Yoga is a practice that calms the storms of the mind to create mental clarity.
Ask a few random people what they think yoga is, and you’ll get a variety of answers. And, they are probably all right.
However, they may only be seeing one small piece of the whole because the practice of yoga is much richer than most people realize. Myself included. I attended my first yoga class at Santa Monica Power Yoga in 2007 because I thought it would be a great stretching routine to complement my running. I kept attending because I appreciated the calorie burn and how good it made my body feel.
As my yoga class attendance increased and my mileage decreased, I began to understand that there was much, MUCH more to this practice than some poses in a hot room.
Fifteen years later, I am still discovering the complexities and depth of this ancient practice. The fact that it makes my body feel good is the icing on the cake.
So what is yoga? Let’s break down some of the common beliefs:
Is Yoga meditating?
The practice of yoga includes meditation, but that is just one part (limb) of a yoga practice. What we practice and teach at 502 Power Yoga is the limb called “Asana,” the physical practice of yoga. We include meditation (dhyana) and breathing exercises (pranayama) in some of our classes. There are eight limbs along the path of yoga, and just as one climbs a tree, you ascend the limbs along your journey, and you must reach one limb before you can climb to the next. As one of my teachers once told me, the asana (poses) are the only part of yoga that can truly be taught, especially in a group class setting. The other limbs must be studied, practiced, and attained individually.
Is Yoga just stretching?
I don’t know why this is a misconception, but it’s the one I hear most often. Yes, there is a lot of stretching in a yoga asana class. Yes, you will become flexible if you practice yoga. But how you are stretching is the misunderstood part. In any yoga class—from gentle to power—you will be dynamically and actively stretching: Creating length in your muscles while simultaneously balancing, strengthening, meditating, and focusing.
I might get some crap for this, but yes, undoubtedly. However, if you’re looking for quantity over quality calorie burn, you’d be better off doing a cardio exercise like running or cycling. But one can burn up to 600-700 calories in a 60-minute class, depending on your body type, constitution, how hard you push yourself, etc.
But unlike cardio, in a yoga class, you will also get toned, strengthening not just the vanity muscles like your abs and your biceps, but also the less visible (but more important!) muscle groups like your hip rotators, the intrinsic muscles in your feet, and the tiny muscles supporting your shoulder blades. A well-rounded yoga asana practice focuses on healthy, dynamic movement, creating agility and mobility.
The reality is that most people get hooked on yoga because they like the calorie burn and they like how sore they are the next day. Over time, people realize that the benefits go far beyond the physical. So while it is a great workout, it is not just a great workout.
Is Yoga a spiritual practice?
As I said above, most people come to a yoga class because they want to get in a good sweat, stretch out, and tone their bodies. However, the practice of yoga Asana is deeply rooted in centuries of spiritual wisdom originating in ancient India, and it’s hard not to pick up on some of those things. The ritualistic format of classes could be likened to a religious service: We typically begin classes with an “om,” we bow to each other at the end, and it sure as shit makes you feel connected to a universal vibration.
I have never considered myself a spiritual person. I grew up Catholic here in Louisville but stopped attending mass as a teenager. I was disenchanted with the dogma and rigidness of the services, and frankly, how boring it all was. I found a new appreciation for spirituality when I began attending yoga classes. It allowed me to feel as though there were a higher being out there, it created peace in my body and mind, and it created a connection between me and the people in classes with me.
No one is going to force you to bow to Hindu gods or give up your existing religious beliefs. But I believe that if you are seeking a spiritual practice, you could find that in a yoga practice.
Is “Power Yoga” really yoga?
We think so 😋 Yoga is a profound journey of self-discovery that has been through many evolutions as it’s been adopted by and adapted to new cultural contexts globally. Power Yoga is a relatively modern form of this practice, but our aim remains the same as that of the ancient yoga masters: To calm the mind to be better humans.
Yoga Mala 2016 is this weekend, and there’s a reason we are all so excited about it. The event will be hosted at the Muhammad Ali Center on Saturday, January 2nd 10 am to 1 pm. Just trust us, you are going to want to be a YES for this one.
Community. This is a phenomenal way to create and be part of a larger community. Yoga Mala will have studio owners and instructors from across the city coming to provide their spirit and energy as they lead us through an inspiring 108 Sun Salutations.
It’s for everyone and every body. Truly. 108 Sun Salutations may seem like no joke (and it is no joke), but you will have the opportunity to get coffee, mingle with new and old friends, and child’s pose is always an option, even if you take it 108 times.
Do something bigger than yourself. The new year of 2016 is coming and this is an opportunity to do something big. Aside from starting off with a strong practice, the other benefit is that half of the registration fee will go to the Muhammad Ali Center and the other half to the Africa Yoga Project. A large impact locally and globaly will be made because of you!
