Yin Yoga--A Different Kind of Challenge
Oh, how we fear that of which we know little about! When I recommend Yin classes to my students who regularly practice Vinyasa, Slow Flow, or Buti at Kula Yoga, they often ask what the style is all about, with a look of unease on their faces. Read and learn, my yogi friends.
Yin Yoga is a style of yoga that was created in the late 1970's by Paulie Zink and later spread throughout the west by teachers and developers Paul Grilley and Sarah Powers. Yin, the opposite of "yang," is often described as a much more passive practice, especially when compared to Vinyasa. Don't let that fool you, though! There are challenges to be met on your mat during a Yin class. After all, living well is all about balance. Every yang actions needs a yin.
There are three main principles of Yin yoga. These three basic guidelines can act as internal check-points for you to walk yourself through when in a Yin class.
First, find your edge. Observe your body using an intensity scale, with "1" being feeling nothing and "10" being feeling pain in a pose. During a Yin class, you'd ideally hover around a "5" or "6" on the intensity scale. Turn all of your awareness to your body and how it feels.
Second, be still. Once you realize you're in that sweet spot on your intensity scale, stay there. Resist the urge to fidget or contract your muscles. Instead, be soft. This is where props come in handy. Bolsters, blocks, and blankets can all help to fill the gaps between your body and the mat, making it much more comfortable to remain still in poses.
Lastly, hold the pose. Yin asanas are help for an extended amount of time, generally for three to eight minutes. When you hold poses at your edge and are settled and still, you begin to create change in the joints, ligaments, tendons, and fascia of your body. Long holds offer the perfect opportunity to think of your intention for class and observe your breath.
Do you want to increase or maintain flexibility and lubricate your joints? Do you desire to go deeper physically and emotionally on your mat? Are you ready to explore what lies beneath the surface of a pose? Are you ready to travel outside of your comfort zone? Do you want to balance out your strong, yang, Power Vinyasa practice? Then Yin is for you. Practice on Sunday nights with Karolina, Wednesday evenings with Erin, and Friday nights with Mary. I'll see you there!
Tell me more about these Sound Baths...
If you've been to Kula, you've heard someone, either your instructor or another student, mention Sound Baths. Sound Baths are held at the studio on the last Sunday of every month, and they've become a highlight of the many offerings at Kula Yoga.
While sound immersion gatherings are all the rage in cities on the west coast, the healing events are not offered as frequently here in Michigan. I regularly attended a weekly Sound Bath at my home studio while living in Seattle--it was the perfect wind-down after a long and often depleting week in the classroom with my fourth graders. When I moved to Grand Rapids and noticed that none were offered to the public on a consistent basis, I decided I had to be the change. My focused studies began, I worked one-on-one with my Washington teachers to deepen my understanding of sound healing, took some accredited courses in sound therapy, and thus, Sound Baths at Kula Yoga came to be. Grand Rapids yogis have been buzzing ever since!
Students have asked me every kind of question about attending a Sound Bath, from 'What do I wear?' to 'How do I participate' to 'Will there be bubbles?'. Let's take some time to learn about the value, purpose, and process of Sound Baths.
We're constantly surrounded by stimulation, from the time our alarms wake us up, to the moment we close our Kindles and nod off at night. Our phones, the people around us, the computer--it's sensory overload all day long. Our minds and bodies crave a chance to get quiet and relax, now more than ever, and our senses need a break. Sound Baths are a chance to hit the reset button on your central nervous system. This holistic form of stress relief provides the space for you to truly "tune in" with yourself and experience healing through sound. When harmonious sounds are fluidly linked together, the result is a slowdown of your brainwaves, shifting from a more active state to a more relaxed and dreamlike one.
I play a variety of instruments to set your mind and body at ease, including quartz crystal singing bowls, tribal drums, and chimes. Soft singing of Sanskrit mantra is often partnered with the musical vibrations. As the facilitator, I circulate the studio so that the sound echos from corner to corner, which provides a deeper sound experience for participants. We close our sound healing sessions with five minutes of silence, when we marinate in the buzz that seems to float in the air above our heavy bodies.
