Instructor Spotlight: Kimberly Mackesy

This month we’re showcasing Kimberly Mackesy who leads an all levels Iyengar practice Saturdays at 9am. Kimberly brings a deep understanding of alignment principles to both her practice and teaching. Her conscientious instruction is clear and effective, expertly distilling the essence of each asana (pose). See our full schedule here.

photo credit: Simpatika

photo credit: Simpatika

What is your favorite style of yoga?

Iyengar Yoga. It gives me everything I need. There’s a Sanskrit word, śraddhā, that means “trust which comes from revelation.” (Sutra I.20.) As its benefits have revealed themselves over the years, my trust in the Iyengar method has deepened. I’ve committed to teaching within the lineage. That said, I also know that every person’s yoga journey is unique. Yoga in the modern day comes in so many forms that I truly believe there is yoga for everyone. As B.K.S. Iyengar himself repeatedly expressed, “yoga is one.”

What first attracted you to yoga when you began your practice?

I was a stressed out college student. I was searching for answers to life’s big questions, and frankly I was depressed at what I was finding so far. Meanwhile, my dad convinced me to try yoga because he thought it would benefit me physically. I had no idea then that the physical health benefits are just one (albeit important) piece of the puzzle.

I started out with a 10-week gentle Hatha Yoga course at UCLA. The teacher was this radiant elder lady who brought her own tape deck. She taught the same poses to the same tape week after week…and I loved it. Simple, simple poses. Like clockwork, the yoga gave me a break from my stress. It gave me peace, breathing room, if only for an hour. I was hooked right away.

About a year after my first yoga class, I enrolled in the interdisciplinary teacher training program at the Center for Yoga in Los Angeles (co-taught Diana Beardsley, who now co-leads Teacher Trainings at Yoga One). I found my first Iyengar Yoga teacher, the beginnings of my own teaching voice, even the seeds of my career during that first teacher training.

Kimberly Mackesy 2What is your favorite yoga pose right now?

Padmasana, lotus pose. I find it deeply soothing structurally, organically and spiritually (that’s after lots of practice, of course). I love working with my students on the poses that prepare padmasanaWith practice and sequential preparation, padmasana comes when the student is ready just like its namesake, the lotus flower, blooms in its own time. Mr. Iyengar actually compared the 8 limbs of yoga to the petals of a lotus flower: they all unfold at once to reveal the brilliance within.

What pose is still the most challenging?

Savasana, or corpse pose. The urge comes to adjust, to move, to try to balance the body. The mind wants to wander too because that’s its nature. It’s a tremendous challenge to surrender and be still, but that is exactly what savasana asks us to do. Paradoxically, that’s one of the reasons it’s so effective.

If you were an animal, you would be: a dragon! It’s my birth year in the Chinese Zodiac. And I’m a redhead, so it suits me.

Describe what yoga means in your life using just 6 words: Profound healing on all levels. AUM.

What might your students be surprised to learn about you?

That I’m looking for a husband! I don’t date my students, but I do take referrals. ;)

Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for new students?

You’ll feel something from the very first class, but the subtle benefits of a yoga practice take time to accrue. Consistency is key. Come to class twice a week or more and practice at home whenever you can, even for a few minutes a day. Yoga’s benefits show up in proportion to your efforts. Yoga can bring you more than you ever imagined, but only if you stick with it.

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Bending over Backwards – Stay Safe in Your Yoga Practice

by Rachel Krentzman, PT, E-RYT

Amy Caldwell, wheel poseBackbends are an integral part of any Yoga practice. The intention for backbends is to open the chest and rib cage in preparation for pranayama (breathwork). For some, backbends are exhilarating and freeing while for others, they can be somewhat daunting and anxiety-producing. For the first few years of my yoga practice, I would experience back pain in most back bending postures and assumed that it was a ‘normal sensation.’ The truth is, if done correctly, backbends should be challenging but comfortable. If you are not experiencing freedom in your backbends, it is a sign that you may be compressing your lumbar spine instead of increasing your range of motion.

Is it safe for my spine?

