I started my yoga journey by guiding myself through the weekly sequences in Iyengar’s Light on Yoga. In his preface, Mr. Iyengar emphasizes the importance of learning with a teacher but I’d ignored that and brashly pushed forward on my own. One day in about “Week 12,” I leaned over to pick up a tray and couldn’t straighten my back. Hobbling to the phone, I called the local Iyengar studio and signed up for my first class.
During that first class at the Julie Lawrence Yoga Center in Portland Oregon, two things became crystal clear: first, I’d practice yoga for the rest of my life, and second, I wanted to be a teacher.
“Yoga does not just change the way we see things, it transforms the person who sees,” B.K.S. Iyengar, 1918-2014.
Afterwards, as I made the 4.5 mile walk back to the ashram where I was living at the time, I mentally replayed everything that we’d done in the class: The teacher’s insistent recipe for sitting with an erect spine; the introductory prayers we chanted aloud; the fastidious anatomical cueing of each asana (seat); the logic of the sequence; the thrill of being upside down; and the conscious relaxation. I practiced what we did everyday until the next class and returned eagerly with questions. A practice I’d repeat with every teacher I’d come to study with. That first class was a lens that focused my reason for being on the planet. For me, Yoga weds passion with career and illuminates a path to and through old-age/death.
Now, 20 years later, here I am. Still practicing, still teaching. It gets better every day.
– Louis Jackson, Nandi Yoga Instructor
I was drawn to this practice because of its precision, timing and sequencing, the foundations of Iyengar Yoga, which help guide one towards freedom of mind and a compassionate and spiritual life. The intricacies and minute teachings always pull the students and me into the energy of this particular way. Whether we practice asanas, pranayama, study the sutras of Patanjali, chant and/or meditate together, the connection to the lineage of teachers is truly present.
“It is through the alignment of the body that I discovered the alignment of my mind, self, and intelligence,” B.K.S. Iyengar, Light on Life.
The disciplines of continuation, perseverance, repetitions of the practice and the concepts of involution for evolution back to involution, the self-study and just simply the everyday life Practice of the Yoga Sutras on and off the mat absorbs me and keeps me going on this path.
Birgit Reimer, an Iyengar Yoga Instructor, has been teaching for more than 20 years and travels every other year to the Ramamani Iyengar Institute, to study with the Iyengar family. www.yoga-is-all.com
We honor all mothers on this special day, including those who are having their babies this year! Here are two yoga poses that will keep us coming back to the mat throughout pregnancy, and even thereafter.
Benefits of Ardha Chandrasana – Half Moon at the wall: great hip opener and balancing for the uterus, as the ligaments get a rest one side at a time. Rest your palms with a block onto the mat for extra support, as needed.
Benefits of Adho Mukha Savasana – Downward Facing Dog: relieve lower back pain and sciatic nerve discomfort in the legs, often caused by later stages of pregnancy where the weight of the belly presses against the sacrum and supporting muscles/ nerves in the pelvis. Downward facing dog will allow the sacrum to stretch deeply, and if your body weight feels too heavy to support in the full posture, you can always practice puppy pose instead using bolsters between your legs and supporting either side of your belly to help alleviate lower back strain and on the wrists. Be mindful not to do this pose, if already experience acid relux during your pregnancy.
Photo Credit: Michelle Hyman, Prenatal Yoga Instructor at Nandi Yoga — San Mateo, California
Mother’s Day is the best time of the year to give gratitude to our moms. This year, Nandi staff hand-pick the most popular, high-quality gifts that many yogi moms will cherish on and off the mat.
We welcome you to visit Nandi Yoga in-studio to check-out our top 10 gifts:
Alo Yoga Clothing – Amelia Long Crop Top ($60) and Airbrush Leggings ($88). These are the best set of spring colors to feel and look stylish on and off the mat.
Mala Beads: full 108-beaded necklace from Japa Mala & Indolove ($25-$138). Best accessory for moms who include chanting and meditation in yoga practice. Try-out various lengths and see which one suits own style.
Mala Beads: bracelets from Indolove ($24-$29). These high-quality, colorful accessories are great for moms who include chanting and meditation in yoga practice.
Nandi Mat Bag: durable bag with colors available in green and tan ($40). Visit in-studio to get $5 off discount until end of May 31st.
Props: Manduka Wool Blanket ($32), Prana Yoga Straps ($15), Hugger Mugger Cork Blocks ($19.95). They are perfect set for moms who want to develop a home practice.
