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Why I practice yoga asana

Meghan Ganser

7/16/2018

It Feels Amazing

Feeling the fascia in my arms stretch by wiggling my fingers in Urdhva Hastasana feels amazing! Extending my back leg in Trikonasana and feeling my hip flexors stretch feels amazing! Lifting my heart and feeling my rhomboids engage in Tadasana feels amazing! The more I feel amazing, the more I feel amazing.

Self-Cultivation

The more I practice yoga the more interesting it becomes, and that is good way of seeing anything. I love it, and through a continued exploration and conversation with Asana, I have come to see the exquisite wisdom and perfection in nature and her imperfection. So I am nature, so it goes, and Swaha (“so be it”).

The Storytelling is Awesome

Some asana are named for a different character in Hindu mythology, so I get to study Hindu mythology. The stories, the lessons (some of which are pretty peculiar), and the decorum with which these stories are told all hold important aspects of nature and consciousness for the discovery. I hope to one day tell stories with such impact that your “why” for being inspired on your mat is rooted in your story, and it’s a great one.

Service

Behind every yoga teacher is a deep longing to contribute to the wellness and wholeness of all beings everywhere. We are people who study ourselves as means of understanding everyone else, and vice versa...and we want to help.

Personal Reasons Like C-PTSD

When I started practicing yoga, it was more of a way to make myself feel comfortable in a crowd (I naturally never had), to devote myself with something of purpose that I could not find enough reasons to quit, and to contribute to community at the studio. As time progressed, I noticed friends commenting about how “chill” or “grounded” they perceived me to be, and people came to me for perspective, and I generally felt more “in the flow” in everything I did- work, hobbies, relationships.

I can see now that Yoga Asana was helping me to regulate my own nervous system in a way I never had, to experience states of ease and well-being I had never before experienced. From a young age my social anxiety and blanket state of moderate depression limited my belief in myself, my ability to trust life, and my ability to stay present. I’m increasingly interested in the work being done around Complex PTSD (C-PTSD) and I personally know how profoundly yoga can help to rewire traumatized nervous system and primary stress response, for the better.

Boundaries

Sometimes I cannot stretch as far my teacher can stretch, and sometimes I can stretch farther. But I’ve learned when to stop, and when to go, and how to know the difference. Yoga taught me a healthy respect for boundaries, how to have them and be a loving person, and how to honor those of the people around me. I believe the best gift we can give one another is the gift of authenticity, and that starts with me, on my mat (so to speak).

The Power of Ritual

Some days I get chicken skin just rolling out my mat. I feel like a goddess, a beggar, a nun, a dancer and a temple devotee all rolled into one, and I look forward to the feeling of having dove deep into the conversation with engagement, sensation, challenge, presence. Even with no intention for practice, or even if just to rock out, or space out, or whatever- there’s a power to familiarity and consistency, that comes from making the choice to do it.

Why your yoga practice deepens at the studio

Meghan Ganser

7/8/2018

Ive recently crossed paths with a number of seasoned yogis who share their love for practicing at home to a video, or by themselves, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts on the power of a shared practice. Here are 5 reasons why practicing at a studio will deepen your practice:

1. You may not agree with the teacher

Lets just get this one out of the way first and foremost. Whether you're a regular or seasoned practitioner of yoga, or you haven't yet tried a single class, the reality is you won't vibe with every teacher, or his or her beliefs or angle. Which is great. Because, imagine a world in which we lovingly disagree, and hold respect for each other's view point and person regardless... Its good exercise, no pun intended.

2. Because community

When I trained Aikido, I often spent more time with my fellow aikidoka than with my own family, and we witnessed immense character growth for each other, regularly. We all get to have that sanctuary space where we can push, laugh, grieve, relax, and connect. In that we witness and support one another and our goals and wishes...and we collectively build a field of peaceful cooperation which the world needs most.

3. You will be challenged

On the days when your shame comes up, you are challenged to accept yourself. One the days when your tears come up, you are challenged to show your vulnerability. One the days when your light shines brightest, you are challenged to step into it fully. Every limit, boundary, expectation, edge...it all shows up on your mat eventually. You will be challenged myriad ways, and all the more when reflected in the eyes on others. Within this, we look for the asana or seat, which is sthira and sukha- steady and content, and we get to reflect that back to each other.

4. Entrainment

Like clocks on a wall which over time sync, we entrain to those we share practice with. Ever notice that when you practice regularly with the same group of people, there is a special synergy which makes the experience flow, and become more potent?  Meditators also notice that when performed together regularly, crime rates drop in surrounding areas.

5. Learning is half the battle

The other half is application, but without a good teacher to help you with your blind spots, how do we grow in earnest? We don't know what we don't know... until a seasoned and trustworthy teacher helps us to expand our scope of possibility. Studio teachers are dedicated to deepening their own awareness to the point of teaching regularly, and teaching is the best way to learn.



