Please meet Martha Hoff. She is Mind Body Flow Yoga’s featured student for this month’s newsletter. Martha has a beautiful yoga practice and was generous in sharing it with us, as she demonstrates Revolved Chair Pose (Parivrtta Utkatasana).
Mind Body Flow Yoga’s Very Own Martha Hoff and Her Life-Changing Experience with Yoga
Throughout my life I have tried and engaged in a wide variety of physical pursuits – downhill and cross-country skiing, swimming, tennis, squash- and more recently pilates, barre, and now yoga. Yoga is something I have thought about for the past 20 years.Every year or two I would look around for a studio that was “close by.” One in which I could fit a class in between my children’s’ schooling and my own activities.
In my first few years in Clarence, I would look around…only to find studios downtown. Then I would think…does it make sense for me to drive 45 minutes for a one-hour class? My answer was always no. Clearly I was not being a “yes.”
Yoga is something I have thought about for the past 20 years.
Time passed. My three children graduated high school and left home for college. I finally finished that doctoral degree. I had encouraged my daughter to go to yoga classes on her campus as a way to relax and find peace of mind. Why was I not following my own advice??
In finishing that degree, I felt spent and uncertain of the direction that I should go. I knew I needed something. Exercise has always been a way for me to find that calm, clear thought, re-energized space.
For a few years, I had done pilates…loved the instructor but not so much the group experience. The discussions surrounding the class were a distraction. My body felt better but there was no peace of mind. A friend suggested barre classes. I liked the combination of Pilates and dance stretches…but the classes were pretty big and I felt that I was not doing things “right” and the instructor had little time to correct or support the individual student. Again, I liked the physicality but not what was happening in my head.
My body felt better but there was no peace of mind.
I was very aware that while many in those classes had been dancers…I had not and my stiff body felt out of place. I could not see how I would ever develop the skills and flexibility to be good at it…to be one of the students…who could do it…and do it well. Once again, I dropped out feeling I did not really fit in.
Then one day, I was driving down Transit and really saw the sign for Mind Body Flow Yoga and the door to the studio was open. Was it an omen? I immediately pulled into the parking lot and walked in. In this small studio space, a woman with a broad smile and a profound aura of peace was standing in front of me…Marina. We spoke for a few moments. Something just seemed right. I returned the next morning…excited but uncertain.
In my first month at MBFY, I felt awkward, stiff, and hesitant. But I did not feel judged. What I did on my mat was for me…my journey. Gradually, I took this to heart. It was not about being judged or even judging myself. It was about coming to this space for me to explore what my body was capable of that day, in that moment. It was a space to quiet all the voices in my head…to let them go…to just be.
What I did on my mat was for me…my journey.
After each and every class, I have had the most amazing experience of feeling more alive, more positive, more at peace, more clear of thought, and content. Clearly more ready and willing to be open to new ideas and possibilities beyond the studio. Both my mind and body were transforming…moving towards being more present in the moment in time and being a “yes.”
Now looking back over my first year at MBFY these are my impressions. This space has opened my mind, body, and soul. It is a place where I feel at home and among friends who will not judge me but who will encourage and support me for just being there, being present. It is unlike any other experience in my life.
During this time, my body has changed. It has become stronger and more flexible, although I have a long way to go before mastering the art of handstands and complex poses and maybe that day will never will happen…and that is OK. But I do know that when I started I was afraid…of showing how inflexible I was, of not being good enough, of not fitting in, of falling, of making mistakes, of looking foolish.
I have a long way to go before mastering the art of handstands and complex poses and maybe that day will never will happen…and that is OK.
When I started, I was afraid of falling and breaking my wrist…still stiff from a bad fall and subsequent surgery the year before. Now…my wrist has much more flexibility and movement, and while I still have some fear of falling, it no longer prevents me from trying. My yoga practice may not be pretty, it certainly is not perfect, but it is mine, and in looking back I see a journey of discovery that makes me very happy and more content, at a deeper level, than I have ever experienced.
My yoga practice may not be pretty, it certainly is not perfect, but it is mine
When occasionally home Chantal, my daughter, accompanies me to the studio. To be able to share our yoga practices and encourage each other as well as see the profound benefits each of us has acquired has strengthened our understanding of each other’s journey. All the instructors have been gentle and supportive, helping each of us to develop a practice that speaks to us as individuals, yet can share the same space in which to practice. Each of our mats serves as an oasis.
In reflecting upon my yoga journey of the past 16 months, I know that I have found a home. The studio is the physical space in which I can bring my mat; re-center my being, to be a yes, to know I can. Yoga is no longer just the class, but a part of my life…a home for both my physical and emotional well-being.
Leave a comment below. What stood out to you in the testimonial? What significant experience have you had in your yoga journey?
What is this Pose About?
This is a standing, yet grounding pose. The resulting shape is a deep opening through the chest, shoulders, and upper back. Watch Martha 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 Revolved Chair Pose (Parivrtta Utkatasana)
- Begin in utkatasana
- Set your feet to parallel with your big toes touching and your heels slightly apart, bend your knees deeply, and lift your arms up above your head
- Bring your hands in front of your chest in prayer
- Keeping your hips and knees in place, twist from your shoulders to the right
- Place your left elbow on your right knee and spin your chest open to the right
- Press both hands into each other for additional stability
- Look down, if one of your knees is ahead of the other, pull that leg back into your hip socket. Otherwise, your knees should be just above your ankles
- Take a deep inhale, look beyond the tips of your fingers, down, to the side, or up
- As you exhale, draw your shoulder blades together and further down your back
- Hold and breathe for 3-5 breaths
- Optional is to lift your arms, with your left fingertips pressed into the ground and your right arm directly above your shoulder (as Martha is demonstrating)
- To exit, exhale out of the twist and inhale out of chair. Repeat on the other side.
- Strengthens the hips, the front of your thighs, your inner thighs and glutes
- Strengthens and stretches your calf muscles
- Opens the chest, shoulders, and upper back
- Stimulates your abdominal muscles
- If you have low back pain, only go as deep into the pose as you can while still maintaining your natural lumbar curve. Stop before your low back flattens or rounds backwards. Continue to suck the pit of your belly in, to support your spine.
- If you have a shoulder injury, only move within your pain-free range and keep the arms shoulder width apart.
- If you have neck pain or dizziness, do not look up towards the hands. Look straight ahead instead.
- Have you tried this pose before? What has been your experience?
Have you tried this pose before? What has been your experience?