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Authors Posts by Amy Thornley

Amy Thornley

Amy Thornley
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Amy Thornley is a writer, yogini, baker, and Content Manager of The Yoga Bar. Amy found yoga in 2001 and from the first moments of deep breathing and guided meditation, her mind and heart were blown wide open. After studying in various cities, Amy finally found her home at the Yoga Bar, completing her 200-hour teacher certification with the Bija Yoga School in 2014. She teaches regularly around town, sharing her kind heart and radiating love in each one of her beautifully led classes. Amy also earned a Bachelor’s of Art in English Literature from the Ohio State University and a Master’s degree in Information Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has now settled happily in Prospect Hill with her husband and fur family. Contact her at amythornley@gmail.com.

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Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer, so the warm weather will start to call your name. Our yoga expert explains where and how to take your practice outside.

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Our yoga columnist shares why you should take your yoga practice outside this summer.

Summer is here and the time is right for taking your yoga practice into the great outdoors! Read on to find the setting that best suits you. We’ll see you on your mat this summer!

If you like your outdoor yoga in front of a thriving cityscape, Yoga on the Green returns to Washington Park just for you on May 31, 2016 at 6:00pm. Rachel Roberts and her talented staff of teachers from The Yoga Bar will lead local yogis in a practice accessible to all ages and abilities. Classes will run one hour long, every Tuesday until Labor Day and are completely free.

Also returning this year are the OTR White Wristband specials. Anyone who attends Yoga on the Green can pick up a free white wristband from Yoga Bar staff members. This wristband can be used at local businesses for discounts on goods and services. This year, over 50 businesses throughout Over-the-Rhine and Pendleton are participating in the program. A full list of participating businesses may be viewed on the Yoga Bar website.

If yoga with a side of football is more your style, join Rachel Roberts and The Yoga Bar in the Jungle for NamasDEY, an opportunity practice yoga on the field at Paul Brown Stadium. NamasDEY is a benefit for the Freestore Foodbank taking place on June 11th. The class will be appropriate for all levels. Doors will open at 9am for check-in and registration. Non-perishable food donations to the Freestore Foodbank are welcome. It’s your chance to come together and take the field before the Bengals kick off the season!

Tickets are $10 and can be purchased online.

Want to see more green than just turf? Head to Burnet Woods in Clifton for CommUNITY Yoga, a class that celebrates nature and yoga. This class is held on Saturdays at 10am from May through mid-September. Led by teachers from World Peace Yoga on Ludlow, an hour-long practice in this wooded setting will leave you feeling refreshed and peaceful. All levels of yoga practitioner are welcome. Class meets at the bandstand in Burnet Woods, but will move indoors to the World Peace studio in heavy rain. Donations are appreciated.

Are your little ones interested in yoga? Perhaps you’d like to help them find some calm and peace in the middle of a hectic summer? Kid’s Yoga in Washington Park is back! Beginning at 10am teachers from The Yoga Bar will lead children ages 4-8 through a 30 minute introduction to yoga poses, games, breathing exercises and meditation. Yoga for children focuses on helping kids learn how to slow down, find calm and cultivate self-awareness. Each class is constructed to encourage a sense of calmness and peace.

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Is it time for a time out? Our yoga expert explains how two upcoming yoga retreats can give you the reset you’re looking for.

A yoga retreat in Bali. Photo
A yoga retreat in Bali. Photographer: Rachel Roberts; Rights: The Yoga Bar

The western life is considered by many to be among the busiest in the world. We try to cram as much as possible into the course of a day, constantly expecting more of ourselves and constantly falling short. If we could just make more time for our family. For our kids. For our health. For our friends. For our schools. For community involvement. For volunteering.

Stop. You don’t need more. You need to breathe.

For those who are really burning the candle at both ends, perhaps it’s time to consider a time out.  A yoga retreat is just the sort of radical disconnect that we need from time to time in order to focus on our inner selves and realign with what is most important to us. To release the expectations that we have of what we should be doing with our moments, that add up to hours, that add up to our days. To release all of the roles that are no longer serving us. To surrender.

But, surrender is really hard. Especially for those of us who over-schedule, over-commit, and have high personal expectations. So, for those of you who are interested but want to know more, here are some of the most frequently asked questions about yoga retreats.

