose (but only on the right), and I can sort of do crow now if I start on a block. When I first started bringing Amanda with me, though, I couldn’t do any of those poses. Amanda, who had never done yoga before, could do all of them! Strange, right? Even stranger was that poses that come easily to me–like pigeon or archer arms–were ones that she couldn’t get into. Funny how different everyone’s anatomy is, and yet yoga can still be for everyone! I’m so happy that I get to share it with those around me.

My nominees (and some personal favorites):

Lex at Weekly Mac: This might be cheating since she nominated me, but whatever–go read her blog! (If that doesn’t count, check out Lex’s other blog, dedicated to the life of her rescue dog, Piper.)

Visually Illiterate: This is my friend Marie’s craft blog where she shows off her projects and discusses the goings-on of the crafting world. Go read it now and get inspired!

The Paper Sandwich, written by author (and my former professor) Anne Panning: Anne’s observations about her childhood, professional life, and family are both witty and poignant and always wonderfully insightful.

Body Divine Yoga: This is a yoga blog I came across a few months ago. The writer, Danielle, delves into multiple popular topics in the yoga community, making for some very informative reading.

Yogadork: This one’s over in my blog roll. Yogadork seamlessly blends yoga with humor because yoga should never be about taking yourself too seriously. I’m sorry Yogadork–I keep meaning to submit something to you, but I appear to have a bit of writer’s block*.

(*Hence the lateness of my Seane Corn entry, guys. Seriously, I should get on that.)

Like I said at the beginning of this post–many links! Happy reading!

40 Days Challenge: Week 6

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I apologize for this being so overdue, but time has really flown the past few weeks!

First off, yes, I did complete the entire 40 Days challenge! Whew! What a sense of accomplishment! So many things changed for me over the course of those 40 Days, and even though it’s not like I changed into a whole new person, I definitely feel like I have a different outlook on life. My mind and body have changed. I feel more energetic, more motivated, and more positive overall, and I can tell that I’ve gained muscle, lost a bit of weight, and even seen some improvement in my skin (!) from both that detoxing sweat to clean out the pores and from the nutrients I’ve received from eating healthier (pretty much as many fruits and vegetables as possible).

The very last week of the 40 Days challenge started out with a bang. Dahn, one of my favorite instructors, had just returned from Baptiste Level 2 training, and she worked Baron Baptiste’s “Journey into Power” sequence into her class. It was an energetic practice; the only thing missing from it was her usual crazy playlist of Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, and Nelly. Despite the lack of music, I actually got a lot out of the class, and sometimes it’s nice to just listen to your breath (and the breathing of those around you).

My workshop for the week was on Tuesday—Core-Focused Vinyasa. It was exactly what it sounded like. I think this may have been the least popular workshop of the week (we had fewer than a dozen people in it); I think everyone else wanted to meditate or learn about essential oils. Since I had already done those things, though, I decided “Why not work the core a bit?” I used to hate core exercises with a passion; I’d tell myself I was too flabby, too weak, and that it was too painful to do them. I’ve since realized that this is the workout I need the most. Isn’t that what they say: the poses you like least are the ones you need most? The workshop ended up being a lot of fun and not too painful after all.

On Wednesday, I decided to take a Foundations class again—my second one in 40 Days. They’re a great way to still get your asana practice in without having to feel drenched in sweat when you leave, like with the hot classes. I returned to power vinyasa class on Thursday and Friday, and then I was done! The best part of practicing that Friday, besides being finished with 40 Days, was that I brought Amanda, one of my closest and oldest friends, with me! She’s been taking classes with me for the past three weeks now, so I’m really excited that I was able to convert yet another over to the dark side—er, I mean to yoga classes. (Seriously, I’ve brought five people with me at this point! Only two have done it more than once, though!)

I was actually a bit sad that 40 Days was over. Those weekly workshops were such a great reward for making it through each week. Luckily, the Seane Corn Full Day Chakra Flow Immersion followed the next day (I’ll write about that in a separate entry), so I wasn’t away from my practice for long! Another 40 Days challenge is planned for the fall at breathe, so I get to anticipate that as well! Who knows? Give me a few weeks and maybe I’ll make up my own challenge for myself.

Speaking of challenges, I had initially planned to try a new type of yoga each month. However, with my schedule packed full of yoga for the month of May, I sadly did not meet this goal. The good news, though, is that next I’ll write up my account of Seane Corn’s visit, so if anybody out there is really concerned, you can accept that as a substitute in the Monthly Yoga series.

