Who is Katie Silcox and WHY do you want to know her?

We are fortunate enough at Bristol Yoga to host teachers from all over the country to teach specialty classes and workshops.

One teacher who will be joining us in the studio this May is a woman named Katie Silcox.

Katie is a tall, blonde woman built like an Amazon Goddess and glows like one too. She is fluent in the Tantra Yoga Tradition as well as the science of Ayurveda and is on a mission to make these ancient practices accessible to the modern man and woman. Her New York Time's Bestseller, Healthy, Happy, Sexy: Ayurveda Wisdom for Modern Women aims to do just that.

My first exposure to Katie came through her book Healthy, Happy, Sexy. At the time, we were hosting our Yogi Book Club through Bristol Yoga and we had selected her book as the feature for the month knowing she would later be visiting the studio. Initially, I was curious what kind of knowledge would be found in a book titled Healthy, Happy, Sexy, but just a few pages into the book, I remember thinking Katie had chosen the perfect title. Judging the book by it's cover, it was no more intimidating than a Cosmopolitan Magazine advertising "6 Ways to a Healthier YOU" or "10 Tips to Boost Your Bedroom Confidence". These tag lines obviously work for a reason (I mean, who wouldn't mind being healthier, happier, and sexier?) and with a title like this, Katie is appealing to women inside and outside of the yoga community. In the first few pages, with the wisdom of your great, great grandmother and the voice of your closest girlfriend you recognize and trust Katie as she begins to guide you through the necessity of a self-loving, self-care practice in order to find balance in life; something every modern individual needs, man or woman, yogi or non-yogi. Moving deeper into the book you find a wealth of knowledge and information about the complex, ancient self-loving traditions of Tantra and Ayurveda that dig deeper than Cosmopolitan's "Foods to Eat for a Flat Belly" (implying that there is something wrong with the belly you have now) and find instead guidance from Ayurvedic practices for "foods to eat that make your belly happy, and in turn your mind happy, because your belly is amazing and deserves your love just like the rest of you does."

During the time I was reading Healthy, Happy, Sexy I was living a particularly hectic life with a packed schedule that was pulling me in every direction but together. You've probably heard the saying "running around like a chicken with their head cut off." Well, that was me. This was right around the time I had developed a stress fracture in my wrist from overuse. My lack of self-care in my daily routine left me with no energy and a serious sweet craving to make up for the sweetness that was missing from my life. I finished Healthy, Happy, Sexy recognizing areas of my life in which I was self-medicating out of self-loathing and creating imbalance in my life with a new resolve to get grounded in a daily practice of self-loving. 

Katie later came to the studio for a three day weekend sharing more wisdom and knowledge from Tantra and Ayurveda for finding balance, even highlighting some of the notes from Healthy, Happy, Sexy. She is even funnier in person, living true to the humor and wit that shines in her book and her strong self-care practice speaks for itself through her presence. Each day of the weekend, Katie shared a different asana practice for balancing subtle energies of the mind-body and body-mind.

I remember the Friday evening class specifically. It was a class designed for bringing clarity, for cultivating stillness in the mind. The asana practice was all-levels, accessible by every practitioner. The breath work used in the practice was equal-ratio breathing, matching the length of your inhale to the length of your exhale. Closing the practice, the entire room was still. I remember feeling clear and grounded in a way that I had never really before. Leaving the studio, Katie requested that we observe silence to preserve the stillness and peace generated. Walking out to my car, I remember seeing and feeling the brightness of the moon like never before. My senses seemed to be incredibly sensitive, but I think it was more the stillness in my mind, the absence of the running dialogue going on in the background of my life, that was allowing me to indulge more in the natural world around me.

Katie's practices have since inspired in me the value of self-love, self-compassion and living a life in balance. When we take the time to take practice self-care and balance ourselves with the ebbs and flows of life, we are more available to experience the every day magic in our lives.

If you know you could use a little more balance in your life, Katie is going to be with us again the coming weekend May 6th - May 8th sharing more of her magic, wisdom and guidance.

 

Presented by Marcy Hullander

 

Feature Teacher: Heather Dotterweich

Fairly recently, I asked the question to one of my classes, "why do we come together to practice in the community?"

 

Many voices came forward, expressing reasons why they come to share in their practice; some of those reasons being to build connection, others being that they just wouldn't practice on their own. 

 

One individual shared "I learn better in the community."

 

This was a response I felt really captured the value of practicing in community. By practicing in a community, we become more than just our own experience. Within a community, lessons can be shared, explored, and even developed further so that new discoveries are made furthering the development of the community.

 

In order to see this kind of development within a community, however, the mindset of the forever-student must be present. We call it the "beginner's mind". The individual that, no matter how long they have been practicing, is able to maintain their "beginner's mind" and always come to their practice with intention to discover is the individual that will continue to stimulate and elevate the growth of the community. 

 

At Bristol Yoga, we are fortunate to share space with one particular individual who approaches more than just her yoga practice with the "beginner's mind", reminding us the value of approaching each day with the wonder of curiosity and intention to discover. 

 

This luminary individual is Heather Dotterweich!

 

1. When and how did you find yoga?

I first encountered a formal yoga asana class about 11years ago in the old Bristol Ballet studio, above the Blackbird Bakery. The teacher had spent 2 years in an ashram and was very fluent in her use of Sanskrit, but what felt more foreign were the positions, (basic asana) that my body was being asked to move into! However, an excellent teacher, and a growing awareness that I was connecting with something deep inside, kept me coming back to class.

 

2. Why did you choose to pursue teaching yoga?

Teaching comes fairly naturally to me, and I'd taught High School 'World Religion' in Scotland. However, I never set out to be a yoga teacher. It wasn't until year seven of practicing that the thought started to take root. So I spent the following year visiting lots of studios, doing various weekend courses, and talking to teachers to try and discern if this was right for me. Eventually, through a recommendation I found Lydie Ometto's Yoga Teacher Training school at Inner Sea Yoga in Johnson City. I graduated and began teaching 3 years ago, and that's when the learning really began, and still continues!

 

3. When and how did you come across mindfulness practices and what drew you to explore and teach mindfulness?

Several years ago I noticed more and more the numinous moments in life, where everything seemed to move beyond space, time, words and even thoughts, and I was left with a sense of just being. Often it would be times when I deliberately slowed everything down, and just paid attention: hanging laundry outside, watching a bird, a sunset, and the result was delicious! This experience is common to everyone, when we allow it! I then noticed that the term “Mindfulness”, (bringing awareness to the present moment) kept coming up, and realized that this is what I'd been accessing! I knew a little about meditation and assumed it was beyond me! Lydie talked about it's important connection to yoga, during my teacher training and we practiced a little. But it wasn't until I investigated further: seeing Mindfulness and meditation as a common thread running through the major religions, read some neuroscience research showing it's benefits, listened to several 'how to' courses, attended workshops and read some books, that I decided it couldn't be ignored! Most importantly, I tried it out, and I'm really pleased I did, now it's an integral part of my life and yoga teaching.

 

4. What have you learned from your mindfulness practices and your yoga?

I've learned that it does not make life's struggles disappear! But instead, makes life more doable!! I know my body better, my mind better, I have a deep compassion for myself, and all my foibles. There is a natural honoring that unfolds, and a sense of interconnection with all sentient beings! It's very liberating. It's been a paradigm shift!

 

5. What are you doing when you aren't teaching?

Cooking Indian food, reading Indian novels, watching British Murder Mysteries and documentaries. Reading about and doing yoga/meditation things. Hanging laundry outside, sitting under the cedar tree, dancing around in the house and singing, drinking coffee. Generally helping kids and husband around home, being very attentive to the cat! Going off on mini adventures.

 

6. What are 3 things you hope to learn or explore in the future?

I don't have any real clarity about the future. I do want to continue with my practice, which I hope will involve gaining more insight, but just really being open to the moment!

I'm presently enjoying teaching the students at Morrison School, and am excited to be sharing at Bristol Yoga again. I want to continue being a loving witness and support to my husband and children's unfolding life journeys, and to love and have curiosity about anyone and everyone everywhere!

 

We are so pleased too announce that Heather will be returning to share her practice with the Bristol Yoga Community starting in May on Tuesday Nights at 5:45 PM for Mindful Flow. If you need inspiration to connect with the present moment sooner than that, she will be sharing her Mindfulness and Meditation Workshop this Saturday, April the 16th at 2:00 PM!

 

 

Feature Teacher Presented by Marcy Hullander

Spring Recharge and Renew Retreat

Do you ever find yourself feeling uninspired? Drained? Feeling as if you have been running 100 MPH with no end in sight? Sometimes, when we are in the thick of the race of our lives, we can’t see just how hard we are working. We become so accustomed to a certain pace, it isn’t until we stop, step back, and consciously slow down that we realize just how fast we have actually been moving.

