Satsung Music

Back in Nosara Costa Rica, during our yoga teacher training, Friday nights were reserved for Satsung and Kirtan. We all really looked forward to these evenings. Don Stapleton, our teacher, would lead us through chants with a beautiful, glowing smile on his face. We would be swept away. The energy in the room was magical. Very soon my body began to sway, my eyes closed and I chanted with all my whole heart and voice. It was primal. My soul loved it.  We were joined as one.

Bernie marchand, yoga teacher and kirtan  musician

Bernie marchand, yoga teacher and kirtan  musician

Satsung is a sanskrit word that means “gathering for the truth, " or more simply," being with the truth." Whenever something increases your experience of being with the truth, it opens your heart and quiets your mind.

Kirtan is known as ecstatic chant and originated in India 500 years ago. In Hinduism, Kirtan tells the stories of the deities. It is devotional music.

Fast forward eight years, we found out that two of our Ease teachers, Bernie and Miriam, owned harmoniums (pump organs) and love to chant. With some gentle persuasion, we encouraged them to share their gift of music with the Ease community. The first Satsang night was glorious as we all joined voices in chant and learned some of the stories of the The Bhavagad Gita, Hindu scripture.

Here’s some of what Bernie, Miriam and Joey say about their experience of Satsang:

Joey Adams, energy healer: "chanting and Sanskrit has the ability to help you find your voice. Once you find your voice, you can unlock your full power and learn new parts of yourself." 

Miriam: "chanting grounds me. I chant all the time, like when I'm driving or walking or cooking or washing dishes, I'll find myself singing or humming a chant i heard on the radio or that i learned at a kirtan. My radio has basically three stations - one is kirtan radio on Sirius XM."

Bernie: "I chant Sanskrit mantras and feel a profound sense of belonging, divine connection, and universal love. I am then reminded of why I chose this path of devotion " 

 

INTENTIONALITY AND SELF-CARE DURING THE HOLIDAYS

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As the holiday season approaches, we all tend to get very busy.  There are parties to host, dinners to attend, presents to buy, and so much more. In the wellness and fitness industry, we typically see a dip in attendance as December approaches. And yet, it is precisely during the busy holidays that self-care, mindfulness, and physical activity can provide the most benefit.

Often we get to January first and declare our readiness to change with a set of New Year’s resolutions. Why not make a resolution today that your own self-care will not fall victim to the holiday season?  Make a plan to enter 2018 feeling strong, centered, and full of energy.

Making a commitment to a happier, healthier life means saying “No” to the things that do not serve us and “Yes” to those that do. And, like putting your oxygen mask on first, saying “Yes” to ourselves enables us to show up in a kind and giving way for others.

Here are a few tips to lead you through the holiday season:

  1. Set an intention for the holidays and live by it. What is your purpose this holiday season? Whether your intention is to connect more with family or friends, to travel, or to rest and relax, things will fall into place when your intention is clear before you.
     
  2. Schedule time for self-care. Put time for you on your calendar just as you would for a holiday party or work event. For example, plan your yoga class, fitness session, or walk in the park and promise to yourself that you will show up.  Start this practice today.
     
  3. Pace yourself.  The holidays are to be enjoyed and savored.  Say no to invitations you receive if they are simply too much for your day or your week.  
     
  4. Give something on your to do list to someone else.  If you are feeling overwhelmed, ask a friend, spouse, or relative for help or pay someone to help you.  Look at your to-do list and ask yourself if each item is essential and, if so, how you could make any task easier?
     
  5. Take frequent time outs.  Set an hourly chime on your phone. When it sounds, pause, breathe deep into your belly, come back to the present moment, and exhale.
     
  6. Surround yourself with people that fill your cup.  Make time for friends who make you laugh and who love you for who you are. Do it simply.  Meet at a yoga class and grab a bite to eat after.
     
  7. Offer gratitude.  Before you get out of bed each morning, recall five or more things for which you are grateful.  Write them in a journal  by your bedside or simply say them aloud.  Acknowledge and reaffirm all the good things you have in your life.
     
  8. Remove the word “busy” from your vocabulary.  Live intentionally and slow down.  

Creating a balanced, stress free, healthier holiday season for yourself takes planning, commitment and dedication.  The gift you receive in return is the strength and joy you feel when entering into the New Year!

YIN YOGA MAGIC

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About three years ago, my dear friend Jessica and I traveled to a weekend “Power Yoga” workshop led by a well-known yoga instructor named Bryan Kest. At the time, Power Yoga was my thing. I loved a vigorous practice in a studio room heated to 95 degrees and this weekend promised to deliver!

During the morning of the second day, Bryan announced that the afternoon session was going to be a 90-minute practice consisting of long held poses done completely on the floor. I recall how my heart rate went up and my mind immediately went to how I was going to get out of attending the session. Years of running had left me with injuries and inflexibility in some parts of my body. The thought of staying still in a series of poses for a long time felt tortuous and intimidating to me.

Ultimately though, I knew that my resistance was something I needed to explore so I showed up with trepidation after lunch. During the first part of the class, I struggled with staying in the room, but then I began to notice subtle shifts. My mind became quieter and the room brighter. I could hear sounds that I had not attended to before like the rustling of the leaves on the trees outside of the window and the gentle chirping of the birds. By mid-class, a delicious feeling of contentment had washed over me and I felt a freedom and openness in my body that I had not experienced before. This was my introduction to Yin yoga and I knew I had to learn more about it.