When done correctly, back bends help increase extension of the spine, a normal movement that is available to us based on the anatomical structure of the lumbar vertebrae. There are approximately 55 degrees of extension available in the lumbar spine in most humans. As we move up the spine, extension is more limited due to the shape of the thoracic vertebrae.  In optimal alignment, the lumbar spine should rest in a slight arch (lumbar lordosis), to properly carry the body weight and prevent low back issues. When we lose the normal curve due to poor posture or frequent forward bending, there is an increased risk of low back pain, disc injuries and muscle spasm.

With all this in mind, it is important to increase the extension in our spine in order to maintain back health and mobility and combat the constant effect of gravity that pulls us forward. In addition, back bends help increase lung capacity, prevent arthritis, alleviate depression, build stamina and energy as well as improve circulation, digestion and immune function. Backbends are said to help us move from the past into the present, and to help us open our hearts and let go of fear.

Backbends are safe for most individuals (contraindicated for those with spinal stenosis or spondylolisthesis) as long as the body is warmed up appropriately and there is close attention paid to proper alignment and actions in each pose. The beauty of yoga is that detailed instructions can be given to help one attain ideal alignment so a greater sense of opening is experienced. When we have pain in backbends, it is because something is breaking down in our execution of the pose. Discomfort is an opportunity for us to practice more awareness and find a new, pain free way to work in the posture.

Common limitations

Individuals who have difficulty in backbends can be categorized into two main groups: those with tight muscles and ligaments and those who are naturally loose and highly flexible. In every body, there is a dance between the qualities of stability and flexibility in the musculoskeletal system. There is a myth that being more flexible is a sign of better physical health, however, the more flexible a person is, the more prone their ligaments are to injury in yoga because they lack stability. Conversely, those who are stiff are less likely to suffer an injury due to over-stretching, but these individuals need to increase their flexibility so the pelvis and spine can move freely and avoid compression during activities of daily living.

Common restrictions for tight individuals include decreased range of motion in the chest, shoulders and hips (primarily in the hip flexors and external rotators). These areas become restricted from prolonged sitting at a desk, driving, frequent forward bending and lifting and can even occur from overtraining the anterior chest musculature. Runners, cyclists and avid athletes are prone to tightness in the hip flexors and external rotators as well. These individuals need to focus on increasing flexibility in the chest and hips to prepare for backbends.

Hyper flexible people experience different difficulties in back bending postures. They often have tight hip flexors but compensate with over-extension in the low back. Core strength is usually lacking in these individuals, so they tend to ‘hinge’ at one segment in their spine over and over again instead of dividing the extension throughout the length of the spine. In this case, the hyper mobile segment becomes more mobile while the tighter segments in the spine stay tight. Years of ‘dumping’ into the low back without awareness can lead to injury as the segment bears all the work. These individuals need to focus on stability and strength in their backbends, which may mean backing off a little to maintain the integrity of the pose and length throughout the entire spine.

How to practice correctly 

Yoga One San Diego camel poseHere are some important tips to help you achieve success in your back bending poses:

  • Warm up! In order to be ready for back bends, you must practice poses that open the chest, hip flexors, quadriceps and external rotators of the hip. It is also important to practice a couple of poses that encourage strength in the arms and legs to prepare for certain backbends.
  • Keep the front body long. “Back bends should really be called front body lengtheners,” says Jo Zukovich, a well known Iyengar Yoga teacher from San Diego. While we are extending our lumbar spine, it is important to maintain length at the same time so there is more space and equal movement between each spinal segment. The common mistake that leads to pain and injury is collapsing in the spine at one segment while in the backbend.
  • Internally rotate your hips. Internal rotation in the hips is essential in all backbends to avoid compression in the spine. If we allow our hips to externally rotate (which will cause the knees to splay out), our stronger muscles, namely the gluteus maximus and external hip rotators, will contract. By internally rotating the thighs, we turn off those stronger hip muscles and activate the deeper gluteal muscles which help to create more space.
  • Avoid gripping! The tendency in backbends is to contract the buttocks strongly which creates more compression and less freedom in the spine. In addition, ‘tucking of the tailbone’ creates shortening instead of increased length in the spine.  Instead, think about lifting the lower belly to help the tailbone descend. This creates length while maintaining the integrity of the spine and core strength in back bends.
  • Don’t fight the backbend, GO FOR IT. Most people try to resist the back bend while they are doing it. It is safest to work on helping your lumbar spine move into extension at every level. Focus on moving each vertebrae into the body as if it were sinking into quicksand in order to safely increase extension in the lumbar spine. Remember that we are lengthening as we are extending to maintain a full lumbar curve free from compression.

