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

Yoga Workshop: Discover your Home Practice

I am pleased to announce that I will offer a workshop on home practice this Sunday, August 29 from 2:00 – 5:00pm at St Pete Yoga.

I love helping others discover how to create the habit of practicing at home.

In this fun session you can learn how to :

  • Start practicing at home.
  • Energize your practice.
  • Create appropriate sequences for you.
  • Attune to inner guidance & much more!

This workshop will conclude with a short free-form practice. All levels of students are welcome.

You can sign up on the: St Pete Yoga website

Yoga: Sincere Effort Towards Clarity

Path to greater heights/Sendero hacia mayores alturas

When we set out on any journey it is necessary to know, as clearly as we can, what is our intended destination. Knowing our destination makes it easier for us to keep our sense of direction in the midst of distractions. Our Yoga practice, this lifelong pursuit to better know our true selves, is the quintessential human journey.

Mistaking the vehicle for the destination

As it tends to happen, sometimes we get so absorbed in the details of our day-to-day actions, feelings and thoughts that we may end up confusing the road and the vehicle for the actual destination. For instance, somehow we learn that performing some yogic postures (asanas) might help us find relief of pain and stress resulting from our habitual patterns of posture, movement and thought. Then we decide to start practicing asanas to create a greater sense of ease in body and mind. Over time, consistency in our practice most likely will bring about a better balance between strength and flexibility. It is likely that our practice will also help us develop greater sensitivity. However, as we feel the improvements resulting from our practice, we might start thinking that the goal of the practice is to achieve more complex or fanciful postures. That is, our exploration of asanas may become a vehicle to appease our ego’s insatiable appetite for achievement (usually related to external recognition) at the expense of a greater sense of ease throughout our being –our intended destination. Whatever posture, regardless of how it looks from the outside, will only serve us if it facilitates a greater sense of clarity, balance and interconnectedness between all aspects of our being. In other words, the technique, be it posture, breathing, chanting, meditation, etc. is useful if it contributes to create a greater sense of centeredness and clarity. Otherwise, we embark on a never-ending quest towards mastering a more elaborate or complex technique. Given our goal orientation and inclination to achieve, how can we stay focused?

Staying on course

Even when we think we are very passionate about a particular idea, practice or journey, it happens, at least in my experience, that we tend to get distracted, impatient or frustrated along the way. For instance, given the continuous flow of external stimuli we have in our day-to-day lives, it is challenging for our minds to stay focused on one goal for a long period of time. Also, since many of us have grown accustomed to the idea of instant gratification, the gradual, step-by-step results from Yoga seem to take way too long.

It is good to remember that even when we think we are working ‘only at the physical level’, Yoga can only work in gradual steps to help unravel the habitual patterns we have cultivated consistently for years or even decades. It is necessary to work gradually, so that we can develop organically the necessary strength and flexibility in our bodies, minds and hearts to transform our lives and move away from mechanical and mindless actions, thoughts and feelings towards a life that truly feels more centered and balanced.
Along the way is helpful to find ways to maintain our flexible focus on the destination. For instance, I often ask myself why do I practice Yoga? or I remind myself that the journey of self-discovery is a lifelong process. Another simple way to stay on course in our practice is using a simple definition of Yoga.

A simple definition of Yoga

I like to find easy ways to remember why I do what I do. So, I try to create simple and easy ways to remember and verify that I am oriented towards my intended goal. Here is one definition of Yoga that works well for me:

Yoga is Sincere Effort Towards Clarity

What I like about this definition is that it is made up of only 6 words that encapsulate well both the practice and the objective. I also like that the definition is general enough so that it is not restricted to only one aspect of Yoga.
Let’s take a look at each word in the definition,

Sincere
Genuine, open and honest. I like to think of this as a reminder that the practice starts in our hearts.
Effort
The use of physical or mental energy to do something. Our actions are earnest and conscientious, so we do as much as we can, no more and no less. This is also a way to remember that there is work involved and that the fruits of our actions accurately reflect our intentions and the quality of our participation.
Towards
In the direction of. We are aware that Yoga is a journey of self-discovery that takes a lifetime. The practice is a process that changes over time because it reflects our specific circumstances and that it adjusts to changes in ourselves and in our environment.
Clarity
Lucidity, being clear. Our goal is to reduce obstacles to the flow of life in our bodies, our breath, our minds and our hearts, so that we enjoy greater awareness.

Bringing The Definition To Life

Of course, this definition is only good if it helps us stay on course. In order to do this, we need to incorporate it into our practice. As I mentioned, in my opinion this definition can be applied to any of the techniques used in yoga such as asana, pranayama, meditation, chanting, cleansing practices like neti or fasting, etc.

  • As I set up to start my practice I think about the definition and try to plant it as a seed in my mind, heart and body.
  • During the practice, I ask myself and verify if the technique is resulting in greater clarity.
  • As I am bringing the practice to a close I observe the effects of the practice in body, breath, mind and heart.

