Category Archives for Life

Returning to Our Community Roots

superhero camp collageThank you so much for sharing your kids and family yoga experience with us. We’re having a wonderful summer so far and hope you’ll be joining us for great classes and camps we have planned.

The biggest change for Breathing Space in coming months is that we’ve decided to let go of the 1123 Penn location at the end of the summer and go back to a mobile program format.

We are excited to work with community partners again to offer classes and camps in a variety of locations around the Hill, both SE and NE!

Breathing Space started as a mobile program and the model makes a lot of sense for us given the limited hours needed for children’s and family programming. We took the 1123 Penn lease in the fall of 2014, starting classes there in 2015, because we had seemingly reached our limit for growth at our class spaces at the time and were anticipating our summer camp venue to be unavailable in 2015. The neighborhood yoga and wellness landscape has changed quite a bit in the past two years, with many more options for adult yoga and new opportunities for partnership locations for our family programming. As much as it is nice to have complete control over a studio space, it simply make better business sense to let go of the full time location.

Mind JarWhat’s more, community is a defining characteristic of family yoga and we’ve missed being a regular member of our partner communities over the past two years. By returning to a mobile model, we are excited to be able to reach further on Capitol Hill and are launching our first Northeast location classes at the Parish of St. Monica and St. James in September! If you have connections to community locations or ideas for classes not on our upcoming schedule, please let us know.

How Yoga Transforms Your Body; How Yoga Transforms Lives


yoga infographic

The above infographic by Huffington Post is a beautiful illustration of the benefits of yoga – from one class to a practice of years.

After Class:

  • Improved Brain Function.
  • Lower Stress Levels.
  • Alter Gene Expression.
  • Increased Flexibility.

After A Few Months:

  • Lower Blood Pressure.
  • Improved Lung Capacity
  • Improved Sexual Function.
  • Reduced Chronic Neck Pain.
  • Anxiety Relief.
  • Relief from Chronic Back Pain.
  • Steady Blood Sugar Levels in People With Diabetes.
  • Improved Sense of Balance.

After Years:

  • Stronger Bones.
  • Healthy Weight.
  • Lower Risk of Heart Disease.

See the article for citations and details on benefits.

As fantastic as those transformations are, they are hollow statistics in comparison to the real stories featured in Urban Yogi’s: Stories of Transforming Lives.  The below trailer for the series has been circulating on Facebook thanks to UpWorthy among others.

Warning: Their stories are captivating; You may find yourself watching more than one episode.

Four Reasons to Commit to a Weekly Yoga Class?

Our kids and family yoga classes require full session registration and, while we allow single class drop-ins to our prenatal and postnatal classes, we encourage adult students make the same commitment and here’s why:

1) Consistency & Commitment

Kids Yoga - Washington DC - Fall SessionsBuilding a habit takes consistency and humans often need accountability to get that. By committing to attend every week you establish that consistency for yourself. Having already paid can be a strong motivator to keep that weekly yoga appointment with when possible conflicts arise 1.

When I wanted to start running more than once in a blue moon, I signed up for a training group. Perhaps the marathon was overkill, but I’m always more consistent – running, yoga, and everything else – when I’ve made a public, social commitment. ~Jen

Children, even more than adults, benefit from consistency. It often take a few classes for children, especially toddlers, to feel comfortable in a space, with a teacher, and with other students and start to show their true personalities. Some children warm up more slowly than others and might not participate very much for weeks (even if they are teaching entire classes to their dolls or siblings at home).

Children benefit from the repetition. Instructors will do similar routines from week to week to help students learn activities and sequences. By creating consistency in class, children feel secure and are more able to learn. Your toddler doesn’t get that many opportunities to demonstrate their expertise. Their pride upon showing that they know the sequence of their tot yoga class warmup awesome to witness.

2) Community

Practicing next to the same friendly faces every week, struggling through the same challenging poses, chuckling over the same jokes or instructor’s verbal gaffs (no, that never happens), and simply being together every week builds community. Friendships are established in yoga classes and we are practicing with our neighbors.

winterclasses3That community helps bring us back every week and helps create a safe space where we can do the inherently vulnerable work of yoga. It’s not just that we are bending into unfamiliar positions in yoga pants – though that’s vulnerable enough, the reason yoga is so effective in reducing stress is that a major component of it is learning to let go. Many yogis find the postures and balancing effort and surrender in the poses help them access parts of themselves that are often hidden away during our daily lives.

It can be disconcerting to adults to be surrounded by strangers and expected to try something new. That’s much worse for kids. Not understanding why they are uncomfortable, children will act out and disengage from class. Having the same students (and parents in our family classes) in class each week helps children feel safe, let their guard down, and learn.

