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:

1. Accountability

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: guestservices@youryoga.com.

 

View the full Class Schedule here. New to yoga? Check out our Intro to Yoga In-person and virtual class options to get comfortable with starting your practice!

 

Photo Credit: Unsplash.com | Asheville Yoga Center

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.

JadeYoga

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!

Purchase a Jade mat as a step to creating a more sustainable practice! 

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Manduka

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!

Browse our options of Manduka mats & props as you consider an eco-friendlier practice!

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Carolina Morning

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.

Find your new favorite prop from Carolina Morning at our online store.

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Shop our online store or visit in-person to shop the AYC Boutique.

Follow us on Instagram at @ashevilleyogacenter for ways you can upcycle your retired mats & props.

Self-Care Tips for Yoga Teachers

Despite the therapeutic nature of yoga, being an instructor does not come without its challenges. With hours spent teaching multiple yoga classes at different yoga studios and events – in addition to taking time to prepare for workshops – it can be challenging to make time for your personal practice. However, maintaining your practice and continuing your education are two of the best things you can do for yourself and your career.

Fuel Your Passion for Yoga

You cannot be an effective teacher and help your students if you do not feel inspired or connected to your own practice. Your students show up for YOU and want to learn from YOU, so being able to relate to them is essential. If you find yourself feeling disengaged, take some time to think back to what drew you to yoga and inspired you to become a teacher in the first place. Creating space for reflection will once again ignite your passion and rekindle your love for yoga.

Create a Home Practice

We all know life can get incredibly busy, but even if you can only make time for a daily 30-minute practice, that is a great place to start! Here are a few tips to make it easier:

Prepare your space the night before: Set up your mat and props that you want to use so you do not have to think about it in the morning. Everything you need is right there waiting for you.

Commit to a time to practice and make it consistent: This can be one of the most challenging things to schedule, but if you stick to a specific time each day, it will become an easy routine.

Remove distractions: Make this time about you. Leave electronic devices behind and relish in the peace and quiet of your own practice.

Keep a notebook close by: After your practice, jot down the sequence you did and any enlightening thoughts you had. Personal notes are great bits of information to share in your classes.

Put on Your Student Hat

Do you aspire to be a better teacher? The answer is easy: become a student. There are so many areas of yoga to explore, and continuing your education will not only allow you to expand your horizons, but it will also give you an opportunity to practice with other experts in the field.

300-Hour Advanced Studies

Taking the next steps in your educational journey shows that you have made a commitment to both your personal growth and to your career. If you are feeling stuck in your teaching, the 300-Hour Teacher Training Program will give you a broader scope of knowledge and exposure. You can learn how to teach yoga to children, elderly adults or expand your expertise to include ashtanga, bhakti, restorative yoga and so much more. The 300-Hour Program is designed to provide the opportunity to make choices in the areas of yoga that inspire you most while creating flexibility with your schedule. Learn more about AYC’s 300-Hour Program here.

Feel Rejuvenated with Your Practice

The sun stretches out, clearing away winter shadows, blooms of kaleidoscopic color emerge from the earth and the world feels rejuvenated. We have all been patiently waiting for spring, and it is finally in the air! This new season is the perfect opportunity to awaken your body, shift into newness and embrace a fresh start. Here are some yoga poses and healthy foods that will make you feel light, motivated and fully awakened in your mind, spirit and soul as you embrace springtime.

Awaken Your Body on the Mat

Marichi’s Pose or Marichiyasana III

Revitalize your body with a nice twist. Sit up straight and hug your knees into your chest while you root down into your mat through your sitting bones. Straighten the right leg and keep the left knee bent, with your left heel on the floor as close to the sitting bones as possible. When you feel relaxed in your belly, wrap your right elbow around your left knee and look over the left shoulder. Inhale while you lengthen through your sitting bones and exhale, giving your body a nice twist. Repeat on the other side of your body.

