Author: Amanda Barp

Tapas: Voluntary Self-Change

September is one of my favorite times of the year. It’s the month I moved to Oregon, 19 years ago. I moved here with hope, optimism, and excitement as I started my third year in college after transferring from the University of Nebraska. One of the most exciting things to me, as a transfer student to Oregon State University, was the yoga class that I was signed up for through OSU. In Nebraska in 2000, yoga wasn’t a thing yet. We didn’t have exposure to these practices in the way that we do now. We didn’t have Instagram and Facebook and influencers showing us how to do yoga in gorgeous places. I was lucky to start my yoga journey with someone who was well-versed in yoga philosophy and movement and knew what they were doing. Someone who had the grace and good humor to teach college students who are likely not super focused on leading a yogic lifestyle. This initial exposure to yoga changed me in unexpected ways and helped set me on the path I’m on today. 

Each September I think about my move to Oregon and my very first yoga classes. I am reminded of the discipline of the school year and how important it is to engage in learning and growing and making oneself the best iteration of yourself that you can be.

September reminds me that the process of learning and growing is never over, and that to continue to change and grow we continually engage in the difficulty of life and the challenges that come with being alive in this world. It reminds me of the yoga principle of Tapas.

Tapas, the third Niyama (observance), is defined as our determined effort to become someone of character and strength. Tapas is a process of voluntary self-limitation and self-challenge and means “heat” or “glow”. The practice of tapas asks us to be disciplined enough to walk through the fire in order to achieve purity. It means staying disciplined enough to engage with the difficulty of life rather than taking the easy route. Fall is an excellent time to examine our lives and our reactions and cut away the ones that don’t help us become better humans.

As we move into the more structured time of the fall, we can set in place goals that enable us to choose actions of body, speech and mind that are uplifting rather than avoiding.

Think about how you react when something challenging happens in your life. Do you turn toward the easy comforts of food,

drink, and whatever is popular on Netflix? Or do you engage with the challenge and move through it rather than stick your head in the sand and ignore the difficulty? By moving through rather than around we are like a rough rock tumbling in a rock polisher. Over time, the friction wears us into something shiny and beautiful. If we avoid the discomfort by numbing ourselves to whatever is difficult, we don’t grow. 

Tapas is also about controlling impulses. It begins with denying ourselves a particular desire – instead of instant gratification we choose postponement. As we get used to not satisfying our basic desires we can increasingly gain control over our impulses. Growing and self-denial need not necessarily be negative. The denial of our impulses and desires allows for space to practice austerity of body, speech and mind. We are able to be better at not harming others, at being kind and truthful and gentle. We are able to be less bound by our tendencies toward feeding ourselves, body and mind and spirit, with the things that don’t truly serve us. Through this cultivation of ourselves, we can be a source of warmth, comfort and strength for others. And it’s through this cultivation that we can become better equipped to handle the challenges that life throws our way and come out better for it. 

Ways you can practice tapas in your life: 

  • Try changing a pattern or a habit. Choose a practice of nourished eating, meditation, contemplation or something else that impacts the quality of your essence. 
  • Remember times in your life that were hard and how you were shaped by these hard times. Notice other times where you checked out and tried to avoid difficulty. 
  • Pay attention to your daily choices. Are you making choices that build strength and character or choices that are indulgent and numbing you from your life? 
  • Get up early and spend the time cultivating yourself through yoga asana, meditation, walking or journaling. 
  • Find support in this process. Do you surround yourself with like-minded people who are also engaged in the process of becoming better humans? Talk with others about your struggles and triumphs. 
  • Be open to learning and growing. 

Showing up for regular yoga asana practice can be an act of tapas. As yoga teachers, the discipline it takes to continually engage with these practices is sometimes hard for us, too. We appreciate your continued commitment to and engagement with these movement practices. Thank you for practicing yoga, and thank you for practicing yoga with us. We look forward to seeing you on the mat soon.

xo,

Amanda and the WW yoga team

For updated information on our public classes, check out our class schedule here.

