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May 7, 2017

The Beauty of Yin & Yang

In all experiences, there is the Yin and the Yang. These are the two opposite, yet complementary energies that we encounter in our lives. Although we tend to perceive our experiences as good/bad, right/wrong, the qualities of these experiences are completely interdependent. It is impossible for Yin and Yang to exist separate from one another. This is shown in nature everywhere: night/day, light/dark, cold/hot, winter/summer, fall/spring. Without one, you cannot experience the other. The concept of Yin/Yang creates a wholeness that is at the true essence of our soul/spirit/human experience.

The interesting truth surrounding Yin/Yang, is that nothing is ever black and white in its essence. Take, for example, night and day. There is always a transition between the two. There is never a definite line when it suddenly becomes night or it suddenly becomes day. There is dusk and dawn. This is the same concept with seasons in that there is never a moment in time when it is suddenly winter. Life gives us a transition period. In this transition period, things can seem painful or even can bring the essence of death into our experience. Ego will use fear to dislodge us from the understanding of the true harmony and balance that are at work.

In all things, there is an element of yin in yang and yang in yin. The symbol of Yin/Yang itself represents this concept in that there is a piece of white illustrated by a dot in the yang and a piece of black illustrated by a dot in the yin. Transformation and transition between the two can easily occur because they are part of one another and cannot be independent of one another or else they simply would not exist. The beauty of this concept lies in the idea that there is a constant balancing energy between the two. The dynamic energy at work is constantly working with these energies to create harmony. This happens everywhere in nature and weather, but also in our lives.

The suffering that we experience in our lives has everything to do with not finding peace and harmony with the forces that are working to create balance in our lives. Our egos like to perceive and define situations and experiences as either bad or good, right or wrong and negates the understanding that there are balancing forces at work at all times. In order to experience the pure joy and bliss in our lives, we must know what sadness is. In order to know what feeling our best and at optimal health, we must understand and experience physical pain or illness. While experiencing some of the traumas in our lives, we can negate the rapid spiraling into depression and long-term struggle by understanding that it is simply a balancing force in action. This, my friend, is THE understanding that will bring harmony and peace into your life.

This balancing energy takes place not only on a small microscopic level and in our personal life experiences, but also in the over-riding human-soul experience that is woven together and finds us all as One.

We tend to keep ourselves busy and our lives complicated because our egos thrive in disharmony and imbalance. Our true essence lies in the harmony energies of the Yin/Yang, which provides for harmony in the small and large aspects of this human experience. The simple understanding of this concept will lead you to more peace and less struggle in your own life. Harmony is the only truth in our existence, as it is the very foundation beneath us and the very air we breath. It is at the essence of our Life Force.

A result of ignoring this simple concept of Yin/Yang in our own experiences is physical disease, mental disease and emotional traumas, which will all repeat as if in a pattern. The busy-ness we create in our lives is the root cause of our suffering because we do not slow down enough to see the root causes of our problems. Know, however, that the pattern of the Universe is one of harmony and balance. Understanding this will break you out of your struggle patterns and will release you to the peace that you seek and will help you understand your purpose.

If the Universal Law is one that is constantly balancing and harmonizing, why would this also not be the case in your own physical, mental, and spiritual body and experience? The concept of a Universal Law is one that applies to all things. The simple realization and awareness of this Law will quickly transform your life to the one that you yearn for.

In only 33 years, I have learned this in every major life experience and lessons. However, I struggled and fought through out each of these events because I did not understand the simple concept and law of the harmony and balance in the Universe. My reason for these words is to help you by sharing my own experiences and by portraying how the Yin/Yang have been at work since I was conceived. Spirit has guided me to share this with you so that you can use my experiences to understand your own. At the end of this book, I will also share the tools that I have learned in my own life to illustrate the balancing energy of the Universe through Yoga. Through movement and alignment, we can find strength in our stillness--complete balance and harmony.

