June Student Spotlight

June Student Spotlight

Good morning, would you like to introduce yourself to the Reyn community?
Yes, hi i’m Jerry Tassin.

Who are you on and off the mat Jerry?
Job wise, I have always worked in IT. These days I work as a stat man, a data analyst for the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Wow, okay!
In the drug court program, which is very interesting work. We just started a new software project to replace our current case management system, so I am up to my knees in data conversion and configuration and whatnot so that has been a lot of fun. Besides practicing yoga and work, I read a lot. I like to read lots of different types of books.

That is fascinating work I’m sure. Any particular genre you like to read?
Well, there is a series of Zen authors and Zen books that I like to read, ancient as well as current. In these last couple years I have started to like poetry more, I like essays, and the fiction I read is mostly ideas rather than plot driven.

Awesome, it sounds like your off mat life is reflective of, yet has some serious variances from the rigorous practice we are used to seeing you do. What brought you to yoga initially?
Back when I was in my fifties, when I started to feel less flexible, stiff and achy, my wife suggested I try yoga. We were living in Texas then, so I went with her to a wellness center there and learned a few asanas, poses, back then especially I was adverse to groups, so I developed a sequence for  myself that I practiced at home. Then, when we moved back home, here to New Orleans I felt I needed to up my game some. By then I was in my sixties {chuckles}, so I started exploring, and I discovered vinyasa, and I discovered Reyn Studios and I have been here ever since.

Jerry that is beautiful. You committed to about ten years of a solo home practice, that is a really interesting and powerful way to begin your practice.
Yes, but I have learned the wonderful thing about coming to a studio is the teachers. You know, when you can refine using their verbal cues, and when a teacher uses a physical assist, gently drawing your shoulder back in trikonasana, or helps you move your hip creases back in downward dog, and you get to a level that is hard to achieve on you own, that is the wow! It is a really wonderful feeling. I really appreciate the teachers, and am now more comfortable in groups but it is really the teachers here that have been terrific. Those that were once here and are no longer, as well as many of the current teachers. I realize I haven’t had a class with you yet!

Aw, I know. We have some good ones, and I have such a limited schedule I feel like I do not get to spend as much time with all y’all as I’d like at the moment.
You are in good company, there are wonderful people who teach and have taught here and I really cherish what I have learned from them.

Beautiful, besides your personal desire to improve your practice, as lead you to feel more comfortable and drawn to practicing in a group setting rather than practicing on your own?You know, I’m not sure. Coming here, you walk in the door and you are welcome. There is always a smile, a welcome, a chit chat before you head up to class, you  don’t just walk up say hello sign in and move along, it's not that type of thing. There is always a welcoming atmosphere here. And, the teachers, the teachers, it is all of that which has made me less averse so to say, and just the familiarity of the place.

We do try to make it feel like home a bit, so we are happy to hear it works for you. Do you still practice with your wife?
No, we actually no longer live together {laughs} but we are still married. I do practice with my daughter, she is into yoga. In face any visit to Chicago where she lives is also a visit to her studio there.

I didn’t mean to pry, but that is so cool that you get to share your practice with you daughter. Yes, she was recently here for a work conference, and I brought here to practice here. We have had fun practicing together here.

Do you feel like practicing with family, in these sometimes challenging or vulnerable poses or classes, changes or influences your practice?
No, not really, but it is nice when there is a particular challenge to hear someone else’s perspective.

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Do you think having that shared experience on the mat helps your relationship in other ways, or allows you to have a different type of connection?
Yes, I do. Yoga as a whole makes you more open, and of course there are other areas that we have in common. Sometimes you know, you leave a yoga class and you feel bigger than you are, your heart, your lungs, your capacity is greater, so yeah I think it does help in all relationships.

Definitely, what are some other ways you feel your yoga lessons have seeped into your off mat life?
It has transferred in to my work life, oh yeah. The patience, and the concentration of trying to focus and to occupy a pose, it trains you to be in the moment so that you learn to focus your attention on a specific movement or in a specific situation, it helps. You are able to be more present with individuals and more present to the work that has to be done, so rather than going off in all directions I am able to focus my mind more on what it is I need to be doing.

This conversation demonstrates that you have a really good connection to not only the physical asana, but also to the metaphysical components through your study of philosophy and Zen scholars.
The mental aspects of it have been terrific for me. You know, in fact, as I near my seventies, the mental aspect has become more important you know, and even that, being able to be in the moment, no matter what is going on around you, it helps. The mental aspects is a big deal, and I really enjoy what I read.

We you interested in the Zen philosophies, and the more traditional Easter Spiritual text prior to your relationship with yoga?
Only a little bit, there was a curiosity but I wasn’t moved to study it.

As we go we delve a little deeper.
Yes, I like it a lot, the focus on experience, just the idea of experiencing an asana or transitioning into an asana, the focus on your daily life, eating, sleeping, cooking,  you know whatever, it is fulfilling to notice each of these things.

I find one of my important take away lessons, which helps me off the mat, is being more mindful of those transitions like you mentioned. Being more mindful in how I move through the day, not focusing on getting from point A to point B, but instead being more aware of the process of the journey. I really appreciate what your talking about in that aspect.
My relationship to one legged standing balances is interesting because it frustrating for me, it's either hit or miss, and some days the right leg and foot are better, and other days the left leg and left foot are better and who knows why? It gives me the opportunity to laugh at myself for one thing.

Beautiful!

Then it also translates into living, Catherine Burke talks about this often, about balance, and correction. Sometimes we might correct a little too much and we have to come back, or we might get a bit overly emotional about something, not that emotion is bad, but maybe you overreact to something so you have to come back from that. You know I think the standing balances offer me the most lessons as far as life is concerned. Then of course on Saturday, Lindsey said “you are welcome to wobble” which you know is true, it's a thought which most the time you think “no I don’t want to wobble” so to welcome it, it changes concepts and thinking.

Yes, it is okay to wobble, to feel the shakes and know they mean change, its all okay as long as we can find our breath right?

{Laughs} Very true, very true, sometimes easier said than done.

Besides standing poses are there asanas or a series that you find yourself more drawn to in your practice?
I really like the standing stretches, those like trikonasana, extended side angle, half moon, though it is only now that I am becoming comfortable with half moon, I like those because you are expanding in all directions and that feels good.

That balance between strength and vulnerability is really powerful. Are there poses which you find yourself more averse to?
Inversions {Laughs}, I can do a headstand supported, but I have never been able to do a headstand without some kind of support, handstand I have never done. I don’t know what it is, but I do have an aversion to it, I don’t welcome those.

From my perspective it sounds like it might be a bit of a mental block to getting there rather than a physical block as I do think you have the physical capacity to find those poses if you’d like. There is something that feels unnatural to most about flipping your weight totally upside down, which is often challenging to come to terms with.
Agreed, you know some people do it because they like the challenges, but there are other poses such as side crow which offer me a challenge that I welcome, and I think ‘well some poses I just don’t have to do’. For example, whats the pose where you bring your leg over your shoulder?

Compass pose?
Yes Compass pose, I’ll never be able to do that. No matter what I won't get it but I will always try it, just to see how far I can get and of course have a good laugh about it as well.

Awesome perspective. Do you think that you have always had such a great sense of humility? Or has yoga helped you explore and cultivate that side of yourself?
I think yoga has helped, I’ve got an ego just like anyone else. I think one of the things I have learned from Zen is that you may think something but that doesn’t mean you have to say it, and that works in line with this, if your ego is too strong maybe you might feel like you have to spout, but I have found I can hold back better than I used to.

What an incredible lesson, it is definitely something most of us are striving for both on and off the mat. Is there anything else in particular you would like to share about yourself or your practice? Or is there anything you would like to share with people who may be new to the practice or hesitant about trying?
Going back to when I said I did not want to practice in groups I really think yoga teachers make it. I really admire the preparation, the vulnerability, all of it. Reyn Studios has had, and still does have such wonderful people here teaching, it is worth it to explore all the teachers, there will be some you are able to connect more with,  so try them all out. There are some that are just really really special.

I strongly agree with that, you mentioned Catherine and Lindsey earlier and they both really brought it all together for me as well. With them I felt, still feel, brought into the fold, which gave me that kind of epiphany, click, like ‘oh this is what we’re doing here, I like it’ I think that, and then finding your space change things for me a lot.
{Laughs} Yeah, and that also helps with your ego in that, I tend to be very independent, but knowing that the teachers can help you manage your independence and to grow in your practice is really special.

To find strength in our community, knowing we are there to support each other.
Yeah, I think the students who practice here have a good attitude, it seems to be a community and convivial attitude. I don’t really see anyone trying to show off or take up all the space or all the attention.

That is something we as a staff have been working on and encouraging in each other as well, so it is rewarding to hear it has permeated and is felt by the students as well. You know, you’re okay wherever you are.
That is a Zen thought!

What poses would you like to share with us today?
Why don’t we try tree, see what that feels like since I spoke to it and because it will be fun to see what today holds. And I can do sukhasana, because I meditate.

I would love to see that. How long have you been meditating?
In my current phase I mediate first thing in the morning, and that has been going on for over a year. Before that it was more of a, whenever I felt like it type of thing. Of course when Shannon was here and she had that meditation class I learned a lot from her. It is interesting, even mediation people address very differently, or approach it differently. That whole idea of returning, returning to your breath, returning to your seat, returning to yourself. Just letting those thoughts, recognizing it but letting them go, it a good but challenging thing.  I wear this {wrist mala} first to remind myself not to take myself too seriously, and also the idea that, it is a term I have just learned the jiko, the universal self, so that, my approach to people can be, yeah we’re all in this together.