Interested in learning more about the yamas, niyamas, pranayama, movement and your body? Check out our other blog articles. 

 

Santosha – relax with what is

This month's yoga focus explanation is brought to you by Power Yoga teacher Jamie Savva.

“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn't try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn't need others' approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.”
― Laozi

If you didn’t already know, I’m a thinker. I start thinking about tomorrow, then worrying about tomorrow, then deliberating about tomorrow, and planning and organizing and fretting about tomorrow. I continue on by thinking about yesterday: the things I said, the things I should have said, the things I will say next time. Which inevitably brings us back to tomorrow. Ah!

In this world of constant movement and communication, these are realities we all deal with. In fact, to be responsible adults we are expected to plan for the future and deliberate on the past. The trouble is, when we spend so much time in the past or future, we miss out on the only moment that truly exists, RIGHT NOW. Creating a practice of presence can be one of the most difficult to develop, but it is the most important tool in your yoga practitioner tool belt.

Santosha is the second Niyama, or guideline for working within oneself, that focuses on contentment.

Santosha asks of us to release expectations and worries, and find pure love and ease exactly where we are.

If that sounds impossible to you just know you are not alone. Building a relationship within oneself that is supportive, loving, and content is a lifelong journey, not an overnight sensation. When we cultivate a life practice of contentment, we are present to the beautiful gifts it has in store for us. Does that mean we must stop worrying and planning for our future, or stop learning from our past? No. It simply means we must schedule time to plan accordingly and then move on to the present moment. Once we create peace within, there is so much space for possibility and growth.

Contentment has many different faces. The form it takes for you will be vastly different than your neighbor. For one person contentment looks like staying conscious of negative self-talk. For others, it might include finding joy and light in their physical body.

When it comes to our journey within, we must follow our own path, it’s how we build integrity in our hearts, minds and bodies.

If you are familiar with my classes, you will know what comes first: How can I create and practice Santosha on my mat? The answer is, as always, presence. Creating an honest dialogue within our physical practice is always the opening to figuring out what’s next. Where, among the chatarungas and warriors, can you find contentment? Where can you balance the act of setting goals and the feeling of celebrating where you are right now? For example, perhaps you have been working for some time on landing Crow Pose. You practice the pose, follow the instructor’s cues, and still the pose alludes you. Can you create presence and joy within your practice and value where you are right this moment, as well as work hard to float your feet? Perhaps where you are in the pose right now is exactly where you need to be.

Our mat serves as our mirror and our life-rehearsal space. By applying Santosha to our physical practice and being present to the light it can offer, we are more equipped to access contentment in our everyday lives. Yoga, on and off the mat, is a practice. If we can practice presence and relax with what is we have direct access to gratitude and so much joy.

See you on the mat.

Jamie

Aparigraha: The Art of Letting Go

Discard everything that does not spark joy. – Marie Kondo

In June our exploration of the yamas, or moral disciplines, of yoga come to a close with an exploration of the yama Aparigraha, or non-possessiveness.

This yama, essentially, is about letting go and about learning to discern what we need. Aparigraha teaches us to accept what we have and not accumulate more than what we truly need.

 

Aparigraha teaches us the art of letting go.

In yoga class we are instructed to pay attention to the breath: to deepen the breath, to put our attention on the breath. We exhalefully, knowing that there will be an inhale to follow. We let go of the breath and are nourished by the next. We learn to trust the cycle of letting go to allow space for the next breath in.

We can learn the principles of aparigraha through the inhale and the exhale. Deborah Adele in the book The Yamas and Niyamas says,

What if we could trust life like we trust the breath? What if we could take in all the nourishment of the moment and then let it go fully, trusting that more nourishment will come? Just like the breath gives us nourishment, so does life in the form of homes, work, relationships, routines that bring ease… Aparigraha invites us to practice divine play, experience full intimacy and contact with the moment, and then to let go so the next thing can come.

