We often hear in yoga classes such phrases as “this is your practice”, or “honor your practice”, but what does that really mean? For starters, why do we call it a practice and not an exercise, or a workout? I have said this time and time again in my own class, our yoga practice is not a place for comparison, competition, pushing ourselves past our edge, or trying to master every pose. I can tell you, in the history of all yogi’s, no one has ever mastered yoga. I suppose this may be frustrating to some, especially if you have a competitive or perfectionist side in you. However, learning to channel those traits can be of value. In yoga, it is time to set that aside.
We call it a ‘practice’ because it is essentially just that. When we get on our mats, we really aren’t quite sure what to expect. Every time we practice, it’s different. Sometimes I feel like a rock-star and my breath to movement is flowing, my poses are strong, and I am just in the zone. Other days, I swear I can barely get out of child’s pose. That is usually our bodies and minds telling us exactly what we need. We practice so many things on our mats. The physical asanas (poses) are only one out of the eight limbs of yoga, yet we so heavily focus on them in our practice. Listed below are the eight limbs just to touch on those a bit:
For me personally, my practice is a safe place. A place where I can come and just be me. There are no judgments. There are no expectations. No one calling after me. No one asking anything of me. A space where I can breathe. Where I can let go. Where I can just be. Honestly, this too is a practice. If you’re anything like me and most people in our society, it can be extremely difficult to create any kind of space in our heads. Your mind may start wandering the second we move into savasana. And guess what, that is EXACTLY why we call it a practice. We are continuously growing, and learning and stretching, and challenging ourselves in unique ways each time we entire into our practice.
The funny thing about yoga is the very thing you despise the most in your practice, is most likely the very thing you need. For example; for a very long time I despised backbends claiming, “I’m just not very back-bendy”. When in reality, backbends are incredibly vulnerable. Our hearts are completely exposed to the outside world. We are forced to be open. I DID NOT LIKE THAT. I realized I had been hiding a deep part of me from many people because it was uncomfortable to talk about. It wasn’t joyous, and I was tired of grieving. I wanted to move on and pretend my past never happened. So when I would go into any kind of backbend, my heart was exposed and it became very emotional for me. Over the last few years I’ve learned to like backbends. I won’t say love but I’m getting there. My word for 2017 was VULNERABILTY and boy did I need it. Some view being vulnerable as weak. I believe it’s quite the opposite. To share a side of yourself you may be ashamed of or afraid of is what others might think takes courage and bravery. Chances are once you do open up, many others will share with similar stories and experiences allowing us to not feel so alone.
When I first began practicing yoga, it was definitely all about the physical asana’s (the poses). The work. I wanted to sweat, and build strength and muscle and flexibility and do all of the cool poses and go upside down etc. And I still LOVE these things and all of this has its place. Then I moved into a difficult season in my life and learned that wasn’t what I needed at the time. I began taking more restorative classes, and meditation classes. It was difficult at first because I was use to movement. But once I could settle in, get out of my head for a bit, and breathe, my mental state of being became lighter. I could see clearer, I could finally let go.
I challenge you then to discover what your practice means to you. Maybe this year you start focusing more on letting go, listening to what your body needs, hanging out in child’s pose a little longer. Maybe this is the year you nail that handstand. Or maybe this is the year you finally just breathe.
Here at Heights Yoga Project we love New Year resolutions, we believe it's a time to refocus and reinvent healthy habits!
Now through January 3rd, hashtag #heightsyogaproject on Instagram with your New Year resolution(s) for some love and support AND the chance to win a yoga block. A lucky winner will be randomly chosen at 9:00PM EST Wednesday, January 3, 2018.
Here's what you need to do:
1. Follow us on Instagram @heightsyogaproject
2. Post a photo with your New Year resolution(s) on Instagram
3. Hashtag #heightsyogaproject in your post
That's it! We look forward to seeing your posts and your resolutions and know, YOU GOT THIS, FRIEND!
Here's to a wonderful and happy 2018!
A few of Niki's favorite things – A guide to the perfect gifts for a yogi (or yourself).
A few days ago we brought you part one of our gift guide, here is an extension of that guide with some more of Niki's favorite yoga gear! These gifts range from literature, clothes, nutrition and lifestyle. Each item is linked for easy shopping so your yogi (or you) can be taken care of this holiday season. Enjoy!
A few of Niki's favorite things – A guide to the perfect gifts for a yogi (or yourself).
I often get asked what the best mat is for yoga, or favorite yoga pants, where I get my quotes from that I read at the end of the class, etc. So I thought I would put together a list of my favorite things yogi style! If you know someone who loves yoga and are struggling to find a Christmas gift for them, this could give you some great ideas. Or chances are you’re a yogi yourself and are looking for a few things for you! I put together these items all from Amazon for your convenience and because well, amazon is amazing (and will get here in time for Christmas)! So here we go!
Stay tuned for guide guide part 2 coming soon!
Thank you to all those that came out last Saturday for our Vinyasa + Mimosas event! We had such a great time spending our morning with you on our mats and at The Old Goat afterwards for some lunch and mimosas!
