Yoga for every BODY with Emily Adams RYT

Have you always wanted to try yoga but are too nervous to take that first step? Or have you tried a class but felt like you needed a little more help to figure out what works for your body? Then Curvy Yoga might just be for you!

A friend asked me to attend yoga class with her for a year but I wouldn't go with her. She was athletic and skinny and I was... well, not athletic and skinny. I was certain that I would be the biggest person in the class and I wasn't sure I would be able to do what was asked. A year later I was still thinking about yoga and finally went to my first class (without that friend!). Attending weekly classes helped me de-stress, increased my mobility, and decreased my shoulder and hip pain. I began to notice and to listen to how my body felt in different poses and throughout my day. I began to take my yoga off the mat and bring more calm to my life. I began to learn to show kindness to myself.

Curvy Yoga is a safe place for you to practice yoga and explore slight differences in poses to find what works for your body. Making slight modifications can sometimes be necessary for proper alignment and safety in a bigger body. It's a place to learn how to use all those props in the studio. It's a place to figure out what to do when your left elbow doesn't reach the outside of your right knee in a twist. Yoga helps you to learn body awareness and you might just begin to understand what that yoga teacher means when she says "what is your pinky toe doing right now?" 

Isn't Curvy yoga just like regular yoga? Why do we need it? Because there are people like me who were afraid to go to a class. Because you want to feel safe. Because you don't know that a regular yoga class is going to be just fine. Because you don't know how to do the poses and might get embarrassed. Because you've tried a pose and couldn't do it. Because you don't know how to make the poses work for you.

Join me at my workshop on January 28. We will explore how to love the body you’re in today, learn “how to” modifications to make yoga poses more accessible in any class, practice the options, and then get a chance to try out those new moves in a 45 minute yoga practice. "You can do this!"

Emily Adams, RYT-200 and Curvy Yoga certified teacher, will be leading this fun, instructional and inspirational workshop. We will explore how to love the body you’re in today, learn “how to” modifications to make yoga poses more accessible in any class, and then get a chance to try out those new moves in a 45 minute yoga practice. Lots of options are offered during the workshop so you can figure out what best works for your body.

Beginners are very welcome; no yoga experience or flexibility required.

January 28th 11:30am-1:30p

Cost $25

The Anatomy Of a Wind Chime

Karen McDonald, Yoga practitioner and Spiritual Director shares her thoughts on things that blow in the wind: 

I rescued a wind chime last week. The hushed instrument caught my eye from my rocking chair position on a mountain porch. The “wind-catcher,” the shape hanging at the end of the center string, had become tangled around the top of the chimes so that it was impossible for it to sing and dance in the breeze. Much like a naughty child in a time-out chair, it was in the corner... brooding. As I untangled the wind-catcher, I discovered that someone had replaced what was once a wooden wind-catcher with a cardboard shape. The cardboard did not have enough weight to engage a song, failing to briskly move the clapper (that circular disc that strikes the chimes), causing it to get stuck outside the circle of chimes — emitting only weak, repetitive notes. I had never considered how important it is for the wind-catcher to have a weightiness about it, being substantial enough to pull the clapper in and out, away from the outside edges of the chimes, preventing it from getting stuck in a restrictive pose, never limiting its song. 

This bound wind chime caused me to reflect on my well-worn habit of letting my mind (clapper) muscle overpower my spiritual heart (wind-catcher) muscle. And in those moments of imbalance my song grows faint or boring - hitting only a narrow range of notes. Martin Laird in Into the Silent Land says, “In fact, because our attention is so completely riveted to what’s playing on the big screen of our thinking mind, we can live completely unaware of the deeper ground of the heart that already communes with God.” Being a teacher of the contemplative Christian tradition, I am constantly inviting others to practice the ancient spiritual discipline of contemplative prayer, exploring that deeper ground, the spiritual heart, where gifts and the Giver wait for us.

Do you find yourself too often living from that restrictive placec in the mind where raging thoughts overtake you, trapping you in a small view dominated by feelings and emotions of the moment? If so, I invite you to continue what you may have already begun in your yoga practice; quieting yourself for twenty minutes at a time, using your breath or a holy word or phrase to calm your mind, bringing you home to that space of ease - and oft—forgotten unconditional love. It is from that place that we are taken by surprise; breaking into song and dance as a wilder, truer, Holy wind catches us.


Karen McDonald is a spiritual director, trained in the contemplative Christian tradition by Shalem Institute in Washington, DC. Her practice of yoga constantly enriches her own spiritual journey as a mystical Christian. Her one-on-one ministry of Holy Listening occurs with women of any age who find themselves in an unfamiliar land because of transitions happening in and to them. She has lived in the Bristol area for 34 years. Karen is a regular at Bristol Yoga and delights in her roles as a wife, mother and grandmother. 

