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    BREATH IS LIFE – 7 BREATHING TECHNIQUES FOR BIKRAM-STYLE YOGA

BREATH IS LIFE – 7 BREATHING TECHNIQUES FOR BIKRAM-STYLE YOGA

by Wendy Westmoreland

Seems pretty obvious; ‘breath is life’. I think it’s safe to assume that at some point, most adults learn that although you can go a while without food, a few days without water, you can’t go more than a few minutes without air. Stop breathing, stop living – pretty simple concept. What’s interesting is that most humans hold their breath when they are afraid. Ironic, as it seems that is when we need it the most. It’s also interesting that breath is automatic; it still happens when we’re not focusing on it. That’s good news. Considering the part about holding our breath, humans probably can’t be trusted with the responsibility to think about every inhale and exhale … heck, some of us forget to eat (pointing at myself here!)

Yoga inherently teaches about breath. In Sanskrit, ‘Prana’ literally means life force. It is defined as life-giving energy or force of the universe. If there is no breath, there is no yoga, there is no life. ‘Pranayama’ is the process of breath control. Every yoga practice, every yoga posture incorporates some form of pranayama. I am a certified Bikram instructor. Therefore, I am writing specifically about pranayama of the 26 hatha yoga postures and 2 breathing exercises practiced in that series.

To my current knowledge (and I reserve the right to add to it as I travel this yoga path) there are seven identifiable pranayama or breathing techniques used in the Bikram series. Most obviously, there are beginning and ending breathing exercises – bookends, alpha and omega for a complete experience. Continue with your practice, keep listening to the words, explore your breath and you will be able to identify the others.

Normal breathing: There are many ways to label this kind of breathing but put in simplest terms, it’s equal inhale and exhale. This is the base for most breathing in the 26 hatha yoga posture series. The breaths can be short and shallow or long and deep but ideally, they are equal to each other. Holding your breath for just a millisecond briefly interrupts the uniformity of the flow and is not considered ‘normal’ breathing.

Compressed breathing: Deep forward rounding, bringing your forehead to your knee(s), naturally compresses the front side of your body and the internal organs encased within. This includes your lungs. Exhaling all of the air out of your lungs as you round forward can help to find physical comfort. It alleviates pressure on the other organs. While compressed, there is room to take short and shallow breaths. Do the best that you can to make those breaths ‘normal’.

Savasana breathing: Dead body pose promotes relaxation. Breathing long, slow, deep breaths releases tension from the body, mind and spirit. It is very common for students to find difficulty with this breathing technique. We hold a tremendous amount of tension in our chest, shoulders, neck and face. Also, some of us habitually tense our abdominal wall. Watch how babies breathe and you’ll see that when they inhale, their bellies rise and when they exhale, their bellies fall. Learn to relax your abdominal wall, breath normal and follow the baby’s breath in savasana. Bonus! This breathing technique is an excellent remedy for insomnia.

80/20 breathing: This technique is helpful in postures executed belly side on the floor. When you are lying face down, it is difficult to take consistent, long inhales because your body weight is pressing down on your chest or abdomen. With 80/20, breathe in as you begin the posture, filling your lungs. Throughout the posture, keep most of the air in your lungs (80%) and exchange only small amounts (20%). Try to keep you breaths ‘normal’. Exhale all of your air out only as you release from the posture.

Sit-up breathing: There are many different sit-up techniques and corresponding pranayama. It’s agreed that sit-ups are front side compressions and that open mouth exhaling is beneficial. I find inhaling before and exhaling throughout execution to be effective for me. It supplies a quick spurt of energy while releasing a short blast of metabolic waste from my lungs – out with the old, in with the new.

What about breathing in backward bends and spine twists? Postures that include these kinds of spine manipulations are innately intense. In the beginning of your yoga life, you may find breathing deep intensifies discomfort in back bends and spine twists. In this case, try starting with short, normal breaths. With consistent practice, the body opens, becomes more strong and flexible. With time, the student achieves true relaxation and deep breathing may become more comfortable.

