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Staying Grounded, Balancing Vata this Autumn

October 21st, 2013

The season of fall is governed by the Ayurvedic dosha vata.  Vata is the easiest dosha to get thrown out of balance. Vata rules the ethers and is represented by the wind.  You know when you are in a yoga class and you can hear people’s joints’ “popping”? That is excess vata. When out of balance, a person may become irritated, anxious, fearful, depressed, suffer from insomnia, and experience digestion issues, including constipation.

I was recently caught up in the winds of a vata-induced tailspin that took me very far away from my center and threw me out of balance. I have already been “gifted” with the challenges of some very deep-rooted issues with trust, feeling supported, and maintaining a steady connection to faith and joy.  When vata is out of balance in me, it exacerbates these conditions/learning opportunities, and exposes itself as irrationality, anxiety, fear, and anger.  Anger is usually characterized as a pitta “condition”, I am dominantly a “pitta person” and any imbalance I have seems to affect my pitta nature one way or the other.

Being the self -studying yogi that I am, I recognized that something I was doing, eating, the type of pranayama and asana I was practicing, something was not working.  I wish I could say that it was an instant recognition, but it was a good seven days before I had my “Aha” moment.

In my case it boiled down to not meditating.  Meditating became very hard with all of the mental stuff I had going on.  No amount of pranayama seemed to ground me, and help me to connect.  It just got “too hard”.  Yep, it got hard, I stopped for seven days, and my life suffered.  Life really sucks when it seems impossible to find joy and be grateful. To be honest, I know better, I guess this was a lesson worth repeating for me.

We can use our practice along with Ayurveda to create a sense of balance in our lives’ and to be better equipped when the seasons change, the literal seasons of the year, and the figurative seasons of change.

 

For your yoga practice:

©     Slow it down, if you are doing vinyasa, move slowly connecting to an equal ratio breath, or better yet, skip the vinyasa between poses.

©     Practice one pose at a time, not linking poses together.  Warrior A on the right side, Warrior A on the left side, etc.

©     Practice standing poses, Warriors, Triangle, Side Angle Pose, and hold them

©     Practice forward folds, standing and seated, and hold them

©     Yogi squat, or any variation of garland is incredibly grounding

©     Shoulderstand and headstand are both wonderful poses to soothe vata.

©     Bring a devotional quality to your practice.  Bhavana is the attitude of the practice when the practice is rooted in love and gratitude.

 

For your pranaymama practice:

©     Brahmari, or bumble bee breath is incredibly internalizing, and is the tool that got me back to a place where I could sit.

©     1:2 ratio breath, doubling the exhale, or holding a pause after exhalation.

 

For you meditation practice:

©     The mantra So Hum.  So Hum is the sound of the breath, translating to I Am. It is energetically grounding, guiding us out of the mind and into a place of connection.  So Hum is practiced by internally saying the mantra connected to the breath, So on the inhale, Hum on the exhale.

©     The bija sound Lam.  This is the sound associated with the root chakra, muladhara.  When using this tool simply repeat the word Lam over and over internally.  It will help to connect you to the root, therefore grounding excess vata.

 

Other practices for balancing vata:

©     Abhyanga, or self massage with sesame oil

©     Eating root vegetables

©     Eating warm liquids like soups, but also staying away from dry foods, like popcorn.

©     Tryphalla is an adaptogenic, it will balance any dosha that needs it.  It is especially good for vata because it helps to tonify and heal the digestive system, which can get put out of whack when there is a vata imbalance.  It can be found in powder form or pill form and be taken intermittently or everyday for up to six months as a pancha karma.  I take mine in powder form, 1 tsp. placed in the mouth.  Your saliva will break it down, it tastes like dirty dirt, but the after taste is somewhat sweet.  It’s a love to hate kind of thing.

 

Vata represents the wind, the ethers, and movement.  To pacify we want to ground and to connect to the strong earth energy that supports us. Tricky fickle vata likes us to believe that our challenges are bigger than us, and oftentimes manifests as creating issues and making up stories. It’s mental trickery. With the aid of yoga and Ayurveda we can become our own caretakers, prescribing ourselves with the tools and techniques to maintain optimal health and to live life fully, and more joyfully.