Spring season is already here and with this seasonal shift can come a sense of heaviness, dullness, and lethargy. According to Ayurveda, also known as “the science of life”, the sister science of yoga, spring is a season where excess elements of earth and water are present (think: “April Showers bring May flowers”). Earth and Water combine to create mud, a substance that is cool, sticky, and heavy. The combination of earth and water present in nature influences our mental and physical bodies creating a sense of heaviness, dullness, and lethargy; it manifests in knowing you have a to-do list 3 pages long but all you really want to do is take a nap.

If you are already feeling this way, feeling burned out and in need of an adult spring break, the temperature is only getting warmer and the intense heat of summer can be especially energy-zapping for some. For this reason, spring time is the perfect time to rev-up your self-loving rituals and treat yourself.
For this reason, we at Bristol Yoga have created the Spring Time Recharge and Renew Yoga Retreat hosted at the Art of Living Retreat Center in Boone, NC. Tucked away in the peaks of the Appalachian Mountains, this is a retreat for women geared towards helping you to re-connect with your inner goddess, recharging your emotional, mental and physical body and renewing your sense of purpose. When we connect to our divine feminine energy that is rooted in self-love, we can then harness the power of that love and align with our divine nature, finding a space in which we can nourish, nurture and sustain ourselves.

As if you needed any more convincing, here are 5 other reasons why the Recharge and Renew Yoga Retreat needs to be scheduled on your Spring Calendar.

  1. You will Deepen Your Yoga Practice
    This retreat will include daily guided Asana practices allowing you the opportunity to practice in a new environment and connect with your practice on a deeper level.

     

  2. You will have the opportunity to Detox Digitally
    Of course you have access to your personal electronic devices, however, being tucked away in the mountains gives you the perfect excuse to not respond to your email immediately.

     

  3. You will Eat Healthily
    The Art of Living Retreat Center will be providing fresh, delicious Ayurveda-inspired vegetarian meals prepared by a talented chef.

     

  4. You will Discover New Adventures
    Included in this retreat is a guided nature walk, creative workshop building yantra art as well as journaling practices and exploring self-care routines.

     

  5. You will forge Deeper Connections with Yourself and Those Around You
    This retreat is geared towards helping you to connect with YOU. When we are able to develop a deeper connection with ourselves, we operate from a more authentic place and in turn can deepen the connections with those around us.

To find out more about the Spring Recharge and Renew Yoga Retreat, check out the Bristol Yoga Center webpage at http://www.bristolyogacenter.com/retreats/ and even visit http://artoflivingretreatcenter.org/event-registration/?ee=171 to book your stay!

Feature Teacher: Nicole Dyer

Yoga means “to yoke, or unite,” to bring together in harmonious union. According to Sharon Gannon, co-founder of the Jivamukti yoga method, yoga is actually our natural state from which we, over time and with experience, drift away.  Much of what is learned through a yoga practice is how to re-unite the mind, body, and spirit, returning to our harmonious, natural state. Once we learn to live in union with our selves, understanding every facet of our own being, we can begin to live in harmonious union with those around us.

One member of the newest members to our Bristol Yoga Community lives this idea on and off of her mat. There is a saying in the yoga community that “one does not practice yoga for themselves, but for those around them.” This individual lives her yoga not only to find harmony within herself and her own life, but also to bring harmony to her community. As owner of White Birch Juice, promoting and educating her community on the value of a healthy lifestyle is a priority, and as a yoga teacher, this individual knows that a healthy lifestyle is not limited to the physical body, but includes your mind-body, emotional-body, and spirit-body.

Not only that, but this individual also knows in order for a person to live a truly, all-encompassing healthy lifestyle, they must also be in harmony with the life that surrounds them.

And this is why we at Bristol Yoga are so thankful to have Nicole Dyer as a member of our teaching community teaching others how self-love is actually a selfless practice.

Here are a few questions we asked Nicole to help you get to know her loving and generous spirit.

  1. What brought you to yoga and made you choose to pursue teaching?

  • Yoga came to me about 4 years ago. Once I started practicing I realized how I hadn't ever really taken the time to slow down and unite mind, body & breath. I was dealing with a small injury at the time, and saw the huge impact my practice had on my body, leaving me with no pain and left me constantly looking forward to being on my mat again. The moment I realized Yoga was so much more than learning poses, or asanas, and much more about loving yourself in order to give love to those around me, I wanted to share that feeling with others. I saw an incredible impact in my life on the way I started "responding" instead of "reacting" and wanted to share this with others too. This whole, new world started to open up for me and that was about the same time that huge changes in my life started (leaving my jobs to start my own business, become a Yoga teacher), and I really wanted others to have that same opportunity in their own lives. I then decided to go through a teacher training in Asheville; that is where I really learned that yoga is SO much more than simply calling yoga poses.


2. What does yoga mean for you?

  • What does yoga mean to me? I am always reminded of a quote one of my teachers shared with me, "You are perfect, absolutely perfect inside, but there is much work to be done." It is the constant reassurance that we were all born with this "blueprint" this makeup of who we are deep down, and it remains there in perfect form. As we pass through the journey of life, it becomes harder to see it, feel it and know it. By practicing yoga, slowing down and being still, listening, we can unite the mind, body and breath to get closer to original form of ourselves. By doing the work, and delving into ourselves for that deeper sense of knowing our being, we get closer to ourselves. By incorporating the poses, breath work & meditation I am able to come to this place of stillness and cultivate LOVE:) Without doing this, for me it is hard to take care of others, or continue to roll with whatever life likes to throw at me. Yoga for me is truly being present in the space between what has happened and what will.


3. Being the owner of white birch juice, how does yoga influence your work?

  • Yoga influences my work with White Birch Juice on a day to day basis. In terms of running a new, small business, I don't think I could imagine doing it without the outlook I have cultivated now. It helps me cope with stress, finding balance between work, relationships & what is really important. Like I mentioned before, I am grateful to have learned this way of finding balance and "responding" instead of "reacting," whether it’s simply being mindful and taking 3 deep breaths before doing anything else, or maintaining morning meditation so I can think clearly and calmly throughout the day. 


4. What are you doing when you're not teaching or making delicious juice?

  • When I'm not juicing, I am either practicing yoga, spending time with friends, cooking, being outside, especially rock climbing. I discovered climbing just this year and have been amazed how it is so similar to yoga, physically & mentally. "Yoga on the rock," its incredible!


5. Of all the places you have been in the world, where is your favorite place? And Of all the places you have not been in the world, where do you dream of going? 

  • Something about Peru, one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. I was there with my best friend from NH and it was just breathtaking. We lived in a small village called Ollantaytambo for several months volunteering. Bird’s eye view of Machu Picchu was probably the most breath-taking view I have ever seen. I really would love to visit New Zealand one of these days :)
     

If you need a little help bringing yourself into union, join Nicole on Tuesday afternoons at 12:15 PM for our 45 minute Flow-N-Go class and grab one of her freshly made juices from the fridge afterwards! The rest of your day will surely be charged with more awareness of your wellness.

 

Feature Teacher Presented by Marcy Hullander

Feature Teacher: Amy Davis

For many individuals first stepping on to the yoga mat, the relationship to the practice is purely physical. For some of these individuals, it may even stay that way, however, for the others, it does not take long before their relationship with their practice begins to evolve and take root somewhere deeper.

These individuals who feel their yoga beyond the musculoskeletal layer and experience their practice on a more subtle level can be described as “seekers”. A seeker is someone who does not settle for the norm, who does not conform to an externally-imposed standard, who is instead willing to shine bring light into the darkest of places seeking out what beckons to their most subtle level of being. Seekers are willing to take the necessary risks to answer the calls of their hearts’ deepest longings embracing the discomfort that may come from vulnerability, uncertainty, and questioning.

At Bristol Yoga, we are fortunate and thankful to share community with one particular individual whose bright seeking spirit speaks to our inner child reminding us to always remain curious and never stop exploring.

This beautiful glowing individual is Amy Davis!

Here are a few questions we asked Amy to help you learn why her presence is vital for your individual growth.
 

1. When and how did you find yoga and what made you decide to pursue teaching?
- I was very lucky to find yoga when I was still young--I started going to yoga classes regularly when I was fifteen. . . I realized then that yoga practice is a very special time--it gives your body and your mind a break from all of the simple forward, back, up, down of day-to-day life so that you can be something else, something more free like a pigeon, warrior, mountain, goddess, wild thing. Since then, no matter how inconsistent or lazy my practice sometimes has been over the last fifteen years, yoga has ALWAYS been a part of me, a basic fact of my existence. 

I decided to pursue teaching after college. As can happen to English majors, I had little direction and a lot of free time after graduation. I had been leading my friends for years with help from my David Swenson Ashtanga book. Teaching was fun, and I wanted to learn as much about yoga as I could, so I did some research and applied to Asheville Yoga Center's RYT 2000 program in 2009. I was excited for classes to start, but I didn't know that going to yoga school would be one of the best decisions I would ever make. Over the nine months of training, I starting becoming a real person and growing a soul. Teaching wasn't my number one reason for going to yoga school, but once I graduated, I was passionate about sharing yoga with others. 