Wow, thank you for sharing, that’s inspirational. I know you thought about participating in our teacher training…
Yes, I have earned my 200 hour certificate, but I do not think it is sufficient. The reason I wasn’t able to take the teacher training was due to this new project at work. With the new aspects would not be able to commit to the time or effort. Once we have the software ready I will have to travel around the state to do trainings on it, so I will be away a couple of different times. This is a bit disappointing but you know how it is.

It just wasn’t the right time.
Yeah, maybe next time or next year.

How does travel, especially for work, impact your practice?
Well I don’t travel a lot, this is a bit unusual. I do have a travel mat that I pack and take along, I go through a sequence in the hotel room, and I think at this point I can’t do without it.

Especially when you are traveling, the energy and odd positions we find ourselves in for any length of time.
Yes, and your diet is often a bit different.

Totally, I know I need to be able to shift all that energy around, and you know, come back home. There it is, coming back to your seat, coming back to the breath, no matter where you are.
Yes it is so important. I can’t imagine not practicing at this point, you know it is more of a matter of when not if I will.

Do you practice everyday then?
I do, whether it be here or at home or both. I have a thirty minute sequence I have made that I do at home.

How long have you had such a rigorous practice?
A few years, up until a few months ago since I have been coming here I was always a morning person. Then I had hand surgery so I became accustomed to having mornings to myself, so now I am an afternoon person here. But I do sit for a time and do my sequence in the mornings pretty much everyday. When I come here in the afternoons it is after work and an addition.

A bonus, or time for your community practice. Is there anything else you’d like to share?
No I think that is about it for now.

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June Pose of the Month

June Pose of the Month

Simhasana / Lion Pose

June at Reyn Studios means the temps outside are just as hot as those in the studio! The heavy, sticky heat of New Orleans can really take its toll on us. We move slower, feel confined to the climate controlled indoors, and are always looking for some sort of relief. Simhasana (sim-HAHS-anna), or Lion Pose, gives us the opportunity to cool the body with our breath. A seated pose, with many options for modifications to fit every yogi’s practice, Simhasana is characterized by its distinctive roar produced on our exhalations. The exaggerated opening of the eyes and stretching of the mouth and tongue encourages us to embody our inner lion. Utilizing this pranayama tool we are able to unlock our voice, release contradictions in the throat and chest and to bring energy and awareness to our throat.

By cultivating the essence of a fierce, roaring lion we are able to release nervous energy and find new strength within ourselves. Routine practice of Simhasana can help manage anger and anxiety, especially if we feel as though we have not be able to express ourselves the way we’d like. The grounded, intentional power and release we find in Simhasana builds our confidence and gives clarity and conviction to our voice allowing us to use it wisely and to address the injustices around us without feeling burdened, scared or overwhelmed.

Blowing off steam mindfully through Simhasana we can lighten our load and practice. Physically Simhasana relieves tension in the chest and face. Working with the humidity to keep our skin plump and wrinkle free Simhasana stimulates the platysma (a flat, thin, rectangular-shaped muscles on the front of the throat) which when contracted pulls down the corners of the mouth tightening the skin and muscles and smoothing the wrinkles in the skin on the neck. According to traditional texts, Simhasana destroys disease by activating the tonsils and immune system. Lion pose facilitates activation and awareness of the three major bandhas (Mula, Jalandhara, Uddiyana) which help us throughout our entire practice.

Breakdown

From a table top position cross the right ankle over the back of the left. Feet point slightly out.Sit the hips back on the heels, allowing the perineum to rest on the right heel.

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Bring hands to rest on either the knees or the floor just in front of them. Fan the fingers out and press down through the palms like a lion sharpening its claws.

Inhale deeply through the nose.

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As you exhale open your mouth wide and stretch your tongue out, curling its tip down toward the chin, open your eyes wide, contract the muscles on the front of your throat, and exhale the breath slowly out through your mouth with a distinct "ha" sound. The breath should pass over the back of the throat. Option to lift slightly off the heels and you push into the hands and gently arch the spine. Gaze (drishti) at the spot between the eyebrows (bhrumadhya-drishti) or at the tip of the nose (nasaagra-drishti).

Modifications for Greater Access or Depth

Those with knee injuries should take caution when practicing Simhasana and opt for a different leg variation when necessary.

Simhasana can be practices with many leg variations.

Legs Uncrossed (Vajrasana is a kneeling pose- sometimes called thunderbolt)

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Legs Crossed in front of you in Sukhasana or Siddhasana (Easy pose- can find more space in the pelvis by sitting on a block)

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Legs in Mandukasana (Frog Pose- to add a hip opener- for this modification try placing your palms on the floor in front of you with your fingers facing towards you. Keep your hands a few inches from your body, and then lean forward slightly.)

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Legs in Padmasana (lotus pose- more advanced variations of this pose walk the hands forward to to tilt the pelvis towards the Earth, fingers face the knees)

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*Lagniappe*

Interesting info on the mythology of the pose

Namaste, 
Reyn Studios

RSOM PRIDE presents Gay Night!

RSOM PRIDE presents Gay Night!

Wednesdays at 7pm

Reyn Studios Outward Movement (RSOM) is a long-standing endeavour to use our practice and our space to raise awareness and support for our community. In the spirit of PRIDE, our June RSOM will be geared towards celebrating and supporting the LGBTQ community in New Orleans. The proceeds from the Wednesday 7pm will go to BreakOUT NOLA (a local organization that helps LGBTQ youth). In addition to proceeds there will be a donation box for those who wish to give a little extra.

Beyond the funds, those of us who have been there know that solidarity and community are very much needed as well. We need your presence even more than your dollar. Yoga is about union; it's about stretching ourselves to see past the differences to that which connects us. Allies are not just welcome, they are wanted.

LGBTQ friends who wish to come to the Wednesday night 7pm, but can’t pay, are WELCOME! Simply go to the desk and tell them you are “Emma’s guest” and your class is free. We truly hope to see you there. Please tell your friends. Happy PRIDE!

May Student Spotlight

May Student Spotlight

How Ashley Bartlett Found What She Didn't Know She Was Looking For

Let’s start with a little introduction, who you are on and off the mat, and any little personal info you’d like us to know right off the bat:
My name is Ashley Bartlett-Patosik. Most people just call me Ashley Bartlett since it is easier. I stay at home with my daughter who is 3, which pretty much occupies all my time when I am not here at the studio. I’m usually just trying to keep her wrangled and be her personal assistant, which is the worst job and the best job.

Definitely, 3 is a very active age, full of new developments- like the 3-teens, where they suddenly learn they have attitude and can eye roll!
Oh yeah, she eye rolls really hard, it must be genetic. {laughs}

Does she practice yoga with you? Do you have a shared practice at home?
She does do some moves with me. She has randomly started doing all these yoga moves; the other day she went into tree pose and asked ‘do you do this in yoga?’ and I was a little surprised and impressed, and said ‘yes, how did you know that?’ Then she goes into downward dog and asked ‘what about this, do you do this in yoga?’ and I said yes, then she stood tall like mountain pose and asked if we do that, and I was like, ‘wow, yes, how do you know all of this?’ So yes, she likes yoga and is very interested in it and likes me to teach her and to practice with me, she gets her little mat out and unrolls it on the floor by mine.

That sounds adorable!
Yeah, its really cute and a fun thing to bond over.

Awesome! How long have you been practicing?
I’ve practiced on and off for years, but seriously started practicing last year. A friend brought me here, I started taking a few classes, but still had a gym membership, unfortunately. But I did end up cancelling it. Pretty much the last half of 2017, I stopped going to the gym and pretty much dedicated my time to coming here at least three times a week, but really any time I could fit it in I would come. It was really nice when Estel {my daughter} started school in the fall, which freed up some time. I had three mornings a week that were mine. With that time I really tried to start coming here, which became a routine and I am SO happy. 

What factors tipped the scales in favor of yoga rather than the gym?
I just liked how I felt after better. I also felt that my body changed and responded better to my yoga practice as opposed to weight training, and trying to work out on my own, which I did like doing, just not as much as I enjoyed my classes. A big factor is also all the instructors here at Reyn: every class is a little different, every instructor I have really enjoyed. They feel connected to what they’re doing. I basically became addicted. Once you start coming and you see those little gains, like ‘wow I can twist a little bit further here’ or ‘wow I can do this now’ and it becomes a little bit more addicted. You feel yourself wanted to go to class, you think ‘I want to try going deeper’ or ‘I want to get my forearm stand’ or ‘ I want to go upside down’ you want to try new things, and those little steps and progress made it that much more rewarding and addicting to me.

That really speaks to the practice as a greater entity, in that it definitely challenges and changes not only our bodies but our minds. Our brains get hooked on the practice and the sense of community we build with our teachers and others who have a similar routine. Sharing our practice with others is part of what keeps our practice fun.
Those factors have really become important to me. I struggle with anxiety and I find that coming to yoga has helped with that significantly. I do not have to take any medicine or anything like that now. I just try to exercise and bring little things from my practice to my life when I can, meditate when I can, but I have found that once I got into a regular practice here there was a marked decrease in my anxiety which was huge.

Thank you for sharing that. Do you find the effects of your practice lingering off the mat and trickling into your daily routine? Is that something that has helped with your anxiety? 
Definitely.

