You know that moment just before falling asleep? That feeling of deep relaxation with a slight trace of awareness? That’s what I’m reminded of when I practice Yoga Nidra. Nidra is a Sanskrit term for sleep. Yoga Nidra, or yogic sleep, refers to a restorative state of consciousness residing between wakefulness and sleep.
While there are different ways to access yogic sleep, the most common is through guided relaxation. Imagine a yoga class that heads directly to final rest. And then lingers there. Practice involves lying on the floor, supported by plenty of props (cushy mat, something soft for the head, bolster perhaps tucked beneath knees, blanket for added coziness…), and listening to a guided meditation.
The meditation focuses on gently releasing accumulated layers of physical, mental and emotional tension. This calms the nervous system and facilitates the body’s natural healing capabilities.
I practice Yoga Nidra because of how it makes me feel – more ease in my body, less stress in my mind. I also love that it’s safe and accessible for all ages and mobility levels – I can practice for life. My favorite thing about practicing Yoga Nidra though? The guaranteed benefits – worst-case scenario I get a restful nap.
Join Ashley at her upcoming Relax and Restore with Yoga Nidra mini-series beginning May 8th. For more details and to register click here.
It’s funny to notice the reluctance I have around this topic, and it makes me wonder how many others do too – tithing or charitable giving. I generally don’t consider myself in the category of people who have so much expendable income that they give some away at the end of each year. However, I’ve been doing some work with a coach around bringing my spiritual life and my money life together.
This coach suggests that by giving away some portion of your income each month, that we can practice believing that we are in a situation of abundance. So often, we feel like we don’t have enough – that there’s not enough time, enough clients, enough love, enough money. But if we give some away, we are making a statement to ourselves (and maybe to the universe), “I DO have enough.”
Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’ve never made charitable contributions before – I have. But it’s usually been when I’ve been asked – it has been a reaction to being asked for a donation. And it certainly hasn’t been a part of an active spiritual practice.
I think that there is potential with the idea of proactively giving on a monthly basis, rather than (or in addition to) when asked. It doesn’t have to be the same organization nor the same amount. One idea my coach suggested, was to give a percentage of income – start with the idea of 1%. What would that look like? What would that feel like – giving 1% of what you earned this month? Even if you have a very low income – what would 1% feel like? Can you imagine giving to an organization that has benefited you, or someone you care about? Does that seem too small to be meaningful? Raise it by 1% until it feels just right.
My purpose in writing this, is not to cause feelings of obligation, but rather to invite you to take a look at your own relationship with ideas of abundance, money and spirituality. I just was lying in bed last night, thinking about Living Yoga and the good people there, doing such great work to change the world through spreading yoga teachings among those in correctional facilities and drug/alcohol rehab. And then I remembered – I haven’t given yet. It doesn’t matter how much – what matters is that I do give, and that I keep giving - whether it be money, time, love or whatever feels scarce – to give it away and to remember that practicing abundance is the only way to create more abundance for myself, my family and the world.
If you do consider giving to a non-profit – give to something that you connect with deeply. If yoga and awareness practices are important to you, consider these fine non-profits. We support them with our time and money, and they also support unfold studios:
Living Yoga, in this year's Willamette Week’s Give Guide.
The Samarya Center
One House of Peace
:Lately I have been noticing feelings of guilt, and insecurity. More specifically I realized that I doubt myself in knowing what I want because I often want to make others happy. I feel insecure about speaking Icelandic. I feel as though I have to speak perfectly or else I can't say anything at all. Lastly I feel as though I am not "doing enough" because I am working only part time and don't have a full schedule of responsibilities. Logically I know that none of this is true, yet I am still having these thought patterns which are creating challenging emotions. Naming them has helped immensely, just having awareness of what is happening is so healing.
And then I heard what unfold studios monthly topic was: Yoga Sutras: 1.3 "Then the Seer abides in Itself, resting in its own True Nature, which is called Self-realization.( tada drashtuh svarupe avasthanam) There is a Sanskrit chant that addresses identifying with our true nature rather than with everything else that we are a part of. I realized how helpful it could be to add my own personal challenging identities to the list that the avantam chatakam holds.
Here is a translation from wikipedia of the avantam chatakam.
1) I am not mind, nor intellect, nor ego, nor the reflections of inner self (chitta). I am not the five senses. I am beyond that. I am not the ether, nor the earth, nor the fire, nor the wind (the five elements). I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, the auspicious (Shivam), love and pure consciousness.
2) Neither can I be termed as energy (prana), nor five types of breath (vayus), nor the seven material essences, nor the five coverings (pancha-kosha). Neither am I the five instruments of elimination, procreation, motion, grasping, or speaking. I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, the auspicious (Shivam), love and pure consciousness.
3) I have no hatred or dislike, nor affiliation or liking, nor greed, nor delusion, nor pride or haughtiness, nor feelings of envy or jealousy. I have no duty (dharma), nor any money, nor any desire (kama), nor even liberation (moksha). I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, the auspicious (Shivam), love and pure consciousness.