If you’ve never tried Yin, I would highly recommend it. Sometimes called “the quiet practice,” Yin is a healing practice that targets the joints and connective tissue of the body and increases your range of motion. What I love about it most though is its meditative quality and the sense of calmness and well-being I feel after a class. It is truly magical.

Colleen Teaches Flow & Yin on Fridays at 6:15pm and Candlelight Yin on the fourth Sunday of each month at 7:00pm. Click here to sign up.

September in Review

By Tara Casagrande

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Is it really October already?  Welcome to the cooler beautiful autumn weather.

September brought many exciting events and changes to Ease. As we continue to grow, the diversity of what we offer at Ease continues to deepen.We hope you are as excited as we are!
September 22nd marked the beginning of our wonderful Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) with seventeen fabulous yogis working toward their 200 hour registered yoga teacher designation. The weekend was long, intense, informative and enlightening. Ann and Miriam led the weekend using the Nosara Yoga Institute curriculum and teachers Becky, Jenn and myself assisted. It was magical to witness all the deep learning that took place in the first of nine weekends of training. Way to go yogis!

This past Friday marked Ease’s first ever Kirtan (joyous singing and chanting) evening hosted by Miriam &  Bernie (on harmoniums) and Joey (on drums). The Yang Studio was filled with local lovers of Kirtan. The evening was fun and festive. We cannot wait to host our second event. Stay tuned for upcoming dates!

On Saturday September 30th, thirty five Ease yogis as well as Becky and myself took a short road trip out to the beautiful Soleado Lavender Farm in Dickerson MD. The weather was beautiful and the grounds stunning. We moved and breathed together on a cozy wooden deck built in the middle of a bamboo forest. The feeling of simply getting away to the countryside for the afternoon was so nourishing.  We hope you will join us to  take this journey again in the spring and summer. The Soleado owners Sophia and Kevin were so excited to host us and offered all Ease yogis ten percent off of all their lavender oils, soaps, creams and other products. We now understand why the word retreat has “treat” in it. It truly was a treat for the soul.

Over the past month, Ease management, aka Tara, Becky and Beth worked hard to expand the offerings of weekly scheduled classes. We now have close to forty classes per week. We have new heated classes as well as some classes at the 4:00 and 5:30 pm time slots, and a few new meditation classes.

We hope that you all will try out all of  our new classes and offerings. Check the online schedule for all the updates and changes.

For your Sunday night specialty classes, we have a few offerings. Ellen will host you this Sunday night for Chakra Meditation and Bernie is offering a wonderful class on Kosha Mapping monthly at 7:00 pm. Check out the descriptions online.  You will not want to miss. Lastly, October 1st marked the official opening of the Ease Boutique. Within the boutique you will find new long sleeved t-shirts made from recycled bamboo and super soft yoga tanks as well as self nurturing bath salts, oils, and sprays made by Ellen. We also have candles, lavender eye pillows, meditation pillows and more. You will love what we have. Stop by to check it all out. We have great self nurturing gifts for yourself and friends as we move toward the holiday season.

Whew!!!  Did we really accomplish all that? Yes we did! Thanks to all the Ease teachers for giving the best of themselves to Ease and for helping to build a wonderful, caring and loving community of yogis at Ease.
 

There's No Place Like hOMe

By Tara Casagrande

The adventure began mid-August when we came home from Canada to prepare our eldest child for his first year of college in faraway Colorado. We shopped and packed, even as I taught a bunch of yoga classes and reconnected with many of you Ease Yogis. Simultaneously, Baker, our 18 year old son, said goodbye to his close knit group of high school friends, sorted out what to bring and what to leave behind in his shrine of a room (priorities included his white water kayak, skis and a framed photo of his high school buddies) and thoughtfully packed the car (a skill he inherited from his mother)! Pride Pride! My emotions over this past year have gone from excitement (knowing that Baker got into his first choice school), to dread (how can he be leaving us for distant Colorado) to GET OVER IT TARA (he is so ready and excited to go). Jerry, my husband, is the ultimate cross country road tripper.  He loves an adventure.  We have driven across the United States three times together over the years.  There is so much to see and we always make it fun!  This time was no exception.  Kayak strapped to the top of our rented Sienna minivan that we would drop in Denver at trip’s end, Tae, our 11 year old son, along for the ride and Riley, our 15 year old daughter at sleep away camp, the four of us set off for the long ride to Colorado Springs.

Stops along the Way:

Louisville, Kentucky. Hosted by some wonderful friends, we experienced southern hospitality and visited the Muhammad Ali Museum.  A beautiful tribute to a man of honor, discipline, and generosity.

St. Louis, Missouri. We went up The Arch to celebrate mathematicians, engineers, architects, construction workers, and great views!

Kansas City, Missouri. An overnighter in a city that still celebrates the 2015 World Series win royally.

Wamego, Kansas.  Billboards along the highway lured us into this little town to experience the OZ Winery and OZ Museum.  As a lover of The Wizard of OZ, The Wiz, and Wicked, I forced my family to stop in Wamego. The wine wasn’t spectacular but the museum’s collection of OZ memorabilia was fun.  Most memorable for me was the inspiring story of Oz-author Frank Baum, a traveling gear lube salesman who decided to share his magical children’s story with the world.  The themes in that famous story are so deep and so real.

Finally the views of Pikes Peak and the beautiful skies of Colorado came into sight.  The next few days were full of:

  • Room organizing, bed lifting, bed making
  • Meeting Baker’s thoughtfully selected roommate and his family, feeling emotions equal to ours
  • A trip to Target, Pier One, and Big Lots!
  • Being abandoned by Baker as he met new friends and let us know that he could do all of this on his own, followed by an occasional “hug of love” which said, ‘I know this is hard for you and I love you, Mom, so I will let you do this for me.’

