Yoga Video: How to Improve Your Standing Posture

For several years I have been working on improving my observation skills in order to better help students who come to my classes. Whenever I have a chance I try to observe people as they stand or walk in order to notice individual as well as general tendencies. During class and when I am working with individual students I make suggestions based on what I observe to try and help students continue life-affirming and clarifying patterns. Other times my suggestions try to facilitate a process of awareness that will help students explore different options towards feeling vibrant and free from pain.

Since our standing posture is the foundation for the way we walk and stand, it makes a lot of sense to pay attention to our standing posture. This posture, because we practice it often, is a key posture to get right. In addition, it is an excellent point of departure for anybody interested in starting a yoga practice as well as for people who want to fine-tune their yoga practice. Moreover, becoming aware of our posture is instrumental in counteracting spinal compression and imbalance that often contribute to create discomfort and pain in the lower back and the neck. In preparing for the upcoming Freedom from Neck and Back Pain workshop I thought it would be helpful to share this simple and effective standing posture that can have many benefits.

In this video you will find an easy-to-follow approach to improving your standing posture. Since yoga is not only about the physical body, the video offers a complete and integrated approach to the practice that will make the posture meaningful and enjoyable. This integrated approach to practicing a simple yet fundamental posture can contribute to:

  • releasing pain
  • improving breathing capacity
  • creating balance
  • cultivating mindfulness

I really hope you find this video useful.

As I suggest in the video, practicing just this posture can be the perfect way to start practicing yoga at home. Do not hesitate to contact me with questions or to post comments to the video.

Peace, Health & Joy for you.
Namaste,

 

Every Practice is a Retreat

Giardino di Ninfa - Italy

Always Doing

Most of us seem to be in constant movement from activity to activity, from thought to thought. It seems like there are very few, if any, times during our regular day when we are not doing something. It is clear, as it says in the Bhagavad Gita that being part of the world we are obliged to act (B.G. 3.8). However, it is also important to balance our activities with times when we slow down and shift our mode of acting and doing in order to relax and replenish our energy. Most often, the people I talk to and the yoginis and yogis who come to practice with me, regardless of their stage in life, occupation or gender, say that relaxing moments are generally scarce.

Unconscious Patterns

Moreover, our human inclination towards habit formation frequently results in physical, mental and emotional patterns that we cultivate daily. As we become very practiced in these habitual ways of moving, breathing, thinking and feeling, their patterns accumulate in our bodies, hearts and minds and become our unconscious normal state of being and doing. For instance, if we spend several hours every day sitting in front of the computer, our bodies will find ways to adjust to this activity. Eventually, some muscles will be chronically tight and other muscles will be overstretched and without muscular tone, the joints and organs will also adjust. It is only natural that over time these adaptations affect our posture, our breathing, our ways of moving and walking and even our ways of thinking and feeling.

Retreat

A retreat is a conscious decision to pause, that is, to remove ourselves from our regular environment and activities. As a result, we create the opportunity to notice how we move, breath, think and express ourselves. As we notice the patterns that we have been cultivating over time, we can see if they are deliberate and conscious and if they serve a purpose aligned with our intentions. Every time we step onto our yoga mat we can choose to immerse in a personal retreat. That is, we can choose to convert our practice into a safe environment where we can explore mindfully the spaciousness of our breath, body, mind and heart. Wherever we find restrictions we can take time to discover ways to diminish or dissolve those restrictions. Quite often finding an obstruction gives us with insight into some of the causes for the restriction. Thus, we can investigate those causes and move towards greater awareness.

In other words, our practice time is time to dedicate to deepen our own intimacy with ourselves so that we recognize how our actions, movement, breath, thoughts and feelings are facilitating or obstructing our path towards the goal we have set for ourselves and our lives. It is possible that during difficult times we may feel that we don’t have time for our practice. But that is the time when we need to immerse into our retreat so that we can collect ourselves and clarify our needs, priorities and challenge. Seeing our practice as a retreat for ourselves can help us recognize that the practice is never a chore or something that we do because “it is supposed to be good for us.” Instead, we can cherish the practice time as an opportunity to remember what is truly important so that we can cultivate it and prepare to share it with the world.

Namaste,

 

 

Expectation is the source of frustration

Flowing river / Río en movimiento

For most of us, our minds are constantly remembering and thinking about the past. Often we try to use past information and memories of previous experiences to speculate about the future either short or long term. Obviously, being able to access previous experiences provides us with useful and applicable information for this moment. These past experiences compose our learning and help us decode, register and interpret what we perceive. However, when we rely too much on previous data to try to predict what will happen next, the same useful information can prevent us from seeing new options and alternatives. In those cases, we might be allowing our preconceived ideas to limit our perception and perhaps, to guide our actions toward old familiar ways. As a result, it is quite likely that, since we already think we know what will happen, that we’ll switch from awareness mode into “I-already-know-what–will-happen” way of being. In other words, we move from awareness into mechanical action.