What do you do on a retreat?

Retreats are about taking some time for yourself, getting away from your regular routine, and indulging in a little TLC. On a yoga retreat, you’ll typically do several yoga practices each day, meditation, self-reflection, and journaling. Depending on the retreat location, there may be some little indulgences as well — spa treatments and light hiking are popular examples.

Do I need to be a yoga expert?

Definitely not! Just like a studio class, retreats are designed to meet you where you are. Anyone from a beginner to a certified Ashtangi can come and delve deeper into their own yoga practice on retreat.

How much yoga are we talking about, exactly?

At Bija Retreats, we do two practices a day — an active, vinyasa practice in the morning and a peaceful or restorative practice in the evening. Expect something like a vinyasa flow class in the morning, and a Yin or Restorative Flow in the evening. Most yoga retreats are like this, and if it’s not, it will be clearly stated in the retreat description. 

What should I bring with me?

Your yoga mat, if you have one. A journal and pen. Clothes that allow you to be comfortable and move freely in yoga practice. Clothes appropriate to explore the retreat location, if you choose to do so. For example, you might want hiking shoes in Hocking Hills, or a bathing suit in Tulum.

Will I starve? Is this a cleanse?

You will definitely not starve, and no one’s trying to trick you into a cleanse. A retreat that involves cleansing or fasting will be explicitly stated and described.

Unless otherwise stated, you can plan on 3 healthy, organic meals each day of the retreat and some limited snacks. Many yoga practitioners choose to follow plant-based diets, so retreat fare may be vegan or vegetarian. Yogis are no stranger to unique dietary needs, and the retreat leader will be happy to accommodate yours with advanced notice. Just be sure to speak up early!

I’m coming by myself. Do I have to share a room with a stranger?

Only if you want to! Typically, retreat fees show the room occupancy – one price for a double-occupancy, another price for dorm-style. You can always inquire about the cost of a private room. Or maybe recruit a friend to come with you!

Do I have to participate in everything?

Nope. While activities are planned to assist you in the self-reflection process of the retreat, you are always welcome to go on your own journey. Most retreat leaders will simply ask that you honor the individual journeys of others as well and refrain from disrupting the retreat atmosphere.

Ready to go? Find more information about The Yoga Bar’s 2016 retreats to Hocking Hills, Ohio and the Mayan Riviera here.

The goal of any retreat is to give you a comfortable space to go deeply within. We will try to accommodate any and all reasonable requests to assist you on your journey. If you have any additional questions about retreats through the Yoga Bar, please ask us!

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What helps this Yoga Bar teacher to go the distance? You guessed it — yoga. Read on to see some of this marathoner's favorite postures.

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Side Angle (The Yoga Bar; Photographer: Dom Fowler)

Meet Sarah Crabtree. Yoga teacher. Mother to eight-year-old twin boys. Runner of 12 marathons in 12 months.

Sarah Running
Sarah Crabtree

If this sounds crazy to you, it might be because you don’t love running quite as much as Sarah does. Sarah started running at 14 years old and, according to her, it was love at first sprint. “I fell in love with the feeling of accomplishment I would get after a hard track work out. With the way my body would feel tingly and tired yet elated after practice. With the way my mind felt clear and unburdened after a hard run. With the way it seemed to take the edge off when I was mad, or lift me up when I was sad. That’s why I keep running, even today.”

Sarah has been running all these years not for fitness, although that’s a nice perk. For Sarah, running is key to coping with life’s little troubles and tribulations. While she’s always enjoyed the physical challenge, Sarah says running is her coping strategy for crappy days and difficult moments. Sarah says. “Running lifts me up and invigorates me. It helps me feel alive.”

A sprinter in her younger days, Sarah found herself making the transition to distances slowly over time, working her way from five miles to half and then full marathons. She started her marathon career here in Cincinnati, when she ran the Flying Pig in 2011. But in her second marathon, the 2012 Flying Pig, her peace of mind hit against a physical wall. Sarah tore her plantar fascia in her left foot during the race and had to exit at the halfway point. This injury required taking eight weeks off from running entirely.

