Archive for August, 2010

Art of Attention with Elena Brower

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

In a flash time moves past us so fast that at times we don’t even realize it.  We often don’t take the time to enjoy the simple things that life has to offer from inside of ourselves to those around us and our natural surroundings.  Yoga teaches us to slow down while paying attention to what is happening in the present from feelings, to events and our actions.  The more we stay in the present the stronger and more grounded we will get. One of my favorite websites   at http://www.artofattention.com teaches people to being more attentive to themselves, others and their surroundings. I have incorporated the five-step process to train us to be more attentive in my own life . The first one is to pause and take into account what is happening to us from the inside to the outside.  The second step is to accept who we are while acknowledging the beauty that is inside us.  We also must learn to accept and respect people for who they are because we are all unique in our own ways.  Once we start the practice of paying attention we will experience the awakening of what we are experiencing at that given moment.  As always, express gratitude to yourself and others for what we do have. The website was created by Elena Brower, a yoga instructor based in New York City surroundings. I had an opportunity to interview Elena about her website.

1.  How did you get involved with yoga and open your own studio ?

A friend took me to a class in the early 90’s and I was immediately hooked.  I had no idea HOW hooked.

After working for several years after college as a textile and apparel designer, I met Cyndi Lee of OM Yoga and took her second teacher training, and that is where it all began.  A couple of years later I met John Friend of Anusara Yoga, and became certified as an Anusara teacher 4 years later.  In the middle of that, in 2002, I opened up Virayoga in NYC, and it’s still going strong.

2.  What is Art of Attention?

Art of Attention is a vision that I have for all of us. It’s all about using our attention, our only real commodity, towards creating and cultivating more presence, more gratitude, more respect, more elegance in everything we do.

3.  What is the purpose and goal of the site?

The purpose and goal of the site is one and the same; to introduce and/or remind us all (myself included) of our inherent grace.  The introductions and reminders come in the form of writings, practices, video practices and eventually, a book.

4.  What are your future plans?

Future plans: more of the same.  Traveling, writing, practicing, teaching; becoming a more honest human being, loving my child, my family, my friends; serving my teachers and their teachings.

Dealing with Stress

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

There are several things that can be done every day to reduce stress such as having a healthy eating plan, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep.  Yoga and meditation are excellent ways to relax the mind and release tension from the body.  Deep breathing exercises and visualizing peaceful settings is a great way to calm down.  In my opinion laughter is the best medicine for almost any situation that brings about stress.  Whenever I laugh I can actually feel the stress decreasing with happiness increasing inside of me. Practicing reassuring self talk helps with keeping a positive attitude during every day life.  Over the years I have developed my own techniques to use when dealing with stress and anxiety.  My oldest and most reliable is journaling.  I have always felt that once it is written down it is over.  I always carry a small comforting object that I can draw strength from.  I use to carry a small angel with me to give me support to contend with any situation.  But today I draw power from my wedding ring because I know I can handle anything with my husband at my side.  I have practiced yoga and meditation every morning for as long as I can remember and it has always helped me stay centered and focused in life.  During my meditation practice I like to create a safe, peaceful place in my imagination such as the beach and the woods.  When I close my eyes while taking slow deep breaths I can actually visualize the sights, sounds and smells of the location, which can be a very relaxing.  More importantly I just take one day at a time and live happily in each moment.

Natasha Rizopoulos

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

One of my favorite columns in Yoga Journal is Beginner’s Expert, written by Natasha Rizopoulos.  Natasha is a yoga teacher who has been teaching and training yoga teachers for many years.  In her column she talks about how practice safely while getting the most out of the practice.  She also created a DVD, the Yoga Journal Step by Step Home Practice.  I had the pleasure of talking with Natasha about yoga.

1.      When and how did you start yoga?

About 15 years ago.  A friend brought me to an asana class and I was instantly hooked … It was reminiscent of the best of my days as a ballet dancer, without some of the negative aspects that had caused me to stop dancing.

2.  Why did you become a teacher?

I wanted to share the thing I had become so passionate about so that others could experience the benefits that so immediately became apparent to me.  I wanted to help people so that they could get on a Yogic path and stay on it, in whatever incarnation, for the rest of their lives.

3.  What is your purpose and goal for your online column for Yoga Journal?

It relates to why I started teaching; as a new practitioner I became hurt quite quickly because I had a lot of enthusiasm but not much information or guidance.  My hope with the column is to share essential information about foundational postures so that students can find the fullest and safest expression of poses, and be able practice for years to come without injuring themselves.

