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10 Tips For Practicing Yoga Outside The Studio

By: Macaila Britton

We all have those days where we desperately need to go to our favorite yoga class, but life seems to happen. Whether we're skipping our yoga class because of work, a family commitment or because we're sick, it is important to know that we can still practice at home. There will not be a community of creative and outgoing yogis to chat with and learn from, or a teacher, but that's okay! One day from home doesn't hurt. Here are ten easy ways to make your busy day's at home practice more meaningful.

1. Create a Playlist

Music can help set the tone for your practice. Put all of your favorite songs in one place and play them. This will help you to stay relaxed, focus on yourself and motivated. 

2. Don't Be Afraid to Laugh

Embrace that you might not know what you are doing. We can be so hard on ourselves and serious. It is okay to be silly and have fun. Embrace that you are taking the steps to try something new or deepen your practice. 

3. Take a Break

If trying to master a new pose isn't going as planned, walk away. Know this is not giving up. Try transitioning into child's pose or your favorite pose to clear the mind. Sometimes all we need is to get out of our heads and have a few minutes of rest/a break. 

4. Use Your Resources

The best things about going to a class is having someone plan your practice and act as a guide. There is no worrying about which poses to do or even how to get into them- the instructor walks the class through it. If you are struggling with what to do, think about the sequences and poses the instructors take you through. Try out the ones you can remember. 

Google is also a great resource. There are a ton of visualizations of poses you can try out!

5. Clean Your Mat

We're putting our hands, feet and sweaty limbs on the same surface. Even though you are practicing at home, there are still germs. Yes, they are your germs, but germs are still gross. Stay healthy- wipe the sweat and dirt off! 

6. Create Your "Yoga Space"

Creating a space for your practice is beneficial in so many ways. One of which help with concentration. If you are unable to dedicate an entire room or wall to this, no worries! Setting up your mat every day will do just fine. If you prefer to practice in the morning, try laying things out in the morning so your "corner" will be there when you wake up. Think of it as your ever evolving and traveling yoga space. 

7. Relax

Breathe. Put a pause on life and the list of to-do's that seem to keep growing. Turn the tv off and silence your phone. Leave the room to find a quiet spot away from your partner, kids and animals. As amazing as they are, they can be distracting. 

8. Dress For Success

Who says you can't pop on those bright and colorful new yoga pants? Put on your favorite outfit. It will inspire you to practice and give an added confidence boost. Besides, who wants to fuss and tuck in their top every 5 seconds? Not me!

9. Use What You Have

If you do not have access to a yoga blocks or a strap, thats perfectly okay! Let me tell you a secret...you can still practice yoga. Use a hardcover book (ahem- the Harry Potter one sitting on your shelf or an old text book from ages ago). Use it like you would a block. No, it's not as soft, but it's still there to grab onto during Warrior II and Triangle, if needed. Use a thick belt or a scarf to deepen your stretch. Keep in mind it is not as sturdy as a strap, so choose your poses wisely!

10. Smile 

Be proud of yourself, because you are awesome!!

We all have those off days. Try not to beat yourself up for missing a class. The community of amazing yogis will still love and support you next week, when you're feeling better or when that work project is completed. 

Namaste


About the Author:Macaila Britton

Macaila is a yoga teacher in training, writer and photographer. She likes meeting new people, is passionate about helping the community and also enjoys traveling, all kinds of dessert and cheesy jokes. She aspires to become the best version of herself by investing in others. Yoga has helped her become more centered and focused on serving her higher purpose. To keep up with her latest adventures, visit MacailaBritton.com

Confessions of a Yoga Teacher: What We Want You to Know

By Jessica Jayne

There are always things that I wish I could say to students, (especially newer students) but just like with anything, there is always a time and a place. So... I thought I could write about it! A few things I wish I could share with every single one of my students... Confessions of a yoga teacher: What we want you to know!

