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“Mise en Place”

“A Chef’s Kitchen,” is one of my favorite series on Netflix. Each hour long series explores the mind, habits and cultural influences that shape the body of work of Michelin star chefs around the globe. I watch an episode when I am in search of inspiration or to re-awaken my eye to the beauty of small things all around.

Any chef worth their salt is familiar with the French term, “mise en place,” or, “everything in its place.” Have you ever gotten cooking on a fun new recipe at home only to notice several steps in that you needed to marinate the fish or blanch the vegetables before adding it to the pot? Now you have to hustle to address those details (usually all the difference between an out-of-this-world or so-so dish), skip them entirely or risk burning what you’ve currently got sizzling. Your symphony of taste and texture suddenly morphs into a haphazard mess.

Fortune favors the prepared.

As in the kitchen – so on your yoga mat. As we close our month-long practice of Saucha in the studio, take a look at these common guidelines for yoga etiquette, are there areas for your practice to improve?

Arrive early. The first 5 – 7 minutes of class are called Integration and critical to connecting to your body and breath.

“OM” is sacred. If you are a few minutes late, enter the studio as quietly and respectfully as you can. If you hear the class chanting, “om” wait until they are complete before you enter the room.

Check your bags at the door. The studio space is sacred. Leave your bags, shoes, cell phones, extra layers of clothing in the locker room. Arrive through the back door.

Keep a clean space around your mat. Arrange your block, strap and water to one side of your mat. A cluttered practice area can easily translate to a cluttered head space. On the functional side, keeping your props neatly grouped ensures the teacher won’t trip (well at least not on your stuff) and that you can find what you need easily.

Stay in the room. Stay in the practice. Yoga is a moving meditation, any break from the practice takes you out of the present moment – and everyone else around you, too. Even something as innocuous as standing up and walking to the back of your mat for water can be distracting. In those moments when you absolutely cannot resist your water bottle, take child’s pose and sip discreetly.

You create the energy in the room. Yoga is meant to be a contemplative and meditative journey of movement. Fill the room with your breath, your energy and not your words. The teachers are on hand after class to answer any questions you have or you can quietly flag them over to assist you. Conversation should be limited to before and after class.

Acknowledge Your Growth. We clap at the end of class to acknowledge ourselves and our fellow practitioners – not to applaud the teacher. Honor your work and the contribution of those around you by giving a hearty round of applause once class has come to a close.

There’s an old adage, “Take your practice seriously and yourself lightly,” smiles, sighs and gentle laughter are always encouraged. This week, as you step on your mat, try putting these pointers in place and watch how your practice transforms.

See you on the mat, yogis!

Lauren Christian

Lauren is an avid reader, yoga teacher, mom, wife, entrepreneur and proud Co-Founder of Five Peaks Power Yoga. When she’s not at the studio teaching or practicing yoga, she can be found in the Loudoun County country-side enjoying the vineyards with her family. Sometimes, she even runs marathons.

M.L.K.

January 16, 2018

Today, in honor, celebration, and remembrance of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, we reflect upon all that Dr. King fought for, marched for, and ultimately, died for, during his time as a civil rights activist and leader, over five decades ago. While much of America’s landscape has changed in the time since Dr. King marched on Washington, wrote letters from a Birmingham jail, or stood behind the pulpit in Montgomery, much still remains the same.

As students of yoga, actively engaged in walking Patanjali’s Eight-Limbed Path, it’s impossible to not see a link between the actions and teachings of MLK, and those outlined in the first two limbs of the Eight-fold Path (coming before Asana!): the Yamas and Niyamas.

The Yamas and Niyamas are moral and ethical guidelines that inform and direct yogic action; they serve as a map to chart the course of one’s life, and provide a clear and straightforward framework for how to conduct ourselves off the mat – both in how we treat ourselves, and how we treat others.

It is not coincidental that the very first of these moral directives is Ahimsa, which means to cause no injury, and do no harm. Essentially, Ahimsa is non-violence.

In his 1958 memoir of the Montgomery bus boycott, Stride Toward Freedom, Dr. King outlined six principles of non-violence; basic steps toward non-violent action that he taught and lived until the day he died. Importantly, he made it clear that non-violence is not for the cowardly, weak, passive, or fearful. Non-violence is the way of the strong. Dr. King wrote,

“Nonviolent resistance does resist. It is not a method of stagnant passivity… The method is passive physically, but strongly active spiritually. It is not passive non-resistance to evil; it is active nonviolent resistance to evil.”

In his 1967 book, Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community?, Dr. King wrote,

Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

MLK believed in living his principles through action. At a time in our history that was marked by violence and war, Dr. King refused to give in to his basest instincts; He refused to return violence with violence, or hate with hate. Instead of allowing himself to be swallowed by the darkness, he became the light. He chose a new way. And in so doing, he became the change he sought to create.

