Five Pillars Yoga

Posts Tagged ‘GoDeep’

19 life lessons learned on a yoga mat

10,000 years. Maybe less. Maybe more.

This is the amount of time that yoga has been evolving. In fact, Vedic yoga has been traced back to 3,000 B.C. and many researchers believe that yoga existed 5,000± years before that. That’s 3,650,000 days of practice.

It all began with a spark of curiosity about the mystery of being alive. And eventually evolved in the caves of India where spiritual outcasts retreated into themselves to discover the hidden realms of reality.

The first yogis were the spiritual quantum physicists of their time, discovering the subtle realms of energy and consciousness through deep meditation and contemplation. After devoting lifetimes to this exploration, these yogis passed down their understanding and practices to their followers. Yoga evolved in this way for centuries, preserved in an oral tradition and expanded upon through practice.

Today, for better or worse, you can practice yoga without knowing anything about its depth or origins. Embraced by fitness enthusiasts everywhere, yoga has evolved and morphed into a practice for mere mortals. Truly anyone can practice, at home, online, in yoga studios and in Ashrams. While some may criticize the yoga of today for its focus on the physical practice and obsession with yoga pants, there are plenty of teachers who bring depth and respect to the practice. And, no matter who is teaching the class, there are incredible life lessons to be learned on your mat.

As another year comes to a close, I thought it fitting to share 19 life lessons that I have learned on my mat.

1. Showing up is 90% of the practice.

As Brené Brown once said, “The willingness to show up changes us, It makes us a little braver each time.”

2. Paying attention is the other 10%.

Life is short. And so is the practice. Pay attention or you’ll miss it.

3. Just breathe.

The breath is the connection between the mind and the body that allows you to be present.

4. The time is now.

Not when you finally look perfect in your yoga pants, or when you can float up into a handstand. Not when you are strong enough to take Vinyasa II or humble enough to settle into your yin practice. Not when you are beautiful enough, courageous enough, strong enough, flexible enough, focused enough, smart enough, and have enough time. Do not defer your happiness. The time is now.

5. Take your time.

Take the time it takes to feel your yoga. Let your breath deepen and move you. Move from that place inside of you where time stops and presence begins.

6. The other students in the room & the teacher all basically want the same thing.

An amazing yoga butt…

No really… they also want love, acceptance, validation, and the peace of mind & security that comes with stepping onto the mat again and again.

7. Discipline is freedom.

Pleasure & joy on the mat & in life comes with a healthy dose of discipline. Watch this video to discover why:

8. It’s all practice.

Each time we step onto the mat we practice. And then, every moment of every day, the practice continues. It’s called practice, because we haven’t done it before, not this moment or the next one. We are always beginners. And so, we practice.

9. Wherever you go, there you are.

And wherever your mat goes, there you practice. In the studio, at home, in Tulum, or in the caves of India. You go and your practice stays with you. Your practice shapes you and you shape your practice. That’s the beauty of yoga.

10. You can’t please everyone.

On the mat. Off the mat. Teaching from the mat. There’s no pleasing everyone. Practice your yoga. Teach your yoga. And your students will find you.

11. Be a C student.

Don’t try to be perfect. Allow yourself to make mistakes. Because then you will learn.

12. March to the beat of your own drum.

The mat is a perfect place to practice marching to the beat of your own drum… no matter what the teacher says.

13. When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

This is the power of a yoga practice.

14. The thing you are seeking is inside of yourself.

#GoDeeper with Dr. Wayne Dyer:

15. Be kind.

To yourself. To the person next to you. To the waitress or waiter who brings your coffee. Because underneath the facade, we all know the way you treat others is a reflection of your relationship with yourself. So when all else fails, be kind. Your kindness contains multitudes.

16. Cultivate curiosity.

Because that’s what sparked yoga in the first place.

17. Stop thinking so much.

Ahhhhh, peace of mind at last.

18. There is beauty in simplicity.

A simple practice, one that is mindful and deliberate, may be the most beautiful practice. There is no need to fill it up with fancy tricks and complicated words. Just breathe & listen.

19. There’s no destination, aside from Savasana, of course.

Like I said before, the time is now. When I am future focused, I like this video to bring my mind back to the present moment:


*Featured Photo by Andressa Voltolini on Unsplash

Hydrate The Ayurvedic Way

Want to create a healthy body and glowing skin?

