Giving Back with Yoga
By Rosie Mulford
“Giving” is a funny thing. It is like an endless well that just keeps on flowing and filling no matter how much it is used. The word “purna” in Sanskrit means full. But more than full. My teacher describes “purna” as holding a glass under the tap and water fills it to the top and then overflows. This is what giving feels like. When we give, we feel complete and full. Perhaps it is because giving is that last piece of the puzzle. It is human nature; our True and Essential Nature! So many religions and self-help groups include an act of “giving” in their formula:
- The 12th step of AA is all about giving back. Having a spiritual awakening myself as the result of these steps, we try to carry this message to alcoholics and practice these principles in all our affairs.
- The Bible says, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10). It is in our service that all will see God’s grace in action as we demonstrate our faith. Service is the embodiment of Christian love toward others.
- ‘Tzedakah’ is the Hebrew word for philanthropy and charity. It is a form of social justice in which donors benefit from giving as much or more than the recipients. This is so much more than a financial transaction, it also builds trusting relationships and includes contributions of time, effort, and insight.
In yoga, we often use the Sanskrit word “Seva” which is often translated as “service.” This goes beyond just the desire to help others, “seva” is taken from two words, “saha,” which means “with that,” and “eva,” which means “too.” Combined, the word “seva” it creates, “together with” and it means actions that create a collective uplifting by contemplating the needs of others. It is a manifestation of compassion for others combined with a genuine desire to uplift those around you, without expectation of a “reward” for your efforts.
The practice of seva is a path to self-realization, which is the essence of a yoga practice! When we engage in selfless action and have nothing to gain by performing acts of Seva through our actions, we transcend our individual self and move into a higher level of consciousness. Therefore, Seva is done with no expectation of reward nor any acknowledgment of the work that is done. We serve for the sake of serving — not for any other reason. As a matter of fact, my rule is that if you are “caught” committing an act of kindness, then it doesn’t count, so you must do another one in which no one sees you.
Seva without expectation of recognition can be difficult in this human experience! One of my own reasons for teaching yoga classes is so that I can learn. It is said that in teaching, you learn and in giving, you receive. I joke with my students that whatever we are focusing on in class is whatever I am personally trying to learn as well because we are forever students in our own practice.
If you want to learn something, teach it. If you want to receive happiness — act happy towards others, if you want to receive kindness, treat others kindly. In giving, you receive ten-fold and more.
My homework for you this Holiday Season is to commit random acts of kindness! Here are some examples of giving without expectations of recognition or receiving anything back:
- buy coffee for the person behind you
- bring in the neighbors trash can
- stop and talk to an unhoused person, share food if they are hungry
- write an anonymous note to someone and fill it with kind words about them
- Donate to local charities, whether with cash or resources like food, clothing, toys, etc.
We are also collecting donations in the studio for an Open Yoga Closet at AYC. This open yoga closet is to help bring yoga to the greater community. We will be collecting yoga donations at our studio each month to be shared during a monthly open yoga closet weekend. On this open yoga closet weekend, folks may come into the studio lobby and browse our selection of yoga donations for free. This is a wonderful opportunity to give back to others as well as help bring yoga to those in need.
To learn more about what to donate, click here: LEARN MORE
Photo Source: Unsplash.com
One of the first yoga classes I ever attended was because a friend convinced me to go with her to help me deal with stress after a difficult day. How many of us have tagged along with a friend to a yoga class and walked away grateful for the experience? Yoga is for the individual in that we are invited to come into ourselves and focus on our breath for the duration of the practice. However, yoga buddies provide a way to remain consistent in one’s practice and support celebration of your achievements.
Here are the top 5 ways having a yoga buddy will enhance your personal practice & strengthen your relationships:
Staying consistent in your practice can be difficult on days when you may not feel quite up to it. Yoga can be one of your favorite things to do, yet on mornings when your bed is too comfortable it can be tough to find the motivation to leave. When self-motivation is too hard to find, having a yoga buddy is incredibly helpful. Calling up a friend to schedule your yoga class blocks off that time in your day and you are less likely to bail on a friend.
2. Building Confidence
Bringing a friend to yoga is like having your very own hype-person. They are there for you throughout your practice and help you recognize the improvements you’ve made, challenges you’ve overcome, and give great feedback. It’s always uplifting to chat with a friend after class and work through different asanas you’ve improved on. Celebrating those wins with friends are great for your confidence and help you to savor your achievements.
3. Strengthen Your Bond
Yoga teaches us self-compassion and compassion for others. When your friend is dealing with a difficult situation or simply venting about a hard day, yoga teaches the skills needed to be an attentive and active listener, taking into consideration what your friend may be going through and being understanding. Yoga shows us that we are all connected and the change is inevitable. Wonderful friendships are made through communication and common understanding.
