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Yoga as Therapy?

Yoga as self-therapy: Tune out to check in.

Yoga as therapy has been contentious in recent years. In January 2016, the Yoga Alliance requested that any yoga school remove the terms “yoga therapy” and “yoga therapist” from their title. This suggestion was a precaution against misleading the public to think that yoga teachers are diagnosticians. The point was not that yoga isn’t therapeutic, but rather that yoga is not a strategy for diagnosing or curing ailments.

“If I go to yoga, I’ll be healthier.” While this statement is true, it’s not because yoga is a panacea or a prescription. Yoga is a therapy to help find physical and emotional well-being. The practice is a tool for noticing ailments, understanding strengths and having the resources to deal with challenges. By getting out of bed and on to your mat every morning, you are taking time to tune out from the world and check in with your physical and emotional self.

This regulation from the Yoga Alliance does not reduce the fact that yoga is therapeutic in nature. The point is that yoga does not represent the reductionist style of therapy that we tend to apply to ourselves. We apply reductionist theory to our habits: “If I meditate, then I’ll be calmer.” “If I don’t smoke, then I’ll be able to run faster.” “If I eat less, then I’ll be thinner.” While these statements are true, they fail to capture the notion that our health is comprised of a physiological and psychological system. Yoga affords another point of view beyond the reductionist “if/then” approach to improving health.

A healthy lifestyle is something that we all strive for.  Joy and happiness, fewer aches and pains, serenity, and a robust constitution. We know the basics of getting and staying healthy; we know that smoking is bad, eating fruit and vegetables is good, regular exercise is imperative and that it’s critical to keep stress at bay. But we often get mired in wishing to “better” our habits, “get” healthier and “change” something with the expectation of “improvement.” Paradoxically, this desire to improve and to “cure” ailments often creates stress. In opposition to this desire to improve, yoga is a strategy to observe what’s happening with your health. By doing a regular yoga practice, you are able to check in with your own physical and emotional self and understand your constitution from a point of view of acceptance rather than change.

Yoga provides a holistic view of the human body as a system. The practice itself is simple. Just you and your mat. Certainly there are techniques and strategies for poses and for practicing meditation, but the fundamental beauty of yoga is its simplicity. You can’t cheat your way through it. By stepping on to your mat and checking out of whatever else you were doing with your day, you are observing the subtleties of your mind and body and teaching yourself strategies for managing emotional and physical discomfort.

The therapeutic potential of yoga comes from its consistency. The yoga sutras decree that the formula for success in yoga is to “practice regularly over a long period of time.” The therapeutic practice is not a prescriptive solution to health but rather a strategy for understanding yourself and finding the right path towards health and well-being.

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Power Yoga Yoga YTT Blog

Get out of your own way: battling your ego with the Warrior Series.

Use the Warrior Series to battle your ego and realize your goals.

Most flow yoga classes incorporate at least one of the warrior poses (Virabhadrasana series), but beyond the physical shape of the poses, what are these poses all about?

The warrior series refers to the spiritual warrior, one who battles the universal enemy. The universal enemy exists in all of us: ego, ignorance and unnecessary attachment. Often we get mired in our egos, find ourselves ignorant of what we truly need and develop unnecessary attachments to ideas or substances that aren’t useful.

Everyone has goals and plans. These are ideas that we think are possible, but something gets in the way.

What is getting in your way?  

Is it a hangup with your appearance? Is it an addiction to something that is wasting your time (the internet, sugar, exercise, sex, tv, drugs, alcohol)? Is it an obsession with money? Is it attachment to something that you don’t need? It is a relationship that doesn’t serve you anymore? Is it a fear of failure?

A teacher said to me once that we spend the first part of our lives, as children, defining our personality. We spend the second part of our lives defending that personality. But what if we change the dialogue? What if we simply accept ourselves as beautiful beings who are capable of anything that we can imagine?

What if the only thing that needs to change for you to achieve your goals is your mind? What if the only thing standing in your way is your own ego and unnecessary attachments and fear? 

Avidya is a fogged perception of what is important. Avidya consists of ego, attachment and fear. Avidya is a subtle energy that exists in all of us and keeps us rooted in our habitual ways and unable to transform or improve. Overindulgence in Avidya causes us to believe that we are not the doer of things, but rather than things happen to us.

Ideally, we are able to dissolve Avidya, move past the ego, attachment, negative associations and fear, and achieve what it is that we need.

Conveniently, there are yoga poses to help with this!

The warrior series (Virabhdrasana) is the tool to battle Avidya. These postures represent our battle with Avidya, our battle with our own egos, fears and self-ignorance. Virabhdrasana (Vira = hero, bhdra = friend) is the spiritual warrior against the universal enemy: ego, attachment and fear.

By doing the challenging warrior poses, you are creating an allegory: a representation of actually dissolving your ego, your fears, your attachments. By battling against ego, fear, and attachment, you are getting out of your own way and making space for what is truly important.

Practice the warrior sequence. You will become a spiritual warrior who is capable of fighting your own ego, your unnecessary attachments to material things or relationships that are holding you back and your fears.

I promise it won’t be easy and I promise it will take a lot of bravery, but I also promise that it will be worth it. By getting out of your own way, by battling avidya, by letting go of whatever it is that’s holding you back, you can be or do whatever you can imagine.

Be strong. Be brave. Be a warrior. 