Participants simply lie back, get cozy, and soak up the sounds. Many students wear pajamas and bring slippers to Sound Baths at Kula. Everyone sets their space up with a pillow from home and a blanket from the prop closet. Phones are off and conversation ceases for an entire hour. The studio is lit with the flicker of candles and the soft scent of Palo Santo wafts through the air. The time is magically restorative. Some students meditate, some doze off, and many let their minds wander in and out of dreams.
Give yourself the gift of stillness and allow your body and mind to be surrounded by healing sound. Join us for our next Sound Bath at Kula Yoga. Check the schedule for the next offering, and preregister to reserve your spot.
It's my true honor to provide the Grand Rapids community with healing vibrations. Thank you for the opportunity.
Year of Gratitude
Even if you're someone who's wholeheartedly determined to not make New Year's resolutions, you have to admit that there's a definite sense of "fresh start" that comes with the morning of January 1 each year. You've got the whole year ahead of you, and your slate is wiped clean! There's a lot to be said for the symbolism that a brand new year brings.
The new beginning can also bring on self-reflection--What were some of your best moments of 2017? What would you have done differently throughout the past year? Who impacted you most? How did you impact others? How did you choose to spend your time? These are all fantastic questions to ask. It's never too late to look back and analyze your words, thoughts, reactions, and relationships.
Oh, how easy it is to spend (waste) time getting caught up in what other people are doing and how amazing their lives are! Social media throws the awesomeness of our friends', friends of friends', and neighbors' day-to-days into our faces. It's often incredibly easy to forget that people are only showing the good stuff via their phones and computers. Instead of spending massive chunks of time throughout your precious days watching the overly-edited versions of what other people are choosing to show the world, why not start manifesting what you want out of your reality? Bring the focus back to you and what you want.
Cultivating a deep sense of gratitude is one of the strongest, most powerful ways to bring positive, high-vibe energy into your reality. Slowing down and appreciating what you have is the key to happiness, because the more gratitude you feel and hold in your heart, the more abundance you'll bring to this life.
How do I grow my gratitude, you ask? Below are three simple ways to surround yourself with a sense of gratitude. Once January 1 comes around, commit to incorporating one of the exercises into your day. If you're feeling like a real go-getter, try all three. Be prepared to notice a shift in your perspective.
Morning gratitude list When you wake up, right after you silence the alarm on your phone, resist the urge to check your emails or Instagram. Be thoughtful about how you start your day! First thing in the morning is the perfect time to focus your energy in a positive direction. Instead of taking your attention outside of yourself, keep it internal, even for just a few moments. Set your phone down, take a deep breath, and think of three things you are grateful for. The first three things that pop into your head will work--my bed, my alarm, coffee. Take another deep breath, then go about your morning.
Meditation Contrary to popular belief, one can meditate without being seated in Lotus Pose on a fancy cushion surrounded by candles and crystals! While that all sounds lovely, know that you can simply sit up in bed, still cozy in your blanket and pj's, and spend a few minutes breathing and focusing on one or all of the items from your morning gratitude list. Perhaps breathe in and say to yourself, "I am grateful for all of the abundance in my life." On your exhale breath, say, "Thank you." You'll be surprised at how grounded and peaceful you feel after only minutes of meditation.
Vocalize your thanks At some point throughout your day, tell someone or something that you are grateful for them or it out loud. If a stranger holds the door open for you, express your gratitude. When your dog greets you with unbridled excitement upon your return home, verbalize your appreciation. Even if your candle smells especially fragrant one evening, say that you're grateful for it's scent. Actually say it. It might sound crazy, but there's energy in the thoughts we choose to articulate aloud with our words.
Gratitude is like a muscle. The more you use it, the bigger it gets. Always remember that you have the power to shape your reality. What you choose to focus on is what you will surround yourself with, so make it good!
Grateful for you,
Teacher Feature: Karolina
Spend some time reading about what makes Ms. Karolina tick. Take her class on Wednesday mornings, Thursday evenings, and Fridays at noon and 4:30! You're sure to leave class with a smile on your face and more warmth in your heart.
Why do you love yoga?
I love practicing yoga because no matter what is going on with me emotionally or physically, it allows me to drop into the practice and release my thoughts and worries. I feel like my mat is always a safe space for me to explore my breath,movement and mindfulness. I love teaching yoga for the exact same reasons. Whenever I have the honor of teaching a class, I feel like I get to hold and share space with the students. Everything else disappears and I love that students get the opportunity to come to their mat and release their day.