 

2. What have you learned from your yoga practice?
-I've learned so much from my yoga practice, but what comes to mind is learning how to be uncomfortable. Yoga has taught me that both growth and routine can both be massively uncomfortable at times, but that discomfort is where the magic happens if you stay present with it. I used to hate pigeon pose; I resisted it in every class and had to force myself to practice it at home. Then one day, I was listening to my then-new Fiona Apple CD and she was singing something about being good at being uncomfortable. I thought if I could learn to be good at being uncomfortable, I could rule the world! Nothing would be awful! So pigeon pose became discomfort-practice, and I really sank my teeth into it, and over the course of...say...a decade, pigeon has become one of my favorite poses and a source of major physical and emotional release.

 

3. What are you doing when you are not teaching?
- When I'm not teaching, I'm usually at Kil'n Time! I'm very lucky to have a job that lets me be creative and help other people tap into their creativity (I promise, I will drag it out of you). Otherwise, I like to play with clay sometimes, read, and Instagram pictures of my cat. 

 

4. You are known around the studio and beyond for your creativity and artwork, what would you say your art means to you?
- I'm going to be very candid about my answer to this question! I am creative all day at work, even if I'm not painting something (and I rarely get to paint anything), which rules! But sometimes by the end of the day, I'm usually tapped. One day last year, one of our regular customers saw me working on a canvas painting for our weekly canvas class. "That's beautiful," she said, "but, Amy, what would you paint if you were painting something for yourself...to express yourself?" And I really couldn't think of anything--I spent the next week having a small breakdown and wondering who I was! I still haven't come up with anything concrete. So right now, I guess what my artwork means to me is an opportunity to figure out, as I'm making something, the answer to that question--what would I make for myself?

 

5. Speaking of artwork, what can you tell us about the artwork you are going to be featuring in the Bristol Bizarre Art Show at the end of this month?
- Turns out that something I would make for myself is clay hands, lips, eyes, and hearts for Bristol Bizarre. My friend Case is running the show, and she came up with the loose theme of a freak show/circus. I started with the idea of making clay dishes in the shape of hands with palmistry maps on them, and they turned out really cool! From there, I decided to focus my pieces for the show on body parts. I have hands with henna tattoos and knuckle tattoos (some with six fingers), eye pendants in different colors, lips with lip rings painted on, a couple of feet, some hearts, and one ear. I'm still working on everything, but I'm having a ton of fun with this theme and helping Case get the show together. Everyone should come out! Monday, February 29th at O'Mainnin's Pub from 8-12. 

 

6. What is something you hope your students take away from your teaching?
- What I most want my students to take from my teaching is that it really is THEIR practice, even if they're practicing in a big room with a lot of people. I want them to learn to respect and love their bodies, find their edges, and learn how to sit with themselves despite sometimes being uncomfortable. My home practice is the most vital part of my yoga life, and I want to empower them to have the tools to take yoga home with them and truly make their practice their own. 

As essential as it is for the seeking spirit to explore the burning questions of their inner child, it is equally essential to know how to come home to themselves in order to find the answers they seek. Amy can show you how to do just that on Monday nights at 7:15 PM in her Candlelight Vinyasa class. Join her and learn the depths of discovery that exist within you!

 

 

Feature Teacher Presented by Marcy Hullander

Feature Teacher: Jenny Nichols

Have you ever met anyone with a real appetite for life? You know, those people with the glow of eagerness in their eyes, eagerness to love, eagerness to learn, an eagerness to go, see, do, experience. These people are essential to a strong community. The people that are passionate about living and loving, they are the ones that serve to evolve the community and help it to continue to grow. The bright flame burning in their bellies that makes them hungry for knowledge is what inspires the spark in those they come into contact with driving them to do the same.

We are fortunate at Bristol Yoga to have another of our more recent members of the teaching community be this kind of person, the kind with the bright fire in her belly driving her to go, do, see, and learn all things. However, what makes this particular individual so special is more the fire burning in heart that inspires her not only to share all of her wisdom with the community, but to also love each individual so strongly.

 

This beautiful, bright spirit is Jenny Nichols! Here are a few questions we asked Jenny to help you see why you need to know her!

 

1. What brought you to yoga and how long have you been practicing?
- I have been practicing consistently since January 2011. I came to yoga to recover from my ultra-marathon trail races (distances over 26.2 miles). I was a member at the Bristol YMCA and utilized the Y to cross train, and noticed yoga was on the schedule. I came to Chelia Hopkins power yoga class and was immediately hooked. I started to venture to Asheville and Boone to several of the yoga studios there to experience all different styles of yoga and learn all I could.  Adriel and Victoria were also two of my first teachers during that time. 

 

2. Why do you continue to practice yoga?
- First and foremost, I'm always a student. Yoga is SO HUGE. That was the awesome gift of my teacher training, having the realization I was just now starting my journey and there is SO much to learn. I'm so excited about that! Also my personal practice is incredibly important to me - I feel it keeps me grounded and anchored. I feel taking classes for myself and practicing yoga at home daily is the "Windex" for my perception, it keeps my thinking clear and unclouded. 

 

3. What inspires you to teach yoga?  
- I love how happy doing yoga makes me feel, and I derive much fulfillment and happiness sharing that gift with others. 

 

4. When you are not teaching, what are you doing?  
- Raising two boys, I own a handmade jewelry and accessories business http//:www.mountainprimadonna.com, race direct a couple of charity road races in the tri-cities, and I love to trail run in the mountains. I have a blog about my running adventures http://jendenichols.blogspot.com

 

5. What inspired mountain Primadonna and what continues to inspire your artwork?  
- Mountain Primadonna is inspired by that duality that I feel every woman possesses: strong, adventurous, and tough as nails; whether it's taking care of a family (which is not for the faint of heart and an endurance event in its own rite), getting dirty/muddy running trails, sleeping under the stars while camping or finding fulfillment working in the dirt growing a garden, while also embodying the softer, divine feminine side. I feel every girl possesses that dualism.
I gain inspiration for my art from my yoga practice, spending time in nature, the kind people I meet every day, and the lessons I learn. I think many times my art is reflective of where I am in life and what is in my head that particular day I make jewelry.

 

6. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
- I would go to Nepal and trek amongst the 8000m peaks in the area. I am just drawn to them, and would love to experience the culture, visit some temples and have great adventures on top of the world. 

 

7. What are 5 things you cannot live without?
- 1. Coconut oil ( hey, i'm a yoga teacher! I have to say that! But seriously it has so many awesome uses) 2. My Manduka Eko-lite mat, 3. My running shoes 4. Ways to creatively express myself 5. Books

 

8. What is your spirit animal?
- The bear.  They are such beautiful strong and LOVING creatures. (Think BEAR HUG! :)) My brother Todd passed away in 2007 in a mining accident and he loved bears. When I run in the mountains near Damascus, spring, summer, and fall I see black bears and have never had a negative experience (they always run away). I'm never fearful at all because I feel it’s my sign that my brother's spirit watches over me and protects me. Honestly, when I see a bear my heart swells and I feel happy because it reminds me of Todd. He was an amazing person. 

 

9. What is the biggest lesson you have learned from your practice?
- Gratitude for impermanence. Life is constantly in flux. I used to really HATE that life would up and change on me, and it caused me so much suffering. Now, I'm thankful for getting to ride the ride, thankful for ALL it's experiences, lessons and teachers. This journey of life is such an amazing gift. I find myself now excited to wake up and see what each day brings, even if it's hard times. You can always choose to find the good and keep moving forward because things are constantly changing, THAT’S SUCH A WONDERFUL GIFT.  

 

10. What do you want your students to know?
- 1. Love yourself 2. "It's yoga PRACTICE, not yoga perfect." Just showing up – wow, THAT’S DOING THE WORK! That's all we need to do, just the best we can each day with what we have to give that particular day 3. Take your yoga off the mat, and share it with others.

 

This momma is just the bear hug you need anytime the weight of life starts to get a little heavy. If you find yourself lacking the spark you need to finish out your week, come see Jenny in the classroom on Thursday nights for Power Vinyasa at 5:45 PM and get your fire blazing!

 

Feature Teacher presented by Marcy Hullander

 

Why You Need Yoga During the Holidays

Do you ever have those moments where you look around and think, “How is it already December?” If you maintain a busy schedule, managing a career, a family, relationships, etc. you might not notice the holiday season sneak up on you until it’s too late.

In fact, if you haven’t noticed, you are here, December, full blown holiday season. The holidays are meant for taking time off, relaxing and connecting with family and friends, but if you are still swamped with work deadlines, last minute holiday shopping, or even coordinating holiday parties, it can be challenging to allow yourself the time to relax. Or maybe you even have some family members who you struggle to connect with and you have to try a little harder to find ease during your holiday festivities.

