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Cultivate a Beginner’s Mind

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As we get more and more familiar with the physical practice of yoga, we find that we can more easily move into and out of the postures without having to think about them so much, or without having to look around at what the postures should look like. We begin to integrate them into our bodies in a way that helps us to deepen the practice. After a while, certain poses become almost second nature. We simply take the posture when its name is called.

 

When we reach this place in the practice, we start to feel, to some extent, like we know what we are doing. As with learning anything new, as we gain proficiency, we feel accomplished. Once we think we have “mastered” a pose, our attitude about it can become rigid. We no longer seek to understand the pose, because we already know it. This phenomenon may not be something you have noticed, but it happens to us all.

 

The best way to see your practice in a new way is to cultivate a beginner’s mind. Be curious about your practice, even if it’s the same practice you have done for many years. Take the time to really listen to your teacher. Follow each cue as though you didn’t already know it. Remember what it was like when you began this practice and you had to really pay attention to understand what you were doing. Then apply that same attention to your practice today.

 

By reconnecting to a beginner’s mind, yet built upon the foundational knowledge you have already gained, you will find that your practice takes on a whole new feel. Try to experience each posture as new. Feel each breath as though you are still “working on it.” Remember that this practice never ends. There is always more to learn, more to incorporate, and more to understand. And as we understand more about the practice, we understand more about ourselves.

 

Yogi of the Month—Sue Reeves

Yogi of the Month - Sue Reeves

I was born and raised in Wheaton, IL as a fifth generation Irish Catholic. My mother still lives there. I have two brothers and a wonderful husband of 36 years, Paul. I unexpectedly retired from the telecommunication industry after 32 years of service due to multiple sclerosis (MS).

I started practicing yoga in the early 80s to relieve job stress and the tolls of everyday life in the fast lane. I was really looking for a way to clear my mental “sludge.” I practice yoga daily albeit not an entire segment at a time due to some physical constraints.

I have been taking private lessons at The Yoga Sanctuary for six years. I first studied under Bonnie and then ultimately with Jennifer. They are both so totally amazing and provide a non-structured practice with me weekly depending upon the condition of my MS at the time. They both think quickly on their feet, and we always have an interesting practice as a result.

Before I started practicing yoga, I could never shut off my mind while climbing the corporate ladder. I learned how to breathe and meditate to calm myself while increasing my overall flexibility and mobility. I was an athlete growing up, so yoga seemed like a natural progression into the adult, meditative, heal “thyself” world.

For me today, my greatest yoga benefit is the ability to learn how to move and manage my MS spasticity and pain. Jennifer and Bonnie have shown me how to do this successfully. I honestly feel that I would not be able to manage my disease as naturally as I do without using yoga in my daily life. It not only improves my movement issues, but greatly calms my mind as well. When my father was losing his battle with Alzheimer’s, yoga was the only thing, along with my faith, that got me calmly and emotionally through that time.

Of course, I continue to face daily challenges with my MS. However, continuing my yoga journey is a large, satisfying challenge too. I feel exhilarated when I am able to accomplish new and/or difficult moves. Jennifer will tell you that I am always concerned with my posture correctness! Probably my biggest challenge is working with my new service dog, Crystal. She comes to my private lessons and helps me to move around and keeps a watchful eye on my yogi so she doesn’t hurt me!

Yoga inspires me and makes me appreciate my level of wellness. I could not accomplish this journey or have come so far without Bonnie, Jennifer, and Anna. I thank them all and love them dearly.

Outside of yoga, I am very active in non-profit fundraising in the community. I am an MS mentor for several organizations and doctors. I also support the fundraising and training of New Horizon Service Dogs.

My favorite pose is Downward Facing Dog. I love it because my dog Crystal does it so well and I cannot!

Favorite quote: “Try to be the rainbow in someone’s cloud.” —Maya Angelou

 

Staff Spotlight—Jaime Boswell

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I began yoga in 2002 as I was finishing my master’s degree and found myself very much stressed and increasingly gaining weight. A friend recommended yoga and gave me some VHS tapes to get me started. I spent over a year with Brian Kest Power Yoga tapes and Yoga Journal magazines learning about yoga—these were my companions as I transitioned from school to work and living in a new location where I knew no one. Eventually I found a yoga studio to practice at, and my desire to continue learning about yoga continued. My outlook on life has changed in so many ways as a result of yoga. I have found a confidence in myself and an acceptance of who I am.

