The Yoga Room

By Wendy Oberg, Owner & Teacher, The Yoga Room

The Yoga Room is brand-new business featuring some of Eau Claire’s long-time yoga teachers.  We kicked off our first class on Sunday, November 27, with a sold-out class. We are in the location of the former Orange Leaf (by Festival Foods). There are two studios: one is non-heated and the other is our HOT studio. The excitement and support has been amazing!

This space has sixteen dynamic and unique yoga teachers all in one easy-to-find location. Finding where the area teachers are has been challenging for people, so The Yoga Room was born out of the necessity to make it easier to find a class at pretty much any time of the day in one location. Yoga is not a “one-size-fits-all” practice. It comes in a variety of ways and flavors. Yoga is something very different to everyone. Some people find their yoga while moving through the postures in a 100-degree room, building physical strength, balance, and flexibility, while another finds it in a seated meditation with calming poses. The intention with The Yoga Room is to create a space where people can practice a wide variety of yoga styles with a unique variety of yoga teachers. This enables the students to find a class and a teacher that works for them. We have fifty-two classes a week on the regular schedule. We have some signature classes called the YogaRoom Flow, and we have several specialty classes, including Prenatal, Yoga Sculpt, Yoga for Runners, Easy Does It (for seniors), Yin, Tantra, AcroYoga, kids, and Power, to name a few.

Finding Balance and Peace
Yoga is a science of linking breath and body movements (yoga poses) to create a positive change. The best part of a yoga practice is the only thing you have to do to start seeing the changes is simply show up! The yoga will do everything else. Harvard has a recent study showing how yoga helps rebuild your brain’s gray matter. There is a reason that yoga has been around for over 5,000 years. It works!

What If I Am a Beginner?
Yoga is the MOST accepting practice. We were all beginners at one point, and what is hard today will be easy tomorrow. You will actually start to feel and see the changes very fast. You are never meant to do anything perfect in yoga. It’s all about the process.
My favorite quote about starting a practice is from T.K.V Desikachar in The Heart of Yoga: “We begin where we are and how we are, and whatever happens, happens.”

How Often Is Needed to Get the Benefits?
One yoga class can change your life. That sounds a bit dramatic, I know, but it’s true! Just like anything, once you make a commitment to something, you will reap the greatest benefits. If you can make it to your mat two times a week, you WILL feel the difference.

Trained, Experienced Teachers
The tribe of teachers at The Yoga Room is simply unbelievable, and the experience they bring to this space is a dream come true for yogis. All the teachers are at least 200-hour trained through accredited Yoga Alliance schools. Several have additional specialty certifications and training. They also have deep backgrounds in areas outside of yoga that complement their understanding of the body and allow for a richer yoga experience in a safely guided class setting. The Yoga Room tribe is made up of several teachers, including massage therapists, nurses, physicians, and occupational and physical therapists. It is a kind-hearted group of teachers committed to bringing more joy to people.

Advice for Yoga as a New Year’s Resolution
Keep your goals bite-size. They are easier to stick with than the really big ones. I feel that two classes a week is a perfect place to start. Be kind to yourself and just keep showing up, even if it’s been “too long” since your last class.  Every time you get on the mat, it’s your chance to reinvent yourself, wipe the slate clean, and start over.

Our Mission
We have one very solid mission at The Yoga Room. We want to make it as easy as possible for everyone to practice yoga. The Yoga Room . . . Room for Everyone. Be Happy, Be Healthy, Do Yoga!

For more information visit theyogaroomec.com.

Heat Up Your Life – and Your Yoga

By:  Anna Lucas

It’s late Sunday morning. You’re bundled up, shuffling along North Barstow Street, decked out in your winter best—a nearly equal comparison to a super-sized marshmallow with your puffy down jacket, knitted scarf, head wrap, thick mittens, and clunky, insulated boots. The winter wind bites at your cheeks as you squint your eyes against the sun’s glare off the freshly fallen snow. Winter in Wisconsin–“Experience the cold that seeps into your bones.”

Then, you see “308 N. Barstow Street: Dragonfly Studio” where you stop and pull open the door.  When you enter, you’re instantly bathed in warmth–the entire room heated to a comfortable 90 degrees. It’s as though you’ve stepped into a giant hug. The cozy air envelops your entire body, and every muscle immediately begins to release and your heart sighs happily. The rooms smells lightly of pine.  There’s music playing and laughter ringing throughout the studio as you begin to notice a whole community of people talking and setting up their yoga mats on the golden, hardwood floor.

Welcome, my friend, to “90 Degree Yoga.”

