Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Glue To Hold It All Together

"Everything you bring to your mat is your whole life up to this point." Judith Lasater

As you step onto your mat today, realize that you bring with you all of your fears, desires, lessons, perceived limitations, strengths, judgements and triumphs. Find your center and settle into the rhythm of your breath. Breathe in acceptance for your challenges, your failures, your limitations and your successes. Breathe out gratitude for the hard lessons and your blessings. All of these have shaped the perfect being that you are but once you lose sight of acceptance and gratitude, that's when things will start to fall apart.

Inhale acceptance. 
Exhale gratitude.
Smiles and a namaste.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Vinyasa Flow 101: 
Build Your Practice From the Ground Up

Never practiced yoga before? This four week workshop series is designed
specifically for the absolute beginner or anyone wanting a step-by-step review
of the basics.  You will walk away with a strong foundation in the fundamentals of yoga, breathing, and alignment in elemental versions of a variety of poses.

Upon completion you will be ready to comfortably walk into drop-in basic or open level yoga classes at local studios and gyms.

Two sessions to choose from:
Tuesdays beginning January 10-January 31 from 1:15 to 2:30 pm
Thursdays beginning January 12-February 2 from 6 to 7:15 pm

Price: $40 or $65 includes a yoga mat

Location: My in home studio in Waterside Estates
(Space is extremely limited)

Contact:   Kimberly Werner

Click on the link under "What's Going On" for registration and payment details.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I had the most amazing home practice today. I practice regularly in my home studio, usually very early in the morning before my kiddos get out of bed, but yesterday was very special.  See, usually I go into it with a big master plan with a list of poses I want to "work on". I then get overwhelmed...then disappointed with my residual "didn't get to" list.

Today was totally different.  I didn't have a plan.  I walked in, centered myself then simply enjoyed the practice as an exploration as opposed to a punch list. I could feel my body opening and flowing gracefully as I lost the rigidity in my mind. I was able to explore (deeper than ever I might add) some more advanced postures and the ease of which it came was surprising. I was totally blissed out.

Now as I am faced with challenges, circumstances layered by expectations and rigid plans, I will remember this practice.  I will remember to simply explore with grace and an open heart for the outcome could possibly be better than I ever imagined.

Beginning and maintaining a home practice can be challenging. Here are some things that has worked for me:

  • Set up a sacred place. Find a place that you can call your own, as free from distractions and chaos as possible, a place that is only for yoga.
  • Be ritualistic. Just as we prepare for bed and dinner, prepare for your practice.  Find a quiet time of day, put on inspiring music and light some candles.  Always begin by centering yourself and connecting to your breath.
  • Explore. Just get on the mat and see what happens.
  • Don't ruin the practice by reflecting on what you didn't do. Celebrate what you did do. You found time to nurture yourself and take care of yourself. It doesn't matter if you did a one handed scorpion.  What matters is that you calmed your thoughts, connected within and you feel good.
  • Thank yourself and honor your light within. Give yourself a pat on the back for taking time out of your busy day. Thank your body for enduring the challenges and pressures you put on it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Stillness as the Teacher

Hello Yogi's! I recently attended a workshop on Yin yoga, hosted by Yoga on the Brazos in Richmond and presented by my friend Rhia Robinson.  I usually practice vinyasa flow, a hatha tradition in the yang style. This style traditionally focuses on gaining muscle flexibility and strength as well as building incredible internal heat. I was really excited to participate in this workshop because, while I love vinyasa flow, I also love and appreciate a change of pace.  Going to a new class, and an unfamiliar teacher for that matter is refreshing. (Rhia is not unfamiliar to me but I mean ANY unfamiliar teacher. Which as a side note, is a healthy perspective next time you walk into class and find a sub in place of your favorite teacher.) Anyway...facing the unfamiliar infuses my practice with renewed energy as it gives me the opportunity to approach my practice from a beginner's mind.  

Many of the students that day were new to Yin and Rhia explained the practice using an incredible analogy (Rhia, forgive me if I don't get the verbiage quite right but I think I have the gist of it). Yang is like climbing a mountain. You work hard climbing up the steep points, with flat terrain mixed in for ease. Then you get to the summit and admire your efforts then climb back down.  Yin is like floating on a river.  You ride the currents of challenge and ease as you allow time and gravity to work magic.