Kaua'i Pule O'o

Meghan Ganser

7/8/2018

Living or staying on Kaua'i opens awareness in ways many kama'aina and visitors regard as singular and remarkable, and have a hard time putting into words, myself included. One thing is certain: we are each deeply grateful for the blessing of caring for the land, people, spirits and integrity of such a special place. For my first blog for Ala Yoga, it is most appropriate to honor the gods of Kamawaelualani:


E ke akua

Mahalo no

Mahalo ia 'oe

No keia la

Amene


I am deeply grateful to serve the betterment of our personal and collective experience as a business steward in Lihue. My vision is for Ala Yoga to host life-affirming classes and events, in a safe and comfortable environment. My mission is to support authenticity, personally and collectively, as I believe it to be the cornerstone of happiness, wellness and synergy. A world free of shame and competition is one in which we all thrive, and to live it is to be an act of revolution.


I want to thank directly everyone in my Certified Tour Guide course at Kapiolani College, which ran from March to June 2018, most importantly Kumu Billie Terao. The space she chose to hold for our class to connect with one another as a primary goal above academic goals, was the most masterful teaching in the power of aloha. I hope to live this gift as makana, mahalo. To the students who so earnestly shared so many chicken skin moments, I already cried my gratitude and all, but wow, we set a good bar for laulima, mahalo.


It was once said, "Kaua'i pule O'o." Roughly translated, this might mean, "The prayer of Kaua'i is very powerful." Originally this pointed to a certain prayer Kaumuali'i's mother held, which was said to be the source of the powerful protection Kaua'i and Kaumuali'i were storied to hold. There is a rich history, both written and oral, of the mana here on Kaua'i which is ineffable, quiet and respected deeply. 


I believe it is integrity which generates power- our willingness to live authentically. This includes facing our fears, telling the stories of our ancestors, and protecting wildness. The preservation and protection of the feminine- all embodied things ('aina)- is a deep Hawaiian social value. To malama 'aina means to protect and care for everything that nourishes us, from land to air to one another. I hold Ala Yoga as a means of holding my kuleana (responsibility) to steward social safety and care for the feminine, and to hold space for caregivers to work peacefully. I chose to step into leadership here at Ala Yoga as a means of protecting the spiritual space of our community studio which already had been established by Jennie Peterson and Alex Smarev as a labor of love. My prayer is that all beings everywhere live happiness and peace, and I plant the seeds for that each day I live on wild Kaua'i, or Kamawaelualani our island was originally known, "the center of the center of the universe."


I hope you will find me on Kaua'i and connect, in my Skillful Flow Yoga classes, or as a hiking/ yoga tours guide here.


Yoga Teachers by Donation at Ala Yoga: Why?

Meghan Ganser

8/1/2018

I have been teaching yoga regularly- up to 8 times per week- for 14 years, and studying for almost 20 years. Yoga teachers tend to be researchers, life-long learners, and type-A personalities with a penchant for challenge, for doing the hard thing, and for pushing limits. We often spend thousands of dollars over many years to bring the most current knowledge to our students in earnest. At Ala Yoga we welcome teachers- our community's greatest asset- to practice by donation, as a place where (whether you teach at Ala or not) we up-level and support the growth of our studentship for one another. I like to say we "teach to the highest level in the class," and that means students gain exposure to advanced poses and practitionership, planting seeds to deepen their own practice. As teachers, having other teachers in class pushes us to explore new ground, learn through teaching, and celebrate the victories of our fellow teachers on their mats.

There are times when a more advanced practitioner or teacher than myself attends my classes, and I can see this a number of ways. An obvious first response would be to feel threatened or resentful, or to feel "shown up." There, I said it! But I also have the choice to push my own teaching to accommodate said practitioner, to celebrate their successes, and encourage my students to do the same- so we rejoice in the good, expand our circles, and welcome one another- not as competition, but as community with each his or her own perfect authentic gifts to offer.

There are new studios opening left and right here on Kaua'i, and what a gift this is, for each other and for the community as a whole. How do we create the right combination of open doors, shared learning, and unconditional cooperation among our teammates, families, and communities? We turn towards each other, extend our hands, our generosity of spirit, and celebrate our victories!

Join us at Ala Yoga whether local or visitor, and share your vibe with our Ala Yoga tribe!



Yoga: “To yoke” and how asana practice builds relational strength and connection

Meghan Ganser

8/15/2018

The Sankrit word “Yoga” loosely translates as “to yoke,” as in drawing together two things which are inherently separate.