Maybe you currently have your own yoga practice and have already discovered many of its diverse and plentiful benefits. Or, perhaps you have simply heard people buzzing about a class they’ve recently taken and are curious about what yoga might be like for you.  Either way, what is “90 Degree Yoga,” anyway?

“90 Degree Yoga” had its humble beginning at Dragonfly Dance and Wellness Studio in Eau Claire, in January of 2014. Anna Lucas, owner of Crave Yoga & Wellness LLC, had recently fallen in love with heated yoga and was eager to replicate a similar class in the Chippewa Valley.

So, what can you expect? As with any yoga practice, it’s important to show yourself–your body and your mind–compassion. That’s why yoga is referred to as your “practice.” Because, no matter your skill level, we are all continual learners! Every person will be somewhere different on their yoga journey.  Simply know that when you attend a class, you will find yourself in a community that deeply supports and encourages one another. Our environment is one of warmth, love, learning, and continual growth. All you need to bring with you is an open mind and maybe invite a friend. Expect to have fun, breathe, sweat, and move.

“But, I’m not flexible.” We hear this one a lot. More important than physically flexibility is mental flexibility. Allow yourself to be open to new possibilities. The yoga style taught is a Power Vinyasa Flow, which means that you will be led through a series of dynamic yoga poses that follow the rhythm of your natural breath. Movement through these poses (which are all guided by a certified instructor) will expose both your strengths and weaknesses. This is all a part of the journey. Letting go and breathing through challenges will not only give you strength, but will allow the tension in your body and mind to release further, thus resulting in increased range of motion and all over flexibility. Simply trust in the process.

But, why turn up the heat? The increased temperature gives your muscles a natural way to stretch and can also help to prevent injury.  We “warm up” the body both through movement AND heat. The vast majority of hot yoga studios in the country crank up the heat to a steamy 98+ degrees, and you’ll undoubtedly leave class drenched in sweat. At Dragonfly Studio,we keep the temperature at 90 degrees to offer the benefits of heat and to evoke a light sweat to cleanse the body of impurities.

We delight in the diversity of our yoga students. No matter your past experience of yoga (or lack thereof) you are welcome! Come find your peace, ignite your passion, and unleash your power.

“Yoga is ultimately a journey into truth: truth about who you really are, what you are capable of, and how your actions reflect your life.” —Baron Baptiste.

Anna Lucas is a real-deal wellness advisor and owner of Crave Yoga & Wellness LLC. In addition, Anna is a healing touch (Reiki) practitioner, prolific write, national speaker, free-flowing yoga instructor, and an expansive grinner. Anna resides in Eau Claire (for now) and founded the blog “Flow to Be Free,” where she poetically shares her spiritual journey toward self-love, vulnerability, and living courageously.

To schedule a personal coaching or Reiki session or to get more information on events, please email her at craveyogawellness@gmail.com and visit her blog www.flowtobefee.blogspot.com.

And, please LIKE Crave Yoga & Wellness LLC on Facebook!

Yoga + Ayurveda = Robust Good Health in 2015

Happy New Year! Here we are again, January, a time of new beginnings and fresh starts. After all the holiday feasting, January arrives like a lovely winter stay-cation. For me it is a time to truly slow down, reflect, and to go within. It is also a time to renew and re-enliven my commitment to my good health! One way this happens for me is through yoga and her sister science, ayurveda.

Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word meaning the “the science of life”  and is a system of natural health care that like yoga originated in India over 5,000 years ago. An ayurvedic lifestyle balances body, spirit, and mind through nutrition, exercise, and other lifestyle practices fostering stronger digestion, deeper sleep, and more robust health in general. By including a few basic ayurvedic practices into your daily routine, you can begin to make changes toward a more vital, more aware life.

The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj,” meaning “to join, unite, or yoke together.” By regularly including three fundamental aspects of yoga: exercise/movement (asana), breathing (pranayama), and meditation into your life you can enjoy a clear, bright mind and a strong, capable body.

Making yoga and ayurveda a regular part of your daily/weekly routine now will have direct and lasting healthful effects for the rest of your life. The best wisdom for this beginning or recommitment is simple — begin where you are now. Don’t try to begin where you wish you were, or where your friend is at. Take responsibility for your health and just start where you are. Take a weekly Beginners or Chair yoga class or starting a ten minute a day home practice, begin by picking three of the ayurvedic practices below and bringing them into the fold of your day to day.

