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Courtesy of Google images

Courtesy of Google images

After a long, fun-filled weekend of eating out, celebrating, and relaxing, it was hard to get back to the grind. 

With the grueling work week, weekends are a time to be gluttonous in doing the things you want. By the end of the weekend, a daily work routine is hard to get back into. It seems like it would just be easier not to fall out of it.

It makes you realize everything is better in moderation. I pondered this on my walk to yoga after what seemed like an eternal day at Untied, and fittingly enough the day’s practice was dedicated to the yama (the ethical teaching about restraint) brahmacharya, which translates movement to the Lord and is about practicing moderation to direct one’s energy to growth and transformation.

To achieve brahmacharya, a balanced lifestyle including moderation in diet, relationships, you time, and even the breath is in order.

I have touched on the importance of being conscious of the breath before, so here are some different yoga breaths that can help oxygenate and rejuvenate the body by getting new energy to flow into the body. 

Ohm: What we start each class doing. Take a deep inhale in and on the exhale say “Ahhh-Ohhhh-Mmmm.” Humming the last “m” part. Do this slowly and try for a long, full exhale.

Lion’s breath: Take a deep inhale and on the exhale open the mouth wide, stick out the tongue, and make a roar sound. Don’t be shy — you’ll be surprised at how good it will feel to let it all out.

For an extended version of this breath. Sit on your knees or comfortably fold the legs, close the mouth, breath in and out by pushing the lungs in on the exhale. All you really need to do is focus on the exhale — the inhale will come naturally. 

Pranayam: A little more complicated breath. It is very important to focus only on the breath here, and feel it coming in and down your body.

1. Sit in a cross legged position, back straight. Take the left hand, touch your index and thumb fingers together, and place it on your knee.

2. Take your right hand, bring it up to your nostrils. Put your thumb by your right nostril and your pinky and ring fingers by your left. 

3. Cover your left nostril with your pinky and ring finger. Inhale through your right nostril. 

4. Cover your right nostril with your thumb. Hold the breath and feel it move down your body.

5. Lift your fingers off your left nostril and exhale.

6. Inhale through the left nostril this time, cover, and exhale through the right.

7. Repeat. Continue for five minutes or however long you can handle it.  

You should feel relaxed and clear headed after these breathing reps — you’ll probably even get a little yoga high.

Yoga high: 1.5

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(Courtesy of Google images)

To celebrate Memorial Day, I decided not to take the day off from yoga and continue my quest for mental clarity.

Thinking I was running late, I scurried from my apartment to the studio since holidays at yoga are generally quite packed. Much to my surprise, I was the first one there.

“Was there a class?” I thought. My worried mind began to nervously chatter.

Soon, yogi after yogi showed up and eventually the teacher – who was in a frenzied state. I always put yoga instructors on a pedestal, thinking they are all-knowing, peaceful people. She had forgotten her keys and her husband had to run home for them.

A lesson learned, she laughed.

That was the first lesson of class that day. Even a yoga instructor can get disheveled – it’s OK to slip up along the way.

“The secret of meditation is to be conscious of each second of your existence and to keep the sun of awareness continually shining.” (on a yoga calendar outside the studio)

This quote caught my eye as I waited in the hallway for class to begin. I thought it was fitting for my practice that day. Even in a rush, fit of forgetfulness, or while waiting, one should strive to be right here, right now.

Not daydreaming off in Timbuktu.

Focusing on the breath helps the mind stay present. One of the breathing exercises from today’s practice was intense and definitely wiped my mind of its thoughts.

Goddess pose, for your inner deity.

1. Bend your legs shoulder with apart.

2. Lunge deep, but don’t over exert yourself. You should be able to see your toes below your knees.

3. Put your arms straight up above your head.

4. Inhale, straightening your legs a bit, and on the exhale pull your arms into your shoulders and bend your knees in a lunge position again.

5. Repeat at a breathing pace comfortable for you.

If this doesn’t wipe your mind, you may already be at yogini status. My body was left feeling tingly and my mind as clear as the beautiful sunny skies.

Yoga high: 1.5

(Courtesy of Google images)

When life gives you lemons, sometimes you just can’t make lemonade.

I couldn’t squeeze the best out of yoga today and had to untie myself from yoga for the day. I over-challenged myself by trying out the advanced class.

I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into.

