A letter to my followers

Dear friends and followers,

I wanted to let you know that I have moved my blog to a website, simply titled:

www.peaceoffthemat.com.

I was paying for the wordpress re-direct for a year and my subscription for that, just ran out.

I know it’s a bit more inconvenient now since my posts won’t show up in your wordpress reader, but I do hope and wish that you click on the website and subscribe via e-mail. My posts aren’t too frequent so I won’t bombard your inbox.

Thanks again for your readership and continued support.

Namaste,

Aparna

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Levels of practice in Yoga

Couldn’t agree more.

Home Yoga Practice

sun

There is a lot of talk nowadays about “advanced” Yoga. There is a studio down the block from me that has a large banner that says “advanced teacher training.” I wrote a post about a woman who would not attend classes at my studio because the highest level is labeled “intermediate 2” and she wanted something more “advanced” even though she did not practice on her own.  So what exactly considered “advanced” in Yoga?

Yoga Sutra 1.22 says mrdu madhya adminatratvat tatah api visesah, or the time necessary for success further depends on whether the practice is mild, medium or intense. Of course every practice in the beginning is “intense,” or at least “intense feeling.” The ego is quick to identify this as “intensive practice” or even “advanced.” But does that make one “advanced” at Yoga?

A raw beginner at yoga needs at least two years of standing poses done two or…

View original post 246 more words

Which yoga class should I take?? Part 1

Photo credit to Bea Tree Yoga – http://beatreeyoga.com

I think it’s quite a cool thing that yoga is so prevalent now. There are a lot of studios that are well-established throughout the US in many cities. The myriad of classes being offered gives us all options to try out different styles and find ones that best suit our body and mind.

However, it can be slightly daunting if you are new at this whole thing. I mean, which class are you supposed to start in? What is the difference between a level 1 or 2 yoga class? What is the difference between gentle yoga and restorative? What is Yin? Core? Power? Jivamukti? Vinyasa flow? Iyengar? Ashtanga? Hatha?

Phew.

Ergo, say hello to Le List. I have compiled a list of commonly offered yoga classes and styles and have done my best to describe them. My hope is to help you, my dear readers, in discovering a yoga practice that works for YOU.

Always remember: yoga is a compassionate practice so please don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t doing an asana “perfectly” Take your time and be kind to yourself!

So onto Le List (I shall be using mostly English words for the names of poses)

Hatha Yoga

In general, this class is offered as all levels (meant for everyone). This style is a classic form of yoga from which many other yoga styles have evolved. It’s like home base.

This is a GREAT class for everyone, whether you’re new or not (and my personal favorite)

What to Expect:

Hatha yoga classes usually start with some seated poses for warm ups (seated side stretches, seated twists, maybe some gentle heart-opening poses), as well as mindful breathing. Followed by which, there are a series of standing poses (such as Warrior 1 and 2, Tree, Triangle, Pyramid). There may also be some back bending poses such as Camel, and Hero (depending on your level, the teacher will offer modifications).

After the standing, balancing, back bending part of the class, the students cool down via restorative and rejuvenating poses (Seated Forward fold, Bound Angle, Bridge, Reclining twists) before coming to rest in Savasana.

Good for: Everyone – whether you’re new, seasoned, young, old-er, and more.

Ashtanga

Ashtanga in Sanskrit stands for 8 limbs (Ashta – 8, Anga – Limb) which refers to the 8-fold path as described in the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali. The Ashtanga method was interpreted by T. Krishnamacharya and taught to his disciple, Sri K.Pattabhi Jois who has popularized this form of yoga.

Ashtanga yoga emphasizes a vinyasa (movement of limbs) practice which relies heavily on breathing, focus, and igniting the power of our pelvic floor muscles (mula bandha).

There a total of 6 series of Ashtanga asana sequences. A student starts with the primary series and once he/she has perfected the poses in this level, progresses onto the others.

What to Expect:

In a typical Ashtanga class, the teacher will lead the students through the primary or secondary series (Some yoga studios offer the advanced series) The poses are performed in a specific order with strict breath cues attached.

When a student and teacher both feel that the student has mastered the poses in a certain series, he or she may begin a practice that is self-led i.e the student will attend an Ashtanga class in a group setting but practice independently.

Ashtanga is quite a vigorous, inspiring and athletic style of yoga and its followers are fiercely loyal . If you are someone who enjoys a strict adherence to order, and independent study, then this style is for you.

Don’t be scared to try this style – it is challenging, but the teacher will work with you to modify your practice as needed, especially if you’re a beginner.

Good for: Those who are interested in a yoga challenge that is BOTH physical and mental. If you’re an absolute beginner to yoga and/or Ashtanga – please know that it takes many practitioners a long time to truly master one series before moving to the next one.  Anyone can work towards this style of yoga, although I wouldn’t recommend that you start off with Ashtanga if you have shoulder and/or wrist injuries. The multiple Sun Salutation movements (and planks) can aggravate existing injuries.

Vinyasa Flow / Flow Yoga / Core Flow , etc:

Vinyasa yoga encompasses a broad range of yoga classes. The word vinyasa itself is derived from the Sanskrit word that stands for “movement, position of limbs”.  Vinyasa aims to connect the breath with the body.

A vinyasa-style class involves movement from one pose to the next, timed with breathing. The classes are almost like a dance that is choreographed by the teacher.

A vinyasa movement can be something as simple as the cat / cow or a more complex series of asanas such as Sun Salutations. The key thing to note: movement with breath.

Vinyasa has inspired many different styles of yoga from Ashtanga, to Power, to Anusara, and Jivamukti.