Look no further. Hydrating the Ayurvedic way can help you achieve your optimal wellness.  

By now you’ve probably heard the recommendation to drink eight glasses of water per day. But the reality of hydration is more complex. After all, each of us has a unique constitutional makeup, with diverse needs. We each have different habits that may dehydrate our bodies. Plus, there are quick and easy tips to help your body to absorb water and stay hydrated you won’t want to miss.

Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, looks at the human body as a whole system, affected by seasonality and our environment. Moreover, Ayurveda sees the physical body as both a cause and effect of a person’s energy, state of mind, emotional health, and spirit. 

Ayurvedic practitioners approach health and wellness topics from a holistic perspective. 

According to Ayurvedic science, the physical body and everything that interacts with the body is made up of a unique balance of the five great elements (water, fire, air, earth, and ether or space). Each person’s elemental constitution affects all aspects of their multidimensional being. 

A person’s original constitution is called Prakriti.This is the inherent elemental makeup of a person determined at conception, akin to eye color or height. A person’s Prakriti is described as having a specific balance of three doshas: Vata (Air), Pitta (Fire) and Kapha (Earth). Each of us is made up of each of the doshas, our Prakriti reflects our individual formula, as unique as our fingerprint. 

So how does this work? If you have a Pitta predominant dosha, for example, you have a lot of fire in your body relative to earth and air. You tend to digest and metabolize food quickly. And your body may run hot. Additionally, you may be prone to rashes or acne. With so much heat running through, a “hot” temper and a quick intellect may define aspects of your personality. 

If you are curious about your personal Ayurvedic constitution, check out this online quiz. Plus you can learn more about the doshas and your Prakriti in our Five Pillars’ article, Intro to Ayurveda. And, if you want a professional assessment, consider working with an Ayurvedic practitioner.

So how does your constitution relate to hydration?

Discovering your Ayurvedic dosha can help you to better understand your body’s tendencies. Even without turning to Ayurveda, you probably know if you experience water retention on the one hand or if you tend to become dehydrated easily on the other hand. A person who tends to retain water may need to balance their body with exercise, foods, and drinks that act as healthy diuretics, while the person who tends to be dehydrated may benefit from learning about the body’s water absorption process. The goal of discovering the doshas is creating deeper self-awareness and, in this case, discover a balanced approach to hydration and its impact on your overall health and wellbeing.

When you understand your own constitution and personal tendencies, you can begin to create healthy hydration habits that benefit your body. 

Vata: People with predominant Vata constitutions have a tendency toward dehydration and need plenty of water and tea throughout the day. Since the qualities of Vata are cool, dry and rough, sip warm liquids and add hydrating oils to the skin each morning create balance.

Suggested bevies to pacify Vata? Add some fresh ginger to your water. Sip water with chia seeds to help with absorption. To increase flavor, add sliced strawberries or raspberries.

Pitta: People with predominant Pitta constitutions run hot, tending to sweat and metabolize nutrition quickly, thus losing liquids at a rapid rate. To stay in balance, consume room temperature liquids and cooling foods, especially during the hot Spring and Summer months. Also, when overheating, cool the entire body with dips into water and cold showers.

Suggested bevies to pacify Pitta? Sip on cooling cucumber and watermelon water or juice. Add a few sprigs of mint and lemon to your water to enhance flavor and soothe digestion.

Kapha: People with predominant Kapha constitutions tend to retain water and metabolize nutrition slowly. Qualities of Kapha are cool, smooth, soft, slow, and stable. To increase digestive fire and stay in balance, consume warm liquids and add heating spices such as ginger and a dash of cayenne to create a spice water to sip all day long. When the body retains water, yoga asana, exercise, and saunas can help water to move through your body.

Suggested bevies to pacify Kapha? Enjoy some steaming decaf chai, add ginger, lemon, and a splash of cayenne to your water, and sip on warm tea throughout the day.

ॐ See you on the mat ॐ

*images taken from:

TeaSource Chai Spice Blend | Chai Tea

Yoga 101: Twist Into Spring

The cold winter months so often leave us feeling stagnant indoors, longing for the warm weather that is just around the corner. As the seasons change, twisting yoga postures can support a graceful transition from winter into spring by opening stuck energy channels. As we twist, we wring out the old and allow space for the new, cleansing and detoxing our bodies and minds. Plus twisting postures aid digestion and help to relieve lower back pain, while improving the health of the spine.