Rachel-for-Web-200x300Rachel Krentzman PT, ERYT 500 combines 18 years of Physical Therapy experience with more than 15 years of Yoga studies. Her treatment methods involve a highly effective approach to healing the whole person. Rachel received her 2000-hour certification from the College of Purna Yoga™ with Aadil Palkhivala and has studied Yoga therapeutics. She is the founder and director of Embody Physical Therapy and Yoga in San Diego, CA. For more details and/or questions contact: 619-261-6049 or rachel@embodyphysicaltherapy.com

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OM For The Holidays, A Yogi Gift Guide

by Laura McCorry

holiday-checklistEveryone knows the holidays can be a stressful time of year. Combining multiple social engagements, the expectation of gift giving, and seeing your relatives is enough to set most people’s nerves on edge. But it doesn’t have to be that way!

Yoga encourages us to continually check in with the present moment. “What is happening right now?” Yoga One head teacher Amy Caldwell likes to ask. It’s easy to become unsatisfied thinking about the past or anxious thinking about the future. Present moment awareness uses meditation and pranayama (breath control) to bring our emotional selves back into balance.

To encourage balance in all things, even our giving, here’s a non-traditional holiday gift guide for the yogi in all of us:

1. Spend quality time with the ones you love. It doesn’t get any simpler or better than this. Love can’t be bought or wrapped – it can only be shared. Sit down to a meal, play on the floor with the kids or the dog, go for a long walk. In this age of increasing digital connection, it’s good to remember the joy of being present in person. Your presence is the gift.

2. Create or purchase an experience gift. After basic needs are met, more material things do not necessarily increase happiness. When you provide an experience, you can still have the pleasure of gift giving without adding to your loved one’s possessions. This can be anything from tickets to a play or concert, a good old fashioned coupon book, or the even the gift of yoga (our favorite!)

3. Encourage minimalism, give chocolate. Consumable gifts are enjoyable but won’t take up space on a closet shelf for years to come (though eaten in excess, they may land on the thighs). Good examples include a gift certificate for dinner at a favorite restaurant, a subscription to a CSA or DIY meal service like Blue Apron, a bottle of wine or a favorite beer, the list goes on! (You can find award-winning Beardsman Brewery local beer at Yoga One on December 12th)

4. Write a letter of support. It’s important to tell someone how you feel, yet writing it down can sometimes be even more powerful. Thank them for taking the time to listen. Congratulate them on achieving a goal, having a baby, being an awesome person. Support their personal development. Encourage the yogis you know to deepen their practice by participating in the Yoga One Teacher Training.

5. Give Back. Many charitable organizations rely on end of year donations to fund their services and programs throughout the year. Seva Yoga is the practice of selfless service without the expectation of reward. You can volunteer your time, add a charity to your wish list, buy some extra groceries for your local food pantry, or donate yourself. You can even select a charity to benefit from your web browsing and shopping through Amazon Smile or Goodsearch.

It’s the thought, grounded in present moment awareness which is then consciously acted upon, that counts! Whatever you decide to give this holiday season, let it spring from a place of balance and love. From all of us at Yoga One, to all of you, wishing you good health and much happiness!

Laura McCorryYoga and Laura had an on-again-off-again relationship from 2004 until 2009 when they decided to move in together and there’s been no looking back since. Passionate about both yoga and writing, Laura loves to introduce others to the joys and benefits of yoga and healthy living.

Contact: laura@yogaonesandiego.com

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Yoga One Teacher Training 2015

JAN 16th – MAR 15th, 2015

(Special Offer Below!)