Like many other competitive spirits, Sarah was restless while injured. She was desperate to find another way to move her body during her recovery, not just to maintain fitness, but to achieve the same mental clarity she had found in running. After a few disappointments with other fitness fads, Sarah Crabtree walked in to an Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga class. “From the very first class I took, I felt physically and mentally challenged in the same way that I did while running.  I also found that same mental clarity that I got from running, but on an even deeper, more profound level.  I was quickly hooked and not only started practicing regularly, but decided that I would pursue my teaching certification as well.”

Over time, Sarah made her way back to distance running, but this time she brought a daily yoga practice in to her training. With the addition of yoga, Sarah noticed that she was stronger and recovered faster from long runs and races. Not only was the plantar fascia pain gone, but she noticed that she was more flexible and had more core strength. She was stronger throughout her body—physically, but also mentally.

“The challenges that I faced on my mat, the breath and mind control that I learned on my mat all started to help me during challenging runs,” Sarah says. “I was seeing more than ever that running and yoga were the perfect compliment to each other and not only that, that I needed both of them as they both give me something slightly different.” While running is invigorating and uplifting, Sarah’s yoga practice is grounding and helps her to find focus. And for Sarah, this focus gives her the competitive advantage.

“Running, like yoga, is as much about developing a strong mental will, as it is about developing a strong body. At a certain point in a race, my body will want to stop. My mind is what gets me to the finish line most days. The satisfaction that comes from meeting that challenge is invaluable.”

Which brings us back to Sarah’s latest challenge: a year of monthly marathons. Noting her struggle with the last 6 miles or so of distance, a friend recommended that she try running marathons more often to help her body and mind get used to it. Sarah loved the idea so much that she dedicated one whole year to trying it out. So far, Sarah has run seven marathons across the eastern seaboard, with just five more to go.

Look for Sarah this weekend at the Flying Pig, number 8 of her 12 marathons this year. Or, add one of her challenging, eye-opening vinyasa classes at either of the two Yoga Bar locations to your training regimen. You might just find that peace of mind you’ve been seeking.

For all of the fellow runners out there, a special treat: Sarah recommends the following yoga postures to stretch the hips in your post-run recovery.

Low Lunge

From Downward Dog or Table, step the right foot forward to the right thumb. Bring hands to rest on the right knee or raise them overhead as shown. Keeping knee stacked over the ankle, press hips forward and down, stretching through left quad and hip. Hold for 5 breaths or up to 1 minute.

Low lunge (The Yoga Bar; Photographer: Dom Fowler)
Low lunge (The Yoga Bar; Photographer: Dom Fowler)

Lizard

From Low Lunge, lower both hands to the ground inside of the right foot and scoot the right foot over near the outward edge of the mat, if using one (3-4 inches over). Lift the left knee and press back through the heel, keeping abs engaged. Hold for 5 breaths or up to 1 minute.

The Lizard pose. (The Yoga Bar; Photographer: Amy Thornley)
The Lizard pose. (The Yoga Bar; Photographer: Amy Thornley)

Revolved Lizard

From Lizard pose, lower the left knee to the ground. Rock onto the outside of the right foot, resting right hand gently on the knee or reaching the arm behind to twist deeper (as shown). Hold for 5 breaths or up to 1 minute. Unwind and transition back to Table or Downward Dog and repeat the sequence on the left side.

Revolved Lizard (The Yoga Bar; Photographer: Dom Fowler)
Revolved Lizard (The Yoga Bar; Photographer: Dom Fowler)

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Advanced postures are worth the wait. Our yoga columnist explains why, and how it parallels life off of the mat.

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What can I do to get handstand? How do I do crow pose? Can you show me how to do that handstand where your legs come up over your head?

Yoga teachers get a lot of questions like these from students. Many times, the student is a new one. They’ve seen a picture of someone, maybe even someone they know, on Instagram or Facebook in an incredible, beautiful pose and it has captured them. They’re in. For that pose.

Ah, social media. These tools bring so many new opportunities for connection into modern life. If you’ve dabbled at all in the online yoga world, you may have come across one of the many “yoga challenges,” in which people post pictures of various advanced postures, usually a different one each day for a month. They can be really fun and empowering, as you watch all sorts of different people around the world try something new.

