Getting Down with Your Dog – Practicing Yoga With Your Dog

Yoga with your dog, not for your dog!

DOGA, the term coined to performing yoga practices with your furry friend has become increasingly popular as niche markets in the yoga industry have greatly expanded—you can do yoga with just about anything these days! You can do yoga with beer, wine, goats, and even yoga with your dog!

Lately, there has been some anxiety and ambiguity when it comes to practicing with your dogs, most commonly being: “I can’t even get my dog to sit let alone Downward Dog!?” Or another big one: “OFF LEASH!?” The answer is simply, no we are not teaching your dogs how to do Yoga, but rather how to do Yoga with your dog.

The Intention of Yoga with Your Pup

Traditionally, any yoga practice or class begins with setting an Intention for that time, day, class, etc. Similar to a yoga practice, dog ownership is a commitment that also deserves Intentions; whether it be daily, monthly or yearly—every good thing in Life stems from a genuine Intention.

Now you may think, “well dogs can’t literally set an Intention.” Although they may not be able to verbally communicate this to you, their actions speak louder than their barks so to speak. Dogs by nature are excellent ‘vibe feelers,’ and for the most part their anxieties and reactions are developed from the vibrations the owners give off on a daily basis—whether you realize this or not, your dog absolutely senses what you are vibrating at any given time (positive or negative!).

By setting a positive Intention with your canine, your yoga practice has already set off to the right paw. Intentions for these furry practices can range from:

  • Letting go. Let go of all meticulous control of the animal and letting it just Be a dog
  • Acceptance. Accept where your relationship is now with your dog and openness to the direction it is going
  • Peace. Peace with who your dog is and peace with yourself as its caretaker

Intentions for practicing with your pets are endless, and perhaps starting out small like completing an entire class without correcting your dog’s natural behavior is just enough.

The Ups to the Downdogs

As an owner, practicing yoga with your dog may just be the best part about your day and there surely are more benefits to a playful practice:

  • You don’t have to feel guilty about leaving your fur friend at home
  • You can begin to build a more organic relationship with your pup; both stretching and rolling around on the floor, basically getting down to their level
  • You may even gain a new respect from your dog as your own energies and vibrations begin to stabilize, thus allowing you to be more present in your dog-parenting

From a Dogic point of view, this an exciting new activity they get to share with their most beloved human being, another excuse to play and love. So the next time you hesitate about practicing with your puppy or bringing them to a Doga class, check your ego, ask yourself where is the anxiety present, and how could an Intention alleviate that second-guessing so that both you, and your furry best friend, can receive the good vibrations of Yoga.

 

Paw-ma-ste,

 

Dannika & Ole Miss

Who Do You Want to Be When You’re Not a Judge?

Who Do You Want to Be When You’re Not a Judge?

From time to time we post an essays written by the students in our 200 Hour Teacher Training Program as part of their homework. This is one student’s essay.

I was recently listening to a podcast and this is the question that took root in my thoughts long after it had ended.  Funny, but I didn’t think of myself as judgmental.  I made observations.  I’d think, “She shouldn’t have done that.” Observation, right?   I’d think, “He’s squandering his money.”  Observation, right?  I’d think, “She’s so needy.  Well, she is!”  Observation, right? Then, why did the question attached itself to me unless I needed to make a shift in my thinking.  I genuinely did not want to be the judge!

So, I asked myself, “Who do I want to be?”  It’s a bit of a daunting question.  But three attributes came to mind without hesitation – I wanted to be kind; I wanted to be compassionate; and I wanted to be grateful.  So, where to begin?  The niyamas say, “pay attention…watch yourself…become self-aware.”  Svadhyaya (or self-study) creates the space that allows you to observe your own behavior and initiate appropriate changes. Isvara Pranidhana says it will provide what I need when I need it.  Armed with a team like this, how could I miss?

“Success is measured not by eliminating all random thoughts but by quickly noticing the random thoughts and returning to a quiet mind. “

I started by trying to monitor my thoughts – I was on the lookout for judgments.  When I recognized one, I acknowledged it and then reminded myself of who I wanted to be – kindness, compassion and gratitude.  This exercise paralleled my experiences with meditation.  A quiet mind is interrupted by random thoughts.  The meditator acknowledges the thought, thanks it for coming, and sends it on its way.  Success is measured not by eliminating all random thoughts but by quickly noticing the random thoughts and returning to a quiet mind.  Similarly, I acknowledged the judgment, appreciated that I recognized it and reminded myself that I was choosing kindness, compassion and gratitude.

How’s it going, you ask?  Am I ready to retire my flowing robes and gavel? Not yet.  I’d say I am a work in progress. The baby steps I have made were predicated upon a desire to find the balance between vigilantly being on the lookout for judgments (hard) and not beating myself up when they do occur (soft).  Over time I expect the judgments to diminish and kindness, compassion, and gratitude to expand because where the mind goes, prana goes!

