Equanimity in Yoga and in Life

Equanimity in Yoga and in Life
By Shauna Hylenski

When we step onto our yoga mat what are we seeking? Something internal or external or a
mixture of both. One thing that is often a byproduct of a regular practice is balance and
perspective. Do you notice that after yoga your reactions to challenges or stresses are
different? This is a result of the perfect mixture of physical movement, breath, attention and
bringing all your states of being into balance. Within this state we can understand that feelings
of blame, praise, failures, successes, fame, disrepute, pleasure and pain all take us away from
equanimity and away from our natural state of freedom.
What is Equanimity?
Equanimity is defined as a state of psychological stability and composure which is undisturbed by
experience of or exposure to emotions, pain, or other phenomena that may cause others to lose the
balance of their mind. Another eastern based definition of equanimity is “to look over.” Being able to
“look over” without getting caught up in the ups and downs of life creates a sense of ease, peace
and harmony.

How does equanimity show up on your yoga mat in your practice?
Regulation of our breath helps to promote our parasympathetic nervous response of rest and
digest, tend and befriend. Tuning into our bodies while in this state gives a frame of reference
for when things are not quite as peaceful and calm. You can feel how your breath is full and
body is at ease which guides you naturally to the state of equanimity. While on our yoga mats,
we can start to feel this evenness of mind. The more we practice the longer the evenness can
be maintained.

Tips on how we can practice equanimity off of our mat.
When you start to feel your even mind falter and the strong feelings either positive or negative
take hold, try the following exercises as a way to embrace equanimity in the moment.

1. Focus on breathing and neutral things in the environment by receiving an “equanimity
mantra” Speaking in the third person to guide you back to calm can be an effective tool
to coaching yourself back to an even mind and attitude.

2. Physical activity can help stop the build up of cortisol in your system when your nervous
system ignites its fight or flight response of the sympathetic nervous system. Take a
walk, a jog or ride your bike anything that brings you some movement and joy in
moments of challenge.

3. Meditation can begin to rewire our brains, especially the loving kindness meditation.
This practice guides you to send loving and compassionate thoughts to everyone from
friends and family, strangers who are suffering and towards yourself.

By practicing equanimity in our yoga we have a chance to understand how this state “feels” and
to call it back, flip on our equanimity switch when we need it most. We notice we can more
easily “look over” the interactions or environments that at one time threw us off kilter and instead find an evenness of body and mind. If you practice regularly you will find you drop into this state with ease and less effort.

What Is Yoga Nidra?

We often come to our yoga mat to sweat, strengthen, and balance the stress in our life through a vinyasa classes. We want to settle our restless monkey mind and stretch through the stiffness of our muscles from being sedentary all day or doing monotonous repetitive tasks for work. We seek to balance the stress in our life. Yang Yoga, or this more active yoga, is wonderful for invigorating the body, getting the heart pumping, and finding movement in our lives. On the flip side, the yin side of yoga, there are wonderful slower practices such as restorative and yin yoga. Restorative focusing o the healing of the nervous system and yin focusing on opening up the energetic channels of the fascia, ligaments, and tendons. However, I bet you haven’t heard much about another slower type of yoga called Yoga Nidra. 

Yoga Nidra is a powerful practice of deep relaxation and transformative self-inquiry. A practice devoted to allowing your body and mind to rest while your consciousness remains awake and aware, creating the opportunity for you to tap into a deeper understanding of yourself and your true nature. On a scientific level, which has been studied for many years through the iRest Institute for military veterans and at Cleveland Clinic, it has been shown that Yoga Nidra directly impacts brain waves. We are often in the gamma and beta cycle of brain waves in our everyday life, working, thinking, driving, studying, and being active. We start to move into the alpha brain waves by sitting down to read, watch a show, or listen to relaxing music. Yoga Asana and Pranayama help us move into the slower and more flowy alpha brain waves as well. Traveling even deeper into the settling of the mind and detached conscious awareness of theta and delta brain waves, we fall asleep or we are in meditation. This is where the magic of healing happens on a cellular level through yogic sleep.

