Yoga & the Holidays

by Erin Ipjian

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The holidays are drawing near, and I’m going out on a limb here guessing I’m not the only one experiencing a palpable increase in the chatter of the mind. Longer to-do lists, hopes of fulfilling expectations around the holidays, and the complications of family relationships are just the kind of fuel the monkey mind loves.

Thankfully, we have yoga. As the outside world becomes more frenetic, we find our time on the mat to be even more precious. With patience and curiosity, we mine the body and mind, shining a light on the habits, thoughts, and patterns that unconsciously shape the way we move, think, speak, and act in the world. And we empower ourselves with a greater awareness that allows us to do better. With this clarity, yoga begins to expand beyond the four corners of our mat, to the holiday dinner table, and into the rest of our lives.

So, here’s to a holiday season grounded in greater awareness, understanding, and compassion. If you’d like to practice with me, you can find me at my weekly yoga offerings @evolutionyogaglenview .

Tuesday’s 9:30-10:45am mixed levels
Thursday’s 9:30-10:45am mixed levels
Sunday’s 12:00-1:00pm intro to yoga/gentle

Thanksgiving morning, my Thursday 9:30am class will be a donation class benefiting the Greater Chicago Food Depository. Sign up online or join us in the studio. Use your class package, membership, or drop in and we’ll donate the proceeds. 

Spotlight on Yin Yoga

by Chuck Frenkel, E-RYT & Yin Yoga Teacher

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Yin yoga is a yoga practice of mostly seated asana shapes while being in a relaxed state. But yin yoga is so much more than that, as it encompasses the yogic aspects of breathing, meditation, working with our energies/emotions, body awareness, and how we relate to our thoughts. Yin helps us to (re-)connect with ourselves and creates the environment and opportunity in which to do so. We learn how to use our breath and our bodies to better connect with each moment. We learn and practice techniques that help us to observe and relate to our thoughts rather than just react to them. A regular yin yoga practice also helps us to enjoy a better balance in our lives as we (re-)learn how to relax and just “be,” taking some time for ourselves to restore and replenish. -Chuck Frenkel, E-RYT & yin yoga teacher

Practice yin yoga at Evolution:

Monday’s 7:00-8:30pm yin with Chuck
Thursday’s 6:45-8:15pm yin with Polly


Advancing your Yoga Practice

by Erin Ipjian

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Ever think about what it means to advance in your yoga practice? Yoga is an embodied practice and with time practicing intelligently on the mat, we light up awareness in areas of the body, allowing us to move in ways not possible before. Over time, we might find ourselves moving more deeply into a posture or even balancing on our hands.
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Ultimately, however, the poses are intended to serve as a vehicle for creating a greater understanding of ourselves and the world around us. And while movement is an important component of a well-rounded yoga practice, so is the ability to slow down and turn more directly towards the heart of what this practice is all about.
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This Sunday, join Polly at Moving into Stillness: Mindfulness in Moving, Standing, & Seated Meditation. This special class will be an exploration of developing mindfulness on all levels - physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Move through gentle yoga poses as a moving meditation, explore what it is to stand in your own two feet, and cultivate spatial awareness within and without. Practice will culminate with a seated meditation. The only prerequisite is an open mind.
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Sign up to reserve your spot at evolutionyogaglenview.com.

Stillness

by Debbie Woods

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When was the last time you experienced complete stillness of body and mind? For me it was yesterday after work. Still in my work clothes I rolled out my mat, threw my legs up the wall, rested my head on a blanket, gave myself the "savasana tuck" and voilà, stillness for 15 minutes. This little miracle cure is something I do often. Sometimes 15 minutes, sometimes 30. 

I know many people take time after work to transition to home life. Most say they "veg out" in front of the TV, read the paper, or use the time to scroll social media while sprawled on the couch. Others go for a workout or run errands to decompress. When we participate in these activities, our body seems relaxed, but our mind is still going a mile a minute. If our mind is going a mile a minute, is the body truly relaxed?

When I suggest complete relaxation to people, void of external stimulation, they ask me what the difference is because they're "relaxed" while vegging out on the couch and they watch something that's "mindless". The difference is this: in a restorative posture we support the body with props so the muscles are relaxed (think of how you sprawl on the couch, what shape your body takes and the use of muscles to hold you up). When we find the body completely supported and relaxed, the body opens and the mind goes to that quiet space. You are familiar with this place, it's that space where your mind goes right before you fall to sleep. This act of relaxation and stillness of mind helps us be more present. 