4. Supporting Each Other
During partner yoga, we are able to literally support each other through various asanas and rely on each other for balance. This also applies to emotional support. Somedays you may feel very wobbly in pigeon pose, and other days you could be flowing through your practice with the utmost grace. Yoga friends are there for you no matter the day, and can help guide you with candid feedback. It is comforting to know that you have a trusted friend with you who is also going through similar experiences, being in sync with another person allows you to feel even more connected!
5. Having Fun Together
In life, we take ourselves too seriously way too frequently these days. Yoga is deeply introspective as a practice, but there is still room to laugh, have fun, and enjoy yourself. Time moves quickly when you are having fun, and this is a great way to be with friends even with a busy schedule. You don’t need to carve out an entire evening of availability, you can take a quick 75 minute class with a friend to make room for joy in your week!
Looking for a time to get together with your friends? Find a class that works for your schedule! If you have any questions about what class would be best to start with, you can reach us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo Credit: Unsplash.com | Asheville Yoga Center
What is your favorite part about teaching yoga?
My power class is a fun mix between Masculine and feminine energy. A celebration of the self through strong movement, community and fun music. We will do some flows to build heat and strength by activating the core with powerful poses, twists, balance and breath while having compassion and not taking ourselves too seriously in the process. Feeling our strength starting from within, we will explore flexibility and vulnerability through heart and hip openers. honoring time for integration in the body with deep rest and listening.
What was your first experience with yoga?
I went to my first class about 15 years ago, but it wasn’t until my first prenatal class when I was pregnant with my son 8 years ago that I really felt a spark. It wasn’t like other “exercise” that I had tried because it wasn’t about getting anywhere, it was about being exactly where I was. Learning to explore one’s own inner landscape is a powerful thing. Through self inquiry and curiosity without judgment I was able to create a connection that I had never felt before. It was like I had been listening to a static radio station and yoga was the knob I needed to turn down the distraction. I love how yoga isn’t about mastering the asana and more about a lifelong choice to listen to our own code and show up with more compassion and present moment awareness.
When I’m not doing yoga I enjoy spending time with my son and animals. I’m a fan of going for long runs in the woods, being a big silly kid and last but not least, I absolutely adore roller skating!!
What is your favorite yoga pose?
I enjoy the amazing hip opening effect while simultaneously folding in on myself feeling the softness of my belly rising and falling as well as connecting back to the breath. trusting myself to open and soften in time.
I feel really powerful yet soft in this pose.
It feels like a metaphor for how I wish to show up in my life. Strong, open and also receiving all at the same time. Feeling my roots while opening to the sky is magic for me.
Twists are also a juicy favorite. If I could purr this pose would do the trick.
By Angela Gorman
“I had been wanting to get my 200 hour certification for a while but was very skeptical of doing it virtually. I was blown away by how well the instructors at AYC adapted the teacher training to the virtual world. They did a great job of making it feel like a community and a safe space which was so important to our learning, and gave support to the group and individuals. This has been a strange time in many of our lives and this training provided a safe transition point and something for a lot of us to feel a sense of purpose about again. All of the teachers were very present and invested in our learning and adapted the curriculum well to virtual learning by prioritizing discussion, participation and practice. The instructors’ adaptability encouraged our adaptability and openness to each other and the program.
I think Asheville Yoga Center’s universal approach to this training is amazing. Being able to learn from so many different instructors who have different specialties and approaches but still highly respect each other and their ideas is inspiring. It is a perfect introduction into yoga so no one is leaving it thinking that one way is “right” or “better”. The way they encouraged each of us to follow what speaks to us most was really welcoming and allowed me to be introspective and weave what I was learning into my life.
Paige as the lead instructor and through-line to this training was so supportive and encouraging. She met us where we were at and showed that she respected each one of us throughout. Her presence and sense of calm confidence carried throughout this training and provided the glue for this group. She heard what each of us had to say and consistently responded thoughtfully and articulately.”
Dearest Beloved Yogis,
The health and safety of our community is of primary importance at AYC. As we have previously communicated, we will continue to remain open under the guidance and recommendations of the CDC and our state officials. In accordance with current CDC recommendations, AYC will require all guests, instructors, and staff to wear a face covering whether fully vaccinated or not ONLY during times that the community is experiencing what is considered substantial to high viral spread. This means that if we drop below the levels of substantial or high viral spread, masks will only be required for those whom remain unvaccinated as we have been operating.