What are some other ways yoga has impacted your life off the mat? If any?
One big way is that it inspired me to do the teacher training! I feel like it has helped me and in turn I want to learn more intensely the practice and then help others if I can in any way. I already talk about it a lot, I try to get others to come with me. I got one friend to come with me a few times and now she has a membership and comes regularly. I got my husband to come with me the other day, I just think its great. Like you said, I like that sense of community. You come in and everyone is very happy and welcoming, the studio space is gorgeous. Off the mat I am definitely more centered and grounded, which certainly helps with having a 3 year old.

I feel ya, the patience we cultivate is so useful when dealing with kids.
Getting that time here to myself, where its just me and my mind and my body, after not having that for almost 3 years is life changing.

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You are touching on something near and dear to my heart as a doula and pre/post natal yoga teacher: that sense of ownership over your body, and having to rediscover that, is a huge transformation. The sense of self after you’ve had a kid, while you’re raising a kid, can be really challenging. Do you feel comfortable sharing a little bit about your postpartum journey and how yoga contributed to your sense of self now after sharing your body with another person so intensely?
Postpartum I have been fortunate enough to stay home with my daughter, but it is her and I all the time. My husband travels a lot for work, so it is her and I. At first, once I could, I started walking with her, pushing the stroller, we got a jogging stroller so we could go on runs and things to get moving, but it wasn’t really my time so much as it was our time. It was exercise, but it wasn’t really body changing. It was enough to make you feel good after, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. It was hard because I didn’t really know what I was looking for until I came here, and found yoga here, really. That was when the mind body changes started to happen.

That is a really cool journey, thanks for sharing. What was the catalyst that inspired you to take the teacher training from there?
It was right around Christmas and I had seen the emails and instagram post, and felt unsure. I talked it over with my husband. I told him it would be nice because if I did become a yoga teacher, with Estel being in school schedule wise it would really work for us as a family. And also finding a way to get some financial independence would be really nice since I haven’t had that in a while either. And I want to do it for me; it’s like going back to school really. I want to prove to myself that I can do it and go on from there, see where it takes me.

Very cool, yoga seems to have helped you really find a sense of self. Teacher training really is a huge undertaking a big personal journey, I feel like you are embarking on it with a good head space, you’re open to it, without placing too many specific expectations on it. That seems like a very mindful place to begin.
I am very nervous. I have a lot of negative self talk happening right now, partly because I do come here and the teachers are so good that I get intimidated, but then I’m like they had to start somewhere too.

Years and years of practice go into that though.
Yeah, and I am just starting so its getting over the nerves and the sense of ‘what are you doing?’, ‘you can’t do this’ and reminding myself that I can do this.

I believe that you can do it! Even just trying to engage with these teachings and connect deeper with the practice is big… I wouldn’t say that as an ego boost as the ego can really be humbled during your training, but it definitely has the potential to build genuine confidence that comes from a more complete sense of self which is really cool and you’ll find that just like everyone here, no matter the level of experience, that we have days where it seems crazy that people think you’re good and that you have an impact on their life and you still question your authority in that department, its human.
True, I do think that after conquering pregnancy and childbirth I have a sense of confidence in maybe a weird way, but I think, ‘you did that, pretty much the craziest thing you can do with your body, so you can make it through yoga teacher training.’

There really is nothing like child bearing, the exploration that goes with pregnancy and birth. For instance, you may feel like you know yourself and the inner workings of you body as much as anyone can, then suddenly everyday your body is different, and the power that comes with harboring, nurturing and growing a whole no other person within you  is so transformative. It is one of the biggest yogic journeys you can take.
Yes, and I am one and done, so this is a nice segway to the next stage in my life. Having a little girl, and maybe becoming a yoga teacher hopefully, someday, feels exciting.

Awesome! What did you do before you became a mother?
I worked in retail. I was the stylist at J. Crew for three years after moving here from upstate New York where I am from. I moved here about six and a half years ago, so before that I ran an art gallery. I have an Art History background. I have always done something related to visual art. I taught art classes in private studios, I worked at an art center and ran the gallery, then I came here and I taught an after school art program while working retail.

Do you think that you eye for aesthetics and a deeper understanding of something, rather than just noting the top superficial level, has influenced your practice?
I think so. There is definitely an art to it, especially with symmetry and finding symmetry in the body. I feel like I am very tuned into that in a way; I feel like  when I first started and I would lay in savasana at the end of class I could feel in my body that one side was way heavier than the other. Then after about 3 or 4 months I could finally lay there and not worry if I was settled evenly; I was. Little things like that, and the micro improvements really appeal to the art side of me if that makes sense.

It does, and is really beautiful. You are able to see the layers and the different components of the practice.
And the movements themselves are beautiful and like a dance.

Is there anything in particular you are showing us from your practice today? We always want to give you the chance to show your progress or inspiration, or something that makes you feel strong and powerful or has been transformative in some way.
I have been thinking about this and haven’t been able to decide on one thing in particular.

Do you have a favorite pose or series in your practice that feels like your home base?
No, not really.

Do you have a least favorite?
Yeah, I would say, I don’t love bird of paradise, but I am working on it and trying to learn to love it. Camel is also really hard, I don’t love camel.

Is the drawback in those shapes more physical or the mental components?
I think both.

Those are both deeply openers of very vulnerable places, your hips in bird of paradise and your heart in camel. It can be challenging to bust those wide open.
It is, I have hip issues too. I played soccer pretty much my whole life so hip focused poses are really challenging for me. It has improved with time but they are hard.

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It is wonderful that you are open to finding more comfort there, to challenging yourself to be more open and content in discomfort. Is there anything else you would like to share with people about yoga and what you learn in your practice?
What I tell people is that everyone has some preconceived notion about what yoga is I think, that maybe you have to look a certain way or be a certain way to do it, but that is totally not true. I was not in the best shape when I started, and I could feel my body, and parts of my body felt gross in certain positions. I would get discouraged, but I kept trying for a week, and I tell them to do the same. At the end of that week you’ll want another week and another, it builds if you allow yourself to really try it from a fresh perspective. As you grow you’ll find that you enjoy it, you’ll find things that you really love about it and find out where the hard parts are. Like I touched on in the beginning, you’ll find these little gains, whether they are really tiny gains in length or a big twist or just the way you feel when you leave some days, then all of sudden it becomes a part of your life that you cannot live without. I think people should just try it, really commit to trying it and see where it goes.

What a great insight. It also really touches on something we in the yoga community struggle with, in that people do have strong preconceived notions about what yoga is or isn’t, they don’t realize that yoga is for everybody and every body. As soon as you find the sweet spots and your place on the mat it all is available to you--all the lessons of the practice, the breath, the space, it's all there waiting for you.
Definitely I think there is space for everyone to try it and love it.

Interview by Melanie Schatz

May Pose of the Month

May Pose of the Month

Virabhadrasana II / Warrior II

April was a big month for us at the studio! Our studio manager, Melanie, got married, and our staff doubled down on preparations for our upcoming teacher training. With our efforts focused elsewhere we missed sharing a pose of the month with you in April. May will find us exploring our strength and power in Virabhadrasana (veer-uh-buh-DRAHS-uh-nuh) II or Warrior II pose. Virabhadrasana is a standing pose that enhances stamina and stability attributes of the warrior incarnation of Shiva it is draws its name from.  

Regardless of our daily routines, we all could benefit from the deep hip opening, stretch in the legs, groins, and chest, and improved concentration we cultivate in Virabhadrasana II. When we include this pose in our practice, we build strength in the entire body. Strong activation of the feet tones the arches of the feet and ankles. We tone the pelvic floor and abdomen as well as generate more powerful muscles in the thighs and buttocks, improving our stability and endurance on and off the mat. Properly aligned Virabhadrasana can relieve backaches and improve digestion as well as open the chest and shoulders, which encourages improved breathing capacity and circulation.

Breakdown

Begin in a wide legged stance, feet parallel and engaged, shoulder stacked over hip. Pivot the front foot toward the short side of the mat, lining the heel up with the arch of the opposite foot. Knees should be inline with and facing the same direction as their corresponding foot and ankle. Activate the thighs as you inhale the arms parallel to the floor aligned with the legs, palms face down, shoulders drawn onto the back body.

Exhale and bend front knee over the front ankle, so that the shin is perpendicular to the floor. If possible, bring the thigh parallel to the floor. Check to see that your front big toe is visible by drawing the front knee back, opening the hips. Take a wider stance if your knee is moving in front of your ankle. Press evenly into the outer edge and inner toe mounds of the back foot to anchor the pose and charge the muscles of the extended leg. Sink evenly into your hips.

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Maintain equal length on both sides of the torso by keeping the shoulder stacked over the hips. It is tempting to lean the torso over the front leg, but to maximize the benefits of this pose keeping the shoulders and hips aligned is best.  Let the tailbone draw towards the pubis, and draw the belly towards the spine on your exhales to keep the torso open.  Broaden across your collarbones and lengthen the space between your shoulder blades. Engage your triceps. Drop your shoulders and lift your chest. Turn the head to look over the front leg, gaze is focused just beyond your middle finger.  Hold for 5-10 breaths. 

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Inhale as you press through both feet, turn the front toes parallel with the back, and release the arms.  Repeat on the opposite side for an equal number of breaths.

