I am looking forward to March and warmer weather. Not only will the gardening be amazing, but the creek will warm up and the flowers will bloom as well! On top of it all... YOGA OUTSIDE!
Outdoor classes add a different dimension to one's practice and pare yoga down to its original link with nature. "Yoga means 'union,' and when it's practiced outdoors it seems like the union with nature, humanity, and the universe is truly felt. Being outside can intensify the yoga experience in many ways, since nature inspires all the things you try to drive home with your practice — focusing awareness, breathing deeply, practicing stillness. Your first lesson will be learning to embrace rather than battle the elements. Nature can help to remind you that a breeze can deepen your breathing; the warm sun can deepen poses by making muscles more pliable, and a ladybug can invite you to focus on something small and still. Many aspects of yoga are in fact about being in the moment and at one with nature or the universe. That's why so many asanas reflect animals and nature.
By putting your body into the shape of a tree or a stretching cat, by exploring the graceful wingspan of a bird or the fluidity of the Sun Salute, by breathing with the same cyclical sense as the tides or with an ocean sound, you evoke a sense of harmony, timelessness, and connection to the universe. When the classroom is outdoors, free of the mirrors and windows and designer clothes, the 'yoga scene' is left in the dust. The open space really expands everyone, and there's an instantaneous freedom you just can't replicate indoors.
Let me know if you're interested in a yoga class outside and in the elements. I'll be glad to take you to some of my favorite vortex spots :)
“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest…"
Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both. Appreciating the gloriousness inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, energizes us. We feel connected. But if that’s all that’s happening, we get arrogant and start to look down on others, and there is a sense of making ourselves a big deal and being really serious about it, wanting it to be like that forever. The gloriousness becomes tinged by craving and addiction. On the other hand, wretchedness–life’s painful aspect–softens us up considerably. Knowing pain is a very important ingredient of being there for another person. When you are feeling a lot of grief, you can look right into somebody’s eyes because you feel you haven’t got anything to lose–you’re just there. The wretchedness humbles us and softens us, but if we were only wretched, we would all just go down the tubes. We’d be so depressed, discouraged, and hopeless that we wouldn’t have enough energy to eat an apple. Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together.” ~Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living by Pema Chödrön
Lately I've been studying Anusara Yoga on my own. I purchased the manual and I have lovingly turned each page on an almost daily basis. I have picked up so many golden nuggets of wisdom that I am grateful for. Within my classes I often share those little bits of inspiration via a sentence or adjustment... today, I share via blog post.
Last night I read that conscious breathing into an area of the body helps to expand and soften that area. This increased softness enhances sensitivity because your nerves are more enlivened, and your circulation in that area is improved. Conversely, if you block the flow of breath, you harden the inner and outer bodies, and lose sensitivity. Also, the breath helps to loosen the body, so blocked or stored emotions can be released naturally.
How often have you practiced yoga... become totally in tune with nature and then felt so much joy you could almost cry? It's happened to me often... almost like my body went somewhere deep and cleared out something I had been holding on to. Sometimes, while in meditation or during pranayama, an old memory, one I didn't even realize was still in my brain, comes to the surface... it's shocking how surreal and detailed they are. When this happens, I feel so much lighter and aware. I believe this is a result of conscious breathing.
I also read that for poses that generate intense sensations, the breath can be used to help to lessen discomfort, thereby allowing the poses to be held for extended periods. Increasing the power of the breath fuels the internal fire and gives you the ability to dance on the threshold of discomfort without reacting. In this way, you can meet any internal resistance with equal power. By using the breath to help you cultivate courage and steadiness, the threshold will slowly expand outward, thereby reducing the uncomfortable sensations in your pose.
I know from experience that this is completely true. How many times have I shared with you that I felt intense heat in my body... usually while meditating for a long time or while holding a difficult asana for a really long time. How many times did I mention that I sent prana to that area... that I breathed deeply and focused all of my attention to that area and then BAM... the discomfort went away? It's amazing.
I also became aware in my reading that in some poses, such as deep forward bends or deep backbends, the diaphragm gets compressed making breathing difficult. To reduce resistance to this uncomfortable situation, soften and quiet the breath.
And of course... always, always, always, breathe through the nose in all instances when practicing asana, except in Simhasana.
On Living & Breathing From the Heart:
In our classes I often mention how important it is to breathe deeply from and through the heart, and to move with breath consciousness. When you practice yoga with love, your attitude shines through the alignment of your asana. A stubborn, wondering, or ego-mind leads to misalignment in your asana and in turn strain in your heart and mind. It is all connected. You know that your breathing is the inhalation and exhalation of air. The organ that serves for this is the lungs that lie around your heart, so that the air passing through them thereby envelops your heart. Thus breathing is a natural way to the heart.
And so, in our next class together, after having collected your mind within you... lead it into the channel of breathing through which air reaches your heart and, together with this inhaled air, force your mind to descend into the heart and to remain there. With practice (Abhysa) during that hour or more of your yoga class, not only will you move into an asana with presence, peace, and love, but you may also develop the ability to remain in that state throughout your daily life too... benefiting not only yourself, but the rest of the world as well.
Om Hrdaya Namaha
I bow to the heart consciousness in all.
"There is one way of breathing that is shameful and constricted.
Yoga Sutra of the Month
Two core principles: Practice (abhyasa, 1.13) and non-attachment (vairagya, 1.15) are the two core principles on which the entire system of Yoga rests (1.12). It is through the cultivation of these two that the other practices evolve, by which mastery over the mind field occurs (1.2), and allows the realization of the true Self (1.3).