4) I have neither merit (virtue), nor demerit (vice). I do not commit sins or good deeds, nor have happiness or sorrow, pain or pleasure. I do not need mantras, holy places, scriptures (Vedas), rituals or sacrifices (yagnas). I am none of the triad of the observer or one who experiences, the process of observing or experiencing, or any object being observed or experienced. I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, the auspicious (Shivam), love and pure consciousness.
5) I do not have fear of death, as I do not have death. I have no separation from my true self, no doubt about my existence, nor have I discrimination on the basis of birth. I have no father or mother, nor did I have a birth. I am not the relative, nor the friend, nor the guru, nor the disciple. I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, the auspicious (Shivam), love and pure consciousness.
6) I am all pervasive. I am without any attributes, and without any form. I have neither attachment to the world, nor to liberation (mukti). I have no wishes for anything because I am everything, everywhere, every time, always in equilibrium. I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, the auspicious (Shivam), love and pure consciousness
So here is my own variation of the first stanza: "I am not my guilt, my work ethic, my insecurities, my homesickness. I am not my feelings. I am beyond that. I am not doubt, nor desire, nor my body. I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, love and pure consciousness."
What a powerful practice to let go of all of our identities, especially the one's that are not serving us and instead identify with love. What a joy to practice yoga.
You can hear Molly Lannon Kenny chant this beautiful poem in Sanskrit here:
When is having a separate class for people with bigger bodies a service, and when does it cause more labeling, more separation? This is a question we spend time with every so often, at unfold studios and in the Samarya Yoga community. This is because we believe that yoga is truly for everyone. And we also believe that everyone adapts yoga to his or her own needs and wants. Just because someone has a larger body, a smaller body, an older body or an injured body, it doesn’t mean that they are doing special yoga – it’s all just yoga. The people that we see on the cover of a yoga magazine aren’t doing the “real” yoga, while the rest of us are doing some watered-down version.
However, this is the perception (and sometimes close to the true experience) of what is happening in many yoga studios around the United States. Classes are filled with young, flexible, athletic, white women who seem to fully understand what is going on in class – the terminology, the clothes and the gear, the pace, and what is expected. This can be an intimidating environment for some, for myriad reasons. So, while we who practice Samarya Yoga, believe at our core that all shapes and sizes of people can practice together, regardless of perceived barriers, we also see that having a dedicated introductory class can be beneficial for several reasons. Here are our top five:
1. Being with others with similar body type – This can provide a sense of safety, belonging and understanding. We know that all bodies are different, regardless of size, but knowing that you won’t be surrounded by lythe, stereotypical yoga bodies could be just what you need to help you walk through the door.
2. Being with others who are new to yoga – The language of yoga can be intimidating. When we know that we will be taken through the ABC’s, it can be a welcome relief.
3. Overviewing typical modifications for larger bodies – As earlier stated, all bodies are different, and still knowing a number of standard modifications for bigger bodies will dramatically increase your ability to modify many yoga poses (or other exercises you’ll find out in the world.)
4. Learning the underlying idea or “heart” of a pose – When we can figure out the main goal, idea or “heart” of a pose, we can choose other ways to achieve the same goal. For instance, say you’re in a yoga class and the instructor asks everyone to get on their knees for “camel pose,” but your knees don’t like that kind of pressure. Although there are many things going on with that pose, the “heart” is backward bending. And there are many accessible ways to backward bend. Voila! We can make our own modifications!
5. Knowing you can take your time – In a class dedicated to specific needs, we can slow down and trust that it’s okay to take the time to ask questions, to clarify, and to find what’s really best for each of us.
So, although we strive to provide this safety and support in each and every class, we like to make special offerings occasionally for just these reasons.
Whether you are new to yoga, or interested in coming back to it – a dedicated class may provide the community and connection you are looking for.
E.B. Ferdig is a yoga therapist and teacher in Portland, Oregon, and is a co-owner of unfold studios. For more about the E.B., please see: http://www.unfoldportland.com/instructors.html
E.B. will be offering Intro to Yoga for Bigger Bodies, on Saturday, December 21, 10am – Noon. Cost is $30 for the workshop, or $20 for each student if you bring a friend. Check out with discount code: FRIEND10.
When I tell people I am going home for Christmas, I feel a little confused. Isn't Reykjavik my home now or is Portland my home? I like to think I have many homes, Portland, Seattle, Reykjavik, AcroYoga, Samarya Center, unfold studios, etc. So what makes a place home?
For me the feeling of comfort, acceptance and familiarity are very important. And ultimately it is about knowing people and feeling supported by them. And sometimes knowing people isn't as important, but knowing people care for you because there is a feeling of connection, whether is because you have a similar hobby, spiritual life or mutual friends.
