Demystifying the Gayatri Mantra.

 

Have you ever heard this mantra by Deva Premal & Miten in a yoga class? I loved Deva’s voice before I even knew the meaning of the mantra. The following is what I’ve learned about the Gayatri Mantra…thought I’d share it with you!

What it looks like (in ĐevaNāgarī script):

भूर्भुवः स्वः
तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यं
भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि
धियो यो नः प्रचोदयात्

…and, this is what it looks like sounded out:

om bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ  (Om Bhoor Bhoova Swa-Ha)
tát savitúr váreṇ(i)yaṃ  (Tat Sa-Vidoor Va-rain-yam)
bhárgo devásya dhīmahi  (Bhaargo They-Vas-Ya Dee-Mahi)
dhíyo yó naḥ prachodáyāt  (Thee-Yo Yo-Na-Ha, Pra-Cho-Da-Yaat)  

Where it’s from:

The Gayatri Mantra is a very sacred verse from the Rig Veda, believed to have been written somewhere between 1800-1500 BCE.. The Rig Veda is part of a larger collection, the Vedas, a collection of poems and verses that are divided up into 10 books. Each poem in the Rig Veda is dedicated to a deity, and the Gayitri Mantra is for the sun-deity Savitr.

What it means:

There are SO many translations… probably as many translations as there are translators, from the literal to the more interpretative.

THIS interpretation by Douglas Brooks is my favorite:

The eternal, earth, air, heaven
That glory, that resplendence of the sun
May we contemplate the brilliance of that light
May the sun inspire our minds.

It’s really quite beautiful…in my humble opinion. I don’t think you necessarily need to be Hindu to appreciate it. The beauty and brilliance of the sun and it’s light can be contemplated by anyone, no matter what their religion.

How to recite it:

If the Gayatri resonates with you, take 30 minutes, find a comfortable seat, unwind that mala that you’ve been wearing wrapped around your wrist for a fashion statement, and recite the Gayatri 108 times (use your mala to count..that’s what it’s for, silly!)…see how you feel afterward!

Bonus: Try the Gayatri with mudras (hand gestures)!

New study: yoga helps symptoms of depression

Yoga Class in Urban Yoga StudioA new study out of Boston University Medical Center found that yoga can be a beneficial supplement or alternative to prescription medications for major depressive disorder.

If you practice yoga, you probably already know this, right?!! But it’s great to be backed up by a scientific study!

The study used Iyengar yoga for the study (my personal fave…yay!), as well as ujjayi breathing (it’s sometimes called “Darth Vader breath”, or “ocean breath”). Here is a great tutorial for ujjayi.

So, here’s the study in a nutshell…Two groups were studied for 12 weeks, a high-dose group (3 90-min. classes a week plus 4 30-min home practice sessions) and a low-dose group (2 90-min. classes a week plus 3 30-min home practice sessions). The study found that yoga and breathing practices showed a significant reduction in symptoms in both groups…with the high-dose group showing slightly better results.

If you have major depressive disorder, or are feeling depressed, speak with your doctor about integrating a yoga practice into your life. Science shows, it will make a difference!

Journal reference (click the link to read the study in all it’s scientific glory):

  1. Chris C. Streeter, Patricia L. Gerbarg, Theodore H. Whitfield, Liz Owen, Jennifer Johnston, Marisa M. Silveri, Marysia Gensler, Carol L. Faulkner, Cathy Mann, Mary Wixted, Anne Marie Hernon, Maren B. Nyer, E. Richard P. Brown, John E. Jensen. Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder with Iyengar Yoga and Coherent Breathing: A Randomized Controlled Dosing Study. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2017; DOI: 10.1089/acm.2016.0140

5 yoga poses to help calm the RAGE hormones during menopause.

middle age woman doing yoga meditation

Menopause can be brutal. I’m speaking from experience. Recently, one of my girlfriends asked me if I know any yoga she can practice that will help ease her estrogen-deficient-rages that she goes in while in the throes of menopause.

I’m not a big fan of prescribing certain poses for certain conditions…BUT, the poses listed below are gentle, easy for the yoga newbie, and will hopefully get you to START somewhere. They do have specific benefits for menopause, too…don’t get me wrong. I’ve just learned that with yoga, I feel a sense of calm and focus after a practice. I feel more mindful and less reactive and I sleep better no matter WHAT poses are part of my daily practice.

There are different symptoms of menopause, from the ubiquitous hot-flashes to mood swings to brain-fogs and insomnia. It all makes sense…our hormones fluctuate like crazy during menopause…and hormones influence all of those things in our body. GAH!!

Click the links to see how to do the poses if you aren’t familiar…and make SURE to consult your doctor before you practice yoga…I don’t want anyone getting hurt on my watch!

