Demystifying Downward Dog – Yoga Basics In Olympia



By Anne Larsen

When it comes to yoga I know a few things. I know that it’s good for me – I know that it makes me feel incredible – and I know who to talk to when I’m asked to “write an article about yoga.” Living in Thurston County we are lucky folks that can choose from a plethora of yoga studios, instructors, and practices. But how do you decide what yoga practice and instructor is the best fit you? Well I asked a few of my favorite yoga folks in town to help me out. Here you go!

Anne Laderman is my go-to when it comes to yoga. I am sure that many of you reading this have a yoga go-to (awesome!), Anne is mine. If you don’t have one, I recommend her. I love Anne’s practice- she always pushes me mentally and physically. I could listen to her talk all day long – and I’m a mom of three often seeking silence. Anne is welcoming, unintimidating (even when she does a handstand), positive, and authentic.  As always she jumped in to help me on this assignment. Here she “demystifies” yoga for the rest of us! You can find Anne at the Heart of Wellness in Tumwater and through her website One Yoga.

Why practice yoga – Anne Laderman

Anne Laderman teaches yoga classes at Heart of Wellness in Tumwater.

It’s tough to be human.  Unless you’ve reached enlightenment, stress causes di-ease in your mind, body and spirit.  Yoga releases stress from the body, increases energy and brings practitioners happiness and health.  Yoga is a transformative tool that helps people set themselves free from all sorts of mental and physical blocks.

Humans are powerful.  Have you ever kept yourself awake at night worrying about someone or something?  Most of us make ourselves miserable simply by remembering a difficult moment!   When we’re exhausted from negative thinking, it’s difficult for us to see the beauty that is always here and never leaves us.  Yoga trains us to see the world from a different vantage point.  After enough practice, frustrations like a broken down car can become opportunities to slow down and appreciate what is working.  When you surrender into the moment, life feels a little bit better.  Moment by moment you create balance.             

Yoga simply means “yoke” or “union.”  Most of the yoga currently taught in the West is a physical form called Hatha.  Translated literally from 5000 year old Sanskrit, this means sun and moon.   There are probably as many forms of yoga in the US as there are different ethnic cuisines.  The various forms of yoga address a wide spectrum of constantly changing needs. There is a form of yoga for everyone.  Finding the proper class is the first step in using yoga to create the life you dream about. 

A dedicated yoga practice will transform your life because it will create unifying bonds between your body, mind and spirit.  As we become whole within ourselves we are able to be unified and healthfully connected to the people, animals and environment that surround us.   Our society teaches us to look for gratification outside of ourselves.  Yoga helps us to connect with the limitless bliss that really does live within each of us.  As you become aware of the connection between your body, mind and spirit you can create the life you have only fantasized about.

Tips for finding the right class – Anne Laderman

Here are some tips for finding the right Hatha yoga class and being happy once you’re there:

  • Do your research:  read about the class and instructor prior to attending.
  • Is the class an appropriate level for you?  Most teachers don’t advise beginners to attend “advanced” classes.  Even if you’re in great shape, it’s important to start yoga at the beginning….unless you’re a reincarnated yogi with a super great memory.
  • Ask the instructor or employees at the studio any questions that will help you feel more comfortable.
  • Do not eat for about 2 hours prior to practice…unless you’re pregnant.
  • Arrive to class free of perfumes and colognes.
  • Tell the teacher about any physical issues or limitations before class.
  • Rest any time.  It’s actually cool to rest in yoga.  Listen to your body and allow the breath to guide your movement.
  • Do not compare yourself to others in the class. 
  • HAVE FUN.  Some people take yoga so seriously that they forget to smile, laugh and play.   If you fall out of a pose or do something that seems a little klutzy – observe your reaction.  Laughing with yourself is a great tool!”

See, I told you she was wonderful.

Also wonderful in her own light is Katie Penny. Katie teaches yoga at The Valley Athletic Club and she is wildly popular and rightfully so. Approachable and informative, Katie is a wonderful teacher. Here are her tips for finding the right yoga practice for you.

How to select a yoga practice – Katie Penny

When beginning yoga, it’s great to ask yourself a few questions to help decide where to start. For example, why are you starting the practice? If you are looking for an active more dynamic practice perhaps a Power, Bikram, Ashtanga, or Vinyasa yoga will best suit you. Do you or are you recovering from an injury, want  something a bit more casual, or just looking to balance out your strength training routine with something that provides more passive stretches for flexibility? Then maybe a Yin, Restorative, or Gentle yoga class is the right fit. Perhaps you want a more meditative practice? Kundalini yoga may be an exciting place to start. If you have no idea why you’re there other than “my friend/wife/doctor told me to do more yoga” look for an All- Level, or Level 1-2 practice. Any class listing “beginner” is, of course, a great starting point for those who have never practiced yoga before or even for people who are “brushing up” on their yoga practice.

Wherever you start, often our practice takes us to places we never thought we would go, so try different styles and instructors. When you feel connected and comfortable with the instructor it’s easier to become more dedicated to your yoga practice and keep going to class. Enjoy!

To find Katie’s “downward dog” schedule, check out The Valley.

Even runners like yoga – Rachael Jamison

Now you know I can’t write an article without sneaking in something about running! But because of all that running and cycling I’m the girl in class that can’t touch her knees, let alone her toes! Thankfully Rachael Jamison has made it a part of her running revolution to incorporate the much needed yoga conditioning that we athletes need!

Guerilla Running is happy to offer Yoga for Runners. Flexibility is essential in avoiding injuries, increasing strength, and maintaining holistic health. Our classes will provide you with a yoga practice specific to the needs of every runner, cyclist, athlete, and active person. Classes are appropriate for all levels – no experience is necessary.

You can find Rachael and fellow athletes on Sunday evenings at the Yoga Loft. For more information, check out Guerilla Running.

See you on the mat (yoga that is).

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