Nirodhaḥ Yoga Blog
No matter how foolish your deeds, those who love you will love you still.
Those of you who know me (or have just been avid readers of our blog), know that this year was very special for my family, as we welcomed the birth of my son this spring. So I’ve had a lot of time to think about what it means to create a yogic family and home environment.
This applies to us all, whether or not we have children and whether our family is biological or chosen. The way we set up our family and home environment has a profound impact on our sense of security and well-being. In a way, setting up a yoga family and a yoga home, nurtures our own inner child as well.
If you’ve ever attended a class at our studio before, you know how precisely we care for the space. It is tidy and uncluttered (okay, at least most of the time…) We aim to create an environment that is conducive to the inner work that yoga does: creating security, peace, and a space for contemplation.
In setting our physical space up this way, it is our goal to attract and retain people who have similar values. In that way, we collect a community that can support one another and lift each other up. It is no surprise that some of our closest friendships have developed in this space.
None of us are able to be at a yoga studio all the time. In fact, this year I was unable to be at the studio as much as I am used to, being so tied up in my new familial obligations and joys. So it makes sense that we consciously curate a space at our home that works in tandem with our time spent in reprieve at our hOMe away from home.
Here are some ways I have been working to create the same stability and quiet I find at Five Keys Yoga, when I am away.
The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.
- Carl Jung
The relationship between the yoga student and their teacher is the key to transformation - both for the student and the teacher. The student is transformed by the gentle care and attention from their teacher. The teacher is transformed by the curiosity and individual needs of their student. If the fit is right, both grow as a result.
Finding the right teacher can take time. Personally, I was a student of yoga for several years before I found the person I consider my Guru. My teacher was a student of yoga for decades before she found her Guru.
You don’t need to find your guru to progress in yoga. In fact, the true guru for us is within each of us. However, it does help to find someone you connect with well, if you want to deepen your yoga practice.
For some, this may take the form of a private yoga teacher. Others do just fine in a group environment. For those of us who are looking for a little more personal attention, finding the right private yoga teacher can be the difference between a haphazard commitment to practice and the development of a lifelong understanding of how to live in yoga.
In service of this, I offer five tips to consider when selecting a private yoga teacher or Yoga Therapist. Even if you’re not looking for a private yoga teacher, this list may help you identify a group teacher you feel comfortable working with.
What brought you to yoga?
I was struggling with my mental and emotional well being for a variety of reasons back in 2013. I was looking in the mirror, struggling to find ways to properly care for myself. A dear friend of mine brought me to her local yoga studio, and the rest is history. I fell in love with the asanas and experienced a practice of self-connection that I hadn’t felt before.
What is your approach to teaching?
For me less is more. It is not often that we give ourselves the opportunity to sit in stillness and connect, so I hope every person who comes to their mat feels encouraged to do just that.
Why did you choose to teach at 5KY?
5KY is an environment of warmth and inclusivity, for everyone a part of the community. Their mission to support any and all students regardless of age or ability, deeply aligns with my yoga beliefs as well.
What makes your soul sing?
Connecting with nature and being around those that I feel fully safe and myself with. Nothing is more nourishing than connection to the ground underneath me and being with the ones I love around me.
You can find Sara at 5KY on Thursdays at 7:30 PM.
Your true home is in the here and the now.
- Thich Nhat Hanh
As long-time practitioners, sometimes we take for granted the unspoken niceties and mores of taking a yoga class in a studio. I write this guide not as a way to shame anyone not aware of common points of yoga etiquette but to help those who, like me, feel anxious going into a new place for the first time. In this way, we can help both ourselves and others be present during class at a yoga studio.
I hope that these tips will help you feel empowered to enter any yoga studio with confidence.
What brought you to yoga?
I became interested in yoga in college after seeing some friends of mine practicing crow pose on campus. It looked so cool and effortless! I still aspire to make crow pose look cool and effortless. It’s a journey!
What is your approach to teaching?