Expanding our awareness of what non-possessiveness might look like from our physical body to our physical space, we can look to Marie Kondo as inspiration. Marie Kondo is a Japanese author who pens books about organization and simplifying your home and getting rid of items that no longer spark joy. She asks that you regard each item in your home and keep only those that speak to your heart and spark joy. Everything else you should get rid of. Marie Kondo is a master at letting go!

Marie Kondo knows that it is a worthwhile effort to notice the physical things you’ve surrounded yourself with and examine whether these things make you feel free and light or weigh you down. This process can help you experience the difference between enjoyment and attachment.

One other way we can practice non-possessiveness can come up is by managing expectations. How do you demand, whether unconsciously or consciously, fulfillment and comfort from other people and other situations? For example, whenever I go out to my favorite restaurants, I usually order the same thing. My husband pokes fun at me for never being adventurous and trying something new. But I know what I like, right? I know that what I ate here the first time was great, and so why would I order anything else? But what happens when they are out of what I love and I have to order something else? I have a choice to allow this to make me grumpy or upset at them for running out or trying something new that might be as amazing or better than what I usually get. I can choose to be attached to what I wanted or be adventurous and try something else. This is a small example of how expectations can limit experience and make it hard to let go of what you were anticipating.

How to practice Aparigraha in life:

  • Let go enough to trust that the next thing will be there to support you.
  • Let go of things in your life that are no longer serve you.
  • Allow your point of view or expectations about something to be changed.

How to practice Aparigraha on the mat:

  • Let go of trying to be something you aren’t and honor your self and your body as it is.
  • Let go of envy and jealousy and genuinely celebrate the people around you.
  • Be curious about your practice: where will it take you today? What can you learn? What new space can you discover in yourself?
  • Stay with your breath. Inhale. Exhale. Trust.

Throughout the month of June we'll be discussing and practicing various aspects of  aparigraha at Watershed Wellness. To see a schedule of our classes click here.

As always, we're happy to practice in good company, and hope that you'll join us on the mat soon.

Bramacharya: Exploring non-excess

 

Instructions for living a life: Pay attention, be astonished, tell others about it. – Mary Oliver

Our philosophical focus for May is Bramacharya, or non-excess. This is the fourth of five yamas, or moral observances, that are mapped out by Patanjali in the yoga sutras. These observances are guidelines for how to live a good life. We’ve covered Ahimsa, or non-violence, Satya, truthfulness, and Asteya, non-stealing.

The fourth yama, Bramacharya, asks us to be mindful about consumption in all areas of life.

It asks us to examine what is “enough”. It also asks us to be mindful about how and where we‘re using our energy to avoid living in excess.

There are many ways that excess can show up in life, for example: work, food, exercise, sleep. Over-doing any of these will leave one feeling cut off from being able to truly experience the wonder of life. And yes, it’s possible to even to overdo yoga asana and use yoga classes as a form of escapism.

Bramacharya asks us to leave excess behind and move through the world with wonder and awe, paying attention to each moment.

Practicing bramacharya asks us to consider how we can live lives of moderation. Every day we face choices about what to consume, how to spend our time, and how to interact with the world. The practice of bramacharya is asking us to consider and choose what we put into our minds, bodies and hearts. When we make these choices with intention, we often choose differently. We make space for things that are actually important to us rather than just covering over something or trying to fill a void.

One of the big questions we have to answer for ourselves is why we tend toward excess. Knowing what triggers us to consume in any form is important.

I recently learned about the acronym HALT. A parent of a toddler told me about it – he uses it to help his child assess what they really need in any situation. I wish I’d learned a long time ago as I suspect it would have saved me a lot of anguish over the years.

I can think of many, many times in my life where I acted because of one of these states of being. I tried to feed my mind/body/heart with something rather than just take stock of the situation and feed what actually needed to be tended to: my literal hunger, my emotional state, my need for human connection or my need for more rest. Sound familiar?

As Deborah Adele says in the book The Yamas and Niyamas,

“We have to be able to discern between what the body needs in the moment and the story our mind is telling us.”