Breath is a tool and used correctly, it can bring release and relaxation to your practice, your body and your mind. To test this, think back on the effects whenever you yawn or sigh. Yoga is an intimate, individual engagement and pranayama is but one experience that demonstrates such. I encourage all yoga students to continue the exploration of breath throughout this life journey. Yoga teaches faith. Yoga also teaches how to be our own best teacher. Consistent practice builds a strong physical and mental foundation. Eventually, the yogi learns to trust that they will know what is needed and when.

MINDFUL LIVING – WEEK 3

I took the weekend off from continuing our conversation (i.e., reflecting, writing and re-intending) to make way for the much more eloquent and pertinent piece on MLK by Mary Margaret. We stopped and paused to remember the injustices of the past and present and our responsibility in treating our sisters and brothers with more love today and tomorrow and for generations to come. A little mindful living

My time away from writing has been no vacation at all. I have to admit I’ve felt a little lost, forgotten some of my intentions, and found it harder to keep my focus. I need you all! I need accountability so that I can form better habits one day at a time, which further confirms our initial hypothesis and reason for the blog/conversation – Mindfulness requires community. It takes a village to raise up mindfulness in each one of us.

So this week in review. It’s not that I’ve been so bad about any particular thing. It’s that maybe I haven’t felt as inspired. My determination is waning. I’ve had extra time on my hands, and this is not always a good thing. Especially to someone who is not accustomed to having a day off with a To Do list numbering only 4 items instead of 40. This extra time and freedom is like an old friend that I haven’t seen in 3 years. And it’s nice to see them but I don’t know what to talk to them about at first. Do I ask them about every day and happening over the last 1,095 days or do I just ask them about their day today? Looking at free time in the face, I wonder if I should do everything I’ve ever wanted to do in one day or just do nothing?

I usually start my day with coffee and my laptop. After an hour or so, I finish my mouse-work (i.e. chores on the computer). Then I prepare to leave my laptop on the table and go do something. But I check it again – every email, every facebook account, every instagram…. Just in case I missed something in the last 45 seconds. I get ready to shut it down again but wonder if I’m going to miss something in the next 45 seconds. I remind myself that I have a smart phone for such reasons as this. Having spent a minimum of 8 hours a day on a laptop for the last 11 years up until August, I struggle with leaving things unchecked. Emails have to be answered within seconds of receiving them and ideas that come to mind have to be set in motion immediately – orders placed, schedules updated, group emails sent. I just love to get things done!

So here I was with several hours of free time, and I haven’t known what to do with it. I felt guilty about potentially not being productive, or rather, not knowing how to be my very most productive at that very moment (usually this is not a difficult question for me). I have a gift for instinctively knowing what I should do at all times. A brief aside, it’s not like I never relax or have fun. If I am visiting with friends or out socializing, then I am perfectly OK with time spent recreationally. However, that is probably because it fits into a different category of productive – because it is maintaining good relationships, maybe time networking, or time I deserve to relax because I am in the company of others. But this week, I had WEEKDAYS off. I had a solid 8 hours one day with nothing to do and nobody to do it with. And I’m telling you, it bothered me. There was no project to work on, no problem to fix, no business to start, and no person/relationship present to give my attention to. All week, I was just wanting something, looking everywhere I could, finding nothing to satisfy. And just today, I realized where I’m at and what is causing this constant nagging, uncomfortable feeling. I have a restless heart.

I’m sure you’ve all been there. One of the worst human conditions – discontentment. Maybe it is just this week and will be gone the next. Or maybe it has been there longer than I realized and was masked by my lifestyle of constant motion.

