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Hip Tranquil Chick
A Guide to Life On and Off the Yoga Mat
By Kimberly Wilson, Morgan Johnson
New World LibraryCopyright © 2006 Kimberly Wilson
All rights reserved.
create a passionate yoga practice
Each pose is new every day, and each day every pose can teach something new. — Judith Lasater
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I took my first yoga class a decade ago while living in the mountains of Colorado, and was immediately smitten. The concentration on breath, the encouragement to listen to my body, and the powerful poses lured me into this ancient practice. Finally, I'd found something that not only strengthened my body but also nourished my soul and helped me tame that oh-so-busy mind.
Yoga translates as "union," and that's why there is such an emphasis on the balance between the mind, body, and spirit. The practice of yoga expands well beyond the physical postures, or asanas, that it is most associated with in the West. Originating in India about five thousand years ago, this practice has become increasingly popular in the Western world, and many modern girls are turning to it to stay sane.
When the Indian sage Patanjali wrote the fundamental teachings of yoga, the Yoga Sutras, more than two thousand years ago, he emphasized that the aim of yoga is to quiet the fluctuations of the mind and to create an internal stillness. The Yoga Sutras outline meditation, practice, and philosophy, helping practitioners connect to their inner voice and find a state of balance. In this way, yoga leads to tranquility — found through reining in our busy minds and opening up our tired bodies. In today's chaotic world, who needs this more than the modern girl? We are trying to do it all, have it all, and savor a dose of spirituality at the same time.
The benefits of starting a personalized yoga practice run the gamut from getting physically toned to feeling more spiritually centered, emotionally healthy, and mentally focused. All you need to start this life-changing practice is the desire to try something new or, if you are already practicing, to incorporate yoga into a luxe lifestyle that exudes a chic consciousness. A leopard-print yoga mat or the latest form-fitting, figure-flattering yoga ensemble is not necessary — though I personally find that looking and feeling my best while practicing yoga is always a plus. What you really need is the willingness to let yoga connect to your mind and body to help you add balance and tranquility to your already very full life. Just as yoga challenges you with new poses and provides variations on old ones through the integration of the lessons learned on the mat, you develop the confidence, flexibility, and strength to challenge yourself with new experiences off the mat.
When I started doing asana, the yoga postures, I had a very strong feeling of many unnecessary things dropping away. — Patricia Sullivan
Tranquil Tip: Getting your yoga groove on may take a few minutes. Your mind may still be swirling from your whirlwind day, you may be easily distracted, and you may find the initial poses challenging. However, give it time. Once your body opens up and your mind quiets down, the practice becomes transformative. Nothing, not even good dark chocolate, beats the euphoric sensations of final relaxation!
What Is My Yoga?
To truly create a personalized practice, it is important to determine what you're seeking through yoga. Is it serenity in the city, a firm yoga bum, or enhanced spirituality? How about social time with girlfriends, improved strength, a meditation practice, increased flexibility, or all of the above? What you seek today may be very different from what you need in the future. Keep this in mind to allow for your continuous growth as a yogini. Just because you want to practice yoga now because all your girlfriends do it, or you want to whittle away at your waist, doesn't mean that your relationship with yoga won't change over time. Yoga fosters positive personal growth that extends well beyond the physical practice of poses. Sometimes you never know where it will take you.
A hip tranquil chick's approach to yoga and life is nondogmatic. There are many paths to yoga and many ways to practice yoga, and there is no need to be chained indefinitely to any particular mode of practice. You can spend time experimenting with yoga styles, knowing that your needs evolve over time. Try different teachers within the styles, pay attention to how you feel in various yoga communities, and choose what's best for you. This allows you to avoid dogmatic precepts that may make you feel caged, because, as we know, a woman needs the continued opportunity to change her mind.
Styles of Yoga in Modern Girl Terms
It is helpful to determine if you like routine or are seeking a "surprise" with each practice. One of the biggest differences between the styles of yoga is that some offer a set sequence every time, while others will vary with each class. Understanding your personality and preferences will help you determine where you fit in the yoga spectrum.
Anusara means "to step into the current of divine will." Students hear phrases like "puff your kidneys" and "open to grace," and receive a practice that is spiritually inspiring while grounded in biomechanics. The class focus weaves attitude, alignment, and action. Keen attention to detail, flowery language, and demonstrations during class make this a unique and powerful style. Texan founder John Friend exudes a passion for yoga and has a rapidly growing number of devotees. For more information, visit www.anusara.com.
