In a world where people experiencing homelessness are ignored and literally pushed to the fringes of society, I am continually amazed by the resilience and kindness of the human spirit in spite of life’s unimaginable circumstances. And I have been honored to witness how these qualities are continually cultivated and grown in a simple yoga practice.
The reasons why people find themselves homeless are as varied as the trees you find in the forest. Given that people experiencing homelessness are often reduced to focusing on meeting their basic needs: food, shelter and safety, it is a wonder to me that anyone would find their way to a yoga class.
However, one beautiful woman that I met at SOME (So Others Might Eat), a community-based organization that assists the poor and homeless in Washington, DC, exemplified the importance of a yoga practice that is accessible and specifically designed to take place in the jail system. She shared with me about the impact of a program she took part in offered by Yoga District while she was in a local jail. While practicing yoga, she learned and clearly now understood how to connect with the present moment, the impact of exercising to reduce stress, and the joy found in simply finding activities and people that we enjoy. As she shared her experience with me, she was so present and connected with a sparkle in her eye. I was in the moment with her.
While there was nothing particularly special about my conversation with this woman at SOME to set it apart from any other conversation. But for that brief moment I’d like to believe we connected as humans are supposed to, seeing and honoring each other’s light. Namaste.
Calls to Action:
Do you know anyone at Yoga District in DC who could connect me with an instructor for the jail program? Right now, the woman I met is not connected to a yoga studio and I have been trying to reconnect her with her instructor from Yoga District.
Would you like to support yoga for the underserved?Check out my upcoming class in Gainesville, Georgia at Flip Your Dog Yoga Studio on October 29. Let me know and I’ll set you up.
Hello Lovely People. I am writing you a little note today and I hope it encourages you. I want to share that meditation doesn’t have to be big or scary. It can be simple and short. Even a short and simple meditation can be beneficial.
One barrier we may need to break down is to answer a question. What does it mean to meditate?
Meditation isn’t about becoming a different person, a new person, or even a better person. It’s about training yourself to be more aware and getting a healthy sense of perspective. It’s important to note that you’re not trying to turn off your thoughts or feelings. You’re learning to observe thoughts and feelings without judgment. While your inner skeptic may be questioning, I will confirm that this process worked for me. I have changed so much and am authentically happier.
Good Morning All. I hope today is finding you with joy in your heart. I was woken up at 5am by my youngest son. On days that a shaping up to be wild like today, I need a practice that I can do inside and easily in the camper. So I am re-posting this sequence which is easy and quick and can be done easily with just the space for a mat. Enjoy!
Regular yoga sun salutations are a great way to get in some yoga without needing much space. Simply reach your arms straight up and down with the moves, rather than out, to prevent hitting any furniture or walls that may be close. This is also a great way to practice in a crowded class.
Stand with big toes touching and heels slightly apart; outer edges of feet are parallel. Relax arms on either side of body, palms open in a gesture of receptivity. This is Tadasana, also known as mountain pose. Each breath will have a move.
Inhale, lifting arms straight up, and take palms together to form a prayer over head. Exhale, taking prayer down the midline of the body while folding down to a forward bend.
Inhale, coming to a long flat spine with fingertips on the ground, or if you need more space, hands on shins. Exhale, plant palms shoulder-width apart on the ground, and jump back to Chaturanga (hold body halfway between a plank and the ground, like a triceps push-up, where elbows graze the ribcage).
If this is not manageable, step back to plank and lower to Chaturanga. Inhale, pulling chest through arms and coming to the tops of feet for upward-facing dog.
Exhale, flipping over toes, lifting hips—keeping legs long—and pressing chest back between arms. Reach heels toward the ground for downward-facing dog. (Optional: Breathe here for 3 to 5 breaths.)
Inhale, coming high to the balls of feet, softening knees, and looking between hands. Exhale, piking hips up and jumping to the front of the mat. (Step feet one at a time to the front of the mat if jumping isn’t healthy for your body.) Inhale to a long flat spine, and exhale to a forward bend.
Inhale, hinging from hips with a long spine to come up to stand. Reach arms all the way up to high prayer, above your head. Exhale prayer to the center of the chest. Breathe here. This is 1 round. Try doing 5 full rounds.
Handstands Using the Wall
Get a full-body workout in one pose, using the walls of a small space to your advantage.
Press palms firmly into the ground about a foot and a half in front of the right foot and about half a foot away from a wall, shoulder-width apart, wrist creases parallel, fingers spread.
Come high onto the ball of right foot. Using left leg to lift you, transfer weight onto hands or take little hops off right foot until you are upside down.
Hop lightly until top foot catches on the wall, then bring the second leg to the wall and breathe there. Engage shoulder blades down and together and press into your fingertips for stability.
Try to work your way up to a minute—you can lean against the wall as much or as little as you want. Every other time you try this, switch the leading leg.
A hip opener is a must in any yoga flow, and pigeon is a great one that requires no width.
Begin in down dog. Bring right shin forward, as close to parallel to the front edge of the mat as it can get, with right knee toward right wrist and right ankle toward left wrist.
With back leg extended long behind you and toes tucked, lower hips to the ground.
Reach torso forward and down, and then take your hands together as a pillow for your forehead with your elbows winging out to either side.
Breathe here for at least 5 to 10 deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Tricky One-Legged Standing Poses
The wall is a great help when you are working on finding single-leg balancing poses. Try dancer:
Facing a wall standing, shift your weight onto your right leg. Bend your left knee and grab the inside of your left foot with your left hand, using your right hand on the wall to counter balance.
Gently lift your left leg and press your ankle into your hand to open your back.
Reach your right arm up the wall, or work on any other challenging variations you’re playing with.
Stay in your chosen variation for 5 long, deep breaths and then repeat on the other side.
Drop Backs at the Wall
Begin in wheel pose. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the ground hip-width apart.
Outer edges of your feet are parallel. Bend your elbows and place your hands on either side of your head, shoulder-width apart, with fingers pointing toward shoulders and your wrists lined up at the wall. Pressing into your feet and hands equally, lift your hips and lengthen your arms.
Keep pressing into your feet through the big toes and reach your chest toward the wall as you stay here for at least 3 deep breaths.
When you feel ready, transfer most of your weight into your feet, and one at a time walk your hands up the wall until you are standing.
Take a breath with your hands at your heart to steady yourself.
Then, making sure your feet are still parallel to one another, and not turning out, reach your prayer up and behind your head, reversing the crawl of your hands down the wall and into your wheel pose. Repeat this as many times as you like.
Supine Spinal Twist with Eagle Legs
Your spine and entire body will thank you for closing out your yoga practice with a twist, especially after back bending. This eagle-legged variation of a supine spinal twist is perfect when you don’t have space to stretch in both directions at once.
Lie on back. Bend both knees in toward chest and cross right leg over left once, and then twice if possible, crossing right foot behind left ankle for eagle legs.
Scoot hips to the right and allow knees to fall to the left.
Keeping both shoulders on the ground, take your left hand to the outer right thigh and reach the right arm out to the side. Look to the right.
Stay here for 5 to 10 deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.