Friday, March 27, 2020

20 TIPS FOR CREATING A YOGA PRACTICE IN YOUR OWN HOME



     During this unprecedented time of "social distancing" and "stay-at-home" mandates by state and local governments, yoga practitioners from all over the globe are facing the choice of practicing solo, choosing to participate in a virtual class or take a break until yoga studios open again.  Most are opting for some combination of all three and are, perhaps for the first time, needing to craft a manageable home yoga regimen.
  
     There are many reasons other than following "shelter-in-place" edicts that create a necessity for self-practice, including: nursing an injury, financial concerns, illness recovery, working through grief, logistical constraints, lack of childcare, just to name a few.  Whatever the reason, it can be very challenging to initiate and maintain consistency when left to one's own devises.  Our human needs for community, relationship and belonging are especially highlighted in this mandatory isolation time which makes starting a home practice even more challenging but, can be I believe, ultimately self-empowering and very rewarding.   

     I have been practicing mostly alone for over 25 years (for more info on my yoga journey...  https://breathetogetheronline.com/yoga/getting-to-know-ashtanga-instructor-leigha-nicole/?fbclid=lwAR0gHQ0YkhVRh8zevdLW5-euKFFsZJeb4kdgrArMNJx4T9F9_45V9cc6RaY ) mainly due to a lack of close proximity to my primary teachers.  Thankfully, going to India many times for extended study and visiting my Western teachers for classes and trainings a few times annually, allowed me to "plug in" to a learning environment which inspired and energized my solitary sadhana.  I feel very fortunate to have had long-time relationships with my yoga, painting and bodywork teachers, some many decades in length and I have never lived close to any of them.  Most of my extra money over the years has been spent visiting them as often as possible to obtain their much needed wisdom and advice.  So, even though I believe there is no substitute for finding and maintaining a relationship with a qualified teacher that inspires, sometimes there is a need for deepening one's Svadhyaya (study of the self) through practicing alone.
    
   * WARNING:  These suggestions could be considered by some to be so unconventional they boarder on disrespect to yogic teachings.  It is of course, not at all my intention to be disrespectful to any yoga lineage, ancient texts, or traditional methods.  I believe in the importance of Parampara (the passing on of ancient knowledge through successive generations) and am deeply committed to preserving whatever I have learned out of respect for my teachers.  These tips are offered in the spirit of self love and care based on whatever yoga style feels appropriate and loosening the strict ideas around what constitutes a legitimate "practice" that could be preventing us from carving out some much needed quiet "tuning in" time.

                                                              


1)  WARM UP WITH HYDROTHERAPY - Bathing before a yoga practice not only warms up the physical body but, will allow you to feel fresh on the mat. Also, we are observing Saucha (one of the Niyamas meaning "cleanliness"). 

2)  TRY A LITTLE CAFFEINE - If your constitution can tolerate a caffeinated drink of some kind then perhaps timing a mug of your choice before you begin can give you an added energy boost to propel you on to your mat.  Also, it can assist in intestinal elimination which is ideal!

3)  CREATE A BEAUTIFUL SACRED SPACE - Making an altar that has deep meaning for you with pictures, deities, candles, talismans, etc., can inspire devotion and can allow you to start your practice with an attitude of gratitude!   You may want to place your mat facing it.  Even if you don't have a lot of room, turning the heat up, cleaning your mat, the floor under your mat, lighting a candle, putting some essential oil you love in a diffuser or burning some pure incense (I buy pure sandalwood and aloes wood here...http://kohshisf.com/ ) can create a warm and inspiring environment.

4)  ELIMINATE DISTRACTIONS - Give yourself a window of time to do necessary chores, answer emails, fulfill family duties, etc., then TURN OFF YOUR PHONE!  It takes much discipline to focus in this modern age and it may take some time to be able to concentrate and stay on the mat but, Pratyahara (control of the senses) and Dharana (developing concentration) are 2 important limbs of yoga and worth cultivating.

5)  START A PRACTICE JOURNAL -  I have had many practice journals over the years that allow me to document my experiences with different poses and sequences.  This is particularly helpful when working through an injury.

6)  CHOOSE SOME INSPIRATIONAL CHANTING OR MUSIC - I sometimes love to hear music or sutra chanting while I am doing yoga.  Listen to any music that inspires you.  Maybe the kids or your dog will join in.   Occasionally, the music I choose leads to spontaneous dancing which can win out over yoga! Not such a bad thing every once in a while!  
As far as chanting goes, by far my favorite is Dr. Jayashree from Mysore... https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/drmajayashree1.  I have found that her lovely meditative tone also makes it easy to memorize the Yoga Sutras, if that is something that interests you.