For everything that a yang practice is, yin is the direct opposite. Yang is heat building, Yin is cooling.  Yang focuses on the musculature while in Yin we are muscularly soft and focusing on the supportive tissues...the ligaments, tendons and joint spaces.  Yang includes the entire body while Yin focuses on the area between the belly button to the knees. Yang is alignment and aesthetic based while Yin focuses on the functionality of the posture.  You are encouraged to dismiss usual cues of the posture (square the hips, extend the toes back, open the chest,ect.) and are instead encouraged to explore the posture in your own body.  My pigeon may look significantly different from yours, but the point is to work your way slowly into the posture and explore how it feels. Yang typically holds postures for 3-5 breaths while Yin holds postures for 3-5 minutes (or longer). 

The long holds in a yin practice can be daunting.  While the postures are typically more passive they are intense in their own right.  There is just as much effort in letting the muscles go as there is in contracting them to the bone.  I challenge you to sphinx pose for example.  In the Yin practice, you are encouraged to relax the quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteal muscles. This may sound easy, but after the first few rounds of breath you will find yourself engaging once again.  It's a repeated practice of letting go when you don't quite realize you are holding on.  Hmmmm.  There's a tid-bit to take with you off the mat.

What's also interesting about the long holds is the practice in mindfulness.  It was interesting to observe the emotions that came up.  Contentment morphed into agitation which surrendered into ease which brought on panic which then became joy. The challenge was sticking with the breath and allowing each emotion its time...not holding on to the "good" ones or fighting against the "bad" ones but simply letting each one come and go. 

What I really loved about Rhia's workshop was Rhia herself.  She gently guides you into these postures and encourages you to take your time and work your way into it.  There is no right or wrong way...just you and your body in your own exploration. But what was especially nice was how she wove tid-bits of yogic philosophy and spirituality throughout the class in a way that reflected the postures but also in a non-esoteric and practical way that was easily relateable. If you want to check out a Yin yoga, you can find Rhia at .  

Namaste Loves!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lift Off Into Twisted Scissors

Recently I was talking to a few students after class about how to get into Eka Pada Koundinyasana II (twisted scissors) and while I showed them one method and they rocked it, I have been trying to think of other ways to transition into this posture.  There are a thousand ways to skin a cat...or “a hundred ways to kiss the ground” I guess is a more yogic way of expressing my point.  Anyway. Play with it and see what works best for you.  
Twisted scissor crow and scissor crow are two of the more basic arm balance postures taught, usually after Bakasana or Crow.  These postures will strengthen the shoulders, triceps and forearms and makes you really engage your core.  What I like most about arm balances are they are so day you can rock it...the next day maybe not so much. You bring total awareness to the subtle energy running throughout all parts of your body from your core extending out the top of your head and out the tips of your toes. Your body has to be fully engaged.  There is no room for casualty or laxity. The most minute movement can have a profound effect of the posture...either greater expression or you could crash and burn.  But it’s all good.  Falling is part of learning.
To prepare, do several rounds of Surya Namaskar A to warm up the connection between the body and breath.  The posture requires flexibility in the hips, hamstrings and torso so perform several rounds of the following flow sequence on the left and right sides (hold each posture for 5 full breaths):

From standing sink your hips down into chair pose
Step back to crescent lunge, twist or create fly away arms
Warrior 2
Twisted low lunge
Side plank
Three legged down dog then float knee to nose
Three legged down dog then float knee to same elbow
 Three legged down dog then float knee to opposite elbow
The first method for coming into Eka Pada Koundinyasana II is, I think, the easier way and a good place to start if you are just beginning to explore this posture.  This method is easier because you are balancing your hips on both arms as opposed to just one arm. 

Start in a squat position with your hands on the mat, palms just under shoulders.  Squat high on the balls of your feet and with your thighs, knees and lower legs pressed together, twist your legs to the right.  
Lower down to chatturanga arms and begin to place your left hip on your right elbow and your outer left thigh on your right elbow. Looking about a 12 to 18 inches in front of you, start to shift horizontally forward and begin to lift your feet off the ground using the backs of your arms as a table top.  
Now, with full awareness of your balance, start to extend your left leg while extending your right leg back.  As you move your right leg back you have to continue to counterbalance the movement by extending horizontally through the top of your head and into your fingertips.
In the second method, begin in Ardho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog).  Lift your right leg and extend the ball of your foot up to the ceiling, inner thighs pressing up and back.

