Why You Should Practice Inversions

Written by AYC Instructor, Tucker Waldron

Inversions are powerful postures in the practice of yoga. They can benefit us physically, mentally and even spiritually. In hatha yoga, the primary branch of yoga as practiced in western cultures, the goal of the practice is to raise kundalini. Kundalini is a dormant state of consciousness that is nestled at the base of the spine in all of us and is usually depicted as a serpent. This energy of awareness moves through the central energy channel located in the spine (the shushumna nadi) to the sahasrara chakra, which is the highest energy center located on the crown of the head. This ultimately results in connecting us with Ishwara, our individual version of God.

All of this can seem quite esoteric and new-agey. So the question is, how can we understand this on a practical, everyday level? At any given moment we are not particularly aware of where our energy or consciousness is directed. Thankfully, yoga is there to help shed a light on it! Yoga asanas can teach us how to use our mental and physical energy (prana) with purpose and intention. They teach us how to control this prana, and ultimately, gain control of our senses (pratyahara) and consciousness itself (dharana and dhyana). If the goal of the yoga practice is to sublimate this energy and our consciousness to a higher level, inversions give us a shortcut to reversing the typical flow of energy and consciousness. Each group of postures corresponds to energy centers in the body. Inversions are unique in the fact that they flip the entire system and use the natural force of gravity to purify each chakra.

The benefits of inversions are vast but include physiologic, psychologic and yogic blessings. Physiologically getting upside down sends a refreshing flow of blood into the lungs, heart and head. They drain the stagnation that builds in our lower extremities due to sitting and standing. According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, they reverse aging, improve posture and bring harmony to all of the bodily systems. Psychologically, inversions broaden our perspective! It shows us that there is more than one way to view our world and that our unique perspective is not the only one. Yogically, inversions specifically purify the throat, third eye and crown chakras which correlate to our relation with our self, our teachers and our version of a higher power.

Inversions include but are not limited to:

  • Child’s pose (balasana)
  • Downward facing dog (adho mukha svanasana)
  • Handstand (adho mukha vrksasana)
  • Forearm stand (pincha mayurasana)
  • Headstand (salamba sirsasana)
  • Legs up the wall pose (vipareeta karani)
  • Shoulder stand (salamba sarvangasana)

I love all of these inversions and their variations for different reasons, but if I had to choose one, I’d have to say forearm stand is my favorite. It is slightly less scary than handstand but more challenging than headstand. Pincha Mayurasana requires not just strength in the shoulders, arms and core but also openness in the shoulders and psoas. To me, it is a good example of the balance between stability and flexibility we aim to strike in the yoga practice and life itself.

In my opinion, the best reason to practice inversions is that they are just fun, and the best way to practice them is with a sense of playfulness! They are an opportunity to change our relationship with gravity and explore a different perspective in a whole new way. I hope you’ll join me on Wednesday, January 23, from 5:45pm to 7:45pm to play with and explore these inversions. If you can’t, I hope you take the time to do so on your own or in your next yoga class. Namaste.

You can sign up for Tucker’s Inversion workshop here!

AYC Chooses WNCAP as it’s Charity of the Month

Show Your Support Through January

Asheville Yoga Center kicks off its Charity of the Month project by raising funds for the second year in a row for Western North Carolina AIDS Project during the month of January. Founded in 1986, WNCAP is a non-profit agency working to improve the lives of individuals and families affected by HIV and AIDS. The organization offers support services for those living with HIV or AIDS and partners with community agencies to bring preventative information to those in all 18 counties of western North Carolina.

Melissa Driver, Director of Operations at Asheville Yoga Center says, “We are honored to partner with WNCAP this month to raise awareness for those in need. They are doing an incredible job by not only providing resources but by also educating individuals in our local communities about preventing HIV and AIDS. As a yoga training center, we understand how valuable access to education and resources is. We’re thankful for their work and generosity, and we aim to do our best to support their efforts.”

Throughout the entire month of January, donation boxes will be displayed at the front desk in both the Studio and Boutique. Furthermore, on Thursday, January 31, 10% of community and drop-in class sales will be donated to WNCAP accompanied by a direct donation of $250.