With the final hug, I welled up with tears.  I love this boy, this man, so much. We will miss him, and a little part of me will be left in Colorado. Buddhist practice speaks often of non-attachment. Mothers and fathers are put to work by this principle. Lots of yoga and meditation will help. Even as I write this, the writing itself helps ease the pain.

I am thankful to have created Ease, and to have all of you in this beautiful healing and intentional community.  It feels good to come hOMe, to breathe and to flow with all of you. I will eat South Block Warrior Bowls and do Warrior asana to strengthen me and to give me courage. I will attend Beth’s Cats on Mat’s to give me additional love and joy, and I will continue to study this ancient art of yoga during our upcoming teacher training with the amazing Ann Hunt, in order to grow my mind and to share with you the healing benefits of yoga.

As difficult as it is to launch a child, I hope that each of our three children return to Alexandria often, knowing that there truly is no place like hOMe.

Fire Alarm Moments

By Tara Casagrande

A few weeks back, during a class I was leading, a very loud fire alarm sounded in the studio just as we were beginning to move into our final relaxation pose, savasana.

We come to yoga for peace and serenity.  That day, peace and serenity were not what we received. It was interesting to see the reactions of the students. One person flew from their mat in high distress. Many of us covered our ears as we made our way outside of the building. As the screaming sirens of ambulances and fire trucks raced toward the front entrance, many thoughts went through my mind.

“Darn...what a terrible ending to a great class.”

“Ok, you are the owner of the studio, all these people are your responsibility.  How can you make them feel safe and relaxed again?”

“How can I recover this class?”

Outside in the sunshine and with a gentle wind blowing, we sat down on the patio tiles and closed our eyes. I decided to lead a gentle stretch and meditation. There was chaos and noise all around and, yet, we were able as a group to remain centered.  After our experience we all shared. What we learned was remarkable.

Many of us come to yoga for the “Fire Alarm” moments. Yoga helps us to deal with those moments when everything is not going so perfectly. When everything is peaceful and going well, it is easy to live centered and peacefully. The work is in the messiness of life. That day, we learned that all we needed to do was to slow down, to breathe deeply and to center ourselves. The practice of yoga is more difficult to get to during the chaos and the noise; however, these are the times we need it the most.  And during the peaceful, easy times in our lives, our practice helps us prepare for when the fire alarms of life sound.

Why Yoga Nidra?

By Becky Sutton

When I was in the jungles of Costa Rica for my first yoga teacher training, one of my favorite parts of the experience was lying on my back after a physical practice, absorbing the warm air and the nature sounds, while the mesmerizing voice of my teacher lulled me into a state of deep relaxation. Sometimes I fell asleep. Other times I found myself in a profound state that wasn’t quite asleep but also wasn’t awake. I came out of these experiences with an overwhelming feeling of relaxation, of deep surrender, and a sense of coming home to myself. It was a release from my conscious thinking mind- my “hornet’s nest”- as I lovingly say. It gave my busy mind the break that it truly desires. This is the goal of Yoga Nidra... to experience the place that exists within you when the mind is not active. To access the deep layers of the subconscious mind, which is where true transformation takes place. I was hooked. I wanted more and I wanted to share it with others.

Yoga Nidra has been shown to reduce anxiety, promote healthy sleep, improve body system functions, increase your sense of well-being and universal connection, and so much more. But just like with all of our yoga and meditation practices, this is a practice. Sometimes, regardless of the effort, the brain just won’t turn off. Sometimes the body simply can’t relax. It’s all part of the journey. Your first experience of Yoga Nidra (or the 10th or the 100th) may not be the magical experience you were hoping for. But with continued practice, you may just find it a little bit easier to quiet the mind, to still the body, and to experience the joy of coming home to yourself.

Join Becky for Yoga Nidra on the 3rd Sunday of each month, from 7:00-8:00pm.

Going Into Year Three

By Tara Casagrande

Saturday night we celebrated Ease’s 2nd Birthday. It was a beautiful night out on the patio and many of our loyal clients and a bunch of our hard working teachers intermingled while munching on delicious Alexandria cupcakes and sipping on champagne.

One particular Ease client deeply touched my heart that night. Elin, a young Swedish woman who works as an au pair here in Alexandria, is a participant in the Teen Yoga program. A few months back she entered Ease to purchase our New Client Welcome, attended classes, and soon signed up for the Teen Program.

Elin’s gift to Ease the night of the party was so heartfelt and beautiful.  She gave us a picture of  her home village in Borensberg, Sweden and a beautifully hand written note on natural paper.

Allow me to quote the end of her thoughtful note, in which she shares her joy in finding Ease:

“Thank you for creating this space of creativity, learning, acceptance and relaxation.  It is amazing that you offer yoga for all people: cancer warriors, teens, children, those who seek creativity and to benefit charity, and those who come to relax. Every time I have walked out of the doors of Ease it has been with a smile on my face. Many congratulations, Elin”

For all we do at Ease, nothing excites me more or touches my heart more deeply than when our clients get why Ease exists in this world.  We truly are about healing and putting a smile on your face.  We want to make you feel lighter and to help lessen your worries.

All of us teachers have experienced the magic of the wise, ancient yogis.  We are so excited to share all we have learned with you as we enter into YEAR THREE- YIPEEEE!!!!!!!!