Head-to-Knee Forward Bend or Janu Shirshasana

Shift into this pose to release built-up tension in your legs. Extend your left leg out and bring a small bend into your right knee, with the bottom of your right foot facing the inner left thigh. Extend your arms out to wherever feels comfortable or rest your arms along the floor. Relax your shoulders and head, and let your belly, chest and head fold forward. Stay in this position for at least 10 full breaths as you sink into total relaxation. Repeat on the other side.

Cow Face Pose or Gomukhasana

This pose will awaken your hips with a nice stretch. Fold your legs so that your knees are stacked on top of each other and bring your heels out to the sides. If you want to go further into this pose, stretch your arms forward. Stay here for a few breaths and release tension in your hips.

Energizing Springtime Foods

To awaken your body from the inside out, accompany your yoga practice with fresh foods for the season to help you feel rejuvenated and healthy. Berries are a great choice! They are rich in Vitamin C, which aids in proper blood circulation. Add them to your breakfast or eat them as a healthy sweet snack.

Arugula is a springtime green that is rich in Vitamin A, K and folate. This leafy green machine will help reduce inflammation while offering hydration and detoxifying benefits to your body.

Beets are another amazing food to incorporate into your diet. These deep colored root vegetables are great for your blood and circulation. They can lower blood pressure and support detoxification.

Start this spring season feeling your best on your mat and fueling your body with healthy food! Open your heart and mind to new possibilities and experiences as you flow into spring.

Get your body moving with a class! See our full class schedule here.

Realign Your Sacral Chakra & Enhance Your Creativity

Imagine that you’re standing in front of a blank canvas with a paintbrush. You have a color pallet in one hand and a paintbrush in the other. Let your imagination flow freely through every bristle. Each stroke of the brush and every color that you choose, work together simultaneously to form a unique image. As you let your brush run to the outer reaches of the canvas, you are diving into one of the greatest components of the human experience: creativity.

The Sacral Chakra

The sacral chakra, represented by the element water, manifests itself through your sense of creativity. Think about how water ebbs and flows through rivers and streams in nature. Creativity moves fluidly through our human bodies, in the same way, waiting to be expressed.

Reveal Your Creativity

Whether you enjoy music, the arts or another type of creative platform, you can easily express yourself and enhance your sacral chakra on a daily basis.

Just Dance: Turn up the music, move your feet and let your body flow in the way you want. The sacral chakra loves movement, especially when it comes to moving your hips.

Treat Yourself to a Warm Bath: Did you know that baths can balance your sacral chakra? There’s something so relaxing and comforting about a bath after a long day. Add sea or Himalayan salts to your bath for added detoxifying benefits and rejuvenate your sacral chakra.

How Yoga Can Help You Enhance the Sacral Chakra

Learn how to open your sacral chakra with these few yoga poses.

Get into Butterfly Pose, or Baddha Konasana by sitting up straight on your mat. With an exhalation of breath, bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet together to touch. Bring your heels as close to your pelvis as you can without feeling discomfort. Wrap your hands around your feet or ankles while keeping your spine lengthened. You’ll feel a nice stretch in the inner thighs and knees.

Balance your sacral chakra in One-Legged King Pigeon Pose. You can practice this pose by beginning on all fours with your knees positioned directly below your hips and your hands slightly above your shoulders. Start to slide your right knee forward towards the back of your right wrist. Angle your right shin under your torso and move your right foot to the front of your left knee. At this point, your right shin should rest on the floor. Slide your left leg back, straighten your knee and compress the front of your thigh to the floor. Lower the outside of your right hip to the floor and let your right heel rest just in front of the left hip.

These two simple poses will help you unlock your sacral chakra to embrace your creative genius and live your life with more passion and joy than you ever imagined!

Find the Program Option to Fit Your Schedule

Are you ready to dive into 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training? This in-depth curriculum will give you the confidence and experience you need to start educating and sharing the love of yoga with others while providing a deeper understanding of yourself through the process!

We realize that life is busy, and it can be tough to set aside time to dedicate to training. To accommodate, we developed two different program options with the same curriculum to give you the flexibility to choose the training that best fits your schedule. Find the transformative experience you are looking for in either the 3-week or 9-weekend program and start the next phase of your yoga journey!