So how am I going to fix this one? Well, that’s kind of the root of the problem – trying to find something, someone, some relief, some distraction from the present. If I was content, then I wouldn’t be restless. If I try to fix it, I’ll be chasing after the wind even more. It seems to me that it is a problem that doesn’t need “fixing.” It needs to be acknowledged and accepted as part of the journey. I am now mindful of the fact that it exists. Using that knowledge, I can avoid useless distractions and concentrate my focus and energy on whatever my task is at hand – whether it be writing emails or taking a walk – I can give it all I’ve got and find fulfillment in doing my best and being present. I can rest in the fact that I know it is a season that will pass, and I can be ready for the lessons I will learn as I walk through it. Hmmm, these last few sentences are definitely reminiscent of a 90-minute Hot 26 class. The best way to master my postures is to focus on the present moment, and the best way to work through the discomfort is to stop. The worrying, the wiping away of sweat, the looking for relief and comfort outside of yourself. To just breathe and be still. In the upcoming weeks, we’ll dive into some ways to practice Mindfulness in our day-to-day activities. I’m looking forward to it! And hey, speak up! Let us know how your mindfulness journey is going!

MINDFUL LIVING – WEEK 2

Big thanks to all of you who have subscribed to this blog over the last week! I am encouraged and slightly nervous. I realize more tangibly now that I owe you all my very best at mindful living, as well as writing down my thoughts and experiences, and gathering those of others. I feel humbly privileged.

Well, let’s start with Week 1 in review. I intended to practice my banjo, eat raw/clean food two-thirds of the time, run and do yoga, not eat superfluously at night, smile at strangers, and a handful of other items that will take much more than a week to accomplish. So in the first week, I did, in fact, practice my banjo every day but one. I learned a new song, and my banjo teacher offered his first words of praise, “you are living up to your tattoo!” (I have a banjo tattoo but am still a beginner, undeserving of said tattoo, of which the plan has always been to be reminded to practice and one day live up to the permanent ink). Win! I now need to start playing with other folks. I am considering the bluegrass jam class at The Station Inn (one of my favorite of places in Nashville). I think the time has come. All in all, I am proud of my banjo practice this week and motivated for more! Next, yes, I did eat raw foods two-thirds of the time, I ran twice (in spite of the cold snap) and did plenty of yoga (about 6 classes with one double day). Feeling good about all of those things. However, there was one late night in which I ate the better part of a bag of popcorn and some chocolate chips that I had scavenged out of trail mix in an attempt to soothe my troubled heart. The trouble with the heart was temporary but I let it result in a nice round of emotional eating. A lonely night that would have been remedied by simply going to bed and waking up to a fresh new day. But instead, I became fully convinced that I had good reason to cheer myself up by means of popcorn and chocolate, which inevitably did not help at all. I may have been “entitled to a treat” in my rebellious mind but my body and heart felt none the better from it. Lesson learned. I will do my best to remember next time that my well-deserved, “F-it I’m going to eat ALL the popcorn” attitude is not showing anyone anything and is only setting me back on my quest for mindfulness. Not to worry, I showed myself grace and resolved to utilize my wisdom the next time.

This review exercise really highlights and brings us back to our theme – Mindful Living. During my successes this week, I was being mindful of my actions and choices as they were happening in order to do the thing I intended to do. When I wanted to be lazy at night, I had to first notice my lethargic mental state, then remember my intention to practice my banjo, and finally, change my momentum in order to do something productive and rewarding. I used mindfulness to accomplish my intention! When I was blinded by my emotions and attitude of entitlement to popcorn and chocolate, I was not being mindful and completely forgot my intention to not eat snacks late at night. It’s so obvious and simple! Even a child could learn this mindfulness thing, and actually, they do! They probably learn it better than us adults because they do not have our ingrained habits and patterns of thinking and reacting. And therefore, our task at hand is to set new patterns and establish new habits. Be present so that we can be mindful of our intentions.

I haven’t studied Mindfulness as a theory (yet) but it seems intuitive that the fruit of mindfulness is remembering. Remembering to live the way we want to live. Noticing that we have the opportunity – to live authentically. And this is exciting. Encouraging, hopeful and even freeing. So week 2, here we come. With more knowledge, more experience and more mindfulness to receive the rewards of our good intentions.