*To Note*

Virabhadrasana II can be modified to meet you where you are. Adjusting the distance between the feet to improve your balance can make this pose more accessible as we build our strength and flexibility. It is very important to maintain proper knee alignment to avoid straining the joints. The bent knee often drifts inward; correct this by drawing towards the pinky toe side of the foot as you work to bring the thigh to parallel. To increase the intensity of this pose, outwardly rotate the arms so that the palms face up, shoulder blades draw down the back. Once you feel capable of building from there try rotating the arms inwardly and outwardly with your breath as you hold the strength in your legs.

The fierce energy of this pose and its ability to ground us while opening our hips and chest create an intensely liberating experience we hope you connect with as much as we have.

Namaste, 
Reyn Studios

March Student Spotlight

March Student Spotlight

Robert Weimer Presses the Reset Button With His Noon Practices

Good morning, please introduce yourself, who you are on and off the mat. I think we would all love to start there.
My name  is Robert Weimer, I work here in the CBD, I’ve been practicing yoga for about two and a half years. I started in more community based yoga, not really knowing what I was doing or what to expect, I was doing it and found I liked the idea of a complicated pose and breaking it down to its component parts and trying to figure out which component parts I could do and which I needed to work on. I am fortunate enough to work a couple of blocks away so I can come practice yoga five to six days a week, typically p to seven or eight times a week. I still do some community based yoga as well.

Awesome! What do you do when you are not on the mat?
Well, I work in a law office.

I imagine you find use for your practice off the mat pretty frequently in that environment.
Yeah, my noon practice that i try and go to week days is certainly a pause button from the … the hecticness of work I guess.

What brought you to yoga initially? What made you seek out that first community class, that said “ I guess I’ll try this”?
Well I was actually talked into by a friend, another competitor I believe it was Higher Power was doing a special…

We don’t see other studios as competitors, the more yoga the better!
{laughs} Sure, well they were having a special that was with MoPho that has specials on some beer and pho, so that was what got me to do it that first time.

I like it, I’m very incentivized by food and drink as well, always a great way to draw people in. Did you find that yoga spoke more to your physical body or mental/spiritual body in the beginning?
Obviously at first I didn’t know what I was doing, but I like being put into complicated situations and I like trying to figure them out. At first it was just blasting through a class, then it became understanding what the calls and descriptions of the poses where, and then, later, building on that was understanding the different queues the instructors here giving and what exactly they were trying to emphasize or de-emphasize, and then add more layers upon layers. Lately, more me, it has been all about the breathing, making sure I am keeping, well trying to keep. A three count breath, making sure they are even, trying to match my movements to the breath I find that when I do count the breath and get it synced properly, I have a higher sense of awareness a heightened sense of proprioception, where i am in space, what quest I can give myself, what I am forgetting about. Using the exhales to strengthen and lengthen out poses and remember little things I often forget such as the location of the hips, or pulling in the belly when you are breathing or things like that. So I think for me yoga is more of a layering process, which is what I like about it, there's no end game, always the ability to add another layer and another layer, eventually I think where I would like to be would be to not have to think so much about the breath and know where I am going to be moving at all times rather than guessing or looking around, not focusing on or seeing all the things I'm not doing.

Fair enough, where do you get your yoga inspiration?
Ah, well, that is a harder question, lets see, well I do love the sense of community people often talk about in a yoga class room, there are a core group of people here at Reyn that I find really do strive for bettering their yoga practice and I feed off their energy, as they do better, as they hold a handstand or arm balance you get more inspiration and more focus as to your own practice and its kind of one of those things where even though everybody, well even though there are no cheerleaders in yoga we all act as each other encouragement and applauses so to speak.

I feel ya, one of my favorite things about yoga is there no winning
Sure

I love that you can't really be “the best at yoga” but you can always refine and grow.
Yeah, another thing I really like, in this studio in particular is that each teacher provides a slightly different class and there is nothing better than a well received class, and I think it is so interesting when you start a class and you aren’t really sure which direction its going to go but then perhaps half way though, or a quarter of the way in, it really clicks with the majority of the people in the room and you can see that it is well received. That reception is good because, it can encourage the teacher to try more, to break the sort of monotony you can find in a pure vinyasa class where they just stick to Sun As and Sun Bs, but sometimes you need to change it up, even when you may not want to {laughs}.

Definitely, we need the salutations to warm us up, and to start burning out our blockages, but as someone who has taken the 108 Sun A classes where you feel the intensity and the meditation but know you could not sustain your daily practice if it did not incorporate more variety.
Exactly

So, you are taking our upcoming teacher training…
Yes, I am, I am super excited about that, I think it is going to add some more layers to my practice and help me, understand more about the focus on the cues, like exactly what a teacher should be striving to bring to a class, what it is they are communicating that and try to understand the background, or back of the house of yoga rather than just being a passive participant on the mat.

Totally, I think passive is an unfair word to describe your practice but I do understand where you are coming from. When you started out deepening your practice did you ever think you would want to explore teacher training or did it unfold more gradually as you put the puzzle together?
I am not the type of person to do things in half measure, so if I am going to do something I am really going to do it typically, fortunately or unfortunately depending on how you look at it. I am not a leader by birth or personality at all but I find myself being...refining and becoming better at a certain thing to a point at which I can assist others to learn those things so naturally that puts you in a slight leadership position. A better way to answer the question is that, yes,  I had an idea once I realized that yoga was closer to chess than checkers that it was something that I would want to be interested in refining and getting better at.

I love that simply, between chess and checkers, it ture so much of yoga is a mind game. Having the type of disposition , where you do not like to do things in half measure, where you like to achieve and figure out the nuances, do you find that yoga can sometimes challenge that part of your personality, to the core, in that a millimeter of change in the body can change everything, rather than large obvious gains?
Yes, it is definitely stimulating, , and you know, I think more interesting answer to that question is when i get  a new cue from a new teacher that I hadn’t thought of before, or maybe even disagree with, and trying to figure out where they are coming from with that. For example, lately it has been all about hip rotation and I am having a hard time visualizing what the hip rotation is bringing to the table, I know it is important but I just have to wait for it to click so to speak.

Totally, as someone who is loves hip work in my practice, working with people who work in a more corporate space or at a desk job, that hip opening does not click, which usually means that what you need the most. I have had lawyers brag about how long they were sitting in one place working out the details of a case. I always find it amazing, but also worry about their blood flow, it essentially becomes non existent in the lower half of the body. A teacher once told me the poses you hate the most, the ones we do not understand or resonate with are the ones we should be doing everyday, which I feel you can really agree with.
For sure, for example this last pose of the month, uttita hasta padangustasana, hand to big toe pose, I found that at first I kind of hated it, but now, I can live with it, I guess I am getting better at even though I still do not care for it, but I understand it is part of the process.

What about that pose irks you?
So, okay, I find I do not have the strength in my, abductors, to pull and pivot, I can only go so far. One thing I have found really good is I am really starting to learn about the toe lock, how to lock it {demonstrates loss lock}

Yes, having the loose lock makes it more challenging to properly engage through the foot, which can straining the hands, wrists, ankles and foot.
Yeah it does, so learning the lock and also the cue I like is to draw the shoulder back, it really opens up a lot more space. I still don't particularly enjoy it but you gotta do it.

I spent almost a year trying to do a standing split everyday as it gave me a lot of discomfort and brought out a lot of resistance, now I almost like it, it at least feel familiar and connected, and that sense of integration is the theme in yoga we tend to connect to, its what keeps us coming back to the mat, so it is  great to see other yogies working it out and living it. What type of poses to you find yourself drawn to? Maybe some that feel more accessible or more fun?
Well, I really like a lot of the poses that people don’t seem to care for, like plank great, side plank is great, bow pose,  is nice, I also like transitions and find them very important, like a jump back, and jump through, which is something we do not get a chance to do everyday in our practice but is important, and I think they are one of those things that if you don’t start trying and fail miserably, you’ll never want to do it. Then of course there are inversions and arm balances, those are great, for different reasons, I find a lot of people jump to inversions simply for the instagram worthy nature of it, but I prefer it because I think of it it as its is, like a hand stand is an inverted, upside down tadasana, which means it is so important to get your body aligned, engage the core, point your feet, and to breath, that is something a lot of people forget, to breath once they get upside down, I like doing it at the end of class because it gets all the blood back to your head which a great. With the arm balances, those are fun, they provide more strength, arm strength and shoulder strength, I like that, and they are super challenging of course.

You make a really great point  in that our inversions are simply a flipped version of familiar poses like tadasana, which is so important to our practice then translating that to the inverted versions, taking the metaphysical properties as well, being vulnerable, showing up, drawing awareness to your breath, while insanely out of sync with what typically feels normal to us is such an incredible trait to cultivate within yourself and to enjoy doing.
Sure, of course.

it is very impressive, you should give yourself some credit for the work you’re doing.
{laughs}

Do you like to share your practice with anyone, or is it more of a personal journey?
{Laughs} I tend to set up in the back of class, simply because I find  that if I do take different variations or try new things I am not distracting others, I am trying to be as least distracting to others as I can. So to answer your question more directly, I encourage people to come and do yoga, a lot of my friends who tend to be looking for some sort of workout so to speak ask me about it and I encourage them to do that, however I also realize not everyone is going to be able to devote the amount of time  and interest that I do, so its difficult to work out with someone who won't take it beyond beginner levels, dabbling. I encourage them, I wish they would, but everyone has their own goals I guess.

Thats a really cool, authentic approach. Do you ever find in your day to day off the mat, say at work or some times when things feel hectic you wish everyone would just take a few deep breaths with you?
{laughs} You know everyone has their cross to bare so to speak, everyone has their own things going on, something work for someone somethings are just completely unpalatable to others I think yoga as a universal cure all is not going to work, but I think being aware and focused, choosing to devote your attention and passion to a thing, those are all things that yoga seems to emphasize, I think that is an important emphasis for anyone with or without yoga.