Join us for yoga, come often and, if you are trying to entice a friend to visit Ease for the first time, we have “RANDOM ACT OF YOGA” cards for one free class for a first time visitor.  We would be happy to give you a few! Simply ask a teacher.

Curious About the Harmonium?

Harmonium Q & A with Yoga Instructor Bernie Marchand

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Please tell us about your harmonium

My harmonium is a Bina 23, and is made especially for traveling. It is a very popular model and brand, it has a wonderful sound. Harmoniums are quite heavy so it is not an instrument that works for everyone and every place.

When did you start playing? 

I started messing around on my friend's harmonium a few years ago, I bought this one last year on retreat in Sonoma.

How did you learn to play?

I took a one day workshop with Hari-Kirtana Dasa in DC that reviewed the basics of harmonium playing and Sanskrit chanting. Admittedly, I was the worst in the class. I use the harmonium more as a meditative tool and an accompaniment to chanting than to learn as an instrument. I love the sound of the harmonium so I create really simple melodies to chant over.

How do you incorporate the Harmonium into your yoga classes? 

I like to use it at the beginning and sometimes, at the end of class, to teach a chant. I remember the first time I chanted. I was in Yoga Teacher Training at Yoga Landing in Chattanooga. I rolled my eyes when I was told we would chant that day. I thought, "I have no interest in this." And then we chanted- I felt amazing, I felt connected to everyone around me, and to the divine. I had never experienced anything like that. To this day, I find it absolutely blissful. Harmonium is a great tool to teach chanting because everyone can hide their voice under it if they are self-conscious.

What has the response been from your yoga students?

I have been pleasantly surprised with the response from my students. I was always fearful students would feel too much pressure to sing or be spiritual when I led chanting. However, over the past year, more and more students have tried it and even requested it! I love chanting with other people, it is such a wonderful way to remember why we practice yoga- to feel connection.

The BIG Questions

By Tara Casagrande

Who am I?  Where have I been?  Where am I going?  What is my purpose?

Approximately eight years ago, my spiritual healer asked me to answer these questions.  We were moving as a family to Costa Rica and Kourosh saw this as a great opportunity to explore the big spiritual questions.

“Can I simply start with the first one?” I asked.

“Sure, “ he said.

And so began my quest.

A big reason why Ease Yoga & Cafe exists today is thanks to Kourosh Kashani. Little did I know at that time that the move to Costa Rica would lead to my becoming a yoga teacher and studio owner by embarking on the 200 hour yoga teacher training at the Nosara Yoga Institute.

The first day of the training our teacher said, “Yoga is inquiry. Who am I?”

There was my first question! From this point, many events followed to lead me to my work and purpose today. Sharing the wisdom of yoga and helping individuals make the mind body connection through breath has been amazing to witness.  I have learned so much from our teachers, our students, and from the community all around us. Entering into our third year of business, Ease Yoga & Cafe is proud to host Kourosh and to bring all of his spiritual wisdom of healing to our community.

Kourosh has taught all around the world. He recently presented at Google in California and he will be featured in a movie to be released this spring. Kourosh truly is wise.  He is a healer in the greatest sense of the word. Please join him this month for his class and workshops. It is a gift to yourself that you will not regret. If you are ready to move deeper and explore the big questions please join us.

Click HERE for more information and registration.  You can also connect with Kourosh or set up private sessions during his stay the following week by contacting him through his website.

Make a Promise, Keep a Promise

By Tara Casagrande

In a meeting this week, a wise friend shared that it is important, when building a brand, to make a promise and keep a promise. This got me thinking. What is the Ease Promise?

A few of us brainstormed and here is what we came up with. At Ease we are:

Non- Judgemental, Welcoming, Encouraging, Non-Competitive, Nurturing, Healing, Community Builders, and we have Something for Everyone

For us, it was  Ease-y to come up with this list. We hope that all of us at Ease are keeping our promise to you, that you feel all of these promises in your body, and that you  feel safe to explore your own unique self and all its amazingness.

This practice of yoga is such an interesting journey. The ancient yogic wisdom is now being proven by science: slow down, breathe, connect mind & body, and listen to the feedback from the body, and wonderful things begin to happen.

There are days when you may want a more gentle practice to restore your energy and to calm your mind, and there are days when you may need to move and breathe and be strong. We offer all of that here at Ease. We have amazing teachers that you can trust and who can hold space for you to explore, learn, and connect.

These promises encapsulate what I strive for in myself each day.

Make your own list of your promises to yourself. Write them down and strive to keep those promises. From this you begin your journey to a loving and intentional life.

With love forever,

Tara

Benefits of Restorative Yoga

With the explosion of yoga in the West, there’s been an influx of yoga styles, each expressing their own blend of breathing, poses, meditation, chanting, relaxation, and philosophy. Restorative yoga, a practice that leads the yogi toward a more healing and recuperative experience, ushers in a host of wonderful benefits that are often overshadowed by the popularity and visibility of more dynamic yoga styles.

A restorative practice frequently relies on the use of props and the prolonged holding of a few simple poses to achieve a deep level of relaxation. “Restorative yoga” can also be an umbrella term that encompasses several sub-styles of relaxation and healing-based Hatha yoga practices, such as the Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga.

But what exactly makes this style of yoga unique? Here are some of the benefits a restorative yoga practice has to offer.

Slows Down the Pace of Life

Restorative yoga is an excellent opportunity to disconnect from the frenetic activity of daily life and let your speedometer return to 0 mph. It offers a welcome respite among all the turbulence of life and helps to prepare the mind and body for the inward stroke of meditation and deepened awareness. Moving slowly through the poses allows you to explore your mind and body at a steady and natural tempo.

