Tag Archives: breath

Finding Mindfulness…on the Mat

Finding Mindfulness…on the Mat

iGnite leader Amy Younkman

by Amy Younkman

In the day and age of quick fixes, constant fads and “7 minute workouts,” it can be hard to slow down and ask ourselves, Is this really what’s best for my body?   In our American culture, there seems to be an ongoing obsession with ‘new forms’ of exercise; for example, the latest, greatest form of functional fitness, performed in an efficient, short period of time, giving you the most “bang for your buck,” and relying on external sources to guide and motivate you.

While these forms of exercise are effective and do lead to a fit, strong body, they are only part of the picture if we are truly seeking a healthy lifestyle.  By relying solely on these forms of fitness, we risk creating a vicious cycle of continually striving to be faster, stronger, look younger, be more ripped, track more daily steps…etc.  We never actually “arrive”, because there’s always that next level to strive for.  And that can get exhausting!

iGnite Yogalates on Lady Bird Lake

Yogalates on Lady Bird Lake

It’s important to balance these forms of exercise with what I like to call “mindfulness on the mat” so that we can continue to enjoy a variety of activities and pursuits, and most importantly, so we can prevent injuries and be more mindful of our existing ones.  When we step onto our yoga or Pilates mat, our first priority is tuning into our body and tuning out our goals, expectations, what we did yesterday, and what we need to do tomorrow.  If we pay attention, our body will tell us what it needs.  The ego is not invited onto our mat.  With time, practice, and patience we begin to notice imbalances and places we hold tension and resistance.  We learn to practice compassionate observation and tolerance for ourself so we are in a better place to extend it to others once off the mat.

Yoga and Pilates are two wonderful practices that teach mindfulness on the mat so that we can be more self-aware in our over-stimulated, consumer-driven world.  Yoga is over 5000 years old.  Pilates is nearly 100 years old.  These time-honored practices have much to teach us!

Pilates is a form of strength training with little to no impact.  It emphasizes alignment, core strength, muscular rebalancing and joint strength.  It is a very safe way to stay fit, prevent injury, and rehabilitate from injury, while increasing balance, body awareness, confidence and better posture.  While we use props during class to keep it interesting and fun, the classical Mat Pilates series is a total body workout using your own body as your guide.

Yoga has become so westernized that it’s hard to define what yoga is today.  In its truest form, yoga teaches us about ourselves and our relationship to the world.  It ignites awareness about how we respond to difficulty and ease, to consistency and change, to the way we face our universal human struggles of avoiding difficult situations (hard yoga postures, tough life issues), or the way we cling to the familiar and comfortable (postures that we can do, habits we grow accustomed to).

iGnite Power Pilates at Rollingwood Park

Power Pilates

Besides reducing stress, yoga also teaches us balance between sthira (effort) and sukha (ease) both in our yoga practice and in life.  It teaches us to balance stability with mobility, and strength with flexibility, so that we can balance setting boundaries in our relationships with creating the space we need.  Yoga teaches us to feel the poses rather than force them.  The postures are questions, not answers.  We ask ourselves, “How can I create more ease in this pose?”  which then translates off the mat to “How can I create more ease in my life?”  Yoga is not about doing the poses; it’s about undoing what gets in the way of the poses.

In a Vinyasa Yoga class, we become aware of our breath, the life force that pulsates through our body.  From there we let the breath guide us and connect us with movement.  While we get stronger and more flexible practicing weight-bearing and balancing exercises, twists, backbends, forward folds and inversions, we also become stronger and more flexible in our mind.  We tune into the subtle energy body and discover what we have always heard to be true: that the body and mind cannot act separately from one another.  Yoga is a practice because, rather that striving to accomplish something, we continually return to the bottomless well of wisdom and guidance from within.  As Judith Lasater, veteran yogi, says: “Slowing down is the same thing as waking up.”

So, as you plan your fitness program, be sure and schedule time to consistently practice “mindfulness on the mat”  through Pilates and yoga.  With regular practice, you will not only become more mindful and body-aware, you will find more ease and inner strength in your body and in your life.  Best of all, you will bring your newfound insights into everything you do, which will add to your enjoyment and keep you safe and injury-free!