Twist yoga postures have incredible cleansing effects on the body and mind:

  • ~ Strengthen core, stimulate abdominal organs, and help to aid digestion
  • ~ Relieve stress and anxiety while improving mental clarity
  • ~ Stretch and strengthen muscles, ligaments, and joins in the back, chest, core, hips, and thighs
  • ~Hydrate the intervertebral discs, preventing compression that can occur as we age

Practice twisting by following along with Yoga Journal’s instructional video that will help you cleanse, detox and purify the body with twists. This sequence begins with a simple seated twisting posture and then quickly moves onto the feet, culminating with some standing postures that will challenge you to balance and then twist. If you do only one section of the video, make sure to practice your twists on both sides of your body.

Common challenges:

  • ~ Many people twist before finding extension in the spine, which causes the top shoulder to climb up toward the ear, closing off the heart and limiting the range of motion in the twisting position. Practice rooting into the ground, finding extension in the spine, lifting the chest, and then twisting from your center.
  • ~ People also experience some neck strain when looking over the opposite shoulder during twisting postures. A delicious modification is to tuck the chin toward the chest, elongating the back of the neck. With the chin slightly tucked, allow the movement of the neck and head to follow the twist coming from your center. This subtle shift takes pressure off the neck and refocuses attention inward, allowing ease and grace to exist during the challenge of twisting postures.
  • ~ Does your opposite sitz bone lift when you are twisting in seated positions? No problem! Use a blanket or cushion under your one or both of your sitz bones to bring the floor to you. This will help you to feel grounded so you can find extension through your spine as your twist.

As you explore twisting yoga posturestake your time to feel grounded and deepen your breath. Then find extension in the spine before twisting from your center. Firmly rooted feet or sitz bones support the extension and then the rotation of the spine. With your heart lifted and shoulders relaxed, follow the guidance of your own breath, finding extension in the spine on the inhalation and twisting deeper on the exhalation. Imagine letting go of any stuck feelings, thoughts, or energy each time you twist, connecting your body with your mind, moving into spring with clarity and balance.

Contraindications Worth Noting:
~ If you have a recent or chronic back injury or inflammation in any part of your body affected by twisting, these postures may do more harm than good.

~ These postures are not recommended if you have herniated disc.

Finding Your Edge in Yoga Class

Do you want to find your edge in yoga class without injuring yourself? Finding your edge is not always easy. The edge is the place you go in a posture where you are able to stay present, breathe deeply and receive the benefits of the pose while also cultivating relaxation in your body and your mind. 

Pushing yourself can take you beyond your edge, while holding back can prevent you from ever meeting your edge. If you tend to push yourself in the rest of your life, you may also find yourself pushing yourself in yoga practice. Or, on the contrary, if you tend to hold back in the rest of your life, you may back off before fully expressing a posture.

The problem with pushing ourselves is that we can cause injury and miss out on the movement inquiry process. If we try to attain or perfect a certain form, we may not be able to hear the information coming to us from our own bodies. Yet if we do not challenge ourselves, our practice can become stagnant. We miss out on the incredible benefits of going deeper into a posture.

Many yoga educators invite students to explore their bodies for sensation. They encourage students to move through practice with a sense of interest and curiosity about their own experience. Plus teachers often encourage yogis to explore postures until they reach a depth that creates sensation without causing pain. After all, pain is a messenger letting us know that we need to back off and pay attention to a specific area of our bodies.

Discovering our edge without injuring ourselves requires self-awareness and a willingness to trust our own experience. Easier said than done, I know. To #GoDeep, check out these five tips to advance your practice and discover your edge.

5 Ways to Find Your Edge Without Causing Injury

1. Work With A Private Yoga Instructor

Hiring your favorite yoga teacher for a couple of sessions may be a worthwhile investment. I was amazed to discover the depth I was able to explore in my postures when I was assisted by an experienced yoga teacher who first helped me to discover my alignment and then helped me find my edge with hands-on assists. Working in one-on-one sessions can open up new realms of practice, on and off the mat.

