Tag Archives: yoga

Ditch the Resolution and Set Your Sankalpa

by Danielle Dickinson

 

A sankalpa can be thought of as a heartfelt desire or as a specific intention that both stem from a place of inner wisdom and aim to bring us towards our highest self.  If you’ve ever heard your yoga teacher ask you to set a sankalpa at the beginning of class (Yoga Nidra is a practice where it’s traditionally done each time), they are referring to a vow that you resolve to set for yourself- something that is deeply personal and comes from a place of loving intention.  When we think of new years resolutions, we often think of some big change.  Sometimes these new years goals are ego driven with superficial reasons behind them.  A sankalpa is formed by our heart-mind and is void of judgment.  So, we can distinguish a sankalpa from a resolution because with a sankalpa practice there is a recognition that we already have inside of us that which we are seeking.  We look beyond the what and the how by also seeking out the why behind our intention.  This provides us with insight into our own selves- who we are and who we want to be at our deepest core.

A sankalpa should be made in the affirmative.  And when reciting our sankalpa, we should use be using the present tense.  As Richard Miller, PhD, a psychologist, author, and yogic scholar explains, “A sankalpa isn’t a petition or a prayer.  It is a statement of deeply held fact, and a vow that is true in the present moment.”  Instead of saying something like, “I will loose weight” or, “I will get in shape,” you might say something like, “I have respect for my body and I treat it well with nutritious food and healthy exercise.”  Instead of saying, “I will start a yoga and meditation practice,” you could say, “I am healing my body and nourishing my mind.”  More simply, if your intention is to be more loving, instead of saying “I will be more loving,” you’d recite to yourself, “I am loving.”

Void of ego, a sankalpa can take us towards our greatest potential.  In the words of spiritual teacher and author, Sally Kempton, “When you make a true sankalpa, you call on the power of your personal will, and align your personal will with the cosmic will.”  Because new years resolutions often have goals that stem from a place of ego, see if you can look to an affirming sankalpa instead.  Let your heartfelt desires direct your dharma (living your true purpose).  A new year doesn’t have to mean the need for a ‘new you,’ but it can encourage the wisdom to look within and foresee a better and attainable version of the same, wonderful you that was always there.

 

Yoga is Balance: Sthira & Sukha On & Off the Mat


Yoga is balance. A fine and tricky balance, to say the least.  But if attained, this balance can provide both calming and grounding energy in addition to giving way to enlightening inspiration and positive change.  In order to get to this sought-after neutral place, one must play with the delicate dance of opposites… hard and soft, dark and light, rough and smooth.  How can we navigate our way to this sweet nectar in the middle where bliss lives?  How can we find our own sense of peace and calm amidst the the back and forth see-saw of lows and highs that is life?  In a word… yoga.

One of the greatest gifts we receive from our yoga practice is that irreplaceable feeling of pure bliss that we are afforded after practice.  And in practice, what we are truly doing is balancing out effort and ease, the well-known yoga concept of sthira and sukha.  In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, he gives us the following aphorism (from sutra 2.46): “sthira-sukham asanam.”  This sutra is most commonly translated as “asana (postures) should be stable {sthira} and comfortable {sukha}.  Being established in a good place- that is, getting grounded, finding proper alignment, diligent focus, engaging the right muscles, and harnessing energy correctly coupled with maintaining a healthy prana (breath/life force) is what this sutra is all about.


We aren’t looking to feel exhausted after a yoga class… in fact, many teachers would argue we’re doing something wrong if we feel this degree of depletion after practice. Instead, we should feel alive yet relaxed at the same time.  We should be practicing in a way that regenerates our energy, not in a way that depletes it.   To achieve this, we ought to be checking in with our breathing often (is prana moving freely?) and we can also do a post class check to see how we are feeling as a whole (are we feeling balanced?).  In the words of T.K.V. Desikachar, we are looking to find and maintain sthira, “alertness without tension” while also finding and maintaining sukha, “relaxation without dullness.”

Hard to both attain and maintain, balance is really the key to one’s yoga practice and if we’re
thinking about yoga in it’s entirety, this translates to balance being the key to living blissfully.  Sure, we need to find both steadiness and ease in downward dog and warrior II, but we also need this delicate balance of embodying enthusiasm and liveliness while at the same time staying focused and keeping our feet firmly planted in our everyday lives.  This is where the yoga practice becomes a life practice.  Striving for that sweet nectar in the middle will bring us toward our perfect happy medium… our own personal bliss.  That nectar of bliss only becomes attainable to us when we are living a life in balance, a life of yoga.