7)  BE REALISTIC ABOUT TIME AND ADJUST ACCORDINGLY - How much time do you really have for yoga?  Don't be hard on yourself if you have less time than usual.  We all have busy lives and fitting in just a few minutes for ourselves can seem almost impossible at times.   
Since we follow specific sequences in the Ashtanga system that are progressive, it can be a little easier to abbreviate than in other systems. Sometimes we may only have time for a few Sun Salutations, which is fine since they are mini practices in themselves.  Make sure your routine is balanced (lots of yoga books have sample routines in them) and that you are mindful of practicing progressively.  We may have to realistically weigh quality over quantity.  
Consult your teacher if you need ideas regarding shorter sequences in your lineage or style.  Practice what you know and remember that a little yoga is better than none at all.                        


8)  TRY SOME VIRTUAL COMPANY - Practicing to a DVD or an audio class is sometimes a fun idea.  Of course, YouTube has lots of yogic lectures available for streaming.  Richard Freeman has some great "Studio Talks" available for purchase as well as his brilliant series, "Yoga Matrix".  A must have for serious students of yoga philosophy... https://www.richardfreemanyoga.com/audio .    
Another great option, which many teachers are now offering is an online class!  The Mindful Body in San Francisco, a studio where I teach several times a year, has a full online schedule available with excellent teachers... https://themindfulbody.com/yoga-schedule/ .

9)  START WITH A BRIEF SITTING PRACTICE - A few minutes of Zazen (sitting meditation) can be a great way of tapping into the present moment and exploring one's inner landscape before launching into movement.  

10) BEGIN WITH SOME INSPIRATIONAL READING - For decades I have started my early mornings with some spiritual reading.  When the mind is fresh is a good time to implant some affirmations or uplifting words.  You might want to study 1 Yoga Sutra a day.  "The Unadorned Thread of Yoga" is a compilation book that has 10 translations per sutra... https://www.yogasutras.net/product/unadorned-thread/ .

11) SAY YES TO COMFORTABLE CLOTHING - Consider wearing a loose fitting outfit made from natural fibers.  If you normally practice in fashionable, tight, spandex-type tights and tops (ie., Lululemon) try something less constricting.  Maybe, if it feels good, try practicing braless! 

12) PHONE A FRIEND - Inviting a friend over for a practice date can go a long way to keeping us committed and accountable. 

13) CHOOSE A THEME - Picking a area of focus in advance can provide some interesting insights.  Grouping poses together from a catagory (twists, forward bends, back bends) can provide an easy theme.  If you are an Ashtanga Yoga practitioner then there are some obvious areas of focus which can be isolated such as: Ujjayi breath, Bandhas, Drishti, etc.

14) START WITH YOUR FAVORITE POSE OR AN INVERSION - Lately, I have been starting my practice upside-down.  It flushes my brain with blood and changes my perspective immediately.  Doing your favorite pose first sometimes can lure you on to your mat like nothing else.   

15) GET CREATIVE WITH PROPS - There are so many fun props to incorporate into our practices these days.  Balls, blocks, bolsters, blankets, wrist wedges, back bending wheels, backbender benches and headstanders are just some of the toys you can try... https://www.yogaprops.com/ .

16) USE A MIRROR TO CHECK YOUR ALIGNMENT - Occasionally, checking my alignment in a mirror is very educational.  Sometimes our proprioception can play tricks on us and the alignment we are trying to maintain in some poses is much different than we think.  Using a mirror is especially helpful when checking for body asymmetries. 

17) CHECK IN WITH YOUR TEACHER - It is very helpful sometimes to get in touch with our teachers.  They can provide answers to our questions and give needed suggestions regarding our yoga practice.  If you are lucky enough to have an established relationship with a teacher, getting some feedback can feel like a lifeline!

18) EAT A TINY BIT OF FOOD - Depending on when you are practicing, having a little bit of easily digestible food (half of a banana, a few almonds, some fresh juice, etc.) can quell hunger long enough to squeeze in a little yoga. Ideally, we would have at least 4 hours between a meal and yoga but, when we are trying to fit in our yoga during a child's nap time or a lunch hour, we may need a small snack to get us through.

19) SET OUT YOUR MAT AND YOUR YOGA OUTFIT THE NIGHT BEFORE - Seeing our mat rolled out and our clothes ready to put on can inspire us to begin without delay.  

