No matter where you go or what you do, time spent on vacation can be recharging to your soul ... but it can exact a physical toll on your body. Here are five poses that can help relieve pain associated with traveling in your hips, seat, low back, and shoulders.
For our first blog feature, we would like to introduce you to your studio founders, Elizabeth and Parker! Read on to learn more about how they began practicing, what they appreciate most about their practice, and how they came to found the studio that we all know and love.
It’s been a doozy of a couple weeks for Shaw Yoga. Exciting and momentous things are happening on many fronts. Parker is marrying her wonderful partner John next weekend, Ben and I are a month and a little more away from having a baby girl, and we’re very close to a step to make the Shaw Yoga experience more accessible and meaningful for all our beloved yogis (teachers and students alike). More on that excitement very soon!
Well, I have this super silly thing that annoys me. Though “getting annoyed” would be cited by my family members as high on my list of faults, this one was Big.
It was an event, really, and then after happening, it transferred into a reality, a memory, and a possible future menace. I can’t be more specific, unfortunately, but I think you’ll get the gist here without the details of *exactly what happened*.
I’m pretty sure my cat has a crush on my dog. Let me explain why this is an interesting conclusion Nunzio is around 10 years old, and epically anti-social. (There was a purple sign denoting “anti-social cats” hanging on his cage in the New Orleans animal shelter in which I found him – the sign really indicated his crate-mate, Bombadil – Nunzio didn’t even register on the social scales.
There’s a quote I’ve encountered in curious frequency, in a curious number of settings. It seems to keep coming back to me. It’s from Marianne Williamson. Maybe you’ve heard it, too.“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
“Yoga is the attempt to get back to the state that children and dogs exist in naturally.” – Paul Akema, yoga teacher and liver extraordinaire. Recently, I was blessed to spend a weekend with a dog and a child that I know: Dexter, my 10-year old black lab mix, and June, my 7-year old niece. They are symbiotic beings (as you can see from the picture).
With our thoughts we make the world. Sometimes that yoga truism sounds wonderful. Sometimes we want to sock it in right in the kisser. Sometimes, we have bad days. Yoga is full of ideas like that one: ideas super-simple, that sound great and totally right when you hear them during a blissful moment of a yoga class, yet nevertheless challenging to apply fully to life.
Do you remember the first time you did yoga and thought, what is this magic that’s happening? If you continue into a long-term, lifelong yoga journey, and especially if you undertake any kinds of trainings or workshops towards teaching yoga, you’ll likely find yourself searching for the spell behind that magic. What’s its source? How can I recreate it at will?
I re-read the first twenty or so Sutras of the Yoga Sutras this morning. The Yoga Sutras are 196 pieces of ancient yoga wisdom, collected around the year 400 by the sage Patanjali. They’re an excellent read, any and all of them; not long, not complicated, not weird – even if you haven’t bought entirely into the notion of yoga as a complete system for living.
It’s windy today. I’m glad, though my feelings on wind are not simple. We’re entering that transition time again. Good riddance, many will say, to the zipping, nippy, unfriendly, shovel-y winter! But we don’t get spring without paying some penance first. We have to weather that transition from winter to spring, and though I think we might gloss over it in our memories from year to year...
When yoga teachers think about how to dedicate the tone of a class, what sort of theme or particular focus to imbue it with, they have lots of choices. Yoga encompasses and nurtures all the virtuous qualities you can imagine. Settling on a dedication can feel as daunting as any of the choices we have in modern urban life, surrounded by tantalizing and mind-boggling options everywhere from the coffee shop, to the lunch spot, to the T.V. program menu.
Ahh, here we are. The season of perpetual hope; a new year! 2016. I've always liked even-numbered years better. I've got a good feeling about this one.
