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First and foremost I apologize for being so incredibly lax in my Kate Asana posts… I’ve been blogging much more frequently over at my general blog, Katastrophic Thoughts, and of course working full time at Entrepreneur.com. And you know, life gets in the way.

Anyways, yoga is still a big part of my life and I make sure that I make time to practice on my own and in classes several times a week. I have also been very lucky to have a wonderful woman as a private student for that last year.

I was teaching my final summer yoga class in the park last August when a woman approached me and asked if I taught privately. It was perfect timing since I had just started my full time job and my time to teach, plan and promote regular classes was vanishing. Sometimes life works out perfectly like that.

I have really enjoyed teaching one-on-one, not only do I get to tailor lessons exactly to what the student wants to learn but I’ve been able to see her progress, and witness those wonderful yoga epiphany moments (you know what I’m talking about — like the first time you balance in crow). I’ve also ended up with a new friend (and our husbands even go to comic book trivia together, so its win-win-win!)

At any rate, something struck me while I was planning our next lesson that I thought could be universally useful:  The Power of Props.
It’s been said (and I believe) that you really don’t need anything but your own body, breath and mind to do yoga. And while you technically don’t even need a mat to practice, I have found that a few basic props can make a big difference for both beginners and seasoned yogis.

Here is the first installment highlighting a few of my favorite props and some ideas for how to use them in your practice:

A Wall.
This is one that everyone should have (although in small NYC apartments it can be hard to find one with enough space so I use a securely closed door). Doing certain asanas against the wall can help with balance and stability as well as alignment.

Handstand at the wall
Handstand can be a challenging pose to master, but coming into a short down dog about a foot away from the wall and kicking one leg up to touch the wall can help you reach this variation much more easily.  Once you are up, you can play with bringing your feet away from the wall to gain strength and balance. Come out slowly back into your short down dog. Important Handstand Info: Bring Your shoulders over your wrists and plant your hands firmly, really push into the floor. Look a few inches ahead of your  hands. Bring your shoulders away from your ears and engage your core. Breathe.

Half Moon at the Wall (with a block)
This balancing pose can be tricky when you are first learning it (or forever… balance is a tricky thing). Many people have the tendency not open their chest of hips fully (keeping the front of your body pointed fully or partly at the ground while just lifting your arm and leg). Starting in Warrior II against the wall, slowly start to tip yourself forward, keeping the back of your body against the wall. Your front hand should land on a block that you have strategically placed six inches in front of your foot. Front toes = pointing forward (don’t let those suckers move to the side which they will want to do but it’s not doing your knee any favors) Flex your back foot so those toes are pointing straight out and that leg coming straight out from your hip. Keep your back body against the wall (including that lifted arm).  Don’t sink into the hand that’s on the block, the block is just there because you don’t have monkey arms and you are bringing the floor Your gaze can be wherever works for you.

Chair pose at the Wall

Chair pose is one of those love to hate asanas, but it’s also called “powerful pose” for a reason. To get the alignment right when you are first starting out, because it takes some of the work out of your thighs. I did a video a few years ago explaining chair pose at the wall.

(So I’ll let that do the explaining…take it away Kate!)

There are lots of other yoga poses that you can do at the wall (Tree,Headstand  and Triangle are few other good ones).

Next post: Blocks, blankets and straps (Oh my!)

This has been a horrible week for the thousands of people who lost so much in hurricane Sandy on the East Coast.  And while I’ve been extremely lucky to have not lost power or belongings, it’s still been a very stressful week. And as I donate money and blood and sign up for volunteer opportunities, and work from home, I have maintained my yoga practice. Practicing yoga can seem really self-indulgent when there are people in need of life’s basics who have lost everything in your city, truly doing most things that weren’t directly helping others this week felt a little pointless.

(photo via. MindBodyGreen)

But here’s why I think practicing yoga in times of crisis is important:

1. When you feel helpless it’s a good reminder to breathe. It’s irresponsible that some gyms and yoga studios stayed open during the hurricane, putting the lives of their customers and staff at risk. But when you are stuck at home, hearing the wind whipping outside as trees fall and smash cars and building outside (as was the case here on Monday night).