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Great insight. So which poses are you going to demonstrate for us to day and why did you choose those to highlight in your practice?
I figured one or two, maybe both. I was going to do a pincha, and an arm balance with eagle wrap legs, which is one I have just started to stick.

Awesome one where you feel strong and steady and one that shows growth!

Interview by Melanie Schatz

March Pose of the Month

March Pose of the Month

Shalabasana / Locust Pose

The pose of the month for March is shalabasana, or locust pose. It's a prone backbending posture that we practice often in class, but one that's so valuable for back health that it's worth taking the time to explore more in depth. If you spend any time in your day seated, working at a computer, driving, etc., there's a good chance your shoulders slump forward. Shalabasana helps to counter the all-too-easy slump, greatly improving our posture and how we sit, stand, and move through our lives. 

If we practice locust thinking that it should be a big backbend, we'll only feel frustrated by it. Instead, think of it as a chance to bring greater strength and integrity to the posterior chain of the body - backs of shoulders, arms, spinal muscles, glutes and hamstrings. This is an especially important focus since our vinyasa practice gives us so many chances to stretch the back of the body. We want to make sure our backs are strong as well as open. 

Breakdown

To practice the pose, start by lying on your belly, with the forehead to the floor and the arms down by your side. Turn your heels slightly apart, big toes slightly together. This will initiate an inner rotation of the legs.

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Improper vs. proper feet alignment

Start the pose by drawing your shoulder blades towards one another and down the back, away from your ears. This will lift the fronts of the shoulders off the ground. Then lift the head, the legs and the arms. Spinning the palms down towards the floor will help encourage the external rotation of the shoulders, keeping the chest open. Feel that your legs stay hips width distance apart, and that you're lifting and lengthening from your inner thighs, rather than clenching the outer hips to lift the legs. As you are lifting, focus on creating a sense of length through the whole body, from the crown of your head to the tips of your toes, rather than trying to lift high up off the ground. Remember this posture is about strength, rather than a huge range of motion. If you feel compression in your lower back, lower the legs a little and think of reaching them longer behind you. Also imagine your lower belly wanting to pull away from the ground (though it won't, of course), instead of getting a bigger backbend by pushing your belly into the ground. Because we're lying on our stomachs it will naturally be harder to breath into the belly. So, focus on moving your breath up into your chest, helping it to reach further forward. Make sure to keep the back of the neck long, and the legs straight. If it's uncomfortable for the fronts of the hips, place some padding under the pelvis.

 Opposite arm and leg variation

Opposite arm and leg variation

There are many variations to explore and ways to make the posture easier or harder. You can interlace your fingers behind your back, which will allow for more ease in opening the chest. You can also work opposite arm and leg, lifting the right leg and extending the left arm forward. This can help us become aware of differences in sides. If you struggle with understanding the action of inwardly rotating your thighs, try it with a block between your feet. Press your feet into the sides of the block and try to lift the block as you lift the rest of the body. Whether it lifts or not, this will turn on the inner thighs and train the body to know how it feels to lift without compressing the lower back. You can also practice it with the hands on the ground, like a modified cobra. Or for grater challenge, extend the arms overhead, or interlace fingers behind your head, pressing the back of the head into the hands. This also strengthens the neck.

 Interlaced fingers behind the neck variation

Interlaced fingers behind the neck variation

In our vinyasa practice, the fronts and tops of the shoulders get very strong - think planks, chatarungas, down dogs. Shalabasana gives us a chance to bring more strength to the back and bottom of our shoulders, so that our shoulder strength is more balanced. Try incorporating more of it in your practice this month and see if you notice a difference - perhaps in place of up dog during your transitions. 

Namaste,
Reyn Studios

February Student Spotlight

February Student Spotlight

Blair Wade's Journey to the Mat

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So, what brought you to yoga?
How honest can I be?!

Hahahaha as honest as you want to be!
Okay. So, I used to be a heroin addict for some years… I went to rehab, but still left feeling a little lost… Then a friend of mine recommended yoga! And just a few weeks before that I had bought a mat, so I was like ‘yes, I’m ready let’s go!’ And I’ve been coming ever since for almost two years now.

Amazing! That’s honestly not too unfamiliar of a story in the yoga community… When you can discover the high you can give yourself naturally through this practice, it’s pretty cool!
Yea. I used to paint a lot which would quiet my brain down, but I haven’t picked up a brush in years. So when I come to yoga I come seeking that stillness of mind and I feel like I’m [reminded to] think less and enjoy more, ya know?

Yea! Do you feel like you get to express some of your creativity on the mat since you no longer paint anymore? Or do you prefer the structure and guidance of surrendering into what the teacher of the class is telling you to do and how to do it?
That’s actually a great question, because in the beginning I definitely needed that guidance of somebody telling me what to do and how to do poses ‘right’, but now that I feel like I have a little bit more of a foundation. I feel like I can branch out a little bit. That’s what I love about going to so many different classes! I get something different from one [teacher] than I do from another.

How often do you practice?
Five times a week! I need to build up a better home practice, but I like to come here for the adjustments!

Hahaha I understand… So do you feel a sense of being supported by the community here?
Yes, absolutely. I think if it wasn’t for the community here I might not be so good at holding myself accountable to come practice so often! Cause while I enjoy it… some days I’m more tired and don’t want to come, but I’m so used to seeing and connecting with the people here that I still show up [even in those moments where] I may feel more tired. And I also went on a yoga retreat with Karina last summer that had a pretty big impact on my life! I made a bunch of positive changes to my life after that. . .

That’s great. I didn’t know I was supposed to be getting to know myself until I started practicing yoga more. You really do have to figure out who you are basically [in order] to live in a healthy or mindful way.
Yea, I feel like we only get so much time… and if I’m not learning something new, or trying to be better, or trying to accept where I’m at in the moment (wherever that may be), what’s the point of being here, ya know?! There’s so much negative shit going on in the world. You gotta do what you can for other people, but you also gotta do what you can for yourself.

That’s true. We’re taught that self-care is this silly thing, but there is just no way to continue providing for other people if you yourself are running dry. You have to refill the well! And [I believe] making time for yourself on the mat is a great way to do that I think.
Absolutely.

Do you feel like these lessons have permeated throughout your life off the mat?
Yea, I’ve been able to find a little more patience. You know when things aggravate me it’s nice to take a minute to breath instead of just reacting all the time and flying off the handle! And I think I’ve learned to keep finding that balance between effort and ease as well.

Yes, it’s always a balance between strengthening and the surrendering!
It’s kind of a cliche, but yoga really did change my life. I learned how to start thinking for myself a little bit more and how to start listening to my body a little bit more. So this has all been a very strengthening [process] for me. I’ve just learned a lot, and I feel like there’s always something new to learn.

That’s wonderful. Thanks for letting us feature and share your story and journey with the Reyn Community!
Yea, this wasn’t nearly as bad as what I thought! Hahahaha.

Hahahaha. Well, any last thing you want to say to anyone reading?
Enjoy having your own experience!

Interview by Melanie Schatz

February Pose of the Month

February Pose of the Month

Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana I + II/
Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose I + II

Liberate your pelvis, strengthen your core, and lengthen your hamstrings this month with Extended Hand to Big Toe Pose! Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana I + II is a special way to begin and/or end any one of your asana practices. You can lie it down or stand it up! In either relationship to gravity, this pose is an excellent way to activate (as well as just get a sense of) your entire body from the mounds of your big toes to the crown of your head~

May these following variations and alignment queues inspire you into having a more subtle, sensual, and holistic experience in Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana I + II.

(and no fears if you think you have the tightest hamstrings in the world! by extending some patience and compassion towards yourself, this pose can be accessible to you at any point in your flexibility journey!)

Breakdown

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*To Note*

Our bodies are expressions of where we’ve come from (what we’ve been through) and where we are striving to move towards; therefore, all bodies and expressions will look drastically different from one another regardless of how similarly we place our bones and engage our muscles. It is not so much about the aesthetics of the form as it is about the sensations of flow that we are attempting to cultivate within these postures. Therefore these images that proceed are not intended to create an ‘ideal’ of what your practice should or should not look like, instead these images are intentionally being used as a means to communicate abstract ideas about anatomy via a more relatable format so that you may be guided into your exploration of this posture verbally as well as visually.

Remember, these poses are not static! Keep flowing with the waves of your breath ~ And let the easeful rhythm of your inhales and exhales help balance out the efforts of your muscles that assist you in sustaining the postures.

May the process of practicing this pose be one that empowers you

Namaste,
Reyn Studios

January Pose of the Month

Camel Pose / Ustrasana

Embrace the possibilities of the New Year by opening up your heart with this January’s pose of the month, Ustrasana! Practicing Camel Pose is a sure fire way to bring more space as well as strength into your central channel of energy, your spine. By mindfully activating your musculoskeletal system with the appropriate amount of care and attention, Ustrasana may safely leave you feeling restored, renewed, and revitalized in your own body, breath, and mind.

May these following offerings of queues and modifications inspire you into a more dynamic, authentic, and holistic experience of this posture. We hope you enjoy the exploration and embrace the unknown of what’s to come with curiosity, care, and compassion!