“We want people living with HIV to not only survive, but to thrive. That means promoting overall wellness and we know that yoga is a powerful took for physical, mental and spiritual well-being. We couldn’t be happier that Asheville Yoga Center has selected us as their Charity of the Month in January,” says WNCAP Executive Director, Antonio del Toro.

Members of the community can show their support by attending these classes on January 31 or donating at any point during the month.

For more information about WNCAP, please visit https://wncap.org/about. 

Discover a New You

With the beginning of a new year comes new goals and resolutions. We all know this to be true. January takes the prize when it comes to crowded workout facilities. People flock to the gym to spend countless hours putting their bodies through intense workouts to try to get back in shape. How many people do you know that have this new goal each year and drop it after a few weeks? One of the reasons being that their bodies run out of steam, because well frankly, it’s just too much! So, what if I told you that your New Year’s resolution to become a stronger, healthier you doesn’t involve enduring dreaded sweat sessions at the gym.

A consistent yoga practice may be the workout you’ve been looking for, and it’s right at the edge of your grasp. As you flow between movements, your body gets the exercise it needs without having to push yourself to the brink every time you want to burn calories. Don’t cringe at the thought of exercise. Instead, look forward to it because you love the way it makes you feel. It’ll change your life.

Health Benefits

The positive impacts of yoga on your health are innumerable. If you want a behind-the-scenes look at the benefits of yoga and what it can do for your body, listen to what one of our students has to say!

Two of the most common contributors of unhappiness in our day-to-day lives are stress and chronic pain. Stressors are always present, whether it’s stress from work or kids or whatever else might be going on in your life. But for an hour or an hour and a half out of the day, you can escape them all. Yoga gives your body and mind time to calm down, re-connect and feel rejuvenated, alleviating any anxiety or stress. It gives you back a sense of power to charge on and conquer any challenges life throws your way.

If you live with back pain or another form of chronic pain, take a few yoga classes and you’ll start to see a drastic change in the way you feel. Studies show that practicing yoga and meditation reduces pain for individuals with arthritis, back and neck pain and other chronic conditions. How incredible would it be to say goodbye to pain that wears you down? That can be your reality.

Physical Benefits

Yoga as a whole increases your strength and flexibility. Using your body weight in a yoga class creates toned and lean muscle in your legs, arms and abdominals. Hang up the weights and let your body get stronger on its own.

For those of you shaking your head that yoga is a workout, have you ever tried a warm or hot yoga class? You don’t know the meaning of a sweat session until you have! They get your blood pumping and give you a full-body workout. If that’s not for you, there are a multitude of other styles of yoga to try that are less intense.

These are all amazing benefits, but the best part about yoga is that it’s about YOU. It’s about your journey, your pace and how you feel. It’s not a competition, and you don’t have to run yourself into the ground every time you want to exercise.

It’s a new year, and the timing couldn’t be more prime to start making those steps towards becoming a better, healthier and stronger you. But don’t take my word for it, commit to your own yoga practice and you’ll soon be asking yourself why in the world it took you so long to start.

Begin your practice at AYC! Try our free Intro to Yoga class every Monday evening in January from 5:45-6:45pm or purchase an Intro Special with 6 classes for just $6 each.

How Yoga Can Boost Your Health

Even for all of you work out enthusiasts, the winter months can be a serious drag when it comes to being motivated to exercise. The cold, dark mornings and evenings just make you want to sit at home curled up by the fire. Winter is nowhere near as encouraging to be outside. We get it. None the less, it doesn’t mean that you should stop caring and showing love to your body. Consistent exercise boosts the immune system and can help you stay healthy when sicknesses arise. So why not take the colder months to revive your body and work on your yoga practice? Here are some reasons why you should take up yoga this winter.

Prevent Stiff Joints

The cold temperatures of winter create stiff joints and enhance chronic joint pain. Vinyasa, a flowing form of yoga, provides a way to maintain joint mobility and increase circulation to loosen any stiffness you might be experiencing.

Protect the Lower Respiratory System

If you’ve ever tried to exercise outside when it’s cold you know that breathing in that air creates an uncomfortable burning sensation in the lungs. Yoga is a great way to work on your breathing without having to expose your body to the harsh temperatures of winter. Steady breathing through the nose warms air before it enters the lungs, eliminating any constrictions that result from cold air entering the body. Breathing through the nose can aid in decreasing any nasal congestion and clear out the sinuses.