It’s fun! If you have never imaged doing 108 Sun Salutations just know that being in a room with hundreds of other yogis was an amazing way to start off a new year for me last year and it truly can set the tone for the rest of 2016.
Can’t make it, but want to still be part of the fun? Buy a one-of-a-kind Yoga Mala shirt illustrated by 502PY owner Cat Larimore, or make a contribution to help sponsor another attendee. The shirt can be purchased in studio and your registration sponsorship (any amount) can be made in the studio. You can make a donation to the cause by emailing email@example.com
Let’s be honest, 502 Power Yoga is always awesome, but it’s even cooler in the winter (not literally of course!) While the cold starts settling in, the holiday dinners get bigger, and the winter blues start singing their tune, 502 Power Yoga has a lot going on to keep Jack Frost from chilling you to the bone.
1. The HEAT.
This kind of a no-brainer, but I think it has to be said. It’s getting cold outside and the studio is always warm (about 90 degrees warm). Not only do power yoga classes provide that external warmth we crave during these chilly months, but it also helps create that internal heat (tapas) that we can carry with us throughout our entire day.
2. Yoga Helps You Stay Healthy
It is widely known and highly suggested that working out makes you less likely to get sick. Studies have shown that it can even prevent you from getting a cold. Not only do you sweat out toxins, but practicing hot yoga creates fluidity in the joints and more flexibility in your body. This is especially important as our bodies start to feel as stiff as holiday peanut brittle. Stay healthy this winter by sweating it out on your mat.
3. Avoid the “Holiday Hunch”
It’s come to that time of year again where we start wearing jackets, coats, scarves, and hats. Without realizing it, we naturally begin to hunch over to create more warmth in our mid-body (and to joyfully sip on that freshly brewed hot coffee/tea that warms our hands). Practicing yoga gives us the space to open up again. Taking time in those amazing heart and throat opening poses like fish, camel, wheel, and even upward facing dog, can help counter-act this “holiday hunch” and create more space in your physical body.
4 . Ward Away the Winter Blues
When it starts getting cold outside, I tend to go into hibernation mode. Yes, this is cozy and wonderful, but sometimes I get a little stir crazy. I can only carry on conversations with my dog for so long. That’s why I believe connection and community are so much more important during these chilly months–luckily, 502PY has a great one. Simply by just walking into the studio, greeted by familiar faces, is like getting a big hug and can clear the winter blues in an instant. The warm energy that’s shared by the teachers, assistants, energy exchange-er’s, and, of course, the ever-calm and loving Kelly Meadway, is the best reminder that even though we’re all bundled away in our separate homes, cars, and lives we are all still connected.
5. 40 Days to Personal Revolution
Instead of a New Years Resolution, why not make it a New Years Revolution. This 40-day program is truly the “meat and potatoes” of the studio and one of my personal favorites. Happening Jan 31 – March 13, this program encompasses all the practices of Baptiste Yoga (and then some!) including asana (yoga practice), meditation, inquiry, and diet. Not to mention, it also comes with an amazing group of fellow revolutionaries who will support you along the way and help get you through those begrudging “after the holidays” winter months. Trust me, you don’t want to miss participating in this program! #40daystoPR #whybaptisteyoga
6 . HOLLAAA for Yoga Malaaaa!
108 Sun Salutations, 12 different yoga instructors from all over the city, and one unforgettable experience. I couldn’t think of a better way to welcome 2016 than to breathe, move, and ignite the new year with 100+ other yogi’s all in one space. All proceeds benefit the Africa Yoga Project. Be up to something bigger than yourself this year and come to this amazing event happening January 2nd.
7. Hands on Assisting
If you love those amazing Savasana assists at the end of class, Hands on Assisting is your chance to learn the art of assisting. This is a full weekend dedicated to deepening your practice and learning the tools to effectively and appropriately assist others. January 23 & 24 are the days this “hands on” experience is taking place. Make sure there’s time in your calendar for this one!
Just because the days end earlier doesn’t mean your practice needs to come to a halt. We have a lot of fun before and after the holidays, and hope to see you all in the studio soon.
P.S. If you have kiddos getting cabin fever, 502 Power Kids is a great opportunity for them to stretch themselves and get all those jitters out on the mat.
Student Highlight: An Interview with Nicole Wiseman
by Melody Mayes
When my dear friend, Nicole Wiseman, happened upon the Baptiste Power Yoga studio just down the street from her home she was insistent that the 502PY community was different than other yoga studios. She is the reason I ended up here, sweating it out next to her on my mat. Nicole is always a giver of herself to others. I’m elated that I was able to sit down with her and dig a tad deeper into her yoga practice.
