Please meet Alanna Sade-Milberg. She is Mind Body Flow Yoga’s featured student for this month’s newsletter. Alanna has a beautiful yoga practice and was generous in sharing it with us, as she demonstrates dancer’s pose (Natarajasana).
Mind Body Flow Yoga’s Very Own Alanna Sade-Milberg
There is so much to say about my experience with yoga! I started practicing yoga about three years ago, when a family friend invited me to come take a class with her at Mind Body Flow Yoga. I had some experience with yoga, but it was limited mostly to downward facing dog and upward facing dog. My friend told me the class would be hot, but it would be a fun and challenging workout. I was excited to try it and I came out of my first class feeling sweaty, relaxed, and excited! It was such a great feeling that I came back routinely while I was home that summer from college. Because I am a dancer, I used the yoga classes to stay in shape during breaks, but would drop my practice when I returned to school. I graduated from college in May of 2016 and knew I’d have trouble finding a place to dance everyday, so I turned to yoga again. I compared my work schedule to the yoga schedule and realized I could only make the morning classes, which were all taught by Marina. Until then, I had avoided her classes because I had heard they were really challenging and that scared me…a lot! But, if I wanted to take classes I would have to suck it up and give them a shot. That was truly the start of my transformation.
I have been dancing since I was 2 years old and it has always been my passion. Even when I can’t dance for months at a time, I know that it will always be the thing that brings me the most joy in life, but at times it has also caused me the most pain. The first time I was told I needed to lose weight was when I was 12 years old. At the time, it upset me, but I moved on and kept working hard because I knew that a strong work ethic and passion were more important than a perfect body. Unfortunately, the comments about my weight and my imperfect physique continued. Soon enough those comments became my way of thinking. Instead of reminding myself of the importance of passion, I would shame myself for not looking the way I should and ultimately my mantra became, “you will never be good enough.”
On top of my negative thoughts about myself, the summer before my senior year of high school, my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given 10 months to live. At the time, I was being home-schooled, my sister was away at college, and my dad had a full-time job, so I became my mom’s primary caregiver. Through numerous scans, surgeries, and treatments we all held our breath and hoped that her strong will and the incredible doctors and Roswell Park Cancer Institute would see her through. I am so thankful to say that almost six years since her diagnosis, my mom is cancer free!! But during that year, my innate anxiety got much worse. I was in a constant state of worry and it made normal situations feel impossible and difficult situations feel like I wouldn’t survive. Anything from getting dressed in the morning to having a conversation with my parents could send me into a frenzy that felt endless.
The combination of the negative self-talk from the years of criticism and my out of control anxiety wreaked havoc on my state of mind. That is why believing I could successfully go to Marina’s class was a huge deal for me! I started taking her classes five days a week only with the intention of staying in shape, but after a few weeks I started to feel a subtle shift in my thoughts. At first, my mind told me to hold back and let the more advanced yogis attempt the crazy poses Marina was cueing, but after a few weeks, I felt myself let go and I just went for one or two of the poses I thought were out of my reach. Sometimes I didn’t quite achieve the pose and sometimes I’d get it right away, but it didn’t matter because I was just proud of myself for trying. And then the craziest thing happened, slowly it stopped mattering what my body looked like or if the pose was right, I was just thankful to have a body that allowed me to step onto my mat every morning. Recently, I have gained a little control over my anxiety (on and off the mat).
Now, when things feel impossible, I take five or six deep breaths and attempt to switch my thought process. Sometimes, it doesn’t work and my anxiety takes over, but other times I am able to breathe through the waves of anxiety until they inevitably stop.
It’s much easier for me to build negative thought patterns than positive ones. I find that when I stop paying attention to my mind and body for a period of time and then check back in, negativity has accumulated in my absence. That’s why I truly believe staying connected to your way of being is imperative. Breaking down the negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones is a slow process for me, but the more I check in (especially on my mat) the more consistent (and fun!) the process is. I know this is a lifelong process, but I am so excited to go on this journey and I can’t thank yoga or the Mind Body Flow Yoga community enough for helping me along the way.
This month, I am moving to Connecticut to pursue a life and career on the east coast. I have always loved to be close to home, where I know things are safe and comfortable. So, when I started to think about taking this step, I got anxious and started to second guess myself. After about a week though, I thought back to that day when I stepped into the studio to take my first class with Marina. Just like jumping into that unknown of a difficult yoga class, moving away from my safe place in Buffalo is terrifying. What I have learned from yoga and from my teachers at MBFY, though, is that if you don’t just go for it, you will never reap the rewards of what you think is just out of your reach! Now, I couldn’t be more excited to try on this new challenge!
I’m going to relax into the ride and see what possibilities lie ahead for me! Thank you, Marina, and all the teachers at MBFY, for helping me realize that there are no limits on what I am capable of. You all have truly changed my life!
What is this Pose About?
This is a balancing pose. The resulting shape is a deep opening through the shoulders, chest, thighs, groins, and abdomen. Watch Alanna enter into this asana from Mountain Pose (Tadasana). She will exit the pose and land back in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) as well.
Here are a few things to keep in mind, if you decide to try this pose, or if you have already started to experiment and play around with it.
Tips for Dancer’s Pose (Natarajasana)
- Shift your weight onto your right foot, and lift your left heel toward your left buttock as you bend the knee. Press your right thigh bone back, deep into the hip joint, and pull the knee cap up to keep the standing leg straight and strong.
- Begin to lift your left foot up, away from the floor, and back, away from your torso. Extend the left thigh behind you and parallel to the floor. Stretch your right arm forward, in front of your torso, parallel to the floor.
- Stay in the pose for 3 to 5 deep breaths. Then release the grasp on the foot, place the left foot back onto the floor, and repeat for the same length of time on the other side.
- Stretches the chest and shoulders
- Stretches the thighs, groins, and abdomen
- Strengthens the ankles and legs
- Improves balance
Do not practice this pose if you have a recent or chronic ankle or low back injury. Also avoid this pose if you are currently experiencing low blood pressure, dizziness, migraines, or insomnia. Always work within your own range of limits and abilities. If you have any medical concerns, talk with your doctor before practicing yoga.
Have you tried this pose before? What has been your experience?