The class began with a reading that was over my head – yogi literature the advanced students (some of whom were also teachers at the studio) all seemed to understand – and then continued all in Sanskrit – not in English. I tried to keep up by peeking to see what my neighbors were doing (we’re supposed to have our eyes closed), but had to roll up my mat and leave.

The instructor urged me to modify the poses, but she and I both knew that it might be best if I left quietly and didn’t interrupt the flow of the class.

Ideally yoga should be practiced everyday for optimal benefits in clearing the mind. Even though I left early — at least I tried.

Sometimes you just have to take a breather from everything to clear your mind.

So, I decided not to be bothered at my failed attempt, grabbed a Kombucha tea – a drink sold at the vegan restaurant below the studio and popular among the yogis – and jauntily walked home.

Walking in the sunny weather, drinking the healthy refreshment, and knowing I challenged myself was enough for me today.

Yoga high: 0

An example of the challenges in advanced vinyasa flow:

(Courtesy of Google images)

Sometimes to take a few steps forward, you have to take a couple steps back.

And when re-starting a new sport over, you gotta start completely over. On my third day back to yoga, I revisited the basics of a beginner class.

And it was quite refreshing.

The beauty of yoga classes is that despite recommendations for class levels, anyone is welcome to float in and out them regardless of skill and experience. I can usually just make the 5:30 p.m. classes, so I the levels I will be attending at this studio are diverse. Despite practicing yoga on and off for a number of years, I still learn how to improve my practice by perfecting the

Since my muscles were still a little sore in the upper arm region from my first class, the beginner class proved to be just the right challenge.

Opening the heart is a major form of emotional release in yoga. People usually cave their shoulders in and close their heart, trying to protect themselves from opening up too much and being vulnerable. Yoga moves teach practitioners to roll their shoulders back and open their heart, which reveals emotional relief for those typically closed off.

In the beginner two class, we did crab pose, which is a bridge form and extreme heart opener.

After bending backwards and opening up, I felt a little lightheaded when I first returned to a normal state and mind was wiped of all thoughts.

(Courtesy of Women’s Health Mag.com)

During this pose I achieved mental clarity, but for the majority of class I struggled to clear my thoughts.

It’s only the beginning though and the road for improvement that lies ahead pushes me to keep trying.

In some way in life, we are always beginners setting out on a road to try new things or stepping back a little bit to re-start our path the way we should have.

Yoga high: 0.5

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(Courtesy of Stock Xchange.com)

I woke up to shooting pain down my arms.

‘What’s a matter with me?!’ I thought.

My mind’s conversation for the day began.

Slowly awaking and wondering what was a matter with me, I remembered: Yoga. I was feeling the effects of using muscles my body forgot about.

Luckily, after day two at Untied, the second day of yoga was restorative.

Which translates to a class of savasana (corpse pose where you lie and meditate at the end of each session). Meaning my sore muscles didn’t have to do any work.

In this practice, my only job was relaxing and meant to quiet your mind. You do a series of stretches and essentially mediate all class long.

It’s bliss after a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. day of meetings.

My instructor told the class to focus on the spot between our brows, centering ourselves and quieting all the loose canons going off in our head.

It was a day of mental, not physical, practice, which is much harder for me and exactly what I set out to do on this journey.

At the end of the class, I felt calm, thought-free, and my body tingled with that high-on-life sensation, but let’s just say I have a long way to go on my destination to mental clarity.

Yoga high: 1.5

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Like most exercise you get back into, the first day is always the easiest.

It’s like the first day back running, easy as pie and the second day is as hard as – well you fill in the blank.

I had to take many deep breaths during first day at Untied , and I looked forward to finally catching it at yoga.

The breath is one of the most important aspects of yoga.

Very often we forget to breathe and it adds to stress. By simply remembering to inhale and exhale – and not hold our breath – stress can exit as quickly as it enters the mind.

In yoga, you are supposed to breathe deeply in and out, holding the breath – both for the inhale and exhale – as long as you can. You’re supposed to feel the breath come in and up the body from the bottom of your belly out the tip of your nostrils.

Concentrating so hard on breathing – a task forgotten in the daily hustle and bustle of life – wipes your mind of other thoughts and helps you focus only on the task at hand – your practice.

I was surprised how quickly just focusing on breathing relieved me. I got high off yoga again for the first time in a long time – I didn’t expect it.

I guess my tolerance has gone down.

Yoga high: 2