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November 22nd, 2012

Grace And Gratitude

By Manduka Ambassador Dana Damara

The words grace and gratitude get used so often; I often wonder if people really know what it means. To feel gratitude for your family, your friends, your job, your home, your financial success, your material possessions, your health…all those things is really easy.

But what about feeling gratitude for the things in your life that aren’t so frilly? Like your computer breaking down? At the same time that your girlfriend decides to leave you. Or how about when you lose something that is important to you like say, your favorite Manduka mat? What about your job ending? You get into a car wreck. You file for bankruptcy. How about feeling gratitude for those individuals who talk behind your back or worse, seemingly get under your skin every, single time you see them.

Can you find gratitude in those situations?

Because honestly, that’s the yoga we speak of when we talk about embodiment. It’s not about the perfect posture…it’s about embodying that grace and gratitude in times of adversity.

Life is not a sedentary event that we can plan out or remain rigid to while navigating through it. It is always changing, ever expanding and infinitely growing. And although we do create our lives in conjunction with our thoughts, we must also allow for Universal order to do its thing. It’s co-creating... all the time.

And when we stumble, or when life seemingly pushes us into our shit, grace reminds us that it’s pushing us there for a reason. And if the s@#t stinks, most likely that means that the reason is beyond our knowledge or understanding. Grace holds space for gratitude beyond our understanding. We breathe it in and allow it to just BE what it IS in THAT moment.

As we trod through those difficult times, we can do so kicking and screaming, slinging shit and mud, blaming others and playing the victim role or we can feel gratitude and allow grace to step up and bring it all in. When we truly embody grace and gratitude it’s like the Red Sea parts… that breath makes way for clarity, vision and an acceptance of what is… truly what is. Not what WE THINK it should be.

The next time you find yourself facing adversity, breathe it in. What can you learn right then? Where is the light? That one breath in time will bring grace rushing to you.

November 15th, 2012

What Brings You To The Mat..

By Manduka Ambassador Jessica Lesley

After a recent "yoga rebellion", where my frustration with the extreme focus on asana kept me out of classes for a few months, I developed a renewed commitment to the other seven limbs of the practice.

This rebellion came at a time where I was seeing blog posts and articles detailing the potential injuries involved with asana, and reading the comments from angry yoga practitioners - and teachers. Most of the postures in question were inversions and arm balances, the ones that make for awesome photo shoots, "oooh and ahhh" worthy magazine covers, and a boat load of "likes" on instagram. While I do not feel that the magazines or websites with yogis in pretzel like states of inversions have ill intentions, it made me wonder why are these poses are so important to us in the first place?

I took my first yoga class in a desperate attempt to end my daily panic attacks, to have some quiet time during a time of loss in my family, and also to make peace with my body image issues. In those early classes, I was not this honest with myself let alone anyone else. It was easy to say, "I'm going to yoga to be more flexible". I could avoid the reaction to speaking my truth and saying "I'm going to yoga because I am terrified of my own thoughts and am in need of peace".

To be honest, at one point in my practice, I bought into the idea that an "advanced" practice consisted of jumping back to chaturunga or effortlessly floating up into handstand in the center of the room. These movements require much focus and strength, but wasn't I already demonstrating those qualities in chair pose or by sticking to my mediation practice twice a day? The feeling of wanting to recreate postures I’d seen on magazine covers came to an end upon learning that many of my favorite cover yogis had regular chiropractic appointments or were nursing injured shoulders and bulging discs.. It was not a moment of judgement but more of a wake up call that there is more to this practice than posing.

After my initial 200 teacher training (which primarily covered asana with a bit of philosopy and chakra talk thrown in), I went on to study with Jill Miller of Yoga Tune Up®. My training with Jill focused on how to "live better in your own body". We broke down postures step by step to truly understand what goes into proper alignment and more importantly safely doing a pose. There was also a significant amount of time spent on how the nervous system functions, and on how the way we breathe can impact stress and anxiety. This has made it very difficult to focus on the poses I once loved or aspired to "perfect" and allowed me to let go of certain postures that are not meant for my body (non-attachment or Vairagya is a wonderful addition to any practice).

A recent post by Glenn Black put what I have been feeling into words.

"It’s not that Black doesn’t believe in the power of asana (for those few whose bodies have been properly prepared). Rather, he’s revolted by the way asana has been adulterated and overtaken the meaning of yoga today. “If you want to really develop in yoga, you’ve got to get past the insignificance of asana and really develop the mind.”

