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Joy in Creating Community

Joy in Creating Community

When I first finished my yoga therapy training, I wanted my focus to be on working with people one-on-one.Yoga therapy uses tools of yoga to address specific health concerns and a holistic approach to healing that supports each person based on their individual needs.

Living in the United States, people are used to the paradigm of group classes. Newbies to yoga often come to me hoping to be a part of a group class for beginners. And, I love to teach beginners. So, I made a compromise between my focus and passion for one-on-one work and decided to teach small-group classes of about four to six, maximum ten people.

I have fallen in love with teaching small groups!

I teach my "Wednesday Wiggle" class for a midweek break and a chance to loosen up with a little wiggle and yoga. I teach a small group of four women who I've been working with for about three months. We laugh, share a little bit about our personal lives and then get to the business of loosening up.

It is the serious business of focusing our attention on our breath for meditative work, then a little shake and wiggle of the limbs to warm up and into a gentle practice especially geared for professional women and men who have worked all day. Work is in the office or at home taking care of the children and a busy home. We end with what I consider Desert for Yogees: an active relaxation meditation. All of my students: from my small groups to couples to individuals to war veterans with PTSD find the active relaxation a sublime respite, a chance to rest without complaint of the busy and active mind.

My joy is in creating a community. As we part ways, the ladies awaken to the light in the room and a light feeling in their chests. We chatter and share stories, leaving with a smile on our faces ready to greet the world and life knowing we are both part of a community and one with the world.

Yoga for All Body Types

Yoga for All Body Types

Let me begin by saying, you do not have to be thin, flexible, or in shape to practice yoga! All ages, shapes, sizes, and aches and pains are welcome.

When I first started thinking of creative ways to market my yoga business, I began listening to people talk about their perceptions of yoga.

During coffee with a friend, she laughed and said she was embarrassed to take a yoga class. "I'm too heavy."

I have heard from countless others who fear they are too fat, aren’t flexible enough, look bad in workout clothes, have big bellies, and can’t contort like experienced practitioners. Or they share, “I tried one class and it was just too hard for me to keep up.” 

I also looked to Yoga Journal for good marketing ideas. How do they create content, what kind of messages do they send? I realized very quickly that the models on their magazine covers and the body images reflected on their website really don’t represent everyday people. And, I want to teach and offer classes to everyday people. 

These every day people are the majority of Americans who live hectic, fast-paced lives with work, children, and mid-drifts. Understandably, they lack flexibility from sitting at desks, driving too much, or standing all day at a job. They are usually a little or a lot out of shape and experience regular stress. So, this modern-day image of the thin and incredibly flexible yogi doing deep back bends or sitting in lotus pose creates the impression that yoga is out of their range and maybe a bit impractical for their busy lives.

A war veteran who I was teaching during a group class for PTSD said to me, "This is arrogant." I never forgot his comment because it made me realize that I wasn't providing him with practical enough yoga tools that he could apply to his every day life. I now try to create simple practices for people who have 15 or 20 minutes in a day to practice. The self-care yoga provides in that short amount of time is the very thing they need to steady the pace of a stressful and busy life. 

It usually surprises students that 20 minutes of practice with simple, yet effective tools can move them toward a state of calm that supports them throughout the day or helps them quiet their minds enough to sleep well at night. And, not all of those tools are solely yoga poses or physical exercises. Tools can include a combination of conscious breathing, gentle movement, and visualization to move the mind and body into a state of relaxation.

Best of all, you don't have to be in amazing physical shape to try any of it. There are many reasons to practice yoga. Among them is health and fitness, but first and foremost, yoga is a practice for the mind.

Yogini Indra Devi (1899-2002) once said, “With the practice of yoga is achieved self-confidence, humility and the possibility of living with great joy. It is a path toward freedom [of the mind] and helps us to understand how good it is to give without expecting anything in return.” Notice, this compassionate woman, who lived to be 102, didn't mention anything about being thin.

Regardless of your body type or current state of wellness, through yoga we arrive at an awareness of our mental, emotional, and physical health and the many ways they are so interconnected. When one of those layers of health becomes well, it shifts to support the health of the other layers. Then, when we practice physical yoga at a moderate pace and in a way that supports where one is in body weight, size, and flexibility, our minds also begin to change. We begin to compassionately love and accept our own body as it moves closer to a state of balance and health.

The Art of Creating a Home Yoga Practice

The Art of Creating a Home Yoga Practice

Take simple steps to get started with a home yoga practice. Here are five tips. 

1. Work with a teacher

A well-trained teacher can provide you with a practice that is created to meet your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. You can create your own practice and it will serve you, or you can even follow a video or online practice. However, working one-on-one with a teacher provides support, a connection, and a listening ear.  A well-trained teacher also provides knowledge about yoga and applies it to your needs in a way that may not be offered in an online course or a video. A teacher can observe you from a perspective that you cannot observe yourself.

2. Same time, same place

Pick a time of day to practice that works best for you, and if possible, carve out at least 30 minutes just for you to practice. Practice at that same time each day and in the same space. This helps create a positive habit that your mind and body will look forward to every day.

3. Create a Loving Space to Practice

Once you pick the time of day and space, make sure to clear the space and prepare it especially to do your yoga practice. You can create an alter with objects that are meaningful to you, quotes that inspire you, or plants to create peaceful and loving surroundings. Choose some special yoga props like bolsters and eye pillows for the relaxation phase of your practice.

4. Practice Regularly

Begin the habit of integrating the practice of yoga into your everyday life. Even if you are unable to do a 30-minute practice everyday, instead take 5-10 minutes to do a breathing practice. Or sit calmly while drinking a cup of tea. Write in your journal. Go for a walk. Start an art project. Any activity that moves the mind in a positive direction and cultivates a sense of peace can be considered in the yogic realm.

5. Surround Yourself with Loving Support

When you start to practice yoga, you begin to change. Make sure to surround yourself with positive and supportive friends and loved ones who can support you when you start to make positive changes in your life.

Blessings ... Sarah D. Beaudry