Soothing to the Nervous System

The slower pace and deep breathing that you get in a restorative yoga class triggers the parasympathetic nervous system from the very first pose. This activation helps to mitigate the effects of the regular fight-or-flight stress response that can be damaging to your physiology and well-being. The overall calming effect on the nervous system sets a deeply relaxing tone for the class that comforts your mind and body down to the cellular level.

Encourages Mindfulness

Restorative yoga could just as easily be called “mindful yoga” due to the expanded awareness of self and body that comes through the practice. Slower movements cultivate space for a deeper experience of the poses and the breath. Awareness of the physical sensations, the thoughts or emotions that arise, or sounds in the environment, can all take on a much more profound significance in the depth of the restorative practice. Simply put, you’re able to notice and feel more of the world through your yoga experience.

Fosters Transcendence

On the whole, many forms of Hatha yoga are considered a precursor to extended periods of meditation. Through the practice, muscles, joints, and subtle energy centers are enlivened to help facilitate a deeper and more comfortable experience of meditation. However, the practice of restorative yoga in and of itself often leads to a transcendent experience of deep oneness with the universal level of consciousness. Each pose and each breath serves to lead you further up the ladder of expanded awareness. As the practice expands, the vehicle of yoga carries you from the waking state of consciousness into the silent space between your thoughts—the space from where you’re able to glimpse the soul and awaken the divinity within.

Cultivates Heightened Body Awareness

The comfortable pace of restorative yoga opens the doorway to a deeper understanding of your own body, letting you actually feel what it means to be a spiritual being having a human experience. Sadly, many people aren’t intimate with their own bodies. Through a restorative yoga practice, however, such intimacy can be explored and embraced. Deeper levels of bodily strengths can be integrated and owned and a more profound sense of self-love and acceptance can emerge.

Deepens Self-Awareness and Introspection

The subdued quality of a restorative yoga class often helps you draw attention inward and away from external events and situations of the world. With your awareness directed within, the practice becomes a sanctuary for the mind and spirit from which you can take a deeper look at who you are, what you want, and how you can serve the world. Restorative yoga opens us up to new levels of self-exploration and contemplation, allowing your inner being to shine forth.

Creates Deliberateness of Action

Through the mindfulness of the practice, you become increasingly aware of your actions or karmas, and how they influence your level of comfort or discomfort. You can see the direct cause and effect relationship between your poses, breathing, and overall level of well-being. As this experience continues to deepen, you begin to make more deliberate and attentive choices, both on and off the mat.

Strengthens Acceptance and Detachment

By its very nature, the restorative yoga practice is the antithesis of the “no-pain-no-gain” mentality. You receive the greatest benefits from your practice not through forcing yourself into a pose, but by releasing and surrendering to it. This mentality helps to cultivate acceptance of your body and its inherent limitations. Further, it strengthens your ability to let go of preconceived notions of your body and how you think it should look or feel, both in and out of a pose. When increased ease and comfort are the theme of your yoga practice, acceptance and detachment naturally emerge as a result.

Helps You Feel Safe and Nurtured

In daily life it’s easy to get pulled into the insecurity that is a byproduct of the modern world. Many people move through their days haunted by fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. Restorative yoga provides you with a safe harbor wherein you can reconnect with your true nature, which is immortal, invincible, pure, and nourishing. Making that connection through your poses, breathing, and deep relaxation restores the memory of who you are and helps you to reclaim the fearless nature of your soul. From this refuge, you emerge feeling secure in the inherent goodness within your heart and in the world.

Connects You to the Divine and Establishes You in Pure Being

The ultimate goal of yoga is union with the divine. Therefore, your practice should be a means to that end. Luckily, restorative yoga is the perfect vehicle to help you reconnect with the divinity within. Through the techniques of the practice, you awaken grace, poise, flexibility, balance, strength, and present moment awareness. This combination creates a mind and body ideally suited for seamlessly merging into the non-local field of awareness, or pure being.

As a tool for self-transformation, restorative yoga facilitates the integration of all the layers of life—environmental, physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual—culminating in the goal of all goals, awakening to your own divine nature.

The benefits listed here may not be isolated solely to restorative yoga, but they are some of the most defining benefits to this type of practice. If you’ve never explored this style of yoga, this is your open invitation.

Yoga For Everyone: 10 Poses to Know

By Kelly Couturier from the New York Times

It’s time to roll out your yoga mat and discover the combination of physical and mental exercises that for thousands of years have hooked yoga practitioners around the globe. The beauty of yoga is that you don’t have to be a yogi or yogini to reap the benefits. Whether you are young or old, overweight or fit, yoga has the power to calm the mind and strengthen the body. Don’t be intimidated by yoga terminology, fancy yoga studios and complicated poses. Yoga is for everyone.

Ten Yoga Poses You Need to Know

The building blocks of yoga are poses. These are good ones to learn as you build a regular yoga practice.

These 10 poses are a complete a yoga workout. Move slowly through each pose, remembering to breathe as you move. Pause after any pose you find challenging, especially if you are short of breath, and start again when your breathing returns to normal. The idea is to hold each pose for a few, slow breaths before moving on to the next one.

CHILD’S POSE

This calming pose is a good default pause position. You can use child’s pose to rest and refocus before continuing to your next pose. It gently stretches your lower back, hips, thighs, knees and ankles and relaxes your spine, shoulders and neck.