At its heart, Yoga Nidra is about waking up to the fullness of your life. During a nidra, the guide will take you through the five subtle layers of the body called Koshas. The physical body by way of a body scan exploring from head to toe. The energetic body by way of the breath, providing you a distinct pranayama to practice while seated and laying down. The mental body by way of exploration of life’s dualities in our senses such as light and dark, hot and cold and the dualities of our feelings such as content and discontent, joyful and sad, amongst others. Moving deeper into your consciousness, while your physical body is in complete relaxation, the guide will take you to the intuitive body by way of subtle imagery and visualizations. At this point, you may find yourself sleeping, yet awake. You are experiencing the in-between, you reach the fifth and final bliss body. Moving towards a greater sense of stability, peace, and clarity in all aspects of your life as you deepen your Yoga Nidra practice and discover its true power. Yoga Nidra helps with insomnia and sleep issues, it is a powerful tool to allow a sense of complete surrender in a safe space of guidance. It is said that 30 minutes of Yoga Nidra is equal to 2-4 hours of sleep. Curious? Join Sirena Tuesdays nights at 7:30pm for Yin & Nidra.

What is Yin Yoga?

Have you ever wondered what the difference was between Restorative and Yin Yoga? Have you looked at the yoga schedule and thought “hmmm, Yin Yoga, what is that?!” In considering classes for your yoga practice, you may stick with what you know, it’s comforting and you know what to expect. Totally understandable! Or maybe you choose Restorative versus Yin, because you’ve tried it before and you know that you finally just get to lay on the floor with lots of blankets, bolsters, and an eye pillow to close off the outside world. We need that, we do. Restorative Yoga is just that, a restoration of our nervous system. It gives you permission to slow down, relax, and let an internal healing take place. It helps you get out of the chronic stress loop. Yin yoga is actually very similar because it also helps us balance our energies in this very active Yang world.

We live in a world that wants everything fast, now, and readily available. The fast-paced media driven culture plants unnecessary expectations of how we should be achieving, doing, and producing at all times. There is no value in taking it slow, doing nothing, and making time to rest. We need down time to find harmony in our world, otherwise we risk burn out and overwhelm. Where Restorative Yoga helps your nervous system, Yin Yoga is about your energy flow and the deeper tissues of your physical body. Based in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Yin Yoga helps balance your very active Yang lifestyle.

Yin Yoga is slower and less active; Yang yoga such asVinyasa is faster and more active. In this gentler class, Yin Yoga focuses on the deeper “yin” tissues of your ligaments, joints, fascia, and even your bones. Yang classes such as Vinyasa focuses more on the “yang” tissues of your muscles, circulation of blood, and detox through the skin. In aYin class you will experience around 6-8 poses and they are primarily done seated and held for longer (3-5 minutes) to invoke greater control of the overactive mind and help balance your yang lifestyle. Yin tissues appreciate and require gentler pressures, applied for longer periods of time to be stimulated and regain strength and space, especially in your joints. Yin works withChinese Meridian Energy Lines, which are channels of life force energy through the body. In yoga, we call this prana travelling through the nadis, in Chinese it is called Chi, and in Japanese it is called Ki. The teacher may focus on one or more of these lines, applying pressure through the pose using blocks, blankets, or even a roller ball on acupressure points. In Ayurveda, these connections are called marma points.

With emphasis on certain energy lines, you will experience a feeling of rejuvenation to provide energy flow through the organs and release tension in the deeper parts of the fascia. Blocked and stagnant energy causes pain and tension, especially in the fascia. Fascia is the connective tissue holding and binding together your internal body structures. Scar tissue can be held here from physical trauma and tension could also exist within due to emotional trauma. Yin Yoga will release the tension in the fascia, which helps with pain management and emotional processing. Pain management and relief is so important in our chronically stressed world. Both Restorative and Yin Yoga are wonderful for slowing you down, allowing you space to relax and just be. If you are curious about trying a Yin Yoga class, join Sirena on Tuesdays and Amanda on Thursdays, both classes at 7:30 PM. Balance out your yang life and workouts with a slow down into the subtle body and energy system with a yin healing pace.