 

Who do you want to be when you’re not a judge?

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Be The Change – Don’t Wait For It! “Everything Will Be Better When…”

“When XXX happens, everything will be better…” Have you ever found yourself saying those words? Are you waiting around for something to change? When it changes, it seems like everything will be perfect. One small shift and everything should fall into line, right? You will be perfectly happy!

It’s easy to fall into the pattern of thinking about what’s coming next and how much better things will be! But will they?

“Everything will be perfect when I lose 20lbs!”

“If I wasn’t so busy, I would go to yoga!”

“When we buy a bigger house, I will be happy”

Most recently, for me it has been “When the kids are back in school, I will be able to *insert pretty much anything*”. But am I really going to be able to do all of these things when the kids are in school? Or am I just going to be a different kind of busy? Something tells me it’s option B!

But change is sexy! It’s attractive and sometimes elusive. Change can be great, don’t get me wrong (see my recent post on Tapas for more information about transformation and yoga). But it’s important to avoid obsessing over it and idolizing it. Yes, sometimes it is important to remember that making changes is necessary and/or unavoidable.

But will all of your problems really go away if you buy that bigger house or lose 20lbs? Or will new problems replace them?

Let’s embrace change as we head into fall, but not let it distract us from reality and the present moment! Instead of thinking about how much easier my life is going to be when the kids start school, I am trying to remember that I will still be human! I am working on getting more organized and budgeting my time to account for all of the things that are important to me. This includes work, but also self care and my yoga practice. I want my time management issues to change, but I know that when the do, I will still have all of my other problems!

What are you going to change this fall?

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Sthira and Sukha

From time to time we post an essays written by the students in our 200 Hour Teacher Training Program as part of their homework. This is one student’s essay.

 

Yoga Sutra of Patanjali: 2.46 …”posture (asana) [should be] stable (sthira) and comfortable (sukha).” … Resolutely abiding in a good space – balance.

 

I am maintaining a committed yoga practice for almost a year now. After taking Yoga 101, I signed up for unlimited monthly practice, realizing that a fully present, committed yoga practice may very well bring me to a place where I would begin to feel balanced, content, and a member of a community of like minded individuals.

Translation of Sthira and Sukha, in the vernacular, essentially means hard and
soft. Up to now in taking a serious look at my life I see there is much hard and
perhaps little soft. Retreating into a cave is a familiar action that I take. It is one I learned in childhood, quite well, as a protection mechanism, creating a
withdrawal mechanism into detachment. Thus, on the outside I often appear
aloof and serious, certainly not revealing the soft, vulnerable, empathic,
compassionate heart that lies within.

 

“Yoga is not about retreating to a cave, it is more about finding our seat in the world.” Rima Rabbath

 

My yoga practice exposes my vulnerability, putting me closer to trusting those in my yogic circle and affirming that I am on the right path. The hard shell exists for a reason. However, those reasons are beginning to melt away. Asana brings me both challenge, a sense of accomplishment, and peace. I set my concentration on performing postures I find more difficult knowing that as I pass through the trial I come to a reward of relaxation and peace of body and mind. Yes, there are days of practice where I feel resistance in my body and obstruction in my psyche.

This generally happens when I experience upsets or challenges in my life with
family or other entities. Yoga and meditation are bringing me incrementally closer to being comfortable with these temporary disruptions and closer to embracing acceptance of what is as opposed to my struggling against my insistence that situations, people, and things be the way I envision. My perspective is changing – softening. My position though firm is now situated in the knowing I am stepping closer toward confidence of nature vs. staying stuck in the atmosphere of insecurity, doubt, and fear.

Sthira and Sukha of life teach that we need a balance of the hard and soft in our lives. The soft tempers and soothes the hardness of life’s difficulties and
challenges, especially if the outcomes we seek are not those realized. The hard and soft teaches us that when the outcome is not that which we envision, it is so often much more rich than we imagined, much more fulfilling and rewarding, if only we take off our prejudices and blinders to seeing what is rather than trying to see what is not.

Yamas and Niyamas integrating into Modern Life

From time to time we post an essays written by the students in our 200 Hour Teacher Training Program as part of their homework. This is one student’s essay.

Yamas – Restraints

Y: yes to difficult emotions, sensations, and resistance – that generates from
whatever happens in my direct experience.

A: awareness of my present moment and accepting what is as it comes my way.

M: morning meditation on a daily basis for acknowledgement, allowance, and
acceptance of what life holds for me.

A: asana – exploring into my further owning and acceptance of the postures and embracing their expansiveness as well as accepting my body’s limitations in practice.

S: silence as a gift for my body, mind, and spirit – enabling me to listen more
carefully and understand my pathway.

&

Niyamas – Observances

N: no control is letting go, letting be, accepting what is and being present to what is now.