*before practicing camel pose, make sure to thoroughly warm up the range of motion in your hip flexors (psoas and quadriceps) as well as your upper back (thoracic spine)!*

Breakdown

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Mix & match the use of props, the placement of your palms on your heels or sacrum, the position of your head, etc. to find the unique expression of this posture that makes the most sense for your body at the particular time of your practice!

We look forward to opening our hearts with you in the New Year!

Namaste,
Reyn Studios

*To Note*

Our bodies are expressions of where we’ve come from (what we’ve been through) and where we are striving to move towards; therefore, all bodies and expressions will look drastically different from one another regardless of how similarly we place our bones and engage our muscles. It is not so much about the aesthetics of the form as it is about the sensations of flow that we are attempting to cultivate within these postures. Therefore these images that proceed are not intended to create an ‘ideal’ of what your practice should or should not look like, instead these images are intentionally being used as a means to communicate abstract ideas about anatomy via a more relatable format so that you may be guided into your exploration of this posture verbally as well as visually.

January Student Spotlight

January Student Spotlight

Omar Rashid: Student of Yoga, Teacher of Youths

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When did you start practicing and why?

O: I started practicing in college [about 10 yrs ago] cause my friend Mel said, “hey take this yoga class it’s amazing” [so shoutout to Mel! We thank and love you] and I went and it totally changed my view of fitness! I also found that the practice of linking my breath to my movements created this kind of meditative aspect that I found to be really invigorating and addictive… as well as challenging! So I was immediately enticed and ended up taking that yoga class every semester until I graduated. And then after college I took a break from yoga until I moved to New Orleans and found this studio which I really like.

That’s great to hear! We’re happy to have you a part of this community. Could you expound more upon the mediative aspect of the practice that you found and still find to be so enticing?

O: Well, it’s almost like I’m high when I leave… except better! My mind can drop into this space of effortlessness that allows me to no longer continue racing from one thought to the next of ‘what do I have to do next, what do I have to do next, what do I have to do next?!’... And I know it sounds like a cliche now, but I do feel like I’m with the present after I practice.

And how does this feeling of being present inform the rest of your day that proceeds your practice?

O: Well that feeling of being present is definitely not a constant, which is why I practice... There are times when I walk out of the studio and my excessive mental chatters returns within ten minutes and then other times it lasts for a lot longer. [However] I think yoga does give me the tools to find that calm mental state for when I’m off the mat and into the world.

Have you ever used those tools in your teaching profession?

O: Yea, definitely! We all need to take a deep breath in the classroom… And for me personally, I find that the ability to observe how I’m interacting with children and giving directions is a useful tooI that I have gained through the yoga practice. It allows me to be much more intentional, less reactive, and [more capable] of giving very clear and concise directions that allow the students to then feel more confident and successful in whatever it is we’re learning… And if I am not regularly practicing [yoga] I often times do not feel grounded enough to teach [in that manner]... and I very easily slip back into old negative patterns.

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What negative patterns do you feel like are challenged in your yoga practice?

O: Well, I am so ingrained in this society that has brought me up to feel like I always need something more, ya know? I need a better job, I need more money, etc…. just always feeling like I need to progress in some very certain way comes up in my yoga practice… That kind of egotistical drive to do this pose better, and the next pose better, and the next classe better can get in the way o fully embodying just being here and recognizing that I don’t have to do anything other than just be human in this moment… Which is difficult, because I’m feeling this drive that’s been so embedded in me to be everywhere else but here. And I can understand the theory of ‘being present’ but it’s so much harder for me to practice it… But I’m always enthusiastic about showing up [to do so]. Coming here is something that I really look forward to. And I come for the yoga, but I really end up staying for the people. The sense of community here is what keeps me coming back.

Thank you for being a co-creator of this community! And for being so willing to share your perspective and have this conversation.

O: Of course.

Interview by Olivia Bowers

December Student Spotlight

December Student Spotlight

It's a dose of yoga a day for Nikki Simard

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When did you start practicing and what brought you onto your mat?

N: I started right after moving to New Orleans. It had been my “to do list” while I was living in Ireland beforehand but [yoga] wasn’t really anywhere, and so when I moved here it was like, ‘ok cool it’s accessible’! I’ve been here for seven years [and practicing] for six and a half years… I always want to dance and move and be weird- so I knew that [yoga] would feel great! The focus yoga places on balancing out your body, getting to know your body, and creating some sort of physical intelligence [while] being this very expressive and delicious thing is really attractive to me. And… I was just ready to start taking care of my body.

What about this practice keeps you so loyal and dedicated to showing up everyday?!

N: Well I do appreciate the psychological and philosophical aspects of yoga, but honestly it’s the physical aspect that attracts me the most. And then aside from being curious about the physical language of sensation, I notice that if I skip yoga for ‘x’ amount of time I really notice a difference. But if I’m practicing regularly, I feel balanced, I feel good, and I’m able to be a better person in the world. It’s my hashtag self care. It’s my sanctuary! So I make sure to try and prioritize this and come everyday.

What are some of the more challenges aspects of this practice for you?

N: Trying not to let my ego get in the way! You know, if you really want get your toe to your head or reach any kind ‘outcome’... just trying to [remember] that it’s not about that, it’s about the journey. And the practice is this kind of tangible reminder that this is a lifelong process, and it’s not just about obtaining a physical shape.

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Has your intention behind practicing yoga evolved since you began years ago?

N: Yes, I think that in the beginning I was just proving to myself that I could [even] do it! And now my intention is to carry out my [broader] intention of taking care of myself. And then when I get here, I get to sink into being present and begin the practice of observing myself.

How has yoga impacted your life outside of the studio?

N: After practice, I always feel more equanimus and compassionate towards others. I think that I used to be more quick to react and lose my temper in stressful situations, but over the years I have been able to become a little more peaceful and empathetic. I also just feel like my daily yoga practice highly informs and supports the work that I do for my job as a massage therapist!

Have you found this practice to be healing for you in any way?

N: Totally. Since I’ve been coming to this space for five years… I’ve been through so much in life. And I have had so many moments of letting things go here and crying in savasana… Or when I had been crying all day- I got to come here and feel empowered. I have had a lot of emotional healing here, because it’s my place to touch base with myself. And whether I like it or not- when I’m [on my mat] I get to face myself and go from there.

Do you have any advice for anybody who is nervous or anxious to start yoga?

N: Just try it and know that… if you want to feel good… do it! And it’s never too late to start. The time for yoga is now!

Interview by Olivia Bowers

December Pose of the Month

Bakasana / Crow Pose

As things get a little cooler and slightly more chaotic during this holiday season… keep your core warm and your mind focused by steadily practicing this month’s pose, Bakasana! Crow pose is a great way to strengthen, expand, and increase your ability to remain centered both physically and mentally. By focusing on the alignment, actions, and sensations of this pose, you will be carried into the present moment and lifted up from worrying about the past and grounded away from anticipating the future.

Hopefully these following queues for Bakasana will help you create activating intentions with greater clarity, calm, and power! So that you may access a deeper sense of space and strength within your spine, core, and arms.

Crow pose asks for your hips to be in deep flexion, your low belly to be activated, and your arms to be sturdy; therefore, practicing these postures before you enter into Bakasana will appropriately awaken and ready your body for what’s to come.

Breakdown

Soften your hips and spine into flexion by breathing deeply into your lower abdomen and lower back while in child’s pose.

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Awaken the muscles of your abdomen, arms, and hip flexors with these two effective core poses.

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Cultivate steadiness of mind by meditating in Malasana before heading into your Bakasana balancing practice.

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Now dive into a Bakasana practice that makes the most sense for wherever your body and mind may be at during this time of your life! Remember to stay rooted in the present by activating clear intentions that will help you resist the urge to focus solely on judging the outcomes of your practice! 

Variations with Block

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Propless Variations

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May you feel empowered to practice at your own pace and in your way this holiday season!

Best of health and harmony.

Namaste,
Reyn Studios

*To Note*

Our bodies are expressions of where we’ve come from (what we’ve been through) and where we are striving to move towards; therefore, all bodies and expressions will look drastically different from one another regardless of how similarly we place our bones and engage our muscles. It is not so much about the aesthetics of the form as it is about the sensations of flow that we are attempting to cultivate within these postures. Therefore these images that proceed are not intended to create an ‘ideal’ of what your practice should or should not look like, instead these images are intentionally being used as a means to communicate abstract ideas about anatomy via a more relatable format so that you may be guided into your exploration of this posture verbally as well as visually.

November Student Spotlight

It's a family affair for Phyllis Treigle and Erin Sheets

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When did y’all start practicing yoga asana and what inspired you to begin?

P: I started practicing about a year and a half ago, and it was because of Erin. She moved back to town after college and found this yoga studio and said, “Hey Mom wanna go to yoga with me?”. So, I did!

E: And now you still go!

P: [laughing] And now I still go to yoga! Brought here by my daughter.

E: Drug you here by your hair.. [laughing] She thought it was gonna be too hard! And I was like, “Mom, there are people of all levels and ages in class. You can do it!”

P: Well over my life I have tried to find exercise that I could commit to and it’s always been really hard. I find that I like doing things with a group more than doing things alone. I’m not really good at going to the gym everyday by myself..

E: And that’s just boring..

P: Yoga became something that I really felt like I could commit to! And it helps that we come together, but I come a lot by myself too.

E: Yea it was cool when you started going by yourself.

P: Yea it was cool! And I think what kept me coming back was that the practice was just as mental as it was physical. It really alleviates my stress by how it calms and focuses my mind.

