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AUGUST 2009 YOGAJOURNAL.COM 49

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7 ideas to reignite your for practice

Remember your early courtship with yoga? The first blush of love that left you sweaty and ecstatic, yearning for more? It felt juicy, delicious, and full of promise. That intimacy deepens as you learn more about the philosophy and postures of yoga. It's all good ...until, suddenly, you realize you're bored.

You've hit the maintenance phase, where putting yourself through daily practice feels about as exciting as washing the dishes, and hustling off to your regular Wednesday night class becomes just one

by Hillari Dowdle illustrations by Annick Poirier more thing to tick off on your to-do list. The question is, What do you do about it?

'A yoga practice is just like a marriage or any other long-term relationship," says Mebbie Jackson, 46, a longtime yogi with a daily vinyasa practice in Knoxville, Tennesee. "When life gets busy and you don't pay attention to yoga like you should, you can get stuck in a rut. You need always to be working to bring new energy and new tricks into it to keep it interesting."

Jackson actively looks for ways to keep her passion for yoga burning brightly She found it one night in an Anusara Yoga workshop led by Martin Kirk at the local Glowing Body studio.

Kirk is a teacher who makes passion a central theme in his teaching. "Don't just practice by rote; don't ever close down into dogma," he advises. "Find the things you really love about your practice, and explore them more deeply Let that love inspire your practice so it can inspire your life."

This is just what Jackson needed to hear. "I came to this workshop to recommit and to challenge myself a little more," she says. "I've been practicing for 19 years, and I try to do it every day at home. But when you start doing yoga as daily maintenance, you can forget all the yummy stuff it can do, all the loftier ideals. I need to be reminded."

Do you need to be reminded too? If so, consider these seven ideas for reenergizing your practice. Mull them over, try them out, or let them inspire your own, better ideas. Perhaps among them you'll find just what you need to fan the flames of your own passion for yoga.

Dedicated to the one I love

"Sometimes when you are bored or you're feeling that your practice 'V. ■ has hit a plateau, it's because you're driven to get a certain pose that's out of reach, like Handstand," says Adi Carter, a teacher who blends Anusara, Ashtanga, Iyengar, and Jivamukti yoga with Pilates. "It can be tremendously helpful to dedicate your practice to feeling grateful for what your body already can do, or appreciating the simple beauty of your breath."

In her classes at Greenhouse Holistic in Brooklyn, Carter advises her students to start their practices by feeling gratitude for how things are. From there, they can expand their focus outward. "Every time you step on the mat, you have the opportunity to ask yourself: 'What do I want to see more of in my life?'" Carter says. "It's a tough question, but it's worth asking. Once you find the answer, you can set an intention to use the energy of your yoga practice to help make it real."

For example, you might want to see more flexibility in your body and mind, and set an intention to work toward that goal. You might want to dedicate your practice to creating peace in all your relationships. Or you can pick something more practical, like reducing the amount of waste you create. "Any intention is heightened by your yoga practice, so set a good one," Carter advises.

Jodie Vicenta Jacobson, 32, often spends a moment in Carter's class sending love to children around the globe. "When I stop, get quiet, and take a breath, I'm reminded that yoga is much bigger than me," she says. "I think yoga helps send my intention out and at the same time seal it in. It's amazing every time."

Buddy up

Let's get anatomical

When you're doing your Down Dog, you're probably focusing on all the bits and pieces— the pressing through the palms, the inner spiral of the legs, the alignment of the elbow creases. But are you really, truly in the pose? "So many longtime yoga practitioners get caught up in where their arms and legs are supposed to be that they forget how to feel the pose," says Susi Hately, a kinesiologist who facilitates Anatomy and Asana workshops throughout the United States and her native Canada as well as abroad. "I want someone to understand how their arm bone moves in its socket, or how the pelvic girdle functions. Once they understand how their body really works, all the other alignment cues fall into place."

Hately is a big fan of yoga-oriented anatomy workshops and introductory anatomy courses at community colleges and massage schools. 'Any good fundamental anatomy course will teach you the basics: This muscle attaches to that bone and moves that joint in this direction or that direction," she says. "This is the key to understanding how the body moves, and it can give you tremendous insight into how your yoga practice works."

When you have a fundamental grasp of anatomy, you'll understand what your teacher really means when she talks about internally rotating your arms, or why your tight chest muscles are preventing you from straightening your arms overhead. With practice, you may even be able to visualize the cascade of cause-and-effect events that each muscular action sets into motion. And this knowledge can infuse your practice with a new level of curiosity "When you know the body and understand how and why it moves the way it does, you're able to come at poses from the inside out, rather than from the outside in," Hately says.

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A traditional Ashtanga practice takes place in a Mysore room, where students gather together to practice, but don't necessarily do the same poses. But there isn't one in Sebastopol, California, where Ann Austin lives.

Austin, a teacher at the local Yoga Studio Ganesha, offered a Mysore room to her students for a while, but there, she was the teacher, not the student. So she created one with her friend Lucky Jamison. "We make a little Mysore room wherever we are-right now, it's in my barn," Austin says. "We get together at 6 a.m. four times a week to practice in our lineage. Then we head home, send our kids off to school, and move on with our lives feeling totally energized."

Practicing together, the two yogis provide each other with inspiration, feedback, adjustments, spotting, and reinforcement.

"We keep each other honest," Austin says. "When you are left to your own devices, you're more likely to just do what you want or like. We're not strict, but we both love the practice. We help each other remember that."

They have traveled to yoga retreats together and have traded babysitting so that the other can attend classes and workshops. They also study the Yoga Sutra together

"All you need is a friend who shares your enthusiasm and a space to do your practice in that's separate from your everyday life," Austin says. "To be able to create your own schedule and have your own practice-but not have to forge along the path alone-that's invaluable."

Worth the watch

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When Kimberly Greeff, 29, feels like catching a yoga class, it's not so simple. She's a busy working artist, a mother, and the co-owner of Laughing Lotus Yoga of Anchorage, Alaska. So Greeff does what any tech-savvy, semi-isolated, time-pressed yogi would do: She downloads an inspiring podcast class. "I use the podcasts to further my study," she explains. "I love taking a good class with a master teacher, but up here in Alaska, we just don't get the big teachers coming through."

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