May 7, 2017

Solutions for Those Pesky Wrists in Your Yoga Practice

As a yoga studio owner, I have taught thousands of yoga classes now, as a instructor of private classes, group classes, workshops, and trainings. One of the issues that I see in the majority of my students is wrist weakness and/or pain. Most of these complaints come from the overuse of the wrists at a keyboard, serving jobs and heavy tray-carrying, a previous fall, or (even worse) repeat patterning in their yoga practice.

The wrist problem often arises in our Vinyasa style class, which is my favorite style to teach. I have found that it is a great way for new students to understand some of the most basic, but also most important elements, of a practice. Vinyasa Yoga encourages breath with movement, and the breath, in my opinion, is one of the most important elements in a yoga practice. However, the foundation of Vinyasa Yoga includes our Sun Salutation sequence. This sequence includes plank, chaturanga dandasana (four limbed staff), cobra (or upward dog), and downward dog. All of these poses can cause major pain or injury in the wrists if they are not mindfully practiced. I am also a huge fan of props, so I will explain some ways to integrate props into your practice to avoid repetitive patterns that cause injuries in the wrists. When reading this, please remember that your experience may be completely different than others'. This is why I will give you several tips and solutions to ease wrist pain in your yoga practice, but it is up to you to decide what works best for you. You can discover this by....you guessed it...practicing and trying these solutions!

It's important to discuss the primary reasons that yoga can cause or perpetuate wrist pain. There are two main elements in all poses that take precedence in our practice: Foundation and Alignment. In our asana practice, our awareness begins with our foundation. This carries into our wrists in many of the poses when our hands are our foundation. People tend to misplace their foundation into certain areas of their hands when they are in poses like plank and downward dog. They place the majority of the weight on the heals of the hands, right near the wrist crease. This puts undo pressure on the small wrist joint and, over time, will cause pain. Be sure that you are distributing the weight of your body into the "balls" of the fingers and the knuckles, as well. I've even found it helpful to try "gripping" the floor with the fingertips. Mindfulness of where you are placing the weight in your hands is key.

You may also find that a thinly folded blanket can be helpful if placed underneath the heals of the hands. This tends to assist in the grounding of the forward parts of the hands and the knuckles, displacing the weight away from the wrists. However, while in plank pose, you might try "clicking back though your heals." This will increase the angle of your wrists and keep the weight from being placed directly above your wrist joints.

Also, keep in mind that your yoga mat is an important prop in your practice, as well. If you have a mat that causes you to slip, you will bear down and tense up more in the wrists to prevent your hands from sliding in poses like downward dog. It is well worth the extra money to purchase a mat that really does allow you to ground into your hands without being sticky. I recommend the Manduka eKO mat line. After trying several different brands of mat, the eKO mat is, by far, the best for creating a non-slip and non-stick foundation for your hands and feet.

Chaturanga Dandasana can be one of the main reasons that wrist problems originate or get worse for yogis. While moving through the vinyasa sequence of a sun salutation, we tend to rush through their decent from plank into cobra or upward dog. When done incorrectly, we either push our weight back too far when coming down to the floor or come too far down (to hover) altogether. Another pattern is that practitioners will lower down faster through their head and chest, causing mis-alignment in the wrists and elbows.

To solve these issues, we can easily practice Chaturanga by following one of two options. First, shift your weight slightly forward and then lower down (SLOWLY!) all the way to the floor with the elbows hugging into the ribcage. This would be directly followed by cobra pose. Or, we can lower down half-way, so that the elbows come to 90 degrees, again, hugging tightly into the sides of the torso. From here, you move slowly into Upward Dog, with the chest forward and lifted.

Additionally, I have also found it incredibly helpful to practice Chaturanga with a block under my sternum at its lowest setting. It gives me a very good measurement of how far to come down to bring my elbows at 90 degrees...and no more! Remember, when practicing this transition, you can always modify by lowering the knees to the floor. And one more tip...try to remember to pause in the actual pose itself--four-limbed staff. All to often, people tend to "dip" through the movement, which is what causes the issues in the wrist to worsen.

