Harmonize

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Harmonize

Greetings Everyone!

Anyone who has ever attended one of my public classes and heard me try to mimic Lionel Richie’s “Hello, is it me you’re looking for?” during a particularly intense hip opening pose knows quite well that I am not a very good singer. In fact, I didn’t make the cut in the 6th grade Glee Club tryouts because I had a really hard time singing the harmony part. Every time the choir conductor walked near me, I’d get nervous and my voice would decay into the melody part instead of staying with the notes I’d been given. How is this in any way related to yoga? If you stick with the practice long enough, you realize that it has more to do with music than physical exercise. You engage the rhythm of the breath and you harmonize the limbs in order to unleash a particular melody in the spine that, ironically enough, produces a sublime silence in the mind. And the best part of this musical endeavor is that it is so primal, so natural that it belongs to all of us human beings and cannot possibly result in expulsion from a choral group, or even from American Idol.

Check out our newest release, Harmonize, and you will be able to hear inside yourself this universal song that I am attempting to describe. As elementary as the poses might first appear, each one offers you an opportunity to coordinate the actions of your legs in order to elongate the sides of your waist. Level 1 students will find greater stability in standards like Triangle Pose and Side Angle Pose, while Level 2 and 3 students will uncover new layers of subtlety and richness in these same shapes. The basic technique and intent remains the same: make one of your legs Paul Simon and the other one Art Garfunkel and your lower back will end up feeling groovy. Just remember to slow down and not move to fast; you’ve got to make the moment last. Hope you enjoy!

Take care,

Geoffrey

Runner’s Recovery

Greetings Everyone!

It seems that the beautiful spring weather here in New Orleans has brought more people than usual out for a run these days. Especially with the Crescent City Classic looming on the horizon, I feel like the park is full of folks who are enjoying the many health benefits that running has to offer. And yet when I see those people performing the perfunctory stretches that they learned in 7th grade gym class as a preparation for their run, I feel like they might actually be doing more harm than good. If you are a runner who is fully addicted to the sensation commonly known as “the runner’s high,” then you will most certainly want to check out this week’s featured releases: Runner’s Recovery Series and Crescent City Classic Cooldown.  The former is a thorough practice that will methodically restore order and balance to your lower body. The latter is a short routine that will smooth out some of the wrinkles in your legs so that your joints won’t ache. Hope you enjoy!

Take care,
Geoffrey

Hangover Yoga

Greetings Everyone!

While the subject line of this week’s newsletter sounds oxymoronic, we wanted to acknowledge the fact that many of our subscribers are New Orleanians who are celebrating Mardi Gras today. If you fall into that category, and if you happen to overindulge, then you will most definitely want to check out this week’s new release, Hangover Yoga. This short video guides you through the set-up of a restorative pose that alleviates nausea. Easy yet effective, this nurturing practice will help you rebound quickly from Carnival festivities. By Thursday you might even be ready to try our other new release, Falling Upwards, which is an invigorating level 3 practice that features some unusual backbends. Improve the integration of your neck and upper spine, and you’ll feel as though you are flowing up instead of being pulled down. Hope you enjoy!

Take care,
Geoffrey

Movement and Stillness

Greetings Everyone!

When asked in an interview how he would sum up contemporary Western civilization, Thich Nhat Hahn replied, “Lost in thought.” Maybe that sounds like too harsh of a criticism from a Buddhist monk who has the luxury of spending time on his meditation cushion each day. After all, life moves quickly and we have to rely on our faculties for critical thinking if we are to maximize our productivity in the world. But nowhere in his books does Thich Nhat Hahn ever say that thinking is inherently bad; he is simply pointing out that when we are lost in thought, we become anxious about the future or stuck in our evaluation of the past. It’s the compulsive chatter in our mind that precludes us from fully experiencing the present.

Try this week’s new release, Moving Meditation, and notice what happens when your attention is focused on the rhythm of your breath and on the ever-changing flux of bodily sensations. There’s very little room in your mind for future and past when you are completely present in your body. This is a perfect half-hour practice for whenever you’ve been sedentary for long periods of time. Feel energized and refreshed by the invigoration of good old sun salutations and standing poses.

Also, many of you have pointed out that our videos typically don’t include a long, guided relaxation. So we’ve honored your request for more instruction in that arena with another new release that we’ve cleverly titled, Guided Relaxation. Learn how to align your body and how to consciously release excess tension from your body in one of yoga’s simplest poses, savasana. As easy as it is to practice, the effects of this one pose are profound. Release daily stress from your body/mind, and you’ll feel lighter and brighter. Hope you enjoy!