However. Focusing on advanced posture is only accessing a teeny, tiny portion of the picture. And these pictures of advanced postures show only one fraction of a second of one individual’s yoga practice. It doesn’t show all the preparatory poses taken to build strength and flexibility. It doesn’t show the dozens of less-perfect versions of the pose that have been taken by that particular body over the weeks and months leading to this photograph.

That photograph isn’t yoga. It’s just a pose. Because yoga is, first and foremost, a practice. It’s the process. Something that we come to regularly. And imperfection is a big part of that practice.

A body stepping on to the yoga mat for the first time is a mystery. Often this person will say they can’t touch their toes. To which I say, of course you can’t – you aren’t required to in your day-to-day life. But the body also has other limitations that are completely unknown at the beginning. Everyone has areas that are weak, and areas that are stronger than you realize; spots that are tight, and spots that are naturally flexible.

And from here you will begin. You will work with a teacher and a studio to learn your body, learn the ways you are already strong and flexible, and cultivate others. Yoga may show you that you tend to hunch your shoulders, and you will begin to unlearn that habit. You will start to realize how unevenly you use the muscles in, say, your hips, and the body will respond, showing you the domino effect of those tendencies. The first downward facing dog you do will feel strange and difficult, but eventually with time, without even realizing it, it will be your second home.

The truth is, the first time you try an arm balance, you’ll probably fall. And the second time. And maybe many more times after that. There’s no set number. It’s different for everyone.

You’ll fall until you’ve learned all the lessons you need to learn from falling. Falling isn’t failing. It’s forward progress.

The journey from beginner to advanced practitioner is long, intentionally so. In fact, most of us teaching are still journeying on that path. It takes a long time to learn your body, to discover its quirks and nuances. But along the way, just by showing up and practicing with the body you have been given, you will develop all you need to do the postures in your own time.

We would all like to sweep all of those less-than-perfect moments away and live life as it is on Instagram. Just take me straight to handstand, please. All soft light and flattering filters. No discomfort. But the uncomfortable places are where learning is happening. You need all of the practice to prepare you for the big postures.

This is just one of the many places where yoga parallels life off of the mat. Our practice always has something to teach us. Think about your own habits on the mat and see if they apply to your life off of it. Are you afraid of falling? What does falling mean to you? Do you tend to shy away from things that make you uncomfortable? Do you try to hide all your less-than-perfect moments from others? Or, has it become habit of yours to rush toward the ending?

To be perfectly clear, there’s nothing wrong with handstand, or crow pose, or any other advanced posture. There’s nothing wrong with pursuing excellence, on the mat or off. But let us not lose sight of the fact that it is just that, a pursuit. It’s about the journey towards the pose, not the pose itself. Or, as Ashtanga founding father K. Pattabhi Jois said, “Practice. Practice. Practice. All is coming.”

May it be so.

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Zap your hay fever the natural way, as our yoga columnist guides you to a place where you can breathe easy again.

Yoga can help you deal with allergies such as hay fever, and keep you feeling clear all spring long.
Yoga can help you deal with allergies and keep you feeling clear all spring long.

Spring is here! For many, the beauty and excitement of new life is brought down a notch by itchy eyes, scratchy throats, and an explosion of pollen that makes us miserable. It’s awful to feel less than your best, especially at a time when the world around you is springing into life. But you’re not alone.

The CDC reports that 19.1 million adults were diagnosed with hay fever in the past 12 months. The symptoms of hay fever (congestion, runny nose, itchy eyes) are caused when the body reacts to something harmless, like pollen, as if it were harmful. According to the Mayo Clinic, most doctors recommend fighting seasonal allergies with an anti-histamine, a decongestant, or avoiding the allergens altogether. And, even if you’re not one of those millions diagnosed, all that extra stuff in the air can still cause respiratory problems.

If you’re uncomfortable with relying on medication for seasonal allergy symptoms, or if you’d just like to add a natural remedy to your arsenal, yoga and Ayurvedic practice are here to help. Through a smart and simple combination of concentrated breath work and nasal irrigation, you could find yourself once again breathing easily.

Nadi Shodhana, or alternate nostril breathing, is used in a yoga practice to focus the mind. However, it has the added benefit of clearing nasal passages. If you’re experiencing congestion, it’s best to have a tissue on hand before beginning this practice.