Remember Etch-A-Sketch? (One of my all time favorite toys as a kid!) You would draw your art and when your masterpiece was complete, you would shake it to get a completely clean slate which allowed you to start again. This is what my little legs up the wall, still mind routine did for me. Giving myself that time of complete stillness does it's etch-a-sketch job and wipes the mind slate clean. Afterwards, do I still have thoughts and emotions? Heck yeah! But thoughts and emotions seem to be put into perspective and my very busy brain seems to have switched to a much more tolerable pace, which in turn creates more space between the thoughts. When we do this, we allow ourselves to be more present. My end result? I was much more present in the dinner conversation with my friend last night. I felt lighter, happier and I think I laughed more (all good things). Not to mention my legs were quite thankful after my usual 8 hours of alternating between sitting and standing in front of a computer.

While practicing a restorative posture at home on a regular basis is great for our bodies and mind, going to a full-blown, traditional restorative practice cannot be beat. You don't have to worry about where the left leg or right arm should be. You don't have to give yourself the savasana tuck. You learn the benefits of the posture: is it helping with digestion and opening the 3rd chakra? You let the teacher do all the work so you can experience complete relaxation and bliss. On top of that, there's always aromatherapy to enhance your experience.

Join me, on Sunday, October 21 from 4:00 - 5:30 for a traditional Restorative Yoga practice, savasana tuck included. 

Reserve your space online so I can set up your props before your arrival. 

Yoga for Life

by Erin Ipjian

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We often think of yoga as being poses on the mat, but the best part of the practice truly happens outside of the studio.
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I took this photo when my then 4 year old daughter and I were returning from half day preschool. While I wanted to rush her inside the house to get on with my to do list, she wanted to play a game of jumping over the sidewalk cracks with me. My immediate reaction was, “no, we don’t have time.” But, here’s where the yoga training comes in...
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Yoga and meditation hone our ability to pause, hold our thoughts and emotions up to the light of discernment, and meet each moment with greater awareness.
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While I have missed the mark in many moments in my life, in this particular one, I was able to catch myself. I could clearly see my impulse to get inside the house for what it was. The truth was I did have time. My work was under control. And while there are always more items I can check off my to do list, if I fail to see the moments in which I can connect with people around me, especially those I love, I am truly missing out on life.
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I don’t practice yoga to attain enlightenment and float off into the ether. I practice yoga to become more fully grounded and present in my life. In this particular moment, my yoga practice allowed me to see past the busyness of my mind and connect with my daughter. That’s something worth practicing for.

Counting by Breaths

by Britt Chemla Jones

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Here’s a yoga teacher secret for you... When I’m teaching asanas, I time each pose by counting my breaths. For example: we’ll hold this pose for five breaths, or I’ll count three breaths on one side and three breaths on the other side. Having an Iyengar background, there are times I like my students to hold poses (usually restorative) for a couple of minutes, and then I use a timer. But most of the time, I just count my breaths. Or to be more precise, I count my exhalations.
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I heard somewhere that the inhale represents self-assertion, and the exhale represents surrender. Yoga and teaching yoga are certainly about surrender... letting go of expectations and releasing the ego... so I count my exhalations.

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Lately, I’ve noticed that I keep count from the moment I enter the studio, until I walk out the door. I might be describing a pose, or demonstrating, or walking around the class, or talking to a student, but under the surface I am continuously counting my exhalations. And at any moment, I can choose to bring the counting up to consciousness.
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I like this a lot. I like that my mind has started counting my breaths without any conscious prompting from me. It reminds me that the yoga studio is also always a meditation space... where life proceeds at a calm, steady rhythm... where we are encouraged to surrender the insecurities of the ego... where we can just breathe and be our own unique, beautiful, brilliant selves.

Yoga: Self Care Practice or Something More?

by Erin Ipjian

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Yoga is often presented as a self-care practice. We are told that if we practice yoga, we will feel better, get stronger, reduce stress, etc. And while those things are true, to me, this view of yoga is incomplete.

While our initial experiences of yoga may be centered on the impact it has on ourselves as practitioners, with time we begin to see that its potential reach runs much deeper.