I want to teach yoga in an accessible way, through a trauma-sensitive lens. I want my students to feel safe and empowered to connect with their body through movement and breath. I hope to foster that connection in any class that I teach.
Why did you choose to teach at 5KY?
I found Five Keys Yoga when I was looking at yoga studios on the north side of Chicago. I was immediately drawn to the studio’s focus on folks with special needs. When I read “Yes, you can do yoga!” on the website, I knew I was home! That is exactly the message that I want to tell every person that I meet!
What makes your soul sing?
I love to be in nature. Feeling fresh air, listening to water as it moves, watching the light filter through the leaves of a tree - these simple things always leave me in awe of all creation. They help me feel connected to myself and to this earth, and they truly make my soul sing.
You can find Rachel at 5KY on Fridays at 5:30 PM.
Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.
If you want to learn yoga, you might start out (as I did) looking up yoga poses online, getting a book on yoga, or even attending a class for beginners. A few decades ago, it might have been difficult to find a yoga class nearby and so, whatever kind of class you found, well…that’s what you got.
These days, there are so many options, the problem is now one of overwhelm. “Which kind of yoga should I do?” “How should I start practicing yoga?” “What is the best kind of yoga for me?” are all questions that arise from beginners approaching our studio.
The truth is, do whatever kind of yoga makes you feel best and that you can do consistently. As I mentioned, I started practicing yoga with poses I found online and in books. Eventually, my curiosity brought me to classes. Finally, I met my guru, who has taught me what yoga is really about. The process unfolded naturally over time.
With kids of all ages returning to school, we are reminded of the importance of continual learning and education. One of the things we love most at 5KY is bringing yoga into schools. Although what the kids learn in their classrooms about math, literature, history, and science is essential, yoga brings an education on something slightly different.
Whereas our schools educate our children’s bodies and minds, yoga nurtures their hearts. This is why bringing yoga into the classroom is so important. Yoga for children is not a type of play but a true education. In the method we use, we are not simply teaching our kids cute animal poses or telling a story with yoga poses interspersed.
When taught correctly, this method of children’s yoga is a serious practice that can teach children how to calm themselves, regulate their emotions, and tune into the messages that their body, heart, and mind transmit. It works on all aspects of the child. Not just the physical or even mental aspects, but their spirit - their heart - as well.
We are starting to understand that it is not just the IQ that matters. There are multiple types of intelligence that we ought to be developing. Yoga works the mind and body, yes. But it disciplines the body to be calm and the mind to be silent, so that the heart can speak.
When we teach our kids emotional intelligence - empathy, compassion, wisdom - we prepare them to live in a world filled with other beings and all the joys and challenges inherent in that. This world, rich with the experiences of loving others, is what I want to prepare my child for.
But we have all been children before and retain (deeply buried as it may be) some of that childlike wonder and vulnerability. Yoga is a gift to that inner child, as it nurtures the emotional intelligence that this world so desperately needs.
So I’d like to give a different kind of primer on yoga. Not one like I sought out when I first began; full of flashy poses and not much substance. I’d like to suggest some tips for the beginner that I wish I would have received when I started practicing yoga. This is a primer for beginners on the heart of yoga.
You can find Marjorie at 5KY on Mondays & Tuesdays at 7:30 PM.
Adventure is not outside man; it is within.
- George Elliot
Yoga is a serious business, there is no doubt about that. It requires discipline, self-inquiry, and detachment to results, among many other virtues. However, that doesn’t mean that yoga isn’t fun.
If you aren’t having fun in your yoga practice, I recommend revisiting the reasons you are practicing. If you are practicing only to make your body look better or because you like the way it looks when you walk around with a yoga mat slung over your shoulder, it will probably be hard to maintain the spirit of fun innate in experienced yoga practitioners.
The discipline required to practice yoga allows us to find freedom and a sense of adventure. And what is more fun than freedom and adventure?
Our inspiration at the studio, Sonia Sumar still loves to climb trees in her 70s. That is exactly the kind of thing yoga is preparing the body for - climbing trees in your 70s.