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Let Yoga One help you to be your best Self so that you can share your gifts more fully with others. 

Join us for the Winter Yoga One Teacher Training and benefit from 8 weekends of doing what you love, deepen your practice and knowledge of yoga while developing the tools and skills to share it with others…on and off the yoga mat.

Reserve your space soon, space is limited. To help you get started, we’d like to offer you a complimentary Jade Yoga Mat when you turn in your deposit by December 15th (online via this link or by calling 619.972.8185Email Michael to register or if you have any questions.

We are also offering a Summer 17 Day Intensive: August 5th – 23rd 2015

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Yogi Reads: The Book of Awakening

by Olivia Cecchettini

The Book of Awakening“The Book of Awakening:  Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have”

by Mark Nepo

Summary: Mark Nepo is a writer, poet, and spiritual pioneer of our time. In The Book of Awakening, he shares insight from his own journey after being diagnosed with cancer and provides daily inspiration for being present to and grateful for the life you have.

This book is a daily ritual that has given me direction in times of struggle, grounded me in times of flight and brings me joy everyday. I believe that only by staying connected to our spirits and to the things that truly matter can we begin to live the lives we have always wanted. It takes less than 5 minutes a day to read a small section and this book can make a lasting impact on your life.

Why I love It: I love this book because it speaks to my soul. That is my true answer. My hope is that it touches you in some way as well. I read it (almost) every morning, and I’m not a morning person! Having something real and grounding that I connect with to engage my mind and heart first thing is so important to me.

Recommended For: Everyone. What I’m realizing as I type this is that what’s most important here is the ritual. Yes, this book does it for me (and I really hope you check it out!) but more importantly, I want you to find something YOU connect with. Make time to check in with your guide and with yourself as often as possible. Maybe everyday, maybe not, pick it up when you need it and it will speak to you. Xo, Ciao!

“A year’s supply of inspiration every day and the perfect gift for your friends.” – Oprah Winfrey

“Mark Nepo has written a beautiful book about life, informed by the shadows of death.” – Marianne Williamson

OliviaCecchittiniOlivia Cecchettini
Contributing Writer

Olivia is a yoga teacher based out of San Diego. With a love for people, life, spirituality, reading, and, of course, yoga she spends her days connecting with students and nature. Getting outside whenever she can to enjoy all the beauty this life has to offer.

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Everyday Enlightenment

by Monique Minahan

At yoga recently the teacher suggested this intention for our practice:

I will not take things personally.

"Welcome," - mat

“Welcome!” – your mat

This didn’t really resonate with me, so I chose an intention that rang more true to me:

I will take things personally.

As in, I will get up close and personal with my dreams, my loves, my life and my fears. I will smell their sweat and place their sticky cheek next to mine and breathe in their outbreath. I will inhabit every ounce of this human body as I rest in the hammock of being and awareness that holds it up.

I sometimes get the sense in the yoga world we’re all trying to detach and be perfectly balanced, enlightened beings. I’m all for enlightenment, but in striving for that perfect state we can miss a lot of wonderful imperfection along the way because we consider it “in the way.”

For a long time I approached my practice and my life as if it were in the way of where I was going. I wanted to get “there” because getting there seemed to mean I wouldn’t have to suffer anymore. I envisioned a state of being where stress wouldn’t sway me, family wouldn’t bother me, loss wouldn’t shake me, and life wouldn’t hurt me.

What I was doing was detaching from my reality and skipping out on my own life. I was missing the point Peter Rhodes makes when he says:

“We make a mistake when we wait for heaven, wait for enlightenment, wait for change. It is not going to happen in the future. It is happening. It is within our experience. Now is the time.”

Yoga and meditation are tools that help us distinguish the two and bring a quality of awareness to our lives so that we don’t suffer unnecessarily. It is just so easy to use these valuable tools to bypass what’s happening right now, what’s living and thriving in our bones and bodies and lives right now; the good, the bad, and the ugly. Life is not always love and light. Sometimes it’s pain and darkness. They are the two poles of life that together light up our lives as the full experience it is.