Written by Sirena Dudgeon.

Sirena is an experienced yoga teacher holding certifications as an E-RYT 200, RYT 500, and in Yin and Restorative Yoga. As the owner of Life Cycles Yoga she specializes in astrology and yoga, teaching workshops and holding training sessions at various national yoga conferences as a YACEP contributor for Yoga Alliance.

Sirena recently co-authored a yoga book on the spiritual aspect of intersecting various mystical and religious beliefs. She engages in a yoga practice that goes beyond the mat and connects deeply with her students, encouraging them to embrace their own practice for where they are in their life journey.

Journey Through the Chakras

The Chakras – Decoded

Often in our Shri Yoga classes or workshops you may have heard your teachers talk about the chakras or energy centers. These wheels of energy can be utilized as a tool for optimizing both our physical and emotional wellness.  Chakra means wheel or disk in Sanskrit and refers to the energy centers that run the length of your spine from the base of your pelvis to the crown of your head.  Each chakras has their own symbol, color, area of the body and even elements that it affects and controls. To function at their best, your chakras need to stay open, or balanced. If they get blocked, you may experience physical or emotional symptoms related to a particular chakra. Let’s see how we can decode these systems to help support our overall wellness, one energy center at a time.

First Chakra (Muladhara)

Element

Earth

Color

Dark Red like clay dirt

Physical Connection

Lower body legs and feet

Effect

Self-Preservation, family, tribe

In Balance

Healthy Prosperity security and dynamic presence


Second Chakra (Svadhistana) 

Element

Water 

Color

Deep, rich orange like the sunset

Physical Connection

Hips, pelvis, low back 

Effect

Emotions, Relationships with others

In Balance

We feel fulfilled, creatively empowered and are able to accept change.  


Third Chakra (Manipura) 

Element

Fire

Color

Bright yellow like the sun

Physical Connection

Solar plexus, abdomen, center.

Effect

Personal will, autonomy and our metabolism

In Balance

We feel energized, effective and standing in our personal power. 


Fourth Chakra (Anahata) 

Element

Air

Color

Green like new, spring grass

Physical Connection

Heart and chest

Effect

Love, compassion and forgiveness

In Balance

We are able to love deeply, feel compassion and have a deep sense of peace and centeredness. 


Fifth Chakra (Vishuddha) 

Element

Space

Color

Bright Blue, the color of the tropical ocean

Physical Connection

The area of the throat and voice

Effect

Our ability to communicate effectively and speak our own truth

In Balance

We are able to experience the world through vibration, sound and language.


Sixth Chakra (Ajna) 

Element

Light

Color

Indigo

Physical Connection

The eyes located in between our eye brows

Effect

This is connected to the act of seeing both physically and intuitively.

In Balance

We clearly see and perceive external and internal situations


Seventh Chakra (Sahasrara) 

Element

None – Beyond the elements

Color

Violet

Physical Connection

The top of the head and brain

Effect

This center integrates all six chakras below it and invites in a higher vibration to all

In Balance

This energy center brings us knowledge, wisdom, understanding and spiritual connection.

Now that we have broken down each energy center into its parts, what do we do next?  How do we put this information into practice?  We use the tools of yoga movement, breath, sound and meditation to first access then balance these energies within us.

Join Shauna at Shri Yoga for a Journey Through the Chakras. 

Wednesday, May 11th from 6:00 PM – 7:15 PM

Sign up here

Mindful Breathing

Breathing Mindfully Can Change Your Life

We all do it, every moment of every day. Inhaling and exhaling, we are all pros right? You may not be as good a breather as you think you are. A relatively healthy person at maximum exercise intensity only uses 70 percent of their possible lung capacity. What about the other 30%? The good news is that with a few simple breathing exercises you can increase your maximum lung capacity as well as calm your nervous system and even increase focus.