I: introspection and listening to what is within me and how I relate it to what
surrounds me – externally.

Y: yoga sutras are integrated into my daily life as best that I am able given what the Universe provides me.
A: attention to the present moment to by choosing to let go of the past and not worry about the future.

M: mindful breath develops stability and deep rest for my body, mind, and spirit.

A: appreciation and gratitude for all that I have in my life – continuing to
appreciate all and keep myself opening to receiving.

S: smiles and laughter to relax the body, open the mind, and lighten the spirit.

 

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What Is Present Power? (And Why You CAN Do It)

Have you ever looked at our schedule and noticed our Present Power classes? Maybe you have tried it before. Or, maybe the word “power” scared you away. Well, I’m here today to tell you that Present Power is nothing to be afraid of.

First of all, this it not what you would typically picture as “power yoga”.

It’s not a bunch of people in yoga onesies grunting and excessively sweating (although check out this post to read why sweating is good). Present Power is actually the name of a sequence. This class closely follows this sequence, introduced by Beryl Bender Birch in her teacher trainings in recent years.

While we do follow this sequence, this class is suitable for all levels. In fact, it is traditional for all levels of students to practice together. Present Power (and all of our classes) are intended for each individual to do as much or as little as they choose to do. As we often say, the only thing you HAVE to do is breathe.

The Present Power sequence is closely related to Beryl’s other sequences, which many of our classes follow closely. That is to say, you are not likely to see many new postures in this class that you haven’t done before. If one or two new postures do come up, do the best you can. I bet if you sneak a peak around the room you’ll notice that you’re not the only one doing something a little different.

Present Power class is an opportunity to just flow through the practice and breathe.

Yes, you may notice things move a little faster in this class sometimes. But that doesn’t mean YOU have to. This is an opportunity to focus on your breath and, you guessed it, do the best you can.
Please let us know if you have any questions about this, or any of our other classes! We are happy to answer them for you.

What’s stopping you from practicing yoga?

From time to time we post an essays written by the students in our 200 Hour Teacher Training Program as part of their homework. This is one student’s essay.


The Monday before weekend two of our teacher training,  my mother was hospitalized in Massachusetts so I spent the week leading up to our training course at the hospital.  Initially, I was disappointed at the timing.  I was unable to attend yoga classes, engage in “my” practice at home or adequately prepare for the rigors of the weekend course.  But, as it turned out, the week was filled with opportunities to practice yoga 24/7.  The situation certainly demanded a calm, focused, and quiet mind grounded in the present moment.  It would have been easy to be overcome with scary thoughts of what the future might hold.  As luck would have it, I found the chapel and traveled there each day to breathe and meditate!  I tried to be self-aware, observing the flood of emotions that passed through me from day to day… I was sad…I was stressed…I was agitated…I was frustrated…I was scared.  But I tried not to wallow in these feelings – just acknowledge them and let them go.  I tried to stay PRESENT.  I surrendered control of what was happening to a source greater than I and trusted that events would unfold as they were divinely intended.

So it would have been easy to say I couldn’t ‘do’ yoga that week.  And the Sutras would have been right to label me careless, negligent, and lazy about my practice. Instead, despite the little time I had to do the postures, I found infinite time to “do the work”.

 

Recovery and the Yamas and Niyamas

From time to time we will be posting the monthly essays written by the students in our 200 Hour Teacher Training Program. This is one student’s essay from Month Four of this 8 month program.


Growing up in an alcoholic/dysfunctional home is a gift that lasts a lifetime. A child in this type of home is always on full alert. For me life was like playing a series of games: charades, hide and seek, risk and monopoly all played with changing rules greed, cheating and lying. Children who grow up in these homes experience PTSD. One expert describes the symptoms as worse than others because the “enemy” is someone you love and have to live with and rely for nurturing and development. I swore I would not be like my parents and have spent over a decade in therapy and 12 step programs. Yoga has helped tremendously to connect the dots of my recovery and solidify the need to observe the yamas and niyamas in order to heal.

Growing up with all the opposite of the yamas caused me to develop character defenses. I was taught to lie to cover up for what was going on in the house, stolen items were constantly being brought in from job sites, and getting ahead of others regardless of their feelings was our way of life. We were a team, we had a code, we had each other’s backs. We learned to stuff our feelings down and we usually did with food while Dad drank, and we walked on eggshells and hoped it was not an angry and violent night. It has taken many years to relearn and begin to heal the wounds from childhood.

I began observing the yamas and niyamas without knowing. I sought self-help through books and workshops, studied the Bible and loved to exercise and burn off my pent up emotions. When I began yoga, I felt like I came home. What I did not realize is that I did, I came home to a divine presence inside myself. My recent practice and study has helped me understand that my internal desires have always been to live the yamas. In working to rid myself of the character defects I developed I have been working toward a nonviolent, truthful and compassionate life. Understanding them on a new level gives me more peace with my decision. I still struggle with my past and find pain in watching my family continue these traits but I am learning to just breath and get back on the mat.