  1. Legs up the wall pose (Viparita Karani). This is one of my all-time favorites. You can practice this with or with out the support of a bolster. It’s great for insomnia, anxiety, pms, tired & achy feet, and is said to help reverse the aging process! I’m beginning to sound like an infomercial…
  2. Reclined Bound-Angle pose (Supta Baddha Konasana). This pose is great for times when you are just feeling generally down…or are stressed out. It is good for your abdominal organs…including ovaries and for your circulation.
  3. Bridge pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana). This is said to calm your mind, reduce anxiety and reduce mild depression. Oh the list goes on and on…
  4. Head-to-knee pose (Janu Sirsasana). This pose calms the nervous system (remember those rage hormones we first talked about?!).  It’s quieting, calming, and great for insomnia. I especially like the restorative version of it…especially for those who can’t quite reach their foot…did I mention that it’s calming?
  5. Belly Breathing (Adham Pranayama). Ok…it’s not necessarily a yoga “pose”…but I think that practicing breathing techniques is one of the most effective things you can do to calm your mind, and the Belly Breath is a great place to start! Those RAGE HORMONES?? THIS is the one to do whenever they come on!

Yoga Chair DIY

IMG_7030Yoga chairs can be an expensive investment! So, instead of buying yoga chairs for $70 each, I followed a tutorial on YouTube, and transformed ordinary folding chairs into backless yoga chairs that Iyengar himself would be proud of.

Here’s what you will need:

  1. Folding chairs. I used these…they are really sturdy, and come in beige, silver or black!
  2. Gloves. I didn’t have leather gloves like the man in the video, but used some thick gardening gloves.
  3. Pliers or vice grips. Amazon sells all sorts of them here or here.
  4. Large screwdriver. It needs to be super-sturdy…you will use this the most to pry the backs off.
  5. File or Dremel. My husband had a Dremel with an attachment that sands metal…so I saved a TON of time/arm strength using it! If you don’t have one, this kind of file should work.
  6. Athletic tape or spray paint. I opted for athletic tape…thought the grip would be nice to have around the top of the chair. And, it is SO humid here in Florida, that I thought it might take WEEKS to dry.

Here’s what to do!: 

Use your pliers or vice grips, grab the lower edge of the chair back, and pull it away and back from the tube. Do this on both sides.step 1This takes a bit of strength!!

Next, using your screwdriver, wedge it between the tube and the chair back. Rock the screwdriver back and forth until you see the light of day… IMG_7004IMG_7006Make sure to have a vacuum handy…there is a lot of paint chipping off!

Keep wedging and wiggling your screwdriver in, and then all around the edge of the chair back…you will hear loud “POPS” when the welds break. IMG_7008some are MUCH easier to remove than others! I may or may not have cussed all the way through the chair below:IMG_7009

Once you take off the backs, there are super-sharp parts all along the tube (where the tube was welded to the back) that need to be filed down.
IMG_7011My husband was nice enough to do some of the sanding for me…(lots of sparks!!). If you have long hair like I do…PULL IT INTO A PONYTAIL if you Dremel. Be safe people. Oh, and this is DEFINITELY an outside job.

Once the backs have been sanded and feel smooth to the touch, then take your athletic tape, and wrap it around the tube in the back.IMG_7021Once again…my husband was SUPER helpful! It’s a little tricky to keep the tape smooth around the corners…but it’s stretchy, so it wasn’t TOO bad…my husband is WAY more of a perfectionist about these things…so he was the best one for the job!

Voilà! My yoga chair is ready for use!IMG_7023all iIMG_7029All in a neat little stack in my studio..ready to use!!

Let me know if you have any questions!

 

5 ways to teach a better yoga class.

Yoga Class Defocused

I just got home from taking what I would consider a terrible yoga class. It was bad on so many different levels. I KNOW, I know, we aren’t supposed to be judgmental….but it got me thinking about what I would have told my teacher today, had she asked for input. This doesn’t come from a place of ego…there’s no “my teaching style is better than yours”….promise! This ultimately comes from a place of concern for the safety of the students in the  yoga class that I took today.

SO, here is some unsolicited advice for my yoga teacher today (which may or may not include a mini-rant about the importance of savasana)…and hopefully it can help you teach your class with a little more awareness and sensitivity to those taking your class.