So, I didn't set a new year's resolution. I have in years past, and the only one (in 33 years of life) I stuck to was to do one month of CrossFit, two years ago, with my sister-in-law. Certainly the concrete length and buddy system helped me in sticking to it. There's something in that! My CrossFit month was an unforgettable and strange experience. (My brother is a CrossFit instructor, and I have a lot of respect for it, but it isn't my fitness of choice.) I've also made the normal "eat less of this, call this person more, do 10 push ups a day" tangible types of resolutions. But resolutions of the heart, of the spirit, I've never made, or at least not to my memory. But I am reflective as a new calendar year dawns, as many of us can't help being. How wonderful it is!
Today Ben and Dexter and I engaged in one of our favorite activities, a City Hike (as we've termed them). We wound from our house in Bloomingdale, up through Howard University's campus, through Meridian Hill Park, across to Rock Creek Park. We did some more serious hiking there, taking some off-the-path trails. We admired the fitness endeavors of dozens of determined joggers, walkers, bikers, admired the crisp air (is winter weather finally here?), the opportunity to think, pump our legs, talk, and observe Dexter trying to pick up sticks 2 times his size. We twined up a rocky upsweep that led us out by Oak Hill Cemetery, a beautiful, undulating, sprawling, old cemetery boasting famous inhabitants, before depositing us back into the city on the streets of Georgetown. I had never seen the cemetery before; I was surprised. I became a runner in DC, at age 25, and have pounded what I thought were most of the paths and pavements of DC. As we spied the cemetery, I felt younger again, discovering something quaint, beautiful, hidden, new to me. As we emerged past the cemetery onto R Street, through a charming park, I lost my bearings. Many times I've been on R Street, but I'd never come at it from this angle, with this particular set of steps having preceded my entrance. Emerging from the woods into a manicured park, then the comely rowhouses of upper Georgetown, I felt exhilarated. That feeling of being surprised, when you weren't expecting to be surprised, is blissful, and instructive. It reminded me, or taught me, rather, of something not always easy to remember: that we don't know as much as we sometimes think we do.
Perhaps our lives are made up of cycles. Today made me think of certainty and uncertainty, wisdom and naivete, feeling old and feeling new. There are certain times in life that fall indisputably into the category of new: first day at a new school, a new job, in a new relationship, in a new place. And perhaps there are periods of time in life, too, that feel delightfully old: a rendezvous with an old friend, a repetition of a family holiday tradition, a viewing of a favorite movie or rereading of a favorite book, a holding of a familiar yoga pose. And then there are whole sets of times, years, in life that feel more certain or less certain. As I was dazzled by the surprise cemetery and the new perspective on an old place, I realized that I had been in a cycle of certainty, of expectedness, of oldness. I was feeling I knew more than I didn't know; I wasn't expecting to be surprised. Now, I didn't feel this in a conscious way. I had never said it aloud to a friend, to Ben, to myself. But from the combination of the January 1st date and scaling the exhilarating hilltop cemetery from a strange angle, I noticed my sense of stasis, my sense of believing I knew the answers, knew everything around me, and then I watched it evaporate instantly. I was delighted and relieved to discover it. The mysteries of the city, of the country, of the world, the universe, of ourselves, are infinite. This, in its inexactitude, in its visceral nature, is my New Year's Resolution. To encounter life with this freshness, this naivete; this I had once known, and had temporarily forgotten. I want to Remember that every day of life is a mysterious miracle.
Yoga knows this. Yoga is about this. Remember what you once knew: as a child, as a younger iteration of yourself. Everything is beautiful. Nothing is boring. Life is an investigation, a treasure hunt, a parade of wonderment.
"Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
It’s been at least 6 months since I’ve written a reminder of the glories of each of our teachers. I thought it was time to refresh your memories of the wonders of our teachers, especially at this time of year, when a heartwarming yoga class can be just the antidote to holiday stress, or the tempering factor to holiday joy, travel, and indulgence. Parker and I find ourselves warm and tingly from top of head to toes when thinking of the experiences that Shaw Yoga teachers provide yogis every day of the week. Let me regale you with Monday’s teachers (rest to follow)…
Starting Monday morning, Jade’s loving essence will waft towards you (along with her daily incense choice). Jade’s cueing envelopes you with acceptance, clarity, and smooth challenge. Jade allows you to be relaxed while working hard, and her sequences remind you of the meaning of flow. You’ll never leave undelighted.