 

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Tapas – The Importance Of Heat In Your Yoga Practice

Did you know that sweating during your practice is actually desirable? Yes, that’s right, we want to sweat. Sweating is a great example of the yogic concept of tapas or burning of impurities (no, sorry, not the delicious food… although maybe a yoga & tapas workshop could be a good idea…).

 

The concept of tapas is: as we move through the postures and use our breath and bandhas we create a fire in our 3rd chakra. This fire burns up impurities in the body and this leads to transformation. These impurities can be physical, mental, or emotional. Sounds pretty good, right?

Despite what deodorant commercials tell you, sweating (at least during this practice) is good! Although it might not feel that way when your hands are slipping in down dog, sweat can be a great sign. Sweat tells us that this practice is doing what it is intended to. It is a physical representation of tapas. So the next time you’re sliding around on your mat, you can (try to) remember that this sweat is helping to clear impurities from the body, mind, and spirit.

Some of us have no trouble staying warm throughout practice. For others keeping up the heat it is more of a challenge. In fact, maintaining heat is one of the main reasons that we sometimes add in “vinyasas” between the seated postures. This is also why vinyasas are always optional – if you’re already feeling warm and sweaty, you don’t need to take them!

As you may have noticed from time to time in your own practice, we don’t want this fire to get too hot. If you find yourself getting overheated, you may notice that you are uncomfortable. You may even notice that you start to feel “burned out” during your practice. You don’t have to feel like this!

As our teacher, Beryl Bender Birch, says, “Tapas means transformation, not torture!”

If you find yourself getting too hot during practice remember that you can always:

  • take child’s posture

  • slow down or quiet your breath

  • or even take a few breaths through your mouth.

If you have more questions about tapas, please ask them here! Or, you can always ask us the next time you’re at the studio, we’d love to answer them.

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Do You Use Yoga As An Excuse To Think You Are Not Enough?

Sometimes I think I am not enough.

I have been teaching yoga for just about 3 years. To some people, this might sound like a long time. To others, it might seem like a very short time. Generally, I feel pretty confident in my teaching abilities. I get (mostly) positive feedback and students (generally) seem to enjoy my classes. But guess what? I still sometimes get the feeling that I am not enough!

For the past few months, I have been teaching one of the Boomer Yoga classes on our schedule. I LOVE working with this group and find all of the Boomers to be such a great inspiration for me – personally as well as in my practice. Many of the students in this class are a perfect example of one of the best aspects of this practice – using it to keep our bodies and minds working for us  (rather than against us) as we move through every stage of life.

But sometimes when I stand up at the front of that room to instruct these amazing Boomers, I am filled with doubt.

There’s nothing like teaching a class where everyone in the room is about twice your age to make you doubt yourself. Especially when one of them is your mom who has been teaching for over 10 years! And it’s not the students who are the problem here: it’s my internal dialogue. I think things like “why would these students take me seriously?”. Sometimes, I worry that because I have not experienced things in my body or in my life like they have, students don’t want to hear what I have to say. I tell myself, students are thinking I can’t possibly understand what they are experiencing.

Now, maybe all that is true. But it doesn’t mean that I have nothing to offer these students or that there is nothing they can learn from me.

I’m not writing all this to get your sympathy. I’m writing it because, after a conversation with my mom today, I realized that I am not the only one in the room having these feelings. Our culture teaches us to think that, no matter what, we are not enough.  And even if someone tells us this isn’t true or that we should feel otherwise, our feelings aren’t very likely to change . If we want to flip our perspective, we have to work at it.

What can we do to change this internal dialogue?

Focus on the positive.

Sometimes things that we think are negatives can really be viewed as positives! As one student was leaving today, they chastised themselves for having to lean on the wall to put their shoes on. But while doing that, they ignored the fact that they could do it standing up! There are many people who are not able to do this. Let’s celebrate what we can do instead of focusing on what we can’t do.

Breathe.

How many times have you heard us say “if you’re breathing, you’re doing it right”? Or “all you have to do is breathe”? These statements could not be true-er (is that word?). The purpose of this practice is to ATTEMPT to still the fluctuations of the mind – if you’re attempting to focus on your breathing, you are doing yoga!

Practice gratitude.

We are lucky to be alive. Lucky to be able to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and have food to eat. We are lucky to be able to do this practice! Remembering these things can go a long way towards shifting your perspective!

Do the best you can.

This changes all the time. From one minute to the next and one decade to the next. Do the best you can in that moment and don’t worry about what it is “supposed to look like”.

Practice, and all is coming.

And even if you don’t believe me – know that I know you are enough!

 

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