2. Pay Attention To Sequencing

Your edge may vary every time you step onto a mat. Many teachers design classes to progressively open up specific parts of the body. This is called sequencing. Your edge at the beginning of a hip sequence, for example, may be different when you are entering your first hip opening postures than the postures that come at the end of the sequence.

3. Allow The Two Sides Of Your Body To Be Different

Regardless of sequencing, your left and right sides of your body are different. Allowing the two sides of your body to be as different as they actually are can help you discover your edge on each side, without causing injury by forcing the less flexible side to match the other side.

4. Begin The Inquiry

If you tend to push yourself during yoga practice, explore the following questions: What are you trying to achieve? If you were to discover your edge without pushing, what would you do? What would you say to yourself? How would you breathe? What would happen if each time you feel like pushing yourself, you relax instead?

If you tend to back off or give up on yourself too soon, explore the following questions: What gets in the way of going deeper into your postures? What causes you to hold back? What would you need to do to support yourself to feel safe enough to discover your edge? What happens in yoga and life when you discover your edge instead of holding back? How do you feel?

5. Choose An Inward Focus

We live in a competitive society. And sometimes comparisons and competition enter the yoga studio unconsciously. Focusing the mind on the sensations occurring in our own bodies can help to discover an edge without pushing ourselves into postures or flows that could injure our bodies. We each have our own anatomical makeup and postures may look and feel very different from person to person. There is no perfect posture we must attain to practice yoga.

What else can you do to advance your yoga practice today?

Although there are advanced physical postures that require tremendous strength, balance and focus, the most advanced yoga practices are not necessarily physically strenuous. Advanced yoga practices may not look difficult from the outside, yet they require the practitioner to focus the mind and explore the body for sensations. Practices like holding a posture for an extended period of time in a restorative flow or discovering the pulsing, streaming and tingling sensations during a vinyasa flow or paying attention to variations from the right side of the body to the left side of the body during Self-Awakening Yoga Therapeutics are advanced because they require that we pay attention to our more subtle bodies and develop the ability to concentrate.

So if you are ready to advance your yoga practice, you may want to explore the following questions: What type of practice do I resist? What would happen if I face my resistance by doing the opposite of what I usually do? Do I tend to move quickly or hold postures for extended periods of time? What happens when I change the pace of my practice or attend a class that challenges me to speed up or slow down? These are just a few starting points to help you step out of your comfort zone and into a learning zone, deepening and advancing your yoga practice.

Attending an upcoming workshop can help you to advance your practice and discover new edges in yoga and life. 

Katonah Yoga @ Five Pillars
w/Nevine Michaan

Sunday April 23rd 1 – 3:00pm

Experience Nevine Michaan’s innovative approach to Hatha Yoga. #GoDeep her signature blend of Taoist Chinese theory and Yogic thought this April!

Learn More… 



The Complete Yoga Experience
w/Corey De Rosa

Sunday April 30th 1 – 3:30pm

Be prepared to #GoDeep into the eight limbs of yoga in this experiential workshop designed to celebrate the multidimensional self.

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Men’s Health Retreat
w/Jai Sugrim

Saturday May 6th 1-3:30pm
Sunday May 7th 12:30-3:30pm

Take some time out of your busy schedule to practice yoga and set a clear, balanced direction in your life this Spring. Designed with the modern-man in mind, this experiential retreat will enable you to hit pause amid the busy pace of city living, and shine a light on your own life and goals.

Learn More…


Right Nutrition- The Yoga of Meal Planning
w/Stacey Leung, R.D.

Wednesday May 10th 6:30-8:00pm

Are you ready to discover a guilt-free way of eating that will help you live with energy and vitality… without compromising your waistline? Would you like to dispel false nutrition facts and clarify confusion around what is actually healthy? Look no further. Stacy is leading a FREE healthy meal planning discussion to support your 360˚ yoga lifestyle.

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The Future is Female
w/Stefanie Eris

Saturday May 13th 1-3:00pm

Celebrate the sacred feminine just in time for Mother’s Day! Known for dynamic and intelligent teaching style, Stefanie will invite you to to tap into the power and vulnerability of the divine feminine through a slow-burning flow, long held yin/restorative poses, and pranayama techniques. Stefanie’s passion and skillfulness as a teacher will help you to discover new realms of your practice and your life. Sign up in advance to reserve your spot.

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