Karen McDonald is a spiritual director, trained in the contemplative Christian tradition by Shalem Institute in Washington, DC. Her practice of yoga constantly enriches her own spiritual journey as a mystical Christian. Her one-on-one ministry of Holy Listening occurs with women of any age who find themselves in an unfamiliar land because of transitions happening in and to them. She has lived in the Bristol area for 34 years. Karen is a regular at Bristol Yoga and delights in her roles as a wife, mother and grandmother. 

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

Feature Teacher: Lizzie Hall

Last week, we talked about the necessity of individuals in a community who drive the evolution of the whole through their hunger for life and knowledge. Just as essential as these fiery individuals are to a community are also the Earthy individuals who maintain stability and steadiness. These fiery, go-getters need the self-loving wisdom that comes from the Earthy, grounded individuals of the community in order to avoid burning out. The dynamic between these two types of individuals is the natural harmony of Yin and Yang, or Shiva and Shakti.

The Earthy individuals of a community are those that teach us about sustainability. If you have ever tried to give your max, give 100%, for an extended period of time, then you’ve probably experienced what is commonly referred to as “burn out” (this might look like curling up in your bed with all your favorite junk food and a marathon of your favorite TV series on Netflix).  Sustainability, not just on the mat, but throughout your entire life, is about taking time do find rest and allowing your body to recover. At the core of sustainability is the practice of self-love.

We are fortunate at Bristol Yoga to have one particular individual in our community who is well-skilled in the art of self-love. This individual is so highly tuned in to her own inner-compass that she intuitively knows what her body needs and what her spirit craves. Not only that, but she doesn’t hesitate to nourish those needs. This individual is essential to our community teaching others how to trust and love themselves.

This soft and warm-hearted Earth momma is… Lizzie Hall!

 

Here are some questions we asked Lizzie to help you see just how dear she is to our hearts at Bristol Yoga.

1. When and how did you find yoga?
- I found yoga when I moved to Bristol 2 years ago at Bristol Yoga and I’ve been going ever since.  There’s no family like it in Bristol.
 

2. Why do you practice yoga?
-  I practice yoga whenever I need to come back to myself, whether that’s physically, mentally, or spiritually.  I gives me the tools I need to take care of myself and others.
 

3.  What is your favorite form of asana? (Vinyasa, restorative, gentle, yin, ashtanga, etc.)
- Yin yoga is my favorite form of Asana because it’s what my mind and body seem to need the most.  It gives my mind time to reflect and my body room to move and really sink into the postures.
 

4. What does yoga mean to you?
- To me, yoga is about knowing that I’m worth taking care of myself and that it’s important to take time to calm my thoughts and take care of my body.
 

5.  What are you doing outside of the classroom?
- Outside of the classroom I’m a Middle School teacher who meets students where they are.  I think my yoga philosophy is directly connected to my middle school classroom because I think everyone deserves to have someone meet them where they are.
 

6.  What is your spirit animal and why?
- My spirit animal is a sloth because I have a natural tendency to want to hibernate and take things slow.
 

7. Where is your favorite place to go when you need to relax?
- When I need to relax, I love to get a chai latte and enjoy doing nothing at all for just a little while.
 

8. Do you have a favorite quote, mantra, passage, or verse?
- My favorite verse is John 15:5 because it talks about union with God and that resting in his love is enough.
 

9. What do you want your students to know?
- I want my students to know that yoga meets you where you are.  Come as you are and you will find what you need.

 

If you know you’ve been working hard, or you have a case of the “Mondays”, and you could really use a reprieve to help re-charge your batteries to tackle the rest of your week, give yourself permission to bask in Lizzie’s warm and loving Earth-momma presence on Tuesday nights for her Mindful Flow at 5:45 PM.

 

Feature Teacher presented by Marcy Hullander

Feature Teacher: Amie Odum

Tis the season to celebrate, and so we continue to celebrate our beautifully unique Bristol Yoga Community. In our last Teacher Feature post, we talked about how the chaos of works in an unseen order to bring people together. Most certainly is this the case in regards to the Bristol Yoga Sangha. Each person wanders through our studio doors at the most opportune time bringing with them unique gifts that contribute to the overall wellness of our community.

One individual, who has also very recently joined our community as a leader and teacher, brings the gift of warmth and nurturing presence. This individual has blessed our community with the kind of presence that comes from a warm, cuddly momma bear. She is the warm, comforting hug you need on a rough day. Her nurturing presence is the kind of support that makes the glue that holds a community together.

This beautiful, loving soul is Amie Odum.

Here is a glimpse into the life of Amie to help you see why you’re so drawn to hug her when you see her shining face. 