All-in-all, it is worth your time and effort to try these different suggestions. The distraction of sore wrists can take you away from the Bliss of your practice, which is why we come to our mat in the first place! Being mindful and finding solutions for your wrist problems so that you can continue with your practice is you showing compassion to yourself! And that is where the healing aspect of yoga begins.

In Love and Light,

Sharli

October 25, 2016

How To Love Yourself

As always, a conversation between my friend and I lead to some pretty deep stuff last night. It ended up going to the place it usually does...the concept of self-love. It seems to be quite the topic lately. We hear it about it everywhere: "Love yourself and then you can truly love others," "I love ME, I don't need anybody else," "Love yourself and stop worrying about what others think about you," and other quotes like, "Your relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship that you have."

All of this sounds very great if we were born into a world that didn't completely focus on ethics and morals and the judgment surrounding them. Our society is based on the concept (whether we like it or not) of original sin. From the birth of humanity, per the Bible, we were barely even around on Earth as humans, and we just sinned right away! We didn't even have a chance, and the label was slapped onto us from the start.

We are told by most religions that we are born sinners, which leads to the practice of infant baptisms. These poor babies can't feed or clothe themselves, yet we are deeming them sinners and washing their sins away with a ritual of holy water and priests.

What is sin, after all? The first definition is, "An immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law." We even have some pretty intense Bible passages that address sin,
“I was sinful at birth, filled with sin from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5).
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Dummies.com even reminds us that "A common saying that helps reinforce that pride is at the root of all sin is that “I” is at the center of “sin.”"

Well, what are we to do? Where is that grey area between loving ourselves too much and remembering that we, in fact, were born as sinners and "fall short of the glory of God" while loving ourselves so that we can stop caring about what others think? After all, isn't it the judgments that have been established by society that makes us into the sinners that we are when we disobey them? Yes, we have God's law in the 10 Commandments and even the Yamas and Niyamas in Yoga, along with every other religion and tradition's guidelines, but when we think about it, have we ever really felt the vengeful wrath of God or an all-powerful being?

What is sin, after all? What about the perception of right and wrong, good and bad? Who decides? If it is an over-seeing God, and we were created sinners, per our origination story, then what the heck do we do now? How do we fix it? And, the most important question: If we don't know how to love ourselves because we are sinners and are bad, how do we even start to love others, since they are DEFINITELY sinners and are bad? How do we learn to love others if we don't have the example of loving ourselves to use as an example?

OK, let's look at the concept of the Golden Rule: Love others as you would love yourself. As we have already asked, what if you don't know how to love yourself in the first place? And, what if your 'other' loves differently than you do and has a different perception of what love is? What if your actions hurt others and it wasn't your intention? What if you misunderstood their actions or what they said as something other than loving? These are the questions that spin around in our heads over and over that we consciously ask ourselves. Furthermore, the answers to these questions that we eventually rest with get stuffed into our subconscious, which gradually leads to self hatred and unworthiness--and, even worse, resent toward others.

I do not have all of the answers to these questions, and contemplate this concept quite often, but here is the simplest method that I use when I work on loving myself in a non-arrogant way. It, hopefully, will help you and give you a good starting foundation with developing a healthy relationship with yourself: I think about how much I love my children. You can do the same for anyone in your life--your own children, your mother, your father, your spouse or significant other, your siblings, a grandparent, whomever. When you consider your love for them, sit with the feeling for a moment. Don't just think about the feeling as a thought--actually feel it in your heart center and your physical body. It is a sensation. If it is anything like the feeling I get, it is expansive, warm, and a lightness seems to fill my whole center.

Now, in this same way, think of yourself. Are you able to incorporate this same feeling of love as you think of yourself? If so, can you feel the same expansive, warm, and light feeling that you do for your loved one?