This is why you need yoga during the holidays.

When the holiday hustle picks up, it can be easy to taper off in your yoga practice. Prioritizing tying up loose ends at work before you take time off, cleaning, decorating, hosting friends and family, planning and preparing meals can leave very little time for your usual 8:30 AM Vinyasa practice or your Friday night Restorative class. It is the season of giving, right? So maybe you need to give a little less to yourself in order to give those around you an ugly Christmas sweater party they’ll remember for years.

This is even more reason why you need yoga during the holidays.

First, yoga teaches you to connect with the present moment. If you’ve been steady with your practice before the holiday season, you may have seen them coming back in October and allowed yourself the time to prepare. However, if you are just now waking up to the fact that it is the first week of December and you have done little, if anything, to prepare for the holidays, it is not too late. Learning to connect to the present moment through a yoga practice can keep you grounded while you make your last-minute preparations, preventing you from spinning off into a panic-driven holiday whirlwind.

Second, yoga, specifically pranayama, or breathing exercises, train you to find grounding presence through your breath and soothe your nervous system. There are certain breathing exercises meant for stimulating the parasympathetic division of your nervous system, the part of your nervous system that helps you to relax. If you are feeling frazzled, caught up in the fight or flight response of the sympathetic division of your nervous system, because you nearly burnt your holiday meal and that one family member that knows how to push your buttons wants to make sure you know you almost burnt the holiday meal, it may be challenging to regain your composure before dinner is served so you can truly be present with your friends and family. With a regular yoga practice and familiarity with different pranayamas, you can take a few moments to breathe, perhaps using the Samavritti Pranayama (Samavritti meaning “Equal Movement” – Inhale to the count of four, hold the inhale to the count of four, exhale to the count of four, hold the exhale to the count of four, and repeat) and mellow out before taking your place at the table.

Third, yes this is the season for giving, giving time, giving presence, giving love, but that doesn’t mean you should stop giving to yourself. In order give more, we have to receive more. You are more deserving of your own love and presence than anyone else. This may sound selfish, but when we focus so much on giving to those around us, neglecting ourselves, we drain our well of loving energy dry before our family even gathers around the table. When prioritizing your holiday to-do list, or even doing your last minute gift shopping, don’t leave yourself out of the mix. Give yourself the gift of your own loving presence, take time out to move and breathe on your mat, and fill your own cup with your love before serving others.

So if you find yourself getting more and more tense as the holidays draw nearer, whether it is because of your endless shopping and to-do lists or even the influx of travelers and consumers giving rise to traffic, remember to be generous with yourself this season and truly take the time to relax. Gift yourself with the gift of yoga, whether it is inside or outside of the studio, and give yourself some space to breathe.

 

Presented by Marcy Hullander

Teacher Feature: Marcy Hullander

In this spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving we are reminded to give thanks for our friends and family. At Bristol Yoga our Sangha (community) is our yoga family. We have thirteen instructors and each of us play a part in creating a sacred space for healing and personal growth.  All of us come to the mat from different places and for different reasons, each of us seeking refuge in the practice while we continue in the journey of exploration. Regardless of our purpose in the journey, yoga provides the tools for us to continue on our path.  As our journey unfolds we learn that without the presence of community and support there is no foundation for evolution.

The word yoga is Sanskrit, coming from the root yug which literally means to join or hitch together. This joining or union in the practice of yoga refers to building a bridge between our mind and body, a practice of building presence or one pointed concentration.  The discipline of yoga is a solitary practice to maintain, however, the magic that happens when you practice in a community with like-minded individuals is an unfolding. This unfolding happens as we become each other’s sideline cheerleaders. You may have experienced this yourself when practicing in community, as the sound of breath from the person next to you becomes a mantra or affirmation to keep going, dig in and uncover. This allows for a heightened awareness, encouraging each other to peel back the carefully placed layers guarding our metaphorical heart. Through the communion of movement, breath and meditation in a supportive environment we find ourselves together on the path to self-discovery. This work must take root in the place of love as it requires courage and vulnerability to uncover the deepest parts of ourselves.  Those parts that we keep hidden out of fear and shame as well as those we have buried in pain.  The Sangha is our well spring of support for this process, providing kindness, compassion and understanding. The empathetic shoulder for which we learn to lean in to. For when we look at our journey, we realize we cannot walk alone…As Ram Dass says: “We are all just walking each other home.”

One of our sideline cheerleaders, Marcy Hullander, has been with us since September of 2014.  She quickly became an integral part in creating a compassionate space for the Bristol Yoga Community to unfold. Her openness and willingness to hold the space for her students shows in her every day presence.  If you haven’t heard by now she has an affinity for post–it notes and is well known around the studio for littering love notes for all to find. She recently has taken her love for the arts to new heights, exploring herself and her personal journey on paper through intentional artistic expression.  Recently she co-founded Appalachian Luna Love, a company with the intention of sharing products of self – love, healing and inspiration. Check out her latest blog post on the new venture here. Whether she is on the mat or off the mat, she has shown us all the importance of embodying the practice of yoga.

What brought you to the mat?

 

I originally came to yoga in 2011 when I was living in Georgia. I had just graduated from college, finishing up my 13th and final year as a competitive swimmer and moved outside of Atlanta to start grad school. It wasn't really a choice I had made for myself; I was more or less on auto pilot, just following the path I thought I was supposed to, so, naturally, my second week into school I dropped out. I honestly had no clue where I wanted to go, what I wanted to do, much less who I was. Swimming was a huge source of stability and confidence for me growing up, so in this time of uncertainty, I was seeking stability on an emotional and mental level, but I only knew how to obtain that in the physical sense. So I gravitated towards what I was comfortable with and that was working with my body, but because of a knee and hip injury I had incurred in my last year of competing, my body couldn't withstand anything high impact. That was when I found a groupon for a Bikram studio in Marietta, Georgia offering 10 classes for 20 bucks. The Bikram tradition was EXACTLY what I needed at that time in my life. The 100 degree rooms brought the intensity I missed from training at the collegiate level, the format of the classes challenged me to better myself each round satisfying my competitive impulses, and the sequence brought my body into an alignment it had never even come close to before helping to rehab my injuries. After that, I was sold on yoga.  

What does Yoga mean to you and how has that evolved since you came to the practice?

 

Yoga to me now is very different from what yoga was to me when I first found the practice. When I first came to the mat, my relationship with yoga was purely physical. I wanted to push, I wanted to sweat, I wanted to be the best; more than anything, I wanted to wring myself out so completely that I could barely walk out of the studio. I laugh SO hard at myself when I look back at those days, because now it is the TOTAL opposite. Each day my practice becomes less and less about the asana. Yes, I do still practice asanas regularly, and yes, I do care very much about my physical practice, but now, my yoga is less about "how far can I fold here," and more about "how much can I unfold here." There is a big difference there. Before, I would go deeply into postures, but still remain very much on the surface of things. Now, I find myself gravitating more towards meditation, craving stillness, so I can bear witness to my own being and come to see and recognize myself. Yoga to me is a practice of unfolding, unfolding the layers of experience that pile up over time and cover the light of our hearts. Yoga is being humble enough to acknowledge how far you have strayed from your true nature and being brave enough to dig through the junk until you find it again. Yoga, to me, is coming home.

 

What inspires you to teach?  

 

What inspires me are those moments in the classroom when everyone comes together, all are present, and all are practicing with intention. You know it because you can hear it in the breathing and you can feel it in the room. It is amazing what happens when people come together in the energy of mindfulness, and then, watching how it permeates into their lives off of the mat. It really gets me jazzed. Witnessing the way mindfulness so completely transforms and softens people is what inspires me.  

 

How would you describe your teaching style? 

 

Ultimately, I would define my style as my own; I incorporate many different schools of practice when teaching, so you could even call it a blend. When I have small groups, I tend to geek out on alignment principles of the Iyengar and Anusara traditions of practice and focus on specific postures, but I love the freedom and expression of Vinyasa. Yin and Restorative are definitely my favorite styles to teach, because I love to watch what happens when people get still. But in every class my main focus is always breath. I love being a witness to breath.

 

How do you like to spend your time off the mat? 


My time off of the mat is spent pretty actively! I maintain a daily morning meditation and journaling practice, after which follows some combination of exercise be it swimming, running, or asana. If you know me, or have even seen my left arm, you know I have a sweet-angel-muffin-face (AKA dog) named Karma that I love to smother with love. Thankfully, she loves to do the same to me. I love the outdoors and enjoy hiking, camping, or just lying in the grass. I also spend a lot of time reading, writing blog posts for Bristol Yoga and painting, which you can now find my art in the reception area of Bristol Yoga. Most of all, I spend my time with family. I am very close to my family and love them all dearly, so I like to make the most of the time that I have with them.