 

  1. What brought you to yoga?

    I came to yoga for the love of the feeling; I love stretching, I love seeing if I have enough strength to try a new pose, I love laughing at myself for falling out of a pose. And now, all these years later, I love finding the peace, the stillness, the awareness and compassion for my body and loving myself through this journey called life.

     

     

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

    The style of yoga I teach comes from a place of love. We talk and laugh and check in with one another. I enjoy teaching a slow pace. I like teaching mindfulness. I teach about the chakras and hand mudras. I like for my students to have time to feel. I teach awareness in the pose. We explore not only what the physical body is feeling but also what is the emotional body feeling. I like to throw in a new pose occasionally for a challenge to grow my students practice and allow them to see if they can accomplish something they never thought to even try. And I end my class with a short meditation. I would call my style "eclectic yin".....a little bit of everything in a slow comfortable environment.

 

  1. What are three likes and three dislikes you have?

    Three likes: Laughing, Hugging, Chocolate

                Three dislikes: Rudeness, Being Cold, A world where people can't have clean water

 

  1. What are you doing when you are not teaching?

    When I am not teaching, I am learning. I read and research all things that interest me. I also spend as much time as I can with my kids. I can be found out wandering in the woods or at the lake picking up trash or traveling to see friends. I also paint murals and I try my hand at almost any home repair project or anything to create something or fix something or re-purpose something. And I cook or enjoy my kids cooking almost everyday.

 

  1. What is the most important lesson you have thus far learned from your yoga?

    Most important lesson from Yoga thus far, to show myself the same love and compassion that I would freely give a stranger.

     

 

  1. What is your favorite posture/asana?

    Eagle is my favorite power pose and pigeon is my favorite yin pose.

 

  1. Do you have a favorite book?

    The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer is my favorite that I read again and again, but I own an entire library of books, so it is really hard to pick my top 10 favorites, lol.

     

 

  1. How long have you been practicing your yoga?

    I have been practicing yoga for about 10 yrs.

 

  1. What do you LOVE about Bristol Yoga?

    There is a feeling at Bristol Yoga that I have never experienced at any other studio. I think it is a tangible love that permeates the studio. Authenticity. Compassion. All good vibes, like a heartbeat. You are seen and heard and loved at Bristol Yoga.

     

 

  1. What is a favorite quote you would like to share?

    "You will live in joy and peace; the mountains and hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands." Isaiah 55:12

     

    Loving presence radiates from the core of Amie’s being and that’s why we are so grateful for her contributions to the Bristol Yoga Community. If you are missing the feeling of a warm loving embrace from your life, join Amie during the week on Wednesday mornings at 10:00 AM for Movement & Meditation.

Feature Teacher 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

 

 

 

With Love and a Healthy Dose of Fear

"Everything you have ever wanted is on the other side of fear"

I saw this quote today in my morning social media scroll. Another inspiring pep talk from the cyberspace abyss. Great advice for some who maybe sitting around thinking and dreaming of what they want in life and stalling right?! Those lovelies might read that post and feel the need to make the extra push, putting one foot in front of the other and make their dreams happen! Cue Eye of the Tiger...(the old school Rocky one with the guitar lead in not Katy Perry)

 "Step out of your comfort zone dammit and JUST DO IT.....Be Fearless!!!"

Welcome the mania, the hustle, the I have no time to look both ways before I cross the road because I have to run. Welcome to the unsustainable state of fight or flight. The above BE FEARLESS pep talk may be the type of motivational speech you want your favorite football team to receive right before they take the field in the fourth quarter but for those of us living our life, we need a more balanced style of coaching.

Guess what follows the mania that ensues after the BE FEARLESS pep talk and self-prescribed hustle? Depression. Burn out. Illness. Stupid mistakes. Regret. The loss of the self. 
The desire to push and make your dreams happen is actually taking more from you than it is making a life for you. The collective notion that pushing hard and moving fast to make dreams happen is the only way to get anywhere is challenging your health. Those engrossed in the hustle are moving too fast to allow for the support needed to make life sustainable. Over time they become disconnected from themselves and from their loved ones. Lost but still hustling...and for what?  The mentality leaves us with the illusion that overcoming our fears of not reaching for the highest of high is more important than our overall well being. The mind, body and spirit scattered like shards of glass on the highway waiting for a rescue crew to sweep them up. Sadly, no one can save you but yourself. 

I feel a little recognized fear is healthy. It keeps us from jumping off the proverbial cliff into the hustling black hole. The emptiness that will swallow you up only to spit back a few pieces to your family and friends. The pieces spat back are not the ones they recognize. Most often you don't even recognize yourself. They are the fragments of the person you once were. There is a time for your fight or flight response, it is what has allowed us to evolve into the human race. However, there must be rest where there is motion. Love for ourselves in the face of opposition. And maybe a little healthy dose of fear to keep us safe from our ego. 

