Are you Practicing Yoga or Making an Asana Out of Yourself?
Once upon a time, there was no standardization of pose names; the same pose might be called different names by different teachers or poses could go by the same name. Be alert for these confusions. Being descriptive creates better communication skills from teachers and offering the sanskrit name lessens the confusion as there is less transliteration. The key to a successful pracitce is in the adaptation and application of the ancient discipline of yoga to contemporary lifestyles, thereby enhancing health, longevity and quality of life.

Yoga begins when you let go of ideology and accept the self in its natural state. You are formed from this wonder – the body, the breath, the heartbeat, and all of nature. Yoga is a reminder of what you ALREADY are/have. Buddha said, “Don’t take what I say as truth, explore it!”

• Move within the natural boundaries of the body and breath.

• Don’t push, invite. Let it unfold, let go and love it. Find peace in your pose. Asana needs softness to receive (not too much strength).

• Asana is in service to our breath. Surrender to the breath. Asana is breath moving.

• Your practice can be tainted the way you “think” your pose should be. People are addicted to the practice.

• Breathe first then move into the pose. The breath carries you in and out of the pose.

• The body will align itself around the breath.

• Ujjayi sound gives you good feedback. Ujjayi is that natural breath when sleeping. It’s life! All asana is with the ujjayi breath. Most people have a stronger exhale. Make sure the inhale is just as strong; let me hear it! Inhale deeply and accept that YOU are the source. The inhale and exhale are even sounding.

• The appearance of the posture has nothing to do with yoga. (Non-attachment)

• It’s about alignment and safety. If it feels good, it’s correct.

• Adapt the movement – modify or intensify

• Effort not struggle. Sthira Sukhum (strong/soft, effort/ease). This applies to breath as well – inhale is the ease and exhale is the effort.

• There is no perfect pose. (Do not imitate someone else’s practice. Use your practice to discover yourself.) Poses unfold from the inside out.

• We are not trying to get somewhere…you already are somewhere.

• Asana has no purpose other than to serve you.

• Asana is whole body prayer to reality.

Your Yoga
Beginning students want to do advanced poses and advanced students want to do simple poses very well! They are a bit obsessive in the beginning but that relaxes and then they can practice actually, naturally and non-obsessively.

Only do yoga because you want to. If you need a little something, you do a little something. It is better to practice for a short time daily than a long practice weekly. You are God realized without it - so it’s not a necessity to do yoga. The comings and goings of the divine are not dependent on an asana practice. However, if you choose to practice asana because it feels good then:

• Practice actually, naturally and not obsessively.
• Practice 20 min daily because you love it…not because you “should” (that’s addiction).
• Yoga is what you do when you’re inspired!
• Get your practice in before anything else.
• We practice to feel better so we can feel better.
• Don’t get trapped by the “improvement” system of the social mind.

Author's Bio: 

Karen Pierce is a professional organizer and yoga teacher. She helps people transform their lives…inside and out.
She was introduced to meditation and yoga as a teen and has continued to deepen her practice over nearly 3 decades. Karen holds many certifications including her E-RYT 500 through Yoga Alliance, is a certified Yoga Ed instructor, a Professional Yoga Therapist, and a member of the International Association of Yoga Therapists. She is dedicated to bringing the practice of therapeutic yoga to all populations in a safe format that is rooted in exercise science. Her style is based on being safe and includes many modifications and adaptations. You will learn when to push, when to surrender and when to rest. Her approach focuses on falling in love with yoga and her students love her challenging, ever-changing classes and her upbeat, relaxing style. Karen is also the author of Yoga Bear: Yoga for Youngsters - a children's book published by Northword Press (2004) and Co-Contributor to Yoga in America (2009).

A life-long student of yoga, she has been blessed to have learned from many world renowned yogi masters. Her style is based on her extensive teaching experience and her studying with multiple lineages, teachers and styles of yoga. Karen takes what is most helpful and meaningful from a vast array of different sources and styles... but her heart belongs to the teachings of Krishnamacharya and her dedication to her mentor Mark Whitwell. Mark is a gifted teacher and she is fortunate to have the experience of the true spirit of yoga and the authentic essence of how it was taught over 100 years ago by Krishnamacharya who was a true pioneer in his ability to translate ancient teachings and make them relevant in a modern context. He inspired thousands of practitioners worldwide and today his teachings are very popular through his many students including his son TKV Desikachar (Viniyoga), BKS Iyengar (Iyengar), Pattabhi Jois (Ashtanga), and Srivatsa Ramaswami (Vinyasa Krama).

Karen is a master of progressive teaching (breaking poses down in a systematic way and teaching series classes that train students to master the actions and the inner attitude to progress in a logical and balanced way over time.) Karen works with movement sequencing (asana and somatics), breath work (pranayama), mudras, energy work, and the wisdom of Ayurveda (Indian Medicine) so that the yoga can be adapted to all levels of ability. Every class has an intention or sequencing (krama) that is unique to the group and follows Krishnamacharya's principle to "teach what is inside you, not as it applies to you, to yourself, but as it applies to the other." Yoga should always be adapted to the unique needs of each individual.

As a Yoga Therapist, Karen works one-on-one with individuals honoring ancient yoga techniques while combining modern wisdom to identify imbalances and empower the person to progress toward improved health and well-being. Through in-depth postural assessment, testing of specific joint range of motion and muscle strength, observing breathing patterns and taking into account the person's Ayurvedic constitution, a customized treatment plan is devised. Yoga therapy's greatest goal is to guide each person in his/her own deeper awareness, greater understanding, and movement to facilitate healing and wellness.

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