That’s really wonderful to hear you have such a holistic experience with the practice. What about you Erin, when did you start practicing?

E: Umm I feel like a lot of young girls are pressured into having a diet and fitness routine that isn’t necessarily centered in self-love as much as it is about having to look a certain way.. And when I was in college I got into all of these different fitness regimes that were just all about aesthetic, and I could never commit myself fully to that. But when I moved back home to New Orleans and found this studio.. It really surprised me just how active yoga is. I always kind of thought of yoga as this passive kind of meditation, and I also never thought of yoga as something that I would bring into my life daily. And what really got me hooked on it was the mental and spiritual aspect of the practice. Before yoga I would think to myself “ugh, I have to go exercise today” but now I think “wow, I get to go exercise today”. I love myself, ya know.. And so I enjoy coming here because I want to set aside time to take care of myself fully.

P: And what I like about coming to Reyn is that I feel very comfortable just being who I am and doing whatever level I can do, and it’s not competitive. If the guy next to me is standing on his head I don’t feel like I need to do that and I feel like that ties into what you were saying [Erin] about needing to workout so that you can look a certain way… I feel like there’s freedom from having to hold your stomach in or [freedom from thinking] oh somebody over there looks thin…. And I don’t… it’s freeing.

E: Also the opportunity to make choices with every poses is freeing as well. And I feel like the encouragement to modify postures is something that other fitness classes never [really] provided me with, and because of that I have actually had a lot of workout induced injuries… that aspect of “pushing yourself no matter what” and the idea that if you don’t then you’re a “failure” just doesn’t work to motivate me. And it definitely doesn’t make me work “harder”...

P: That’s another thing- what is mentally “harder” is not necessarily what is physically “harder”. So that [aspect of] failing doesn’t [feel] present in my practice... This is the first time in my life where I have come to a place where I can show up, feel fit, and feel like I belong… like I can be myself… And [that] feels really good… I feel stronger!

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That’s amazing that y’all feel supported in this space. In regards to the physical aspects of this practice (especially as women) have y’all felt that cultivating body-awareness has positively or negatively influenced your relationship with body-image?

E: Absolutely… I think that being so [preoccupied] with body-image is just such a fallacy and that’s something that people have built into yoga… making it into this industry… but I feel like the core [of the yoga practice] is that you come as you are, and although you’re doing something physical… cultivating body-awareness is totally different than cultivating bodily-judgment. Awareness brings you into the practice and judgment takes you out…

P: That’s beautiful…

E: And I’ve also realized not only how much I judge my own body but how often I go to judge others… And yoga has taught me that you can’t judge someone’s strength by what they look like… because [strength] is so much more about the level of presence that you're bringing to the practice. So [for example], an older person who is less active can have a much more fulfilling practice than a younger more athletic person. You know what I mean?

P: Yea and understanding that building that kind of physical and mental strength is something that is [accessible] to anyone at any age… because it has to do with the commitment you’re making to [continually] showing up and being present.

How has the practice of being present affected your lives off the mat?

P: I think the mindfulness you cultivate on [your] mat translates over into everyday life... I was always a person who was high strung and anxious and… yoga has been a definite game changer for the anxiety and stress.. I just feel much more calm and centered. I have had times where I have been really upset and I come to yoga and it just takes… the drama out of my stress… I’m more settled.

E: I dig that… This is gonna sound kinda dumb… but I feel like I never thought about breathing before I came to yoga! [laughing] I really don’t feel like I ever thought about it as a tool… I always just thought of it as a result [for example] if you get nervous you start breathing faster… but you can also get nervous because you start breathing faster! So coming to that realization of your emotions [being a result] of your breathing pattern really changed the way I more [healthily] relate to my emotions… And I find myself practicing uji breathing when I started to get stressed and it really helps calm me down! And finding just how accessible focusing on your breath is no matter is going on… is really amazing!

P: Yea and I think that practicing [yoga] several times a week gives me that [deeper] awareness [and connection to] to my breath.

E: And that awareness [can] carry over to your daily life… instead of making it exclusively just for when you’re on your mat.

What are some of the most challenging aspects of this practice for y’all?

E: I think for me the most challenging part is showing up… and trying not to shame myself when I don’t show up… you know? I see yoga as self-care but sometimes the self-care I need to be [engaged in] is not necessarily showing up to practice [asana] because I have had a busy and exhausting day [for instance]... and I am realizing that being okay with not showing up is in a sense me practicing yoga…

P: Absolutely… and one of the things that is great about yoga is that you are responsible for your own practice. The teachers are basically guides, but you’re responsible for whether you come or not come, whether you be present in the poses or be [distracted with] trying to show-off, ya know? You’re responsible… you’re finding your own way just alongside people who are guiding you.

E: Yea and everyone is in their own practice and on their own journey so it’s not really your place to judge people… also that [way of non-judgment] can [be] extend to the postures… not thinking that one posture is more or less than any other, you know? Mountain pose is just as significant, real, and legitimate as a handstand… they each have a specific purpose and value… and practicing handstand isn’t [inherently] better for you and healthier for you just because it’s “harder” to do..

P: Glad to hear that! [laughing]

[laughing] Yea mountain pose is actually my favorite pose!

P: Mine is pigeon!

Why?

P: It’s a just really emotional pose for me... I feel like I get to let go of a lot of baggage… in all of the poses, but particularly in pigeon.

E: Yea and I’ve been realizing that when it comes to poses I hate versus poses I like, if it has to do with a pose being good for me and what my body needs or am I just liking this pose because it’s an ego thing and I think that I can [perform] it really well… or do it better than the person next to me… [for instance] pigeon is mentally really hard for me, because I’m so imbalanced in my hips. But I realized that it’s not the pose that I hate [as much as it is] the mental frustration that arises...

P: And also it’s cool [observing how] your relationship with poses evolve over time...

And has practicing yoga together evolved y’all’s relationship as mother and daugher?

P: Absolutely.

E: Yea it’s something that we’re both learning together at the same time… where usually I feel like my mother is coming to things with more experience, but we both started yoga at the same time… so we’re equals in that way…

P: Yea and [since Erin is now] a young adult it feels like we’re just two friends, two women, doing yoga together [and that] feels special… we get to connect in a new way.

E: And she buys me coffee after! [laughing]

[laughing] Well any last words of advice y’all would give someone wanting to come here and try yoga for the first time?

E: I would say try the community classes… those are always filled with people of all different levels and ages…. And bring a friend! They’ll be able to laugh with you if you fall on your face!

P: And then eventually you’ll feel more comfortable coming alone…

E: And laughing at yourself alone!

Interview by Olivia Bowers

November Pose of the Month

November Pose of the Month

Wide-legged Standing Forward Fold / Prasarita Padottanasana

Release and let go of stagnant energy that is no longer serving you this fall ~ by diving forward into a deeper journey and understanding of this November’s pose of the month, Prasarita Padottanasana. This posture, not unlike many other inversions in yoga asana practice, helps to stimulate your internal organs, revitalize your systems of digestion and circulation, as well as increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain. In regards to the musculoskeletal system - prasarita padottanasana may aid in strengthening several joints and muscles in your body i.e. arches of your feet, your ankles, knees, quadriceps, and other hip flexors; as well as lengthen many joints and muscles in your body i.e. calves, hamstrings, groin, and one’s entire spine! And as this pose alleviates restrictions in your body, the potential for releasing restrictive patterns of thought, feeling, and perceiving arises ~ therefore allowing your entire organism to receive the holistic benefits that can come from practicing the posture and art of letting go.

Breakdown

Traditionally there are four different expressions for the arms to embody in this posture : A, B, C, and D.

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With whichever expression of the arms that you choose to embody ~ practice breathing length  into the front of your spin with every inhalation and breathing strength and stability into the fronts of your legs with every exhalation. Notice and enjoy how these actions provide the back of your spine and legs with more space!

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If your palms are unable to make contact with the ground or if the tightness in your hamstrings is restricting you from finding full length in your spine → welcome props into your practice props! Place your blocks on any height they need to be so that you can place your palms onto their support ~ and bend your knees as much as you need to so that you can extend your spine despite the restriction in your hamstrings!

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Lastly if you would like to play around with transitioning out of prasarita padottanasana and into pincha mayurasana (forearm stand) ~ a block in between your palms can be super helpful in keeping your arms activated as you begin to rock your hips over shoulders and fly your fit over your hips!

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Enjoy exploring these few (but not all!) ways to experience this forward fold. We hope these tips and variations are helpful and inspiring to any degree! May this posture give your body and mind the space and release they need in order to return to their natural state of wholeness, balance, and harmony ~

Namaste,
Reyn Studios

*To Note*

Our bodies are expressions of where we’ve come from (what we’ve been through) and where we are striving to move towards; therefore, all bodies and expressions will look drastically different from one another regardless of how similarly we place our bones and engage our muscles. It is not so much about the aesthetics of the form as it is about the sensations of flow that we are attempting to cultivate within these postures. Therefore these images that proceed are not intended to create an ‘ideal’ of what your practice should or should not look like, instead these images are intentionally being used as a means to communicate abstract ideas about anatomy via a more relatable format so that you may be guided into your exploration of this posture verbally as well as visually.

October Student of the Month

Conversation with October Student of the Month: Chris Anderson

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When did you start practicing yoga and what inspired you to begin in the first place?
I started practicing yoga regularly during the last year of my masters program… so about four years ago. The reason I went was because my ex wanted to go to yoga and was embarrassed to go alone so I was just willing to tag along! I was like sure I’ll go with you and embarrass myself.. and I really did! One of my professors was in the class… which was somewhat mortifying ummm [laughing] I went initially to be supportive… but I ended up really enjoying the breathing exercises, which became my favorite part of the practice, and which was what kept me coming back.

