First Street Yoga Community News and Blog

spring: time to turn over a new leaf

Over the course of the winter I’ve gained a little weight. I always do. Now the days are longer, the rain will stop sometime, and I’m beginning to feel eager to transform that winter sloth into springtime energy. I’ve started running to the mailbox and back for the morning paper. The first morning was surprisingly tiring. The second morning, I thought the plan was questionable and a little obnoxious. By the third morning I was having fun. Next week, I’ll add a run around the house.

As a yoga teacher, I am lucky to witness the new leaves of beginners, to see the excitement and surprise as weakness changes to strength and aches and pains begin to lessen and disappear. Buoyed by success and optimism, these beginners are often ready to sign up for multiple classes a week. Of course, the more you practice the faster you’ll learn, and I’m happy for the registration. But if students ask me, I counsel restraint. Just like a plant, if we grow too enthusiastically in a new direction, we risk injury or collapse. Just like a plant, we need a structure that will support our new growth.

Twenty years of yoga practice has taught me that the small gesture is often the most effective. Dramatic actions get attention, but the small healthy change that is sustainable turns lives around.

Start a yoga class, just once a week to begin. Even people who hate to exercise find they can enjoy yoga. The body learns that physical activity can be pleasant and other forms of exercise become less daunting. The mind learns to slow down, relax and listen to the body’s cues.

Join me this spring for a little bit of yoga. This simple act can be the first step on a new path to greater health and happiness.


Go easy on yourself, a new wave of research urges

A recent New York Times article discusses new research that shows that being compassionate to yourself may give you better health. It supports the Yoga Sutra I.33.

Sutra I. 33

“Through cultivation of friendliness, compassion, joy and indifference to pleasure and pain, virtue and vice respectively, the consciousness becomes favorably disposed, serene and benevolent.” (Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, trans. BKS Iyengar)

By practicing this Sutra not only towards others but to ourselves can change our lives from the inside out.


February 28, 2011, 5:26 PM

Go easy on yourself, a new wave of research urges


Do you treat yourself as well as you treat your friends and family?

That simple question is the basis for a burgeoning new area of psychological research called self-compassion — how kindly people view themselves. People who find it easy to be supportive and understanding to others, it turns out, often score surprisingly low on self-compassion tests, berating themselves for perceived failures like being overweight or not exercising.

The research suggests that giving ourselves a break and accepting our imperfections may be the first step toward better health. People who score high on tests of self-compassion have less depression and anxiety, and tend to be happier and more optimistic. Preliminary data suggest that self-compassion can even influence how much we eat and may help some people lose weight.

This idea does seem at odds with the advice dispensed by many doctors and self-help books, which suggest that willpower and self-discipline are the keys to better health. But Kristin Neff, a pioneer in the field, says self-compassion is not to be confused with self-indulgence or lower standards. continue reading »

beyond om

Come learn to read and chant in Sanskrit! Saturday and Sunday, April 16-17, Kathryn Payne, a teacher with the American Sanskrit Institute, will teach us to recognize and pronounce the sounds of the Sanskrit alphabet. You’ll be able to read the original yoga sutras and pronounce the ancient chants with confidence.

Sanskrit, meaning refined speech, is the ritual language of yoga (and Buddhism and Hinduism). I’ve come to know it through my studies of Patanjali’s yoga sutras, and I appreciate the exotic vocabulary. Ahimsa, for example, has come to mean something more than non-violence. For me, it is a non-ordinary word which represents a non-ordinary ideal of harmlessness. The deep concepts of Patanjali’s sutras are served by a special vocabulary that can gain meaning as practice and understanding deepens.

Sound is also a healing tool. I’m not aware of studies on the healing benefits of sound, but there is no question that when we chant every cell in our body vibrates in tune with that sound. The tradition of yoga uses the sounds of the Sanskrit alphabet as seed sounds to open and balance the chakras, or energy centers, of the body. On a more superficial level, chanting exercises the lungs and vocal chords. Sanskrit chants have long been used as tools for meditation and devotion.

To learn more, see the workshop page. If you’re interested, please sign up right away! We need to have enough people to make this worth the trip for Kathryn. I anticipate students from out of the area, so it is also a wonderful opportunity to meet other yogis and make some new friends. I hope you’ll join me.


A yoga tour of yourself — forward bends

Join us for forward bends this Sunday, March 6 1-4!

This workshop will emphasize physical engagement. Minimal anatomy instruction and  explanation will help to keep you focused on you as we use these important postures to take a journey of the self.

Our itinerary will begin with the big outer muscles like the hamstrings and spinal muscles. As you gently penetrate the resistance of the outer body (anamaya kosa), you will begin to discover the energetic body (pranamaya kosa). Long holds and gentle breath work in the asanas will help calm and organize the nervous system and begin to bring clarity to the mental body (manomaya kosa). If you’ve never done 3 hours of forward bends before, you might find yourself in brand new territory!

This workshop is appropriate for students who have been practicing alignment based yoga for at least six months. For more information, see the workshop page.

2/24 Thursday 5:45 class canceled

I’m canceling the Thur. 5:45 class as it is getting colder and continuing to snow in the hills. We’ll do restoratives on Thur. evening next week.

Weather reports say it should dry up, so I’m still planning on having class tomorrow morning at 9 am.