  1. Open your eyes. Not figuratively, LITERALLY. Literally open your eyes and look at the class. Are they able to do the simple warm-ups? Do they seem extra stiff? Are they young and fit? Super bendy? Or older and less flexible? My teacher today had her eyes closed…a LOT…and when they were open, she was fully engaged in her own practice at the front of the mat. How do your students look when they are in the poses? Are they getting close to blowing out a knee? Can you give them a verbal adjustment to help avoid a knee-blow-out-situation? You have to open your eyes to see.
  2. Teach people not poses. It’s almost a cliché among teachers, isn’t it!! It starts with that “open your eyes” step in #1. Look at your students!! And THEN determine what you are going to teach…that might mean that your super-challenging class needs to be thrown out the window. Teaching Ardha Chandra Chapasana (sugar-cane pose) to a group of mostly 55+ women who can’t hold Ardha Chandrasana (half moon), AND who can BARELY do a lunge with ease is NOT a great idea. This is what my instructor did today. Yes, I was impressed that she could go smoothly from one balance pose to the next..but her students were frustrated, and more seriously, had an increased risk of injury because they were ATTEMPTING those poses with little to no instruction, and absolutely no modifications.
  3. Be logical in your sequencing. Work up to your challenging poses. Working toward Bakasana (crane)? Make sure you do plenty of core so that it helps your students learn how to use their abs in a way that will increase their chance of success in this pose. If you don’t have a peak-pose, think about the progression of poses…You learned this stuff in teacher training, I hope. My teacher today had the following poses SPRINKLED in her class: ustrasana (camel), matsyasana (fish), baddha parsvakonasana (bound side-angle), virabhadrasana 3 (warrior 3), supta virasana (reclining hero), ardha chandra chapasana (sugar cane pose) and bakasana (crane). There was no logic to her sequencing…ESPECIALLY considering her class’ abilities. There should be no sprinkling of challenging poses in a yoga class.
  4. Watch what you say. Please can we stop the yoga-speak? Don’t just say something because it sounds “yogic”. Take the phrase “let it go”. When you say “let it go” what do you mean? What do you want us to let go? I think it would be more beneficial to cue our breath or alignment than to tell us to “let go” in Virabhadrasana 2 (warrior 2). That happened in a class this week. Soften through the shoulders? Sure! Unclench our jaws? Absolutely! Not just a generic “let it go” please. Today we were told to “inhale love…and let it go”. I’m not so sure that I wanted to let go of love today. But…maybe it motivated me to do this post…I’m feeling extra snarky.
  5. Let your class savasana. Come ON teachers…you KNOW this is important, don’t you?! Then shut the hell up while I’m trying to savasana, and give me more than 2 minutes. Seriously! Guide me to relaxation, and then let it be quiet…or, as quiet as it can be…I can relax to the sound of weightlifters slamming their giant weights to the floor upstairs MUCH more than I can with you reading some passage from a book you like.

what’s the deal with setting an intention in yoga class?

meditating_woman

It took me a while to get it. I think my first yoga-intention, at one of my very first yoga classes, was “to make it through class without looking like an idiot”. Really. I had NO idea what the woo-woo instructor was talking about.

Here’s what I know now:

  • Intentions are not goals. An intention is all about what’s happening now. A goal is something you want to do in the future. So, in a yoga class…an example of an intention would be: “let me be non-judgemental”. A goal would be: “I want to nail headstand”.
  • Focus on the journey, not the destination. Sounds cliché, I know, but focusing on the JOURNEY is what you are doing with an intention. It’s not about nailing that headstand, yoga is about turning your awareness inward: noticing your breath and feeling the way your body is aligned in the poses. It’s all about how you are doing things on your way to your destination…and setting an intention helps you find a personalized focus during your practice.
  • An intention on the mat can also be applied to life…off the mat. An intention of “compassion” for your yoga class, for example, is also a great life-intention. You can be compassionate to yourself in class by not pushing yourself too far, or by giving yourself a break when you topple over in tree pose. And, I’m sure you get how being more compassionate OFF the mat is a good thing, right?! Yeah. Thought so.
  • To set an intention, ask yourself WHY. I think this is an easy place to start…WHY did you decide to practice yoga today? For stress relief? To look better in yoga pants? To be more flexible? To get away from the kids for an hour? We have plenty of SUPERFICIAL “why” reasons for yoga class…but take a DEEPER look at those whys, and you may find that you REALLY intend to find more ease (instead of stress), peace (getting away from the kids), more acceptance (look better in yoga pants), or more flexibility (not JUST the stretchy-touch-your-toes kind).
  • Your intention is your heart’s desire. This is where I get all touchy-feely…so I might lose you on this one…but that’s ok. All these deeper WHY questions can be answered by what your heart truly desires…you just have to take a moment, and ponder what that heart of yours really wants. Chances are, it’s going to be a little more meaningful than busting out a tricky arm balance.

See? Setting an intention doesn’t HAVE to be a woo-woo-esoteric-hippie-mama thing…(ok, well, maybe a LITTLE bit)…Ask yourself why, look into your heart to find those deeper reasons, and keep your intentions with you as you go about your day. Easy peasy.