Shed Toxins with HOT Yoga

Practicing yoga in a room set to a high temperature can help you sweat out any toxins while simultaneously boosting the immune system. A body flooded with toxins is much more likely to succumb to illness. However, sweating, combined with yoga movement, can help cleanse the body of viruses and congestion.

Elevate Your Mood

It’s no secret that the holidays are a stressful time for just about everyone. It’s a busy time that’s jam-packed with shopping and social events. Practicing yoga can help reduce stress and elevate your mood.

Stress is the body’s ultimate nemesis when it comes to staying healthy. Your body doesn’t have the same capabilities to fight germs when it’s undergoing physical and mental tension.  However, meditation can help, and that’s where yoga really becomes an asset to the body. Just as little as ten minutes of daily meditation can lower tension. So eliminate that unwanted stress!

If you want to feel reinvigorated, energized and healthy this winter come see us! If you’re new to yoga, get started by taking our FREE Intro to Yoga class every Monday in January. If you’re a little more seasoned, we offer 6 classes for just 36 dollars with our Intro Special. Choose from over 100 classes offered weekly at the convenience of your schedule. Stay healthy with more yoga this winter!

Wrapping Up 2018’s Charity of the Month Project

Donation Boxes Available at the Studio and Boutique

Asheville Yoga Center is raising funds for Eblen Charities throughout December to finalize its 2018 Charity of the Month project. Founded in 1991, the organization has helped thousands of families in western North Carolina each year with medical and emergency assistance. Eblen assisted 300 families with only one program when it was first established. Now, Eblen has been able to help tens of thousands of families with more than 70 available programs.

“Eblen Charities has worked so hard over the past few decades to support families with medical and emergency assistance. It provides the opportunity for those in our community to seek the help they need to physically heal. As a yoga studio, we know how valuable it is to be able to give others going through health issues access to the resources they need. The community at Asheville Yoga Center is honored to raise funds and awareness for Eblen in an effort to work together to support their work locally,” says Melissa Driver, Director of Operations at Asheville Yoga Center.

Donation boxes will be displayed at the front desk in both the Studio and Boutique beginning on the first day of December until the end of the month. On Thursday, December 27, 10% of sales from drop-in and community classes will be donated to Eblen Charities. Additionally, AYC will be making a direct donation of $250.

We challenge our members and community to support our efforts in raising donations throughout December to give back to those in need.

For more information on Eblen Charities and their work, please visit https://www.eblencharities.org/about/.

What You Need to Know About Restorative Yoga

Written by AYC Instructor Paige Gilchrist

Okay, so we’ve got a little irony right off the bat. Striving to get the best results in restorative yoga? As in powering up your dreaming or asking your bubble bath to multi-task? Restorative yoga is, after all, the art of undoing. But let’s be honest, that’s not so easy in a full-throttle culture that encourages us to make the most of all things. Here are some simple suggestions to calm the impulse to accomplish, and instead just be. You might find this will lead you quietly toward the peace and restoration your body really needs.

Talk About Yourself

Arrive a little early and share with your teacher anything you’re dealing with physically or energetically. If you’ve recently had a medical procedure, that’s especially important to communicate. Simply mentioning the chronic ache in your low back, or the fact that you overdid it the day before at the gym, can also be helpful. We teachers are grateful when you take the time to let us know! We can then spend a couple of minutes together before class to customize pose modifications and prop configurations, if necessary, to make you feel supported and safe.

Prop Up

Speaking of props, restorative yoga poses typically involve a lot of them. Props such as bolsters, blankets, blocks, straps, sandbags and eye pillows are all available at the Studio for you to use as you see fit. They’re meant to support you fully as you sink into comfortable shapes for long, luxurious amounts of time. They allow your physical body, and then all of your other layers, to release tension habits and holding patterns. Don’t get overwhelmed by the amount of props you may accumulate, or the blanket folding, bolster stacking or other ways to assemble and rearrange your props as class moves along. You can think of it as part of a self-care ritual and know that the more restorative yoga you practice, the more familiar the props will become. You’ll start to determine a better feel for how they can best support you.