What to Expect:

A class usually begins with warm ups that include seated warm ups, and Sun Salutations. Followed by which, the teacher will lead a sequence that links asana movement with breath.

Click below on the link to get a feel for what a vinyasa yoga class consists of

This style of class allows for a lot of variety. Each teacher has his or her own way of sequencing the asanas together at a certain pace i.e some teachers flow slower while others move quicker. It is a good way to build heat, and energy in the body. I often find myself sweating towards the middle of class.

As with any yoga class, there is quiet time towards the end to cool down the body.

Good for: Those who have a basic foundation in yoga poses. Due to the fact that this class does move through asanas at a quicker pace, those who are new to yoga might find it hard to keep up. Vinyasa yoga offers a creative outlet for many teachers and students as there isn’t a specific sequence of asanas that need to be followed. The unique combination of asanas taught by each teacher allows the students to experience yoga in different ways. Hence, it is important to find a vinyasa teacher that resonates with you. It also helps one to understand the importance of breathing with intention and control. If one loses focus on breathing,  one begins to huff and puff, and not enjoy the class. Vinyasa yoga taught me to breathe properly in class and not rush through the inhale-exhale process.

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There you have it for Part 1. Stay tuned for Part 2 where we shall go over Power/Baron Baptiste, Iyengar, and a few more.

As always, thanks so much for stopping by and reading!

Namaste

A quick non-yoga related post: Girls, Engineering, Uganda.

My sister got the unique opportunity to travel to Uganda for a volunteer teaching position. She has been in the town of Gulu for the past 2 weeks teaching at a girls school.  The school focuses on providing its students with the fundamentals of engineering and science. The goal is to educate the girls to learn to think critically and problem solve and eventually become citizens that contribute, empower and grow.
The students she worked with wrote cute blog posts about their learning experiences – click here to read.

Thanks for reading and let’s all take a moment to be grateful for having choices and education.

Have a great weekend all!

True meaning of compassion

How many times have we gotten into arguments with our friends, families, colleagues and enemies where we don’t get defensive but rather just listen to what they have to say?

How many times do we beat ourselves up for not being pretty, or smart or successful or ambitious enough?

There is a difference between being self-pitying and truly compassionate towards oneself and others.

I leave it to the venerable Dr. Martin Luther King Jr himself to describe what compassion is…

Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and nonviolence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.

By reading his powerful words, maybe we can all learn listen to our enemy whether he is within or staring right at us.

As always, thanks so much for stopping by.

Namaste

Starting off your week with a wise quote

Photo credit to: http://bhaktivedantacollege.com/events/vedas-and-upanishads/
Photo credit to: http://bhaktivedantacollege.com/events/vedas-and-upanishads/

It is January. Time to set new intentions for the year of 2015. It is time to fight off people at the gym so you can use a treadmill.

I honestly do NOT enjoy this time of the year at all. It is filled with a ton of pressure to ACHIEVE AND STICK WITH YOUR NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION(s). RAWR.

I don’t think it’s a new beginning. It’s more like people are trying to break habits forcibly without much thought or action. I feel like NEW IDEAS, RESOLUTIONS AND GOALS are just being shoved down my throat from everywhere.

I rather treat the beginning of the new year in a calm manner i.e a time for reflection which is a lot quieter. If we all spent some time contemplating, we might set real and achievable goals for ourselves for the year. I don’t want to start to berate myself by the time March rolls around about how I still have not started or stuck with my new year’s resolution, etc.

So whether you are embarking on a journey of improving your yoga practice, or a new running regiment, or eating healthier, or being kinder to people, or spending more time talking instead of texting..heed these wise words from the Upanishads.

Understanding without practice is better than practice without understanding. Understanding with practice is better than understanding without practice. Residing in your true nature is better than understanding or practice.
As always, thanks so much for stopping by and reading!
Namaste

Going beyond the Asana Series – Part 2 – Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior 2 Pose)

Happy Monday edit – Whoops it’s Friday! Happy Friday!  Welcome to Part 2 of my pet project! As previously written about and described in Part 1, the goal of this series is to help you, my reader, turn your physical practice into something with purpose, and substance.

Today’s asana is a challenging one.  It makes us all wish our teacher would let us out of this pose ASAP! Our quads, feet, shoulders all feel the effort while resting here.

Please welcome – Virabhadrasana 2 (Warrior 2)

B.K.S Iyengar
B.K.S Iyengar

One can feel the power of this asana emanating just from looking at the photograph. This is a dynamic pose that helps to strengthen the shoulders, back, core, and quadriceps. It also allows for a slow build of flexibility in our hips, and lower back.

I opted to give you guys some general and energetic cues for this posture as I wanted to the focus to be on the mental aspect of this pose. For more clear and precise physical cues, please click here.

1) Activate the pinkie toe-side edge of the foot that is in the back.

2) Energize your thighs

3) Relax your shoulders

4) Try to soften your gaze as you look over the front fingers. Breathe in from your diaphragm and release tension (if any) in your jaw – Relax even though you’re in a tough pose.

So onto the mental exercise for this pose….

Whenever you get the opportunity to do this pose the next time, I invite you to think about Gratitude. Give your body gratitude for the strength that it has to be able to do hold and maintain this asana. As you breathe in this pose think of inhaling in the word “give” and exhaling “thanks”. You are here in this pose. You are good as you are. As you begin to go inward in this pose, give your body the kindness it deserves for all that it does and is capable of.

Yoga has been and will always be about getting to know yourself and aligning with your own true nature. As we begin our yoga journey, most of us start with the physical part and that is perfectly OK. However, do know that the asana practice is part of something much deeper – i.e Union with your Self: physically, mentally and spiritually.

As always, thanks for stopping by and reading.

Namaste