To practice alternate nostril breathing, sit comfortably on the floor or in a chair. Close your eyes and take a few deep, centering breaths, letting your attention focus on the moment. Bring your right hand up to the face so that the first and second fingers are resting between your brows, thumb is by the right nostril and ring finger is by the left. Inhale and exhale normally. Use the thumb to block the right nostril, inhaling through the left. Release the right nostril and use the ring finger to block the left, exhaling through the right nostril. Inhale here, and then switch again, exhaling through the left nostril. 

You can also follow along with Wesleigh of The Yoga Bar in this video where she demonstrates alternate nostril breathing.

This completes one round of alternate nostril breathing. Continue for five to ten rounds, and then release the right hand down to the side and let the breath come naturally. If this breath pattern rattled anything lose through the nasal passages, feel free to use the tissue. If you’d like to extend your practice with a mindfulness meditation, try taking a few rounds of alternate nostril breathing without using the hand to physically block the nostrils.

After this pranayama practice, especially if you’re experiencing congestion, it feels really nice to flush the nasal passages using a neti pot. Neti is an Ayurvedic practice that dates back centuries. In it, you use a pot and gentle salt solution to flush the sinuses. Neti use is growing in the US, in part due to the embrace of the medical establishment. WebMD reports that ear, nose and throat surgeons now recommend that their patients use nasal irrigation (the medical-friendly term for neti pot) to “clear away crusting in nasal passages.”

Using a neti pot for the first time can be intimidating. The traditional method involves leaning forward, tipping a pot of water into one nostril, breathing calmly all the while, allowing the water to safely flow out of the other nostril. After the first side, you’ll switch to the other. After flushing both sides, lean forward over your sink even more, or even fold forward in uttanasana or another posture to encourage any leftover water to come out.

There are many videos online that help to demystify the nasal irrigation process. One really excellent resource is the Himalayan Institute, site of Ayurvedic and yoga teaching in the US, and manufacturer of what is considered the “original” Neti Pot, though you can use any vessel. Be sure to use boiled or distilled water, and sanitize your pot before use.

For yogi extra credit, put a tiny amount of oil on the pinky finger and lightly apply to the inside of each nostril after neti-ing. Even gentle salt solutions can be drying to nasal tissues.

Interested in Ayurveda? The Yoga Bar is hosting Lisa Snowden, our resident Ayurveda expert, for a Spring Cleanse Weekend and exploration in self care. Lisa has trained extensively at the Himalayan Institute and holds a certification in Ayurvedic Health Counseling. See The Yoga Bar’s event page for more information.

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It’s wedding season. Yoga can help with that. Our yogi columnist explains.

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Photo: GwyneMark Photography

Hey out there, newly engaged ladies! Congratulations! If you’re like most brides-to-be, you’re probably already thinking about the things that you need to do before the big day. Amid all the choices you’re making about flowers, venue, dress, my guess is that you’re thinking about some personal remodeling as well.  You’d like to lose a few pounds. And you definitely want to tone up those arms.  Tighten the belly. Actually, you’d be happier with slimmer thighs, even though no one will see them in that big puffy dress.

Here’s the capital-t Truth about your wedding day — it goes by so fast. In the blink of an eye, all those things that you’ve planned for, the cultivated choices, the planned moments will be suddenly in the past. And if you don’t pay special attention, if you have too many things that you are worried about happening at the perfect moment, you’ll miss it.

Yoga can be your best ally for wedding season, but not for your biceps, bum, or thighs. Maybe not for any reason that you are currently considering. Yoga is a gift of presence, and one that you can have for longer than just one day.

And anyway, when you’re 80 and looking back on this day, you won’t wish you spent more time in the gym. You will cherish the photographs and memories made with your loved ones. You will wish that you could climb back into these moments and spend time with these people once again. You will look back at pictures of your body as it is at this very moment and only see how beautiful you are.

Why wait for time to make us wise and content?

Yoga helps with a little thing called mindfulness. It’s something we practice every time we come to our mat, and it’s something that even a very beginner can try. Maybe you’ve been going to yoga classes but think you haven’t been giving mindfulness meditation a try. But you have. When your teacher asks you to close your eyes and notice, that’s mindfulness. When you realize that you’re clenching your jaw, release it, and feel the tension melt away through your neck and shoulders, that’s practicing mindfulness. When you find that you’re holding your breath in a pose instead of breathing easily and then adjust, that’s practicing mindfulness.

