What’s the value of 10 minutes?

Agnistambhasana

Even the most important habits are built in the tiniest of steps — a minute, 10 minutes, an hour a day. But because we are often more excited about the big, eventual change than in the daily action, we lose momentum along the way. We’ve been trying a new habit for a week and we haven’t seen any progress, so we give up! Some actions are like that — you have to persist in brushing your teeth for half a year before you get a pat on the back from your dentist — but other actions give you a sense of progress immediately.

When you take time (even just 10 minutes) to really get to the root of an issue and work creatively on it, you’ll see progress.

I’ll share an insider’s moment here at Iha Yoga: we split up into groups to see how much we can improve our peer’s asana in 10 minutes. I’m writing here because the results were extraordinary. In 10 minutes we 1) asked questions about pain and tension, 2) did exercise tests to see which muscles and joints where weaker or tighter, and 3) assigned exercises to lengthen and straighten. With just one round of exercises, we’ve gotten the results below. With daily 10 minute stretches/strengthening for your goal pose, you’ll relax comfortably into it in no time.

What surprise my group was that the double lotus pose and seated wide forward fold (upavishtha konasana) were not an issue for me, ruling out tightness in the IT band (illiotibial band, on the side of the hips, a common issue for athletes), and tightness in the inner thigh and abductors. Those are two common areas that need stretching — with a tight IT band, do more supine twists; for tight inner thighs, try more standing wide-legged forward folds to stretch and strengthen.

This leaves a final culprit for my square difficulties — tight glutes (maximum mostly, but also minimum), and perhaps flexible but weaker inner thighs. To stretch this area, try a variety of pigeon poses such as the one above. My new favorite stretch is the same as above, rotated so I can lie on the ground with my bottom leg pushing against the wall. In this lying down position, one can push against the wall and focus on bringing the lower back down, stretching the glutes fully.

As you can see, in just 10 minutes of proper focus on the right areas, I improved the alignment of this pose by 5 cm, (and thus the flexibility and strength of my body as well!) Focus and measure the right kind of progress to keep your momentum!

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Yoga for Guys

Yoga for Guys

So the irony of this class is that yoga, a mind/body science and philosophy, was created for and by men. For at least five thousand years until recently, yoga was practiced, philosophized, and propagated mainly by men. One quick glance at the nation’s top yoga teachers, and you’ll find mostly men.

These men, of course, are teaching mostly women. There are lots of reasons for this social imbalance (post your thoughts about it here!), but for several years i’ve waited for DC to be ready for a yoga community, dominated by women, to offer a class only for guys.

This class at boundless, taught by one of our beloved (male) teachers, chaka, is mondays at 7:30 pm.

The fears most men have regarding yoga is that a) they aren’t flexible enough, b) they won’t be able to “best” the class in the same way they do weights at the gym, and c) they won’t get a good enough workout.

Yoga is not exercise, so men, exercise elsewhere and then come to yoga. Yoga is such a holistic approach to the body that it is the best cross-training series of movements you’ll find anyhwere. You’ll learn about your innate flexbilities, even though most of your forward folds will feel horrible in the beginning. You’ll learn about using your natural strength appropriately, instead of from a place of imbalance. You’ll learn why your neck and back are so tight–and, more important, how to unwind that repetitively-built-in tension, letting it go once and for all.

Finally, your partners (whether men or women), will love you more for it.

I’m serious.

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Learning Gratitude with Yoga

Gratitude

Lately I have been trying to focus on the practice of gratitude, and yes, it is a PRACTICE.

The practice is as follows: wake up in the mornings and mindfully take your thoughts to all the things you are grateful for and do your best to carry this through your day. This is more difficult than it seems as I know my mind would prefer to linger over all the other “stuff” in my life…my “to do” list…work…chores…family…pets…and the list goes on and on. But I find that if I set the intention to let go of that thought process and instead focus on the gratitude I carry for all of the wonderful things in my life, not only do my mornings seem more bearable but my day becomes this beautiful way to experience all those things that so enrich my life.

I have heard that gratitude can make what little you have into more than enough and I find that to be true, because on days when the good stuff seems very thin and difficult to find, my practice of gratitude makes the good stuff more prominent.

Some mornings coming to my gratitude practice is more challenging, such as when the pipe under the kitchen sink bursts when I am hurrying to get my breakfast together before work, but then I am reminded of the good again when my husband graciously offers to clean up and fix it so I wont be late.

I have to say my yoga practice coincides wonderfully with my gratitude practice. If I have a difficult time finding or holding on to my gratitude, coming to my mat or even just coming to my breath brings me back. I hope to motivate and encourage my students to find their own practice of gratitude. Everyone has something to be grateful for no matter what is happening in their lives. Sometimes it is easy to find, like when amazing things are happening but other times it is more elusive and THAT is the practice, can you find gratitude no matter what? And if you can, can you hold on to it and let it turn what little you have into more than enough? I invite you to try this practice and see how it enriches not just your day but also your life.

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