My Top 4 Yoga Tips

I have only been practicing yoga regularly since I started working at NOURISH. Before that it was just MTV yoga dvd’s in the living room and an occasional free class if I could get a hold of a coupon. Since starting to do yoga more intensively at NOURISH, I have realized it is imperative to continue your practice on a regular basis. I feel more flexible, energized, relaxed and overall in better health if I do yoga at least once a week. In addition, keeping up with yoga helps me remember all the tips and adjustments I am supposed to be implementing!

Here are some things that I have learned at NOURISH which I like to keep in the front of my mind while I do yoga:

1. Keep your hands and feet active: Sometimes its easy to forget these extremities when you are concentrating on your back posture and the larger muscle groups involved in a pose. I felt and saw such and improvement in my practice after Victor gave me this little tip. Simply spreading your fingers or flexing your foot can activate more muscles and work them harder than letting your paws slack while you are in the pose. Flexing your foot makes the biggest difference for me in seated poses, where my legs can get lazy. It really helps stretch out my hamstrings and even gets into my back! As for your hands, Kate showed me that when you are in poses likeĀ  spreading your fingers wide without raising your wrist too much can help make your arms more active and involved.

2. Make it challenging, not painful: On Sunday, Kate said something very important for yogis of all levels: The difference between sharp pain and a slight challenge for your body. We are constantly trying to push ourselves further in yoga, both physically and spiritually. These changes should be incremental and positive in order to be most effective. If you feel a sharp pain in any pose, you went too far! Try to slowly fall deeper into the pose with each breath or ask for an adjustment from the instructor if you are just plain uncomfortable in a pose. Challenge is imperative for improvement in yoga, but the changes you make must be controlled and smooth in order to be beneficial.

3. Smile with your buttocks: Try it! Literally try to make your booty smile. I like this tip not only because of the physical effects, but also because it never fails to put a grin across my face! It’s hard to explain in a blog, but just try to uplift your butt with your back and core. Kate taught me this one as well, and it really helps to make poses engaging and comfortable. I think this technique is implemented mostly in standing poses, but I just try to do it in class whenever Kate mentions it. Mention it next time you are in class and I am sure she will be stoked to teach how and when it should be done.

4. Enjoy! Victor sometimes says this after students enter a pose and will be there for a while. I think this is one of the most important tips I have learned at NOURISH. If you are not having fun and feeling great, something needs to change! Yoga should be a positive experience that de-stresses you and brightens your day. Sometimes in the grind of things, people forget that they are at yoga and are supposed to be letting go. Don’t think about what you did that day or what you will do tomorrow, think about how you feel in the pose and just relax! Leave your stress at the door and enjoy some physical and spiritual release, that is what NOURISH is all about!

Keep in mind that I am not a yoga instructor, so these tips should be used with caution! These are just some things I like to remember when I do yoga that have helped me over the course of my practice. So….as Victor says: Enjoy!

Poppy Waiting for a Harvest Surprise

First of all, thank you so much for such a warm welcome. I feel blessed to be a part of the Nourish community and connected to all you wonderful people through this gem of a wellness center. Santa Cruz is living up to my every hope, and then some.

Teaching here for the first few weeks has been a sweet journey towards reconnecting to the part of me that exists out in the world, rather than home with the girls. Needless to say, I had been feeling a little restless. It’s nice to be reminded that the solitary nature of the practice is overshadowed by the opportunity so many of us are taking these days to be in dialogue with others about our process. To be out in the world, practicing together, sharing breath and space in the yoga room has been so much a part of the practice for me over the years. Coming to Nourish, I am reminded I am here, with others, seeking answers. And that though we are turning to look in, we are still connected, looking in together. I have missed this in the year I took off to birth my second baby.

I commented in Savasana one day something to the effect of our practice being an opportunity to let go of our expectations, because all we really have is what is happening right now and that ultimately we don’t know what will happen in the next moment. As yogis we sacrifice our musings about the future and the past for what is here before us, seeking truth in the present. A student came up after class to ask about the possibility of choosing our reality by working with our energies, and our beliefs as a way of manifesting what we believe possible and want to bring into our lives. If we visualize ourselves in abundance, wealth, or love (indeed whatever we are seeking) then we will have it.

Certainly we have to have an idea first, believe it can exist, and then bring it forward into reality. That’s how we say…get dinner on the table. And I do believe we must see more esoteric things into the realm of possibility too. Like love or abundance, or the fulfillment of a dream. But I was wondering if Maya, the illusion, is nothing less than the world of our wildest dreaming, our greatest wishes manifesting all over the place, and every other possibility too. And if that’s true, then it’s not the energy around us that we have to influence, but how we receive. Because we may or may not have control of the energies rushing us in the coming moments, but we do get to decide whether we perceive them as obstacles or opportunities. And what an opportunity it is to get to practice with you all. Finding my way into your beautiful space did not happen for me without effort, fear, or uncertainty. Yet here I am, grateful and full of delight.

Thanks for reading!

Valerie

Bonfire Night!

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
The gunpowder treason and plot,

I know of no reason,
Why the gunpowder treason,
Should ever be forgot.

Today I feel a little homesick as I think about the festivities that will occur in my home country tomorrow. November 5th is a holiday in England called Bonfire night, or Guy Fawkes night.

I won’t bore you with all the details but the gist of the history behind the holiday is that a band of dissenters led by a man called Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up King James I and his men with a large amount of gun powder in 1605 (he was Scottish – it’s a long story) .

Mr Fawkes was caught before he got the chance to light the fuse (his cousin betrayed him) and we celebrate the fact every year by setting off fireworks and lighting big bonfires. Some people even make a Guy Fawkes model out of hay and throw it on the bonfire too. It’s one of those twisted traditions that it is best not to really think about – needless to say it’s a lot of fun.

Although most towns organize a large bonfire and firework display for the public to attend, lots of people choose to hold their own bonfire night in the back garden. It’s certainly a fire risk (although England is mostly damp) and every year people blow off their fingers, but it’s also very exciting.

My family takes it pretty seriously. My mum and nana combine to cook soup, chili, baked potatoes and parkin (a kind of delicious gingerbread) while my dad and granddad are in charge of the fireworks. Like kids in a candy store, they pick out the biggest explosives we can safely ignite in our small back yard and then everyone drinks tea or beer and watches as their money goes up in colorful clouds of smoke!

It’s essentially an excuse for people to get together and have a fire and that’s why I think I like it so much. There’s something very pagan and honest about it… and who doesn’t like fireworks?

But this year I will miss out. California does not even allow me to let off a commemorative roman candle. Perhaps I’ll light a match and smell the smoke…

Anthony