Through yoga, we become more attentive to the breath, the sensations in the body, and the inner workings of the mind. Our practice develops into a moving meditation in which we are gently guided towards identifying less with the persona we present to the world. We become more fully connected with what remains - what yogis call the Authentic Self.

When we practice with dedication and an open heart, we experience a sense of union within and without. And at the end of a practice, when it’s time to step back out into the world, we never forget the truth that we see while on our mat — that we are whole, that this world is beautiful, and that we are connected to everyone and everything around us.

Exploring Yin Yoga

by Chuck Frenkel

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Yin yoga encompasses the yogic aspects of breathing, meditation, working with energies/emotions, BODY AWARENESS, and the practice of changing how we relate to our egoic thoughts with emphasis on breathing and meditation.  Yin teaches us to CONNECT and creates the environment and opportunity in which to do so. We learn to connect with our breath, our bodies (physical being), our true selves (spirit) and with EACH MOMENT of our existence.  We learn how to RELATE to our thoughts rather than just REACT to them, getting caught up in our mostly negative stream of mind stuff and getting distracted. 

Dealing with the mind/ego relationship is usually the most challenging for yoga students, not just with an asana practice but with all facets of a yoga practice.  In a yin yoga practice we work on letting go of judgments and expectations, becoming more fully present moment to moment, concentrating on the practice in each moment while being patient and compassionate with ourselves.  We try to embrace and incorporate the ideas of satya (being truthful) and ahimsa (non-harming) and move towards the just “being (in the moment)” rather than always “going and doing”. 

The yin practice helps us to be with ourselves without distraction, which, in some cases, can be a scary proposition.  This is where a good teacher comes into play.  That teacher can work with a student and help guide them through a safe and productive practice.  A good teacher can help guide the student as they make their way along their path, hopefully towards a more balanced practice and a more balanced life.  As our bodies find that balance, so does our mind and we become less reactionary and more observant.  As our mind slows and becomes less cluttered, we gain more clarity.

Many times, I have students come up after class and tell me they had no idea where the time went – it seemed like we had just started our practice.  This is a good indication that a student is starting to get out of their thinking mind, and instead they are starting to become less distracted by their thoughts.  When you’re in your head, caught up in your thoughts, being distracted by those thoughts and perhaps just waiting for the practice to be over (so you can be distracted somewhere else), you’re more aware of time.  When we are just “observing experience” (breath), we can lose sense of time’s passing and live our practice more fully, moment to moment, indicating that we are more fully present in each moment, more fully immersed in the meditation that is our wonderful yin practice.

-Chuck Frenkel, E-RYT & Yin Yoga Teacher

Practice Yin Yoga with Chuck and Polly:

Mondays 7:00-8:30 pm Yin Yoga with Chuck

Thursdays 6:45-8:15 pm Yin Yoga with Polly

Saturday, 9/22, 4:00-6:00 pm Exploring Yin Yoga Workshop with Chuck and Polly

 

 

Yoga as a Path to Stability

by Erin Ipjian

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I’ve never been a positive vibes only/rainbows and unicorns yoga student or teacher. 

In my mind, yoga acknowledges and embraces the full range of human emotion. It asks us to bear witness to both the light and dark within ourselves. And its accompanying practices gently, over time, direct us towards the place within each of us that is capable of observing our passing thoughts and emotions.

The true gift of yoga - far better than any fleeting “vibe” - is that with time and dedication, we become steadier and more focused. It’s not that we stop having emotions. Rather, we are training the mind so that we find ourselves being swept up and carried away by thoughts and emotions with less frequency and intensity.

All that we are asked to do is continually revisit the practices with dedication and an open heart.

Erin's current teaching schedule at Evolution:
Tuesday’s 9:30-10:45am mixed levels yoga
Thursday’s 9:30-10:45am mixed levels yoga
Sunday’s 12:00-1:00pm intro to yoga/gentle

Inspiration

by Debbie Woods

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One of my greatest sources of inspiration is my yoga students. Each week they come to the mat with courage, strength, perseverance, an open mind, an open heart, curiosity, a playful attitude and more. They come to see what their bodies can achieve and many times they’re drawn back to class and don’t know why. It takes courage just to walk into a yoga class for the first time. We find strength in asana and peace in opening our hearts. We come to the mat to move forward with ourselves. Sometimes that forward movement is deepening a posture other times forward movement is finding stillness in the mind. We persevere week in and week out on what challenges us. We listen. We learn. We ask questions. We revisit and try again. We change. We grow. We thrive. We evolve. We inspire.