Mindfulness is all about staying in the present moment, however boring or uncomfortable, and being totally and fully aware. Even if you’ve never done yoga before, you can do it right now. Close your eyes and ask yourself, how do I feel today? And simply notice what comes up. It may be words, it may be feelings or emotions. You may notice your back twinge in response. Don’t get too wrapped up in the answer. The answer doesn’t matter. The noticing is what matters. Continue to sit like this for a few breaths and keep asking, keep noticing. How do I feel today?

Over time, a mindfulness practice helps us to realize how little most of the things we think about matter. That really, we’re okay just as we are. We’re perfectly imperfect, just like every other human being on the planet. And when we notice and accept the imperfections in ourselves, it’s so much easier to accept them in other people.

As you prepare for wedding season, your own or another’s, considering adding yoga to your preparation list. Not for your arms or your core, but for your mind and the rest of your life. So when that thing goes wrong on the big day (there’s always something), you take your deep breath and notice. That you are surrounded by loved ones. How concerned everyone is in making this special. How love and community and connection are what have brought you all together on this day. Amid all the nerves and anticipation, you will find peace and gratitude. And a smile.

Cherish this day, dear one. May you find happiness in the here and now.

 

Ready to give yoga and mindfulness a try? Look for mindful classes at a local studio. At the Yoga Bar, for example, any of our Gentle, Mindful Flow or Restorative classes will also have a deep focus on mindfulness. Look for classes with similar names at other studios.

You can try out seated meditation on your own with one of the recommended apps below. All are free to download and have beginner sequences of varying lengths. Delving deeper requires a paid subscription.

Calm for iPhone and Android

Take a Break for iPhone and Android

Headspace for iPhone and Android

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Our yoga columnist explains why partner yoga is so beneficial – physically and emotionally – and why you should grab a significant other or friend to give it a try.

Before all the single ladies take a hard pass — partner yoga is not just for couples. Mental health professionals agree that social connection is incredibly important for we social human animals. The physical and emotional challenges involved in these postures can help foster connection and closeness in any important relationship.

So, what exactly is Partner Yoga? Partner yoga takes regular yoga postures and adds another person to the mix. The postures may be very low-intensity, with both partners seated, or high-intensity, with one partner flying. In either situation, the purpose of the partner is the same — to assist and adjust one another, to deepen the sensations of the pose. You can think of it as having a personal yoga teacher on hand, giving you adjustments in each pose.

Just as in interpersonal relationships, we apply the principles of give and take to partner yoga. Be sure to take turns with your partner, so that each person explores the release and emotion of both sides of each posture.

Join the teachers of The Yoga Bar as we lead you through a few simple postures you can try at home with your own partner.

Navasana (Boat Pose)

CAPTION: David Warnke
Photo: David Warnke

Each partner should come to their seat, facing one another. Reaching forward, link hands and bring soles of the feet together with knees bent. Maintaining the joining of hands, begin to straighten knees, pressing strong into your partner’s feet and lifting through the core. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths, and then release gently.

Balasana (Child’s Pose)

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Photo: David Warnke

Partner A (bottom) will come to a wide-kneed Child’s Pose on the mat, arms lengthening forward. Partner B (top) will then sit on Partner A’s hips, facing the other direction, with her own sacrum matched up with Partner A’s sacrum. Partner B will then begin to lay down along Partner A’s back, extending arms overhead and straightening the legs. Both partners will breathe deeply, matching inhales and exhales. Hold for 2 to 3 minutes. Partner B will gently roll back up, releasing the pose. After a few breaths of rest, partners can switch positions.

Ready to learn more? The Yoga Bar will be hosting a partner-style yoga workshop on March 6, 2:00pm – 4:30pm. Yin + Thai Massage, featuring Donna Covrett and Adam Stonebraker, will feature long-held gentle postures and the partnering benefits of Thai massage.

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To launch a new yoga column here on Cincy Chic, our experts start off with a few basics – how it helps and who it benefits (hint: it’s everyone).

Yoga is a great way
Photo by David Warnke for The Yoga Bar.