Do it: When you want to get a nice gentle stretch through your neck spine and hips. Skip it: If you have knee injuries or ankle problems. Avoid also if you have high blood pressure or are pregnant. Modify: You can rest your head on a cushion or block. You can place a rolled towel under your ankles if they are uncomfortable. Be mindful: Focus on relaxing the muscles of the spine and lower back as you breathe.

This should be your go-to pose whenever you need to rest for a moment during a yoga workout.

DOWNWARD-FACING DOG

Downward-facing dog strengthens the arms, shoulders and back while stretching the hamstrings, calves and arches of your feet. It can also help relieve back pain.

Do it: To help relieve back pain. Skip it: This pose is not recommended if you have carpal tunnel syndrome or other wrist problems, have high blood pressure or are in the late stages of pregnancy. Modify: You can do the pose with your elbows on the ground, which takes the weight off your wrists. You can also use blocks under your hands, which may feel more comfortable. Be mindful: Focus on distributing the weight evenly through your palms and lifting your hips up and back, away from your shoulders.

This is one of the most common yoga poses.

PLANK POSE

A commonly seen exercise, plank helps build strength in the core, shoulders, arms and legs.

Do it: Plank pose is good if you are looking to tone your abs and build strength in your upper body. Skip it: Avoid plank pose if you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome. It can be hard on your wrists. You might also skip it or modify if you have low back pain. Modify: You can modify it by placing your knees on the floor. Be mindful: As you do a plank, imagine the back of your neck and spine lengthening.

This common pose can build strength in the core, shoulders, arms and legs.

FOUR-LIMBED STAFF POSE

This push-up variation follows plank pose in a common yoga sequence known as the sun salutation. It is a good pose to learn if you want to eventually work on more advanced poses, such as arm balances or inversions.

Do it: Like plank, this pose strengthens arms and wrists and tones the abdomen. Skip it: If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, lower back pain, a shoulder injury or are pregnant. Modify: It’s a good idea for beginners to modify the pose by keeping your knees on the floor. Be mindful: Press your palms evenly into the floor and lift your shoulders away from the floor as you hold this pose.

This pose builds strength in the arms, shoulders, wrists and back and helps tone the abdomen.

COBRA POSE

This back-bending pose can help strengthen the back muscles, increase spinal flexibility and stretches the chest, shoulders and abdomen.

Do it: This post is great for strengthening the back. Skip it: If you have arthritis in your spine or neck, a low-back injury or carpal tunnel syndrome. Modify: Just lift up a few inches, and don’t try to straighten your arms. Be mindful: Try to keep your navel drawing up away from the floor as you hold this pose.

One of the simpler back-bending poses.

 

TREE POSE

Beyond helping improve your balance, it can also strengthen your core, ankles, calves, thighs and spine.

Do it: Great for working on your balance and posture. Skip it: You many want to skip this pose if you have low blood pressure or any medical conditions that affect your balance. Modify: Place one of your hands on a wall for support. Be mindful: Focus on your breath in and out as you hold this pose.

This balancing pose is one of the most recognized poses in modern yoga.
 

TRIANGLE POSE

Triangle, which is a part of many yoga sequences helps build strength in the legs and stretches the hips, spine, chest, shoulders, groins, hamstrings and calves. It can also help increase mobility in the hips and neck.

Do it: This pose is great for building strength and endurance. Skip it: Avoid this pose if you have a headache or low blood pressure. Modify: If you have high blood pressure, turn your head to gaze downward in the final pose. If you have neck problems, don’t turn your head to look upward; look straight ahead and keep both sides of the neck long. Be mindful: Keep lifting your raised arm toward the ceiling. It helps keep the pose buoyant.

This pose can be found in many yoga sequences.

SEATED HALF-SPINAL TWIST POSE

This twisting pose can increase the flexibility in your back, while stretching the shoulders, hips and chest. It can also help relieve tension in the middle of your back.

Do it: To release tight muscles around the shoulders and upper and lower back. Skip it: If you have a back injury. Modify: If bending your right knee is uncomfortable, keep it straight out in front of you. Be mindful: Lift your torso with each inhale, and twist as you exhale.

Want to relieve the tension in your back? Try this twisting pose.
 

BRIDGE POSE

This is a back-bending pose that stretches the muscles of the chest, back and neck. It also builds strength in the back and hamstring muscles.

Do it: If you sit most of the day, this pose will help you open your upper chest. Skip it: Avoid this pose if you have a neck injury. Modify: Place a block between your thighs to help keep the legs and feet in proper alignment. Or you can place a block under your pelvis if your lower back is bothering you. Be mindful: While holding this pose, try to keep your chest lifted and your sternum toward your chin.

This pose, from the back-bending family of yoga poses, is great for stretching the muscles of the chest.

CORPSE POSE

Like life, yoga classes typically end with this pose. It allows for a moment of relaxation, but some people find it difficult to stay still in this pose. However, the more you try this pose, the easier it is to sink into a relaxing, meditative state.

Do it: Always! Skip it: If you don’t want to have a moment’s peace. Modify: Place a blanket under your head, if that feels more comfortable. You can also roll up a blanket and place that under your knees, if your lower back is sensitive or bothering you. Be mindful: Feel the weight of your body sinking into your mat one part at a time.

Though it may not look difficult, it can be quite challenging to lie in corpse pose for an extended period of time.

Sharing the Healing Power of Yoga

By Sophie Schicker

Yoga became an essential part of my life after developing anxiety and a terrible fear of dying after one of my dear colleagues got killed while I lived and worked in Pakistan in 2014. One year later, I went to India for a month-long Yoga teacher training to focus on dealing with my anxiety and fears. During that time, I found many inspirations in Yoga philosophies, ancient Indian scripts, and in my Yoga and Pranayama (breath awareness) practice.