1,590 Comments »

featured article in “Local Answers”

October 18th, 2013

Retreat from the Hustle and Bustle of Daily Life at Urban Yoga

By Taz Loomans
YOGA 

Urban Yoga is aptly named, as it is a yoga studio in an urban setting on the first floor of a residential high-rise building in midtown Phoenix. It offers a variety of Haatha Yoga classes and workshops in a fantastic space and even has a spa . The studio has a great boutique in the lobby where you can purchase things like yoga mats, yoga clothes, and cool bags. Read more about this great yoga studio in Central Phoenix below!

A General Overview

Urban Yoga is a great place to practice yoga as they offer 13 different types of yoga classes including Foundations, All Levels Flow and Zen Yoga. Classes are either an hour or an hour and fifteen minutes long and are offered daily from as early as 6:30am to as late as 7:30pm. Rates for classes range from $15 for a drop-in to $108 a month. Urban Yoga also offers workshops for deeper yoga practice and for yoga teacher training. You can get spa services at the studio as well, such as massages, Reiki therapy and Energy Healing. Visit the boutique in the lobby of Urban Yoga, which is open during, 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after each class. The boutique offers a variety of eco-friendly, Fair Trade goods, many of which are made locally in Phoenix. Check out the variety of yoga accessories, men’s and women’s clothing and skincare products on sale at the boutique. Urban Yoga is located on 3225 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85012. Classes are offered from 6:30am to 7:30pm from Monday thru Thursday. On Friday, classes are offered from 6:30am to 6:00pm. On Saturday, you can take classes from 8:00am to 4:00pm and on Sundays from 8:30am to 5:30pm.

A Review

Urban Yoga’s robust schedule of classes makes it easy for people with even the busiest schedules to catch classes during the week. And the variety of classes cater to people of all abilities, from complete beginners to yoga masters. Even within each class, teachers make sure to cater to people of various abilities. The teachers are Urban Yoga are warm and friendly, as well as expert yoga instructors. They are always gentle with their students, but can challenge those who want to be challenged. If you are new to yoga, Urban Yoga offers great beginners classes with a welcoming atmosphere. And if you’re a seasoned practitioner, you will also enjoy the rigorous classes and talented teachers at this studio. Even though Urban Yoga is in an urban setting, parking is plentiful at the covered parking structure next door. And when it’s not too sunny out, you can park at the meters on the street for free. The staff at Urban Yoga make it easy to check-in, and then you just walk in to the yoga space. The studio has blankets, blocks, straps, cushions and other accessories available in the yoga space that practitioners can use during their practice.

What Makes it Great

What makes Urban Yoga great is the beautiful space its in. The main yoga space at the studio has high concrete ceiling and concrete walls. The small amount of drywall that is in the space is painted a serene hue of green. The raw concrete finish of the space along with the warm wood floor provide a surprisingly calming backdrop that facilitates the practice of yoga. The view to the north out of the floor-to-ceiling storefront glass wall also adds to the Urban Yoga experience. The iconic Financial Center building, built in the 1950s, is directly north of the studio and provides an inspiring and beautiful view. The fantastic palo verde trees that line the studio to the north adorn and soften the view to the Financial Center, making it even more lovely. The always friendly, open and warm staff and teachers at Urban Yoga also make it a very nice place to practice yoga. You can expect to be greeted with a smile by the receptionist on staff, and then warmly greeted again, often personally, but your yoga instructor.

The Downsides

The downside to Urban Yoga, is that it can get pricey at $15 a drop-in. If you intend to do yoga more than three times a week, your best bet is to get the $108 per month autopay membership. This is the most cost-effective plan if you practice regularly. But if you plan to take classes two times a week or less, then you can check out the various packages that range from the 5 class package available for $65 to the 50 class package available for $499. But make sure to use up your class package, as it comes with an expiration date.

Urban Yoga is a fantastic place to practice yoga for residents of Central Phoenix. It is conveniently located in midtown and easy to get to, with plenty of parking. The variety and quantity of classes offered in the studio make it a good fit for people with busy schedules and with varying abilities. The beautiful main yoga space at Urban Studio makes it a particularly attractive place for yoga practitioners in the area. And the friendly staff and teachers make sure people keep coming back.

1,736 Comments »

Lots of great new arrivals from Teeki!