“I can’t even touch my toes!”

“I’m a dude.”

“I’m not flexible.”

“I’m too old.”

“I’m too young”

“I have a bad back.” 

Yoga teachers have heard every excuse in the book! But now is the time to commit, to shed the excuses. Simply put, here’s who CAN do yoga… EVERYONE.

If you can breathe on your own, you can practice some form of yoga. If you can get up and down from the ground on your own, you can do yoga in a traditional yoga studio. All that a yoga practice requires is patience and commitment. Which, of course, is what makes it challenging.

Where should someone who “can’t do yoga” begin? Many studios offer classes tailored directly to the beginner student. At The Yoga Bar we offer a regular four-week series that introduces the beginning student to the basics of a yoga practice. Master teacher Donna Covrett leads students through the basics of yoga, breath, meditation, and foundational postures. The uninitiated student leaves this series with basic knowledge and confidence, ready for a gentle class at any studio. The next Beginner Series at The Yoga Bar begins March 5.

If you’ve suffered a serious injury or chronic illness, you might consider beginning your practice with one of Cincinnati’s more experienced teachers in a private lesson. If you are pregnant or trying to get pregnant, seek out Shine Yoga in Hyde Park. Nancy Willman of Main Street Yoga teaches a regular class for students with scoliosis. There are even classes throughout the city tailored to those in recovery.

When should you start a yoga practice? Now. Honestly, the hardest thing about yoga is getting onto your mat. Once you arrive at the studio, the rest is easy by comparison.

When you do join a group class at the studio, know this: no one is watching you. Well, besides the teacher, who is watching everyone in order to help and assist. Each and every student in the room is dealing with their own challenges on their own mat. 

Some poses will come to you easily. Some poses will be more challenging. This doesn’t mean that you are either “good” or “bad” at yoga. It means that you, like everyone else, have things you’re good at, and things you need to work on.

Photo by David
Photo by David Warnke for The Yoga Bar

What should you wear? You’ll want to start with whatever you would wear to the gym, or maybe even to bed. Have you ever noticed how yoga clothes kind of look like pajamas?

Here are a few pro tips: in yoga, you hang upside down a lot, so loose fitting t-shirts can lead to wardrobe malfunctions. Target leggings are not as opaque as you might think (trust us here), and bare feet are the norm.

What shouldn’t you wear? Strong perfumes, cologne or anything so smelly it will distract others — you breathe deeply a lot in yoga. Your connected devices – give yourself the gift of an hour free from technology. Also, dangling jewelry or big rings might hurt you in inversions or pinch your fingers, so leave those with your phone.

What do I need for practice? Most yoga studios offer mats for rent, and many even loan them for free. Most also provide filtered water, but a water bottle might be a good thing to bring. If you are prone to sweating, bring a towel to wipe your hands dry.

What if I don’t like it? Shop around! Invest some time in finding the right teacher and studio, or mix of teachers and studios, for you. If you had one bad bowl of pasta you probably wouldn’t say you hate Italian food. So why give up all of yoga just because one class you took didn’t resonate? Keep in mind that yoga teachers are human. They also have off days. Yoga studios are for the most part small, local and independently owned affairs with skeleton crews and volunteer staffs, so be patient with them and help out if possible. 

Often times a teacher you cross early on, the one who makes you bristle, will end up being YOUR teacher once you’ve settled into a regular practice. Simply put, the teacher who annoys you at first is probably the one who has the most to truly teach you.

How much do I have to commit to this? Once a week is fine, at first. This dabbling in yoga is like getting a spa massage— it feels good, it’s nice to do for yourself, but it’s probably not going to change your life.

If you really want to change your body, mind and spirit, then you’ll want to commit to three times a week or more. Early on, this should be at a studio with an experienced teacher. As you progress, you can start an at home practice and alternate between the studio and home. However, many prefer the motivation of a teacher and the commitment to a studio, so most studios will offer a monthly-unlimited pass for those students who want to practice regularly.

We know that first time you walk into a yoga studio carries a serious intimidation factor. But let this month be the month that you give yoga a try. We’re really excited to meet you. We want you to share this practice with us. We guarantee that you’re better at this than you think. And your yoga practice just might be the best gift you’ve ever given yourself.

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