Fall into Autumn with Grace and Ease

 

          The 2016 fall equinox took place on Thursday, September 22 and while it’s been a gentle yfab-lobby-flowertransition into the cooler season so far, the end of summer reminds us that life is full of change.  From long days full of sunlight and warmth to darker, chillier mornings and earlier sunsets, the inevitable change from summer to fall can be one that we tend to resist.  Although autumn is generally a welcomed season and one that brings along with it a slew of joyfulness (pretty leaves, chunky sweaters, fall boots, pumpkin everything, Halloween and warm beverages just to name a few), we might still catch ourselves clinging to summer’s past.   Consciously opening up to the seasonal changes ahead can allow us to open up to any other changes that might also be occurring in our lives externally or even shifts that may be occuring deep within us, internally.

The excess of light energy
from summer is becoming balanced with the dark energy of autumn and we, too can wind down to match the rhythm of the changing seasons.  Not only do we experience impermanence in mother nature, but impermanence is also the nature of the human condition.  Because change is the only constant, it would serve us best to remain unattached to the things we love even when it feels so natural to cling to them.  The transition from summer to fall is a special opportunity for us to tune in to the changes that might be happening deep within us in addition to the more obvious changes that are taking place around us.

An Interview with LocalVore

Five Questions with Yoga For All Beings

On the third floor of an unassuming building in West Town, you’ll suddenly find yourself in a place full of natural light, exposed brick walls, soothing herbal tea, and yoga mats. Yoga For All Beings is an independent yoga studio that welcomes students at any point in their yoga journey to take a class, have some tea, and maybe find a little enlightenment. Owner Danielle Dickinson shared a little more about it with us.

1. What’s your favorite thing about owning your own studio?

Helping others is the best part about owning my own yoga studio. The benefits someone might reap buddah sage legih kunkelfrom the yoga practice are endless, and I continue to be amazed by the progress I see in students with dedicated practice over time. I’ve seen students get stronger and do things they didn’t think they could. I’ve also seen students be humbled by things they thought were easy, but turned out to be quite hard. I’ve seen students break down (emotional release is so brave and healthy), and I’ve also seen students break through… stereotypes, old habits, and negative mindsets. I’ve seen students heal their bodies with careful and attentive practice, and I’ve seen students mend broken hearts with the self-love and compassion that yoga begs of us. I’ve had students literally tell me that my yoga studio (but really it’s just the yoga!) has saved their life. Each time a student shares their heart-felt gratitude for the practice and what it’s done for them, I am encouraged to continue the challenging path of being a yoga studio owner in the city of Chicago… because I know that this business is doing so much good for the people.

2. How did it feel the first time you did a handstand?

Really scary! I’ve always loved the feeling of going upside down, and so the idea of being inverted was not an intimidating one. But getting my body up into handstand gracefully and staying there for more than a half second definitely took some time. The scary part came when I stopped practicing at the wall (not so scary when you have some sturdy dry wall behind you) and started practicing it in the middle of the room (no inanimate object to catch you if you fall out). But the first time I did a handstand in the middle of the room, even though it was probably only for a split second, felt really exhilarating. More importantly and even more satisfying than finally making progress in a difficult pose is when I’m able to do a challenging pose, like handstand, while still maintaining a calm mindset, a steady breath, and an ego that remains in check. Because ultimately, yoga, for me, is not about the physical feats but about the mental peace.

3. Share an unexpected way in which yoga has changed your life.

The first time I connected with yoga on a deeper level was in 2005. Dealing with depression and beet-fq-yoga-for-all-beings-localvore-today-3anger for the majority of my life, I found myself in a downward spiral of darkness and yoga found me at the bottom of this lonely hole. Over the years, yoga has shed light on how I can live my life to keep myself out of this darkness. Initially, yoga was all about getting me to that peaceful state. I went to yoga to feel better mentally, but to my surprise, it also made me feel better physically. Any time my mental state is a mess, it will inevitably show up in my body as some sort of pain or tension. So, practicing yoga not only got my mind right but made my body feel better as well. The community aspect of yoga was also a highlight for me. Even though yoga is a very private, personal and individual practice, doing it in a community setting is so powerful and inspiring. In yoga, it’s all about positive vibes and letting go of anything that doesn’t serve us. Although we show up to our mats for different reasons, we are also there for the same collective reason: to feel better. Just being in a room full of yogis gets the positive energy swirling. For me, yoga is like going to therapy, church, and the gym all in one. And, the way I see it, yoga saved my life.