We are happy to be instructing yoga classes at Life Addicts Studio where all can grow in their yoga practice.
It was a packed house and it was great to see familiar faces and meet new friends.
Check out some photos we captured from the event below and stay tuned for more details for our next event after the new year!
Photos courtesy of Travis Washington
Heights Yoga Project
Saturday, December 2, 2017
@Life Addicts Studio
Escape the holiday hustle & bustle and come join Heights Yoga Project for a FREE class on Saturday, December 2nd!
This class is at no cost, and is followed by a social hour at the Old Goat where yogis can sip on $4 bloody marys and mimosas. The Old Goat will have the top floor reserved for us along with a hand selected lunch menu.
This is the time to come and see what Heights Yoga Project is all about and to mingle with friends and neighbors. All levels of yogis welcomed, especially beginners, we love those that are trying something new! Class will be a guided 1-hr vinyasa practice with Heights Yoga Project's founder, Niki Corcoran.
Come one or grab a friend and meet us at the mat. Class will take place at our shared studio Life Addicts: 2427 Eastern Ave, Grand Rapids, 49507 (across the street from the Old Goat). Please enter through the back of the building, we'll be there to welcome you.
It is recommended that you bring your own yoga mat, however, limited mats are available on a first come, first served basis. Yogis are responsible for lunch tab at the Old Goat.
Door prizes, special membership discounts and apparel will be available.
So what is mindfulness? This word that gets tossed around in our yoga practice, our work-life, our home-life, spiritual life..
Hang-on a sec, let me get my diffuser going..
That’s better.. Where was I?
Brrrr.. it’s kind of chilly in my living room.. how about a cozy blanket? Yes that’s nice..
Anyway.. mindfulness.. oh you know what would be nice? A cup of hot tea.. Let me boil some water.
Now I can really dive in to this post on mindfulness now.. hold on, the tea pot is whistling..
OK, I’ve got my diffuser, my blanket, my cup of tea, my clean living room, and I’m in my comfy clothes.
Who am I kidding? I’m a yoga instructor, I’m always in comfy clothes.. NOW I can write..
It's pretty clear, I struggle with mindfulness and I am one of the most distracted people I know. My entire mantra for Heights Yoga Project is to “Trust the Process”, and vulnerability has been my ‘thing’ for the past year as I have started Heights Yoga. Throughout all of this, my one desire has been to be true to who I am. Even if I am still figuring it out. Aren’t we all?
Just like our practice, we are never perfected. We are always learning, growing, changing. It’s never been about being perfect. It’s about being at peace with where we are at on this journey called life. On this journey on our yoga mats. All the while constantly learning, growing, and changing.
When I think of mindfulness, I think of two things. And somehow they are kind of opposites. The first is this: Being mindful means, not being on autopilot. Not checking out during the mundane tasks of your day to day and trying to live in the moment. There are a lot of parts of your day that you can easily become distracted. Driving your car, changing your child’s diaper for the 10th time that day, washing the dishes, folding laundry, checking your work e-mail, even though I’m reading through them, I’m still often in another place in my mind. As a society, we are constantly jumping from one thing to the next.
Some of this may be necessary and impossible to avoid of course. However, when I can really focus on the present moment, I realize this moment is the only moment I have any control over, so why not just be? BECAUSE IT FEELS IMPOSSIBLE! With the demands of our daily lives, whatever we do, we are always looking ahead.. It is who we are, it is what society demands from us - we must be prepared, we must prep, we must stay on top of everything. As I said, these things can be good and necessary. We cannot just live in the moment forever and never think about our future. That would be naïve and irresponsible. Once in a while though, can we just relax our shoulders, breathe in the fresh air (not while changing a diaper preferably) and focus on the here and now.
Through these blog posts and through my yoga classes, you may come to realize, I have no idea what I am talking about half the time. But I have a calling and a passion. It is to serve you, to love you, and to be as genuine as I possibly can. Most of the time when I bring a theme into practice, it is because I needed it as well and it was on my heart that week. I hope to meet you all on your level. To bring raw and honest truths into your lives, and to get to know each of you for the beautiful, whole person you are, and are becoming.
May you be true to life, by being true to THIS moment. Namaste.
To improve the physical health, mental, and spiritual wellness of the Alger Heights and Garfield park neighborhoods. We intend to accomplish this through opening a yoga studio and wellness center in the heart of our neighborhood
We strive to develop a welcoming, and family-friendly environment that is holistic, and all-inclusive; offering a creative space for members of this community.
We believe we are all an ongoing project that is never truly finished. We simply need to trust and embrace the process.
Heights Yoga Project was founded by Niki Corcoran, a 200 hour registered yoga teacher originally from Lansing, Michigan. Niki and her husband moved to the Alger Heights neighborhood three years ago and immediately felt at home. With encouragement from friends, Niki started a Facebook group to gauge interest for yoga classes in their community. Within three days there were over 350 members and and now the group has reached nearly 600 members and we have been practicing yoga ever since.