Like the Best Nap of Your Life: Restorative Yoga Begins March 4

This is from Alison Solam, who will be teaching the Candlelight Restorative Yoga class on Fridays from 6:15 to 7:15 p.m.

I am thrilled to be teaching a Restorative Yoga class at Richmond Beach Yoga. Restorative Yoga means different things to different people, so I’d like to take this opportunity to clarify what I will be teaching. This class will be geared entirely toward reducing stress and anxiety, as we will be working with the parasympathetic nervous system (the calming “rest and digest” system, as opposed to “fight or flight”).

Just like in other Yoga, we will be doing certain postures. These yoga postures attend to different parts of the body– for example, the digestive system, respiratory system, and reproductive system.  But there is no effort and no deep stretching. These poses you do supported by bolsters, blankets, and other props.  So you are held up in the pose. The result is that you receive many of the same benefits of other yoga classes, but with the additional benefit of the feeling of something similar to the best nap you ever had in your life. Each pose will be held for five to ten minutes.

This restorative class begins in March Fridays from 6:15 to 7:15 p.m. It follows the Hatha Yoga class at 5 o’clock. The two classes together make a really great marriage of intensity and deep calm. This class is part of your regular membership, so what do you have to lose?

Editor’s note: the photo is of a child in a restorative pose during a kids’ class at RBY. She loved it, and we think you will, too!

Lastly: This class is limited to 15 people, so please pre-register online. It is still included in membership, but we need your help to make sure there are enough props for everyone. At some point perhaps we’ll open it up to more people if students can bring some of their own props– for example, blankets, bolsters, and/or eye pillows. Thank you ahead of time for your cooperation!

Replacing Chronic Pain with Chronic Yoga

What would you risk giving up in developing a chronic case of yoga? Chronic crankiness? Chronic creakiness? Chronic cough? I met a new student today– one with scoliosis. I told her that yoga does help scoliosis, but only if you KEEP DOING IT. I told her I gave up chronic back pain for chronic yoga. I gave up chronic low blood pressure for chronic yoga. I also gave up chronic depression and anxiety for chronic yoga. If a cure is really fast, it probably won’t last. You deserve better. How about chronic energy? Chronic freedom of movement? Chronic strength? Of course yoga doesn’t cure everything, nor does it cure most things terribly quickly. But it does work. Yoga works. Yoga is magic. But you are the magician. You hold the magic wand.

Abracadabra, get on your mat.

Be open to surprise, and willing to let go. When I was told I was developing arthritis in my spine at a very young age, I  tried everything, and nothing worked– except yoga. Feel good, or at least feel better. But above all, feel that you have some control over your life. Chronic pain, whether its origins are organic or traumatic, can run your life. Developing strength and flexibility through yoga asana (postures) and healthy breathing patterns frees up energy in our bodies, allowing us to create our own healing. There’s one caveat: you’ll need to keep at it. Don’t stop practicing yoga once you feel better. Keep going: from healing and recovery to deepening practice, maintaining strength and range of motion in the joints, and preventing future pain.  Most likely you won’t want to stop, because you’ll enjoy the practice, the learning, and the results– which are profound and long-lasting, if you allow them to be. It’s up to you.

This Short Blog Post is About Rain and Energy Channels in Our Bodies and Feeling Awesome.

Ten years old again! After hours at the computer, I venture out in my Canadian galoshes and my yellow reflective vest, umbrella in hand. This is not a drizzle or a mist. This is a decisive rain with no sign of stopping. I find myself trekking through rivulets and plunking through puddles. I trust my boots. A flock of geese materializes like a magic trick from a thick cloud and speeds west. The air is fresh and the sky is within reach. This wet world conjures thoughts of the nadis, and I find myself wondering if Richmond Beach Yoga students know what the nadis are. The word means “little river” in Sanskrit, and refers to the vast network of energy pathways in our electric bodies. This is the lit-up matrix of life coursing through our “mortal coils” and beyond. What have you done today that lit you up? That gave you energy? That turned you on like a disco ball? That made you feel lively as an impromptu creek that impishly careens down the street, unstoppable, free as the wild geese, that meets another stream at the corner and laughs all the way down the hill? What have you done recently that you loved to do when you were 10 years old? Especially if you can’t make it to yoga class today, go and DO THAT!

On Being New to Yoga

We offer a monthly Intro to Yoga workshop at RBY. Do you remember the last time you tried something new? It takes courage! Perhaps you can even remember what it was like to learn to ride a bicycle. It took perseverance and a lot of help, for most of us– but then came that moment of freedom that we had worked so hard for!

We long for the fear to disappear. No one likes feeling awkward, clumsy, or confused. Often people tell me that is how they felt in their first few yoga classes, but that the feeling passed as they became familiar with the little things. How to use a block, what to do at the beginning and end of each class, and even how to clean a yoga mat: these details become second-nature. But more importantly, in yoga it’s allowing the concepts to sink in that makes the difference. For example, the concept of non-competitiveness. We relax in yoga when we realize that we really are doing it for ourselves, and that no one else (besides the teacher) is paying much attention to what we’re doing or not doing.