Erika at 6pm Monday evening excels at explanatory, alignment and anatomy based yoga. She will leave you feeling encouraged and balanced, with muscles sore and happy. You’ll learn something new and illuminating in each class. Her monthly sequences build towards greater understanding of particular body parts and greater mastery of pose sets. She doesn’t overdo the anatomy talk, but interweaves it in a way that makes poses click.
Michelle at 7:30pm Monday will delight you with yoga that is challenging and flowing. You will follow her experienced explanations and direct manner, trusting her decades of experience and knowing cueing, and suddenly find yourself in a pose that you’d never known existed or believed yourself capable of. She sprinkles a dab of yoga philosophy in most classes, offering inspiration for your focus for that class, and for life. She teaches you something new about the body, about breath, about flow.
There’s nowhere wrong to steer on Monday. See you on the mat!
The easiest way to take yoga off-the-mat is to choose a few moments a day to be still. We may be familiar with this concept in different forms in our everyday life – count to ten before reacting, generally pause before responding to a question, embrace silences in conversations; for teachers, count to ten after asking a question. The stillness I strive for in my everyday life is this: I take ten minutes a day to be quiet and still, usually with a cup of coffee or tea, usually on my favorite big, comfy blue chair, usually when my husband isn’t around and bustling and interacting with me (but sometimes even when he is). I like it a lot in the mornings, pre-6 a.m., when the world feels secretive and most conducive to such activities. But if I can’t get it in then, between 3 and 5pm is a great time for me to do it (or repeat it), as those hours are the black hole of the day for me, where I do the fiercest battle with the forces of apathy, aimless snacking, ambling social media scrolling, and general bleakness. (We all have the difficult times of day for us –if you don’t know when yours are already, do some sketching out of your general patterns and moods – knowing and developing strategies for dealing with difficult day times for you is the best self-care work to be accomplished!)
Meditation, Dhyana, is the second-to-last (i.e., second-to-highest!) limb of yoga, and a tall order to do “fully.” I visited my mother, a lifelong yogi, in New Jersey recently, and we attended a meditation workshop at her neighborhood yoga studio. The talented, humorous, and longtime teacher, Dehlia (teaching yoga for over thirty years!) started the workshop by reminding us that most mortals don’t achieve what Patanajali meant by Dhyana in our lifetimes. Rather than be dampened by this limitation, we should strive for realistic strategies. The sixth and fifth limbs of yoga are more reachable, and more what we are talking about when we bandy about the word “meditate” in talking about our daily practices. The sixth is Dharana, which translates to something like concentration, and the fifth is Pratyahara, which translates to a retreat of the senses. My 10-minute sitting meditation is more like a combination of Dharana and Pratyahara and Pranayama (breathing practices, fourth limb). My process is this:
Distance self from devices.
Sit with warm beverage (can be on a yoga mat in Sukhasana, easy seated pose, but doesn't have to be).
Draw to mind a word, person, image to direct attention towards.
Engage in calming breath (even inhales and exhales) while musing on the chosen object (word, person, image).
This week I’ve been meditating on contentment, one of the Niyamas (personal observances, second limb of yoga). A joy of life: there is an endless list of beautiful realities to “meditate” on. You could even sit down without a particular object in mind, without a number 4 on the above list, and see what comes. Stillness is magical. Silence is magical. Our devices do a lot for us (content with and grateful for the computer on which I type this, the iPhone that tracks my runs and reminds me how to spell Dharana), but when it comes to happiness, stability, and self-reliance, stillness and detachment from devices do wonders, are indispensable. (Remember, we are running a Karma Yoga Discount until January 1st – if you do good for yourself or another, and then tell us about it, we’ll give you a free class to use yourself, or give to another. This 10-minute meditation is an example of good for yourself. Do it, and let us know.) I wish you some quiet and stillness this week, in whatever form.
Come, come, whoever you are.
Wanderer, worshiperer, lover of leaving.