4. What’s the one thing you want students to take away from class?

There are so many different reasons one might practice yoga: stress release, flexibility, strength, mental clarity, physical injury, addiction, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, grief, and trauma. And so, when I look around the room in class, I’m aware that there are not only a variety of unique bodies in the room (with their own capabilities, limitations and needs) but there are also a variety of intentions in the room as each person brings their own special purpose to the practice. So, while there is so much one could derive from the yoga practice, ultimately I want students to take away exactly what they needed from the practice that day.

5. Smoothies? French fries? What keeps you fueled for yoga?

When it comes to food, I don’t like to discriminate and I’m not too picky. I love smoothies and I love D Wild Thing YFABFrench fries! But as far as being optimally fueled for yoga goes, my best bet (for energy and feeling good) is usually whole, organic foods.

Keep up with all things Localvore in Chicago on The Daily Beet.

Be Bold. Begin Now.

As we examine our life, no matter how far we are into it, we can see in retrospect Beginitchoices or opportunities that seemed to change our course. We made agonized decisions or we dove unthinkingly into coincidence and instinct, but either way we look back and see certain moments as pivotal. More often than not we over-think decisions that in retrospect seem to not matter at all in the long run. On the other hand those places where our heart drew us against conventional wisdom or without much consideration of pros and cons are often the treasured sparks of inspiration and alignment that we can identify as essential to our stories. For myself I can look back and finger certain experiences as key to my personality – the second time I watched Star Wars (I was a too young the first), my first experience living abroad, my fatigue with academia at the exact moment I should have been applying to grad schools, that part-time job in a wine shop that led to a fulfilling 18 year career, meeting my exquisite husband, and Yoga teacher training. They almost all had this in common: they were not forgettable events at the time, but they also didn’t have an exponentially greater sense of importance than other happenings in my exciting life. In other words, in the moment I was not fully conscious of the shift that took place in me and how it would change my life. Yoga teacher training was different.

I was aware during that first weekend of training that my life had changed. My
sensory experience was different, my attitude was different, my relationships were different, and I knew it right away. I sat at the dinner table with my husband and told him that I moved through the world with a fresher understanding, one that made so much more sense than any of the ideas I had explored up until then. You may say I was on the cusp of some of the realizations that came to me. I had been reading, listening, talking and thinking in terms of spiritual and ethical considerations since I was a teenager. (It was not until later, by the way, that I welcomed the body into these contemplations. The mind and body were quite separate things to me at that time.) Not everyone’s experience is guaranteed to be so dramatic but I have never met anyone who regretted embarking on Yoga teacher training, even those who don’t formally teach Yoga.

I had two “yoga moments,” within a short space of time. For two years I had been 11390118_910716748990247_702657078241727207_nputting my honest best into a job that offered financial rewards and prestige. In my heart though, I dreaded going through what I saw as ethically bankrupt interactions. As part of Yoga class one day, my beloved teacher and friend Toni Gilroy quoted Seane Corn that “Being inauthentic is exhausting. Being true to your self is effortless.” I started crying and couldn’t stop. Downward Dog with tears in my nose – not feeling pretty I can tell you. A few weeks later Toni announced Vinyasa teacher training to be held in the same facility where I took classes. I didn’t know what Vinyasa was! I didn’t care. My heart absolutely doubled in size and I teared up again (like I do every time I think of Han Solo shooting Darth Vader’s tie fighter out of the trench so Luke could blow up the Death Star).

Without knowing what would come of it, I committed to become a yoga teacher. I
would learn how to pass on what my teachers taught me. I would learn how to be something different than what I had been– something I believe I was meant to be. Of course I had my moments of doubt, of being too much in my head. Occasionally I equivocated that I would only teach part time, or that I would only study to deepen my own practice. These are both outstanding paths that completely legitimize teacher training.  But for myself I knew from that first weekend that taking all the skills I had used to other aims in prior occupations, and adding to them from the bottomless well that is contemporary Yoga would help me continue a Dharmic path that looking back would seem inevitable, led as it was by my heart’s true desire.

I have several times now thrown everything up in the air, and trusted that things would fall into place when I needed them to be there. The first time I did it, a friend shared with me this quote by W.H. Murray, and it has inspired me ever since.

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, alwaysYFAB_TT_postcard-01 ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.  A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

‘Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.

Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!’ ”
Yoga For All Beings teacher training starts September 2015. Be bold! Begin. Join us..