In the beginning, it takes attention and commitment to make a new practice part of your daily life. However, as you feel better and better about the results, your priorities will naturally adjust to make space for it. Whether you’re choosing to add three morning asanas to start the day, ten minutes of breathing exercises after work, or eating regular home-cooked meals, once you have established your routine, it becomes a part of who you are and how you live!

Getting Started

Yoga: Start small, set moderate, realistic goals for yourself. One class a week (until June) or 10 minutes daily home practice (choose a regular time to practice each day) will be enough to experience benefits! It’s the quality of the time, not the quantity. If you miss a class or practice don’t be hard on yourself or give up altogether. Take a breath, recommit, and get back in the groove again. You may need extra support at first; set up a yoga buddy or teacher you can check in or practice with.

Ayurveda: Here are a range of great places to start including ayurveda in your life. Choose any 3-5 of these practices and commit to incorporating them into your daily routine for three months.

• Wake before dawn.

• Tongue scraping — Upon waking, gently scrape the tongue from the back forward, until you have scraped the whole surface for 7-14 strokes. This stimulates the internal organs, helps digestion, and removes dead bacteria.

• Drink a cup of warm water with a squeeze of lemon or lime first thing in the morning.

• Eliminate in the a.m. — try to sit on the toilet at around the same time each morning, this will help train the bowels.

• Yoga Asana — pick 3-5 that you enjoy, practice them 3-5 days a week.

• Pranayama — a simple 1:1 breathing exercise; inhale to the count of four, exhale to the count of four for 5 minutes a day.

• Lunch — try making lunch your main meal of the day without TV or computer.  Favor warm, cooked, and nourishing foods in the winter months. It is also best to sit while eating, eat mindfully, chew slowly (digestion begins in the mouth), enjoy light conversation or silence, sit for 5-10 minutes after eating, and enjoy a light walk afterwards.

• Supper — try eating before 6 p.m. and make supper, which comes from the word sup as in supplemental, a lighter meal followed by a little walk.

• Favor light reading, social activities, recreation in the evening and try to be off the computer by 7:30 p.m.

• Early to bed — try to be in bed, winding down by 9:30-10:00 p.m.

There are endless possibilities to growing more health and wholeness in your life. Yoga and ayurveda can help, and now is a beautiful place to begin! Here’s to your robust health in body and mind this year!

Tracy Chipman is a yoga instructor and Ayurveda Yoga Specialist based in Menomonie. Currently she teaches weekly drop-in classes at The CORE Menomonie, a {Going Within} winter yoga series, and offers Ayurveda Yoga Specialist consultations by appointment. For more information visit http://tlcyoga.weebly.com/

Down to Earth: Grounding Yoga

by Sandra Helpsmeet and Donna Wagner Backus, Co-owners of the Yoga Center of Eau Claire

We sometimes hear someone described as down to earth, earthy, or level-headed. Another person might be described as spacey, scatter-brained, or flighty. These examples from our idiomatic language point to something that we all recognize but seldom talk about: groundedness.

What does this mean? Being grounded means to be in relationship with gravity, allowing our bodies to be rooted by gravity so that the rebound from gravity can support us. When we do this, we feel supported and more at ease. Our posture tends to be good, our breath naturally full and deep, and our bodies pain free. Our minds tend to be both calm and alert. As Scott Anderson, founder of Alignment Yoga, describes it:  “To be grounded is to live in our natural state, unencumbered by the overlays of our stressful society.”

Most of us live somewhere on the continuum between grounded and ungrounded. Like the trees around us, our bodies have a natural desire to tap into the support of the earth. Unlike the plant world, we have a busy mind that wants to go where it wants to go, and that is not generally to growing roots. As our minds drag us around literally or mentally, we lose our ground and feel the results of stress:  anxiety, aches and pains, fatigue, disconnection, mental fog. If we regularly practice attending to our grounding, we can reap the benefits that come with groundedness.

We can cultivate groundedness so that we can come to spend a greater proportion of our time in a grounded state simply by bringing our attention to the “dialogue” between our bodies and the ground. Doing this daily for a period of time will set up an expectation that will in turn remind us to spend moments living in conscious relationship with earth, soaking up the good things that come with it.

Here are a couple ways to practice grounding.

1. Lie on your back on the floor or on a firm surface with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Your arms could be resting on the floor with the palms turned up, or your hands could rest on your abdomen. If your brow ridge is higher than your cheek bones so that your head tips back, place a folded blanket under your head. Bring your attention to the points where your body touches the floor. Perhaps begin with the low back/back of the pelvis. Feel the full weight of the heavy bones of the pelvis on the floor to allow the floor to have all the weight of the pelvis. Feel how the weight of the legs presses down into the feet, pressing the feet into the floor. Invite the chest and shoulder muscles to soften and release, feeling the upper arm bones rest into the floor and the shoulder girdle settle more fully. Let go the neck and shoulder muscles so that the weight of the head rests fully on the floor. Pause to notice how good it feels to allow the ground to support you. Notice the tendency for the process of grounding to go on for a few more minutes.