I practice now not so much with ambition as with gratitude. — JUDITH LASATER
Ashtanga, is a set series in a warm room that is quite vigorous and cathartic. The fast-paced primary and secondary series are those most commonly found at Ashtanga studios, although there are actually six series. The practice is for the athletic yogini who loves knowing which pose comes next while floating in and out of standing and seated poses. K. Pattabhi Jois, who lives in Mysore, India, created this popular and intense style that appeals to a more Type-A crowd. For more information, visit www.ashtanga.com.
It matters less what we do in practice than how we do it and why we do it. — Donna Farhi
Bikram is a set series of 26 poses in 100-degree heat where the bikini-clad, microphone-wearing teachers encourage you to push harder, harder, harder. Similar to Ashtanga, it is great for students who appreciate knowing a sequence, love to sweat, and enjoy being challenged in an intense way. A connoisseur of Rolls-Royces, founder Bikram Choudhury lives in Los Angeles and was once coined the "bad boy of yoga" by Yoga Journal. For more information, visit www.bikramyoga.com.
Iyengar emphasizes precise muscular and skeletal alignment. This style will help you connect to subtle parts of your body that you didn't know you had. Classes can feel like kindergarten when they have you running to the closet to get your strap, block, blanket, or bolster. Props are used heavily in this style and help you find the perfect pose — great for those who love detail, but challenging for those who lack patience and want lots of movement. Founder B. K. S. Iyengar lives in India and is renowned in the world of yoga. His certified teachers have been through rigorous training. This style makes for a great foundation for all yoginis. For more information, visit www.bksiyengar.com.
Vinyasa (often called "flow") offers a ton of inspiration for the teacher and the student. It emerged from the roots of Krishnamacharya's (considered the grandfather of modern yoga) lineage of Ashtanga, Iyengar, and Viniyoga styles, and focuses on the linking of flowing poses with breath. If you love to dance, you'll love the graceful, challenging flow of vinyasa, with its continuous creativity. As a practitioner, I love how it translates beautifully off the mat to encourage mindful movement, breath connection, and an appreciation of life's continual ebb and flow.
There are many additional styles of yoga, and their number continues to grow. Experience the various styles to make an educated decision based on what works best for your body and mind. Notice that as you deepen your connection to your intuition, a vigorous practice may be appealing when you have a strong need to release pent-up energy after a challenge-filled day. In turn you'll also recognize when you crave a chill yin or restorative yoga practice. Learn to blend various styles based on your many moods.
Your yoga is a way to showcase your personal style and preferences. It is important to honor this individuality each time you step onto the mat. You will never approach your practice with the same feelings or experiences twice. Every day on the mat, like every day in life, will be new. This personalized practice is carried into all areas of your life — at home, on the go, and in the office.
Every Day, Anywhere
Yoga is an integral part of the hip tranquil chick's daily routine. By carving out a space for your practice or simply having your mat nearby, ready to be unrolled at a moment's notice, you build a powerful connection with yourself and your world, every day, anywhere. We are always in motion — wandering through a museum, flirting on a date, browsing at the bookstore, sipping chai at a sidewalk café. By staying connected to our practice, we blend our busy modern lives with balance and tranquility.
The spiritual journey is the soul's life commingling with ordinary life. — Christina Baldwin
Try a little tranquility-on-the-go. While waiting in the line that never seems to move, instead of letting the delay get to you and succumbing to a hissie fit, shift your weight onto one leg and place the other foot on the opposite ankle to practice the tranquility-invoking tree pose. During that yawn-inducing staff meeting, excuse yourself for a moment. Hide out in the loo for a few minutes to do some twists, forward folds, and shoulder openers to return refreshed. With the principles of yoga internalized and practiced spontaneously, you'll find a sense of peace within everyday life's pandemonium.
Yoga Class Prep
The essentials for class are a yoga mat, comfy clothes, a hand towel, and bottled water. You may be able to rent a yoga mat or hand towel if you don't have your own. Wear clothes that stretch and flatter, and be sure to dress in layers so that as the body warms and cools throughout the practice, you have the pieces nearby. Black pants, camis with built-in support, and wrap tops are great for class, and transition fabulously to and from pre- and postpractice events.