October 5th, 2013

These pants are super cute, and eco friendly– they are made from recycled water bottles!  They are not only super comfy, but are moisture wicking too… perfect to practice in, & wear around town 🙂
They look great with other cute stuff in our boutique !

1,020 Comments »

shop new local artists- soul roots & moonbeam jewelry!

September 13th, 2013
SOUL ROOTS APPAREL is now in the Urban Yoga Boutique. Soul Roots is a LOCAL apparel line that helps bring fresh produce to families in need, and encourages you to start by planting a seed. Each item of clothing comes with a tiny packet of seeds for you to plant  Come check out all of the new mens and womens clothing!
All Moonbeam jewelry is handmade, local, and one of a kind 🙂
1,691 Comments »

New Vintage hill-tribe yoga mat bags!

September 5th, 2013
Mix it up with vintage yoga mat bags in all different bright colors and funky patterns!
Fair trade & made from upcycled vintage hill tribe fabrics-
Perfect for any size yoga mat, even the thickest manduka 🙂

2,885 Comments »

Awesome bright, new buddha artwork!

August 23rd, 2013

 

Check out the rest of our pieces at the studio, available in different sizes & colors!

If interested in a custom, made-to order piece, please email boutique@urbanyogaphx.com

 

1,627 Comments »

Urban Fundamentals: Exploring the Foundation of Pranayama & Asana

July 2nd, 2013

Breath 101

 

For my first installment in Urban Fundamentals, I think we should explore the breath together. Seems easy enough, right? Being the breath/pranayama junkie that I am, this task got my head swimming with possible ideas to explore about the breath. How to breathe, why we breathe, and the power of the breath are just a few of the key topics that came to mind. To keep it structured I will be writing breaking this topic down into a number of installments. The first being breath basics, techniques and methods to adopt immediately in your practice.

 

Breath Basics

 

♥ Breath in and out through the nose.

In our yoga practice we breathe in through the nose and out through the nose, unless guided by your instructor to do otherwise. In yoga we are trying to maximize the breath, of prana (life force, chi, energy, I will be diving into this more next week). Inhaling through the mouth is both dry and dispersing. When we continually exhale through the mouth we are releasing the prana (energy) that we have been building throughout the practice. I have also noticed through my own practice that when inhaling through the mouth I am unable to receive my full capacity of breath, and when exhaling through the mouth I am unable to release to full capacity. We are ultimately striving for balance, in our breath, in our practice, and in our lives.

♥ Sama Vritti Breath

Sama Vritti translates to same wavelength. Basically, balanced breath. This is a very accessible technique to apply at the beginning of your practice to begin to spark a connection with yourself. It is also wonderful to use as a guide throughout your asana practice, to maintain balanced breath, in your flow, in your favorite poses (rajas), and in your least favorite poses (dveshas). When the mind gets busy, come back to sama vritti, when you begin to feel bored, come back to sama vritti, when you are feeling connected and alive, stay connected and feel sama vritti.

To begin, find a comfortable seat, grab a blanket, a block, a chair, I don’t mind if you lay down, just get comfy. For this technique we will be inhaling and exhaling through the nose. Place your right hand on your abdomen and breath in and out from the belly, you should be able to feel your abdomen rise on inhale, and fall on exhale. (This is abdominal breathing. If this is new to you, I recommend staying with this for a few days or until it gets comfortable, then move on to equal ratio breath.) Do this for a couple rounds of breath, and then release your right hand.

Now begin to equal the lengths of your inhales and exhales. When you first begin, counting the breath is a great tool to have. If you are inhaling a count of four, exhale a count of four. The breath should feel effortless; if at any point it feels forced, just lower your count. You are not going to win any medals by forcing your way through a six count. You will however, do a number on your nervous system, taking you away from a place of balance, which is ultimately what we are aiming for.

Once you begin to feel comfortable with sama vritti in seated pose, play with it in your asana, and just notice your tendencies. I’ve noticed that I hold my breath in challenging arm balances, and that exhaling is easier for me than inhaling. These are my observations, information, from myself to myself. I hold no judgment about my self from these observations, and am really just interested and curious.