We are relying on each of you as patrons of the studio to practice satya, honesty, when entering the studio. If you are not fully vaccinated, you are always required to wear a mask until further notice. Fellow studio members, the staff, and the instructors are trusting in you when you do not wear a mask that you are vaccinated and are not causing them potential harm unknowingly by entering the studio without a mask. Please always wear a mask when not fully vaccinated and indoors at AYC.
At this time, Asheville is located in a region with substantial viral spread, therefore masking is now required at AYC when indoors. We will continue to monitor the progress of the spread of COVID-19 and update our website accordingly. Please check the website, MBO, call, or stop by for the latest updates.
Due to the impact wearing a mask may have for your yoga practice, we are providing teachers the following options which you need to understand as this requirement may change day-to-day based on the levels of community spread. We want everyone to feel as safe and comfortable as possible. During times that masks are required for all participants, teachers may:
- Hold class as usual with no changes to the style.
- Choose to modify their class to better adapt to wearing a mask for the practice. For example, a hot class may not be heated, or a power flow class may be toned down a bit.
- Want to hold class outdoors, without masks, under our event tent out back.
- Elect to stream virtually only.
- Cancel class.
If an in-person class is cancelled completely or will only be streaming virtually (options 4 & 5 above), you will see this reflected on the schedule on our website and on the MBO/AYC apps. Please always check the website and class schedule for any changes prior to arrival.
Thank you kindly for you patience and for navigating this new change with us! We hope to continue to see you in class as we are glad to be able to continue to serve the community during this time.
Your AYC Family
Maintaining a Sustainable Yoga Practice
Plastic. Trash. Single use items. Carbon emission. These are all items that quickly come to mind when you think of types of pollution that we are battling every day. But as a yogi, have you ever considered how your practice impacts our environment? The most common piece of equipment you use may be offsetting your efforts in sustainability.
Many yoga mats contain polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which environmental experts claim to be highly toxic. For years, students unknowingly practiced on mats containing this toxic chemical and dyes which take thousands of years to breakdown. In more recent years, the yoga industry has taken a deeper look at new ways to produce eco-friendly mats & props and there are a few companies that shine above others.
Did you know that JadeYoga mats are eco-friendly and made in the US and that they also plant a tree for every mat sold and have planted over 1 million trees since 2006?
JadeYoga is run by a former lawyer for the US Environmental Protection Agency and is consciously aware of the impact that producing yoga mats has on Mother Nature. With its use of natural rubber, JadeYoga produces quality mats in an eco-friendly manner providing grip and cushion that compliment any yoga practice. Additionally, to further offset their environmental impact of producing yoga mats, JadeYoga plants a tree for every mat sold. They created a partnership with Trees for the Future which has contributed to planting over one million trees since 2006!
Manduka was founded on the idea that a better yoga mat and accessories could make a world of difference. With company principles based on conservancy and transparency, Manduka creates yoga mats, props, and apparel in an eco-friendly process while minimizing waste. They carefully select materials manufactured emissions-free, zero waste and free of toxic chemicals and dyes.
Manduka also partners with The Renewal Workshop in an effort to recycle used yoga mats. Collected or donated mats are ground down into a finer material that can be repurposed for materials such as home insulation, running tracks and more!
If you’re looking for support, then select the prop that offers the most support for you and the environment; Manduka’s cork yoga block. Cork is a natural material that comes from the bark of the Cork Oak Tree and offers a sustainable option for a yoga prop. It’s environmentally friendly because it’s sustainable, recyclable, biodegradable and even compostable! The material is also naturally anti-bacterial and is more durable that its foam counterpart offering a longer lifespan for your yoga prop.
Manduka also offers a recycled foam block! These recycled foam blocks are lightweight providing unbeatable comfort for those seeking a foam block option. They are made from more than 50% of recycled EVA foam making these blocks the first of their kind!
Looking to support our local community while upgrading your practice to more eco-friendly options? Let us introduce you to Carolina Morning. This company is based in WNC and has been focusing on sourcing the most environmentally friendly options for their meditation cushions, blocks, and bolsters.
Let’s talk about their Earth Friendly Buckwheat Yoga Block. That’s right, this block is stuffed firmly with organic buckwheat hulls rather than made from foam or cork. They use organic cotton twill and canvas for the outer shell and removable cover creating one of the most eco-friendly and supportive block options available.
Lie back and open your heart with Carolina Morning’s sustainably created line of bolsters. Their bolsters are sewn with organic cotton and stuffed with kapok fiber, a fiber created out of the seed hairs of the kapok tree, offering you a path to restore yourself and the environment.
Follow us on Instagram at @ashevilleyogacenter for ways you can upcycle your retired mats & props.