2. Stand with your feet under your hip joints, toes pointed straight forward, or as near to that as is comfortable for you. Imagine that each foot is a skate board, and note the points where the wheels would be. Try to balance your weight so that all of these points are on the floor bearing weight fairly evenly. Press those points into the floor, imagining sending roots down from each point. Notice how much effort it takes to do that, and lessen the effort until to find the least pressing downward of the feet that will bring each point steadily to the floor. As you do this, at some point you will start to feel an uplift through your legs and belly. This is the rebound from gravity beginning to lift you up. Keep your feet steady, and in your mind’s eye, trace the line of your spine upwards, noticing how the pressing down of your feet tends to bring the hips over your feet and the shoulders over the hips. Slowly shrug your shoulders upward, and then with an exhalation, release them, letting the shoulders settle over the hips. Feel your head balancing atop your spine. Soften your face and enjoy your body’s ease. This version can easily be practiced anytime you are standing in line.

As you practice grounding, you will come to recognize it as a constant friend and ally. Anytime you feel spacey, scatter-brained, or flighty, or even tired or in pain, you can take a grounding break to come back to yourself, to the present moment, and to your fundamental relationship with gravity and all its attendant benefits. Enjoy your birthright!

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Meet Your Yogini

by Cheri Dostal Ryba, Evolve Wellness

I asked a girlfriend of mine today during a Skype date if she’d describe me and my teaching in six words or less. I heard her speak: intentional, intelligent, outside-the-box, creative, and kind. She acknowledged her first yoga class had been power yoga; it opened the door for her to this practice. She talked about how her practice has matured over the past few years: learning to honor her energy and body’s wisdom to follow a practice that fits her needs each day. Our friendship blossoms as we celebrate our unique, and very different, strengths. She loves spreadsheets, I crave spontaneous adventure. I like wearing multiple patterns or brown, black, and navy together; she prefers matching sets. Yet we get good belly laughs and satisfaction in our souls when we connect. She brings balance to my world—and stood by my side this year as I married Jason overlooking the vast, sacred space we call Lake Superior.

I often hear Scott Anderson talk about Yoga as the unification of opposites. Through awareness and the gift of time, I’m learning and witnessing the moments of effortless balance between extremes, the middle path, union, the sweet connection of all things. Yoga practice, trail running, meditation, cooking, working out, relationships and love and change: these are all my teachers. Life is my practice. I feel as though my life is my business is my practice is my livelihood, all connected, intertwined. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I feel honored to guide people toward their birthrights of health, vitality, and happiness. I am blessed to guide others into more skillful awareness and action in their lives.

I danced in high school and had always been active (some might claim hyper-active) and motivated to move my body. I completed a BA in dance at UW–Stevens Point and knew since 2000 that I wanted to bring movement to the masses through teaching. When I started my business in 2007, I felt like I had come home. I love being an entrepreneur.

In some ways, yoga firmly found me. I had been referred by a colleague to take on a regular gig teaching yoga at Luther Hospital (now Mayo) in 2007 and thought to myself, “Well, I must practice and look into training.” I met with Sandra Helpsmeet in my baby-stages of developing a formal asana practice, and I remember her patience, always waiting for me to direct the experience. She introduced me to my now-mentor-and-friend, Donna Farhi. With decisiveness and a feeling of divine appointment, I went to New Zealand to train with Donna Farhi in January 2010, and have assisted her in Seattle,  Austin, and Albuquerque. I often claim I am not a yoga purist; it is one of many ways we can become attuned to our authentic self and one way to open the door to understanding our body. My other primary mentor is Eric Franklin, creator of The Franklin Method, who challenges me to bring science and art together in my teaching with greater simplicity. In December 2013, I celebrated my thirteenth year of teaching. Such. Abundant. Gratitude.

I want to know what you practice on a daily basis (and I’m talking about more than asanas, or yoga poses.) Teaching awareness and embodiment is my dharma, my purpose. Really, it’s about loving life. Donna Farhi explains that through yoga “we practice nothing more than becoming a human being. Learning to be a human being is a life-long process. We can ask ourselves [this question]: Who am I becoming through this practice?”

My future goals (with yoga) in six words or less?

Write! Explore India. Surrender ego. Love.