I love the outdoors and enjoy spending time outside. Some of my favorite activities are kayaking, walking, hiking, biking, sailing, reading, and sewing. I am also passionate about my work as an environmental consultant where I am lucky enough to work on projects that help to protect and restore our local environment.

I love a good adventure, a road trip, exploring off-the-beaten-path areas, and boating in areas more or less untouched by people. I have always found spirituality in nature. Over the past couple of years I have been exploring more spiritually, and just over the past couple of months have established a regular meditation practice. In the past I enjoyed meditation but was never able to make it a regular practice. As with other things in my life, I have found you cannot force changes, but they will come in time when you are ready.

I originally began teaching nine years ago after doing a short teacher training program as a way to deepen my understanding of yoga. I enjoyed teaching for several years and sharing my love of yoga with others. As a teacher I am very aware of the differences between individuals. No two individuals will experience a practice the same way because we all bring to the mat a unique body and past experiences. I hope to teach in a way that honors these differences.

I recently completed a 200-hour Kripalu teacher training, a first step towards my goal of being able to offer yoga as therapy for people facing chronic health problems. Helping my mom as she lived through the realities of cancer made me realize that this was the direction I wanted to take my life. The greatest gift teaching has given me is the ability to help others feel a sense of peace and connection in this oftentimes hurried and disconnected world.

Favorite book: Although difficult to choose, my oldest favorite is I Know Why the Cage Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Favorite food: homemade pizza

Favorite yoga pose: Legs up the wall. I often use this pose as a counter to other activities—after a long walk or bike ride it feels great!

Most challenging yoga pose: Shoulderstand

Pitta Dosha

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Pitta dosha is the mind-body constitution that is made up of the two elements fire and water. People who have a dominant pitta dosha tend to be intense, responsive, sociable, and knowledgeable. They can also be judgemental, critical, and fanatic. They have strong opinions, are not afraid to speak their mind, and have a strong intellect.

 

Physically, pitta dosha types tend to be of medium build and medium weight. They have smooth features and oily skin. Pittas, being made up of the element fire, tend to often feel hot. Of all three doshas, pittas have the strongest digestion, also due to the fire element. There are not many foods that pitta types cannot eat. They crave sweet, bitter, and astringent foods. Emotionally, they are quick to feel anger, hate, and jealousy.

 

When pitta is in excess, a person will feel anger, hostility, and judgment. They will be argumentative, controlling, and experience intolerance of delays. Inflammation, infections, fever, acne, and excessive hunger or thirst may exist. Intolerance of heat, bloodshot eyes, and migraines are common when pitta is out of balance.

 

There are a number of practices that can help to balance pitta. A yoga practice that is not too straining in nature is best. Lengthening of the ujjayi exhalation helps to cool the body and mind. For pitta dominant types, it is important to let go of attaining a perfect practice or pose. Surrendering to the teacher’s instruction without self-judgment is crucial. Finding steadiness and ease can be a particular challenge for pittas.

 

An excellent mantra for pitta types is: Lokah samastah sukinoh bhavantu (May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute to that happiness and to that freedom for all). Repeating this mantra during meditation is a healing practice for pitta imbalance.

 

When it comes to diet, balancing pitta dosha involves eating foods that are bitter, sweet, and astringent while reducing pungent, salty, and sour foods. Reducing “hot” foods such as tomatoes, peppers, radishes, black pepper, cloves, mustard, and table salt is best. Increasing consumption of coriander, cumin, fennel, and cinnamon along with cool foods such as fresh vegetables and fruits will be helpful. Eliminating coffee and alcohol is best.

 

 

 

 

Whether your dosha is pitta dominant, vata-pitta dominant, or pitta-kapha dominant, many of the practices that help to balance pitta will be helpful to you at some point. By noticing your own tendencies, you will be better able to do what you can to balance your doshas when you find an imbalance. You will likely find that you understand yourself more because of this practice.