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Power Yoga Taiga Yoga Yoga

Concentrate on Arm Balances

Power yoga is intended to leave you feeling invigorated, confident and strong.  Wherever you’ve come from or whatever you’ve been doing, spending an hour on your mat will bring your focus to the present moment.

Dharana is a state of concentration. It is the sixth of eight limbs of ashtanga yoga and means “hold steady,” “single focus” or “concentration.” It is a state of mind, and in terms of productivity in your life off the mat, it sounds like a good place to be! To be able to focus and concentrate on a specific task for a period of time will certainly help you achieve your personal and professional goals. The trouble is, there are so many distractions afoot that concentrating on a task can be more challenging than the task itself.

Enter Power Yoga.

Power yoga, while not offering a life-changing prophecy, does create a time (about an hour) where your focus will be entirely on the practice of yoga. Whether you consciously decide to focus on the moment or not, it is unlikely that your mind will be able to focus on much other than the task at hand when that task is a handstand, or an arm balance, or an upside down dog.

Power yoga might not change your life. But then again, it just might. And that change may be in the most unexpected way. Whatever your reason for stepping on to your mat, I aim to help you step off your mat feeling strong, focused and prepared to tackle the next challenge. By leading you though a challenging sequence of poses, I hope to create a yoga practice where your focus is on the present moment. I hope that you can bring that focus with you off the mat to cultivate productivity.

This week, we’re practicing astravakasana (eight-angle pose). We’ll progress to this arm balance with a flowing warmup and a series of poses designed to lengthen the psoas (outer hip), stretch the shoulders and strengthen the core. Eight-angle pose provides a chance for everyone to have a laugh and to challenge themselves to balance on their hands. Not everyone will be able to fly into the pose, but everyone’s concentration will be completely on the act of attempting the pose and that dharana, that steady focus, is the place where I hope everyone will end up.

Join me for Power Yoga on Monday/Wednesday at 7pm and Tuesday at noon at Taiga Yoga Studio. We will let go of distractions, concentrate completely on the tasks at hand, and maybe fly into new poses.

Kate Covello teaches power yoga inspired by the Baptiste Journey Into Power sequence. Her current goal is to focus on tasks at work for 30 minutes at a time, and refrain from getting distracted by social media! She also plans to hold a handstand for ten breaths in the very near future.

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Handstands Power Yoga Taiga Yoga Uncategorized Yoga YTT Blog

What is Power Yoga?

What is Power Yoga? The term power yoga can be found on many yoga schedules and there is some confusion on the meaning of the term. Power yoga is designed to make you strong. You will likely sweat during the practice and there will probably be some core-strengthening poses. Some teachers will follow a set series of poses in each class, while other teachers will create different sequences every day.

Power Yoga is aimed at individuals who don’t want a lot of chanting and meditation in their yoga practice. The time on the mat will be focused on strengthening, balancing and sweating. The sequencing will be challenging, but will be adaptable to every student. Baron Baptiste describes his sequencing as a blueprint for an invigorating vinyasa yoga practice and says that his brand of power yoga is adaptable for all body types, ages and fitness levels.

Most power yoga sequences are based on Ashtanga yoga, but will likely flow faster than a traditional Ashtanga practice. Where Ashtanga encourages practioners to hold each pose for five breaths, power yoga sequences will likely hold each pose for far fewer breaths, sometimes moving fluidly throughout the entire practice, cultivating one breath per movement and not pausing in any pose.

What to expect from my Power Classes:

• Flowing sequences. We will start slowly, taking the time integrate breath with movement, but expect to flow between poses. All of my sequences offer a logical progression from the floor to standing and back again.
• Sweaty yogis. Sweating is encouraged. If you tend to perspire a lot, you may find it beneficial to bring a small towel to class. The towel can be used under your hands so you have a firm base in downdog or to dry your arms and legs so you don’t slip out of side crow. Be sure to hydrate before arriving on your mat.

• Some core-strengthening. There will be 100 core-strengthening poses strategically placed throughout the practice. They might be extremely challenging or relatively simple to you, but we’re a team and we’re going to do all 100 of them together.

• Handstands. Try one or try 50. Handstands are a fun inversion and are challenging and will make you laugh. My current goal is to hold a handstand for ten breaths! I’m not there yet, and I’m having a great time building up the strength and confidence to get there. In each class, I will offer tricks to help you practice your handstand.

• Accessible language. I will offer clear instruction on where to place your hands and feet in each pose. That being said, if you’re ever unclear on the alignment in a pose, ask! Shout it out! Someone else in the room probably has the exact same question.

• A friendly vibe. I encourage everyone to join me on the mat for Power Yoga. I don’t care if you’ve never tried yoga before or if you’ve been teaching at an Ashram for the past 20 years: you’re all welcome. In the 60-90 minutes that we practice together, we are a team and we will be learning, progressing and having fun together. A note to the newbies: every single person in the room was new to yoga at some point, and we all know what it feels like to not have a clue what is happening. If you’re new, you will probably fall over a few times and there will definitely be poses that are unavailable to you, but I can assure you that nobody is criticizing or judging you!

Join me on your mat at lunchtime on Mondays and Wednesdays at 7pm and Tuesdays at Noon at Taiga Yoga in Yellowknife. Whatever your reason for wanting to practice yoga, I can’t wait to share my practice with you!

www.taigayoga.com