I also like try to apply this definition as I engage in my daily activities in order to bring yoga into my life. Quite often I find that it doesn’t take long for me to forget my destination. However, as I try to bring the definition to life, in itself the act of asking remembering the definition becomes a source of clarity and of encouragement to stay true to the practice.

I hope that this idea may help your practice be mindful, joyful and fulfilling.

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.

 

 

5 minute yoga practice to ease into sleeping

bedroom / habitacion

The main objective of yoga is to integrate all aspects of our being in the present moment. Often we find that in spite of, and perhaps because of, our efforts to bring about this integration, at the end of the day we might find ourselves tense and unable to fall asleep. A common recommendation to help us fall asleep is to establish a relaxing routine before going to bed.
Here is a simple 7 minute relaxing Yoga practice to help you ease yourself towards a restful night. (If you have not read the disclaimer yet, please do. )
Once you are ready to go to bed, wearing comfortable clothes in a quiet dimly-lit space in your bedroom follow these steps:

Restful Mountain

With your back gently resting on a wall, stand in mountain pose, feet hip-width apart, feet parallel.
Shift your body weight gradually from one foot to the other a few times. Find your point of balance, where your body weight is equally distributed on both feet and legs. Close your eyes and observe your breath for 5 rounds of natural, spontaneous breath.

Easy Forward Bend

Step away from the wall and inhale lifting your ribcage up without any strain. As you exhale, bend forward allowing your knees to bend as much as it feels right for you. Point the crown of your head towards the floor and reach with each hand for the opposite upper arm or forearm. Allow your eyes to close and your lower back to get long effortlessly. Let go of the experiences of the day as you continue breathing comfortably.

Gentle Twist

Recline on a blanket on the floor with your back and back of your pelvis resting with ease on the floor. Bend your knees and separate your feet a little bit wider than your shoulders. Allow your arms to rest a comfortable distance away from your torso. Inhale expanding your chest and, on exhalation drop your knees gradually to the right without any strain or effort. The next time you inhale return to center and on the following exhalation drop the knees to the opposite side. Repeat a couple of times. The last time, stay with your knees to each side for 3 or 4 breaths, focusing your attention to this process. When you are done return to center.

For the last two parts, move to your bed.

Connect to your Breath

Lie down on your back with your knees slightly bent. Close your eyes. Observe your breath and gradually start to soften and lengthen each exhalation. Do these for 5 to 10 rounds of breathing and then let go of any control over your breath.

Gratitude

Lying on your back, stretch your legs out and make your self as comfortable as possible.
Close your eyes and from your heart appreciate and give thanks for all the love, goodness and abundance in your life. Allow your face to soften and bring a gentle smile to your face reflecting the gratitude in your heart. Immerse in this sensation and relax completely.

Diagram of 5 minute Yoga practice for sleeping

5 min yoga for sleeping

I hope this practice will help you sleep better and more easily.

Namaste.

 

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

Special Classes: Total Yoga Experience and Pranayama, Mantra, Chanting & Meditation

Total Yoga Experience: A journey to deep inner peace – April 18

This is a unique class that guides you progressively inward. The class includes Asana (movement), Yoga Nidra (guided relaxation), Pranayama (breathing exercises), Japa (chanting) and Dhyana (Meditation – focused and sustained attention). The goal of this class is to integrate the actions of breath, body, mind and spirit to find deeper clarity, relaxation and awareness.

The Total Yoga Experience is a 3.0 hour long class that helps you immerse yourself in a complete Yoga practice without physical exhaustion. This class is appropriate to students of ALL levels. This practice is an integrative exploration of diverse traditional Yoga techniques. This is an excellent class for students to become more familiar with various Yoga and meditation techniques . For more experienced practitioners, this class provides an excellent way to deepen and strengthen their practice.

The Complete Yoga Experience consists of:

* Asana- physical postures that synchronize movement & breath
* Nidra- guided relaxation for deep release and clarity
* Pranayama- breathing exercises for focus & concentration
* Japa – chanting for breath awareness & concentration
* Dhyana – meditation, sustained focus & concentration for stillness

Date: Saturday, April 18/2009
Time: 2:00pm a 5:00pm
Length: 3.0 hours
Cost: $35
Contact: TheSoulMirror@aol.com
Phone: (813) 964.1156
Location: The Soul Mirror – www.thesoulmirror.com
Address: 2025 West Bearss Avenue – Tampa, FL 33618 – map

For comfort and individualized attention there is a limited number of students, register today!

Pranayama, Mantra/Chanting & Meditation – April 25

Discover how you can use these tools to move towards greater self-awareness!

In this workshop we will explore:

* How better breath awareness assists you in life
* 5-6 traditional yoga breath practices
* Synchronizing breath & Chanting with movement
* 3-4 yogic chants
* 3- 4 Meditation Practices
* This workshop will end with a practice that integrates all three disciplines

This workshop helps you practice a variety of traditional Yoga techniques. This is an excellent class for students to become more familiar with various Yoga and meditation techniques. For more experienced practitioners, this class provides an excellent way to deepen and strengthen their practice.