Take care,
Geoffrey

Let’s Get Started

I bet that most of us can identify with David Whyte’s story of exhaustion and disillusionment in the workplace. Apparently he was working so many hours each week at his own nonprofit organization that he became stressed out, ill, and completely disconnected from the original vision which had inspired him to start it in the first place. The nonprofit was intended to educate people on the health-giving benefits of spending time in nature, and yet he was spending the majority of his time in staff meetings and in meetings about meetings. When a dear friend finally pointed out the disharmony of this situation, he realized that the root of his exhaustion was not giving his full presence to each moment.

Sometimes it seems like our body is doing one thing while our mind is somewhere else, and yoga is such a wonderful antidote to this imbalanced way of moving through life. We are practicing presence when we give our full attention to what the whole body is doing in each instant. Not only do the poses strengthen and energize the body, they also pacify the mind and brighten the spirit. Reacquaint yourself with this wonderful state of being by practicing some of our new releases! Lower Body Sculpt will tone your legs and free up the stagnation in your hips, while Upper Body Love will remove stiffness from your shoulders and open your chest. These are wonderful sequences for level 2 practitioners, but if you’re brand new to yoga and interested in experiencing body/mind ease, then you’ll want to try the new Workplace Wellness series that we’ve called, Let’s Get Started. Each of these 5 videos is only 5 minutes long, perfect for when you’re so busy at work that you hardly have time to tend to your back. Start simple and you’ll discover that well-being has its own positive momentum. Hope you enjoy!

Take care,
Geoffrey

Restore Yourself

Greetings Everyone!

Now that the holidays have come and gone, the usual flurry of emails regarding which self-improvement strategies are needed for a healthy New Year starts to crowd our inboxes. Not to say that resolutions can’t be helpful for our overall well-being, but it seems to me that any attempts to enact change will inevitably fizzle when they are layered on top of an unreliable, imbalanced structure. For instance, one might decide that 2015 is the year to finally begin jogging. Only after a few outings, one notices a nagging pain in the knee and becomes discouraged by the fact that every step is carried out by willpower and characterized by grimace. Surely this is not a sustainable regime. Can yoga offer a solution to a situation such as this? Yes indeed. Yoga postures cultivate balanced muscle tone around the joints and thereby realign a person’s physical structure with respect to gravity. When the architecture of the feet, legs, and pelvis has been restored, a person can walk or run with ease and enjoyment. Exercise no longer feels like a chore but a natural expression of the primal urge to move.

So at the risk of sounding like yet another New Year’s call to action, I’d like to invite you to reconsider your structure by practicing our latest release, Renaissance Restoration Series. In each of these level 1 videos, you are given step-by-step instructions to re-establish length and openness to your entire body. This is the perfect series for beginners or for those who are in need of a refresher after a hiatus in their practice. Come back to balance, and end the war with gravity so that you can move peacefully and gracefully through the world.

Take care,
Geoffrey

Core Encore

Greetings Everyone!

I suppose we all have at least one family member who has said something so puzzling during the Thanksgiving Day feast that it temporarily scrambles our ability to formulate a coherent response. Last week my cousin was telling me that she had always found ‘planking’ so stupid and boring and unnecessary, and that she couldn’t believe anyone would ever waste their time doing it when they could simply go for a run and get much better exercise. That is, until a hip injury prevented her from running for six months. “I realized,” she said, “that you can’t do anything without a core.” I was speechless… I thought that I was my core? Who is the ‘I’ who is separate from this mechanical part that I need in order to move around in the world?

Sometimes things are so obvious that they are hidden in plain sight. I hope you’ll enjoy this week’s featured release, Strengthen Your Core. It’s a straightforward, no frills practice that is designed to reconnect you to the epicenter of your physical organism. I hope you enjoy!

Take care,
Geoffrey

Thanksgiving Practices

Greetings Everyone!

I’m sure that most of you are busy preparing for tomorrow’s holiday, so I’ll make this newsletter brief. We’ve released two new videos this week that will come in handy during the Thanksgiving weekend. The first, which we’ve called Core Cleanse, is an ideal antidote to general over-indulgence of food and alcohol. If you find yourself feeling lethargic and heavy over the next few days, then try this 35-minute strength practice of arm balances and deep twists. You might be surprised by the amount of sweat pouring out of your skin after you attempt some of these interesting poses, all of which are designed to detoxify the abdominal organs. Not your cup of tea? Not a problem! Our second video, Guided Meditation, is something that literally anybody can do — anywhere, anytime. We were fortunate enough to have Dr. Jose Calderon-Abbo, a New Orleans-based psychiatrist who created the Mindful Living Program, come to the studio last week to film this accessible mindfulness practice. You don’t even need flexible hips or fancy meditation props in order to participate. Jose will teach you how to align yourself in a regular old chair and he will cue your attention toward the observation of thoughts and bodily sensations. This is a radically simple and yet powerful practice that is sure to leave you feeling calm and composed, even in the midst of family drama or mental stress. The essence of Jose’s teaching is kindness toward oneself and letting go. Seems to me that both of those themes pave the way for authentic thanks giving to arise. Hope you enjoy!

