Sunday, September 30, 2012

Yoga with Rockstar Adam Levine

With amazing billboard hits like "Makes me Wonder", "Payphone" and "Moves like Jagger ft Christina Aguliera" with the bandmates of Maroon 5, (to name a few), the gorgeous Judge/Coach job on NBC's the voice, Adam Levine attributes his incredible physique to Yoga.  Like many people worldwide, celebrities embrace this practice into their daily routine.

Nearly six years ago, Levine embraced the yoga practice to help with back pain and tight hamstrings, and has not returned to a gym since. Adam shares how yoga has helped to ground him, prepare for shows, and keep him relaxed.  He has noticed the physical benefits of the practice and states the best thing about Yoga is that you can practice it anywhere! 
Adam Levine in Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana) a great pose for balance and hip opening.
Adam Levine in Headstand (Sirsasana) the King of the Poses.
Adam Levine in One Legged Koundinyasana for arm balance strength.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Saucha - Niyama of Cleanliness on and off the Mat

As yoga practitioners we observe the eight limb practice and embrace the First Niyama of Saucha (Purity or cleanliness).  In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2:40, Saucha is defined as "purification results in the abandonment of physicality and the cessation of physical contact with external things".

शौचात् स्वाङ्गजुगुप्सा परैरसंसर्गः ॥४०॥
śaucāt svāṅga-jugupsā parairasaṁsargaḥ ||2: 40||

The entire eight limb practice of yoga is a path of purification.  Naturally by practicing Asana, Kriya (Kappalabhati, Neti, Nauli, Basti,  etc), Pranayama, Yogic Diet the yoga aspirant can evolve in the path of purification.  This Niyama is about observing the practice of purification in body, mind and environment.  When our body becomes clean we will notice improvements in digestion, energy, skin, emotions, overall health and of course our asana practice.  Normally a person who desires a purified body will be very conscious in food choices, knowing that food intake has a direct relation to our overall health.  When we have a Purified mind it leads to a cheerful, optimistic and patient disposition.  The person who embraces this Niyama approaches life with a compassionate heart and always understands that love or a call for love is found in human behavior and therefore necessary in all things.  For those who study subtle body, we know that most physical ailments are a reflection of mental and emotional tendencies which lead to dietary and exercise habits.  Ultimately, purity of body and mind will ultimately allow the yoga aspirant to prepare for meditation.

Long ago yogis would practice in caves with cow dung on walls, ash on their bodies and practice various kriyas for cleansing.  Also keeping an altar with the elements in offering (water, fire, earth, metal, and ether).  Patanjali highlighted how the aspect of giving offering to the altar, practicing aarathi, are part of purification as well, symbolizing how pure we offer ourselves to the Supreme.

While modern day yoga studios may not want to practice all traditional aspects, or even understand many traditional aspects of the yoga practice, we can still practice the Niyama of Saucha.  As a Teacher perhaps arriving early and making sure the space is swept, perhaps lighting incense/candles, burning sage, gridding the room with crystals, setting the vibration of OM to begin and conclude class, possibly doing some meditation, or even embracing chanting after class.  Be the example you wish to witness in your students.

As teachers it is wonderful for us to practice a clean diet, and clean hygiene.  What about the yoga mats?  Some studios have mats to borrow or rent, which means different peoples sweat and possibly fungus can be on the mat.  Therefore, proper mat cleaning is necessary.
  1. Hosing it down with water, soft cloth/sponge and light dish soap
  2. Filling a spray bottle with some water, tea tree oil (anti bacterial/anti fungal) and even some lavender essential oil for a light fragrant smell.  Just spray and wipe.  This is cost effective and students can all do this after class to promote saucha.
  3. Josha wipes, similar to baby wipes with sweet aromatic scents.  These can be sold in yoga studios and seem to be growing in popularity.
The best Saucha to practice is a pure and clean heart.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Kids Yoga Camp with Hamilton Malayalees

While kids are back to school and routines, I am reminded of the amazing summer that flashed before our eyes.  This summer after exploring months of teaching and travels in India, LA, and NYC I was invited to do yoga for the Hamilton Malayalee Samajam Kids Camp.  The Hamilton Malayalee Samjam is the association that joined South Indian families to celebrate traditions and socialize when I was growing up, and it is still going strong today.  It was a few days of awesome fun to share yoga with this group of kids.  The kids ranged in age from 5-10, so I had to make the yoga fun, engaging and inspirational.  We explored Sun Salutations, Warrior Poses, Tree Pose, Partner Yoga, Yoga Games, Yoga Stories, Meditation, and much more.  I have always loved teaching yoga to kids. For me Kids are our greatest teachers, as they have a zest for life, optimism that most adults can learn from, and humility.

Thank you HMS for inviting me to share some yoga with you.

Equinox Yoga

With September 22 2012 fast approaching marking the fall equinox many changes are happening.  Kids are going back to school after summer vacation, warmer clothes are being pulled out of the closets, and harvest time is approaching.  Equinox is a time when night and day are equal.  This is also around the time for the beloved Ganesh Festival.  With autumn harvest in abundance, it is a time for giving thanks.  Many people suggest to begin rituals for manifesting new harvest in their lives.

Recently, after the close of the NYC Zoga Yoga Teacher Training Course, I was invited to explore yoga class at Equinox gym.  This is one of the leading chains of gyms in North America.  I took a Kripalu Yoga class and Yoga 360.  For me, I tend to prefer yoga classes that facilitate a mind-body-spirit experience, meaning classes that weave spiritual concepts through the flow, allowing me to burn through tapas, and clear my mind.  Teachers who have usually done this for me have been found in Ashrams in India, and others like (to name a few) Sri Dharma Mittra, Tao Porchon Lynch, David Swensen, and a few others.

There is always the stigma of "gym yoga".  However, I believe the class is how receptive you are to the practice, so I always like to venture with an open mind.  While like everyone, I may have my preference, each experience will teach me valuable lessons and increase my gratitude.

The Kripalu Yoga teacher brought us through a slow flow, with pigeon pose being the goal.  He gave brilliant adjustments to my friend who is brand new to yoga, and created an awesome energy in the packed sunday morning class.  Since I did not even seem to have a bead of sweat form on my body, I stayed for the next class called Yoga 360.  Basically if you have a round mat, it would be similar to circular or mandala type movements through a vinyasa flow.  Since we did not have round mats, we would use two mats and form them in a shape of a lower case "T".  The catch was, when we were in downward dog, we would jump our feet to the perpendicular mat and continue through the flow.  The teacher eventually brought us to a wide legged plank, which had my abs singing praises of "gym yoga" the next day.  Thank you to both teachers for an awesome experience.

Finally, with the theme of Equinox I want to share the beautiful video by Equinox Yoga Teachers & Yoga's Dynamic Duo: Dice Lida-Klein and Briohny Smyth.  This beautiful couple makes inversions and advanced asana look effortless, and their sweet personalities make it so easy to enjoy taking their classes.  In this video, the beautiful husband and wife team are exploring ACRO Yoga, which is more physics and trust than anything else.  It is so poetic to watch people flow through an Acro Yoga flow.  Thank you Dice & Bri for inspiring people as we approach the fall equinox.

If you have not seen the video yet please click the link below:
The Balancing Act with Dice and Briohny