It’s easy to fall into a practice of seeking enlightenment on a mountain top while the everyday enlightenment passes us by. Lorin Roche reminds us of this in The Radiance Sutras:

Wherever, whenever you feel carried away,
Rejoicing in every breath,
There, there is your meditation hall.
Cherish those times of absorption—
Rocking the baby in the silence of the night
Pouring water into a crystal glass
Tending the logs in the crackling fire
Sharing a meal with a circle of friends.
Embrace these pleasures and know,
This is my true body.
Nowhere is more holy than this.
Right here is the sacred pilgrimage.

I’m so grateful to that yoga teacher for her offering and for sharing an intention that was relevant in her life. It helped shed light on my own process and revealed to me an intention that has been marinating in me all year.

I will take things personally. I will live life fully. I will love more than ever before.

Personally Inspiration - Mo_edited-1

Mo MinahanMo is a writer and yoga teacher who believes in peace over happiness and love over fear. She likes to set her sights high and then take small steps to get there. You’ll find her walking the dirt path behind her house with her little fluffy dog, practicing walking her talk by keeping her head high and her heart open. 

Read more from Monique on her blog, mindfulmo.com

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Yoga Music Review: I Have Finally Seen the Light

Looking for your next set of yoga tunes? Check out the newest musical offering from Jennifer TiptonI Have Finally Seen the Light, available on iTunes, at the Yoga One studio, as well as in our online store.

Jen Tipton

Running just over an hour in length, I Have Finally Seen the Light is a yoga-inspired collection of songs and beautiful Sanskrit chanting. The tracks combine to provide an enhancing complement to your yoga practice. The last song is even appropriately titled “Savasana.”

The relaxing nature of the tracks is also ideal for grooving and lounging around the house.

I Have Finally Seen the Light would be a great stocking stuffer for the yogi in your life. Get started early on your holiday shopping and support local San Diego artist and yoga teacher, Jennifer Tipton. Order a few copies today!

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Confessions of a Yoga Teacher-Military Spouse

guest post by Dina Weldin

photo by: Shadow Van Houten

photo by: Shadow Van Houten

Your husband is in the military?!”

I hear this question all the time. I get it. You think, yoga teacher and military man, how does that work?

The truth is that yoga and the military go together quite serendipitously.

I’d been practicing yoga for about five years when I met my husband. We met, we dated, he went off to training, we got married, and before I knew it, he was leaving for deployment. Along with the pride, love, and honor I feel being a military spouse, there is also the worry, uncertainty, and fear.

Is he alright? When will I hear from him again? How long will it take the mail to deliver his package this time?

As month three of deployment arrived, I took a giant leap of faith and did something I’d always wanted to do but had never “found the time or the money” before – I enrolled in Yoga Teacher Training at Yoga One.

I learned so many things during the weeks of teacher training but what I didn’t expect to learn was something I will treasure beyond time. I learned I am so much stronger than I knew. Not a physical strength, but an emotional, mental, and spiritual strength I didn’t know I possessed. The challenges of deployment, though always looming, were not insurmountable. My yoga practice and the beautiful community of yogis in teacher training were always there to support me.

Here is what I found to be true:

Breath is life and life is breath. We don’t often get a chance to just listen to ourselves breathe. When was the last time you stopped, felt your heart beat, and actually listened to yourself inhale and exhale? This is such a powerful tool when going through worry and stress of any kind, especially in the military world. On the days I felt my world was collapsing, all I had to do was stop and listen to my breath. It was always there for me, every single time. Calm your breath to calm your mind.

Life is about right now. I felt victim to living in a constant state of “what if?” What if I can’t do this alone? What if something happens to him? Instead of “what if?” try “what is?” What is happening right now? What is true is what is in front of us in this very moment. Yoga teaches us present moment awareness which creates gratitude for what is right now: Life, Breath, Connection.

dina headstandCommunity is everything. The last five letters in that word – unity – this is the literal definition of the word yoga. To be united with our breath, with our community, with our friends, and with our family, whomever you choose to call your family, this is truly what yoga is all about at its very core. Whether I am alone on my mat in my home, or in a class full of 100 yogis I have never met, we are united. And having my fellow trainees, Yoga One family, my amazing sets of parents, my beautiful friends, military community—that is where I find strength as a military spouse.

