First Street Yoga Community News and Blog

learning from easy

This week (2/20), I’ll be teaching restorative poses in all my classes, and Alison will teach restoratives next week. For those of you who are new to the practice, restorative poses are the passive poses of relaxation. Depending on the position, they might offer a lot of stretch, but they require minimal physical effort.

When I was a beginner, they weren’t my favorite poses. If I did get stuck in a restorative practice I felt restless and impatient. Restorative poses were easy to do; why bother practicing them? One day, struggling with this, a voice in my head finally asked me: “if these poses are too easy, why are they so hard to practice?” I’ve been exploring that interesting question ever since.

It takes at least 10 minutes of release for the body to really relax. My bossy mind was so convinced of its own importance that it could not, at first, see the value in any pursuit that didn’t actively require its skills. Patience was my first lesson. When my mind finally began to settle down, I got to experience the physical benefits of restorative poses. When we relax deeply, we support all those things we do without thinking about them – digestion, respiration and circulation, fighting disease, cleansing the body. This support balances the nervous system and clears away the many negative effects of stress.

We invite you to come in and unwind. Whatever else is going on in your life, give yourself an hour and a half to set your burdens down. Come in and see what happens when easy is your teacher.

help for aching necks, shoulders and upper backs

Sore necks, injured shoulders, tired aching upper backs: these are the common results of daily life. The head, after all, is a heavy burden. When we spend the day with our nose to the grindstone, so to speak, the upper body suffers. It may be work that starts the problem but resulting discomfort affects all of our life: sleep, play, exercise, and the ability to remain cheerful. That’s a lot to lose.

There’s a cure. Join Jane on Sunday November 13 for help for aching necks, shoulders and upper back. This three hour workshop (1-4) is appropriate for all levels. In it, students will learn about the anatomy of the upper body and begin to gain a better understanding of their difficulties. Active asanas will work to develop strength in the back body while restorative poses will help stretch and relax the muscles of the upper chest and shoulders.

To save a spot in the workshop, email or call (503) 554-5485.

It is possible to trade that pain in the neck for a light heart!

yoga for men:
because most men don’t want to be
the only guy in a room full of leotards

Most of us have had the experience of driving a car when the tires are not quite balanced. It takes more work – to hold the car steady in its lane, to corner and to change speeds. Our bodies are just the same. We function best when we are symmetrical, but life works against symmetry. Right-handed or left-handed, how we work and how we play, these factors tend to develop muscles unevenly. When we’re out of balance we’re just like that unbalanced car; extra effort must go to keeping on track. The practice of yoga is an individual practice of figuring out and correcting our asymmetries. Strength and flexibility are balanced to create the greatest freedom of movement possible.

Yoga myths

You must be flexible to practice yoga. Strength and flexibility are like the flip sides of a coin; the stronger you are, the less flexible you are liable to be. Yoga works to balance these qualities in all the poses. We use props like chairs and blankets to support ourselves on this journey. Yoga gradually encourages flexibility by releasing tense muscles to allow greater range of motion, while training muscles to be strong even in extended positions.

Yoga is good for improving stress and flexibility but it’s not real exercise. When we move quickly from pose to pose, yoga practice can be quite aerobic. Most of the time, especially for beginners, yoga asana is more like weight training – but the weight you bear is your own. Moving in and out of the poses as well as the isometric tension of holding poses work to build muscle. When we strengthen a muscle in a lengthening position (the opposite of crunching contractions) the muscle is less visible but more active metabolically (will burn more calories when at rest). Unlike weight machines, yoga doesn’t target specific muscles. Instead, it aims toward best function. You’ll discover muscles you never knew you had!

Yoga truths

Yoga is an excellent cross-training for most sports. Because yoga practice works to create a balanced body, the awareness, coordination, and strength it confers benefits all sports. Further, the emphasis on mental focus and emotional stability can be key in eliciting the best possible performance even in stressful circumstances.

Yoga is one of the best ways to improve back problems. Numerous well designed studies now confirm that alignment based yoga is one of the most effective ways to cure chronic back pain. Just like the alternatives, surgery and pain management, yoga has side effects. The side effects for yoga? Stress relief, increased feelings of well being, better breathing patterns, long term weight loss, and more.

Yoga decreases stress and improves concentration. While we work physically, we keep the mind focused on our immediate experience. This simple focus becomes a meditation that improves concentration and teaches tools for managing stress.

Interested? Join John Thursday evenings at our Introductory Course (For Men) and experience these yoga truths for yourself.

free intro to vinyasa saturday july 30

We still have space in the free vinyasa class this Saturday from 11:30-1. This should be a great experience for healthy beginners and for continuing students who understand how to work with any physical problems they may have.

At First Street Yoga, correct physical alignment is always a priority in order to transform inefficient postural habits and protect joint health. In a vinyasa class, we flow from pose to pose and there is less time for specific instruction. The practice is a little more meditative and aerobic than our usual L1 classes. In fact, it is much more like a guided home practice.

Every style of yoga has its own strengths and weaknesses. Careful detailed instruction is transformational and teaches precision in thought and movement. It is also a more analytical experience, and its weakness is that it can tend to keep us a little stuck in our heads. A flowing vinyasa practice may not be as effective at changing old physical habits but it encourages the mind to quiet and become more attentive to the sensations of the body, increasing strength and flexibility, circulation and relaxation.

Come fall, Alison will teach an on-going vinyasa class on Wednesday afternoons. I am very excited about this new option and believe you will find it to be another great yoga tool to help improve the quality of life. If you’re interested, please join us on Saturday (and let anyone else know who might be interested). You can reserve a spot by emailing or calling 503-554-5485, or you can just show up and attend first-come-first-served

upcoming free classes

We still have space in the upcoming free classes:
intro to yoga on Wednesday July 20 from 3-4:30
intro to vinyasa on Saturday July 30 11:30-1.

The free classes are a great way for prospective students to learn about yoga at FSY, but you don’t have to be a new student. We offer the free classes periodically as a gift to the community. Current and past students are also most welcome. Those of us who teach at First Street have been changed by our yoga practice (just ask my family!); it is our great pleasure to share this simple and effective tool for living. I hope to see you soon.