Jenni Antonicic Padangusthasana

In Celebration of Vinyasa

By Jenni Antonicic

Jenni A HappyThere is a vision of myself that I treasure.  It’s from one of my first Vinyasa classes at a new studio.  The lights were dim, the music and teacher were exuberant, and things had gotten pretty sweaty.  We were cued to “flip our dogs,” taking one foot high in adho mukha svanasana, bending that knee, stacking our hips and then bringing our foot to the floor behind us, pivoting hips and heart and throat up towards the ceiling into an arcing backbend that felt like flying.  My front-body open, grinning chin lifted to the ceiling, free hand reaching for the horizon – I was in euphoric expansion, anchored firmly to a solid foundation.  This experience was reinforced by a friend who walked by the studio window at just that moment and said to me afterwards “Wow, you looked like you were having the time of your life!” This vision and its emotional and spiritual components encapsulate what I love most about Vinyasa – its joyous and creative expression, its element of deep play, and its emphasis on stillness and connection attained through movement .

After twenty years of accepting chronic pain in my body as just “part of life,” I have healed myself of back, hip, feet and wrist injuries, and certainly more that was brewing.  There is a freedom and ease in my physical experience that I never expected to feel increasing as I get older.  Alignment-based asana gets the credit for the feeling that I am in the best shape of my life.  I also acknowledge my meditation practice and a sincere effort at making ethical choices as contributing mightily to my mental and emotional health.  Harmonious relationships, enriching opportunities, and the conviction that my work is of service to others are all pivotal to my overall sense of well-being.  Soft forms of yoga like Judith Lasater’s restorative and Yin have a weekly place in my routine.  I have been blessed by teachers with a thorough understanding of alignment, and the geek in me is quickly taken in by precision.  Relatively static forms of yoga based on distinct, held poses adjusted by a teacher have an important place in the yoga universe.   I like to learn through many styles, especially from therapeutic teachers.  Nevertheless, I bellow a hearty endorsement to alignment-based “flowing” Vinyasa – a practice of movement, breath, and strong fluid transitions.  It offers intense pleasure in the body – the grossest part of our selves, but a viable portal into other aspects of our experience.  The joy of sure and rhythmic movement; the regaining of steadiness when surety is bobbled; the application of just the right amount of exertion to allow the emergence of subtle sensation; sweet trembling fatigue after an offering of energy and strength; and that precious, delicate skill of prioritizing stability over extension – all these things reward me richly.

choose happinessAt some point in my early 30s, my grandmother was expressing disapproval of my chosen life.  “I’m happy,” I said. “Hmmph!” she replied, “Life is not about being happy.” I adore her, and value every memory of her I can retain, but I think she got this wrong. We are aligned with the Divine when we are truly happy  –  anything on the spectrum from quiet contentment to supernova explosions of glee  – and that IS what life is,  about.  Dr. Wayne Dyer encourages us to “vibrate at a high frequency,” a phrase I embrace and repeat with gusto. When our energy is occupied with creative and generous love and beauty, when we offer and accept that energy by practicing strength and skill, even when we stumble, our motions are Grace-full. That flipped dog pose is still one of my favorites. It makes my body, heart and soul unleash ecstatically!

 

Jenni Pic Wedding TreeJenni Antonicic has been exploring her spiritual and physical existence with great gusto since she was a teenager.  She spent more than two decades sharing specialized beverages with fellow connoisseurs before shifting her focus to share specialized practices of body and breath with fellow students.

Shed Your Labels

By Danielle Dickinson

let go of labelsShedding our labels is no small task. As humans, we can be very prone to labeling ourselves and this can have a powerfully limiting effect on us. I often hear students label themselves as “inflexible,” “weak” or “incapable” in some way, shape or form. These adjectives most likely came from a comparison with others. Yoga teacher, Aadil Palkhivala, tells us that this type of comparison causes us to become externally referential in that we make sense of ourselves by referring to outer standards. Constant comparison with outer standards leads to feelings of inadequacy and can even discourage beginning yoga students from coming back to class because they believe they don’t fit the standard for who is supposed to be in a yoga class.