Describe your first experience with yoga: My first experience with yoga was nearly 12 years ago at the University of Louisville. I was looking for something that would motivate me to work out and a grade certainly helped. Prior to that class I wasn’t particularly athletic or really even that active. Sure, I walked to class and moved around but I would never say that I “worked out” and definitely wasn’t what you’d call athletic in high school. That yoga class came at a very challenging time when I was thinking about changing majors and career paths and essentially the trajectory of my life. It was a pretty pivotal moment and yoga happened to be a large part of it.
How do you do it all? : There are way too many important and worthwhile things and I can’t do them all. And it’s ok. I prioritize (and reprioitize) every day. I try to keep the most important people and things first and let the rest go. I schedule my yoga classes using the MindBody app because it keeps me accountable. That 2 hour cancellation window prior to class is coincidentally the same time period when I often would rather take a nap or catch up on Netflix shows. This keeps me honest and helps keep the rest of my life in balance. So far I’ve never regretted showing up on my mat.
Pose that causes you struggle: Crow pose. Freakin’ crow pose. I once asked Sarah if it was lack of arm strength, lack of core strength, fear of falling on my head or all of the above. She agreed that it was probably a little of all of the above. Every day I’m working at all 3 and getting closer. I’m also learning (trying to learn) that I am where I need to be and it will happen when it needs to happen.
What keeps you going when the going gets tough? I love a challenge. That’s one of the things I love about 502PY. They are forever offering challenges, whether they are single verbal cues in class like to breathe through the discomfort, physical cues from the assistants in class or structured ones like the September Sunrise Challenge.
*(That same attitude is how Nicole completed the September Sunrise Challenge AND was one of the winners.)
What pose gives you the greatest peace? Child’s pose. It helps me settle in and refocus on being present.
What does yoga provide on a daily basis? It gives me peace. It helps me focus. And Ujjayi breath. Strangely enough, giving blood is a great opportunity to practice ujjayi breathing. It’s funny because a lot of times they’ll ask me if I’m ok and I assure them that yes, I am and my breath is getting me through. Note: I hate needles so every time I give it can be a struggle. Another side note: my blood pressure has gone down each time I’ve given blood in the past year since starting at 502py!
Who inspires you? It probably sounds trite but truly everyone inspires me. The cancer survivors I work with daily inspire and amaze me because they keep showing up to provide support to those that are beginning a very similar journey as theirs and sometimes the person they support doesn’t survive, but they keep showing up and giving. Other yogis inspire me especially when I see someone that’s been struggling with a certain pose totally nail it. When I see anyone give of themselves in any way; that inspires me. Yoga has taught me to find inspiration and beauty in a lot of things that I probably wouldn’t have noticed before.
You won the Sunrise Challenge, now what?! It’s back to 6PM for me. That was a nice experiment but I’m still not a morning person.
Nicole enjoys spending her time with her husband, Mason, her supportive circle of friends and family, and doing awesome work as Assistant Director at Friend for Life Cancer Support Network (www.friend4life.org) and part-time with the Crisis & Information Center hotline. Say hello to Nicole next time you see her!
It is the one-week countdown for Winter 2015-2016 Teacher Training (see Becca’s guide on what to bring) and I know I’m not the only one who has mixed feelings about it. Starting something new is always a little unnerving, even if it is a positive thing. Lately, life has been crazy and at times things have been packed so tight that it seems impossible to shove in one more responsibility. And yet starting next weekend, that’s exactly what is going to happen.
When I feel myself start to resist the process, I try and lean into that resistance. It makes me think about Frog Pose and how sometimes I just want to cry, or how I feel I can barely breathe but in a really weird way I kind of like it. It can still hurt, but taking it to that edge makes me better. I’ve learned these lessons already on my mat as a student. I think that through the training I’m going to start to see what it means to take that surrender off my mat.
For those who don’t know, Tina Guelda wrote all the incoming trainees a letter and she didn’t sugar coat anything. She suggests bringing Ibuprofen regularly because, “Your body and your brain will probably hurt at some point.” She concludes the letter by reminding us all that we are going to need support from family and friends even when we won’t be able to see them. When I first read Tina’s letter, I may have freaked out a little. What have I gotten myself into? But re-visiting it I realize that while it wasn’t coated with sugar, Tina instead dumped a whole lot of salty flavor all over the truth. And my mouth is watering just thinking about it.
What surprises me the most from all of this is how even though I’m a little nervous and I have definitely already held back a few melt-downs, I’m not doubting myself one bit. I’ve seen the support system 502PY has created already through its programs and when it comes down to it, I am not afraid. I have doubts about myself, my abilities, my schedule, my finances, and my mental will to carry on when things get tough, but I have zero doubt that when things get rough that I will have my support system to push me through it all.
As this new challenge sits in full Lotus Pose right on the strong, sturdy, and looming gate of Friday evening, I shudder to think of all the tears, frustrations, and emotional highs that wait for me right on the other side. But then I lean into the challenge, I read comments from my fellow trainees, and in a really weird way, I realize I’m going to like this.