Why is it that we reach for something to soothe us rather than taking care of whatever is at the root of the situation?

For the month of April, we’ll be exploring what non-excess looks like in life and on the yoga mat. Some things to consider:

  • Is it possible to live in non-excess? Can you consume, work, sleep and play just enough? Examine what is “enough” for you.
  • Can you find the wonder in your daily life? Can you take time to slow down and experience what’s right in front of you?

Asteya: non-stealing in life and yoga

yoga studio in astoria spring watershed wellness

 

Asteya, or non-stealing, is the 3rd yama (moral discipline). We’ll be exploring different aspects of asteya at the Watershed Wellness yoga studio during the month of April. If you missed our posts about the first two yamas, ahimsa and satya, you can check out the posts here.

It’s safe to say most of us aren’t thieves in the general sense. We don’t steal from our friends’ houses or shoplift from stores. The third yama, asteya, means so much more than not physically stealing from someone else. There are many other ways to steal from ourselves and others. We’ll examine two examples of stealing: self-doubt and lack of clarity.

The root cause of stealing:  I’m not good enough

People steal when they have a sense of lack, insecurity, wanting, feeling incomplete. There’s a sense of having to get what you need at any cost.

We steal away our own ability to thrive through self-doubt.

We steal from ourselves when we lack belief in ourselves, have low self-esteem, make judgments or criticisms of ourselves, and demand perfection. All the expectations we place upon ourselves disallow space for self-expression and giving yourself to the world. We get in our own way so much that we can’t do the good work we are meant to do.

This also affects how we interact with each other. Deborah Adele in the book “The Yamas and Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice” talks about how asteya affects our  relationships with others:

“When we feel unhappy with ourselves or our lives, we have a tendency to drag people down with us or make snide comments that come from jealousy. When we are genuinely caring of the other, that caring finds expression in ways that feel supportive and tender to the other.”

The role of clarity in asteya

Here’s a quick example of how lacking clarity can be an example of stealing. As a business owner, when I lack clarity about something I waste a huge amount of time and effort. For example, I’ve had a hard time defining a clear and concise time off policy for employees. I’ve not mapped this out likely because I want to give folks who work for us time off, but also need to make money to keep the doors open.

Because I don’t have a clear policy, when someone asks for time off it takes a lot of my energy to determine whether I should grant this person time off. I have to look at the schedule, go back and forth with the employee about what they want and when they might fill in for a future shift. Eventually I’ll land on a decision that is entirely emotional (usually dependent on how I feel that day) and doesn’t feel great to either party. I’m stealing time and energy from myself and also stealing the freedom through clarity from the employee by not having a clear policy in place.

This lack of clarity leaves me (and likely the employee) feeling like there’s a struggle between getting what I need as a business owner, and the employee feeling like they have to push for something as simple as time off. Taking the time to create clear and concise policies saves a lot of time and effort, and the folks who work for us have the freedom of understanding expectations.

The further nuance of this is being able to stand in your own integrity and truthfulness (satya) by examining what you truly need and being able to confidently express your decisions.

The ability to gather your thoughts, communicate with intention and speak from your heart saves time and energy.

How to practice asteya on your mat:

  • Practice the mantra: I am enough. Whenever feelings of doubt, lack or insecurity start to sneak in, practice this mantra. The practice of knowing we are enough, and that we have enough is the key to desiring less in life and feeling more whole and happy.
  • Take the time to find clarity in your life. Move and act with intention with an open heart.
  • Focus on yourself and your own goals by not comparing yourself to others. Be in your body and in your own experience.

We love taking theory into practice with you. Check out our class schedule to see when you can be in community through practice during the month of April.

Satya, finding freedom in truth

All nature loves an honest person.

~The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali


Satya, truthfulness, is the second of the five yamas outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Following ahimsa (non-violence) in the ethical and moral practices of yoga, Satya asks us to live a life of integrity in the way we think, act and speak. Satya asks us to engage with things not as wethink they are, but as they actually are. Satya asks us to move forward in our lives with integrity while keeping the principle of ahimsa in mind. When we can view the truth through the lens of compassion, we can present that truth in a way that is as non-harming as possible.