 

What's been your biggest lesson since your yoga journey began? 


My biggest lesson so far has been ESTABLISHING BOUNDARIES. I feel like I am beating my head against the wall of this lesson at this point. And I know it will not go away until it has taught me what I am meant to learn. As a teacher, I am learning how absolutely necessary it is to take care of myself so that I may better take care of others. I am learning that boundaries are an ESSENTIAL part of self-care. Without proper boundaries, I have found I continue to make allowances for relationships in my life that completely deplete me and then I am left empty. Oh, and, ALWAYS TRUST YOUR GUT.  



What do you want your students to know?

More than anything, I want my students to know that the practice never ends. Yes, we step on to the mat, and we step off of the mat, but the practice goes on beyond what we do on the mat. It is never ending. What we do on the mat is a metaphor for what we do off of the mat. One of my fellow classmates in Teacher Training said this to me and I will never forget it, "We put ourselves in these uncomfortable positions on the mat, so we can learn to get comfortable in the uncomfortable situations that arise on and off of the mat." And with that, the most important thing to remember is to breathe.

 

Feature Teacher presented by Shelly Bullock

 

 

 

Feature Teacher: Alysse Baker

With the Thanksgiving Holiday quickly approaching, we are reminded, in the case that we have forgotten, to give thanks for the bounty in our lives.

At Bristol Yoga we are more than thankful for not only the gift of community, but the many gifts that come from each individual to our community, especially the gift of presence. Every time we come to our mats, we are giving the gracious gift of presence. This brings to mind another quote from Thich Nhat Hanh in his book You Are Here:

“What is loving? It is recognizing the presence of the other with your love. This is not a theory; it is a practice. Whether the object of your love is your heart, your in-breath, your physical body, or your baby, whether it is your son, your daughter, or your partner, your declaration of love is always the same. It is: ‘Dear one, I am here for you’ . . . When the other person realizes that his or her presence has been recognized and confirmed, he or she will blossom like a flower . . . If you embrace them with the energy of mindfulness, with your true presence, this energy is completely nourishing. It is like water for a flower . . . Your presence is the most precious gift you can give him or her. ‘Dear one, I am here, really here, for you.’”

In our last Feature Teacher post where we introduced you to the lovely Vicky Foster, we illustrated the garden of community. The Sangha, the body of community, serves as the foundation of soil which provides support to the flowers, each individual member of the Sangha. Here, Thich Nhat Hanh shows how presence acts as the water which feeds the flowers, our members, on their path toward personal growth. When true presence is mixed with the support of community, all within the community are seen, heard, and fed with love.

It is a gift in itself just to witness individuals flourish when fed by the loving presence of the Bristol Yoga Community. This instructor in particular, being one of our youngest instructors, has been inspiring to watch mature, blossom, and soften by surrendering to the support of love.

This sweet, vibrant flower is . . . Alysse Baker!

Here are a few questions we asked Alysse to help you get to know her sweet sense and gain insight into her transformation.

  1. What brought you to yoga?

    “The first time I did yoga I hated it. I went to massage therapy school in Blacksburg, VA and yoga was required before every class to get warmed up. Yoga kind of fell into my lap when I needed it. About 2/3 of the way through the massage therapy program, the same school offered a yoga teacher training program and by that time I had really noticed a difference in my body after practicing for a short 9 months. I was also 19 and wanted to explore places away from my hometown of Independence, VA for a little while longer so needless to say, I stayed.”

     

  2. How long have you been practicing?

    “Six years on and off.”

     

  3. If you could define your style, what would it be?
    “The teacher training program I went through was primarily Ashtanga based. Ashtanga greatly influences my style but over the years it’s developed into a mix. I want to say my style is along the lines of ‘power’, but not the way people typically think of ‘power’. In most peoples’ minds, when they think power, they think ‘hard’, or ‘I am going to be hurting after this’, and that’s not what I want my classes to be. What I really want is for my students to walk away feeling ‘empowered’. Yes, I like a strong practice, yes, I encourage you to go to your edge, but, more than anything, I want you to listen to the body! It’s YOUR practice, no one else’s. I want you to feel ‘empowered’ to make it into what you need!”

     

  4. What is your favorite posture/asana?
    “Virabhadrasana II or Warrior Two- It makes me feel physically strong but also very mentally and emotionally strong.”

     

  5. What does yoga mean for you?
    “Yoga for me is neither up nor down. Yoga is the happy medium whether you’re doing the physical practice or in other ways. In life we all have ups and downs. The ups feel amazing and the downs can feel tragic. Yoga is a way to check out of the roller coaster of life, even if it is for a short period of time.”

     

  6. What are you doing when you are not teaching?
    “Currently, I go to school at Northeast State finishing up an Associate’s degree in business administration and I work in the restaurant/bar industry when I need some extra money. I spend a lot of time with my dog, Opie, and try to visit my family in Grayson County as often as I can.”

     

  7. What is your spirit animal?!
    “A koala bear. =] I love to sleep and I love the smell of eucalyptus.”

     

  8. What are three likes and three dislikes you have in general?
    “I LOVE food, I like kids’ movies that make you cry because they’re so sweet/inspirational (ex: Homeward Bound when Shadow, the old golden retriever, walks over the hill after everybody thought he was gone forever), and there’s something special about snowy days.
    I dislike judgement, people making fun of others who can’t defend themselves, and the color red.”

     

  9. Who is/are the most influential person/people in your life?
    “I would say my grandma. Growing up I always thought she was crazy, but now I realize that she’s probably the smartest person on Earth.”

     

  10. What is the most important lesson you have thus far learned from your yoga?
    “Balance- on and off the mat. I’ve never been a big fan of moderation, but yoga has helped me prioritize and get my life back together. It’s helped me figure out what’s important, sometimes that means buckling down and sometimes it means letting your hair down.”

Through the support of the soil of Sangha and the nourishment from the water of loving presence, Alysse continues to bloom more fully into the beautiful woman empowered by love that she is today. If you want to break a sweat in the presence of this sweet, koala-goddess, come find her Tuesdays afternoon at 12:15 PM for a 45 minute Flow-n-go, then again Tuesday evening at 7:15 for Vinyasa. If you want to find the “power” in the feeling of being “empowered”, catch her Thursday nights at 5:45 PM for Power Vinyasa and Saturday afternoon at 1:00 PM for Vinyasa.

 

Feature Teacher presented by Marcy Hullander

Feature Teacher: Maggie Fuller

One of the pleasures of being a part of the Bristol Yoga Community is watching individuals within the community grow and evolve. Each member of our sangha, our community, both students and teachers, color our Bristol Yoga Community with their personalities.
 

One individual that it has been a pleasure to watch grow and develop into the radiant individual she is now has been one of our newest teachers to join. This individual first came to our studio as a student. Over time, as her practice developed on the mat, so did a desire to take her practice off of the mat. Trusting her instincts and fueled by her testimony to the transformative benefits of the practice, this individual chose to participate in the first Yoga Teacher Training program offered by the Bristol Yoga Center. Upon completion, she was eager to serve the members of the Bristol Yoga sangha, and we were more than happy to welcome her.

This is individual is… Maggie Fuller!

Here are a few questions we asked Maggie to help you get to know her better:

 - What brought you to Yoga?

I could answer this question in too many ways to count, but I think what ultimately brought me to the practice was my need for something, anything really, to help me help myself. I was previously diagnosed with ADHD, social anxiety, bipolar disorder, and I have struggled with depression since I was an adolescent. I eventually got tired of always trying new medications, and just being on so many different meds. I felt as if I was losing myself even more to the drugs. But, that's when my mom found Bristol Yoga, and asked me if I would go with her. I had practiced on my own before, reading all kinds of yoga books, blogs, and watching videos on YouTube, but actually coming into the studio for practice was a whole new world. Because of yoga, I successfully came off of all my medications, signed myself up for teacher training, and changed my life for the better. I've found myself again, and life's never been so good!

 - If you could define your style, what would it be?

I was trained in Hatha style yoga, but I would say my personal style ranges. Besides traditional Hatha, I enjoy Yin, restorative, and flowing practices the most. In my classes, I love balanced connected, choreographed flows with mindful stillness.

 - In general, what are 3 likes and 3 dislikes you have?

I couldn't live without Asian cuisine, the many works of JRR Tolkien, and my family (my soul family as well as my blood). I can't stand centipedes, narcissism, and the zombie people who can't put their phones down. 

 - What are you doing when you are not teaching?

When I'm not teaching, I'm working at a Highlands thrift shop in Abingdon. Come visit me! And besides that, you can find me hiking around Cherokee Forest or just watching Netflix at home, procrastinating on all my unfinished art projects. 

 - What is the biggest lesson your yoga has taught you so far?

Yoga helped me find my innermost truth, my true self. I've come to realize that there's nothing wrong with me. I am not a diagnosis, I am not a size, and I most certainly am not normal. I am ME and I am beautiful. More than anything, I strive for my students to know that they too are absolutely nothing but beautiful. 