As you begin to get more acquainted with your tendencies in your practice you can bring awareness to these tendencies/imbalances. When we are aware, and our open to the info-energy our bodies’ and breath provide, we can begin real transformation. By creating balance in our bodies’ and breath, we create balance in all areas of our lives.

 

**If you have any questions about asana, breath, or anything under the very big, beautiful yoga umbrella, feel free to contact Kim at paleoyogamom@gmail.com and she will do her best to get back to you. **

2,969 Comments »

Kim Smith on Music in the Yoga Room

March 13th, 2013

There have been so many articles of late highlighting the benefits of music in the yoga class and different playlist for different flows, moods and themes of classes.

Heck, in some YTT programs, how to build a playlist is something that is being taught to aspiring teachers. I am lending a different perspective.  I want to say a fresh perspective, but in the sense of the yogic tradition, this view is very old school—don’t play music or at the very least, take the attention off the music and put it back where it should be, our students, our teaching, and the practice.

I know I am not going to be making any friends by saying this and in general am going against the grain of modern yoga in America, but I think something must be said for the simple connection to breath that is the internal soundtrack of any yoga practice.

Here are three reasons to turn off the tunes in your yoga practice:

If a student walks up to you after class and says “Great playlist” what are they really walking away from their yoga with? 
A deeper connection to self, a stronger understanding of their bodymind, or are they humming some recently made popular tune by the Lumineers or FUN.? As teachers, we are not important, but the work we do is very important. It is our job to facilitate the growth of our students. Sometimes this means giving them what they want, sometimes this means giving them what they need; often two very different things.

The average yoga class is full of Type A students, practicing a power or strong vinyasa based flow class, listening to very rhythmic, upbeat tunes. Students come to class after leaving their high stress jobs, after sitting in traffic, rushing to get to class, to be physically and mentally stimulated by their practice and the accompanying playlists. Is this what they want? Yes. Is this what they need?  I am not so sure.

Maybe a chance to connect to the sweet mantra of the breath would be more healing and beneficial in the long run. As teachers, we should be setting the tones of class, not the other way around.

If the skill and artistry being put into a playlist is more than that of the yoga, what are we really teaching?
If as a teacher you always have an upbeat, current playlist, then out of the blue the music stopped, what would happen? Would your students, your regulars, continue to show up?  Or would they find another teacher with a playlist more suited to their “needs”? Do your students come to class because they are soothed by the sounds of your playlist, or because the overall effects of the teachings has left them feeling more connected to self and balanced? Is the same mastery, thought, and skill put into the energetics, the sequencing, and the theme of every class, as is put into its playlist? As my teacher the amazing Mary Bruce says, “What do you want to be?  A yoga teacher, or a DJ?”  

“Yogas chitta vritti nirodha”  Yoga is the calming of the fluctuations of the mind:
Music invokes motion and emotion, emotion being energy in motion. In this second sutra, Patanjali clearly states a main goal of our yoga practice, for the mind to become still. Is this clarity, this stillness available to a student with a loud playlist “energizing” the asana?  Is a student who is singing along with the music really making any connection to source? Where is the opportunity for stillness, for settling in? Our chitta vritti may be our thoughts from our day, or our plans for tomorrow; however, song lyrics are just chitta vritti in pretty disguises.  It’s all distraction.

I am not by any means saying to go cold turkey on your playlists! Just imagine the panicked frenzy in yoga studios across America! I am hoping to inspire some reflection.

As a teacher, is music one of the most important aspects of your class, or the most important?

Try just skipping music in savasana for one class a week, then bump up to a whole class without music once a week. Give your students some context; let them know the philosophy behind practicing without music, the importance of stilling the mind and connecting to breath. Instill in them a desire to try something new and to achieve a deeper connection with their practice. Just observe and note, the practice may become challenging to students, but in new and exciting ways.

I know there are a lot of amazing teachers out there teaching amazing yoga with amazing playlists to amazing people. I think we could literally “drop some beats” here and there and still have a whole lot of people enjoying the benefits of this amazing practice that is yoga.

As a student and/or teacher, have you ever practiced without music? Try it. If it’s challenging, good, see what you can learn. Where is your resistance?  What are you holding onto? Let’s get comfortable with the uncomfortable. You might be surprised what silence and connection to breath will reveal.