Most of us would say we’re honest people, right? If we look a little closer at our conversations with others and the things we quietly hide from others, we start to gain a more nuanced understanding of the reasons we bend the truth or don’t show our true selves to those we love.

 

So why don’t we always tell the truth?

Many of us have the tendency to fall back on nice instead of being real.

Think about this: would you consider yourself to be a nice person? Are you not being truthful in your life because of worry about what others might think or worry about hurting someone? We often tell small lies in an effort to not hurt feelings or to present a certain aspect of ourselves to the world. When we center ourselves in our own integrity, we can move forward from a place of a deeper expression of truthfulness. When we do this from a place of compassion and non-harming, the truth can often be a shining light. However, we must always ask ourselves whether telling the truth would cause more harm and to be mindful of what we have to say. It is better to remain silent than it is to tell a harsh or cruel truth. Is what we have to say true, useful, necessary and kind? If not, it is best to say nothing at all.  Are we telling the truth and inadvertently hurting someone? Are we telling the truth in the least harmful way?

Another reason we might hesitate around telling the truth is our deep need to belong.

When our own truth goes against what it takes to belong in a community the results can cause discord within our community. For example, I have many friends who grew up within a religion only to, as they grew and could decide for themselves, understood that the religion they grew up in wasn’t correct for them and their beliefs and values any longer. Recognizing their own truth and real-ness caused them to make the often painful decision to break from these communities. For some of my friends, the sense of belonging to these communities was more important than voicing their own truth.

A magical thing can happen when we are more truthful with ourselves and others: we show up.

We show up in the moment, ready to move forward in truth and integrity, and others start to recognize this in us. It’s refreshing, and the truth begins to feel more powerful. Our time on the yoga mat helps us come into contact with our own truths in our body, and therefore helps us unpack some of the deeper stories that we tell ourselves. Constant reengagement with the process of understanding truth is important as truth is fluid. We periodically need to get a fresh perspective on what we view as truth. Our seeing is limited by our own perspective, the groups that shape us and our experience. We must constantly be willing to reexamine our views and the stories we create about our lives. Every time we get on the yoga mat we have an opportunity to understand ourselves and others a little more. 

Two ideas for deeper exploration:

  • Observe situations in which you are “real” versus “nice” and notice the difference between the results of the two.
  • Look at ideas and values that you hold to be true and no longer serve you. You may be unconsciously holding on to things that you no longer need.

Throughout the month of March we'll be exploring this theme in all of our classes.

We look forward to seeing you on the mat!

Ahimsa: practicing non-violence through love

Love is an action, never simply a feeling.

-bell hooks

Greetings! As we move out of what was a very hard January for many people in Astoria, we want to celebrate the care and commitment of each and every one of you as you continue your yoga practice with us here at Watershed Wellness. Our January focus explored kindness and compassion, especially directed toward the self.

Yoga is more than just moving your body into different shapes.

The practice of yoga involves lifestyle and behavior guidelines, breathwork, meditation and what most of us are familiar with: movement practices. This month we’ll be focusing on one of the behavioral guidelines. We are beginning an exploration of the yamas and niyamas of yoga, starting with the principle of Ahimsa: non-violence.

A brief explanation of the yamas and niyamas

Yoga practitioners have always been human beings struggling and working towards being the best people that they can be. Yoga is a 5000-year-old practice that calms your mind and body and brings you peace and happiness. Early practitioners of yoga developed a list of principles to help guide them in this process. These guidelines have helped practitioners of yoga focus on leading lives that are morally and ethically correct. The list of guidelines includes the yamas and the niyamas.

The word yama in Sanskrit means “moral discipline” and niyama means “moral observance.