Arrive to class with an open heart, receptive to what you are about to experience. Be on time, especially if you are new to the studio, so you can get your bearings. If you do arrive late due to a delayed train or a dress fitting that ran over, be sure to cause as little disruption as possible to the yogis already in their zone. Bring a beginner's mind to your practice and let go of expectations or preconceptions. Enjoy being in your body as if it were the first time you are experiencing such bliss.
Tranquility through Community
To find the perfect place to practice yoga, research various studios and teachers in your area. Ask for recommendations, search the Internet, and peruse local publications for yoga studios. Try a few places on for size until the right fit emerges. Look for a place where you feel comfortable and fabulous, where the ambience is inviting, and where you can see yourself and your practice growing. You may also find a new haven of spiritually minded girlfriends to sip soy lattes with after class. Many students rave that the studio has become their "church" — a home for seeking serenity and inspiration in today's harried world. Your yoga community can become a true base for tranquility.
The real act of discovery is not in finding new lands, but in seeing with new eyes. — Marcelp Roust
Tranquil Tip: When practicing in the heart of a bustling city or a heavily trafficked strip mall in the suburbs, you may find it hard to settle in initially. The goal is to let go of all distractions, both external (honking horns, voices outside, traffic) and internal (self-talking, creating to-do lists, recapping the day), and to turn your awareness to your breath. Let everything else go.
The Connection Within
As you progress in your practice of yoga on and off the mat, notice how you become keenly aware of your body. Although your yoga teacher's continued requests to scoop your tailbone, open your heart center, and blossom your sitting bones may seem peculiar at first, eventually you become acquainted with the most subtle parts of your physical form. The simple recognition of how you feel after eating something, or after interacting with someone, allows you to make healthier decisions that align with your core values. After succumbing to my overactive sweet tooth, I notice an energy spike followed by lethargy. Whereas if I indulge in whole grains and veggies, I lack the guilt and keep an even-keeled energy level. The time spent tuning in to your body also helps release your overactive mind and ease your stress. Yoga helps you learn to slow down, even in the midst of daily drama that may compel you to pick up the pace. By making the time for yoga on a regular basis, you will be able to replenish your inner well, gain energy, and connect to your intuitive side.
Tranquil Tip: Tune out of your mind and in to your body. Take time to disconnect from routine, even for only a moment. Begin with centering. Simply close your eyes and notice your breath. Inhale and exhale deeply and fully. Notice sensations throughout your body — heartbeat, heat, coolness, tightness, openness. Bring awareness to emotions — anger, anxiety, excitement, concern, sadness. Devote a piece of your week to activities that help you lose track of time, cares, and concerns — yoga, gardening, cooking, writing, dancing.
Yoga supports living with authenticity, awareness, and alignment. Regular reflection, meditation, and yoga practice allow you to connect more deeply to who you really are. This inner connection ultimately helps you make healthy, value- based decisions to move forward in life. Connect these concepts with your values and passions, and you become more proactive and less reactive. Your relationships improve and your state of mind is enriched because you are now able to find a calm port in life's sea of chaos. By spending time connecting within, you explore your authentic self, what you really want, and where you are going on this exciting journey called life. Learn to use this newfound insight and self-awareness to create a passion-filled existence that exudes a chic and spiritual consciousness. Pull out your colorful yoga mat, light a candle, put on some chill music, dress in your favorite yoga togs, and watch a world of possibility unfoldCHAPTER 2
7 yoga sequences for the hip chick
When we practice asana we have the chance to bring our attention to here and now, to the sensations and awareness we are feeling. — Judith Lasater
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These 30 poses will help the hip tranquil chick get her tranquility on. Combine them in the numerous proposed suggestions or play with a pose one at a time, and reap unlimited benefits when adding them to your daily repertoire.
1. reclined twist
2. four-limbed staff pose
3. staff pose
4. plank pose
5. cobra pose variation: up dog
6. mountain pose
8. down dog
9. legs-up-the-wall variations: wide-legged V and bent knees
10. seated twist
11. warrior 1
12. warrior 2
13. reverse warrior
14. side angle pose
16. tree pose
17. bridge pose variations: add block under sacrum or lift into wheel
18. pigeon pose
19. blanket under spine
20. double pigeon pose
Excerpted from Hip Tranquil Chick by Kimberly Wilson, Morgan Johnson. Copyright © 2006 Kimberly Wilson. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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