Take care,
Geoffrey

Workplace Wellness

Greetings Everyone!

I never understood the real meaning of our colloquial expression that something is “a pain in the neck” until the day that I injured myself while running pass patterns in the park. I had gotten swept up in the excitement of NFL wild card weekend, and my friend and I walked over to our neighborhood park to throw the football around. Thinking that I was still 18 years old, I sprinted down the field, threw a head fake on an imaginary defender, and spent the entire rest of the day practically immobilized because I could barely move my head without experiencing sharp pain in my neck. It’s amazing how your basic attitude toward life can be negatively influenced by nagging pain and discomfort. Even the simplest of tasks and daily chores can seem like a burden when you aren’t feeling very well.

In this particular instance, the root cause of my pain was a sudden and forceful disconnect between the direction of my head and the trajectory of the rest of my body. But I’ve noticed a similar disconnect whenever I spend consecutive hours in front of a computer. It’s as though my head gets pulled into the glow of the screen while the rest of my body collapses backward. Maybe this is analogous to Chinese water torture, whereas my quick head fake was more like the whiplash of a car accident. Either way, if you can identify at all with pain in the neck, then you are going to love this month’s new release, Workplace Wellness: Madeline’s Shoulder Sequence. Carve out 20 minutes in the middle of your workday to practice this vital sequence for the restoration of head-neck balance. You will find relief from present aches and avoid future pains.

I am also pleased to announce the release of our requested Traveler’s Series video, The Rest Stop. This short practice answers the question, “What pose can I do while filling my car with gas that’s going to restore balance to my pelvis and lower back?” Not only does this one pose deliver, it’s designed to be so inconspicuous that no one will ever suspect that you’re doing yoga. Hope you enjoy!

Take care,
Geoffrey

Sanity Revisited

Greetings Everyone!

Sometimes when I glance through the windows of an Anytime Fitness and see people frantically running on a treadmill, all while flipping through text messages on their iPhone and periodically glancing up at the television screen, I feel like I’m watching neurotic rodents on hamster wheels. This isn’t to say that I’m opposed to running or any form of conventional fitness training for that matter. It just seems like they are trying to do anything other than what they are actually doing. It seems like they are trying to run away from themselves. What would happen, I wonder, if instead of running we could simply be quiet with ourselves?…

That might sound like a tall order, one that is simply incompatible with the pace and demands of modern society. But one of the best things about the yoga practice is that it placates our urge to assert ourselves physically, all while moving us into stillness. Just as an experiment, try practicing this week’s new release, Sanity Series 2. I bet you’ll feel satisfied by the strong movements that your arms are asked to make. I bet you’ll feel grounded by the hip openers and cleansed by the twists and content to finally step off of the treadmill of life to enjoy real peace and quiet.

Take care,
Geoffrey

Yoga for Sanity

Greetings Everyone!

It seems to me that many people these days are suffering from a low-grade level of anxiety that stems from the need to constantly be getting ahead in life. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with ambition and the desire to work hard and achieve. But when we prioritize ends over healthy means, when we place a higher value on symbols than we do on the actual things and events that those same symbols are supposed to represent, then inevitably we feel inwardly impoverished. Let’s stop in the name of peace. Try practicing this week’s new release, Sanity Series 1, which is an energizing sequence of sun salutations, standing poses, and backbends that is designed to restore balance between the vital centers of head and heart. You’ll be reminded to get “aheart” rather than “ahead” so that you can go out of your mind and come back to your senses. Remember that the intention is not to achieve a temporary lobotomy. Instead, the goal is to rediscover your head/heart equipoise so that you can reacquaint yourself with presence and wholeness.

Oh, and at the request of several parents and babysitters I am proud to announce the debut of our new series, Kid Yoga. We all know how unrealistic it is to ask kids to sit and be quiet when they have an abundance of energy that hasn’t been properly channeled. Have your kids try this engaging and accessible mini practice as a prelude to any activity that requires a decent amount of focus. I hope you enjoy!

Take care,
Geoffrey

Hotel Yoga

Greetings Everyone!

To be told to “relax” is certainly one of the more annoying things that a person can hear. You can’t possibly will yourself to relax any more than you can will yourself to fall in love. And yet this is the advice that we are constantly receiving from health specialists as an antidote to stress. We even hear this from our airline captains at the beginning of each flight — “Just sit back, try to relax, and enjoy the flight.” The reason that these well-intended instructions are easier said than done is because relaxation is the by-product of balanced tension in the body. Most people carry an abundance of tension in the muscles of their lower back, and so in order for your breath to deepen and your brain to soften it is crucial to release this area. Of course the other part of the equation is putting new, healthy tension in the supporting structures of the feet and legs.