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  • EVERYBODY FARTS. It is a part of this incredible human body that we are taught to love and honor in our yoga practice. When we are twisting and turning, moving our energies and organs around internally, we are bound to pass gas every now and then. As a teacher, I am thankful that I could create a space for you in which you are relaxed enough to give yourself permission to LET GO... So, don't be embarrassed, we all do it!
  • Props are your friend. I am a prop queen when I practice. Sometimes there can be this stigma that if you are using props to support yourself in a pose then it must mean you aren't doing the "full" pose... When in reality, props can get you deeper into almost any pose in the safest way possible. It IS a win win situation!
  • Advanced postures don't make you more of a yogi. Yoga isn't about doing handstands or scorpions, or any other crazy advanced yoga posture. It's about developing a deep sense of awareness that allows you to journey inwards, and connect with the deepest parts of yourself. So guess what? If you never get to the handstand... That doesn't make you any less of a yogi. Never forget that.
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  • Sometimes you will cry, sometimes you will be frustrated... Yoga is very much an energetic and emotional practice. Most of the time it makes us feel great. However, sometimes when we move in a certain way, or feel a certain part of our bodies, it can create an emotional response. Sometimes we know why, sometimes we have no idea at all, that is OKAY. Let it out. Be with your feelings. This is just as much a part of the practice as the physical postures are.
  • We are all unique, yet... WE ALL BELONG. In every yoga class I teach I have people of all different ages, genders, cultural-backgrounds, shapes, and sizes... Each with their own story. We are all so different, and that in itself, is so beautiful. Yet even though every single human-being on this planet is biologically different, we are also all the same. Yoga, essentially means union, and this is what yoga teaches us. We are all in this together, and we ALL belong.
  • I want you to honor your story. Speaking of uniqueness, I want you to honor that. Only YOU know your body best... Only YOU know your story best... I can do everything in my power to create a safe atmosphere, but you must honor yourself and your body in every way and form. Take the childs pose... Put your knees down in plank... Yoga is not a competition, and its so important that we honor that.
To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • My connection with you is what my job is all about. I became a yoga teacher for MANY reasons but one of the most important ones is to connect with my students. I want to know your story. I want you to ask me questions that you have. I want you to share your experiences. I want to know how your practice went. I want you to know that I am there for you.
  • Yoga teachers are NOT perfect. As your teacher, I guide you through an informative, loving, liberating practice. I stay after class and speak with you about the wisdom I have gained throughout my journey, and the knowledge I wish to seek out. I take the yoga practice with me in all aspects of my life... But please know, that I am not super-human. Sometimes I eat fried food. Sometimes I swear. Sometimes I have bad days... I feel sadness, loneliness, anger, and misery. However... this is exactly why we practice yoga. To better understand this complex human existence, to see the light within ourselves and everybody else when the darkness comes. To find balance in the every-changing world that seems to always bounce between joy and suffering. It's all a part of the journey, and I experience this just as much as you do.

About the author: jessica jayne

Jessica Jayne is a yoga teacher, creator, writer, and lover of life. She is known for her fierce devotion, compassion, and ability to connect with her students and guide them to a place of self-discovery and exploration. Yoga has given Jess many things; unconditional love, radical acceptance, wholeness, empowerment and compassion... Yet most importantly, the practice gave Jessica a second chance at life, and she now believes it is her destiny to share this healing lifestyle with the rest of the world. When she isn't teaching, she can usually be found self-expressing through movement, writing, or making her latest handcrafted creation. Check out her latest and greatest at jessicajayneyoga.com.

 

Live Music Yoga Classes at Ahimsa in Oak Park

I just noticed that we have a LOT of live music classes at Ahimsa when one of our teachers, Jodi Walker, asked if she can have her husband play the guitar while she subs a yoga class in Berwyn.

Wes John Cichosz

Wes John Cichosz

What a beautiful thing - to have live music during yoga class. We don't often hear live music, and some people, like myself, rarely listen to music except occasionally in the car. Ever since my next door neighbor banged on wall one day while I was blasting music and singing and dancing... anyway... 

I love classes with no music, actually. I prefer it to an instructor's playlist. But live music is something different. It can wake you up to the beauty of life. To the miracle that this person is able to use an instrument to express their soul, their heart, their emotion. The guitar strings can tickle your heart strings, the drum beat can help you feel your true nature.

Currently, our musicians are also yogis who love the studio and want to give back in the form of their talent:

Steve Shelton

Steve Shelton

  • M. Taylor plays the drums for Kevin's Friday 8am Vinyasa Flow class.
  • Wes John Cichosz plays for Kevin's 6pm Tuesday night Vinyasa Flow. 
  • Steve Shelton plays for Kim Wade's 9:15am Friday Hatha Vinyasa.
  • Cassandra Justine gets a whole line up of musicians weekly for her Thursday Night Live flow class which have had musicians Karen Barr, Eva Bee on the cello from Moonrise Nation, and M. Taylor.