It doesn’t matter. Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vows a thousand times.
Come, yet again, come, come.
Karma Yoga Discount: November 15th-January 1st, Do Good, Get Good!
Many of us practice yoga with a goal for both physical health and mental and perhaps even spiritual health. Shaw Yoga is initiating a campaign to close out 2015 by committing, inspiring, and celebrating good. Starting November 15th through January 1st, Shaw Yoga will offer a Karma Yoga Discount. Karma Yoga is yoga of service. The process is simple:
1) do good, for yourself or another, inspired by your own moral compass of goodness, or more specifically, one of the Yamas or Niyamas of the 8 Limbs of yoga,
2) snap a photo to represent the good you’ve done (you don’t have to be in it, but you could be!), (this part is optional, but encouraged)
3) write up a caption / blurb explaining what you did,
4) share it with us! You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, post it on our Facebook page (facebook.com/shawyoga), tag us on Twitter @shawyoga, or tag us on your Instagram. Tag #shawkarmayoga, #shawkarmayogaproject, #shawyogadc. For your photo / caption pair, we’ll add a free class to your account. We’ll pick one karma action each week, and give that yogi a free class, and a class to give a friend, too!!
As ours is a world (and a city) chock-full of information, and distractions, and informational (or information-less) distractions, it can be useful to distract ourselves towards what’s most important. Sounds like a bit of a paradox, but I stand by it. One method I have is a lovely little app on the smartphone (again, a paradox: the smartphone, locus of mindlessness). The app is named “Buddha” or “Buddha Thoughts” or something similarly simple and enjoyable. It provides daily mindfulness quotes, set against a tranquil backdrop of birds and reedy plants. Once a day, I look down to see the icon of Buddha with a notification. Unlike my email, the notification number mercifully never rises above 1. The thoughts are usually not listed as having a particular author, probably because they belong to a fount of wisdom arising from many traditions. Generally, I feel calmed even before reading it.
Today’s thought was, “We only lose what we cling to.” Ahh, non-attachment. There are many times in life, maybe even most, when this yama seems a tall order. Our lives are, to an extent, formed around attachments. Who we are, what we do, who we love: all the things that define us can also confine us, in a gripping love for the things that we consider an essential part of an identity. We cling to romantic relationships, pet ownerships, personality quirks, even food preferences. I am scandalized by a caramelized onion anywhere near my plate, and dismayed if expected to eat rice without soy sauce.
My recent major non-attachment challenge has been, of course, opening a yoga business. Attachment and focus are required for successful business launching, even if the business’s intended business is to help promote non-attachment in its clients (getting into yet another paradox, indeed). Once you see students walking through the door, you are lovingly attached to them immediately. And, of course, you want the business to succeed, all the more so when you know that the service it provides is uncomplicatedly good. (Parker and I repeated this over and over to each other as we got closer to the opening week: “Opening a yoga studio doesn’t hurt anyone. All it could do is some good.”)
Despite all my yogic intentions, the first two weeks we were open, I exuded attachment to Shaw Yoga. I checked email every ten minutes, dreamt about blocks, blankets, bolsters, and missing music speaker cords. I mused on success and failure. I obsessed over what made us distinctive, whether we were distinctive enough, and generally kept a worrying, whistling teakettle on the back burner each minute that I wasn’t doing something specifically for the studio. The poor little Buddha app didn’t stand a chance of yanking me back to the right perspective.
Three months later, I’m not sure exactly when things changed, but they have. I still want the studio to do well. It is doing well. We remain dazzled by the independence and diversity of our teachers: we’ve loved seeing cosmic Aqeel join the teaching line-up, we’re delighted by the addition of a Sunday morning prenatal class with the effervescent Jeanette, and a midday Monday class taught by the radiant Gina. We relish the friendly camaraderie with neighbor businesses like Lost & Found, Wagtime, Longview Gallery, Reformation Fitness, La Colombe, Xtend Barre DC, Pekoe Acupuncture, Calabash Teas, Dacha Beer Garden, Jrink Juicery, and others. Most of all, we love meeting new students every day. We love being part of a neighborhood, and have learned what it means to be a neighborhood business. It means you are offered a microcosmic slice of the world-- for us, the neighborhood of Shaw. In it you see an example of the variety, struggle, inventiveness, industry, and loveliness of humankind. It’s an utter gift to be wedged here in the midst of our bustling 1240 9th Street building, in the midst of this bustling city, upon this bustling planet.