If real relaxation sounds interesting to you, and/or if you’re about to spend time in a hotel room, then you will certainly want to check out our new release, The Traveler’s Series. The second video features two restorative poses that implement ‘props’ commonly found in a hotel room. You’ll find that the conscious acceptance of these props will spontaneously soften the musculature of your lower back. This is the perfect video for when you’re feeling depleted and your back is just out of whack. The first video in the series is more energizing and therefore better suited to occasions when you’re up for more movement. Both of the videos were shot in hotel rooms so that you can see what I would do with no yoga gear and just enough floor space to extend my legs. Hope you enjoy!

Take care,
Geoffrey
Traveler’s Series

Back To Balance

Greetings Everyone!

At some point during the creation of our early videos, my brother astutely told me, “Listen, you’re speaking over people’s heads. The point of practicing yoga shouldn’t be enlightenment. The point is to be a little less of a douche bag than you were the day before.” Since I have certainly not attained enlightenment, and since I have really only read other people’s accounts of it, I am inclined to agree with him. I’ll keep my sights set on the practical things that I can do on a daily basis to bring balance to my body/mind. Although not enlightened, I do know that I am more patient, forgiving, and tolerant of people when I feel better on the inside. And so it is in this spirit that I am pleased to announce the release of three new videos: Jonny’s Backbends, Jonny’s Twists, and Jonny’s Forward Bends. Each one is just over 12 minutes long and offers a pragmatic solution to the problems that many of us experience: collapsed chest, stiff lower back, and tight legs. Enjoy each one individually if you have one of those symptoms that you’d like to target. Or enjoy them collectively if you are looking for a well-rounded practice that you can do in under 40 minutes. Either way, notice how you feel inwardly after the practice, and observe how that might influence your outward actions throughout the rest of your day.

Take care,
Geoffrey

Wrist Relief

Greetings Everyone!

Sometimes I feel like my hands are more connected to my keyboard than they are to my back. It is in those moments of frazzled computer work that there seems to be no light at the end of my carpal tunnel. Thank goodness for yogic technology! If you’ve experienced the aforementioned despair, then take a break right now to reclaim the freedom of your wrists. Our new release, Wrist Relief 2, is the same length as its predecessor, but it features two new poses that will stretch your forearms and create even more space in these overworked joints. Again, you’ll notice that your hands feel empty of superfluous tension and yet full of the life force. This practice is a gem in its own right, and it is also a perfect warm up for Total Body Glow 2, which is a well-rounded sequence that culminates in Upward-Facing Bow Pose. You might be surprised at how much better your wrists feel in this exhilarating backbend. I hope you enjoy!

Take care,
Geoffrey

Total Body Glow

Greetings Everyone!

Thanks so much for all of your feedback as to which videos you’ve been enjoying the most and which ones you’d like us to create. We believe that this week’s new releases will be crowd-pleasing favorites. “Wrist Relief” is an 8-minute practice that literally anyone can do while sitting at their desk. Take a break from typing to reclaim the suppleness of your wrists. You’ll notice that your hands feel empty of superfluous tension and yet full of the life force.

“Total Body Glow” is a wonderful all-around practice that features one of yoga’s most delicious poses: parivritta janu sirsasana. Say what? It doesn’t matter at all if you can’t pronounce that Sanskrit term. Just follow the cues of this slow flow sequence and you will be led through forward bending, back bending, side bending, and twisting poses that will prepare you to dive deeply into the peek pose, which requires elements of each of the aforementioned categories. Level 2 folks who want a slightly longer practice than most of our other programs will cherish this video. I even asked myself out loud during the filming process, “Why don’t I do this every day?” Try it out for yourself!

Take care,
Geoffrey

Prana Stress Relief Series

Typically when we feel stressed, we focus on the external events that we perceive to have triggered our current condition. Rarely does it occur to us that we actually have a choice as to how we react to those events. Even more rarely do we recognize that the emotional state that we call “stress” is a bodily sensation. In simple terms, stress feels like this: tensed shoulders, shortened side waist, and uneven breathing. The good news is that Hatha yoga postures address the physical manifestations of this supposedly “mental state” in an antidotal way. They reverse unhealthy trends and restore internal equipoise.

I hope that you’ll enjoy this week’s new release. Each of the three videos in our Stress Relief Series is under 12 minutes long. Each one focuses on the theme of releasing the shoulders away from the ears, lengthening the side waist, and cultivating smooth, even breathing. Optimally you’d practice all three in their recommended order for a well-rounded sequence. But if you’re short on time, each one of these videos is satisfying in its own right.

Take care,
Geoffrey