The second of the Yamas is Satya, which means truth, or truthfulness.

On the subject of truth, Dr. King was clear: “I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

Satya directs us to speak our truth, even when it’s unpopular; even when speaking our truth is inconvenient, or difficult, or dangerous. No one knew this, or lived this, better than Dr. King.

While he is rightly revered and loved by many in today’s modern age, it is important to remember that, in his time, MLK was a highly divisive and radical figure.

The FBI famously wire-tapped him, beginning in 1955 during the Montgomery Bus Boycott, until his assassination on April 4th, 1968. After his controversial anti-Vietnam speech at Riverside Church in 1967, the FBI stepped up their surveillance efforts in an attempt to discredit him, and pundits across both sides of the aisle criticized him for his firm and controversial stand, given at a time when most Americans still supported the war. Even members of his own staff warned him not to give the speech, but Dr. King stuck to his ideals, and refused to back down.

On the Vietnam War, and America’s involvement in it, King stated, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

King believed in speaking your truth, no matter the cost. One month after his speech at Riverside, he spoke at a conference, stating, “The cross may mean the death of your popularity. Even so, take up your cross and just bear it.”

As students walking the yogic path, we can draw inspiration from and hold in our hearts the words of Dr. King. While he wasn’t a “yogi” in the traditional sense, his teachings and actions are a modern example of what it looks like to truly walk the path, and stay on the path.

In alignment with the yogic practices of Ahimsa, and Satya, King lived his truth, and in so doing, inspired countless lives across the world. Both during the time of his life, and perhaps even moreso now, a half century after his passing, King’s influence and impact is undeniable. His words echo into the annals of our collective history, across the vastness of time and space, straight into our ears, eyes, and hearts, and prove just as relevant, important, and necessary now as they ever were.

Be patient, be gentle, be kind. Love with all your might. Speak your truth, and live your truth. You, too, just might change the world.

Colure is a mostly-vegan yoga teacher, mom, wife, graphic designer, self-proclaimed nerd, and proud Co-Founder of Five Peaks Power Yoga. When she’s not at the studio teaching or practicing yoga, she can be found relaxing in her favorite local coffee shop, or adventuring around the greater DC region with her family.

January: Saucha (Purity)

January 8, 2018

Happy 2018, Tribe!

As we embark on a new chapter of our journey together in a brand new year, we focus our attention on January’s theme, “Saucha”.

Saucha, meaning purification (physical and spiritual), is a Niyama (an internal discipline) that guides us as we “clean house”, and prepare the temple of our body and mind for new creation.

Winter is an instinctive time to focus on Saucha. With its barren trees and frozen ground, winter represents the death of the past. It’s a time of rest and incubation to make space for new life and beginnings in Spring. Eating less sugar, decluttering my home, and talking less to listen more, are all forms of Saucha that many revisit year after year.

Whether your intentions rest in purification, or on inviting what you’d like to have MORE of in your life – be it yoga, travel, or spending more time with family and friends – practicing Saucha will help you along your path. Sometimes it’s the words we speak to ourselves about ourselves that must be purged and purified.

This week, as you settle back into your routine, stay mindful. Set your goal or intention, and take the time to look at your daily routine to see if your daily activities reflect the actions necessary to make your intention reality. As you further your intention, day by day, task by task, be mindful of the “tapes” playing in your head. Notice if you second guess yourself and your abilities, the worthiness of your goal, or your commitment to it.

The adage, “Every thought is a prayer, every word is a spell,” is absolutely true. When you catch yourself in doubt, try to immediately replace your doubt with words of support and love (think the kind of support you get from the people in your life who love you most – who BELIEVE in you from their depths), and flip the script.

Stay in the practice – reflect on your priorities, actions, and thoughts, day after day – to ensure they are in alignment and in integrity with the intention you’ve set. The greatest shifts in our lives do not come overnight; they occur when we commit to returning again and again to the path we’ve set. To be brave, correct course when needed – and never give up.

Most importantly, surround yourself with like-minded people who will lift you up. Join your Five Peaks Tribe as we embark on Baron Baptiste’s 40 Days to Personal Revolution Program beginning January 27th. This program is free, and utilizes the tools of asana, meditation, mindful eating, and self-inquiry, to empower you to create real and lasting transformation in your own life – into 2018, and beyond.

Have a beautiful week yogis – see you on the mat!

Colure is a mostly-vegan yoga teacher, mom, wife, graphic designer, self-proclaimed nerd, and proud Co-Founder of Five Peaks Power Yoga. When she’s not at the studio teaching or practicing yoga, she can be found relaxing in her favorite local coffee shop, or adventuring around the greater DC region with her family.

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