Although it’s a bit late, I want to finish on another happy note. I’ve been struggling with three poses for a really long time: crow (bakasana), wheel (urdhva dhanurasana), and shoulder stand (salamba sarvangasana). It may have been over a week after 40 Days ended, but suddenly this Monday, all three of these just “clicked” for me during another of Dahn’s “Journey into Power” classes. I love when things like that finally just happen, and even though I would have liked them to happen sooner (like, during 40 Days sooner), I’m just happy that I finally got there! See? Change does occur when you put forth the effort!

Have you ever completed a 40 Days challenge—or just attempted one? Tell me about it in the comments!

Up next: Seane Corn Full Day Chakra Flow Immersion!

40 Days Challenge: Weeks 4 & 5

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Apologies for the late update! I’ve decided to combine these two weeks since they almost felt like they melded into one anyway.

Restoration was the theme for Week 4. Baptiste recommended a three-day fruit and juice cleanse. I wasn’t entirely successful, but instead of accepting failure, I added in veggies and simply concentrated on healthy eating in general. Here’s a snapshot of what I did for those days:

On Monday, I ate a banana before yoga, and I ordered one of breathe’s amazon cherry smoothies for “lunch” (with acerola cherries, papaya, strawberry, banana, and OJ—delicious!). I ate vegetable soup for dinner with a nine-grain bread and some tropical fruit and carrot juice to drink. I also drank water and had a couple of snacks—sort of cheating, but nothing truly awful (a slice of nine-grain bread with almond butter and cacao nibs). On Tuesday, I drank water mostly and a chai smoothie (chai, almond milk, banana, and honey—my favorite). I snacked on cantaloupe, and for dinner I ate sauteed veggies (eggplant, red pepper, zucchini, and mushrooms) in a balsamic marinade and sprinkled with no more than an ounce of goat cheese. I ate a nine-grain bread with it and drank a berry smoothie drink (from Bolthouse Farms). Dessert was a small piece of chocolate and herbal tea. Finally, on Wednesday, I started the day with chocolate granola with almond milk, and later I drank tropical fruit/carrot juice and ate a spring mix/spinach salad with campari tomato, yellow bell pepper, blueberries, goat cheese, walnuts, and pomegranate dressing (I like to call this a dessert salad because of how sweet it is).

I continued the rest of the week with snacking on cantaloupe, blueberries, and veggies, and drinking plenty of fruit smoothies and juices. While it wasn’t a traditional cleanse, I noticed that I felt amazing eating this way! I avoided things like soy products, eggs, dairy (except goat cheese, which doesn’t bother me), and alcohol until Sunday; I already don’t eat meat or seafood, so that wasn’t a problem. Not only did I feel happier, lighter, and not at all bloated like I do every now and then, but I also got a sense of accomplishment from fitting into a dress I haven’t worn in at least three years! I had gained a few stubborn pounds a while back that just would not come off, and with the regiment of the 40 day challenge, I’ve noticed a slight amount of weight loss—just enough to fit back into a few things that haven’t fit properly in a while. My metabolism is definitely “revved” thanks to some of Cyndi Weis’s advice from the Week 1 workshop. I’ve also been drinking kombucha tea drinks, a natural probiotic, which has definitely aided in digestion—plus they taste great!

The workshops I’ve taken for Weeks 4 and 5 were Discovering Shoulder Stand and Exploring Arm Balances. Other than using the wall for support, I am really not much closer with my shoulder stand, but I have been attempting to build strength in my shoulders. Part of the arm balance workshop focused on crow (bakasana), which I’ve always had trouble with. I’m much closer now—I just need to work on actually holding the pose rather than immediately falling out of it. The only downside is that I have ugly bruises on my triceps—yuck! I like the switch from lecture workshops to asana challenges. The lectures were great, but it’s been nice to get advice on some of the poses I’ve had trouble with for the second half of 40 days. For Week 6, I’ll be taking “Core-Focused Vinyasa.” I’m excited because, although core exercises used to frighten me, I actually look forward to it now because it’s one of the areas that needs the most work. Plus, I love the feeling I get when I leave a class with a tight abdomen. It hurts in a good way, I guess!