Get Comfy

Be really and truly comfortable. In other styles of yoga, there may be a benefit to sticking with something that feels challenging or even uncomfortable. However, this is not the case with restorative yoga. The whole idea is to allow your nervous system, which probably spends much of its time on high alert, to shift into deep relaxation mode. It can’t do that if you’re enduring a sensation that’s too strong. Tuck a bolster under the place that’s feeling overstretched. Cover your body with a blanket. Don’t worry about fidgeting, adjusting and re-adjusting the props. Don’t worry about adding or subtracting layers of clothing or coming out of a pose entirely. Take your time and experiment with props to settle into each pose so it feels nurturing and restful.

Ask Away

Look to your instructor if a pose setup is unclear. You may want to modify a pose but feel unsure about how to approach it. Maybe you need an extra prop. Don’t hesitate to let your teacher know so that they can assist you during your practice. Our main job, especially in restorative yoga, is to support you, so don’t be shy about inviting us to do that.

Let Go

This is the most overused cliché in the yoga world, but this “letting go” business you hear about so often has its roots in restorative yoga. As we gradually drop the need to constantly be busy, it offers the opportunity to enjoy sinking into rest, support and deep relaxation. Our breathing, blood pressure and heart rate slow, releasing stress and tension. We then start to replenish, repair and heal on every level.  Restorative classes take practice and gentle intention. They’re often a lot easier with group support and the guidance of a teacher, which is why this type of yoga can be so magical.

Try a restorative class. Your body will thank you for it.

See our class schedule for upcoming restorative yoga classes.

Sign up for AYC’s holiday class challenge! Take 10 restorative yoga classes in December and receive a free eye pillow! The word “restorative” must be in the name of the class for it to count.

What You’ll Find in the AYC Boutique

Your loved one LOVES yoga. We mean the kind of love where they’re in class four or five days a week, eager and ready to go. They always keep a yoga mat in the trunk of their car, and leggings are a permanent staple item in their wardrobe. Does this sound familiar?

It’s that time of year again when you’re ready to start holiday shopping. You want to buy your loved one something they’ll enjoy, but you’re just not sure how to shop for them!

For many, figuring out the perfect gift can be rather stressful. Say goodbye to hours spent wracking your brain and making lists of possible gift ideas, because AYC has this helpful gift guide to the Boutique. We’ve made your holiday shopping easy this year! In the Boutique, we offer an assortment of products ranging from locally made jewelry to yoga props and accessories to clothing items, all of which will help your yogi elevate their practice. These gift ideas are wonderful for those just beginning their yoga journey and for the more seasoned yogis. 

Malas Beads

Malas have been used for centuries in meditation practices, but many people wear them around their neck or wrist for everyday use. They are a sacred string of 108 beads used to recite a mantra. The beads are made of different types of crystal, wood and stone to activate their own unique characteristics in your energy system. They are beautiful and look good with anything!

Zafu Meditation Cushion

Enhance your daily meditation with a new cushion! A meditation cushion is useful for enhancing a meditation or pranayama practice by aiding the spine in proper alignment and comfort. Each print has its own unique pattern to bring a little personality to your practice. The variety of bright colors serve as inspiration to compliment your yogi’s home practice.

Hydro Flask

These beautifully crafted, double wall vacuum insulated flasks keep your yogi’s cold drinks colder and their hot drinks hotter! Easily take your drink of choice with you on the go. This is the perfect gift that can be used during any season of the year. Branded with the Asheville Yoga Center’s iconic logo, we have various styles, sizes and colors available.

Yoga Mat

Is your loved one still using the same mat from years ago? If so, it’s probably looking a bit worn out. Yoga mats are essential for any yoga practice. Get your yogi excited and smiling with a brand new mat this holiday season! We have both the Jade Mat and Manduka Mat available for purchase. These mats come in an assortment of colors, are eco-friendly and have a great grip. Easily roll them up and take them wherever you prefer to practice. For every Jade mat purchased, the company will also plant a tree which perfectly aligns with yogis who hold sustainability high among their values.

Locally Made Goods

In Asheville, we love to support our community and local artisans. The Boutique has a wide range of locally made goods from talented artists and businesses.

Jewelry: You will find beautifully hand-crafted earrings made by our instructor, Maeve Hendrix. Shop a variety of necklaces, bracelets and earrings from Soulku. Each piece has a specific gemstone chosen to encourage that element and characteristic in each customer’s life. Explore the wide variety of wrist malas and full malas made by local brand, Japa Mala.