I fly into Seattle on my way to Portland. I am so excited to see my friends there and to see the Samarya Center, the place of all of my yoga training and my teacher, Molly Lannon Kenny. I had also planned to teach a workshop there. Recently I found out the Samarya Center would no longer be the Samarya Center. My initial reaction was one of loss and sadness. Very quickly I remembered what makes the Samarya Center feel like a comfortable place for me and its not a building or a location, but instead a feeling of acceptance, of heart centered and warm teachers, staff and students. The good news is that the Samarya Center has found a new location and you can help them make the move by donating to their relocating fund. http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-samarya-center-matters-please-support-our-transformation
Wherever I am, wherever The Samarya Center is, it doesn't matter. We have the challenge to feel at home with ourselves and help others feel at home with themselves. Whether we are in a relaxing yoga studio or a dingy bar, can we be accepting, supportive and comforting and create "home" anywhere?
Community, to me, used to be an overused word that didn't mean much. Now, as I try to build community in Iceland and as I watch unfold's community grow, the word means so much.
Starting my life in a new country without many resources gave me the scary opportunity to jump into new communities or be forced to start my own. I needed support, friendship and collaboration somehow! Luckily, I was able to start teaching right away witch gave me the confidence and the clarity to start my own community by sharing what I love, yoga and AcroYoga.
Having something to offer makes things easier, but they still aren't easy. I can easily show up to teach, then just as easily go home afterwards without ever talking to anyone or seeing anyone after class is over. Instead, I set an intention to reach out to others with my best self regardless of what I got back, hoping that if I was open a community might start to form.
At unfold we have a passion to share yoga and awareness practices. By offering our most authentic selves, we know that some will be drawn back to Samarya Yoga and Integrated Movement Therapy. Some might only come once a week or to a workshop here and there, others will become future Samarya teachers or attend every event they can. By reaching out and accepting and appreciating involvement with unfold at any level we can build our social, physical and spiritual community.
Approaching community building with this kind of vulnerability can be difficult and humbling. After reaching out to a few Icelanders, I was able to get an AcroYoga practice going at the park. Rather than stopping there, I also invited everyone to ice cream after (Icelanders are obsessed with ice cream) hoping to take advantage of the chance to build connections. Only one girl took me up on the offer, but since she has invited more people to join the practice.
How can we do this more? How can we offer ourselves to others in a way that's loving and supportive?
In the Icelandic circus (which I am now a part of) there aren't many rules, but one of them is that you have to share what you know. You are not allowed to learn a new trick and not teach everyone else. I love this idea and the way it creates connections whether you're already deep in the community or you've just come in the door for the first time.
It can be hard to share yourself. There will always be fear that you won't be noticed or appreciated. That's Okay. I encourage everyone to put themselves out there and build community. Whether that means starting something new, or supporting those around you that want to spread their gifts. I
I have never had to put effort into making friends. I have lived in Portland most of my life with a large family and community. So here in Iceland I am starting fresh and learning through this new experience. I have been watching myself create friendships, network and hope that people like me. This has been the strange part. This hoping that people like me. It has got me thinking about how much we/I rely on others approval for our own self-worth.
I have always gotten a lot of external self-esteem building, especially being in the Samarya community and being in America where people generally express their emotions. (well, more than in Iceland). In Iceland I wonder if people like me, if they are just being polite when they invite me to things. At the end of the day, I often reflect on my day based on how many people I connected with, and if they seemed to enjoy my presence.
At first I felt a little bad about this, feeling like I "should" be happy on my own and happy even if people don't give me back positive feedback. And then I remembered that relationships and connecting to people is important, and especially important to me. By accepting this part of me, I have freedom to direct my attention towards building relationships in this new land.
I know that my self-worth is not created by others approval of me. When I can connect with the Self that knows I am perfect just as I am, I can live more fluidly, not putting pressure on existing relationships or myself. I was reminded of this when reading something our dear teacher Molly Lannon Kenny said at the Yoga and Social Change workshop.
"Get right and super-real with yourself first. Drop your agenda. Drop your assumptions. Just be. Trust that, trust yourself. Your gift is your presence. If you really cultivate that, you will not only be giving that gift to the people with whom you share [your yoga], but also to yourself, which is really ultimately all that matters, and all we can ever really control or change. Trust that.
As often the case, when listening to Molly, I get a sense of relief, because I am reminded that I don't have to try too hard. And that all I need to be is me and the rest is up to the universe or God or whatever yo . I can just live and be myself and some will be drawn to me and others won't and that is completely okay. I am now practicing showing up to new social and professional gatherings without any expectations and trusting that my presence will bring light to others. I hope you know you are perfect just as you are and that there is a practice and community at unfold to support that.
We are so excited about the upcoming opening of Unfold studios!
And we're being given plenty of opportunity to practice patience, and non-grasping, as our intended open date gets gently pushed back, week by week.
Re-finishing the floors seemed like an easy do-it-yourself task. Not so. This is a job likely best left to the professionals, but now we're knee deep in it, and practicing our breathing - with dust masks on, and a good dose of humor.
The painting is coming along - and we're thankful for having hired professionals, even though they're part time & come when they can.
What we KNOW is that eventually it will be ready. And that all of this will have been done as mindfully and as responsibly as we can, to ensure the least amounts of fumes and chemical residue possible. We love our students, and our community. And we know you will love this new space once it opens.
We are excited about making this new spiritual home for you. Looking forward to seeing you there!
Written by teachers at unfold studios and guest authors.