I too believe in the power of asana. I also know that asana alone is not what stopped the anxiety, or helped me move past old hurt and insecurities. This practice can have profound changes in the lives of many people, but our fascination with asana masquerading as yoga can be intimidating. Yoga helped me to slow down, to honor the body I have today, not the one I will have after a few more years of practice and working out. Taking my studies beyond asana helped to dive deeper into personal traumas and find peace. This inner awareness both on an anatomical and emotional level is why I ended the rebellion and got back on my mat.

Jessica is a Los Angeles based Yoga and Yoga Tune Up® . Yoga Tune Up® Instructor. You can find out more about her on her website www.jessicalesley.com.

November 12th, 2012

Yogi Of The Week: Meaghan

Meet Meaghan.

Soon after signing up for yoga teacher training in Costa Rica, Meaghan thought 'wait, am I crazy? This is not what responsible adults do!' Confused and second guessing herself, she began to talk herself out of the training. Then Meaghan got a sign from the universe – she stumbled on a giant billboard advertising a café with the same name as the training site in Costa Rica. She put her doubts to bed that day and hasn't looked back since.

Sometimes we spend too much time in our own heads; for Meaghan, yoga was a way out. Her world happens outside herself now, and her love of travel and cultural immersion has given her an awareness for the desperate need for access to education in countries that have limited resources. Recently, Meaghan got on her bike and rode across America for the organization Playing for Change. raising awareness and funds for schools and music education in developing countries.

Yoga has moved Meaghan to see her purpose of service. She has developed a reverence for her life and the people in it, making a conscious effort to serve people, the planet, and her own spirit.

We loved learning about Meaghan! And we want to learn about you, too. Tell us about yourself on our You Series page: Manduka.com/You

We can’t wait to meet you!

November 8th, 2012

The Universal Language Of Yoga

By Manduka Ambassador Chip Fieberg

Teaching AcroYoga and Slackline Yoga at the 2012 Korea Yoga Conference in Seoul, Korea was an unforgettable experience that was both educational and thrilling. Since our workshops consisted primarily of Korean students, some of whom did not speak any English, the first thing we had to get used to was working with a translator.

Luckily, we had some practice with how this works during the two weeks prior while assisting Ana Forrest's Advanced Teacher Training at Seoul's Forrest Yoga Studio. We learned that to achieve optimum translations, phrases need to be succinct and free of excessive adjectives. This showed us how little information needs to be actually spoken to convey effective instructions. We also found we had more time to think about our next cues, a luxury only afforded by waiting for a translator finish speaking.

Korean students are extremely polite, enthusiastic, and attentive proving how enriching it can be teaching in a new culture. Despite language barriers we did not have to repeat instructions. People payed very close attention and absorbed concepts easily. We enjoyed their love for taking video and photos during the workshops and at the end of every session, we had a line up of students eager to get their picture taken with us.

The Korean yogis surprised us with which skills they picked up the fastest. We are generally able to advance our material much quicker in AcroYoga classes, than with Slackline Yoga. This was the opposite for the Korean students. Because their culture isn't used to touching each other as much as westerners, there was a lot of giggling and goofing around in the AcroYoga workshops. Once we adapted our lesson plan accordingly, we broke down social barriers and the students had a lot of fun. In the Slackline Yoga workshops, the students advanced very fast and by the end we had most of them doing Warrior poses on the slackline- very impressive indeed!

Teaching on the opposite side of the planet was truly a cherished experience and enriched our lives in a meaningful way. While visiting a country as a tourist can be very enjoyable, immersing yourself in the culture and making close connections with the people who live there through teaching is a profound experience. We are very grateful for our time spent with all our new students and friends, and hope to return very soon.

November 5th, 2012

Yogi Of The Week: Gigi

Meet Gigi.

When she was 3, yoga was a game of copying mommy on the mat. By the time she was 14, she was going to yoga studios for class. As a high schooler, Gigi was competitive – thriving off the stress and desire to perform. By college, the rush of team sports was over and she needed a new outlet for her focus and energy. She revived her yoga practice, and this time it was much more than a physical experience.

Yoga has been the guiding energy in her lifestyle since then. These days you can find Gigi teaching yoga and spreading the love in one of the most notoriously loveless places in the country – the LA Freeway. Her car sports a custom paint job of inspirational mantras to help calm the mind in even the tightest jams. “You’re Too Blessed to Be Stressed,” “Each One Teach One,” “We Are All One,” and “Be the Change” -- they give people a reason to smile, like a moving meditation even when you're not moving so fast. It's also led to some great red light conversations!

Throughout the years, yoga has helped Gigi and her mom stay bonded, and the student has since become the teacher with Gigi sharing the tools of pranayama, meditations, and restoration with the woman who introduced her to yoga in the first place.

We are so grateful to learn more about Gigi Yogini. And we want to learn about you, too! Tell us about yourself on our You Series page: Manduka.com/You

We can’t wait to hear from you!