I always remind my students, and will gladly shout it from the rooftops, that there is NO standard for yoga. There is not an adjective you can label yourself with that gives you an easy out for yoga class. Yoga does not discriminate. The beauty of yoga is that this practice meets us exactly where we are in the moment… even if that means we show up with short hamstrings, small biceps and a belly that sticks out a little farther than the person on the mat next to us in class. Theodore Roosevelt urged us not to go down this road in life. As he once profoundly stated, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Not comparing ourselves to others takes effort and restraint to avoid. My recommendation when a tendency to label comes up, is to first think: it’s ok. Don’t judge yourself for the mere fact that a negative thought is entering your mind… you are human after all and comparing and labeling are natural human tendencies. Once you have successfully avoided self-judgment, say to yourself, this is what’s going on with me today and I will honor that. Thoughts are not permanent and they do not define us. Just as we can change or eliminate a thought so can we change and eliminate a label that we may have created for ourselves. Non-attachment is a huge part of the yoga practice and shedding our labels requires us to detach from them.

As Aadil says, “Defining ourselves in terms of external references is a dead end because it means ignoring the desires of the soul.” So, drop your labels, embrace where you are in the present moment and recognize the beauty that lies both without and more importantly, within you.

 

Danielle Dickinson is a yoga teacher, TRE facilitator, animal lover, sun worshiper, laugh loYFAB Logo Tank (1)ver and studio owner.  You can catch both her yoga classes and private TRE services at Yoga For All Beings in Chicago.  www.yogaforallbeings.com

3 Amazing Yoga Retreats

By Sarah Potzler

January 28th, 2015 via YogiApproved.com

Yoga retreats are an incredible way of experiencing different practices in a different setting. Travel helps remove us from our environment, and take our attention away from the daily routines. When we slow down, we allow ourselves to see the beauty around us, as well as within us. Yoga retreats are a change from the norm, a shift in perspective, and a reawakening for your soul. Your yoga mat becomes a magic carpet to see the world around you and help you recognize the infinite possibilities that lie within. If you’re due for a yoga adventure, these are three yoga retreats that I highly recommend.

1. Kamalaya (Thailand)

 Sarah P Kamalaya ThailandKamalaya is a yoga retreat set on a beautiful private beach on the Island of Koh Samui, in Thailand. Kamalaya means ‘Lotus Realm’, an ancient symbol for the growth and unfolding of the human spirit. Expect to experience a completely different culture through their food, spiritual ideals and unique scenery at this award winning resort. Kamalaya offers a variety of packages, ranging from 3-7 days, with pricing ranging from $1,675 USD to $7,550 USD. All packages include: daily yoga practices, breakfast lunch and dinner made fresh from the locals, and beautifully decorated rooms or beach front villas. There are many other amenities like infinity pools, a steam cavern, fitness center and spa.

2. Amansala Eco Chic Resort (Mexico)

Sarah P Amansala MexicoTulum, Mexico, is one of my favorite beaches on this Earth. With the most beautiful blue-green Caribbean water, white sand beaches, and Mayan ruins facing the ocean on the cliffside, there is a lot of magic here. On the beach, you will find Amansala Eco Chic Resort. There are several retreat packages offered at Amansala, all of them include daily yoga sessions, along with room and board, and touring the local sites! Amansala is most known for their bikini bootcamp, a self-explanatory way to get into shape in a breathtaking setting. The retreats vary in pricing from $1,800 – $3,850 USD all depending on how many days and how much yoga you want to do!

3. Sedona Yoga Retreat (Arizona)

Sarah P Sedona

Last but not least, one of the most magical places on earth: Sedona, Arizona. A dear yogi friend will be hosting the Sedona Yoga Retreat March 5 – March 8, 2015. This retreat will take place at the newly renovated and re-named Arabella Hotel Sedona. The retreat package is a 3-day event, filled with daily yoga and meditation practices, hikes through the scenic red rocks, along with goody bags provided by the hostess. The package pricing varies from $403 – $740 USD depending on occupancy and size of room desired. The package price includes yoga, meditation, breakfast, snacks and other hotel amenities. Sedona is an ideal place to practice yoga — a place full of energy vortexes, said to have meditative and healing effects that I am sure you will be visiting during this retreat! There are so many yoga retreats to choose from around the world! My selection humbly offers a sampling of a diversity of cultures and places that I have been to and enjoyed. Yet they all share the promise of a magical, unsurpassed experience that will unveil your soul in ways you have yet to discover, much like the destinations themselves. Enjoy, and happy travels!

 

Sarah P profile photoSarah Potzler is an artist, architect, photographer, writer, music lover, yogi and travel addict. She has been to 20 some countries and 5 continents in the last 3 years. “I still am jaw-dropped everywhere I go…Some more than others. Nowhere is the same… No one is the same. These differences intrigue me, and I try to capture them in my photography, as well as my writing to show the reflective growth traveling has had on me artistically as well as a human being.”