Mechanical action is predicated on the notion that we do not need to pay attention, in other words, we assume that a moment, situation, or circumstance is always the same. That is, once we have an experience of a certain type we predict that it will always be the same. However, thinking this way, which is often subconscious, denies the essence of life, its constant movement and transformation.

When we think and act as if we already know how something will unfold and will feel, we tend to focus our attention on that outcome, which can restrict our ability to be open to recognize newness in the unfolding of the action. In particular, this focus on the outcome, especially when the outcome is seemingly ‘undesirable,’ is fertile ground for frustration because our goal oriented focus may preclude us from noticing newness and potential in the actual outcome.

It can be argued that being focused on an already known outcome is trying to live in the past, removing ourselves from being in the only place we can be and act, the present. When this happens, we close ourselves to the potential creativity and learning opportunities that unfold each moment. This is what “beginner’s mind” means, to focus our conscious awareness fully on what is happening right in front of us, as if we had never had this experience. In any aspect of the yoga practice, be it yamas, niyamas, asana, pranayama, or any of the meditation practices, it often happens that we tend to fall into routine, mechanical patterns of thinking, breathing, moving, and feeling. Letting go of expectations frees up the energy tied to our expectation, thereby creating the opportunity to immerse into focused present-moment awareness.

In any practice and activity, on and off the mat, it is helpful to check what expectations we are bringing with us into the activity. Some of the expectations might be physical, some intellectual, others psychological and others emotional. In yoga practice, Svadhyaya (self-examination) is an exercise to notice theses type of patterns, some might be explicit and obvious while other patterns might be stored at deeper levels in our bodies, minds and hearts. Pausing as we are about to dive into the activity and focusing our attention on the present moment through mindful deliberate breathing will help us come to a good starting point where we let go of at least some of our expectations while being mindful of our intention.

Expectations often create obstacles to accepting each moment just as it is. In other words, our unwillingness to accept a situation is the root of our frustration. It is important to note that I am not suggesting that we need to resign ourselves and that we should give up having an intention. On the contrary, recognizing the effect of our expectations on our actions can be instrumental to aligning our wholehearted effort with our intention. Furthermore, shifting our attention from expectation to intention will contribute to clarify both the path to our intention and the most intelligent and appropriate way to move towards it.

I hope this helps you in your practice and your life.
Namaste.

 

Yoga Retreat in Florida: The Art of Relaxation

Namaste!

Often I have been asked if I lead retreats in the Tampa Bay area. Finally, I am glad to announce an upcoming retreat at the beautiful Safety Harbor Resort & Spa. This retreat, The Art of Relaxation is an excellent opportunity to take time to pause and use a wide range of Yoga techniques to help you let go of pain, tension, and stress. In this weekend retreat, we will use a variety of traditional and contemporary yogic techniques to re-discover and re-connect to your true and balanced self.

Basic Information:

  • 3 day workshop
  • Arrive: Friday July 17 (evening)
  • Begin: Friday July 17 (evening) at 7 p.m.
  • End: Sunday, July 19 at noon
  • Cost: $450
  • Register online or call 727-894-9642 / 727-458-8664

A retreat is a conscious decision to pause, that is, to remove ourselves from our immediate experience. Although stress is, unfortunately, pervasive in our society, few of us seem to dedicate time to relaxing, resting and renewing ourselves. In this weekend retreat we’ll cultivate the art of relaxation, an essential part of a healthy, balanced and fulfilling life.

More information …

5 minute easy and effective chair Yoga practice (excellent for the office!)

5 minute easy and effective chair Yoga practice (excellent for the office!)

Those of us who spend a lot of time sitting every day, for instance in front of our computers, driving and watching TV, often start noticing weakness and tension in the lower back as well as in the upper back, shoulder and neck areas. Certainly it is best to take frequent breaks, as often as every 30 minutes, to stand-up, walk around and move our body and counteract the habitual position we maintain for long periods.

Here is a simple 5 minute chair Yoga session to help you revitalize and refresh yourself even while sitting. Remember that the it is essential to be aware of the breath and of the quality of our participation.(If you have not read the disclaimer yet, please do. )

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If you sit for long periods of time, you can try this practice once of twice a day, noticing its effects on your body, breath, heart and mind. Enjoy!

Namaste.
 

 

January 2011: Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica!

Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica

I hope your week is going very well.

Often I have been asked if I lead yoga retreats. I love teaching where I live so that I can offer students opportunities to practice consistently. However, for a while I have wanted to offer a Yoga retreat to help students deepen their practice in a beautiful location. Finally, everything has come together and I am really excited to share this opportunity with you. The idea is to set the tone for the new year with a week in a sustainable retreat in the Costa Rican rain forest, practicing yoga in the morning, enjoying the surrounding area during the day, and coming together again for a gentle yoga practice and deep relaxation yoga nidra session before dinner. In this way you can let go of the previous year and start the year balanced, truly refreshed and focused. I am attaching a flyer with more information.

Please notice that there is a reduced price if you pay in full by September 21st.

We are organizing the retreat through St Petersburg Yoga and there is lots more information about the trip on the website: www.StPeteYoga.com/retreats

I know this trip will be a joyful and fun experience.

Namaste,
rubén

6 Basic Principles for Practicing Yoga Poses

Path / Sendero

 

Basic Principles

As I unfold my mat every morning I try to find different ways to ensure that the practice remains alive, fresh and enjoyable. In the process of creating my DVD Yoga: Here + Now I tried to create a list of basic ideas that would be useful to people starting to practice. As I reflected on these ideas, I was interested in presented some clear, simple and easy to follow guidelines that could be applied to all styles of Yoga. I hope that these basic principles might be of help in being fully present in your Yoga practice:

  1. The breath is the integrating axis of our practice. Our breath is continuous, fluid and comfortable, without any abruptness
  2. Synchronize all movements with each inhalation and each exhalation
  3. Each posture has a firm foundation, so the parts of the body that are in contact with the floor press down firmly
  4. In each posture we balance strength and flexibility, so we activate our muscles as much as is appropriate, without forcing and without pain
  5. We respect our body, mind and breath. In each pose, at all levels, we do as much as we can without doing too little and without doing too much
  6. We make our practice enjoyable, so at the end of practice we are relaxed, energized and calm
  7. I am aware that there are always ways to get clearer. It would be excellent if you could shared your experience in trying to apply these principles in your practice so that I can continue learning. Thank you!

    Namaste.

     

Yoga video for beginners in English AND Spanish: Yoga Here + Now

Yoga Here + Now/ + Yoga Aquí + Ahora

Great news!

I am very happy to have time to write on the blog again. This time I would like to share the great news that my first Yoga video for beginners is finally ready! This video, one of the only videos for beginners produced in both English and Spanish, is the result of the generosity of my family, the continuous support and help of many friends, teachers and students. Thank you very much for all your help and support, special thank s to Camilla, Luz Vi & Adolf, Adri & Carlos, Natalia, Daniel Medina and Nicolás Ospina and everybody who made this dream come true. I really hope that the video will be useful to people who want to start practicing Yoga at home.

This DVD is a complete practice designed with beginners in mind. It includes:

  • 7 different sessions ranging from 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  • 1 special session focused on relaxation, breathing and meditation, particularly useful to release stress.
  • Basic principles spelled out in easy-to-understand language.
  • Bilingual edition, in both Spanish and English.
  • Guided pranayama (breathing) and meditation practice in each session.

Video Samples

Pranayama

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Ujjayi Breath

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Asana Practice I

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Asana Practice II

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Asana Practice III

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More information

For more information and to order the DVD: www.yoga-here-now.com

Namaste.

 

 

Yoga and Relationships

Discover how to move towards balanced and fulfilling relationships

Using the transformational power of Yoga to remove habitual patterns of thought and action, in this workshop we will combine a variety of yogic techniques on our journey toward balanced, joyful and loving relationships.

In this workshop we will learn how to:

  • Explore asana as a tool for reflection on our actions & thoughts
  • Move toward personal balance & integration
  • Apply mindfulness, breath, edge work and meditation to enhance the quality of our interactions with others
  • Move from mechanic action to love inspired action to enter balanced, fulfilling & life affirming relationships

Date: Saturday, February 14/2009
Time: 2:00pm a 5:00pm
Length: 3.0 hours
Cost: $35 Advanced registration/ $40 at the door
Instructor: Rubén Vásquez, registered with Yoga Alliance.
Studio: St. Petersburg Yoga – www.stpetersburgyoga.com

Address: 275 16th St. N. 33705, St. Petersburg, FL – map
Phone: (727)-894-YOGA

 

This workshop is geared to creating personal clarity and balance and to prepare ourselves for meaningful participation in relationships. It is not required to attend as a couple. However, if both persons in a relationship are interested in attending together, their experience can be quite beneficial!