When I think about the military-yogi connection, it all makes perfect sense. Feel present in your life. Live it for what it is, not what it should have been or what it could be. Draw energy from your community on days you don’t have any of your own. And finally, find your breath every single day. It can be as simple as that, just breathe. You are exactly where you need to be. 

Are you a service member or military spouse interested in yoga? 

Yoga for Vets offers a listing of classes around the country for free or reduced rates for current service members. 

MyCAA is an excellent resource for military spouses looking to gain portable career training, one option is to become a yoga teacher! Yoga One Teacher Training proudly accepts MyCAA candidates.

Dina picDina fell in love with yoga ten years ago on the east coast and currently teaches all over San Diego in many unique environments. She has a diverse yoga background and incorporates attention to mindfulness, breath and alignment in her teachings. When not practicing yoga, she can be found on doggie beach with her husband Will and dog Mar.

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My Yoga: Frank Richardson

Yoga One Family Member, Frank Richardson, has been sharing his practice with our community since October of 2011. We love his positive energy, easy smile and kindness. He writes about how his yoga practice has supported him while traveling in Italy.

Photo Credit: Frank Richardson

Photo Credit: Frank Richardson

For me, Yoga is closely linked with meditation. One has more movement than the other, though both come from the physical mechanics underlying the act of breathing.

Being still in meditation causes us to open up from the rhythm and flow of breath, the expansion and contraction of the diaphragm and lungs starting at the root and progressing up through all the chakras, pausing at the crown, then flowing down again.

Focusing on this flow and letting thoughts go without locking on to them allows us to be aware of the continuing presence underlying the static paths of thoughts.

Yoga builds on this breathing practice by extending the movements created by breathing into practiced cycles that bring the flow throughout the body. Yoga brings Prana, or breath, wherever there is constriction or “stuck-ness” or even pain.

Flow, I am coming to realize, is essential to joy. Yoga opens my body and mind to being joyful by connecting to the flow of life that is happening from moment to moment.

The yoga I am doing now while traveling is not formal. There are no classes defining “practice.” I watch my breathing and my quality of alertness or presence.

How I am standing or sitting? Am I leading with my heart? Is my head up or am I looking down? What’s the level of anxiety I am experiencing right now? Can I breathe through it to get to the other side?

I most likely won’t be able to practice either yoga or meditation formally again until I get home; but the moment to moment check-ins keep me in balance and moving with the flow while traveling through this wonderful and sometimes daunting place called Italy.

Photo Credit: Frank Richardson

Photo Credit: Frank Richardson

photo credit: Frank Richardson

photo credit: Frank Richardson

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Mantra Monday: You Are Not Fixed

by Laura McCorry

You are not fixed. 

Sometimes change is so slow as to be imperceptible. Your cells are always dying and new ones are born to take their place. Every day your hair grows a bit longer. Every day some small new part is incorporated into the whole of you.

All it takes to change your direction in life is one new thought. One different action. One word of love. All that came before brought you to this moment, right now. But the past shouldn’t be given a seat at the table of today.

Have the small acts and thoughts of this hour brought you into alignment with what you know to be true about yourself? If you have strayed from your path, this is when you need to have the most compassion for yourself and the most courage to forget what came before and begin again.

Never be afraid to speak your truth. People will try to hold onto the old idea of you because it is familiar. Don’t be tempted to go along with them.

Listen to the voice inside that speaks your dreams. Give yourself permission to shout who you are to the world. Consistent acts in the same direction add up over time. Small steps matter. You are not fixed – you are free.

You Are Not Fixed

Laura McCorryYoga and Laura had an on-again-off-again relationship from 2004 until 2009 when they decided to move in together and there’s been no looking back since. Passionate about both yoga and writing, Laura loves to introduce others to the joys and benefits of yoga and healthy living.

Contact: laura@yogaonesandiego.com

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