MINDFUL LIVING IN 2015

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OK, here it is. Mindful Living in 2015. Are we just trying to be trendy and yogic, or do we mean something by this? Why Mindful Living? It is basically just a name that we’ve given to an idea. A thing that we want to do. An inspiration and a conversation that began on a hike one cold, fall-colored day in November. In 2015, we want to reflect, remember, communicate and encourage each other in living our healthiest and happiest lives. Although, it’s an easy and agreeable concept, intentional/mindful living doesn’t just happen on it’s own. It is a discipline just like our yoga. It’s about habits. It’s about feeling good in our own skin. It’s about being our authentic selves, having full hearts, and giving back to others. It’s about community. Helping each other grow. One day at a time. One minute at a time.  One breath at a time.

Mindfulness and Yoga go together pretty intrinsically.  The two have a similar focus on the mind-body connection. Noticing our feelings, sensations and alignments while they are happening. Being in the present moment. Practicing with integrity to avoid injury in yoga is the same as living with integrity to avoid negative consequences in life.  Being mindful about what is happening in our bodies, minds and lives can come with yoga, as we take time away from work, family, technology, busy-ness to take care of ourselves. To focus. To find peace and calm. To let go of attachments that do us more harm than good. To truly rest. Yoga can help but it’s not the only thing we want to do in Mindful Living for 2015.

We want to practice yoga. That’s a given. It is our joy and our lifestyle. But we also want to challenge and nourish our bodies in other ways. We will talk about these ideas in upcoming posts so stay tuned! Not only are we setting intentions for healthy physical bodies but we are also setting intentions for our mental and spiritual bodies. We want to check in and make sure that we are feeding our minds, hearts and souls, so that we are more capable of being authentic and kind to those around us. We will touch on all of this more throughout the year. For now, we will start with some more specific ideas for intentions in 2015. We want you to add yours to the list.

  • Sing with friends
  • Practice banjo 5 times/week
  • Smile at a stranger each day
  • Stop eating after dinner or after 7 pm
  • Eat only 2 squares of chocolate instead of the whole bar
  • Try a new sport, exercise or class
  • Walk instead of drive to work at least once a week
  • Practice yoga 5 times/week
  • Run with friends 3 times/week
  • Eat raw, whole foods 2 out of 3 meals per day
  • Eat French fries once/week
  • Read a book about yoga
  • Pray every day
  • Do the splits
  • Do a headstand
  • Start a community group
  • Write this blog at least once/week for all of 2015

All of these intentions, and yours added, might seem overwhelming but here’s the good news. We don’t have to do it all at once. Changes that are drastic often times don’t stick. We will take it little by little and arrive at our destination gradually, and if we fall off the path, we will simply get back on it. For the first week of January, maybe pick 3 to 5 intentions and try it out. See how it affects your life after one week and the lives of those around you. Then let us know!

This is, most basically, a conversation. A continuing discussion. We imagine there will be many vehicles to communicate our intentions and encourage each other in 2015, including but not limited to: blog posts, special classes, workshops, challenges, guest writers, book clubs, events, and Instagram photos (#mindfulliving). We welcome your ideas and involvement! After all, our inspiration is you, this community and seeing what happens in Nashville when we help each other live fully.

PRENATAL YOGA & BABY ARRIVES!!

0 HARPER BABY
My friend who I was pregnant with (she still is), bought me a yoga package for Christmas with the idea that we’d take prenatal up until our due date. I was familiar with hot yoga but had never practiced any other style, and to be honest, I was a little worried I wouldn’t like it and was pleasantly surprised when I did! Each week challenged me and helped me refocus and relax—both of which are luxuries I are hard to find during the emotional moments in pregnancy. I looked forward to every Saturday because not only was it beneficial to me & baby, but I loved getting to see the other mommas each week and hear about how their pregnancies were going!

My last class was my 36th week. I knew I was close to being full term and labor was much more of a reality than a far off idea of something that will happen one day. I was honestly getting a bit nervous. During the class we practiced some of the poses we’ve done almost every week but I practiced them differently, really trying to remember each one, focusing on my breathing and practicing sending my breath to where I needed it most.