Each time I roll out my mat I have the opportunity to relate to my body, thoughts, emotions and physical sensation in a new way, and enter into a new process of self-inquiry. To hold the same pose a touch longer, to lengthen from a different muscle insertion, to sty with the breath for a few more rounds... each aspect of my practice invites me to know myself in a new way, and reframe what I think I know, who I expect myself to be, in lieu of being open to an alternate answer or view or experience.

Each time we roll out our mats together we enter into that process of inquiry together, and perhaps more important than having the right answer, or any answer, is being willing to ask questions that lead us into deeper awareness. We live in an age of massive cognitive dissonance, in a time when our avoidance of asking hard questions has made solid a society of chronic pain and sickness, slavery, and addiction. Yoga practice asks us to be fully present with the feelings and thoughts and parts of ourselves we like and don’t like equally, and to accept and address all aspects of self with skills and inquiry- with self-connection. In a good relationship, we choose to turn towards one another’s vulnerabilities, successes and failures, feelings, and thoughts, in the spirit of support and affirmation. The sense of connection we give and get from seeking to understand and prioritize the safety and emotional health of our partners and loved ones is the antithesis of isolation, and isolation is the behavioral root of sickness and addiction. Learning to first turn towards and accept my own emotional and relational needs was a pivot point in my life, and healing the codependent or addictive tendencies which ran rampant and unexplored in my life started by learning to feel my feelings, and honor them as navigational instructions.

How does this all relate back to asana? About 8 years ago, chronic physical pain in my shoulders and lower back reached a tipping point, and I was forced to stop practicing yoga asana. I saw that asana, trail running and cycling had all become ways to avoid emotional pain by running from it- literally- and I was finally made to simply stop everything, and start feeling and processing the hurts, the ways I had shut down, and was out of alignment with my authentic self and optimal physical blueprint. Once I trained under Lillah Schwartz (master yoga instructor under BKS Iyengar) to address it, understand what muscles were over and under-used, and what parts of myself were behaving the same ways, the pain left quickly, as did the beliefs I had about the world and myself which were behind that pain. It was not easy or simple, I had lots to feel and be present with, and Im better for it.

So I roll out my mat again. Today my left shoulder hurts, but I know which poses to do and how, so I can remedy and balance whats out of balance. I’ve been muscling and bearing a lot of things alone through some pretty massive life changes in the last year, and that’s my pattern, its a deep groove- to bear it alone. Yesterday my partner lifted me up emotionally, and my business partner reminded me that we are a cooperative whole...and today the pain is reduced by 50 percent at least. And with the right blend of Ardha Vasisthasana, Chaturanga, Ardha Mukha Svasana and handwritten journaling, I should be all clear in a few more days.

See you on the mat!



Asana: Good Medicine with a Good Recipe

Meghan Ganser

10/28/2018

In a private yesterday, a student in back pain asked regarding a standing forward fold, “What is the goal of this pose?” I asked her in response, “What is your goal for this pose?”

For me, the practice of yoga is pretty personal- meaning it tailors to the physical and psycho-emotional needs of the practitioner. In a very type-A society such as the west, power yoga seems antithetical to our overall social need for relaxation, self-acceptance, and self-awareness. However, each person benefits from different medicine, and some of us need a yang, strong practice to build self-confidence and inner fire. This is one example of how asana can be good medicine (or not as good a medicine) depending upon the context of the practitioner.

Halasana (Poison-swallowing pose) or Plough pose for short, is one of my favorite poses for the stretch along my spine from my lower back to my neck. For me, it’s a rewarding pose, because I can watch my toes move closer and ground more fully on the ground with each breath. When my lower back is in pain for lack of corrective, stabilizing poses or muscular use however, this pose isn’t the right medicine- too much flexion, and the kind which can aggravate an already unstable Sacroiliac joint. Once my body is stable and I’ve practiced the right amount of symmetrical, muscular poses, I ease into Halasana, knowing my core muscles are strong enough to allow my spine to release constructively.

When a pose is executed correctly for the body of the student, it becomes a gift of good medicine for that practitioner. With time the student comes to know and understand the workings of his or her body out of an earnest desire to grow in self-knowledge and capability. The practice of yoga asana builds an awareness of one’s challenges and gifts, so asana becomes a tool to balance strength and flexibility. To apply strength-building poses in an already muscular, tight body is to further push an imbalance of muscular and organic energy. In a muscular body, the application of constructive stretching and lengthening builds balance, so it is good medicine for this type of student.

The yogi comes to know his or her own body to understand such. I think this requires years of study, patience, and focus, and the foundational understanding that “everything in balance” is an art form to perfect.

At Ala Yoga, we strive to build your self-inquiry in such a way that yoga is your practice of self-care, driven by your personal goals and built on your threshold for challenge. I teach to stimulate learning through feeling and identifying your muscles in engagement and extension, and then questioning how to apply these actions within a pose.