This is when the feeling of freedom comes over us. We practice in a group for inspiration from each other and instruction from the teacher. But we practice for ourselves. Yoga is not a performance, a show, or a competition. It is a practice, and one with many benefits– some of them quite surprising. For example, you might think you are starting your yoga practice to increase your flexibility, but find that you also sleep better and crave healthier foods.

Often when people are new to yoga, they wonder about the specific mechanisms that make yoga so effective. And indeed there is a lot of science behind what we do. We discuss some of this science in the Intro Workshop, in fact. But we can also simply let go and let the yoga works its magic, as long as we keep showing up on our mats.

A Lending Library for Lifelong Learners

We’ve started a lending library at RBY, and it opens for business this weekend.

Want to contribute? Please bring in yoga-related books that you no longer want on your shelf at home. We would love your help in building a collection of reference books, philosophy books, and meditation guides.

Want to borrow? The books are in the glass-paneled bookcase in the office. There are also many magazines you are welcome to borrow. Just write your name, phone number, book title, and date in the log.

Want to help? Are you a librarian, or a librarian wannabe? This is your chance! Please email Angeline at studio@richmondbeachyoga.com.

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RBY Student Practices on Pilgrimage

Tree Pose atop Sri Lanka, anyone?

Sharon Richards is an intrepid traveler, Soul Stroller (read on!), and lover of life.

She was recently on an adventure in India and Sri Lanka with her husband, and sent this photo of her beautiful tree pose on a hilltop in Sri Lanka.

The photo has a long caption: “It is an amazing feeling to practice yoga far from home, far from the studio– knowing all the while that our fellow students are practicing and there will be a welcoming place to return to.”

Indeed, we keep the home yoga fires burning for you while you are away.

Sharon commented that our practice is supported by others’ practice in a very real way. The next time you are in tree pose or any other favorite pose, think of all the thousands and thousands of people who have been there, are there with you now, and will be right there where you are in the future.

No yogi is an island, no matter how far from home, no matter how distant the island on which you practice! Sharon leads pilgrimages, called Soul Strolling, to magical places. Check out her website: http://sharonarichards.com. And to prepare you for your journey, here is a wonderful book about pilgrimage that Sharon recommended: The Art of Pilgrimage,  by Phil Cousineau. Enjoy!

In the Teachers’ Words: To All of You Who Are New to Yoga (And Really, Who Isn’t?)

Here is some practical advice from 3 of our teachers:

From Molly Filer:

Be patient. This is a practice of microscopic shifts and slow transformation. It is not about learning to do fancy poses (although you might learn to do those too!), but about cultivating the ability to turn your attention inward and notice what your body is asking for in every shifting moment. An ideal yoga practice, in my opinion, is one where you make your own choices rather than following the people around you. It’s about learning about your needs and staying true to them.

From Alison Solam:

Don’t be scared, we all were brand new to this once. No one is going to insist you do anything. See if you can make this a competition-free exploration. And while we are at it, a pain-free exploration. Work at your own pace and your own level, and give yourself permission to (safely) try something challenging, without it needing to be “perfect”, and also permission to proceed very gently or even to completely rest. Enjoy yourself–for me, a big part of what has kept me practicing all these years is that it is so much fun!

From Kristen Stevens:

Listen to your body, feel your breath. Be gentle with yourself without judgement. Notice the effects of each pose and use that noticing as information-gathering for what your body is telling you. It is a practice and each time it will be different.

Yoga is a balance between ease and effort, so if a pose feels challenging see if you can soften into it. As well, if a position feels easy, see how you can build stability by backing out.

Practicing with Grief and Loss by Jennifer Bendemire

Yoga teaches us to do what may at first seem impossible. The first day I walked into the studio, I was not sure what to expect. I had honestly never thought of myself as a “yoga person,” but needed a way to work through a difficult time after my step-mom died. I turned to yoga in hopes of coming back to my center after being with my family through some difficult months and helping to care her at the end of her life. Very soon after starting yoga, I fell in love with the practice, and began to embrace the imperfection and the unfolding of my journey.

Learning the yoga poses and breath work helped me to yield and grow through a time that felt overwhelming. There were times when I would be in yin class holding a long pose, and images would surface: the physical changes that occurred through the course of my step-mom’s illness, her hospital bed and oxygen concentrator, nights I sat by her bedside and held her hand when she was afraid. In dealing with these memories, it was such a gift to have the yoga classes, and to know that I could stay with the poses and the breath to find my way back to center. Some of my favorite times in the studio were nights when rain pounded on the roof.

Through my yoga practice, I discovered that I could open up and be present and ultimately changed by these experiences rather than shutting down emotionally. I found that big, open poses such as half moon were especially healing and helped me keep my heart open. As I continue with my yoga practice, I learn to move through life with a little more humility, strength, and grace. For that, and for the wonderful teachers and students who have been part of my journey, I am very grateful.