You can either sit in front of Internet/TV/radio listening to all of the horrible news pouring in and be scared and worried, or you can move your body or be still and connect to your breath. It’s much more useful to you, your mind and body, and your loved ones to try to cultivate a sense of peace admit such a stressful event.

2. It’s important to your health. In times of stress, yoga and breathing practices are important to your nervous system and mental state. But when many of us were forced to stay in our homes for several days or more, we were moving much less and eating much more. After pulling 9-10 hours sitting at my desk, going though even just a few sun salutations felt like exactly what I needed.

3. It can provide a much needed sense of community. Last night I went to my first class of the week, the Prospect Park YMCA had re-opened (the Armory Y is still being used as a shelter). The class was bigger than normal and you could feel the gratitude in the room. We were all lucky here in Park Slope–no flooding, no fires, no power lost. But we were all shaken too by how narrowly we had escaped the fate that so many so close to us had suffered. That hour and a half with people breathing and being grateful made gave me the space to start to process rather than just consume the events of the week.

So is practicing yoga in a time of crisis indulgent or healing? It’s both. And for many people it maybe just what they need to start to repair the less tangible damage of the storm.

Thanks YogaDork for finding this awesomeness:

***Due to a scheduling conflict class on Sunday August 19th will be cancelled.***

Please join me for the last class of the Summer on Sunday August 26th—it will be a special restorative class. All the same details below apply.

Open Level Vinyasa Yoga classes
Long Meadow Prospect Park (near Grand Army Park entrance)

Sundays
August 5, 12,19, & 26 at 3pm
(Weather permitting, please bring your own mat)

Donation based: pay what you can
(all donations go towards The Great 108 Yoga Challenge in support of YMCA Strong Kids Campaign)

One of the many great things about summer is all the free outdoor yoga classes (yes, mine included…). I’ve done yoga in Times SquareProspect ParkConey Island, and today after work I walked two blocks and took a great yoga class in Bryant Park.  Its good to take your practice outside, experience the interesting mix of peace and distractions, and try out different teachers.

But this post isn’t about yoga, well not completely. This post is about something the teacher said in the class in the park. She was trying to get the 200 or so people in the park to do this pose:

Yeah, that’s right. It wasn’t happening. I’ve been doing yoga for 7 years, and this was nowhere near happening. And I wasn’t alone, there was probably 2 out of the 200+ people this was happening for (and even for those 2, it lasted for about 10 seconds).  I have always thought of these as  ”show off” poses, and I’ve been fine with the idea that I’ll never reach them, I’ll give it a shot, but it’s not for me. And maybe I’m right, but maybe not. Who knows.

Like I said the yoga pose isn’t the point. It’s what she said when we were all looking at her like she was crazy.

“Another word for miracle is repetition.” 

Something might look crazy, something might seem impossible, but sometimes if you keep plugging away at chaturangas, or writing, or running, or sewing, or holding your breath underwater, or baking, and one day you are in that crazy arm balance, or have finished a novel, or ran a marathon, or made a skirt, or are swimming laps, or made a cake.

Sure it’s a cliche, Rome wasn’t built in a day, if at first you don’t succeed try try again, but cliches are there for a reason. And so what if it’s cheesy, some days it might not work, but some days a thought like this may be just the reminder you need.

I read this blog post the other day about committing 15 minutes a day to writing, she makes a lot of good points in it, one being that “Repetition builds momentum.” Its hard to find a large block of time to write, so you don’t do it and then weeks or months go by with no progress, but a few minutes a day, and you have a chapter in a few weeks.

Practice might not make perfect–your novel might never get published, you might fall out of the handstand after 10 seconds, you might finish the marathon dead last but you are lapping all the people on the couch who never even get started

After a long search I got a full time job in my first field–journalism! I start Wednesday August 1st,  which means it might be a bit of a time squeeze getting from my job in Midtown to setting up to teach an evening class in Prospect Park. SO…I’m moving the classes from Wednesday evenings to Sunday afternoons. Hope to see you there!