Float your shoulders over your wrists and draw your right knee towards your left armpit.  Create space by pulling your low belly toward your spine and slightly rounding your back. 

Lower into chaturanga arms so that your biceps are parallel to the mat.  Place the outside of your right thigh high on your left upper arm.  You can keep your left toes down for now. Gaze 12-18 inches in front of you and start to shift horizontally forward into your fingertips, coming higher on your left toes.  Hug your core in and engage both legs entirely while extending thru your collarbones. As you shift forward, your back leg will begin to lift.  Hold for a few breaths then step back to chaturanga and take a vinyasa.  
Key tips to keep in mind:
  • It’s not as hard as it may look.  Don’t assume you can’t do it.  Try it. Play with it.  You may be surprised at how strong you really are. But if you can’t imagine it, you can’t have it.  
  • It’s more about finding that sweet balancing spot and flexibility than it is about strength.
  • Many people try to go into the pose with a casual back leg.  It won’t happen that way.  The posture requires full commitment from your entire body...from your fingertips to toe tips.
What are your tips for coming into twisted scissors? 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Full Moon!!!!!!

     I am so excited to teach tonight...not that I am not excited for every (most) classes but tonight is special because it's a full moon!  There are all kinds of urban legends about the full moon...people go crazy, strange things happen, emergency rooms fill up, more arrests are made, pregnant women go into labor.  These are fun ideas to entertain but I'm excited because it gives us an opportunity to bring awareness to how nature effects our bodies and our moods and yoga is a perfect vehicle to bring everything back into balance. 
     The full moon and new moon are times during the lunar cycle when gravitational pulls have an energetic effect on the earth that can be compared to the breath cycle in our bodies.  The energy of the full moon is likened to the top of the inhale where prana (life force) expands toward the top of the head.  That is why during this time we may feel more energetic and vibrant yet ungrounded and feisty.  The new moon energy is a downward movement of apana that is compared to the bottom of the exhalation.  We feel calm and grounded but lethargic and unmotivated.  In the Ashtanga tradition, the full moon and new moon days are held as holidays and practice is encouraged during the mid lunar cycle when we are more balanced.  During the full moon when we may feel fired up and stubborn and may be less likely to listen to our bodies and honor our limits and may push too far and cause injury.
     In Hatha yoga, "Ha" means Sun (masculine energy) and "Tha" means Moon (feminine energy).  Most yogi's are familiar with Sun Salutations...dynamic invigorating sequences that fire up internal heat to build strength.  Less familiar are the Moon Salutations.  These are a series of postures that celebrate the feminine energy and are associated with intuition, the shadow and balance.  These sequences promote inward reflection and a sense of calm.  Anytime you feel out of whack...whether it is because of the lunar cycle or you are just having an off day, see if you can practice in a way that brings you back into balance.  If you are feisty and irritable try incorporating some grounding and cooling postures into your practice.  Likewise, if you are feeling lethargic and unmotivated go for a more dynamic heat producing sequence. 
     As a side note, bio dynamic farmers use the lunar cycle to manage crops.  They plant seeds during the new moon phase and pull weeds during the full moon phase.  Integrate this principle metaphorically into your practice.  During the full moon ask yourself: What am I holding inside of me that is setting me back?  What can I finally let go of that no longer serves me in a positive way?  Pull your internal weeds and make space for new growth and opportunity.  Namaste. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

I used to be an avid runner until I became an avid yogini.  Once I started my teacher training, my running took a backseat and I lost knowing how to balance these two loves that I have.  One day this week I laced up my sneakers and went for an early morning run like old times. Also this week, I was looking through my phone and found an old notes section where some time ago I jotted down a list of why I love to run.  At the time I did it "just because" not knowing the significance it would have for me later on.  I made a promise to myself that even if I didn't get out as much as I used to, I'd get out more than I currently do.  Balance.  Here's my list...