20) GIVE YOURSELF A LONG SHAVASANA - Committing to giving ourselves a long uninterrupted rest at the end of our practice can also provide needed incentive.  Particularly when we have not slept well the night before. 

                                                          *  *  *    


  

Monday, January 27, 2020

JUST A FEW SHARED SPOTS LEFT FOR OUR YOGA AUTUMN EQUINOX RETREAT IN CRESTONE, COLORADO...


HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR AND BLESSINGS FOR A PEACEFUL 2020!  

I am thrilled and honored to be hosting a yoga retreat in my magical home town of Crestone, Colorado on the Autumn Equinox 9/22-27!  Our venue is the secluded Crestone Mountain Zen Center nestled in the pristine forests of the Baca National Wildlife refuge, whose residential monastic community we will join for up to 3 periods of Zazen meditation @ day in the Soto Zen  Buddhist tradition.   We will have morning Mysore-style (self-paced) yoga classes and afternoon outings combined with 3 gourmet vegetarian meals daily.
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ashtanga-yoga-and-zen-meditation-with-leigha-nicole-tickets-80787155557
  
Here is a sample itinerary:



Day 1
3:00 pm - Arrive at Crestone Mountain Zen Center
settle into accommodations
Walk to the Tashi Gomang Stupa or other Crestone spiritual centers
6:00 pm - Dinner
7:15 pm - Zazen orientation with the CMZC residents
7:30 pm - First Zazen meditation in the zendo
8:30 pm - Star gazing


  Day 2
Coffee/tea/fruit
 5:00 am - Optional Zazen in the zendo
Kinhin (walking meditation) 5:30 am
5:45 am - Optional Zazen in the zendo
6:30 am - Mysore Ashtanga Yoga practice
8:30 am - Breakfast
Rest/forest exploration
12:30 pm - Lunch
1:30 - 5:30 pm - Hooper Pool and Hot Springs
6:00 pm - Dinner
7:30 pm - Optional Zazen meditation in the zendo


Day 3
Coffee/tea/fruit
 5:00 am - Optional Zazen in the zendo
Kinhin (walking meditation) 5:30 am
5:45 am - Optional Zazen in the zendo
6:30 am - Mysore Ashtanga Yoga practice
8:30 am - Breakfast
Rest/forest exploration
12:30 pm - Lunch
1:30 - 5:30 pm - Hike to Zapata Falls and sand boarding at The Great Sand Dunes National Park
6:00 pm - Dinner
7:30 pm - Optional Zazen sitting in the zendo



Day 4
Coffee/tea/fruit
 5:00 am - Optional Zazen in the zendo
Kinhin (walking meditation) 5:30 am
5:45 am - Optional Zazen in the zendo
6:30 am - Mysore Ashtanga Yoga practice
8:30 am - Breakfast
10:00 - 12 pm - Japanese Tea Ceremony
12:30 pm - Lunch at CMZC or pack lunch
2-4 pm - Short hike to secret Tibetan Prayer Flag mountain
OR
12:30 - 5:30 pm - Longer forest hike up Willow creek trail to the meadow
6 pm - Dinner
7:30 pm - Evening Zazen



Day 5
Coffee/tea/fruit
 5:00 am - Optional Zazen in the zendo
Kinhin (walking meditation) 5:30 am
5:45 am - Optional Zazen in the zendo
6:30 am - Mysore Ashtanga Yoga practice
8:30 am - Breakfast
Rest/forest exploration
12:30 pm - Lunch
1:30 - 6 pm - Day trip to swim in the Arkansas River in Salida and Joyful Journey Hot Springs
6 pm - Dinner
7:30 pm - Evening meditation in the Zendo




Day 6
Coffee/tea/fruit
 5:00 am - Optional Zazen in the zendo
Kinhin (walking meditation) 5:30 am
5:45 am - Optional Zazen in the zendo
6:30 am - Mysore Ashtanga Yoga practice
8:30 am - Breakfast
Packing up
11:30 am - Closing circle
12:30 pm - Lunch
1:30 pm - Good bye hugs! 


I hope you can join us for deepening our contemplative practices amidst the raw natural beauty of Colorado!

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ashtanga-yoga-and-zen-meditation-with-leigha-nicole-tickets-80787155557














Thursday, January 2, 2020

HAPPY NEW YEAR! HAPPY NEW DECADE!