Off of that breath note- how have you felt like this practice has transformed or influenced your relationship with or understanding of the mind/body connection?
This practice has taught me that I can manage my state of mind through breathing exercises. Focusing on my breath and trying to lengthen my breath can really calm me down and get me out of my head a little bit… For example if I’m having a bit of a fit of rage at traffic I can sit there at the light and just count the length of my inhales and exhales until the light turns, and I won’t end up screaming at anyone... [laughing] So, that’s definitely a transformation! I mean I’ve always found there to be a relationship between how I feel in my body and my state of mind but I think certainly with yoga, that’s kind of the purpose of the practice…. In yoga I think I am more consciously engaging with this idea of ‘what i’m doing with my body will have an effect on my state of mind and my emotional well being’ and that is a big part of why I come.

Do you feel like this practice of reconnecting to your breath is always accessible regardless of what state of mind or body you may be in at the time?
Yes, and that’s why I come every morning. I like to wake up and start the day on a good footing. I like to come here and get myself in the right frame of mind to go about the rest of my day, which doesn’t always last the whole day [laughing] but it always feels good to at least start at that point!

[laughing] Oh yes I can relate! What are some ways that your practice has positively shifted your behavior and mood not just on, but off of the mat?
I mean…. my blood pressure is down! Which is a good thing. Yoga can [also] have a pretty profound impact on how I view a situation. I don’t want to say it changes my world view entirely, but I do feel like it has really improved my ability to not be completely emotionally reactive to things.. and [instead] ask myself ‘why am I reacting this way?’, ‘Is this reaction going to be healthy or constructive?’... and usually I think, ‘well nothing is going to come of that [reaction] so just breath a little bit and rethink’. And in terms of work… one of the studies I was involved was introducing yoga to an elementary school as a way of trying to help address students’ stress, and so [it] has certainly bled over into my research interests… and so yea, [yoga] has had a pretty profound impact on my life. You know I can’t say that like everything in my life has changed, but I do think this practice has certainly been a force of positive change in my life in a couple of different ways. It’s allowed me to aspire to be better at engaging with my emotional state and not just giving into it. And I feel a whole lot better when i come to yoga; I feel healthier! And there’s a positive social element as well when coming to a studio and talking with the instructors and fellow practitioners. So it’s really holistically beneficial- or least that’s what yoga has been like for me.

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That’s all really wonderful to hear! Would you mind sharing any challenges that you personally face in a yoga class?
Yea, I find it really challenging to focus just on myself when I’m on the mat. With there being other people in the room and a big set of mirrors on one of the walls, I can be very and easily ego-driven... I catch myself trying to look in the mirror to find out if I’m doing this pose better or worse than everyone else… So that has been a challenge for me.. But I think that yes it’s challenging, but also sort of part of the point… You’re never going to be completely free of distractions in life so part of the practice is learning how to more healthily engage with those distractions… you know acknowledge them, but don’t focus on them. But it can be frustrating for me because some days I just keep looking at the same person because I feel competitive with them or I catch myself tensing up because somebody is making a certain kind of noise that makes me mad [laughing] - but that challenge is an integral part of why I practice yoga… I’m learning to turn my focus inward.. and constantly learning how to engage more mindfully with myself in the presence of distraction.

In that vein of learning how to engage with the world more mindfully amidst the chaos and flood of distractions - how has your relationship with yoga influenced your ability to adapt to the sociopolitical transitions of 2017?
Frankly I think it probably has been a very good year for me to have been so focused on regularly practicing yoga… regardless of where someone falls on the political spectrum it certainly has been an unpleasant year for almost everyone. I’ve been practicing yoga regularly for a while, but just recently I’ve begun practicing different styles like yoga nidra, meditation, etc. and i think it’s been really helpful to have those classes that teach you how to channel your focus in a different and new way… because I think all of this has really taught me how to lessen the influence that negative energy may have on myself… I think I’m better able to constructively express myself because of or when I do practice yoga.. I think it could benefit everyone. I mean not all yogis are super chill people, a lot of us are on the angrier end of the spectrum and I include myself in that [laughing]... but I think it has certainly been beneficial for me… in learning how to react less and respond more to things that trigger my aggression.Yoga helps me more mindfully engage with my feelings instead of just pushing them to the side and trying to ignore them. I have learned to express myself in a more constructive and calm manner since practicing, and hopefully I’ll continue to improve…

I have a feeling you will! And thank you so much for sharing and willing to be a part of a conversation. Any last words of wisdom or advice you’d like to give to a beginner yogi who is anxious or nervous about showing up and beginning their journey of practicing yoga?
I mean yoga really is a practice for everybody. You don’t have to be flexible, you don’t have to have good balance, lord knows I don't’! I have been practicing for years and I still really struggle with balancing poses! This isn’t about you compared to other people it really is just about you and how you feel. And sure the other people in class will look at you, but they’re really not focused on you… you know you may have this sense that everyone’s eyes are on you but they’re not focusing on you... we are all trying to focus on ourselves. It’s natural to worry about making a fool of yourself, I mean I fell flat on my face in my first yoga class and I get embarrassed easily... so if I can keep coming back to yoga after my first experience - I think pretty much anyone else can get passed whatever initial embarrassment they may feel and learn how to really enjoy this practice. You may feel perhaps a little insecure and out of place at first but pretty much any studio you go to is going have a great roster of thoughtful teachers who really want to help you, especially here! I’ve taken classes with almost all of the instructors here, and I can’t think of one class where I’ve thought I will never do that ever again... everyone has their own style and things that they like to focus on and talk about and it’s really just a matter of finding something that fits you. So if you don’t like the first class you take, go try a different one! There is no limit to the ways in which you can express yourself in yoga, so you just have to take the first step and try it.

Interview by Olivia Bowers

 

 

October Pose of the Month

October Pose of the Month

Downward Facing Dog  / Adho Muhka Svanasana

Access a deeper understanding of and appreciation for your downward facing dog with these brief but helpful tips and insights! As being one of the most frequented postures in an asana class, adho muhka svanasana has the great potential to enliven and restore your body back into integrated balance and wholeness; however, when not practiced mindfully it also has the potential to cause chronic harm and inflict injuries onto your wrists, shoulders, neck, and back. Therefore taking the time to learn about how to more efficiently place your bones and how to more effectively engage your muscles in downdog is critical for a yogi’s health! Without there typically being enough time in public classes to really (and nerdly so) break all of this anatomy down - this virtual space is here to provide you with the information that you may be looking for in order to explore more safely and receive more deeply the full range of glorious benefits that downward facing dog has to offer your body and mind.

Breakdown

When establishing structural integrity within a posture it is vital to first and foremost address the foundation of the pose. In downward facing dog your foundation is in your hands- how they are meeting the ground beneath them. The structural integrity of your entire body depends upon how you are placing and engaging the bones and muscles of your fingertips, knuckles and wrists. While on all fours allow your fingers to spread apart, let every knuckle make contact with the mat, and position your wrist creases parallel to the front edge of your mat. And now the work begins- focus on maintaining all of this foundational integrity as you lift your hips back and up into downward facing dog. As this foundational integrity becomes easier to maintain with your hips lifted, shift your focus up to the heads of your shoulders and begin mindfully activating the muscles of your arms. Notice how when you spin the biceps of your inner arms towards the front your mat and the triceps of your outer arms in towards the midline, more space arrives in between the vertebrae of your neck, more length is established in your side body, and a deeper opening occurs in your shoulders.

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Movin on up! Bring your attention to your ribcage. Notice how when you focus on sending your chest back to your thighs, your ribcage tends to flare open and therefore dump weight into your low back as well as strain the fronts of your shoulders. Combat this harm by knitting the front and lower part of your ribcage into your belly on every exhale. Feel this action bring length back into your spine and stability back into your shoulders!

Ouch! 

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Good Form

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If you find that extension of your spine (let alone hyper-extension!) is challenging to cultivate in down dog, and your spine often times feels fixated in flexion while your hamstrings feel strained…

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Try bending your knees substantially and experimenting with blocks! Place the blocks underneath your hands or feet and notice how extension of your spine and legs is easier to access with the assistance of the props. For example:

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There are a variety of other ways in which you can activate your body and experiment with your props in adho muhka svanasana! These are just a few offerings to get you interested and engaged in playing around with the posture more mindfully so that you may find and feel what works best for you. And once your bones and muscles feel organized enough to healthily maintain this posture for several breaths ~ go ahead and experiment with softening and clarifying your gaze back to your feet or turning your gaze inwards and closing your eyes. Then just let time pass and allow the rejuvenating benefits of this gentle inversion resonate and settle into your entire nervous system ~ happy and safe travels upside down ~

Namaste,
Reyn Studios

*to note*
our bodies are expressions of where we’ve come from (what we’ve been through) and where we are striving to move towards; therefore, all bodies and expressions will look drastically different from one another regardless of how similarly we place our bones and engage our muscles. It is not so much about the aesthetics of the form as it is about the sensations of flow that we are attempting to cultivate within these postures. Therefore these images that proceed are not intended to create an ‘ideal’ of what your practice should or should not look like, instead these images are intentionally being used as a means to communicate abstract ideas about anatomy via a more relatable format so that you may be guided into your exploration of this posture verbally as well as visually.