Yoga taught me how to make it through painful and complicated poses as well as moments in life by breathing calmly and naturally. Through Savasana (final resting pose), I accepted the fact that just like everyone else, I will die one day and that it could happen anywhere at any time. Bakasana (crow pose) taught me the strength to overcome fear and that I can do anything if I believe in myself. Vrksasana (tree pose) had a calming effect on me and made me realize how important it is to be present. Over time my anxiety left and I started appreciating all the tiny beautiful moments of life each day. I started asking the big questions. Am I living the way I want? Am I doing everything to fulfill my dreams? Am I doing something meaningful each day? Am I spending enough time with my beloved ones?

After all, Pakistan lead me towards the path of Yoga. Furthermore, my time over there made me switch my career path, and on a cold rainy night in Islamabad I met my American husband. I am thankful for all of that. Last summer, I pulled up my stakes in my home country of Germany, moved to beautiful Del Ray together with my husband, and became a member of Ease.

Now, I do a job I love, working with the Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC), one of the nine refugee resettlement agencies in the US. We take care of newly arrived refugees from all over the world during their first 90 days and provide long-term intensive case management to especially vulnerable people. Many of them have been forced to leave their homes and lived through years of hardship surviving in refugee camps. Some are victims of torture or lost all of their family members. Their long journey seems to be over when they finally arrive in the US, but over here new challenges are waiting for them.

One of many projects at ECDC is leading a support group for Breast Cancer Survivors. The 14 beautiful women between the age of 30 and 65 meet once a month to share their stories, to go on field trips, and participate in workshops. Most of them are from Ethiopia and have lived in the US a short time. They have not just been through the hardship of being a refugee, but additionally fought cancer for many years of their life. They are some of the strongest and most inspiring women I have ever met. I have the wonderful opportunity to start a Gentle Yoga class specifically for them at the end of this month.

It has been proven that Yoga is helpful for Cancer patients during all stages of treatment and afterwards, as it improves physical symptoms, like pain and fatigue, and reduces stress and anxiety. The Yogic breath, for example, has a positive effect on the immune system and gentle movements release endorphins, our happiness hormones. I hope that regular classes will be beneficial to each and every woman of ECDC’s Cancer Survivor Group and I am very excited to finally share the healing powers of Yoga with some of the people who need it the most.

EASE is collecting gently used yoga mats for Sophie's Cancer Survivor group at the studio. Please feel free to drop off donations with us anytime.

Yoga as Practice

By Tara Casagrande

This month we, the teachers @ Ease, got together for our own private gong bath and yoga practice along with a sharing about how we are doing.  It was wonderful to take some time for ourselves and to accept the healing energy of the gong into our bodies.  We all needed it and felt very thankful to have our very own Jeneen Piccurio share her expert gong playing skills with us.  Many of us have been cracked open by yoga and know and appreciate first hand the healing benefits of yoga.  This is why we love to share yoga with all of you.

For teachers and yoga students alike,  it is important to continue to maintain our regular daily practice in order to stay grounded and calm.  This can be difficult.

Some suggestions for keeping a regular practice that have worked for me over the years.

  • Put yoga on your day planner or google calendar and schedule other activities around it.  Try to do a full practice at least two times per week or more.
  • Plan to meet a friend or two for a class.  It’s always great to stay for a smoothie or a bowl in the cafe after to catch up.
  • If you cannot make it to the studio, take 15-20 minutes at the beginning, middle  or end of your day to do some breath work and stretching.  Choose gentle or active, depending on how you feel. Keep a mat at home or your office.
  • Bring a yoga journal to class.  If there are some particular moves or poses that you would like to remember for yourself, write them down during or after class.  Try them out at home as a daily practice.
  • Take advantage of the great workshops and specialty classes held at Ease.  These workshops feature experts in their field.  These longer workshops allow you to go deeper with your yoga practice by providing 2 hours or more of focused time.
  • Switch up the classes you attend in order to keep it fresh and new.   Try out the new teachers and get to know how they can help deepen your practice.

Yoga is a practice.  It takes time and commitment to truly begin to feel the benefits.  Once you make that commitment, life begins to change.  You will feel more connected to your body, to others and to life. We hope to see you often @ Ease.  Continue to let us know what you need and how we can continue to bring you the yoga that you need and love.

Keep it Real

By Beth Wolfe

I've recently been made aware of a trend among teens who maintain multiple online identities by managing two separate Instagram accounts. One is highly curated, displaying only beautifully staged, filtered, and aspirational moments. A second account, the so-called "finstagram" (for "fake instagram") showcases less savory events. The "fake" photos (kept hidden to all but a few close friends) are considered to be silly, embarrassing, or unflattering.

As spiritual beings living in human (imperfect) shells, we hide the most embarrassing or shameful parts of ourselves, while presenting an outward facade of what we believe to be our more "socially acceptable" selves. This feeling that the less-than-perfect side of us should be kept hidden creates obstacles to making authentic connections with one another, and with ourselves. The photo above was taken on an unusually frigid spring morning. As I was balancing myself on the edge of the fountain to get into "flying lizard" pose, I slipped, almost falling into the water, drawing blood from my knee, and ripping a hole in the knee of my yoga pants. Of the many images captured that day, the one above is the one I chose to represent me in the digital world, but my everyday life isn't particularly aspirational, and it certainly isn't perfect. That fall, the blood, and the torn pants represent my real life AND my real yoga practice, just as much, probably more, than the polished photo. Our yoga practice invites us to find our authentic selves and to become comfortable with who we really are. It encourages us to embrace our "imperfections," and to realize that each one of us carries our own unpleasant "stuff" that we'd prefer not to confront. Once we find that clarity, we can share it with others, unapologetically.