In fact, the most adventurous, fun-loving, and free people I know are the ones who have been consistently practicing yoga and meditation for many years. They are unencumbered by worries, emotional burdens, nagging physical ailments, and attachments.
Are they human? Of course. But they take challenges and pleasures that arise in equal stride.
After practicing for years (or even months), sometimes my passion for practice dulls. At this time, I like to reinvigorate my yoga practice with one of these tools, finding fun and adventure in my practice again.
My greatest hopes for myself, for my students, and for you is that we never lose our sense of adventure and that we always have fun on our yoga mat.
The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is practice.
- Vladimir Horowitz
We’ve all been there. Perhaps we heard from a friend about the wonderful benefits they’re getting from practicing. Or maybe we’re inspired by an influencer’s incredible poses. Maybe we’ve practiced before but it’s been a while and we feel creaky or out of shape.
Starting a yoga practice can feel intimidating. Being consistent with it can feel impossible. Yet, in Yoga Sutra 1.14, we’re told “practice becomes firmly grounded when well-attended to for a long time, without break, and in all earnestness.”
That means to feel established in our yoga practice, we not only have to be consistent with our practice for some time, but we also have to do it with our whole heart engaged.
So how do we develop the habit of practicing yoga when we’ve been consistently inconsistent? How do we even start to practice yoga? I think this Sutra offers some ideas.
What we aspire to at 5KY is to cultivate an appreciation for the deepest, most powerful benefits of yoga. I believe it is these benefits that will inspire you to return to your mat again and again.
Physical accomplishments, once mastered, will eventually wither as time passes. But these inner accomplishments become grounded through regular practice, done for a long time, and in all earnestness. That is what will inspire us to continue coming back for more.
To go beyond is as wrong as to fall short.
In yogic philosophy, there are three gunas or qualities that combine to form everything that exists. Tamas is characterized by inertia and heaviness. Rajas is characterized by activity and movement. And Sattva is characterized by lightness and harmony.
All three of these qualities have a part to play. Tamas is the fertile soil for change and creates the conditions needed for life. Rajas invigorates life, excitement, and passion. And Sattva allows us to achieve balance between Tamas and Rajas and develops clarity and peace.
Sattva can be described like a spinning top. Outwardly, the top may seem like it's not moving but actually, it spins so quickly it balances itself on a thin spindle. When Sattva is balanced, Rajas and Tamas are balanced as well. When Tamas and Rajas are out of balance, we have trouble feeling Sattvic.
An imbalance of Tamas manifests as dullness, apathy, delusion, and/or depression. A person who has given up on themselves and the world has too much of the tamasic quality.
An imbalance of Rajas manifests as anxiety, attachment or addiction, agitation, and a sense of egoism. A person who is constantly jumping from one thing to another or desperately hanging onto patterns that do not serve them has too much of the rajasic quality.
Yoga creates balance between Rajas and Tamas to develop a pervading sense of Sattva. This is why experienced yoga practitioners feel uncomfortable explaining yoga as simply relaxing. Yoga creates balance between activity and inertia. A yogi experiences relaxation and vitality at the same time.
Summer is in full swing now and energy is high. We may find ourselves slightly rajasic - accepting all the invitations, making too many plans, doing more than what’s within our capacity.
Perhaps in winter, or even now after so many months living with the uncertainty of the pandemic, we find ourselves tamasic, hibernating at home and not prioritizing things that create feelings of peace and well-being within ourselves.
This is where the gift of yoga comes in, as it is chock full of practices that help balance our energy levels. As you know, yoga is not only practicing yoga poses but is about the unity we create within our lives. In service of this, I offer these balancing practices for your energy levels.
Just some thoughts about yoga as I go...
FIVE KEYS YOGA
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Five Keys is fantastic! The studio is lovely and soothing, and the teachers are very caring and attentive.
I've ... probably been to 25 different yoga studios. This is one of the most welcoming, calming spaces with very talented instructors.
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An ideal studio for someone new to yoga.