The 5 yamas (disciplines) are:

  • Ahimsa — non-harming
  • Satya — refraining from dishonesty
  • Asteya — non-stealing
  • Brahmacharya — wise use of sexual energy
  • Aparigraha — non-possessiveness

The 5 niyamas (observances) are:

  • Saucha — purity
  • Santosha — contentment
  • Tapas — self-discipline
  • Svadhyaya — self-study
  • Ishvara pranidhana — surrender to a higher source

In February, we are focusing on the first yama, ahimsa.

The yamas build upon one another with ahimsa acting as the building block for understanding all the other yamas.

Ahimsa means “avoidance of violence”.This is often interpreted as the act of not harming other beings (for example, many practitioners of yoga take this to mean that they should practice vegetarianism as an act of not harming animals).

Ahimsa can also be an act of practicing love and kindness toward ourselves and others.

This principle requires us to act from a place of love toward other beings, including ourselves. This includes non-harmful thoughts and actions. It means eradicating judgmental thoughts and negativity that can become all pervasive. It means responding to challenges that come our way with a sense of openness and love rather than shutting down and closing ourselves off from the world. It means extending the principle of charity to others when dealing with hard situations – assuming the best intentions of each other; assuming that we’re all coming from a place of love and kindness rather than from a place of harming each other.

For one day, try this: try tracking your thought processes throughout the day, and noting every time you have a negative or judgmental thought either about yourself or someone else.

Once you notice these thoughts, it’s astounding how much negativity and judgment knocks around in our thoughts every day. How can you turn these thoughts about yourself and others around to thoughts of love and kindness? When you hear that voice of negativity or judgment, replace it with something kind.

How does ahimsa show up on the yoga mat?

Ahimsa shows up when you don’t compare yourself to others in the room. It shows up when you don’t criticize your body or your practice, but rather allow yourself to be in whatever iteration of your self you are bringing to the mat that day. It shows up when you allow space for community and acceptance of everyone in the room.

We look forward to continuing to cultivate ahimsa in life and practice with you during the month of February!

xo,

Amanda and the WW yoga crew

Free yoga for all furloughed federal workers at the Watershed Wellness movement studio

UPDATE: While it seems the shutdown is over for now, we all know the impacts of stress go far beyond the ending of any given stressful event. So we are extending this offer through the end of February. 👍🏼🇺🇸❤️

 

 

Astoria is a Coast Guard city.

Further, Oregon and Washington are home to many federal workers in the sciences, in the park system and in many other important areas of American life. All of these people and their families are being impacted by the unprecedented government shutdown battle currently playing out in Washington D.C.

The shutdown is ugly, and absolutely unneeded. Fortunately, there is some beauty emerging, particularly in our community, that is helping things be a little easier on those impacted by furlough.

There's so much more we're missing in this brief blog post – but the outpouring of support is truly inspiring.

We want to do our part to help.

Until the shutdown ends, we are offering free classes at our movement studio to all federal employees impacted by the shutdown. Stress is one of the hidden impacts of loss of income security, and while yoga isn't going to put food on the table or help you with childcare, hopefully it provides some respite in a world that seems bent on putting burdens on those who can least afford them. All you have to do is show up.

For all of our existing WW movement studio regulars…

It's possible that class sizes will be a little big during this time, and we might end up reaching capacity during the more popular classes. We'll accommodate everyone we safely can, and ask your patience as we try to help your neighbors and friends have some time for reflection, movement and connection.

Please share with anyone you think might benefit, and thank you.

 

 

WWA Yoga Focus January: Finding Compassion through Practice

Welcome to the new year!

Like millions of other Americans, you’ve probably been thinking about changes you would like to make in your life in the new year. This time of the year inspires us to reflect on our lives. On what we’d like to change, what we can do better, what we want this year to be all about. We resolve to do better, be better, live better.

Resolve.

When used as an action, resolve means to decide firmly on a course of action. We might resolve to eat better, move more, or have better relationships with those you love. But what happens when life gets in the way of this resolve? When we don’t have time to make a healthy meal, to attend a class, or tend to those that we love most? The beginning of the year can be a great time of reflection and plotting a course of action, but we are often setting ourselves up for hard times and big feelings when our lives don’t support our resolutions.