3-Week Program

The 3-week program is perfect if you want to be fully immersed in yoga and complete your training all at once. It gives you the time and space to step out of your day-to-day routine and focus exclusively on learning and practicing yoga. Come prepared to spend full days in training, study and practice in a group setting. Class sessions run six days a week from 7:30am until 5:30pm with an hour lunch break. This experience will lay the foundation for understanding and mastery of yoga while feeling your soul, and you will leave training with the tools to continue practicing and sharing what you have learned. If you are looking for a dynamic program and want a more intense experience of living and breathing yoga, while earning your Yoga Alliance certification, then this is the path for you!

9-Weekend Program

The 9-weekend program is ideal if you have commitments during the week, such as school, work or family obligations. This path will allow you to train for nine scheduled weekends, spread out between six or seven months, to earn your Yoga Alliance certification. Each weekend consists of a 5:30-9:00 session on Friday evening, a session on Saturday from 8:00am-6:00pm and a session on Sunday from 8:00am-3:30pm which will allow you to develop a strong bond with your training group. In terms of flexibility, this option will allow you to maintain your work schedule, let you focus on your family, and still give you time between weekend trainings to study and prepare. This program moves at a slower pace, giving you time to absorb information and bring lessons from the classroom into your normal daily life in between trainings. You’ll come back together with your classmates to discuss philosophy, the evolution of yoga and so much more. It will give you space to share how your life has been impacted by what you’ve studied and let you hear how your other classmates have been inspired.

It is extremely transformative to watch each other grow and change throughout 200-Hour Training. Whichever option you choose, you’ll come away from training with a deeper love for yoga, yourself and life. Embrace your journey and be a part of this life-changing experience!

Learn more about the 200-Hour Teacher Training programs here.

Tips and Poses to Feel Your Best

A yoga practice provides countless benefits to your overall health. By dedicating a few hours a week to your practice, you will feel calmer and more balanced both physically and mentally. A synopsis of yoga and cardiovascular disease, published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology, proposes that yoga can help lower heart disease. A study showed that people who took yoga classes found improvements to their heart health. Participants lost an average of five pounds, took five points off their blood pressure and lowered their levels of LDL cholesterol by 12 points.

The Om Factor

Along with its many health benefits, yoga can help open your heart physically and emotionally. By adding these heart-opening poses to your weekly yoga practice, you can help your heart stay healthy and strong.

Bow Pose or Dhanurasana

Begin this pose by lying on your belly with your hands alongside your torso, palms facing upward. Exhale and bend your knees, bringing your heels towards your buttocks. Reach back with your hands and hold your ankles. Inhale and strongly lift your heels away from your buttocks while lifting your thighs away from the floor. As you continue to lift your heels and thighs higher, press your shoulder blades firmly against your back to give a nice heart-opener.

Cobra Pose or Bhujangasana

Lie flat and stretch your legs back with tops of the feet on the floor. Spread your hands on the floor under your shoulders. Inhale and straighten your arms to lift the chest off the floor. Firm your shoulder blades against your back and press your thighs into the floor.

Cow Pose or Bitilasana

Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position. Keep your knees directly below your hips and your wrists, elbows and shoulders perpendicular to the floor. On an inhale, lift your sitting bones and chest toward the ceiling, letting your belly sink toward the floor. Lift your head and look straight forward. On an exhale, come back to the neutral tabletop position on your hands and knees.

Ways to Keep You and Your Family Heart Healthy

February is American Heart Month and the perfect time to encourage your family to join you in making heart-healthy decisions. Here are a few lifestyle changes you can incorporate to create long-lasting habits.

Exercise Together

It is so much more fun to move as a family! Make time in your schedule for exercise that is all-inclusive. Maybe that is a yoga class in the afternoon or a nice walk after dinner.

Plan Healthy Meals for the Week

Making time to plan out healthy food options is a great way to save time, monitor your habits and stay on a healthy track.

We hope that these tips have been helpful for you and will be beneficial in promoting daily heart-healthy habits in your life.

Open your heart with a yoga class! View our full class schedule here.