3) Progressive and Customized Teaching

Another benefit of a weekly commitment is how it enables progressive teaching. Because the same students attend week after week, your instructor can build on skills learned from week to week.

prenatal-postnatal-sliderAdditionally, over several weeks, your instructor will get to know the students’ bodies and preferences and can customize teaching to match.

4) Safety

Consistency in attendance enables progressive teaching and enhances safety. Your instructor won’t teach the advanced versions of a pose before instructing the basics. When students come back week after week, your instructor will get to know any special conditions and limitations and be able to personalize their instruction to students.

Commitment at Breathing Space

All our classes are offered in multi-week sessions. Families sign up for season, or semester, of classes, which is typically 6-14 weeks, depending on the calendar. If you must miss a class, you can take advantage of our generous make-up policy.

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1) Of course we understand that life happens, which is why we have a generous make-up policy should you have to miss class.

Do Babies Need Yoga? Why Take A Baby Yoga Class

“Babies don’t need yoga. They’re fine the way they are,” was the comment made in my presence by another yoga teacher not that long ago. I totally agree, I also wholeheartedly advocate for and teach mom & baby classes.

Baby yoga, child's-pose, itsy bitsy yoga

Smiling Child’s Pose by flickr user lululemon
athletica

Babies are often described as natural yogis because they are so naturally “in the moment.” As parents, on the other hand, we spend much of the time we have with our infants thinking about everything but the present moment. Household chores, grocery shopping, caring for older children, commuting to and from work, and even working from home are among the necessities of modern life. Baby yoga class is a designated hour each week to focus on simply being with our child.

The poses and moves we do in class are developmentally supportive – meaning they are largely movements that baby will discover and practice on their own. Many parents report that their babies independently come into yoga poses such as downward facing dog, plank, cobra, and more. Itsy Bitsy Yoga creator Helen Garabedian explains:

“From birth, babies instinctively draw their knees up toward their chest as if trying to come into knees-to-chest pose (apanasana). The infant’s digestive system is sometimes underdeveloped at birth, and apanasana aids in digestion and relieves gas discomfort.

Sphinx pose helps the four-month-old lengthen the spine, energize the organs, and tone the upper body. Sphinx pose is a necessary precursor to weight-shifting and one-hand play as a baby rests on her tummy. As the five- or six-month-old baby is beginning to lift the head and torso to higher elevations, sphinx pose evolves into cobra pose (bhujangasana). Postures practiced on the tummy strengthen the muscles and connections needed for crawling and may help prevent future lower back pain.

Baby yoga, itsy bitsy, down dog

Baby in downward facing dog pose by flickr user kourtlynlott

As babies become mobile and work toward crawling, they move through more of the poses adults do on the yoga mat.

Downward-facing dog (adhomukha-shvanasana) is first practiced before a baby starts to crawl, and later is a favorite pose of one-year-olds. Developmentally, downward-facing dog helps connect a baby’s upper and lower body. After crawling is integrated into a baby’s movement repertoire, a baby may begin to walk in downward-facing dog (or bear walk.) This helps an experienced crawler get a feel for moving through space at a higher level than crawling, but at a lower level than walking.”

The wonderful thing about a baby yoga class is that we, as parents and caregivers, get to experience exploring these natural movements with them.

Baby yoga, seated forward bend, itsy bitsy yoga

Baby yogi takes pachimotansana variation by flickr user cianc (kidding, he may need rescue)

When my own daughter was an infant, yoga class was one of the highlights of my week for many of the same reasons the moms in my classes love it. It was a break from my day where I was encouraged to simply get to know my baby, connect with other parents,  relax and let go, and even learn a little bit about child development.

After I returned to full-time work at the office, my husband took over in yoga class and our experience is why I encourage moms to bring their partners to class or teach what they’ve learned to dad or other caregivers. When multiple caregivers know the same poses and songs, they become like a shared language and help parents meet one of their baby’s most fundamental needs: the need to communicate and connect with us.

When multiple caregivers know the same poses and songs, they become like a shared language and help parents meet one of their baby’s most fundamental needs: the need to communicate and connect with us.

30 Dr. Seuss Quotes that Can Change Your Life

 

While I love them, I don't read as many Dr. Suess books in my kids yoga classes as you might think. Unless you've regularly read bedtime stories to a skilled bedtime avoider (so they always start a little later than you'd like), you might not realize that Dr. Suess writes fairly long books. But the above illustration from Mamiverse.com (via Daily Cup of Yoga) reminds me that I should really get more creative about incorporating some of these.

Cultivating a Sense of Wonder

image from www.flickr.com
 “I ride the metro with God.”