We've even hosted 2 SofarSounds events - the first show was the first one they've done in the Chicago suburbs. There are some photos here and on our facebook page.

M. Taylor on the drum

M. Taylor on the drum

We are grateful that these wonderful musicians wanted to share their gifts with us. Please join us for a Live Music class very soon!

Kelly Merydith

Put Down the Phone: Why Yoga Still Needs a Studio

By Julie Marie Lopez

March 17, 2017

Full disclosure: I have an Instagram account and I use it to share information about my classes, workshops, retreats, and quite a few photos of my dogs. I have posted videos of my work online, and I offer classes in partnership with a mobile fitness app with moderate viewership.

As an industry, we give clout to exotic travelers and the digitally notorious. But, the daily work and consistent growth remains with the local studio teachers.

Pick up an issue of any popular yoga magazine and you will find the modern trailblazers of our industry loop into a circuit of continued faces at festivals, online, and in print articles. The yoga elite paved the way, scooped up endorsements, and, for the most part, left their studios.

Photo of one of Muriel Quinn's workshops

Photo of one of Muriel Quinn's workshops

Many have taken their workshops on the road. Some can be found in far-flung appearances at international locales, which is worth the adventure—if you can afford to get there. If not, then you may live vicariously—albeit inspirationally—through their Instagram feeds. A few of yoga’s recognizable faces have left public classes altogether and have consolidated all of their actual asana teaching online.

Taking classes online is a sure-fire way to feed the yoga masses. For many people, this is a necessary supplement to their daily practice. The innovation of yoga-meets-digital has opened the doors for many to try yoga for the first time or maintain a daily practice when getting to the studio isn’t possible. However, the online serving of yoga isn’t a replacement for a studio practice. Or to borrow an analogy from my studio-owner friend who is Greek-American (and thus a self-proclaimed food-metaphor goddess), ”It’s not a full meal.”

While I don’t think online yoga was ever intended to be a substitute for public classes, the proliferation of paid online content mixed with faces from glossy magazine pages, leading sponsored Insta-challenges, launching yoga apps, and upgrading the quality from grainy YouTube videos to full-scale production is starting to have the illusion of ordering a Michelin-star meal at take-out prices.

The reality is that this is much like sustaining yourself on dessert. It tastes good! It is well-crafted. The upfront cost is hard to pass up (and sometimes, still, free). Digital yoga serves a fantastic purpose when life doesn’t allow time for a studio visit. Yet, without consistent time in a local studio, with teachers who know us and continue to hone their craft every day through public classes, our yoga diet can quickly become devoid of the nourishment needed for a sustainable, holistic practice.

Before getting all troll-y on me, consider what yoga, in its essence, means: union, connection, removing the veil, and seeing past illusion. As teachers, we take this also to mean holding space for our students.

How can we do this via social media, online courses, and digital apps? Even if the classes were once “live,” it is still illusion.

I speak from experience when I admit that we can’t even help it. No matter how untouched a photo, how raw or real the video’s content, a message is crafted and served single-sided with no feedback or, at best, on a time delay. When filming for a fitness app, I don’t feel the vibe of followers in that very moment. I cannot keep my eye on a student practicing post-injury or offer support to the woman experiencing her first class back after childbirth.

There’s no opportunity to “read the room” online for how a sequence is landing, or course correct when intuition whispers to do so. While a digital teacher can participate with viewer’s feedback after the fact, what is offered during filming happens from assumptions gathered from experience, or from the audience there when it was filmed. The essential in-the-moment connection with a student taking live classes, which brings nuance, flavor, and true union is lost.

Here’s the rub. Each studio class is new. Every class is perfectly imperfect, and can never be made again in that way. Being there, in the flesh, being seen by a teacher and other yogis cannot fully be replaced. Nor should it be. Yoga’s impact is not measured in a-ha moments from handstand photos with a well-paired quote, hashtag digital challenges, or in five-minute videos of back-bending tricks.

Yoga asana’s impact on daily living, as part of a holistic system of yoga, creeps in subtly from consistent, dedicated work. Having online yoga available to supplement the studio-world is an innovative trend that opens up access. Take it like a vitamin.