Apparel: Leggings, scarves and umbrellas with beautiful scenes of Asheville made by local photographer, Wendy Newman.

Leggings

Who doesn’t love a new pair of leggings?! They’re the perfect clothing item to stay warm and fashionable throughout the winter months. They are fun, comfortable and can be worn to yoga or even to Sunday brunch. You’ll find a variety of styles from bright fun patterns to more neutral colors. There is plenty to choose from to accommodate all shapes and sizes.

AYC Shirts and Tanks

AYC branded tank tops and t-shirts are available in an assortment of colors. These shirts are lightweight and extremely comfortable. Throw them on with leggings or jeans to complete your outfit. However you choose to wear them, these clothing items will make a great addition to your yoga wardrobe.

Long-sleeved Merchandise

With brisk mornings and colder days, it’s important to stay warm! The winter season is a tough time to brace the elements, and in Asheville, the weather can be unpredictable.  Our variety of long-sleeved shirts and sweaters are stylish, comfortable and will help guard you against the chill of winter. So whether you’re coming in for class, or just running errands around town, rest assured that you’ll be warm and ready to go!

Studio Specials

Nothing is better than yoga class! Give your loved one more! Here are some options for you:

Intro Special: This is the perfect gift for someone just starting their yoga journey. This special allows your loved one to enjoy six classes of their choice for just $36.

Class Pack: Purchase our 10-class pack for only $149.

Annual Membership: Treat your loved one to the ultimate yoga gift, an annual membership! For only $1299, receive unlimited classes for a year, 10% off of Boutique merchandise and 10% off workshops and 200-Hour Teacher Trainings, a savings of more than $100.

We hope this list has given you some new gift ideas and a little taste of the goodies our Boutique and Studio have to offer. Make your holiday shopping easier by visiting AYC!

Asheville Yoga Center Asks Community to Help Support MANNA

Donations accepted at the Studio and Boutique 

Asheville Yoga Center dedicates the month of November to raising food items and funds for MANNA FoodBank. Since 1983, MANNA FoodBank has been serving Western North Carolina by collecting, storing and distributing food through community-based food assistance agencies. During the 2017-2018 fiscal year, MANNA FoodBank distributed 18.2 million pounds of food throughout 16 counties in WNC.

With November being a month focused on gratitude and thankfulness, the partnership with MANNA FoodBank truly hits home for members and staff at Asheville Yoga Center. The yoga community at AYC fosters values that emulate the importance of giving and showing compassion for those in need, and these values are homogenous to those of MANNA FoodBank.

“MANNA FoodBank is a leader in the Asheville community by educating and uniting people to work towards ending hunger. By supporting MANNA FoodBank, we are able to shed light and combat the hunger issues in our outlying communities. We are proud to partner with MANNA FoodBank to collect food items for those in our area. We are very appreciative of the work they have done and continue to do,” says Melissa Pennscott Driver, Director of Operations at Asheville Yoga Center.

Food bins will be available for food item donations in AYC’s Studio and Boutique beginning on the first day of November until the end of the month. On Thursday, November 29, 10% of all drop-in and community class sales will be donated to MANNA FoodBank. In addition, AYC will make a direct donation of $250. Staff and members are participating in a volunteer day on November 13 to package and sort food at MANNA FoodBank.

“MANNA serves over 100,000 people across 16 counties of Western North Carolina every year who are facing hunger. Our largest source of support are individuals who resonate with our mission to feed anyone who needs food, and in our region, that is 1 in 6 people, including 1 in 4 children, who don’t know where they will get their next meal. Every single dollar of support makes a real and tangible difference in the lives of the people we serve, and we stretch every dollar as far as possible. Thanks to the support of our volunteers and food donors, we can help provide enough food for 3.5 meals for every dollar donated,” says Hannah Randall, CEO of MANNA FoodBank.

We ask our members and community to join us in supporting our efforts to raise food items and funds throughout the month. If you would like to volunteer with us, please email marketing@youryoga.com. There is limited space available.

