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The US government released new physical fitness guidelines on Monday. It’s not surprising to learn that most Americans are not getting the recommended amount of exercise: 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity and two sessions of muscle-strengthening activity each week. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, less than 1/3 of us adults are meeting the guideline and only 1 in 5 teens are hitting the target.
The definition of ‘moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity’ falls rather short of what most of us here in northern Utah already practice and includes walking briskly, riding a bike on level ground with few hills, and playing doubles tennis. But it was nice to see yoga explicitly called out in the government’s definition of muscle-strengthening, which included ‘lifting weights, heavy gardening, and yoga.’
Any Tadasana.Yoga student of our regular Power Flow knows that just two of these classes a week will enable you to easily meet the new standards, and so as always, I take issue with the fact that yoga is not automatically classified as an ‘aerobic physical activity’. But being on the ‘national standards’ list will continue to legitimize the practice — and might even help bring more of our men in the door!
If you want to know what’s it’s like to combine high-intensity aerobic physical activity with muscle-strengthening, be sure to check out our Yoga Sculpt classes. And best of all, we’re jumping right in to help our teens, with a weekly Teen Yoga class, giving them the opportunity to experience the aerobic training and strengthening benefits of yoga that they need!
I grew up in a very small town called Frenchtown, Montana. It’s the kind of community where your entire grade in school has fewer than 60 students, and there’s enough open space that going for a horseback ride with your friends is not at all strange. Our home was literally in the woods with no visible neighbors in any direction. And it was wonderfully quiet. The only sleep disturbance was from animals – like the woodpecker who decided he needed to build a home in our house, just outside my window.
But for much of my adult life, I’ve lived in busy cities, including some wonderfully exotic ones: Istanbul, Budapest, Seoul, New York (not exotic, but wonderful.) In those cities I learned to sleep through the beeping of reversing garbage trucks at 5am, sirens of all kinds, and the “Hey, I’m walking here!” yells of the pedestrians. And I loved my time in each one.
It wasn’t until my husband and I moved here to Park City, Utah, that I remembered the joy of quiet.
I recently came across a TED talk by sound expert Julian Treasure called 5 Ways to Listen Better. He argues that in our modern world we’re losing our listening. Because we can now so easily record sound, precise and accurate listening is simply not required. And because the world is now so full of noise, it’s actually quite tiring to listen. We now very often choose to tune out the noise with headphones, leaving us each inside our own bubbles and not listening to one another at all. All of which means we are no longer doing the type of listening to one another that is required for understanding: conscious listening.
Without conscious listening, we lose our understanding of one another – and that leads to problems that aren’t trivial. One might argue, and Julian does, that the absence of conscious listening is at the heart of the major political, social and interpersonal strife that plagues our world today.
It’s easy to find the problem in your own life. On a regular basis in my house, my husband is tuned into the TV while I’ve got Alexa keeping me company, and my sons are on headphones in front of their computers. 4 bubbles… all of it unconscious listening – and certainly not to one another.
Julian offers 5 exercise to help improve your conscious listening:
- Silence. 3 minutes a day. Recalibrating your hearing to recognize silence.
- Sound Identification. When in a noisy space, try to pick out different sounds.
- Savoring. Taking the time to enjoy mundane sounds – like your dryer.
- Changing your listening ‘position’. Adjusting your listening from passive to active, or critical to empathetic, to make it appropriate to what you’re listening to.
- RASA. An acronym, but also the Sanscrit word for “juice” or “essence”. Receive (pay attention). Appreciate (hm? oh!). Summarize (so, you mean…). Ask (ask questions afterward.)
Maybe you had the same reaction to this list that I did: this is yoga! In addition to meditation (silence), we spend all kinds of time in yoga classes thinking and working on savoring the moment (or the mundane), changing your approach to life, paying attention. Isn’t it interesting that what we need to do to improve our understanding of one another is exactly what we try to do every time we step on our mats in the studio?
It’s no wonder that people find that yoga changes their lives. It’s so much more than a physical practice. It’s one that can help you become a better listener – on and off your mat.
Somewhere along the way in my own yoga journey, my dedication to the practice became clear to my friends and family, and they would ask why? What is it about yoga that draws you in? I’ve had many friends and students share this same experience. People want to know why they find yoga so compelling.
“I feel great after a class.” “It helps me feel balanced.” “The poses help me with my neck/back/shoulders/etc.” Your answer to this question might be in one of these areas of physical or mental health. But often, I find that the answer is difficult to articulate. I usually want to say to people: ‘I can’t explain it to you, you have to experience for yourself; but it is life-altering.’
What is yoga doing for you? I recently watched a Netflix movie entitled “On Yoga: The Architecture of Peace.” Made in 2017 by director Heitor Dhalia, it follows photographer Michael O’Neill as he talks to Yoga masters in India, Tibet and New York. It’s a wonderfully visual movie and enjoyable for the cinematography alone. But I found myself most drawn in by the various descriptions of what yoga is, and what it does for practitioners, to be the most compelling.
A highlight for me was this message:
The real thesis of yoga is not that you get your health, your well-being, your inner peace from outside yourself, which our culture often teaches us, but rather, you have it already within you. And then the question becomes “what am I doing that’s disturbing what I already have”; as opposed to “how can I get something that I don’t already have.” If your happiness is something you have to get from the outside, then everyone has power over you. But if the question is, “what am I doing that’s preventing me from being happy?”, then I have the power. That is something I can do something about.
What a powerful message. And what a tremendous answer to the “why?” question. Why do you love yoga? It provides me with the tools to cultivate the happiness I already have within me. Or maybe more simply: When I practice, I can literally see my path to happiness.
I’ll take that every day – and twice on Sunday.