Yoga Liturature: Jivamukti Yoga by Sharron Gannon & David Life ($20), Yoga Assists by Sharron Gannon & David Life ($36), and Iyengar Yoga by B.K.S Iyengar ($30). Words from David Life, Sharron Gannon, and B.K.S Iyengar are sure to inspire moms’ Jivamukti yoga practice to the next level.
Lavender Lotion: an elegant scent that makes any mom feel relaxed after yoga practice ($22).
Yoga Sweaters: Yoga RX Om sweater ($64). Perfect casual-wear with soft, warm material for the everyday mom on-the-go after yoga class.
Yoga Mats: made from sustainable products and manufactured in the US, with durable material from Jade and Manduka ($40-$79). Available in various colors for moms looking to purchase high-quality, non-slippery mats for awhaile. Also, ask our front-desk staff for recycle mat program details, benefiting non-profit community organizations!
Nandi T-Shirt: high-quality, soft material from Ancient Language ($42). Sport the Nandi-style with colorful “Bull” logo print. Perfect for wearing on and off the mat everyday.
Being a mother is a lot like practicing yoga. Both test your strength, flexibility, and lifelong explorations of the body and mind. They can be gentle or challenging from time to time. In both, we start the day with our best intentions to focus, be steady, and be present. Sometimes we push beyond our edge and overstretch. There are even those rare occasions when they can cause pain. Often times, they make us feel pretty good, and we are always glad we came.
There is a well-known yoga sutra, “stirrha sukha asana,” that loosely translates to “steadiness and ease in your position.” In my classes, I often talk about finding steadiness and ease even as we move through the most challenging yoga postures. I also think about this sutra a lot in my journey through motherhood. How do I maintain a sense of calm, comfort and steadiness as my almost 5-year old throws a fit over a lost matchbox car precisely at the time when we need to be walking out the door in order to not be late for school? Also, when I pick up the kids late from child care after being stuck in traffic on Highway 101 for more than one-hour? By the time I get the kids, we are all whiny, cranky and hungry. In moments like these, I am definitely not calm and my heart rate is clearly an indicator that I am not at ease. And these are the moments I must learn to take my yoga practice off of the mat. Use my breath to calm the heart-rate down, close the eyes, and allow myself to simply be in this crazy and wonderful moment of motherhood; with no judgment, wishful thinking or wants — simply acknowledgement and celebration of who I am as a mother.
– Michelle Hyman, Prenatal Yoga Instructor
Often times as mothers and caretakers, we forget that we are more than just snot wipers, master mac and cheese makers, boo-boo kissers and diaper changers. We also are women who may have once danced naked in front of the bathroom mirror or bought lacy lingerie. However, many mothers I know keep their lacy lingeries tucked in storage and have exchanged them for full coverage cotton briefs.
Practicing yoga can help us bring the women back into mothers. Often times, we lose the connection with our bodies after pregnancy, whether we have a c-section, vaginal birth, or return back to pre-pregnancy weight — our bodies, ourselves are different. Even after months and years after having a baby, many moms find it difficult to appreciate themselves — from not-so-perky breasts to maybe slightly wider hips. Through our yoga practice, we are given the opportunity to relearn our body, find our strength and connect our breath with movement.
As mothers, we are also provided lifelong learning opportunities like self-compassion. We will do anything to help ensure our children grow up free from suffering; yet, we forget to direct compassion to ourselves. We easily corner ourselves with the endless chatter of self-critique thoughts like, “I should have… if only I did it this way…what will people think of me?” How do we, instead, allow ourselves to acknowledge the moment and accept it as it is? And in that acceptance, allow us to feel compassionate towards ourselves.
Heading into Mother’s day, let’s dedicate to be ourselves with kindness and no judgements. Let’s allow ourselves and others to take care of us with compassion. And maybe even find some time to dance naked in front of the mirror.
– Michelle Hyman, Prenatal Yoga Instructor
Yoga is like learning to play piano. It takes practice, practice, practice and everyone starts with their first lesson. Yoga helps to build flexibility, strength, and balance, but you don’t need to have any of these in order to begin. We each bring to the mat our entire life’s experiences and history. We may be flexible or we may feel pretty stiff. Some students come with old injuries. Others come with years of weight lifting or ballet. In other words, each student is unique but the poses can be modified to suit the individual.
The biggest concern I hear from students is the perceived lack of flexibility – they warn me that they cannot touch their toes. It doesn’t matter – if you can move and breathe, you can do yoga. Everyone can benefit from using props to find ease – blocks bring the foundation higher, straps make the arms longer, and blankets provide ease on the floor. The goal of each class is for students to leave feeling better than when they entered the studio—and to have fun.
– Bonnie Smetts, Ashtanga Yoga Instructor