For more information about acceptable food items to donate, go to https://www.mannafoodbank.org/how-you-can-help/donate/donate-food/

Shutting Down the Myths of Yoga

We’ve heard about every rumor, complaint, myth and lie about yoga. We wanted to take a moment to clear up some of the most common myths we hear. Whether you need to read this to help yourself, or share with others to clear up misconceptions, we hope this list of myths and truths will help more people understand the open, welcoming, challenging and engaging practice of yoga.

Myth 1: Yoga is only for people who are already in shape.

Yoga is for all bodies: short or tall, lean or overweight, flexible or stiff, open or reserved, young or old. Yoga meets you where you are. Whether you’re at your first class, returning after a break, or experienced in yoga, you can work at the level that’s right for you. Your instructor will help find positions that work for your body and your individual capabilities. You will be in a room free of judgment to work at your own pace. There is no competition or comparison in our yoga Studio.

Myth 2: Yoga is for mental health; it’s not really exercise.

While yoga is a wonderful practice to calm the mind, help with focus, and renew your mental energy, it is also a challenging physical exercise. Yoga may burn fewer calories than other more strenuous forms of exercise, but it can help create lean muscle which improves your metabolism. Yoga can help you form a stronger core, develop muscle strength and improve stamina. It’s a wonderful work out on its own or combined with other exercise practices.

Myth 3: Yoga is not for Christians or any other religion.

Yoga, as practiced in most classes in the U.S., is not a religion nor a religious practice. Yoga actually pulls from several religions, including Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism, as well as New Age philosophies that combine many of the traditions from these religions. Someone from any religious or spiritual practice can pull from parts of these religions without converting or feeling like they’re betraying their own beliefs. The ideals of enlightenment, inner peace and personal renewal, can work well alongside anyone’s personal religious beliefs.

Myth 4: Yoga requires special, trendy clothes.

Recently, “yoga pants” has become a blanket term describing tight-fighting stretchy pants, usually worn by women. But yoga has never been defined by a certain look.  In fact, how you look has nothing to do with yoga. In yoga class, please come as you are! Yoga clothing should be comfortable and allow you to move easily, but it doesn’t need to be expensive or look a certain way. In some yoga practices you might see individuals wearing one color. In kundalini yoga, often times the yoga instructor and some of the students may be wearing predominantly white clothing. However, you’ll see plenty of looks and styles in any yoga class.

Myth 5: Yoga is hard.

Yoga class is entirely what you make of it. Speak to instructors and staff ahead of your first class to make sure you find a class that will be the right fit for you. There’s no competition in yoga, no demands to copy anyone else or keep up. Move at the pace that works for you. It should be challenging but not overly strenuous. If you’re pushing your body too hard, ease up and be more gentle. Remember, this is your practice!

Myth 6: Yoga forces you to do awkward positions with your body.

Like Myth 5, this misconception is passed around by people who are scared that a class will require them to tangle up in painful knots. That is not what yoga is about. Positions are presented step-by-step for you to ease your body into them. Some days, you may be able to do the exercise fully; other days, you may have to adjust to do less. Your instructor should give several options for getting into and holding a position that will allow you to find what works for you, whether you have a weak back, sore joints, issues with balance, limited flexibility or any other concerns. Keep in mind that you can always arrive early to speak with your instructor about any physical concerns or limitations you may have.

Myth 7: Yoga class makes you sleepy.

All yoga classes are different and have different goals. Some classes, such as Gentle Restorative and Yin, are geared towards relaxation. Other classes, like Warm Power Flow, are focused on awakening your energy and leaving you feeling engaged and ready to seize the day. While meditation is a part of many classes, it’s not in all of them. You can find a yoga class that matches what you need to work on in your life, whether that’s calming your mind or renewing your energy.

Myth 8: Yoga is a lifestyle; I can’t just take a class now and then.

You do not have to commit to a life as a yogi in order to enjoy the benefits of yoga. While some people do choose to take yoga classes several times a week, plenty of other people take yoga when they can. Some people even practice at home for convenience. Yoga can be integrated into a physical therapy practice, paired with another form of exercise, or perhaps just taken on vacation. You can drop into a class anytime and still reap the benefits of that hour of mind and body integration.

Don’t be scared to try a class now! We offer a free Intro to Yoga class every 1st and 3rd Monday of the month, so you can become more comfortable with yoga practice!