Why I love to run:

It gives me peace
It restores my spirit
I feel strong
To set a goal
To show my kids it's not about winning
I love my running friends
I feel invincible running in the blistering cold or in the rain (and I giggle at the crazy looks I get)
To see the sunrise
To see the sunset
To smell a neighbor's BBQ
A reason to splash in a puddle
To day dream
To escape
To reconnect
To feel the sunshine
To sight see on trips
To relish the early morning beauty
To teach my kids to be strong and fit
To eat loads of chocolate
Because I can today and may not be able to tomorrow
An excuse to run through a sprinkler or jump in a puddle
Running skirts!!!!! 
Skinny jeans!!!
To listen to my breath, breath is strength.

What do you love to do?  What did you love to do that you now feel disconnected from? 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

It's Not Your Junk

 I sat down to prepare my classes for this week and planned the intention around approaching your practice from a beginner's mindset.  It went loosely something like this: 

This week I challenge you to practice from a beginner's mind set. I don't mean be easy on yourself. I mean let go of the expectations you have for your practice, forget about what you think the aesthetics of the posture is supposed to look like, and set yourself free of any boundaries you limit yourself to.
     Well, as is typical of most of my planning, it quickly fell apart.  See, a family I know was in a stressful situation and needed my help.  I was more than happy to be able to be there for them.  I was even honored to be able to help.  As the day went on and even after I knew that I had done everything in my power that I could, I was still anxious for them.  I had anxiety and I couldn't stop thinking about their situation.  Then I had the "Ah Ha" moment.  It's not my junk!  I did everything I could, but beyond that I needed to let it go.
     So, this is my challenge to you and to my students this week.  What are you holding onto, soaking up or fixating on that doesn't belong to you?  What can you let go of to create more space within for the good stuff? I don't say this for you to walk around with a "screw you" attitude.  Hold that person in need with compassion, be helpful, lend an ear, give them your shoulder.  Just be real with yourself and own what is yours and let other people own theirs.   

     Meta Meditation – Loving-kindness ~ Buddha

May I be well
May I be happy and content
May I be free from danger and suffering
May I be filled with loving-kindness

May you be well
May you be happy and content
May you be free from danger and suffering
May you be filled with loving-kindness

May all beings be well
May all beings be happy and content
May all beings be free from danger and suffering
May all beings be filled with loving-kindness 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Hold the Difficulties as Sacred

     As any yogi with a dedicated practice will tell you, yoga is not easy.  It is rejuvenating, cleansing, will kick your butt and parts can be relaxing...but it's not easy.  Most people find yoga purely for the physical workout.  They imagine themselves svelte and lean thanks to influences from celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston and Madonna.  If you stick with a dedicated practice with a good nutrition program, a "good" body will be a nice side effect but yoga is so much more than that.  It's about finding a connection between your mind, your breath and your body.  It's about staying connected and grounded using your breath as the anchor.  Without the inquiry the postures just become calisthenics, just another workout to muscle through and the students leave class without any sort of lesson learned.  And, as Leann Carey once said in class, "You can't put the relationship to your breath and the postures on like a pair of pants.  It is something that is constantly evolving and being nurtured."  It is the integration of yoga on as well as off the mat that is the challenge.     
     During your next asana practice, I challenge you to go beyond the physical demands of the postures themselves.  Can you connect to your body, deep within, and develop an internal inquiry so that you come off the mat with something other than open hamstrings?  I will give you some things to think about for when the going gets tough:
     Welcome difficulty as a blessing.  It is in these moments when we feel our weakest that the magic happens.  With perseverance and fortitude you will gain strength and learn that you are stronger than you ever believed you are.  But, you have to be willing to push to your edge and do something scary.
     Be aware of the connection between your energy level, your internal dialogue and your breath.  When you start fighting yourself (ego) and me (your yoga guide), your energy level plummets.  First, amp up the breath.  By "amping the breath" I don't mean breathe shallower and faster, I mean get in there with your Ujjayi breath.  Breathe deeper and longer.  Imagine the inhalations as drawing strength into your body and the exhalations as releasing tension.  The calm in between creates new space.
     Notice the relationship between how you react to challenges in your asana practice and how you react to challenges in daily life.  Chances are you will find that you respond in similar ways on and off the mat.  You may go to your edge with full force.  You may push your to your limit only to get scared and back off or you may be afraid to go to your limit at all.  Everything we do on the mat is a metaphor for how we handle life and once you realize this relationship, you can use your practice to help you explore and overcome your own personal challenges. 
     Now, go get on your mat.