Every year, it seems, it’s the same story. We start out strong with our resolutions of change in the new year and then things slip a little. Our resolutions fade into the background of our very busy lives and habit takes over. It’s easy, when this happens, to be hard on yourself. Why can’t you maintain what seems like a simple change?

What if, instead of resolving to be something or someone different, we instead could love ourselves as we are: as imperfect human beings trying to live the best lives we can in this complicated world?

By showing compassion to ourselves, we can move forward with a change not from a place of shame or lack, but rather from a strong foothold of already being a good enough person who is thoughtfully engaged in the process of self exploration. A person engaged in being the best person they can be while knowing there will be mistakes made and lessons learned. A person who understands that these mistakes and lessons are all part of being better humans.

Perhaps, in the new year, hard headed resolve can be replaced with a sense of self-compassion as we bumble through this beautiful life.

A life where we do the work of continually showing up and being in the company of others working through the same struggles. A life where we seek good company in a non-judgmental environment that can help foster compassion not only for ourselves, but for everyone.

One of the benefits of yoga is that it provides the space to understand ourselves more deeply, outside and in. The act of coming to class with a clear intention of compassion for yourself as you walk through this hard and beautiful life can be revolutionary. Throughout our January yoga classes, we'll be exploring poses and themes that inspire compassion, that allow for self reflection and help us dive a little further into our best selves. There is something really powerful about practicing this sort of self-compassion with other like-minded individuals in good community. We hope you'll join us as we move forward into this new year.

Check out our schedule for opportunities to practice together. Our new yoga schedules starts January 1st.

 

 

 

December Yoga Focus: Find your core

 

astoria oregon yoga sunsetHappy December! Welcome to the darkest time of the year if you're with us in the Northern Hemisphere. December brings with it many celebrations, opportunities for light within the darkness, and (hopefully!) time for reflection and quiet. To celebrate the deep dark things in life our monthly focus at Watershed Wellness will be on the core: finding strength and stability from within to support on the outside.

When you think about core, you might imagine someone with six pack abs. Many commonly think only of the superficial abdominal muscles as being the whole of the core. A broader, more realistic definition of the core would include discussion of up to 40 different muscles. Your abdominals certainly play a role in core stability, but the deeper muscles provide a stability that is essential.

The core muscles are the structures of the body that tie everything together in movement.

They help you sit up straight without pain. They help mitigate lower back pain. They help you find better balance in your body.

The muscles that stabilize your core include:

  • abdominal muscles: rectus abdominus, internal and external obliques, and the transverse abdominus
  • the muscles that help to stabilize your shoulder blades
  • pelvic floor muscles
  • psoas
  • the muscles that support your spine
  • the diaphragm
  • your back muscles

Functions of the core include:

  • stabilizing the legs and hips
  • supporting the lower spine from the front of the body
  • surrounding and shaping the abdomen
  • stabilizing the chest with breath
  • balancing and stabilizing your neck and head

When your core muscles aren’t working properly the function of the core (stabilizing) is transferred to other parts of the body. This can create less elegance and grace in movement and function, and more strain to the joints that can, over time, lead to injury and degeneration.

It is also worth mentioning that the word “core” can elicit mixed feelings for many people.

It’s an area that many of us want to ignore or pretend it doesn’t exist because we think it’s too big, too weak, or flawed in some way. It’s also one of the most vulnerable spots of the body, housing the abdominal organs. It is our hope that by having an added understanding of what this area of our bodies is comprised of, and how it functions for us, we can have a better relationship with it.

astoria oregon cow pose gentle

astoria yoga cat pose gentle

Throughout December we’ll be focusing on these deeper muscles intending to create strength and warmth from within.

We’ll work with poses that are as simple as cat/cow to as complex as handstand and arm balances. Bringing awareness to these often sleepy areas of the body you’ll leave December feeling more stable, graceful, warm and supported from the inside out.