The practice of yoga is ancient and timeless. Like all things, it is expected to evolve with our modern times. The way we practice, the clothes we wear when practicing, the places we practice in, are all examples of this ancient practice evolving to accommodate the very different needs of modern day Americans.

Under all of this change, the “hype”, the common threads of the philosophy should be strong and unchanging. Yoga is not a contest to see who can hold the longest handstand in the middle of the room, or a fashion show displaying our newest purchases from Lululemon, and it certainly is not a disco, dancing and singing along encouraged—we are not talking Kirtan here, we are talking top 40.

The thread of yoga is union, a connection to self that helps guide us to a better place of understanding, knowing, and balance in our lives.

The science of yoga is meant to expose our own radiance, not drown it in thumping bass beats. It is in the space between thoughts and actions that true connection occurs. It is resting in the sweetness of stillness that our inner radiance begins to shine.

Turn off the tunes, tune into the melody of your own being and let the rhythm of your breath guide you to new places in your practice.

1,372 Comments »

A Yogi’s Guide to Life with a Toddler by Kim Smith

January 28th, 2013

 

Hello Yogis,

Urban’s Tuesday & Thursday 9am Instructor penned an insightful article in Yoganonymous.com. Check out Kim’s thoughtful article on Ahimsa and parenting a toddler. Meet Kim February 10th, 1-3pm in a Shoulder Therapy workshop to soothe, strengthen, learn modifications for your practice.

Ahimsa is the first of the yamas, a set of basic moral codes for yogis to live by.

Ahimsa translates to non-violence, non-violence in our speech, thought, and actions;
I can think of no other place where this code of conduct is more important than in the raising of a child.

There is a lot of debate going on right now about the appropriate means of discipline for children. One side argues that there is no good and bad behavior, that there is only behavior. The other side argues that children need boundaries, rules and regulations. As our yoga practice teaches us, I believe there is an exquisite balance that can be found when a true understanding of your child and their needs is had.

I do not believe discipline is an appropriate term to use when talking about raising toddlers. Toddlers by nature are curious, mess-making little wonders all wrapped in your grandmother’s nose and your husband’s eyes. They are the true innocents of this world.

They do not know violence; they cannot comprehend the basic idea of consequence and action. They are simply trying their best to see, touch, taste, smell, spill, climb, and explore everything in their very new world. This is where the balancing act must come into play; this is where ahimsa is so crucial.

Maintaining an attitude of non-violence towards your child is maintaining an attitude of love towards your child. Ahimsa implies a calm tone when speaking to your babe. Ahimsa implies patience. Ahimsa implies giggling over another spilled cup of water, rather than frustration. Ahimsa implies that we replace “discipline”, with a nurturing understanding that encourages our children’s imagination and creativity to flourish.

Ahimsa Basics

>>Never spank/hit/swat, etc. this is a no-brainer. 
I do not believe in any sort of physicality when handling children. I have however, scraped my daughter off the grocery store floor, screaming and wailing, mid-tantrum, and made a beeline for the nearest exit, abandoning my very full grocery cart, all while hugging my babe and telling her very softly that it’s ok, honey. All kids have meltdowns. This does not mean that you as a parent are allowed to have a meltdown. Which leads me to…

>>Never yell/raise your voice.
Remember, we are talking to very little people. Very loud to a toddler can be scary, even terrifying. These littles are just getting the hang of communicating. They don’t understand the complex thoughts we are trying to convey. True, they may be in the infancy of understanding a few key words or phrases, but none of us are sitting around discussing the Sutras with our 15 month olds.

Toddlers understand our tone, the manner in which we present the information to them. If a situation arises that may be dangerous for your babe, be firm with your tone and facial expression. There is a difference between conveying to your child “this is dangerous” (calm, firm, soft) and “Mommy is dangerous”(angry, re-active, and loud). Be very, very thoughtful in the way you communicate with your children.

>>Get on your kid’s level.
Literally, get down on the floor with your kids! Beginning to understand the world from their perspective helps to remind us that the oh so familiar light switch to us, is to them this amazing button that creates light, and if I do this, then the light is gone!  Miraculous? Amazing? A light switch? To a toddler, yes. Imagine seeing everything around you with fresh eyes. Try it, your patience level will quadruple.