Will you #keepitreal with us? If you're willing to share a story or part of yourself that you generally keep under wraps, we would love to share it with our Ease community. Speaking about these less-than-perfect moments is a radical act of vulnerability, but the rewards of being open are profound. To share your #keepitreal moment, please get in touch with us.

For the Sake of Our Own Health

By Delia Sullivan, Ease Yoga Instructor

There are so many things that we have in common as human beings. Remembering those positive things that connect us is just plain good for our health!

In my humble opinion, I would guess most of us have some kind of heightened emotions at this moment in time.  Too many adjectives to list here but a few simple ones might include, excitement, anger, empowerment, fear, sadness, happiness, etc.    

I am not writing to judge your “emotions” but to suggest we all have emotions, yes?  I’m sure at some point recently you have observed heightened emotions. How about the compassion to acknowledge is it a commonality in human beings and that affects our daily lives, our health, AND those around us?

Often we get so caught up in our own drama and emotions that we begin to actually create dis-ease” in our bodies and can become disease.  Many of us already have stressors, like long work hours, daily responsibilities that contribute to little sleep, little exercise and no time for inspiring human connection like (church, girlfriends, family time, couple time, just walking down the street without a mission to get somewhere).  

In my yoga classes this month the theme is self-observation or self-study.  To be aware and notice this idea of Think less and FEEL more!  Using observation to become aware of your behavior, your interactions, and decisions, to determine what feels healthy and what does not.

Observations like how it feels when you are around certain people?  Do they inspire you or tire you?  How you react when plans change abruptly, noticing your morning routine, how you carry yourself as you walk?  Very simple observations tell the story of who we are in those moments.

Notice and observe, no judgment, just inquiry.  Then you will have more authentic information to create “re-SOUL-utions” or intentions as we say in yoga.   This may allow us to disentangle ourselves from aspects of our life that don’t create “well-being”.

If you “feel” any of this resonates with you, I invite you to use Gentle + Restorative yoga to encourage the inquiry.  I would love to see you on the mat at one of my 75 minute weekly classes offered at EASE-YOGA Mondays 9:30am

http://www.easeyogacafe.com/about-ease/our-team/

For the sake of your own health and those of others! Peace, Delia

Live Inspired

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Often this week my mind has turned toward what inspires me.

in·spi·ra·tion

  1. the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.

  2. the drawing in of breath; inhalation.

Isn't that interesting that this word also has something to do with breath?  Yogis love it when this happens. When one feels inspired, our hearts feel full, our energy level increases, and our creativity is unleashed.  I remember the high level of life energy (prana- as we say in yoga) in me as I worked to create Ease Yoga & Cafe. My creative juices were flowing. I needed very little sleep.

My children inspire me every day to be a better mom and a better person.  I love to celebrate all the wisdom they are soaking up in school and from friends and in extracurricular activities. The teachers @ Ease inspire me as I grow and learn from them. When I see how much of themselves they give to our clients in every class, I well up with pride. People gathering together in a peaceful way for what they believe in also inspires me. People voicing what they deeply believe in  feels so real.

Yoga has taught me to notice my levels of prana and to notice what fills me up and what depletes me. Recently I have been working toward deeper levels of noticing and working to surround myself more with what fills me up, with what inspires me.

This idea of being mentally stimulated to not only do, but to "feel" something is also very interesting to me. This again is about making a mind body connection. When were are inspired we are stimulated to feel. To be outside of the mind and to be more in our bodies, our hearts and our guts lead us to authentic living.

When we feel more, we live more fully. We notice more of the beauty of life and we are are not cut off from the everyday miracles that are all around us.

So, this week: Draw in your breath deeply. Sink into your heart and your gut. Find a way to feel more, think less. See what it does for your energy level and your creativity. Live Inspired.

Motherhood

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By Tara Casagrande

A wise woman (my mother) once gave a speech at our wedding saying, "Motherhood is about letting go." Only recently have I begun to understand that quote. The quote was lost on my 29-year-old idealistic self and has finally sunk in.

Inhale, LET, exhale, GO.

As a business owner, wife and mother of our 17, 14 & 10-year-old, this year has offered up many opportunities to let go.

  • Let go of all the predictions and forecasts made in my imperfectly crafted business plan.
  • Let go of perfectly nutritious and healthy meals for our family every night.
  • Let go of mistakes I have made.
  • Let go of the 17 year old son who is currently taking a semester abroad. I miss him so much.
  • Let go of years of volunteering at the kids' school.
  • Let go of being at every sporting event and school function.

As I let go, it makes more room for me to embrace all the goodness around me.

  • Playful tickle time with our youngest son when I arrive home from teaching an evening class.
  • Last minute shopping trips with our 14 year old daughter to buy clothing for a school trip.
  • Lunches with my hubby while the kids are in school in order to grab some quality time.
  • Valuing time with girlfriends.
  • Spending time with my mother whenever I can.
  • Running up the stairs of Ease so excited to come to work and thankful for all who have joined us this year to move, breathe, explore and become more curious about themselves.

Motherhood stretches me and often takes me outside of my comfort zone. I have learned so much about myself through raising our children. Being a mom is what I have always wanted. The times I enjoy it the most is when I slow down, exhale and let go. Getting wiser by the year.