It has been such a pleasure to see this beautiful butterfly unfold herself from her cocoon and emerge into the ethereal teacher she is today. Her presence is one that will leave you floating on your commute home. You can find Maggie in the classroom Mondays at 4:30 PM and Wednesdays at 6:15 PM leading Yoga for Everybody. Come be inspired with beauty.

Bristol Yoga Teacher Feature brought to you by Marcy Hullander

The antidote to combat stress in your daily life: Restorative Yoga

Bristol Yogini: Marcy Hullander-RYT talks about the benefits of Restorative Yoga

Why restorative? 

 

Restorative yoga is often referred to as the "antidote to stress". How often do you say to yourself, "If I can just get through this week"? Do words like "frazzled," "anxious" or "drained" appear in your mental vocabulary? Is it ever a struggle for you to get to sleep at night? These are just a few "symptoms" of stress. We, as a society, have become so accustomed to stress that we don't even recognize when it is present in our lives. 

According to the American Psychological Association, there are three categories of stress; acute, episodic, and chronic. For most of us, all three are present in some form. 

1. Acute stress - short in duration and most common; think skiing down a steep slope, skydiving, running late to work, stressing over deadlines, or worrying about conversations had or those still to be had. Acute stress can manifest physically in muscular tension, back pain, tension headaches, and in the bowels through acid reflux, constipation, diarrhea. 

2. Episodic stress - is acute stress suffered frequently. The feeling of always being in a rush but always late, being unable to get organized, taking on too much, and "never having enough hours in the day". Symptoms of episodic stress are the same as those of acute stress but over extended periods of time manifesting in persistent tension headaches, migraines, hypertension, chest pain, and heart disease. 

3. Chronic stress - is the opposite of acute stress. Acute stress comes in short, sometimes exciting bursts, whereas chronic stress is a slow, continual grind experienced in dissatisfying jobs or unfulfilling marriages. Chronic stress is most commonly ignored because individuals become so familiar with it that they forget it is there. This form of stress can manifest physically through violence, heart attacks, stroke, and potentially even cancer. 

Does any of this sound familiar? 

If it does, don't worry, I have already told you there is an antidote: Restorative Yoga. 

Restorative yoga helps combat the ailments that manifest from stress because of the way it engages the parasympathetic division of our autonomic nervous system (ANS). When we are stressed, we are spending all of our time in the sympathetic division of the ANS, in "Fight-or-Flight" mode, or survival mode. When our body goes into survival mode, all essential-but-non-essential-at-the-moment-because-we-think-we-are-dying functions like digestion, processes of elimination, growth, reproduction and repair, (everything governed by the parasympathetic division of the nervous system) are shut down. Restorative yoga encourages you to spend time in the parasympathetic division of your nervous system so these essential functions can re-engage and the body can begin to heal grow and repair. 

One SUPER simple way to help engage the parasympathetic division of your ANS, is by exhaling. 

So the next time you find yourself in one of the stressful situations, close your eyes, take a deep breath in through the nose, then sigh out through your mouth. Observe how the release of the breath makes you feel and repeat this three times.  When you get home in the evening and are lying in bed trying to fall asleep but the dialogue of your day is still on loop in your mind. Bring your attention to your breath, start counting the length of your inhales and exhales, then start to extend the count of your exhales to be a little longer and notice how your body feels as the parasympathetic division starts to engage as you drift into sleep. -

Marcy Hullander - RYT

Check out Marcy's Upcoming Workshop:

Exploring Yin in the midst of Yang 

In our modern, fast-paced society, many of us rarely find time to slow down and, oftentimes, lose touch with ourselves in the midst of all the hustle. This constant state of hustle can lead to fatigue, stress and exhaustion. Learn how to find stillness with an understanding of the Yin and Yang energy within. Join us at the studio for a restorative yin practice where we will explore the koshas, or 5 bodies, chakras, and settle into stillness. Allow yourself the opportunity to reconnect with your true self.  

Sign up here

Find out what a daily yoga practice brought to this Bristol Yogi!

I have struggled with stress, addiction, and depression during my life. Exercise is a form of therapy for me. I love to lift weights and walk my dog, but I have to say yoga calms me more than any other physical training. That's probably due to its focus on mindfulness and conscious breathing, which can reduce the symptoms of stress significantly over time.

 

Read More

Yoga Challenge Complete: We are blown AWAY!

All of us at Bristol Yoga are proud of the dedicated Yogis making their way to class during the month of January. Some of you we see every day, some almost everyday and others at least every week.  Those of you that entered our challenge our headbands are off to you. We are BLOWN AWAY by your dedication! You set a goal, you made time for yourself and you allowed us to be apart of it. Whatever your goal was, whether you completed 10 classes, 20 classes or 30 classes, it is not the amount but the journey you took each day. Making your way to class, unrolling your mat and committing to the practice takes dedication. We THANK YOU, for sharing your time and your YOGA with us. Our January Challenge has come to a close but we are still seeing all of you come to class, taking a place on your mat and sharing in the Yoga. Whatever your yoga needs to be for you, whether we are in a quiet, restorative practice or a funky, up tempo flow, it is all Yoga with a purpose. It is where we find refuge, quietude, healing and community. 

Yoga at its origin means to "yoke", bring together or unite. This practice of yoking as it applies to the ancient science of yoga brings the emotional and physical bodies together to achieve a clarity or bliss. In our Bristol Yoga space we have found this yoking to include a growing community. We feel honored and grateful you have chosen us as your community. Thank you for allowing us to share in your journey.

The light in us thinks the light in each and every one of you is AWESOME!

~Namaste~

Shelly & The Bristol Yoga Tribe

Check out the insights from Bristol Yogi: Daniel Wallen, he completed 31 classes in January. This included a Monday through Friday 6 am Sunrise Class. He committed himself to the routine and the practice, making his goal a reality. We think his insights ring pretty true for most new Yogi's beginning a consistent practice. Including all the ups and the downs he gives us a honest view. Maybe something rings true for you? Feel free to read back through his journey in previous posts. On a side note: The Sunrise Class is growing and we are having so much fun at 6 am it is criminal, Come see for yourself! 

"01/26 Sunrise w/ Marcy

Cues are a key ingredient of any yoga practice. Put simply, cues are the words teachers use to guide students into a yoga pose.

You might have noticed most teachers only use a small number of cues at a time. That's because using too many in a row would overwhelm most people.

Don't get upset if a particular cue doesn't make sense. Some of them still make me scratch my head if I'm being honest. It's nothing to worry about, though. There are a lot of ways to describe every movement.

As you practice, you will start to realize some cues resonate with you more than others. Be mindful of the ones that click most. You might even want to modify a cue by putting in your own words. That will make it easier to remember. Remind yourself of that cue every time you encounter a pose to improve your form.

01/27 Sunrise w/ Victoria

 It's interesting how some people struggle to be still during corpse pose at the end of class. I used to be one of them, but have learned to appreciate the silence, because it rejuvenates me. 

Victoria did something at the end of class that I'm definitely going to remember. She read a section out of a book called “Buddha's Brain.” This seemed to help the people who get distracted  in corpse pose. 

That section discussed a concept called Equanimity. The goal is to reduce stress by minimizing your emotional reactions. If someone cuts you off or skips you in line at the grocery store, you don't have to react to it. You could just shrug it off like it didn't happen. Reacting to every little thing that happens will steal energy that could be directed to a more productive purpose. If you can't change it, try not to react to it.  

01/28 Sunrise w/ Shelly

I'm starting to understand how a teacher could select a small number of poses and combine them in different ways to create a unique class experience.

For example, the Warrior poses could be held for a long time (more than 30 seconds) to create a strong foundation and improve your posture. Those same Warrior poses could be held for 5-10 seconds and combined with a couple of other poses like down-dog and cobra to create a flow style that trains the cardiovascular system. And you could throw in some core movements to make things more interesting.

I used to be overwhelmed by the idea of having to make a bunch of different classes so people wouldn't get bored. It's funny how things can seem so complicated in your head. Now I know I could just change-up things like the order of the poses, how many seconds you hold each pose, and the cues (what to focus on during a pose) to keep things interesting. I am so glad I wouldn't have to reinvent the wheel.

01/29 Sunrise w/ Victoria

This was a difficult class for me. There were a couple of poses that I couldn't do at all, so I caught my mind drifting to a negative place. If nothing else, I am more mindful of this tendency now, so I'm usually able to prevent a full-blown case of self-loathing (a feeling I used to know very well). That might seem blunt, but I think it's good to be vulnerable, because another person could relate with the situation and be comforted in the knowledge that they are not alone.