Now that we’re in the home stretch, I definitely feel a great sense of accomplishment. Getting back into an old outfit or two was a sort of informal goal of mine for 40 days, so I’m glad that I’m getting there. My energy levels are way up; yesterday, Joe and I went on an awesome six-mile hike through a park trail near us. I’ve even managed to get my friend Amanda interested in yoga, and she’ll be accompanying me to class on the last day of the challenge—what a way to end it! (She’s the fifth person I will have brought with me to breathe—think I can get a toaster oven or a subscription to Time for “converting” so many people?). Finally, Seane Corn’s full-day immersion is coming up on Saturday, so I’ll definitely have a great report for you guys after that! It’s amazing to me that it’s already here!

Watch out, Week 6! I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum!

Now, some inspiration. DDP Yoga might not be my thing or yours, but you can’t deny how inspiring this video is! Here’s an extended version of the shorter video that’s been going around.

40 Days Challenge: Week 3

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Week 3 is over! Here is your celebration song! (Well, the chorus is on point, but the rest of it is pretty unrelated.)

My third week of the 40 Days challenge started out in pain! I must have slept poorly on Sunday night because on Monday morning, the right side of my neck and part of my right shoulder were completely tense. It was so bad that I couldn’t tilt my head all the way back, and turning my head to the right made me want to scream in agony! Throughout Monday, I thought the pain would gradually disappear, but by the time I went to my class that night (in order to attend the meditation workshop afterward), I was still hurting. It’s kind of weird how much something simple like being able to move your head and neck freely allows you to do so much in your yoga practice. For my practices on Monday and Tuesday, I almost felt impeded by the pain; I found myself having to take child’s pose more often, and even “easy” poses like low cobra just weren’t happening because I couldn’t put my head back even a little. Needless to say, this was not a great way to start my week!

I skipped going to the studio on Wednesday, and I was starting to feel better on Thursday, but I was still a bit tense, so I opted for a Foundations class. I don’t go to them often, and usually if I do one, it’s because I did a vinyasa class before it and want to use Foundations as a cool-down. The Foundations classes at breathe are a lot of fun—you get some good stretches in and go for poses that might not necessarily “fit”in a vinyasa flow class. However, the classes are more low-impact, and if you’re looking for the same level of intensity you get in the hot classes, you probably won’t find it there. Still, Foundations was just what I needed that day. I’d been craving a Foundations class for a while; doing five power vinyasa classes in one week can be difficult! Sometimes I forget that it’s okay to slow my practice down and rest every now and then—even if it’s just taking child’s pose for a sort of yoga power nap! (As an added bonus, the Foundations classes that I have attended have always featured plenty of laughter! Many of the students in these classes are somewhere around my parents’ age, and they have a great sense of humor about what they’re doing and don’t take it too seriously. Picture doing yoga with a bunch of sarcastic aunts and uncles, and that’s pretty much a Foundations class!)

By Friday, my neck felt better, and I was able to complete my last two classes on Friday evening and Saturday morning. I was glad to get them done by that point because my husband and I attended a wedding on Saturday afternoon, and I just didn’t want to have to worry the whole time about getting up early the next day to make it to my last class for the week. This turned out to be useful since I felt a bit under the weather on Sunday. (Seasonal allergies maybe? Who knows?)

Baptiste’s theme for Week 3 was equanimity: “the art of meeting life as it meets you—calmly, without drama or fuss.” I admit that this theme didn’t feature prominently in my thoughts this week, but I noticed that I was able to let go of some stress from Week 2, thoughts that were unrelated to my practice and really not even helpful to hold on to. Also, despite attending a workshop dedicated entirely to meditation, and featuring a short period to practice meditating, I have still been totally failing at developing a meditation routine. I’ve noticed a wave of calm come over me in the past week, though, which could have resulted from making it to the halfway point of 40 Days or maybe just from learning to release those negative thoughts. (My choices in music the past few days may have had an effect as well, and I promise I’ll have some yoga practice playlists up soon!)

Week 4 is all about restoration. I’m supposed to be doing a fruit/juice cleanse for three days this week (I chose to add in veggies as well), but I’m not so sure how this is going to go. With the theme of restoration, though, a restorative yoga class might come in handy at some point this week.

And now, some Week 4 inspiration:

This is how I felt when I began doing yoga! What are all these crazy people doing? (Please note, this is totally not a pose in our classes. Honestly, unless you’re in Cirque du Soleil, I’m not sure if it’s even possible.)

This video makes me laugh every time I see it. Yes, it’s an advertisement, but penguins + yoga = winning combo!

Listen to the music I posted above! Seriously, it’s magical! See you next week!