4. Do you have any future plans?

I’ll continue to lead Teacher Trainings (currently I lead 2 a year in Boston) and write and travel.  In the immediate future I’m thinking about creating some podcasts so that people who can’t get to my classes can still practice with me, and down the road I hope to put it all together in a book, but at the moment that is a fairly distant dream …

5.  Do you have any advice for beginning yoga students?

Please, please go to Beginner classes!  Even if you are already quite fit or athletic you will be served by spending at least a little while in a Beginner setting, so that you can get the crucial information about breath and alignment that is often assumed, and therefore not articulated, in more advanced classes.  My great regret is that I didn’t go to Beginner classes when I was new to the mat … (I mistakenly thought they would be boring, when in fact the pace and wealth of information makes a good Beginner class a truly enriching and satisfying experience).  As a result, I had some unnecessary injuries and think I actually slowed down my progress because I didn’t really know what was going on and was always playing catch-up.  Although I rarely go to public classes these days, when I do my favorites are inevitably Beginner classes, because the tone in the room is so beautiful, and the gentle and measured pace allows me to move at the speed that I prefer and that I practice at home.

Visit Natasha at http://www.natasharizopoulos.com/ and http://www.yogajournal.com/basics/1593


Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Anger can be destructive while undermining happiness and freedom.  It can also destroy the peacefulness of the mind and body.  When we are angry we experience mental turmoil, frustration and feelings of uneasiness.  We often get so caught up in anger that we often lose our focus on our goals and tasks at hand.  Too much anger and stress can also lead to health problems such as high blood pressure.

There are many emotional forms of anger such as hatred, outrage and frustration.  Sometimes the expression of anger can cause hurt feelings or give a bad impression.  However, anger can also drive us to meet our goals, to make positive changes and provide extra strength.  There are many causes of anger such as social rejection, discrimination and peoples’ words and actions.

In everyday life we were always taught to suppress anger and divert attention away from it.  We were also taught to express our anger, but the key is to do it in a healthy way.  Yoga has taught us to look inside of ourselves to find the root of the problem at issue.  At the same time we must observe ourselves experiencing the anger while feeling the emotions.  Once we ask ourselves why we are angry, we must accept our feelings and acknowledge them as part of ourselves.  Once we have taken ownership of our anger, we can use that power to do good, resolve the issue and to grow.  Anger should not be feared since it can be a self-exploring tool to find more wisdom about ourselves.

I have always seen anger as a way to determine what your passion and purpose is in life.  For example, I get very angry about discrimination against disabled individuals.  I have used this passion to create my column to bring light to issues facing the disabled while hoping that I am making a difference.  When I am angry I always pay close attention to how I express my feelings without offending others or escalating the situation.  I prefer to come to a quiet resolution that all parties agree upon because peace is the key to any problem.


Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Being a perfectionist has its good and bad points.  A normal perfectionist strives to achieve reasonable goals while being realistic in their own life.  However, being too much of a perfectionist can cause you to be tied up in knots and bring about feelings of anxiety, shame and worry.

The good part of being a perfectionist is self-satisfaction and enhanced self-esteem and pride.  People who are normal perfectionists are more self oriented and usually measure against themselves rather than others.  Abnormal perfectionists strive for very high standards, have fears of failure and disappointing others.  They usually discount success while focusing on failures.  Their performance is usually based on the approval of others.

A yogini lives life to the fullest while experiencing the joy in everything we do.  They obtain a healthy body, clear, strong minds while being selfless, compassionate and loving.  The practice of yoga shows us how to focus on ourselves while being non-judgmental or comparing ourselves to others.  One of the main lessons of yoga is that we are all different and unique.  We should accept ourselves for who we are.

There are steps we can take to remove the negative perfectionist from our life.  The first one is to retrain our way of thinking from negative thoughts to positive thoughts.  The second step is to give yourself permission that it is ok for you not to be the best at everything.  Always achieve the maximum while acknowledging mistakes and failures that we can learn from.  The next one is to always live in the present while leaving the past behind you.  The final step is to try to take the negative energy and use it as a positive force to move on.  Always remember to be honest with yourself and be open to the truth.

Over the years I have struggled with the negative aspects of being a perfectionist.  I have found that through yoga I am learning to accept myself for who I am and to stop worrying about pleasing everyone.  I am also learning to do my best while only meeting my expectations and not comparing myself to others.  As a yogini, I try to live each day with love and happiness while reminding myself that all I can do is my best and to leave the past in the past.