The Monday following the class was when I started pre-labor contractions; they weren’t intense enough to make me stop what I was doing, but I was fully aware that they were, in fact, contractions. By Tuesday night, I was having intense contractions, and during each one, I applied the Ujjayi breathing I had learned. I’d count the number of breaths in and attempt to have the same number out. This helped me stay relaxed (as much as possible) and in control, not letting the contractions get away from me. Throughout labor and delivery I squatted often (my least favorite pose during class – ha!) which helped relieve some of the back labor I was having and once it got to the pushing phase I squatted almost the entire time.

I had known prenatal yoga has plenty of benefits for pregnancy and labor, but experiencing the benefits was amazing. I know taking these classes played a huge role in me being able to keep my all-natural birth plan and I will definitely take it again for the next pregnancy!

My beautiful baby boy, Harper James Falcon, was born Wednesday April 16th— 5lbs 14oz and 18.75in long.

LETTERS FROM THE PEOPLE #5 – CARPAL TUNNEL HEALING

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I have to admit, I was skeptical. I thought I knew the kind of people that were really into yoga, and that kind of person is not me. They talk about energy and chi and buy granola in bulk. They listen to “world music” and quit their job to spend a summer in Thailand because, why not? There is nothing wrong with that type of person, but that’s not me. What could I get out of hot yoga?
I work as a computer analyst. Like so many other IT folks, years of constant typing and mouse movements in tiny cubicles have taken their toll. Specifically, I developed ulna tunnel syndrome in my left hand, which caused numbness and nerve pain in my wrist and hand during many activities. I went to a doctor about my issues, and was told to avoid motions that caused pain (Thanks, Groucho Marx). He also said that if the pain continued, he could perform surgery to alleviate the pressure on my ulna nerve. I went ahead and nope’d on out the door and never came back.
A few months later, I started to develop carpal tunnel syndrome in my right hand. Combined with the already existing ulna issues, it all was terribly painful and made sitting at my desk for any length of time pretty agonizing. I had my company buy the super-ridiculous ergonomic keyboard and mouse combination months back, but it really didn’t help all that much aside from making my desk look like the console of a spaceship.
Along with the repetitive stress injuries, I had also devolved into a sedentary lifestyle. This was fine in my twenties, back when I could consume an entire extra-large pizza and a case of dirt-cheap beer in a weekend and not gain an ounce of weight. However, at 30, that ridiculous metabolism decided to pull anchor; I started to develop quite the set of man boobs (read: moobs) and was working on a pretty sweet beer gut.
I was discussing my issues with a friend that was into hot yoga and she explained that there are postures specifically designed to target the wrists and arms to help and prevent ailments such as carpal tunnel. She said nothing about any moob reducing postures.
“Is there chanting,” I asked. “I don’t chant.”
“What? No,” my friend replied. “I don’t know what you think hot yoga is about, but you obviously have no clue.”
She was correct. After some convincing, she brought me out to your studio and I dropped $20 on ten classes. Within three sessions, the numb area on my left hand started to tingle for a few hours after each class. By my tenth class, the numbness was almost completely gone. Also, the carpal tunnel in my right hand had begun to noticeably subside.
Fast-forward four months later and the carpal and ulna tunnel issues are pretty much non-existent. Also, the moobs can no longer be classified as moobs and the gut has begun the long road to becoming abs. Aside from the physical improvements, I have also experienced mental benefits. I am able to focus at work for longer periods of time and situations which used to stress me out don’t seem nearly as taxing (I-40 during rush hour might still illicit three to five expletives, however).
An unexpected benefit from yoga is the much-needed disconnect I receive just by going. As a salaried employee, work is always a smartphone jiggle away and something that is constantly on my mind. During yoga, my phone can be vibrating away in the locker room and I would have no clue. At first this was maddening, but I have eventually been able to accept it and actually enjoy my time away from it. This was merely the first step. After a short while, I started to block out more and more of life’s little nuisances. The annoying director at work? Gone. School debt due? What’s school? Aliens could land on the White House lawn and I would have no idea until after kapalabhati breathing, and that’s just the way I like it. I’ve actually started craving yoga just to escape it all.
After seeing the impact that hot yoga has had on my life in such a small amount of time, I decided to sign up for a year’s worth of sessions. I continue to see improvements in myself and also recognize that I have a long way to go. Thank you, Hot Yoga of East Nashville. You’ve won a loyal customer and an avid promoter of the benefits that hot yoga can offer.