Date: Saturday, April 25/2009
Time: 2:00pm a 5:00pm
Length: 3.0 hours
Cost: $35 Advanced registration/$40 at the door
Contact: info@stpetersburgyoga.com
Phone: (727) 894.YOGA
Studio: St Petersburg Yoga – www.stpetersburgyoga.com
Address: 275 16th St. N. – St. Petersburg, FL 33705 – map

For comfort and individualized attention there is a limited number of students, register today!

Acceptance: A step towards being present

Limonada fresca

Observing our mind

Centering our attention on the present moment is important in order to flow in harmony with life. However, our minds very quickly tend to get distracted. Try this: For one full minute sit comfortably and observe the second hand of a clock advancing, second by second to the next minute. Pay attention to every single second. Observe your mind. Most of us will notice that our minds quickly move away from this simple task. For instance, we might find that we start recalling something that happened earlier today or a few days ago, or that something around us sparks a chain of thoughts away from this present experience. We might also notice our tendency to start planning activities for the next few minutes, the rest of the day or of the week. Our mind, is doing its work, that is, the mind is processing the information it receives from the senses.

Processing information

We process information by establishing connections between what we perceive and something that we know already. In other words, our mind uses the ideas, sensations, emotions and feelings stored in our memory as a frame of reference that helps us understand, navigate and store the experience in which we are participating. Using the information we have stored previously is an important skill. However, sometimes we tend to change our memories, or to create memories for a variety of reasons, such as to make our choices seem better or to cover up trauma or to avoid facing uncomfortable truths. In other words, our memories may not reflect accurately past actions or events; yet this does not preclude us from attaching specific value to these memories as a measure to determine when something is good, bad, excellent or terrible. Here a challenge emerges.

The challenge

As Marshall McLuhan indicated, “When faced with a totally new situation, we tend always to attach ourselves to the objects, to the flavor of the most recent past. We look at the present through a rear view mirror. We march backwards into the future.” One way of interpreting this insight is that we use our memories to decipher and understand our new experiences. Consequently, our memories influence the way we approach new situations. For instance, as we enter a new moment, we look for similarities between this moment and our previous experiences. As we compare this moment with our memories, regardless of how accurate those memories might be, we tend to ascribe a value to each experience. Subsequently, we proceed to decide which experience we find more positive or valuable. This process is certainly important as it can help us learn from previous actions. However, as we saw previously, our minds tend to mold and change our memories for a number of reasons. Hence, our memories might not be very accurate.
The challenge emerges when we allow our memories to become our model of “the way things should be.” Because once we feel we know the way things should be, we become reluctant to stay in the present moment and, instead, we keep comparing the current experience to another time and place, real or imagined. Every time that we compare our experience we are moving outside of what is and into what should or could have been. Often, the result is that we enter into conflict with the present moment. It is not uncommon to reject this moment because the experience is not exactly what we remember, what we hoped for or what we imagined.

When we observe our thoughts, actions and reactions, we might catch a glimpse of our mind and notice if our mind is judging, rejecting, reacting or accepting the present experience. For instance, often as we practice asana, a particular type of breathing or a specific meditation, we start the practice with a preconceived notion about how it should go, even when the specific technique might be completely new to us. Frequently, if the outcome does not meet our expectations, we immediately criticize ourselves or berate the practice or our experience. When we start noticing this pattern of thought we are taking the first steps to move beyond this challenge.

Observing

Our Yoga practice provides numerous techniques to strengthen the mind so that we can observe whatever we are doing. However, frequently the role of mind in yoga practice can be overlooked. During Yoga practice we need our mind to be actively present, engaged in the moment, observing our circumstances, observing our actions and our thoughts. In our yoga practice, regardless of what type of practice we are doing, movement (asana), breathing (pranayama), concentration (dharana), chanting (japa), and meditation (dhyana), we continually witness, staying with the present moment, doing what we are doing. Centering our attention on our breath is a simple and very effective way to stay in the present moment. As a result, we can notice how the moment is, and instead of reacting by judging, or criticizing, we can choose to accept the experience as it is. It is helpful to recognize that our current circumstances are the result of innumerable factors, most of them beyond our control. Without accepting this moment we can’t understand with clear mind what is happening and what we can learn from it. Once we accept and understand we can immerse in the experience guided by our breath. This is vital in order to take the appropriate steps here and now to honor our essence fully and thence move towards a clearer and truer expression of our selves.

Acceptance of the present moment helps us stay open and to learn by recognizing that each moment is unique, even when the activity seems familiar or similar to something stored in our memory. As a result, we can flow harmoniously with life, doing the best that we can, no more, no less.

Namaste!

Simple guided meditation with Rubén

 

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!