Let's inspire each other!

Find Debbie W on the mat at Evolution:

Tuesdays, 5:15-6:16pm Basics and Beyond

Saturdays, 8:00-9:00am Basics and Beyond

Saturdays, 9:15-10:30am Mixed Levels

Restorative Yoga once a month, Sunday's 4:00-5:30 (check website for dates)

 

Yoga as Training Ground for Life

by Erin Ipjian

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I like to think of yoga practice as training ground for life. Within each posture is a lifetime’s worth of opportunities to explore and refine. Each pose is an invitation to identify where we are exerting needless energy, focus our attention and resources, and observe how we respond in the face of challenge or failure. We test the frailties of the ego by playing with our edge and learn over time to develop a genuine curiosity for the noise the mind creates both on the mat and off so that, ultimately, we can begin to see beyond it. 

The Power of Restorative Yoga

by Debbie Woods

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My teacher, Judith Hanson Lasater refers to Restorative Yoga as radical self care. I love this! Before I studied restorative yoga, I was like many thinking why would I want to spend time in what seemed like a few savasana postures when I could be at the gym, riding my bike or be on my mat with intense flow and arm balancing?

Eventually it all clicked & I realized that I felt better physically, mentally and emotionally the week following a restorative yoga class. Yes, all types of movement are great. But I saw the biggest change in myself after restorative yoga. I was able to think more clearly, be more productive, sleep more soundly and the list goes on. We live in a world where more intensity and speed are revered. But eventually, you burn out. This radical self care practice can help you reset and recharge. You’ll find that with radical self care you actually can accomplish so much more and (warning) you may find yourself accomplishing more with grace and ease.

Come practice restorative yoga on Sunday, June 10 at 4:00 Evolution Yoga Glenview. Sign up online to reserve your bolster.

Deepening your Practice

by Erin Ipjian

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"Don't believe everything you think." -Byron Katie

It's a common story we all have heard -- "I came to yoga to get more flexible/stronger, but what I found was so much MORE."

At the very beginning, we, as yoga practitioners, are often caught up in the physical details, "right foot forward, left food back, and where is my pelvis supposed to be?"  With practice, we start to sense positive shifts happening in our bodies and even discover that we can execute poses that we never thought possible.

As we spend more time on the mat, however, we begin to appreciate that the point of the practice is not nailing the perfect pose. Moving to the rhythm of the breath and refining the details of the poses all serve a deeper purpose -- to become more aware of the noise the mind creates and spend more time connected to the awareness that lives beneath our thoughts and emotions.

This week, we have two wonderful opportunities to delve a little deeper and explore the inner workings of the mind with two meditation and mindfulness classes:

Meditation Series with Polly, Thursdays, 5/10-5/31 5:30-6:30

Mindfulness for the Restless with Kira and Allison, Saturday, 5/12 3:00-5:00pm

Sign up to reserve your spot here.

Yoga: a Practice for Everyone

by Erin Ipjian

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I love the physical discipline of yoga practice - so much so that I practice it every day. When moving to the rhythm of the breath and refining the details of the poses, something magical happens. I can't always explain it, but I most certainly feel it. And I see it in the eyes of students at the end of a well-taught class. Something shifts. There is a sense of clarity and steadiness that we somehow reconnect with.
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My wish, as a teacher and studio owner, is for people to understand that yoga is for everyone. And while you may be (as most people are) initially drawn to the physical benefits of the practice, it has so many additional layers to offer, if you remain focused on the intent behind what you are doing on your mat.
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I am in love with this passage from Jon Kabat-Zinn on the purpose of yoga,
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"The appeal of hatha yoga is nothing less than the lifelong adventure and discipline of working with one's body as a door into freedom and wholeness. Hatha yoga was never about accomplishment or perfection, or even about technique by itself. Nor was it about turning one's body into an elaborate pretzel...To my mind, hatha yoga is potentially beneficial to huge numbers of people at every level of physical conditioning...
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For mindful yoga is a yoga of wholeness that has nothing to do with what your body can or can't do at any given moment, or with how your posture looks. It has everything to do with the sincerity of your effort, with how awake you are in your life, and how embodied you are in the only moment in which you are ever alive-- which is always now."

Check out our current class schedule here! We'll see you on the mat!