Here’s the info:

Yoga in Prospect Park!

Open Level Vinyasa Yoga classes
Long Meadow Prospect Park (near Grand Army Park entrance)

Sundays
August 5, 12, 19 & 26 at 3pm

 (Weather permitting, please bring your own mat)

Donation based: pay what you can
(all donations go towards The Great 108 Yoga Challenge in support of YMCA Strong Kids Campaign)

I’m working on my classes for the Yoga in the Park series for next month, but in the meantime if you’d like to donate to the Great 108 Challenge, you can do so easily on my “Kate does the Great 108” Fundraising page (just click on the link below). You can also donate in person when you come of one of the classes. Hope to see you next month!

Kate Does the Great 108 Fundraising Page

Summer in NYC means a lot of free and low cost outdoor events. Get ready to add another one to your calendars! I’ll be teaching my 2nd Annual Yoga in the Park series in August. I taught four free  open-level Vinyasa Yoga classes in Prospect Park last summer, and I’ve decided to bring it back this year, but with a twist.

This summer’s classes will be donation-based, but I’m not pocketing the moo-la–it’s going to a good cause! On Saturday, September 22nd I will be participating in The Great 108 Challenge at the Park Slope Armory YMCA. The Great 108 is an attempt by participants to complete 108 sun salutations in a row (read more about that below). In order to participate, yogis must raise at least $108–all of which goes directly to the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign (read more about that below too!)

You can donate any amount you want for each of the classes (as a guide, $10/per person is what I usually charge for my fall and winter classes at the Zen Center, but even $0 is fine by me)  and all of your donations are 100% tax-deductible!

Here’s the info on the classes, if you’d like a flyer or you have any questions just ask!

Yoga in Prospect Park!

Open Level Vinyasa Yoga classes
Long Meadow Prospect Park (near Grand Army Park entrance)

Sundays
August 5, 12, 19 & 26 at 3pm

 (Weather permitting, please bring your own mat)

Donation based: pay what you can
(all donations go towards The Great 108 Yoga Challenge in support of YMCA Strong Kids Campaign)

About The Great 108:

There are nearly 108 theories as to why 108 is significant in Eastern thought: There are 108 delusions that plague the human mind and 108 negations that Buddha offered to help us see them. There are 108 energy lines that converge to form the heart chakra. Divisible by the sum of its digits—which add up to the divine number 9—108 is considered a joy-giving or Harshad number in Sanskrit. And on and on, but you don’t have to understand or even care about any of those reasons to understand that doing 108 sun salutations is no easy feat.  (One sun salutation, just in case you don’t know is the complete series of the yoga poses (or asanas) in the image above). Think of the Great 108 as a yogi’s 5k.

About the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign: 

The Strong Kids Campaign is the annual fundraising initiative that works to raise money to support the YMCA’s programs and financial assistance to those in need. I’ve been a member of my local YMCA since I moved here almost 7 years ago–it’s a great place and one thing I love about it is that no one is turned away because of their inability to pay–health and  fitness shouldn’t be something available to to those who can afford to pay $100/month for a gym or yoga studio membership. When I lost my job, I was able to get the cost of my monthly membership slightly reduced so I could still go to the yoga classes that I love–that made a huge difference. This program also offers all kinds of great things like after school programs and summer camp. Read more here.

If you’d like to help me reach my fundraising goal of $108, but can’t make it to the yoga classes, contact me.

Here’s a fun experiment. Pick something, it could be anything. Say it’s babies that look like Winston Churchill. And you’ll start seeing that thing everywhere and you’ll think to yourself–”Wow there sure are a lot of babies that look like Winston Churchill in my general municipality…” But they have always been there and you just haven’t noticed.

After renting a Mini Cooper on our honeymoon, I am now noticing Mini Coopers nearly every other block in our neighborhood. I don’t think more residents of Park Slope have all decided to buy awesome cars in the last 3 weeks, it’s just that I’m more aware of them now.