Sedona Hot Yoga & Yoga on the Rocks & in the Parks!
Sedona Hot Yoga: Namaste lovely yogi's. I am now offering two classes at Sedona Hot Yoga every single Friday and Saturday. Thank you so much for mentioning to Jenn that you are interested in more Blessed Yoga Classes! Friday's class begins at 5:30 p.m. and is a spicy vinyasa flow. Saturday's class is at 8:30 a.m. and is a slow flow in which we take our time to work on our alignment and breath work. My updated schedule can be found on the calendar section of this website as well as the Sedona Hot Yoga website. The classes I offer at Sedona Hot Yoga are founded on the principals of Kriya/Vinyasa/Hatha Yoga, where movement is coordinated with breath and intention. Aromatherapy, chanting, bandha work, visualization, chakra work, and pranayama are also often integrated within these flows. Be prepared to chant, move, breathe, dance, and connect to nature and the divine beauty that resides in all of us. I promise you a long and restful savasana for all of your hard work and self love... mmm...
Yoga on the Rocks: The weather is warming up and I am so looking forward to practicing outside in the warm fresh air. I love the sound of the wind in the trees and the view of the sky while in savasana... There's nothing like it and I would love to share that experience with you too. If you happen to notice the weather is beautiful and warm some day soon, feel free to call me to arrange a private or group class! Whether you need a full one or two hour class, or even just a 45 minute flow while on your lunch break; yoga is a great way to escape the desk or your normal routine. Even a 45 minute class over your lunch hour works to de-stress and makes for more productivity and harmony in the work place. Bring a coworker along with you and share the yoga love outside on Sedona's gorgeous red rocks or in her parks among lush green grass. The choice is yours.
❤ A Note from Ashley ❤
Vinyasa is a natural sequence unfolding with creative intelligence - a conscious evolution connecting each moment with unifying breath; a form of moving meditation. Within it, we explore embodying and living yoga in full spectrum - sun to moon, wild to sublime, fullness to simplicity, action and being. There is yoga for everyone. Please let me know how I can serve your path.
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti,
~ Click Here to view the actual Newsletter~
Today was my last day of guided sadhana... it might also be the last sadhana led by my teacher Zaz Occhiline, which makes me sad, because I adore his guidance... but I'm also happy for him. He'll get to practice sadhana on his own now and it's been a long time for him, since he's always guiding students... He deserves a nice long break from holding space for others.
Still... I felt sadness as soon as he told me this was it... I felt a sense of separation and heartbreak and a little fear... he has been my teacher for so long and now I am basically on my own. The thought originally scared me... and so I thought about it some more... and meditated on it... and came up with the following idea which has helped me deal with the heartbreak and sense of separation and fear of losing my yoga practice or taking steps back without his yearly guidance... instead of moving forward. I've often practiced sadhana with him as a way of "checking in", "resetting" etc... I guess I worried that I would forget how to do that... or to even remember to do it without a schedule set in stone by him.
Anyways, I think the following moment of clarity is also fitting for February... since February is also the month of love and many of you have probably experienced heartbreak and a sense of separation as well, although probably not exactly in the way I just did. I hope this thought of mine helps you feel more comfortable with it...
I've developed the idea that I/You can't really experience connection if I/You don't also have the sense of separation... Heartbreak is part of the human condition - if it comes off the table, so does love itself. Vulnerability is what makes life worth living; without it we'd lack meaning and purpose.
*sigh.... 30 days of rising before the sun rises... practicing yoga, pranayama, mediation for hours and hours... Will I continue this daily practice? I don't know. I think so... for a while longer at least. I hope to continue on this trajectory throughout the year; throughout my life. You never know though. Everything changes. Throughout the years of my yoga practice... sometimes I might go months without one downward dog in my life... and then I come back to my mat and I think, "Wow... why did I ever leave you?" Lately, those moments and lulls in my practice have come further and further apart, so I think that maybe this time, I might just stay with it... forever. But who knows, right? I guess the point is that everything is temporary and it's important to not feel guilt or attachment for ending my sadhana, when I do, but to instead feel present and grateful for every second I have on this planet. Every moment is sacred. No matter how I spend it.
I've learned so much from this years sadhana. I wish I could explain or share everything that I have learned and experienced. This time it was so different. Every single blessed moment sank into my pores and into my heart. I feel so nourished and loved and loving. It's amazing really... what 30 days of self love, nourishing and yoga discipline can do. I feel stronger than I've ever felt. Happier. Whole. Loving. Content. Peaceful. Grateful. SO GRATEFUL. I feel like I'm definitely still walking down my dharmic path... living my destiny... with presence and grace.
I applied for a vipassana mediation course today at the Dhamma Maṇḍa, also known as the Northern California Vipassana Center, and means "the essence of Dhamma" in Pali. I'm on the wait list... I'm very excited. Why am I doing it? Like I said... to continue with this trajectory... to learn and experience and share. :) It makes me happy just thinking about it.
I want to share a passage with you that a student at 7 Centers (David) shared with me today. It's so beautiful. I am grateful to him for bringing it into my life:
I am the Mountain,
great and beautiful in strength,
presence, and form.
No matter how high I am to peak,
I realize and accept the truth
of my own inevitable erosion.
Better to find Joy in my ascension
than to rush the nature of a process
that shall ultimately see my return
to where I have already once begun.
- David Sinogui
Love is the essence of our life. I have written this blog with love, and I offer it to you, dear reader, with the hope that the suggestions offered here will become a vital part of your self-healing and continued well-being. ~ Ashley