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Breathing In a Legacy of Love and Nurture

week10

…When one is willing to let life in and let life out, it’s more comfortable than when one is in resistance to life all the time.
— Patricia Townsend, Yoga Teacher

Action Item:
Breathe and know that when you sigh out your breath reminds you that you can live to lovingly pass along your legacy with your next grateful breath.

By Cary Fyfe

By Cary Fyfe

Journey seventeen’s legacy theme has been highlighted in my world lately as I have had to escort my mother through the transition of not living on her own. My mom is a delight. Her laugh is like raindrops on sea glass. She has an adoration of life-long friends and an uncanny knack for keeping plants flourishing is magic. I have many sweet legacies to cherish, and, as in most relationships, it is a mixed bag. Our journey together as mother and daughter has not always been smooth and as I willingly guide her through this unwelcome passage, I am a vessel burdened also by regrets that sometimes catch my breath and stop me in my tracks.

One recent afternoon, a dear family friend listened quietly while I shared my heartbreak of having to move my mom from her home. Each word I spoke unleashed a torrent of emotions inside of me – some surprising, some not – but all came from so deep within that they had me at an emotional standstill. As I fought for a steady voice, I told him of the questions, doubts and regrets that were swimming through my mind. I so desperately wanted it all to either go away or make sense so that I could breathe easily in this new definition of my mother.

He waited until my winds eased a bit, then answered my unanswerable questions with a question of his own. He asked, “What is your deepest regret about this?” And without any thought or awareness of what the answer would be, the words spilled out: “That the chance to receive the magic of mothering is slipping away from me.” So many meanings, so many levels of sorrow, the core of it being that the “mother’s touch” would be gone forever.

My friend gently closed his eyes as he let the dark clouds that gathered around my words settle, and he said, “You will be mothered in this new place too, just listen for it and be open to it.” This was very comforting advice so I took a deep breath and tucked those words away. Take a moment to look over the Weekly Intention Guide to set goals that apply well to your life this week.

at iGnite we like to keep our friends close- to stay there for each other when we could use a little rebalancing.

at iGnite we like to keep our friends close- to stay there for each other when we could use a little rebalancing.

A few weeks passed and I visited my mom in her new surroundings, where she has the support she needs. I felt her sorrow as I absorbed her new place in life. I also visited her home again. It was not an easy visit, and my breaths weren’t always steady as I internally resisted this sad transition. I sighed out as I carried a favorite item from her home to take to my own — an old, beautiful ivy — one that had crept its way up a wall, and with a quiet embrace had encircled a portrait of me as a child.

When I returned to Austin, I gently removed the old ivy from my car and found a cozy spot where it could flourish. It brought me peace to have the ivy in my home and as I bent to place it on my porch, one of its leaves brushed across my cheek so softly that I gasped. And there, in that unexpected moment when my breaths were effortless, was my mother’s legacy. Her mothering was right here, right now, alive in the beauty of this old plant she nurtured; alive in her early days of nurturing me, alive now in me, nurturing her through what she sees as the beginning of her final journey.

I gently sighed out. My breath was suspended no longer as I saw clearly that life does indeed ebb and flow, and that our breaths will dance rhythmically with that lovely tide if we let them in, then let them out again. Life flows, no matter how resistant we become, no matter how hard we try to control it, no matter how hard we try to make sense of it. It flows, and the beautiful reality is that every time we drink in a breath of fresh air, we are awake to a message of love and nurture, such as one from a simple old plant. It’s a legacy…a gift — and one that, when you sigh out again, reminds you that you too can live to lovingly pass along your own legacy with your next grateful breath. Join Cary and other wonderful yoga teachers to practice your breathing outside in beautiful Austin and feel the powerful benefits: our updated weekly schedule. 

I realize this weeks video was highlighted during last Journey, but in the spirit of breathing and passing on our legacy with grateful breaths, I think I’ll slip on my leotard, tease my hair, use a bottle of RAVE hairspray and starting practicing my favorite breathing techniques from the video. More than anything, I’m bound to get a belly ache from laughter. Enjoy and happy breathing.

JOIN THE DISCUSSION- Do you use your breath as a powerful tool to calm and center you? 

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