As a parent I am well aware of the sometimes-exhausting effort that is required to practice ahimsa, aka,“keep my cool.”  T.G.F.Y. (thank goodness for yoga). It seems as if every time the floor is mopped, there is a spill, or a load of laundry is folded, and Little Miss Sassafrass has pulled the laundry basket off the bed and the clothes are in a pile in the middle of the floor. I get it. It’s hard.

Slow down, take a moment to really look at the situation, there is a giggling, happy babe climbing around that pile. To her the pile of laundry is soft and warm, full of different textures, to touch and to cuddle. There’s grace in that mess. There’s laughter and the potential to bond with your babe, if you let go of frustration, grab a towel, and play a game of peek-a-boo.

I like to think of ahimsa as a stepping into peace. When I find myself getting overwhelmed, frustrated, or if I am just plain old tired, I remind myself of this first yama. There are two options, re-act, or take a step back, slow down, and connect to my breath.

One breath, sometimes two is all it usually takes to remember the big picture here: I am raising a child, a beautiful baby goddess in pigtails and a tutu. The more I continue to settle into an essence of peace with my daughter, the easier it will be for her to connect to that peace as she grows up.

Ahimsa is a commitment to love; it is the new discipline.

About the Author

Kim Smith is the PaleoYogaMom. First and foremost, her family is her passion. Her children inspire her everyday. Coming in at a close second is the practice of yoga. The practice, the lifestyle that is yoga has reconnected her to the shining light of creativity and light that exists in us all. Through yoga she hopes to instill in her students and her family a deeper knowing of grace, love and joy. Through the Paleo diet she has been able to achieve maximum health and all the benefits that health has to offer. If you are interested in learning more about Kim’s personal relationships with her family, yoga, and the Paleo diet, please visit her blog.

Namaste
Urban Yoga

4,627 Comments »

New Arrivals from Teeki yoga wear: made from recycled water bottles!

January 26th, 2013

The Campus Closet: Eco-conscious and Wildly Adorable Teeki Yoga Pants

By Gabrielle Nelson
January 26, 2013 at 9:28 am

When I’m not writing my fashion blog or going to school I am a die-hard yoginni, and the new recent obsession in my closet are my “hot pants” made by Teeki.
"Clouds" Teeki pants. Photo by Cole Kiburz
Teeki “hot pants” are sustainable, wildly adorable, and extremely comfortable. They are a must-have for any active or eco-conscious fashionista.
Teeki started as a green swimwear line in Los Angeles, and now creates everything from scarves to skirts. They make all of their clothing out of recycled materials and every pair of yoga pants they create contains about 25 recycled plastic bottles. Being a lover of clothing I sometimes feel guilty about all of the pieces I own and the impact they make on the environment. The new line is really setting itself apart and creating a great example for other up-and-coming designers to think and act in a more eco-friendly way."Northern Lights" Teeki pants. Photo by Cole KiburzThis is how the designer of Teeki describes herself and her designs: “I am a mermaid. I am guided by water and the power of the moon. I am conscious about the earth and design with it to create beauty. I breathe with the universe. I create to inspire. I design through color and play with nature. I create with love. My dream is to live out the magic and to make you feel beautiful.”

You can tell her designs and patterns are influenced by nature; my favorite pair resembles a sunset. Wearing them during a run or intense yoga class is like a dream. Despite being made from recycled bottles, the material is surprisingly sweat resistant, flexible, and breathable.

You can find Teeki yoga pants locally at Urban Yoga, located in downtown Phoenix.

Go active fashionistas!

 

 

 

Read Gabi’s full article here,

http://www.statepress.com/2013/01/26/the-campus-closet-eco-conscious-and-wildly-adorable-teeki-yoga-pants/

2,846 Comments »

Manifest Peace in the New Year

December 26th, 2012

Check out AZ Foothills feature on 5 easy ways to manifest more peace in 2013 – one day at a time, one moment at a time. You might be thinking, yeah right, sounds easy, but…. TRY IT – and respond to the blog and let us know more ways to manifest peace in 2013. We want to hear from you!

Happy New Year Yoga Family!

May you and your family be blessed with Peace, Health & Happiness!

Love & Light from everyone at Urban Yoga

2,066 Comments »