As a student, get into a studio and have a full meal. Do the work, and keep showing up. Be courageous. Be seen. Nothing can replace an in-person, co-created experience with other students, and a teacher that is present, excited to learn about you and on board to support your growth.

As teachers, let’s keep innovating, but also never lose sight of teaching in the studio. It is where we can offer connected, nourishing experiences.

As a yoga collective, as we choose to continue sharing this path, our best investment remains with the local teacher and the brick-and-mortar studios.

About Julia Marie Lopez

Julia Marie Lopez is a traveling yoga instructor and teacher trainer sought for her humor, heart, and ability to inspire students to dive deep into radical self-acceptance, purpose, and creativity. She became a teacher to share what she found through yoga: empowerment, compassion, and limitless potential. When Julia’s not on the road leading training and workshops, the Chicago native now offers public classes in her new hometown of Austin, Texas where she resides with her husband and their two furbabies.

Kelly MerydithComment
#mensyogamonth at Ahimsa in Elmhurst, Oak Park, and Berwyn

We are celebrating men who practice yoga and offering $10 off our New Student Special (1st month for $49) through March 31 to new male students who come to Ahimsa. 

It is no secret that women outnumber men in almost any yoga class in the US. The result is that many men feel uncomfortable joining a yoga class for their first time, even if they are interested. I've also heard that yoga either seems "wimpy" to men or "too hard."

My dad was introduced to yoga when he was in his late 50s. He was always a runner and gym goer. He wasn't interested in trying yoga before I became a certified instructor and needed someone to practice on. Since then, he was hooked. He found a great workout mixed with breath control, flexibility, balance, spirituality and stress relief.

Yoga benefits men in many ways - mostly with flexibility and stress relief. We encourage those with Y chromosomes to give yoga a shot this month and join our awesome community of male and female yogis!

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Why is Ahimsa's retail so expensive?!

Dear Yogis,

This is a question that I have been asked time and time again. And I've asked myself the same thing - all the time when ordering retail! Originally, I'd ordered popular yoga brands like Beyond Yoga, Be Present, Hard Tail, not really realizing why they were so expensive. Then I learned that they were all made in the USA, mostly in California, where yoga is widespread and the brands have been made popular by star teachers in LA and Yoga Journal magazine.

Masin has been really interested in purchasing fair trade and USA made clothing and products since we were in college.  When Masin started becoming more involved in Ahimsa, he was adamant that I didn't order retail that was not fair trade or made in the USA. So, that's what makes everything more expensive. It can be a confusing and tough transition as a consumer to purchase things at higher prices for fair labor, and I don't buy everything for myself fair trade (it's also probably impossible), or shop at co ops all the time, or Whole Foods, but I think it can make a difference, and so does Masin.

I've asked Masin to write a bit for this blog post and here's what he has to say:

"Ahimsa means practicing non harming in all areas of life. We realize as a retailer of yoga clothing and supplies that where our purchases come from has a significant effect on human lives. As of December 2016, all of our new retail items will come from sources with ethical work and labor standards (either Made in USA or Fair Trade). Previously, most of our items followed these standards, but we've decided its time to fully embrace the practice of Ahimsa in our retail areas. These standards lead to higher costs for us as a studio, and you as a consumer, but we feel its mandatory for us to support companies that offer living wages for their employees and lifestyles that we all enjoy. Your purchases from our retail stores support this ideology and we thank you, from ourselves and on behalf of the better (less harmful) world you're contributing to. Namaste Yogis."

So, there you have it! And here's a video on the topic as well:

Namaste,

Kelly

Kelly MerydithComment
Sofar Sounds Comes to Oak Park. First Chicago Suburban Concert!

On Saturday, August 20, Ahimsa in Oak Park was transformed into an intimate concert venue. The crew of 10 or so volunteers covered the floors with Ahimsa's yoga blankets to prepare for 65+ music lovers to sit and enjoy the sounds of Cold Mountain Child, Anthony Jay Sanders, and Kweku Collins. 

