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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Tip of the Week: The Meaning Behind Namaste

The following by Wendy Moore on explores the meaning behind the word Namaste.

Have you ever wondered why we end a yoga class by saying Namaste in unison to our teacher? Have you ever thought about what you are actually saying and why you might be saying it? There are so many rituals connected to yoga which for me adds to the spirituality of my practice and separates it from my other exercise.

I love ending a yoga class by saying Namaste. I find it is similar to saying Amen at the end of a prayer or Maseltov to express joy. There is deep respect inherent in this word despite our surroundings…a yoga studio, gym or even our own home. Saying Namaste gives me a sense of completion, allows me a moment of reflection without movement and bridges the transition to the day ahead of me. I like being able to acknowledge the teacher at the end of the class. I admit that sometimes I say Namaste instead of Whew! after a challenging class. And sometimes I feel silly and even a bit superficial saying a word with such reverence when I’ve so little knowledge of its origin and the culture from which it came. Most of the time, however, after a particularly good class I say it and feel the essence of Yoga: a connection to myself and the greater world.

What Does It Really Mean?

The literal translation of the word “Namaste” breaks down into three sections…Nama means bow; as means I; and, te means you. Thus, I bow to you. The gesture is one of greeting in India. Most often we hold our hands together in the prayer position at our heart chakra. Often our hands move from our third eye to our heart in acknowledgment of our teacher. And usually Namaste is said at the end of a class, but it is equally appropriate to utter it at the beginning as well.

What Does Saying Namaste Mean To You?

Namaste is a way to “send out to the universe something good, something that makes sense in that instant, the possibility of a time when all strife, suffering and harm inflicted upon each other and other living things, will simply stop”. This answer from a friend led me to ask other yogis what they think about when they say Namaste. Most agreed that the word expressed the gratitude they felt to their teacher, gave the class closure, was sometimes just an expression of relief, but also was a conduit to something greater. One of the teachers I asked said that Namaste represented the teacher and student coming together energetically, making a connection.

The Divine In Me, Honors The Divine In You…

Namaste. The word ends our practice but whether we say it or not, the practice of yoga is the embodiment of the word’s meaning. It is a way to honor ourselves and the world we live in. This reflective moment reminds me that yoga transcends language and culture, that connecting mind and body helps us look more deeply into ourselves and at our world.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Tip of the Week: Corrections for Tuladanasana

This posture looks so simple! But the effort required to keep all the muscles engaged while balancing is much more difficult than one might think. Balancing Stick creates a tourniquet effect on the heart and can even give the feeling of a mini heart attack! Don’t worry. The circulation, elongation, and increased blood flow are amazing for the body. Remember that you have to continuously stretch from fingertips to toes to get the benefits!

Common Problems and Corrections

Balancing Stick is the final posture in the balancing series. As with the other balancing postures, locked knees are a big key. In this instance, BOTH knees should be locked.

Sometimes more flexible students will lift their leg too high. This makes the posture easier!
It’s also incorrect. The leg should remain parallel to the floor.

Students must learn to adjust their weight to their forward leg before they pivot at the hips. This will prevent their body from launching forward and often prevent them from falling out of the posture.

The idea of Balancing stick is to create a straight line. It requires a lot of strength and endurance to keep the correct muscles engaged. When the body collapses or sags, the stretch is lost.

The elbows should be locked just like the knees. This will create more traction on the spine.

The key is to look forward, under the hands, toward the mirror. By looking forward, the spine is elongated. Keep your arms and head together and look forward to keep the spine straight.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Tip of the Week: Standing Savasana Between Postures

Paying attention to your body posture between the standing postures will help with concentration and relaxation. Bikram Yoga is a 90 minute "moving meditation". The goal is to use our bodies in such a way that we can begin to still our minds. Keep in mind that even when we aren't in a posture, we are still in a moving meditation. When coming out of a posture, bring yourself to a total stillness, with a calm and smooth breath. While you will have a chance to go into Savasana or "dead body pose" between each posture in the floor series, you can do a Standing Savasana between the postures of the Standing Series. 

  • Gives rest to the body, slows heart rate, reduces blood pressure
  • Returns cardiovascular and systemic circulation to normal
  • Teaches relaxation
  • Stills and focuses the mind
  • The better you create and maintain correct standing savasana, the better and more deeply you’ll be able to breathe and the quicker you can calm yourself physiologically and mentally
Check that you:
  • Rotate your upper arms externally and feel your shoulder blades drop down and back. Check that your neck feels long and free. 

  • Stand with feet & legs together. Press inner thighs, buttocks, inside of feet together. Wake up soles of the feet by pressing them firmly into the ground.

  • Gaze straight ahead at yourself in the mirror

  • Breathe calmly through your nose

Transitioning without fidgeting between the postures cultivates patience and calm. Focus on yourself in the mirror, and don't let let anything break your peace. Try to make a conscious effort not to fix your hair, drink water when you don’t need it, wipe the sweat, or adjust your mat and towel. Let go of being ‘bothered’ by the details. 

Awareness of body posture between standing postures will improve your yoga practice and contribute to aligning the group energy wave which moves around the room.