June 9th, 2011

Yoga On and Off the Mat

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green yoga

This past weekend I left my life behind and went with a few dear friends to Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, a nonprofit yoga center located in the Berkshire Mountains. It was my 5th visit to this magical place.

Yoga on the mat

I have been practicing yoga on and off for about 15 years. My first exposure to yoga was through a Boston gym where Barron Baptiste was teaching a weekly class. My husband then gave me a gift certificate for 10 yoga classes at a local studio (which we took together). In no time I was hooked. Over the years I have experimented with many different types yoga and have changed my focus several times, depending on my needs.

green yogaWhat I have discovered is that all yoga is inherently part of the green movement. Aside from teaching various poses, it also teaches us about the interconnectedness of humans, the earth and the universe. Yoga stresses the importance of ahimsa: non-violence-not harming any living beings, and not stealing, accumulating or consuming more than we need.

This past weekend I learned from Beryl Bender Birch, who happens to be the first woman to teach ashtanga yoga on the East Coast. She is known for teaching yoga and meditation to skiers, runners and other athletes and understands that many of us still can’t touch our toes after years of practice. Throughout the weekend Beryl’s compassion for people and her passion for yoga shined through.

Yoga on and off the mat

In addition to a vigorous ashtanga practice Beryl shared many pearls of wisdom that I have found useful not only during my yoga practice, but all the time.  I thought they were worthy of sharing (thank you to my friends for helping me remember each of these):

  • Only put food on your plate that you know you will eat. You can always take more. If you are unsure whether or not you will like something take a taste and then decide if you want more. This made me think about how fortunate we are that we can get more. So many people don’t have that luxury.
  • Leave no trail behind. When you are hiking, running, walking, camping take everything you came with home-including all of your garbage.
  • Practice yoga on and off the mat. Integrate your practice into your everyday life. Live in and appreciate the present moment-the next moment will come regardless.
  • Keep your eyes open during your yoga practice-and during your life. Have awareness for things around you and an appreciation for all that you have.
  • Practice ahimsa: non violence, kindness to yourself, others and everything around you.
  • Drink a lot of water (from your reusable water bottle of course!) to help your body detoxify.

One change I recently made was to purchase toxin free, eco-friendly yoga mat.

I am honored to have met Beryl Bender Birch this weekend. I am forever grateful for yoga and the richness it has brought into my life.

Have you have a yoga practice? Do you have any pearls of wisdom to share?

[Top photo used under Creative Commons from lululemon athletica/Flickr]

[Side photo used under Creative Commons from lululemon athletica/Flickr]

30 Responses to “Yoga On and Off the Mat”

  1. I still hear my hubby’s voice every time my kids follow me into Balasana (child’s pose, the first one I ever learned) “Yoga’s not for boys…” Well he changed his tune soon enough and now it’s a family affair. Calm, center, stillness, stretching- it is wonderfulness!!! (especially for kids!!!) enough.
    I’ve been slacking tho lately Lori!! Thanks for sharing your experience and reminding me to how good it feels on the mat…and off the mat too!

  2. I am so jealous that you got to take Barron Baptiste classes. How awesome. I love his books. It looks like you had a great time and it inspires me to attend some of these yoga events. I drink water from LOVE bottles. They are glass bottles so they are eco friendly and they don’t cause cancer. I love practicing yoga on and off the mat. I think my favorite sanskrit word is ahimsa. 🙂


  3. No such thing as slacking Petunia-it’s just not fitting into your life right now. That’s OK 🙂 I have been there many times myself. So nice to hear that yoga is a family affair! Some of the classes I take have a lot of men….it most certainly is for boys. My hubby is pretty into it right too-good for your hubby! It does feel pretty good on and off the mat-I need constant reminders too!!

  4. Hi Meg-when Barron taught at my gym it was way before he was big time. The classes weren’t that full and we had no idea what we were doing. I have since taken a workshop with him and the room was huge and packed with men and women. We were packed so closely together that the person next to me was about an inch away. The bottles are so cool. Thanks for sharing. What type of yoga do you practice? Ahimsa is a pretty cool word-I also like shavasana 🙂

  5. I love that you wrote this post! I’ve only recently started to have interest in yoga and in my search to try it out I found that my local hospital sponsors several fitness classes at a local dance studio and it’s only a 5 minute walk from my home. How can I not try it it’s free, right? I can’t wait to share how it goes.

  6. That sounds like a wonderful weekend! I have tried yoga a few times and really enjoyed it, but have yet to really get myself in a routine. Thanks for sharing all the words of wisdom!

  7. You are so welcome Michelle. What type of yoga did you try. There are so many different types out there-sometimes it takes a while to find one that works for you.

  8. Thanks Cathy. How can you pass up free fitness classes that are a 5 minute walk??? You can try them all and see which ones you like. I can’t wait for you to share how it goes…..

  9. I don’t do yoga, though I danced for quite a few years and did pilates, which I should definitely take up again. I guess I don’t care for the new age hype around yoga, which (at least in my area) has turned into something that left-leaning upper middle class white women do. I’d like to get back to stretching daily, though. This office job is making me stiff!

  10. I haven’t found affordable yoga classes in Toronto since moving here. As Jennifer pointed out, there is a bit of a “yoga is for upper middle class white women” trend, and that really turns me off. However, when I used to do yoga, I found it to be an excellent stress-buster. Every time I walked out of that class, I was calm and content. I can see the link to the environmental movement, too. If only we could grab everyone on their way to the mall on Saturday and put them through a yoga class first… most of them would lose their shopping craving and stop generating waste in the name of empty life satisfaction! Okay, getting off my soap box now… 🙂

  11. What kind of dance did you do Jennifer? I think the key is, with any form of exercise, to find a studio or gym that works for you. There is definitely some trendiness surrounding yoga, but my feeling is it’s bringing yoga to the masses and there’s nothing wrong with that. It has so many positive benefits that are great for everyone. The workshop I attended had a very diverse group of men and women-all ages and many different back stories.

    There are some chair yoga poses that would be great for that day job of yours!

  12. I love when you’re on your soap box Andrea! Keep it coming. Yoga before the mall-I like it. Yoga works as a stress-buster for me. Sometimes I have a hard time getting there-but once I do I’m so grateful. In class I am in my own little world. I couldn’t tell you who was standing next to me most of the time. Most of the time I have no idea whether the class is filled with upper middle class white women or second graders! Cathy mentioned that a local hospital was offering free exercise classes near her-maybe there is something similar in Toronto. Also, our local recreation department offers inexpensive adult fitness classes.

  13. i want to go there :,(

  14. You should! I am sure they have a few bikram workshops.

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About Lori

Hi! I’m Lori, a recovering attorney, writer, and mom to three boys. Join me as I uncover and share the latest info on healthy living. Learn more.

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