01/30 Sunrise w/ Marcy  

Whoa, I just made it through 30 classes in a row! The funny thing is everybody else seemed to be way more excited about it than me. That's probably because I just focused on going to one class at a time to make my goal look less intimidating... which totally worked, so I recommend giving it a try – small steps can add up to massive changes over time as long as you can be patient.  

Speaking of small steps, I've noticed that changing one tiny thing can make transitions from one pose to another feel more fluid. Marcy suggested placing our hands on our knees while moving from low lunge to warrior, which made that transition feel less awkward than normal. Don't get in the habit of assuming you need to make a BIG change for things like this. Sometimes a little one will do the trick.

01/31 Yoga for Every Body w/ Marcy 

Have I shared that I'm a very introverted person? I think so, but maybe it wouldn't hurt to remind you. It's nice to meet people, but large crowds freak me out.  

I mention that, because the parking lot was FULL today. I'm kinda proud of myself for not pulling a U-turn and going back home! The yoga studio was so packed that Marcy didn't even have enough space to use her yoga mat, so she just stood up and moved around the room the whole time.  

That was fine by me, because it can be hard to know if you're doing a pose correctly without feedback. Individual adjustments can help you improve your posture and get deeper into a pose. I also feel safe in classes with mobile instructors, because it seems like the teacher is completely aware of his or her surroundings. That's something I definitely want to provide when I start to teach.

 Check this blog in a few days, because I'm working on an introspection post about what yoga means to me. I'll reveal some of the major lessons I learned during my daily challenge. Namaste! "

Yoga Everyday: With Practice we find Patience & Perseverance on the Mat.

We are almost at the end of our January Challenge and Bristol Yogi, Daniel Wallen continues to give us insights into his growing yoga practice. What his practice means to him, how he is evolving in his practice and what he finds interesting or challenging. Check out last weeks insights, maybe you can relate to his growing awareness that this "yoga thing" runs deeper than just practicing poses. 

01/19 Sunrise w/ Marcy 

It is best not to get hung up on the fact that your performance will vary on a day-to-day basis. Since this class occurs at the crack of dawn, it should come as no surprise that the top culprit of such fluctuations is quality of sleep. 

Studies show a poor night of sleep can affect your performance so much that you might as well be drunk. This fact becomes apparent when I find myself getting so dizzy that I almost fall on my butt during a balance pose. 

All of that said, it's also best not to get hung up on the fact that you will naturally sleep better some nights than others. For some reason, I have a much harder time on Sunday and Monday than other days. I started to follow a bed-time ritual a few weeks ago, which has made a big difference, but I still have a difficult night sometimes (and that's okay – the important thing is to improve your average). 

01/20 Sunrise w/ Victoria 

It's good to aim high in your ambitions; but at the same time, I think it's best to turn big goals into small steps so you can build confidence along the way (trust me: this is a lot more encouraging than expecting yourself to be “perfect” on your first try). 

Victoria is showing us some neat ways to woke up to hand-stands in baby steps. She had us set-up with our shoulders against a door frame and palms planted on the floor. Then you slowly walk your feet up the other side of the door frame as far as you can go. I only got halfway up today, but that's okay. All I have to do is take a few more steps every time we practice and I'll get there. 

A fellow class-member named Tang nailed her first assisted hand-stand today. She was very excited, because going upside down is a big fear for her (I know that feeling). This is one of the neatest aspects about group classes. It's motivating to witness other people's progress. There's also an accountability factor since everybody would wonder where I was if I just randomly decided to stay in bed one day. 

01/21 Sunrise w/ Shelly 

It's humbling how you can start to think you have a good handle on this yoga thing, but then an instructor decides to throw a bunch of unusual poses at you to keep you on your toes. 

Part of me hates change. The other part of me knows comfort is the enemy of growth. That doesn't mean you can't relax, have fun, and enjoy yourself. However, true transformation (physical or mental) can't occur if you don't challenge yourself to grow. Remember that the next time you're tempted to glare at your yoga teacher. 

01/22 Sunrise w/ Victoria 

Remember how I mentioned setting the simple goal of taking baby steps forward is a good way to stay motivated? I made that point when I was talking about hand-stands on 01/20. 

That's relevant, because we practiced assisted hand-stands again today, and I walked my legs a lot farther (over my head versus halfway up the door frame this time). My mind didn't resist nearly as much, either. 

If I thought “I'm going to stand on my hands without assistance,” then I would have failed and felt bad about myself (even if I did a little better than last time). This phenomenon is common in people who are trying to lose weight. They get mad at themselves for “only” losing a pound, which is silly, because they would look like a completely different person if they did that consistently for a long time. 

The point? Celebrate every tiny victory, no matter how insignificant it might seem. Baby steps taken over and over again will take you farther than you can imagine. Fussing at yourself won't help you achieve your goals any faster, so you might as well stop being in such a hurry. Any time you get frustrated, take a few deep breathes. You need to be patient and self-compassionate to with yourself.

01/23 Sunrise w/ Marcy

I appreciate the healthy balance of class styles at Bristol Yoga. Marcy's classes always fall on Mondays and Fridays, which is neat, because they are a great way to book-end the week. 

Her focus on the mindful aspects of yoga help you start the week with heightened awareness. And her tendency to focus on gentle hip opening stretches helps you ease into the weekend feeling relaxed. 

Meanwhile, Victoria's classes are more physically demanding. It works out well that her classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays. That gives Marcy the chance to warm us up before Victoria kicks our butts on Tuesday. Then Marcy provides us with a well-deserved cool-down on Friday. 

I'm not sure Shelly and her instructors intentionally planned their class schedule with these thoughts on their minds, but regardless, the structure makes sense strategically. I enjoy this set-up, because the variety of styles and intensities make the whole experience more fun and interesting. 

01/24 Yoga for Every Body w/ Heather 

Heather is who got me interested in teaching yoga to begin with, so it was nice to see her in class today (she got sick and hadn't been able to teach because of that). 

I started going to Heather's yoga classes at the YMCA during a stressful time and they were very soothing for me. I always left feeling a lot lighter than I did when I walked in. 

It's neat how exercise – especially yoga, in my experience – can serve as an emotional outlet or mental vacation away from the things that are bothering you. It is essential to have a healthy outlet, because poor habits are born when you're struggling with something and don't have a way to cope with it. 

This is why I refer to addiction as a “misplaced coping mechanism.” I don't think many addicts actually derive satisfaction from their negative habits (Note: this is coming from a guy who used to be addicted to several things).

Instead, they are trying to escape from a problem, but fail to realize they are creating a bigger problem in the process (Read: the habit gets so entrenched that it becomes an automatic behavior the addict would feel “empty” without).  

You could intentionally replace a poor habit with a healthy one like I did. The first step is to understand your triggers (what provokes the habit?). That's usually stress or upset feelings of some kind. Next, you would rewire your brain by performing the healthy habit every time that trigger occurred. It takes time and effort, but eventually you should find that the urge to smoke (or whatever) gradually diminishes. 

I talked about this in a blog called 7 Things to Remember When You Don't Feel Like Exercising recently. You can read it here if you need more reasons to get off your butt and go to yoga class.  

01/25 Warm Yin-Yasa w/ Shelly 

It might seem like your progress occurs at a steady pace if you're new to yoga, but I can promise it won't always stay that way. As you get better, your rate of progress will become less predictable. 

You might become excellent at some yoga poses in a hurry. Others might be so challenging that you feel stuck for a long time. I'm not a psychic, so I can't claim to know what yoga poses you struggle with, but I bet you know the feeling. 

It might help to understand why some poses take longer to master than others. It could be due to your anatomy. Handstands and balance poses are scarier for tall people (they have a lot farther to fall). Women might have a harder time with planks than men, because they don't have as much upper body strength. Elderly people need to be more cautious in general, because muscles become frail as we age.

Don't compare yourself to other people in class. It will only make you feel bad about yourself. Besides, your rate of progress is influenced by so many variables that comparing yourself would be an exercise in futility. Acknowledge the reality that some poses will always be harder than others and there is nothing you can do about it. That might sound depressing, but it isn't. Maybe you'll feel less pressure now that you know it's just a part of the human experience. -Daniel Wallen 

"You will never change your life until you change something you do daily. The secret to your success is found in your daily routine"~ John C. Maxwell 

Week 2 Yoga Challenge at Bristol Yoga: Moral of the story = "throw a tantrum"

If you are following the insights of Bristol Yogi, Daniel Wallen, you will be interested to read his latest journal entries from this past week. He has decided to complete thirty classes in thirty-one days for January. He still considers himself new to yoga and this challenge is a way of taking his practice to the next level. Check out his take home gems from his classes with Bristol Yoga. 

"01/05 Sunrise w/ Marcy

I love how different teachers use different genres of music. I have worked with five different teachers at Bristol Yoga so far and they all use music that fits their personality and class style. I enjoyed Marcy's  music so much that I couldn't help asking her to write down the band's name (it was Cantoma if you're curious).