It has been long believed in Eastern traditions that breathing is crucial for balancing the body-mind connection and promoting overall well being. The control of the breath has been shown to increase the ability to focus, calm the nervous system and bring about an attitude of mindfulness. Western studies on breathing techniques were developed independently from any religious or spiritual belief or purpose, and are mainly used for therapeutic purposes such as biofeedback and progressive relaxation. These breathing techniques are based on slowing down your breath frequency. This style of ‘Paced” breathing has been associated with relaxation and well-being while fast breathing has been often mutually linked to anxiety and stress (Homma and Masaoka, 2008).

So everyone agrees, mindful breathing increases relaxation, health and wellbeing; so now what. Well, it’s time to designate some time and space for mindful breathing practices. One place where you can experience your breath fully is in a yoga practice. Yoga skillfully integrates your breath with your movement. This practice gives us a sense of what mindful breathing in our day to day life might be like. Our bodies are moving, we are paying attention to our teacher who is guiding us all the while our breath keeps a slow and guiding rhythm. If that all feels like a tap your head, pat your belly situation; try just focusing on your breathing first to lay a foundation of understanding and awareness. Try these two mindful breathing practices accompanied by video guides to begin your journey towards discovering the calming, centering and healing effects of your breath.

Belly Breathing or Diaphragmatic Breathing

Of the muscles used for normal breathing, the diaphragm is one of the most important. Often, people use accessory muscles in their neck, shoulders and back to breathe more than they use their diaphragm. Belly breathing or diaphragmatic breathing helps you to retrain the diaphragm to work better, so you can breathe more efficiently. Here’s how to perform belly breathing:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent or resting on a pillow.
  • Place one hand on your upper chest and the other hand on your belly.
  • Inhale slowly through your nose.
  • As you inhale, focus on feeling the hand on your belly rise and the hand on your chest remaining as still as possible.
  • Exhale slowly through your nose. As you exhale, focus on feeling the hand on your belly go down first. If you are unable to exhale through your nose, purse your lips and exhale through your mouth slowly.
  • Repeat this same sequence sitting and incorporate the awareness of this breath multiple times throughout the day.
  • Watch this video tutorial of Diaphragmatic Breath.

Balanced Breath (Equal inhale and Exhale)

Once you have begun the retraining of your diaphragm with belly breathing, you can add the exercise of balancing your breath. The process of increasing your breath capacity can be challenging at first, so begin slowly and only increase the count of your breath as you feel comfortable.

  • Comfortable seated or standing position. Ensure that your spine is extended to support the fullness of your breath.
  • Repeat the process of the belly breath
  • Begin counting the duration of your inhales and exhales, noting the difference
  • Next, bring a balance to the duration of your inhales and exhales starting with a comfortable count for each.
  • Gradually and with practice you can begin to expand the length of your breaths while keeping them in balance and staying relaxed and comfortable.
  • Log into our Yoga Video Library to watch breath practice videos.

Now is the time to begin a mindful breathing practice. There is no better time to give your immune and respiratory system the most resiliency possible. Join us for one of our weekly classes or tune into the yoga video library for breathing tutorials.

Shoutout Colorado – Shauna

Have you ever heard of Shoutout Colorado? It's an online magazine that asks questions about life, work, love, parenting, finances, and more. They believe, as we do, that meaningful conversations are at the heart of community building. They also think every voice matters and that these conversations shouldn’t be led by billionaires, media elites, or celebrities. So when Shoutout Colorado wanted to feature Shauna we were happy and proud. The full article is here, but we thought you'd enjoy hearing Shauna's answer to this question -

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.