I still want the business to do well. But now, more specifically, I know that I am focused on a desire for Shaw Yoga to do well by spurring positive change in the lives of our neighborhood folk, and I believe we’re off to a good start.
Yoga is a beautiful system that, at its best and most effective, one can enact for oneself. Eventually, it is individually sustainable. But until we get to self-realization, and for most of us that’s a big until, we benefit from wonderful teachers of the science and art of yoga to guide us in our practice on the way. In Shaw Yoga’s first two weeks, Parker and I have practiced with almost each Shaw Yoga teacher once (or even twice or three times!). Here’s how lucky we are…
In the opening class with Gina, Parker and I discovered a new side of Ashtanga-inspired flow, (which is a school of yoga that neither of us had jived with before.) Gina’s sturdy yet gentle cues are accessible to anyone, and her contagious love of the practice had us sweating and smiling throughout.
Erika’s style is perhaps best compared to an orchestra conductor; her class was the fullest of the Monday night classes, and she guided practitioners of diverse ranges of experience through a strengthening practice, infused with light humor and attention to alignment and particular body parts.
Michelle Mae’s class came and went fast, though it lasted the whole hour; to practice with Michelle is to forget exactly what you are doing and then find yourself in savasana, happy and bettered. (The next day you’re sore and grateful.)
Parker’s class is slated as “for runners,” and what that means is that she breaks down yoga in a way that is refreshingly new, tolerant to inflexibility, and inventive in its ways of strengthening and extending muscle groups. Her loving voice and open demeanor inspire euphoria throughout the experience.
Lisa describes poses you’ve done a hundred times in a way that makes them feel entirely new. You will sweat in poses you had never considered sweat-inducing before. Who knew, for example, that you could begin sweating while in Parighasana / Gate pose?
Lauren’s peaceful cueing matches beautifully with her magical assists. Magical is actually too common a word for the way it feels to have Lauren adjust you in a pose; alchemy might be more appropriate. The combination of massage-like deepening assists and energizing, challenging poses give you the best combination of what physical yoga practice can be.
John H’s class will elevate your soul. In unusual and refreshing ways, he interweaves meditations with rare and satisfying asanas. You will be challenged mentally and physically.
Grace’s class is intensely demanding, but she ensures that each practitioner feels cared for and supported. If you haven’t experienced a “yoga burpee” before, you should come to Grace’s class to understand how she makes them feel awesome.
Parker described Jeanette’s class as an hour and fifteen minutes where you feel you’re just hanging out with a wonderful person, and happen to be doing yoga. She is laidback, humorous, loving, and so knowledgeable.
MK starts her morning class off with music that will make you forget how early it is. Parker and I have yet to spend the magical hour with her, but the way she sweeps into the studio and greets each of her students has us eagerly awaiting our first experience with her.
To be in Heather’s class is to feel utterly certain that you have found someone who loves yoga more than anything in the world. Her love and dedication is infectious, and her humor and huge heart fill her cueing.
During Jenny’s first Thursday night class, I felt more supported (“support” was, indeed, her theme) than perhaps ever before in a yoga class. The challenging and vibrant asana sequence of the first 50 minutes is followed seamlessly by 25 minutes of loving restorative poses. Jenny makes it abundantly clear in her classes how much she cares about the community-development potential of yoga.
Caitlin’s longstanding love and practice of yoga reveals itself in her teaching. The most humble and generous of spirits, she is nonetheless the teacher to get you to try to overcome fear or reticence towards a certain pose.
There isn’t a teacher in the bunch we don’t offer with shining confidence. We feel so grateful to be in their vicinity (and often in their classes)!