I hope for all of us more patience, tolerance, compassion, kindness and glowing health in 2020.  I am excited to be going back to The Mindful Body  www.themindfulbody.com  for another 2 weeks of Mysore-style teaching starting this Sunday.  The Sunday class will now be 2 1/2 hours to accommodate a larger student base.  Sunday Mysore classes are 8 - 10:30am and M - F classes are 7 - 9am (doors open at 6am - adjustments start at 7am).  Also, I am doing a back bending workshop on Saturday January 18th; 2-5pm....




   BLISSFUL BACK BENDING

The Second Series of Ashtanga Yoga (Nadi Shodhana) starts with an accessible group of back bending postures which will provide the outline for this workshop.  We will explore the gravity-reversing back bending process in a gentle sequential way with lots of safety tips and researching poses along the way.  
Technical inquiry and a little partner work will be included to create a lively forum for investigation.
Practitioners should have some comfort with the Ashtanga Primary Series but, no experience with the Intermediate Series is necessary.  
This workshop counts as 3 hours of CE through Yoga Alliance.
https://themindfulbody.com/workshops-events/





Saturday, November 16, 2019


THANKSGIVING GREETINGS!
I'm enjoying the beautiful fall leaves, chilly nights and first snowfalls of the season.  Looking forward to guest teaching at The Mindful Body in San Francisco for 2 stints around the holidays.  Join me whether you are a new Ashtanga Yoga practitioner or a seasoned one.  Self-paced Mysore-style classes are an ideal learning environment.  All are most welcome!
*The Mindful Body dates:
12/3-20/2019   &   1/5-19/2020
https://themindfulbody.com/leigha-nicole/ 

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Save $250 with early bird retreat registration before 12/30/2019!


ASHTANGA YOGA AND ZEN MEDITATION
IN CRESTONE, COLORADO
WITH LEIGHA NICOLE

Unplug and renew your spirit on a healing retreat in the stunning Sangre de Cristo mountains.  Daily morning Mysore-style Ashtanga Yoga classes, Zazen meditation instruction and practice with a residential monastic community, hiking, hot springs and gourmet vegetarian meals.
Don't miss this wonderful chance to deepen your yoga and contemplative practice in a supportive environment in a gorgeous natural setting!
Early bird pricing ends 12/30/2019 so, click below and register now!








Monday, March 25, 2019


Lovely Spring blessings to all!

Here is my 2019 spring/summer teaching schedule...

April 15 - 19   I will be teaching Mysore-Style Ashtanga classes at Breathe Together Yoga in Los Gatos, California.  www.breathetogetheryoga.com  I am very fortunate to be teaching with my dear friend Mojdeh Zahiraleslamsadeh who will be introducing me to her Ashtanga students in preparation for her July sabbatical during which I will be guest teaching for her.

May 26 - June 2   The Mindful Body in San Francisco, California. www.themindfulbody.com (Sun-Fri Mysore classes) I am thrilled to being going back here where I am covering for the intrepid Matt Champoux.

June 9 - 29   Mysore Yoga Atlanta in Atlanta, Georgia.  www.mysoreyogaatlanta.com (Daily morning Mysore classes and T, Th evening Mysore classes)  I am very excited to be substitute teaching for Sava Giorgi Savaneli while he travels to study with Lino .

July 1 - 31   Breathe Together Yoga, Los Gatos, California.  www.breathetogetheryoga.com  (Mysore classes M-F and a beginners guided class on Sundays)
Also, I am hosting an Adjustment and Anatomy Workshop there on 7/20/2019; 1-4:30pm.  For more info or to sign up https://breathetogetheryoga.com/events/the-art-of-assisting/#toggle-id-1

September 15 - 29, 2019   The Mindful Body in San Francisco, California.  www.themindfulbody.com (Sun-Fri Mysore classes)

Come and visit me and get your tapas on!             

Monday, January 21, 2019






Happy New Year 2019!
I am starting off the year with a 4-week Mysore-style class series in Crestone for February; Saturday, Sunday and Mondays (2/2-4, 2/9-11, 2/16-18 and 2/23-25) 9am-11am.  The cost for 12 classes is $95 and they will be held in my yoga studio in the Baca.
These classes are self-paced with adjustments and are suited for folks with some Ashtanga Yoga experience.  If you are brand new to Ashtanga Yoga and would like a guided introductory class, PM me and if there is enough interest I will host one at the beginning of the month so you can participate.
www.splendidyoga.com  (719) 209-8518.
Hope to see you in February!