Longmont Climbing Collective – of course!
Cheese Importers
Pump House Restaurant
Longs Peak Pub
The Roost
La Vita Bella – Coffee Shop and More
Quarters for retro video games + beer
Grossenbart – favorite Micro Brewery
Wibby’s – Has a pool and outdoor music venue in the summer

Meet Shauna Hylenski | LCC Founder, Program Director & Yoga Teacher

8 Limbs of Yoga

8 Limbs of Yoga

Breathing in and breathing out, moving gracefully, or not in and out of postures.
Balancing on one foot, one hand, your head even? Why should we spend the time, the money and energy towards yoga? How does it benefit besides giving us an excuse to wear comfy yoga clothes?

Yoga is an ancient tradition of movements as well as meditation, breath practices and guiding principles that help us to navigate through our lives with grace, ease and gratitude. What is currently identified as yoga, is just one part of the whole system. It would be the same if you just put one hand and one foot on the climbing wall and proclaimed you were climbing. By pulling out just one part of the whole, you lose the potential of the full experience.

8-Limbs of Yoga this gives us the full prospective and magnitude of yoga in the ways it can positively affect ourselves and the greater world around us.
Let’s take this one limb at a time.

Yamas or self-control. These are qualities we must strive to develop within ourselves.

Ahimsa: Non-Violence Non-violence in this context means no intention to hurt ourselves or others. We can hurt others and ourselves in many different ways. Apart from obvious physical and mental violence, feeding your body toxic food, anger, jealousy, and unkind words are all forms of violence. Over training regularly or not finding a balance of work and play. These all can be qualities we can cultivate with the help of Ahimsa.

Satya: Truth Satya is all about living with a clear, honest, and grounded view both of yourself and the world around you. When you’re able to see things for what they are, you can accept them as they are, freeing you to experience a greater sense of self-love and compassion for those around you. When we find ourselves continuing to live out of alignment with our principles or truth it will always take a toll somehow.

Asteya: Non-Stealing This is meant in the obvious sense of not taking anything which is not yours. Stealing can be in the form of money, materials, ideas, time, effort. Other forms of stealing can be taking advantage of the situation, not following through on your word, or not putting forth your best effort. Stealing can also be on an emotional and energetic level – stealing someone’s peace or happiness through your words, or being an ‘emotional vampire’ are other forms of stealing.

Brahmacharya: Non-Indulgence This practice includes not over-indulging in pleasures of the senses. Some examples are an over-indulgence in food or physical pleasures like sex, drugs, or even sleep. If you practice Brahmacharya you eat food to stay healthy and not just for pleasure. You enjoy things like sex, shopping, or anything else in healthy moderation. By practicing Brahmacharya, we tap into self-control and self-awareness, and ultimately gratitude and contentment will follow.

Aparigraha: Non-Possessiveness It is so easy to get carried away in the pursuit of the newest gadget or gear. As a result, we waste a lot of time, money and energy on unnecessary things. The idea is to develop habit of non-possessiveness or non-attachment, so we only take and collect what we actually need and shift our focus from lack to the opportunity for abundance. The concept of non-attachment also spans to releasing the need to control, not harboring feelings of jealousy, frustrations or anger.

This first limb of yoga guides us to a deeper understanding of ourselves, our strengths, weaknesses and a broad perspective of what is possible. Take time this week to contemplate where these observances could benefit in your life.
See you on the mat.

– Shauna

About the Author
Shauna Hylenski is one of the owners of LCC plus the Program Director and yoga instructor. She enjoys the opportunity to share this authentic style of yoga practice with the greater LCC community. She has been teaching yoga for over 10 years, and began Shri Studios in 2017. Shauna has now embarked on the adventure of teaching teachers, in an Advanced Yoga Teacher Training that she began with Camp Utopia and Allison Rissel in September of this year. Check LCC’s website for when you can attend one of Shauna’s classes.

Downward Facing Dog

The elusive and often visited posture of Downward Facing Dog.

Sanskrit Name: Adho Mukha Svanasana

This pose is visited in almost all movement oriented yoga practices.  It is an inversion (heart above head) so it is energizing and calming at the same time - isn’t yoga awesome! Here are a few tips to help your next Down Dog feel balanced and relaxed.