WHY 90 MINUTES?

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WHY 90 MINUTES?

Many people ask this question. It is common to overhear this sentiment in the yoga studio changing room, “I just don’t like the 90 minute classes. It’s too much. I can’t fit it in. I’m just a beginner, etc.” This is a normal conclusion, considering that most magazines prescribe 30 to 60 minutes of exercise per day and considering our fast-paced society of fast food, 22-minute sitcoms, and the 2-minute song, but we believe that the 90-minute class with the same 26 postures is more gripping than the latest Breaking Bad episode and will hold your attention more fully than the 20-minute Cross Fit Workout Of the Day. While it is always the same postures, every day is different. Every day brings you a new challenge and a new opportunity to grow, and we believe it is worth every minute of it.

The 26 posture series follows the tradition of  “the Beginners Class” that was developed by Bikram Choudhury, an Indian yoga master, to work all the systems of the body systematically. Years of thought and practice have gone into this series. It is tried and true for over 40 years, and it is designed to be completed in a 90-minute class. The series includes two sets of most every posture – giving you two chances to practice the posture and two opportunities for your body to open to the posture. Without a doubt, the second set of the postures is typically your “destination set” – the deeper set in which the body is more open to the posture, and your muscles and mind have retained memory of the posture from the first set which will aid in performing the posture during second round, helping you to master the posture. It is still possible to achieve this in the 60-minute class, as some postures are practiced twice, but you do not get as much rest between postures, which is another important part. We consider 60-minute classes to be more of a maintenance class to maintain your practice when schedules do not allow for 90 minutes of practice.

Perhaps the most important reason for 90 minutes is the chance for internal struggle and therefore, possibility for refinement. When you enter the room for a 90 minute class, you must choose over and over to remain. To remain in the hot room for the full 90 minutes. That, in and of itself, may be the most significant challenge. Lying in savasana wanting some ease, some air, some water, some relief can be the hardest yoga that is done in the room. When you stay in the room for 90 minutes, you have conquered a real and significant challenge. You learn the most important lesson that is to be learned – that you are stronger than you thought. When you stay in the room for 90 minutes, even if you are laying down half of the class, you have at some point faced yourself, your fears, your weaknesses and you have used your mental focus and determination to put those thoughts, perceptions, or physical feelings aside and you conquer. It may not be a transcendent feeling. It may feel more like giving up. A surrender to the heat and struggle. But either way, you have accomplished what you set out to do. You challenge your body and mind, through a 600- to 1,200-calorie effort, you stretch yourself to the limit, you grow stronger – inside and out.

LETTERS FROM THE PEOPLE: THIRD INSTALLMENT

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This studio, you, have made such a positive change in my life that I can barely describe in words. I am recovering emotionally and spiritually from 7 failed IVF attempts all ending in miscarriage. I gained 44 lbs due to steroids and hormones through that process. I also lost my sense of self. I felt emotionally and physically barren.

I have tried therapy to work on the grief. I have lamented at the sight of myself in the mirror, mourning my mountain climber and hiker body. This yoga has been my answer.

I find myself smiling more. I find that old swing in my hip when I walk. I find some peace and center. Most of all, my body does not feel barren . I am fully fertile, growing and developing every day of practice. My body is mine again.

You all are doing an amazing job of cheering us on, nurturing us and keeping us coming back!

LETTERS FROM THE PEOPLE – SECOND INSTALLMENT

This past Monday I completed my thirtieth straight day of hot yoga (a mixture of bikram and heated vinyasa). I initially planned to write this blog post that afternoon, but I waited. At first, I was too busy, but then I wanted to think–to contemplate what I had done, what it meant, where I go from here.