That was the thought that struck me at the end of chapter 7 of Donna Farhi’s Bringing Yoga to Life. The thought drove home the magnitude of creation, the sheer magnitude of Grace manifested into the diversity of this reality and its potential for constant rediscovery of the Self.  Two instances are not enough to capture an awareness of Grace over a day, let alone a month, but this is my attempt:

The bicycle commute: It’s cool, cold even, when I start my hour-long ride from Capitol Hill to Ballston, VA. I’m usually running late, so I peddle hard and the blood begins to pump faster through my veins, warming my whole body. My breath quickens. Often I can see it moving in and out, becoming me and becoming sky again, rushing past. Birds and airplanes soar overhead. I marvel at the contrast – that both can fly at all; that the rest of us don’t simply float away [1]

The toddler: A good bit of two-year-old anxiety is related to the process of defining identity. Where does she begin and end? She tells me, “I’m a butterfly today,” and retells the same stories, processing events of her day. “I fell down on my head and it went POP!” is a current favorite.  She’s magnetically drawn to the drama of human emotion, pointing out whenever anyone in earshot is sad (one of the more easily identified emotions). “The baby is sad” or “The little boy is sad,” she empathizes and looks to me to assure her that it’s ok. As she learns how she is separate from others, I hope she doesn’t completely forget that she is not.

 


[1] See January 20, 2010 – Astronomy Picture of the Day for a mind-blowing illustration of Grace. 

Originally drafted in response to a yoga teacher training homework assignment. Posted in response to today's #reverb10 prompt by Jeff Davis.

Transition

transformation

In her #reverb10 prompt this morning, Gwen Bell asked participants to define 2010 in one word. Mine is “transition.”

While 2009 was actually the year in which I left my full time job, it was in 2010 that I really attempted to figure out what that meant. I began a yoga teacher training program and teaching kids yoga weekly, and I began to explore a new identity, separate from full time environmental advocacy.

The year involved a lot of casting about and feeling somewhat lost, not unlike a certain polliwog in one of Maya’s favorite library books: The Caterpillar and the Polliwog. He learns that, like the boastful caterpillar, he will transform into something else when he grows up, but nobody tells him what.

The word I will project on 2011 is “focus.”

transformation photo © 2005 Noyes | more info (via: Wylio)

Sacred Space


A lovely room that does not resemble
Jen's regular practice space.
Originally uploaded by beauty that moves.

My yoga home practice space is not a room dedicated to yoga and meditation with a lovely alter or plenty of wall space for practicing inversions.

I live in an old 3 bedroom row house housing 3 adults and a toddler, so pretty much every square inch of space gets used. On the second floor, we go vertical too, with shelving a couple feet down from the ceiling in 2 of the 3 rooms and 4 sets of floor to ceiling bookcases (a total of 6 once you count the ones in the front hall downstairs).

We've just hatched a plan to begin transitioning Maya to her own bed this summer, and that too involves going vertical with a custom built loft in what will eventually be Maya's own room.

So, my practice space, especially when I don't leave myself time to pick up more than the bare minimum, tends to look more like:

Continue Reading Sacred Space

Musings on Time

Mac got home yesterday evening complaining about the unusual amount of traffic he had encountered on his way back from Towson. He asked what time I needed to leave to make it to my yoga class, I answered, 6:30 for a 6:45 class. By 6:25, I was running late, as usual, and at 6:35 tore out of the house for the brief ride over to the studio. Upon entering, I noticed two things: one, this was not the usual instructor and, two, she had already started.

I pulled off my shoes and left them and my bike helmet on the shelf in the entryway, prepped my other things for easy stashing on the studio shelf, made some comment to the receptionist about someday being on time, and slipped into the studio. I rolled out my mat at the back of the class and took a few moments to settle before joining in. I was surprised to find that Stacey, the substitute instructor, was further into the warmup than I expected. Glancing at the clock in the studio I noted that it was just 6:45; what time had she started?

I must have looked puzzled and Stacey warmly informed me that we were doing the right side now. As I followed along into my second balancing table pose moments later, she made a comment about how the class was balancing so well that folks should consider staying for the second class. Second class? I take the second class. It starts at . . . 7:45.

I was an hour early for that class and 30 minutes late for this one. I had a bit of trouble balancing in single side balancing table because of the chuckling I was doing. I accidentally took half a core yoga class (in addition to my own) yesterday evening because I got tripped up over time.

Which brings me to my watch.

Running watch and parrotlet In the past few weeks both my athletic watch and my regular watch have stopped running. Honestly, I'm enjoying watchless life. I find not having a watch during my morning bike commute doesn't affect how quickly I get to the office but it does affect how often I check the time. Trains too go no faster because riders check their watches and worry about how late they might be. Fewer checks mean more relaxed ride.

It's been on my to do list to go to the Ballston Mall (now minutes from my office desk) to get the batteries replaced, but I keep not doing it. I think I'm going to finally do it tomorrow because I actually count on my athletic watch to time intervals when I run but I'm wondering about remaining watchless the rest of the time.

Between wall clocks, computers, and phones, it's not like I'm having trouble finding out the time. But it's nice to get away from it all (even if my cell phone is only a backpack pocket away).

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