  1. Widen your Shoulders: Get your head out of the turtle Shell!  Feel your shoulders reach towards opposite walls. From there you will experience a sweet release of the spine and a little more length.
  2. Soften those “bows”: Slightly bend your elbows to ensure there isn’t any hyperextension or locking in the joint.
  3. Ground down through those hands:  Press the palms into your mat, all 10 knuckles! Even claw the finger pads - why?  This engagement helps to distribute the weight of your body instead of letting it all dump into your wrists.  Ouch!
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Posture Benefits:

  • Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression.
  • Energizes the body.
  • Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands.
  • Strengthens the arms and legs.

Want to learn more?  Check out Shri Studios weekly yoga classes in our beautiful LCC studio.  All classes are free with admission or membership to the Longmont Climbing Collective - what a great deal!  

Get the most out of your yoga class

Tips on how to get the most out of your yoga class

Whether you have been to multiple yoga classes or your new to the practice, stepping into a new class can be intimidating. We are striving to feel open, relaxed, energized and connected. We have invested in the class, carved out the time in our busy schedule and arrived on our mat. But what makes one class feel like a path to enlightenment, and another a struggle to get through? Maybe it isn’t so much about the teacher or the studio, but about what we do to get the most out of our yoga class. Here are a few tips that can help you get the most out of your yoga classes.

Leave the baggage and your phone at the door: Give yourself a break from the feeling of always being on-call. Leave your phone behind when you step onto your mat. You might feel a little lighter and more free just by tuning out so you can tune in.

Don’t eat right before yoga: A heavy meal before yoga is discouraged. This might seem like a no brainer, but can be difficult to manage sometimes. Have a light snack 30 min before class to allow time for digestion and avoid the over-full and bloated sensation while on your mat.

Disclose physical limitations and injuries to the teacher: Students can feel shy about disclosing specific issues in front of the whole class. So advocate for yourself and inform the teacher of your limitations or injuries before class begins. We also provide Hands-On Assist chips at Shri which indicate if you’d prefer to have hands on assistance in your postures - that decision can be changed at anytime throughout class.

Arrive free of expectations: What would it be like to just meet yourself as you are the moment your arrive in class? We can accumulate expectations whether it's in our practice, in our relationships or work life. Being truly present will invite this awareness into your practice and then into the rest of your life.

Practice on your own mat ( if possible): We have beautiful, Prana mats at Shri which are always available for you to utilize. There is something to be said for practicing again and again on your own mat. If you are coming to class regularly you may consider making the investment. Objects that we practice on and around accumulate our prana or energy and will help to bring us into our yogic state with more ease.

Set an intention: You have set this time aside in your busy schedule to practice yoga. What is it that brings you back to your practice again and again? If you set an intention for your practice you can deepen your experience of the breath, postures, mindfulness so that it positively affects you and others during your yoga practice and for the rest of your day - and maybe even longer. Let your yoga light shine way beyond the time on your mat!

Come and check out the amazing classes and teachers at Shri Studios in LCC. We offer 16 weekly class plus special events and workshops. Dedicate some time to you this summer with a regular yoga practice.

What to do about your elbows

This Tuesday, June 4th, at 7 PM Dr. Michael Morrison from Red Hammer PT will be coming in for a free talk on the "bows" elbows.  Here's a short yoga tutorial on keeping your elbows safe on the mat.

In a weight bearing position you will want to ensure that your elbows are not locked. Some of us - including me, have some hyperextension in our elbow joints. This allows further than "normal" range of motion in an extended position. This compromises the elbow joint and doesn't encourage the strength and stability that are necessary for more weight bearing positions such as handstand. What's the fix?

  1. Keep your elbow joint soft. Any locking out of the joints can prove to be detrimental over time, but this can be worse if you are putting weight on the joint.
  2. Rotate the center or eyes of your elbows towards one another. This assists in proper alignment of the forearms and shoulders and keeps your "bows" healthy and strong.

Next time you see your elbows pushing out, remember to take care of your joints - keep them slightly relaxed and strengthen around them from that state.