Thinking about this made me wonder what kind of music I would use in a class when I start teaching. I have been listening to a lot of classical music lately, because it helps me focus on my work as a writer... maybe I could be known as “the male yoga teacher who sets his classes to moving music that was composed by dead guys with funny hair.”

01/06 Sunrise w/ Victoria

Remember how I mentioned the concept of reference points in my first journal entry? Victoria used a transition that will serve as a good one. Hero pose is tough for me, but Victoria had us spend almost a full minute in child's pose right before it, and it made a really big difference.

Victoria told us a story about how she was in a big hurry to get to class. She lost track of time, panicked, rushed up the stairs, tripped, fell down, and ended up with a bump on her foot. She called this a valuable lesson about how it is best to stay calm and focus on the present moment, especially in times of stress.

That was relevant to me, because I sped the whole way to class this morning. I was paranoid about the possibility of getting pulled over the whole time. I usually take my showers before bed, but I was exhausted last night, so I decided to save it for the morning (bad idea). After I dried off, I looked at my clock and said some swear-words, because I only had ten minutes to make it to class.

It's funny how little things can seem like a big deal while you are going through them. I should have just drove the speed limit without worrying, because I was registered for this class, and I know Victoria would have given me a few minutes to arrive before she locked the door. Also, I am a creature of habit, so I shouldn't have changed my routine in the first place since I'm fully aware that I thrive with consistency.

01/07 Sunrise w/ Shelly

Today we practiced a movement that will help with hand-stands later (I can't do those or head-stands yet – going upside down still freaks me out at this point). I'll describe that movement just in case that helps you can picture it.

You begin in down dog, walk your feet forward a few steps, and try to kick one leg up at a time in a hopping motion. I hadn't really tried that before. It's interesting how new and disruptive challenges can make it harder to focus on poses that you already have a decent handle on (let's just say my lunges were a lot more rocky than usual!).

01/08 Sunrise w/ Victoria

I've noticed a couple of ways that yoga teachers can help their students get closer to their edge (the maximum stretch that you can achieve safely without experiencing pain). Victoria used both of them today. She had us perform a total of 14 sun salutations with these poses:

Mountain → Fold → Flat back → Fold → Lunge → Plank → Lunge → Chaturanga → Up dog → Down dog → Volcano → Repeat

This resulted in a cardiovascular benefit since the quick pace got the blood flowing and heart pumping. Conveniently, warming the body up in this way can help you get deeper into difficult poses. My hips are far more flexible than they used to be, but they're still a bit tight generally speaking. Today I got much deeper into a lunge than I ever had before.

 

It's worth mentioning that Victoria had the class get into a one-legged down dog before every lunge, but for some reason that makes it a lot harder for me to space my legs out, so I started to leave that part out of the sequence halfway through the class to save myself some trouble. While most people should follow the instructor as completely as they can, I feel there are times where it is okay to modify things based on what you learn about your body.

01/09 Sunrise w/ Marcy

Marcy started today's class with a highly focused segment on breath control. She accomplished this by introducing us to a technique called ujjayi pranayama, which is commonly referred to as “ocean breath” since that is exactly what it sounds like in practice.

I couldn't breathe through my nose as she instructed, but I didn't let that frustrate me. Maybe my nose was stopped up due to allergies or maybe my practice isn't in a place where that is possible yet. Whhatever the case may be, I just breathed through my mouth as deeply and audibly as I could (you know you're doing it right when your exhales sound like Darth Vader).

I recently read a book called “The Willpower Instinct.” The author, Kelly McGonigal, discusses how a meditation practice can improve your willpower. Meditation is all about redirecting your focus back to your breath when you get distracted. Likewise, success is all about redirecting your focus to your goal when you want to give up. She mentioned a neat tip that helped me in this class. To slow down your exhales, pucker your lips as if you are blowing through a straw while you release your breath.

01/10 Yoga for Every Body w/ Shelly

It seemed like Shelly mentioned a modification for the overwhelming majority of poses in this class. I made a mental note of that, because that's something I will need to be mindful of when I am a teacher. On a similar note, today reminded me of a limiting belief I had when I started going to yoga classes.

I used to see props (i.e. blocks and straps and blankets) as bad things. I was very rigid when I began and it didn't help that I was also incredibly self-conscious of that fact. If I was in a class full of people who could do a pose without assistance, I felt ashamed that I couldn't accomplish the same thing. Now I know that was silly, but I bet a lot of people feel the same way. The rest of this journal is for them.

Please don't feel “inferior” if you can't do a pose without assistance. Every person is starting their practice from a different place. The other people in that class could have been practicing for years. If you just started this month, then you're obviously not going to be as skilled as they are. Comparing yourself to other people won't do you any good. Be thankful for the body you have and be patient with the process of making it stronger. Props will help you achieve that safely, so use them if you need to!

01/11 Warm Yin-Yasa w/ Shelly

Today Shelly had us do something fun and unexpected called tantrumasana. We were laying on our backs and she asked us to start beating the ground with our hands and feet as hard as we could.

I can't speak for everybody, but I felt relieved afterward. A lot of us walk around carrying a lot of bagging in the form of stress, anxiety, and upset feelings. If we don't have an emotional outlet (i.e. meditation, vigorous exercise, or a trusted friend to talk to, then feelings can end up festering inside.

This is why I kept a private stream-of-conscious journal several months ago. My life got turned upside-down for reasons that are beyond the scope of this blog, but suffice to say I was feeling very stressed. Writing down my feelings without filter – no matter how nasty they were! – helped me get the junk out of my system every morning.

Moral of the story = if you're feeling down, try throwing a tantrum or keeping a journal (maybe even yell in a pillow while you're at it – I bet you'll feel better after the fact)." - Daniel Wallen

January Yoga Challenge with Practitioner: Daniel Wallen Week 1

Bristol Yogi, Daniel Wallen has committed to 30 classes in 31 days for the month of January. He is diving into the practice of Yoga in preparation for his Yoga Teacher Training at Bristol Yoga this Spring. As a health coach and wellness advocate he understands the importance of daily movement and stress management. Yoga is fairly new to Daniel and he is curious about all hype. Why is Yoga a predicted top ten fitness trend in 2015? As Daniel reveals in excerpts from his daily yoga journal, it is evident that Yoga is not just some fitness trend. It is an ancient tradition of bringing balance to the mind, body and spirit.

Daniel's New Year started off a little rocky with a serious family medical issue. He could have let this stop him from continuing with his commitment to a daily practice. Instead he found that Yoga and breathing exercises (pranayama) kept him steady through the stressful situation.

Read about Daniel's experience, maybe something rings true for you too!

"01/01/15: 2pm Hot Yoga Detox

I didn't write down much today, because my mom has been very sick and that is all that has been on my mind. However, I can say this class was a very welcome escape from all of that. I have an addictive personality, which has produced some pretty nasty habits in the past.

It's been a while since I've been addicted to anything (except coffee)... but it had also been a while since I've faced something so upsetting as my mother being so sick, that it could make me regress (stress and upset feelings were my biggest triggers). I'm pleasantly surprised that I didn't even feel the urge to smoke a cigarette or anything like that. I just wanted to lift weights, go to yoga class, and walk my dog. Exercise is a really good emotional outlet. I look at it like something that refuels me, not something that drains me.

01/02/15: 6am Sunrise Class

Victoria said something that made me chuckle today. She told me to “space out my long gorgeous legs” while I was in Warrior II. I was able to add some distance between them without much of a problem. It felt weird at first, as I'm not used to such a wide stance, but then it felt normal after a few seconds. Maybe my body has adapted to that pose (remember: there was a time that I didn't have anything resembling balance) and now I need to make it a bit harder to get the full benefit?

Also, the fear of looking dumb is a limiting factor for me. This comes out in full force on day #1 of any new class. I gradually get over it past that point, though – patience is a virtue as they say. We practiced crow pose and head-stands, which are not exercises that I'm good at, and it was crazy how noisy my thoughts got when I started to worry about that. I have gotten pretty good at being able to laugh at myself, which is helpful, but sometimes I lose that skill in situations that are stressful or unusual. 

01/03/15:  10am Yoga for Every Body

I can never go straight into down-dog correctly and it used to really frustrate me. One day Shelley told me I should be able to transition straight from plank to down-dog and that made all the difference. My brain might automatically remember flawlessly one day, but until then I am using plank (or the push-up position) as a “reference point” which I always go to before transitioning to down-dog.

Maybe it would be possible to use a similar approach with other poses that are difficult? I'll be looking for more ways to use a reference point to transition into tricky poses." -Daniel Wallen

REMEMBER: The most important thing in our own lives, is our OWN LIFE! Without our life, nothing else exists. We must take care of ourselves: our mind, body & spirit in order to care for those around us. Finding time for your Yoga practice, whether at the studio or at home is a way of bringing balance to this crazy ride called life. 

Stay tuned for more insights from Daniel on his January Yoga Journey