What's your favorite pose?
My favorite pose is Chin Stand because it took practice and focus to achieve. I love practicing yoga for just that- the practice of it, and I believe in the sentiment that "practice makes practice, not perfect," I learned the layers of chin stand in an inversion workshop at Kula with Megan and have worked on it since. For years, I was working on floating one leg as I transitioned from high to low plank, but I never really understood to what I was building. As soon as I understood the layers of the pose, I felt equipped to try it, and now... I can do it! Of course, every day has been an adventure for me with Chin Stand. Some days I don't feel bold enough to press up, and other days it's just not there. Some days--I'm thinking of one class in particular with the lovely Mary Williams--my legs decided to run the show and kick up with such power that I was forced to back bend out of the pose and (not so gracefully) get out of it! I love that Chin Stand can be achieved in layers and that it is a pose that humbles me. Through my own personal practice and taking the opportunity to be a student, I learned the fundamentals of this pose and the why behind floating one leg in Chaturanga Dandasana- knowledge is power, friends!
What would your perfect autumn weekend look like?
- a hike with my partner and our little furry one, Eleanor, to see the leaves changing. I would love for this to be in northern Michigan, or somewhere out West, but good old GR is always nice, too!
- practice yoga (at Kula or one of our community class somewhere, so I can meet new people!)
- make some delicious home-made food, like apple-pumpkin muffins ,or take on an adventurous dinner recipe--anything that makes our tiny home smell good!
- visit with my mom and chat a while
- catch up and reconnect with dear friends who live far away
- settle in at home with some tea or warm Witches' Brew wine and some windmill cookies, then play Yahtzee and listen to music
Thanks for sharing, Kar. You're a gem, and we're glad you're part of our Kula.
Riding the Wave of Change
Last week, the Kula community celebrated one year of yoga in Grand Rapids. What a year it was - so full of ups and downs. There were roller coaster highs and stagnant lows. I was frequently reminded of how life truly is all about taking the sour with the sweet. Things have a way of staying in balance.
On a business level, Kula accomplished a lot in one year. The vision of Kula Yoga came to life while I was working as a full-time teacher at Burton Elementary in GRPS. I had lived in Grand Rapids for years and had still not found my yoga home. After thoughtful consideration, I decided to create what I felt was missing. I walked through the rectangle of bricks at 133 Division Avenue, decided to trust my intuition, follow my heart, and sign a lease. I brought on thoughtful, skilled teachers who are always pushing themselves to grow and care about community and connection as much as I do. I graduated two classes of instructors from the Megan Rader Yoga School. Kula brought BUTI Yoga (If you haven’t been, you’re missing out!), chakra sound baths, mala making courses, and tribal dance workshops to Grand Rapids. We raised and donated hundreds of dollars to local community organizations with our weekly Outreach Flow. Most importantly, we stuck with the original mission of keeping things simple — simple space, affordable pricing, and a focus on connection — connection with the students, teachers, and community at large. Our Kula continues to grow, and I am humbled daily.
With the highs come the lows, but I worked to see my challenges as my teachers. On a personal level, my relationship with my best friend and partner deepened over the year. Weeks after Kula opened, my husband and I lost our first baby, which left us heartbroken. Processing such a traumatic miscarriage--physically and emotionally--graced me with a much stronger, more immense respect for us women. Our bodies are literally the source of life and, though less frequently discussed, death. I've never felt such sorrow, all while surrounded by the newness and excitement of Kula. With the unconditional love and support of my family and close friends, I got out of bed. We women are powerful, and our resilience is unwavering. What an honor it is to be female. I knew that before. I feel that now. When I felt another cloud of sadness hover over me after the election, I stood in the rain for some time, allowing myself to feel the despair. Nevertheless, I persisted, as we women do.