Sofar Sounds is a mainly volunteer based company that finds local venues (they started in peoples homes) and local musicians to play mini sets for the public. It's now a global movement in cities all over the world. Ahimsa was honored to be the first Chicago suburban show they've hosted. We hope they will return in October, and you can join us!

https://www.sofarsounds.com/chicago

 

Ahimsa community class honors Orlando victims
Rachel Najdzin taught a candlelit community class on Friday in Berwyn to honor the Orlando shooting victims and people suffering from violence around the world. 

Rachel Najdzin taught a candlelit community class on Friday in Berwyn to honor the Orlando shooting victims and people suffering from violence around the world. 

On Friday night, members of the Ahimsa family gathered at the studio’s Berwyn location for a community class in memory of the Orlando shooting victims. The class was taught by instructor Rachel Najdzin who led students through a slow, candlelit flow. During the class she discussed the meaning of Ahimsa — nonviolence — and made that a cornerstone theme of the practice.

Rachel encouraged students to use the gentle practice to care for their own bodies and minds so that they might, in turn, show greater love and compassion to others who are suffering. The acts of violence in Orlando; Nice, France; Chicago; and other places around the world were discussed and meditated upon. Rachel read the class the poem Another Planet by Dunya Mikhail and at the end of class the students chanted om to offer positive vibes to those suffering.

Ahimsa offers community classes and other special events on a regular basis. For more information about such events, click here.

Kelly MerydithComment
Bridging Your Practice Into Everyday Life
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A common misconception for people in their practice of yoga is that yoga is an event, a destination. I went to yoga this morning and now I’m off to do everything else I do in my normal day. Yoga is perceived as something that you go to, something that you do for an hour in a studio, a break in your regular day, but in actuality it is so, so much more.

Sometimes the phrase “yoga lifestyle” is brought up. This isn’t about being diligent in attending a weekly mat class, this is about being diligent in incorporating what you’re learning in that weekly mat class into everyday life. This doesn’t mean doing 20 Sun Salutations and attempting a headstand every morning before you make your bed, this means identifying those yoga principles that resonate most strongly to you personally and bringing them alive in your life.

Let’s break this down by considering the very word yoga. Yoga is a Sanskrit word meaning “to yoke” or “to unite.” The idea is that the yoga practitioner yokes, or unites, breath and movement. One breath for one movement. It is through the union of breath and movement that beautiful balance comes to the body, and this, my friends is what it means to be a yogi.

Yoga is about balance. Sometimes it’s about balancing poses, but most of the time it’s about balancing in other ways. Balancing the mind’s activity with the body’s, balancing inhales with exhales, balancing heavy workloads with time for self care, balancing relationships, balancing jobs, balancing light and dark, spring and fall, noise and quiet, and much, much more.

So consider this, if you’ve been called to the mat, challenge yourself to practice yoga off the mat. With a careful eye, look at your life and ask yourself if there’s a way to create more balance in it. Do you come home from work exhausted and stressed every day? Carve out a small portion of the day and do something special, just for you. Have you been spending all of your free time with the same people? Call up a friend you haven’t seen in a while and catch up. Walk the dog the opposite way around the block for a change! The possibilities are endless.

As you start to consciously bring more balance into your life off the yoga mat, start to observe where there is balance in the natural world or in the uncontrollable occurrences in life events. Day follows night, good follows bad, sun follows rain, hope follows despair, and let these little instances of balance remind you that although the path may be twisted, the journey is true.

Ahimsa Yoga Studio Comes to Elmhurst

Blissed Out Yoga was established in 2010 and was purchased by Kelly Merydith and Masin Ouksel from Ahimsa Yoga Studio in June of 2016. Ahimsa has two successful studios - one in Oak Park and one in Berwyn, IL. 

Kelly and Masin are committed to adding more yoga classes to the schedule including speciality workshops like reiki, yin, restorative, beginners, and vinyasa flow. They hope to benefit the Elmhurst yoga community including the instructors. They are hoping that Ahimsa in Elmhurst will become a place where many students can develop on their yoga path.

The studio has already had a Sound Bath with Chuck Merydith and are including teen and kids classes in the schedule this summer. Blissed Out had Plus Size Yoga, which takes places Tuesday evenings and is often a sold out series. 

The studio.

The studio.

Kelly, Ashley and Masin at the open house. Ashley was the raffle winner!

Kelly, Ashley and Masin at the open house. Ashley was the raffle winner!

The lobby is simple and serene.

The lobby is simple and serene.