So, maybe it’s just a product of being a yoga teacher, but I think I spy a new fitness trend in our midst. Combining yoga to other activities.

I submit the following as evidence:

1) Yoga and Cycling: There are numerous options for this  indoor (spinning classes that combine 30 mins of cardio and 30 mins of asana hereherehere, and probably a bunch of other places).  And outdoor bicycling trips that stop for yoga breaks (you can even do it all over the world! or here )

2) Yoga and Hiking or Running: Notorious purveyors of Ayn Rand philosophy and overpriced yoga clothes Lululemon Athletica have a yoga and running club (plus there’s several others). Yoga and hiking trips are exploding all over the place, there’s even one in my beloved Prospect Park.

3) Yoga and Kickboxing: Sounds like someone was inspired by Billy Blanks! This place offers yoga and kickboxing, or um…”Koga”

4) Yoga and Laughing: This has been around for awhile, and is equal parts heartwarming and cheesy, but I think it could be fun but I think I’d have to close my eyes to not feel silly.

5) Yoga and Karaoke: This is the newest yoga trend (in a world where “trends” are less then 100 people doing something). “I’m on a mission to spread joy and have people feel good,” says the teacher Jennifer Pastiloff–in her Karaoke yoga classes students sing and dance while they do yoga. I have nothing snarky to say about this because it sounds like something I would really enjoy.

 

6) Yoga and Drinking: Okay so I don’t think anyone is suggesting drinking while doing yoga, but there’s a new yoga studio/bar that’s opening in Brooklyn–it’s a yoga studio by day and a bar by night. And some yoga studios offer special wine tasting and yoga events.

I’m sure there’s a lot more things yoga is being combined with, archery? bowling? scrapbooking? Any ideas for the next yoga-combo trend?

Yesterday was the first day of Summer, and the hottest day of the year so far. To celebrate, there was a (free!) massive (and massively sponsored) yoga event  in Times Square–what started with 3 people a few years ago grew into 14,000 participants this year. It was a unique yoga experience to be sure.

I took the 3:30pm class, and when I arrived at 42nd street and Broadway (aka Hell on Earth to any New Yorker) the line for registered ticket holders winded around the block while a yoga clothes fashion show took place on the stage and blasted from the dozens of speakers. After a short wait, I was given a free yoga mat (!) and a bag of goodies from the sponsors (hummus, water, magazines, yogurt, etc)  and then ushered by the NYPD to a spot of pavement smack dab in the center of it all (and unfortunately right next to a heat blowing vent for one of those flashy electronic signs).

There were peppered amongst the thousands, some hardcore yogis (there was even a couple showing off some acroyoga when the class ended), but at least around me, it seemed a lot of first timers or at least people who don’t practice regularly. Which is pretty awesome, if I was new to yoga I don’t think I’m choose a 95 degree day in Times Square with thousands  of other people to try it out. And while thousands preregistered, there was also a sizable line of people (some dressed for yoga, some in business or street clothes!) that just walked up and decided to do some yoga in the middle of the hottest and longest day of the year.

The event was called “Mind Over Madness” with the tag line: “ Anyone can find tranquility on top of a mountain.
Can you find it in the middle of Times Square?”  And yes, it was more distracting than a quiet zen studio class, but I’m kind of used to classes with noise coming in from the hallway or weight rooms, or  from the street below, or practicing in the park with lots of noises, or in my living room with the cats going crazy and the birds chirping. And there was nary a moment of silence in the room when I taught a bunch of 5 year olds yoga.  Yoga is a practice of drawing your senses inward and noticing but not attaching to the distractions and thoughts vying for your attention.

More distracting than the noise of Times Square was the spectators–dozens of people lined the barriers and just watched and took pictures and a giant screen projected the class and the instructor. I was towards the center but off to the side, so my mug never made it up on the big screen, but I’m sure I’m sweating  in a lot of strangers’ photos.

It was a unique and fun yoga experience, and even if you’re not into yoga at all it’s kind of a once in a life time experience to lie in the middle of the road in Times Square and stare up at the clouds in the blue sky past the buildings.