I’ve been practicing yoga since February–which is to say I’m still a bit of a newb. And while I have changed since I’ve begun my practice, those changes didn’t really set in until after the 30 days. What’s changed? My body, of course, but it’s so much more than that.
Liz
I’m generally an anxious person. I have an anxiety disorder, and I also suffer from PTSD. Practicing yoga daily has not only helped me manage my anxiety, but it’s helped me recognize it and see it for what it is. In doing that, I’ve been able to acknowledge anxiety-induced self deprecation and move on.

That’s huge.

The largest thing I’ve learned over the past thirty days is self acceptance. Every day is different. Every day I’m different. Being on the mat has helped me come to terms with that. Some days I can hold a standing bow for a full minute. Other days I’m on my back, laid out, unable to even make it through the warm up. And that’s okay. It’s good to acknowledge what my body can and can’t do. The important thing is that I’m there. I’m on my mat. I’m enduring the heat. I’m practicing. I’m not giving up.

It’s discipline. It’s endurance. It’s daily.

Where do I go from here? The obvious answer is that I continue my practice. But I don’t want to stop there. These things that I’ve learned, the intentions I’ve set, the patience I’ve gained, they can go beyond the studio. No. They should go beyond the studio.

My next goal? To apply them to my writing. To accept when my writing sucks. To work through that. To acknowledge it and have gratitude toward myself for trying. To celebrate the days the words flow and I can’t seem to put a cap on my creativity. But most importantly: to practice.

I need writing to be daily (or at least as close to daily as possible) like yoga is. I need it to be a practice, a discipline, a constant. And I need to give myself grace.

Thank you Hot Yoga East Nashville for giving me a space to learn these lessons–on and off the mat.

LETTERS FROM THE PEOPLE – FIRST INSTALLMENT

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I have started to receive feedback from students, many of whom have already begun to see the positive changes, even profound effects, in their bodies and their lives after a month or two of steady practice. I can’t describe how deeply touched I am at receiving this kind of feedback! This one stopped me dead in my tracks during the blur of another busy day and reminded me of why I’m doing what I’m doing – why I left my life and career in Seattle, why I believe in yoga, and why I believe in Nashville! Upon receiving the following email, I forced my 3 roommates (all dudes) to stop what they were doing and listen to me read it aloud with a little quiver in my lip and catch in my voice. :)

Dear Brooke,

Thank you for all of the shout-outs in class the other morning! I think I am starting to get the hang of things. After spending 6 years on and off hormones, trying to have a baby, and 70 lbs of weight gain, I had lost sight of the person I was…person I am. I was an avid runner and was in incredible shape mentally and physically. I have run 5 marathons, countless 1/2 marathons and races of every distance in between. I was thin…and being thin matters to me. It matters because that’s when I feel my best, look my best, am the best wife, sleep my best, eat my best, AM my best. I want be my very best for my beautiful new daughter. I want to give her a healthy image to look up to. I want to be the best I can be…I know I can’t be my best, overweight.

So, with that said, I know how to set goals and achieve them. However, until hot yoga, I wasn’t so sure I could ever set another fitness goal, much less achieve one. I tried running again…my giant milk-filled boobs stopped me dead in my tracks at, oh, about a 1/2 a block. I was devastated. I am a runner. My new body wouldn’t let me run? WTF? I was lost. Fat. Defeated. I looked like a joke in my running gear anyway, so why bother…at least, that’s what I told myself. So, I walked to Sweet 16th Bakery and grabbed a Danish…a delicious Danish! I felt better. Not really.

A few days later I “liked” your FB page and began googling “hot yoga” to see what it was all about. Remember, I am a runner. Runners don’t bend. Yoga was SOOOO foreign to me! After a few days of trying to talk myself out of it – mainly, because I thought I would look like a joke in yoga gear. I emailed you and soon went to my first class. I am so thankful for your encouraging words in those emails. They got me through the door. Better yet, your 6 am class made me sign on for a year! I have sweat off 7 lbs of, fat, stress, and defeat onto the floor of your studio. I am planning on shedding 42 more…in my favorite little corner of the yoga room.