Along with all of the change, joy, and loss I’ve experienced over the past year, I have met so many new friends. The friendship I built with one fellow local business owner in particular, Jessica of Wanderlux Beauty Co., was truly destined to be. She and I are soul sisters. Jessica and I are excited to share the news that we will both be moving locations this winter and joining forces under one roof in East Hills, at 713 Wealthy Street. Our shared mission is to create a unique and collective place for self care, connection, and relaxation. We are so thrilled to be a part of the growing, lively neighborhood of East Hills and to offer the community a unique experience. This new space allows for Kula to not only provide the community with more classes, but also different styles and services. We are working hard to bring this big old house to life, so follow along as we create your new “happy place.”
The ebb and flow of life will continue to meet me with ups and downs, and I will undoubtedly experience more highs and lows as I travel through this next journey. Things perceived as "good" and "bad" will come. I am choosing to push past doubt and fear, instead embracing growth and change. I am striving to live a life of love and abundance. Join me.
Teacher Feature: Jenny
Take some time out of your day to learn about the lovely Jenny Tanis. Catch her classes throughout the week at Kula Yoga. You can enjoy Jenny's guidance on Mondays at 12:15pm for Vinyasa, or take it easy with a Slow Flow on Sunday nights at 6:00.
Favorite Yoga Pose:
Without a doubt, Tree Pose (Vrksasana). I find myself standing in this posture while preparing dinner, waiting in line, or in casual conversations. Beyond that, I love how this asana is never the same for me. When I come to my mat hurried or during a hectic day, I am able to feel this imbalance during vrksasana and mindfully bring myself to a more peaceful space. On the contrary, some days I feel stable and strong...which is incredibly empowering. I am energized when I root down through my standing leg knowing that as I stand grounded, I enable myself to become open to new possibilities and reach higher and stronger. For me, Tree is an excellent example of how our physical yoga practice follows us off our mats into our relationships, jobs, and every day interactions.
Eagle Pose (Garudasana). This is a total head thing. I struggle with the binding aspect of this pose. I rarely can wrap my free foot behind my standing leg or get my hands to connect. In this pose, I have to intentionally draw my attention back to my breath and find a mental space of non-judgement. I have to mindfully incorporate this asana into my classes to not deprive students from the incredible benefits of this pose merely because of my personal barriers. I choose to practice this pose because it gives me an opportunity to breathe through struggle, practice mindfulness, learn to be present, and hold myself and my body in a space of love and appreciation rather than judgement and criticism.
Why do you teach yoga?
I love providing a space for people to engage in self-discovery. Whether that is learning how to intuitively connect and listen to your body, or diving into the power of the mind-body connection. It is powerful to create a safe space where people trust you with their bodies and souls. It is humbling to be invited into the intimate experience of connecting with your self. It is an honor to connect with others through a shared love of breath and movement.
We love you, Jenny! Kula Yoga is enriched by your presence.
Let's Talk 'Vinyasa'
Here at Kula Yoga, we have a number of class types on the studio schedule. Kula yogis can choose from Yin, Slow Flow, BUTI, or Vinyasa, depending on where they'd like to take their practices on a given day. Students new to Kula Yoga, or even to yoga itself, often ask what the word 'Vinyasa' means. Awesome question--especially when Vinyasa class is offered at Kula sixteen times a week!
Vinyasa can be defined as "breath and movement linked together." During a Vinyasa class at Kula, when you start to "flow with your breath," you're in the heart of Vinyasa. For example, imagine yourself moving through the flow of, "Inhale, Crescent Lunge, Anjaneyasana. Exhale, Revolved Crescent Twist, Parivrrta Anjaneyasana. Inhale, Warrior II, Virabhadrasana II. Exhale, Side Angle Pose, Utthita Parsvakonasana." That's Vinyasa. When your movement is linked with and guided by your breath, that's Vinyasa. It's almost as though you're dancing on your mat, and the music is your breath.
Try taking the act of Vinyasa off of your mat. While you're sitting at your desk, inhale to slowly roll your head back, then exhale to draw your chin to your chest. Even as you stand in line somewhere, inhale, and grow tall through the crown of your head, then breathe out, and relax your shoulders down your back. These are easy ways to live your yoga outside of the physical space of Kula Yoga. These small actions taken off of your mat can bring you more awareness of your breath while you're on your mat, too. Inevitably, you'll be more mindful and at peace when you consciously breathe big, and that peaceful feeling will ripple around you to the people you encounter around Grand Rapids. Everything ties together, my friends.
See you in class,