There is a balance that can exist when we acknowledge all sides of ourselves. Peeling back the fragmented layers to uncover the part of ourselves that can see clearly, in yogic terms the purusa or purusha. This is the part of the self that despite our ever evolving life remains unchanged, it is our true north.  Some will say the purusa is the divine within. It is not to be confused with your intuition, the purusa is more like a mirror. This mirror can be clouded or smudged at times by the fingerprints of uncertainty, ego, fear, etc. This is often when we feel disconnected from ourselves or our divine nature, a time when we cannot see our truth or our purpose clearly. Luckily just as we can use Windex to clean the mirror to see our physical shape, we also have "Windex" or tools for the mirror of our mind. Self-study or Svadhyaya is the life long journey of consistent self inquiry " Who am I?" "What am I" "How can I be useful?" This process of self study does not come in the form of a single book, weekend retreat or by liking an inspirational Facebook page. It is the time we spend with ourselves in reflection, after meditation, journaling, spending time in nature, practicing yoga or reading the sacred texts.  It is the time spent away from the hustle, free from distraction. It is where we connect to the divine within. It is necessary and life saving and once the process begins it must never end. This coming back to the self will bring the hustle to a halt. And that my dear IS OKAY. 
As one of the lovelies in my life has told me over and over, "Ain't no empire gonna fall".Know this... It's okay to press pause, it's okay to reflect, it's okay to have a little fear. In fact it's necessary for your survival. In creating a life you dream of make sure you are actually LIVING the life you created. Dive in and reflect. 

With Love and a little healthy dose of fear,

Shelly

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 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

 

Create Your Routine in 2015: Daily Yoga Challenge with Daniel Wallen

The New Year is a wonderful time to pause and reflect. What are your priorities? What needs to change? What do you want to accomplish and how can you make it happen? All of this reflection can be super exciting for self-improvement junkies like me.

I have bad news, though. While an estimated 40% of Americans make New Year's Resolutions, only 8% of them actually succeed. Most people get so intoxicated by the idea of transformation that they forget to make a plan. “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail,” as Benjamin Franklin put it.

Indeed, most people try to force an exercise routine on themselves without stopping to consider how they can make it convenient for their schedule and lifestyle. Or, even worse, they tell themselves they will go to yoga class “whenever they feel like it” (Spoiler Alert: that will probably end up being never).

This would be a good place to introduce myself. Hi, my name is Daniel. I am a yoga enthusiast, personal trainer, freelance writer, and self-published author from Bristol. You can find my writings on popular blogs such as Lifehack, Livestrong, and the Personal Trainer Development Center.

I've been practicing yoga for a few years now, and I still have a lot to learn. I will be getting certified at Bristol Yoga's teacher training program, which is very exciting. I like to be ahead of the curve, so I am beginning my preparation process right now. That means going to a class every morning and writing a short journal entry about what I learned in each one.

Every week, I will compile these journal entries and send them to Shelly of Bristol Yoga. She will pick out the most revealing sections and offer some advice that will help you. In other words, you will get to benefit by having a bird's eye view of my experience. These posts will be published twice a week. If you'd like to be notified when they are available, subscribe to Bristol Yoga blog. Want to join me? Email bristolyogacenter@gmail.com and let them know you are wanting to be on this journey in 2015! You can find details of the challenge in the previous blog post. You have options to make this challenge work for you!

Let's bring this chat back to you and your New Year's Resolution. Most people will inevitably sabotage their success by rushing into 2015 without a plan. I'd like to help you avoid that common mistake by sharing how I am preparing for my daily yoga challenge.

First, I considered my learning style. Some people might like to take lots of different classes to keep things interesting, but I'm not one of them. I thrive with a consistent class schedule. I believe it takes practice and patience to become excellent at anything.

Second, I analyzed my daily schedule. It's impossible to commit to something that isn't convenient for your lifestyle.  Afternoons and evenings tend to be busy, so that eliminated a lot of class offerings. Bristol Yoga offers a sunrise class at 6 a.m. every weekday morning, though, so I signed up for those. 

Third, I solidified my commitment. I did so by sharing my goal in a Facebook status and writing this blog post. Nothing lights a fire under your butt like making your goal public knowledge. You don't have to take it that far if you don't want to. Simply tell a friend about your goal. They will check up on your progress every now and then, which should encourage you to stay accountable.

If you'd like to learn about more ways people sabotage their success, click here to check out my recent Lifehack post on the subject. Don't be afraid to say “hi” if we cross paths in yoga class, okay? It's fun to make new friends. If you found this post helpful, please share it in a thoughtful email or Facebook share.