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! "

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