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.

 

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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