How about the concept of unconditional love? When you think of your special loved one, do you love them despite any mistake they've made or despite the fact that they are deemed a sinner? Even if they hurt you through words or actions, would you still love them? My guess is that the answers to these questions are, "YES!" So...here is the ultimate question: "Why is it so difficult for us feel the same for ourselves?"

From this question, without over-thinking, listen to the first answer the pops into your head. Identify the answer, do not attach it or label yourself with it, and then observe your physical feeling in response to it. Sit with it and physically feel it. Normally, the answer will hear will be a label you've given yourself that stems from guilt, remorse, apathy, grief, fear, anger, desire, or shame. And here we are back to our original discussion. What was the foundation for this label you've given yourself? A feeling derived from the concept of sin as defined by...whom? Do you feel this way about your loved one that you thought about earlier? Would you ever dream of thinking of them in that way? Then why, my friend, would you ever do that to your closest best friend, advocate, and supporter: Yourself?

In the end, when we sit and feel in response to a label we have created about ourselves (which can be rooted from years of negative self-hatred), we can identify it's cause and realize it no longer needs to hold power over us. Only then, can we start to love ourselves as we would love our children, our family, or our closest friends.

October 22, 2016

Energy Pie

Sharli wrote a beautiful and absolutely accurate blog post on Thursday about truly living life. It inspired me to write this one.

I have been influenced by so many amazing people in the past year to spread optimism and light wherever I go. As much dark spaces and sadness and anger and chaos we see in the world, it doesn't do any good to give into that darkness. It doesn't benefit yourself or others to sprinkle little bits of negativity like a trail. Energy is alive and multiplies. The more you spread it, the more it sticks to you and leaves residue behind you for others. Energy also has amazing strength. It will hold on to you as long and as tightly as possible. It's your job to be strong enough to push away the bad and squeeze the good. It is up to us to figure out how to give and receive the right energy in our lives. Of course, this is easier said than done.

My mother is the epitome of light and sunshine. Those dark spaces don't really exist when she is around. Every single person she speaks to instantly feels full. It took me years to notice that she was a soul that was created to make the world a better place. She would tell you that she wasn't always like this and sometimes still isn't. In fact, she would tell you that it took her entire life to build herself into the woman she is now. It took practice and effort to find that energy is powerful beyond what we know. She would tell you that it took many trips on the struggle bus that crashed and burned many times in order to find a place where she could become her best self.

One of the many lessons she taught me was to use my energy with care. She explained to me many times in various ways that the energy I have is passionate and deep and that it could take on many forms. She also told me I didn't have endless amounts of it. She called this my "energy pie" (keep in mind that I was about ten years old when this idea was introduced to me and pie was on the top of my priority list). Every morning, I would wake up with a brand new energy pie.

This pie was the best because it was ooey gooey with high impact life. It was hot out of the oven and ready to dish out to whoever and whatever I wanted. I could choose to give a slice to school and to basketball practice. I could break off a chunk of the crust to playing with my friends at recess. Maybe I would give a small bite to doing a few chores around the house before my mom got home from work. But I couldn't have two pies in a day. Once I gave all the pieces away, I couldn't ask for more. It would be gone until I woke up the next morning to receive a new pie.

The concept was simple enough to me at the time but as I grew up with the classic teen issues like teachers yelling, too much homework, friend drama, etc., I forgot all about how much energy pie I had and gave it all away to the things that I thought were important. Looking back, I think most high school girls gave their pies to the same things that I did. I would come home from school with a frown some days and I know my mom was thinking "Julia gave her energy pie to all the wrong things today". It continued into more serious issues like money, jobs, time management, college, finding out who I was... Still I gave my energy to these things that I thought mattered or, rather, the things I couldn't do much about.

I didn't take this whole "pie" thing seriously until about a year ago when I realized that all these amazing people in my life knew just where to give their pieces. I also saw those who threw their's in the garbage right when they woke up in the morning. I saw how my energy as well as other's energy influenced everything around them. Of course, everyone is different and wants to give their energy to different things, but that's half the journey. It takes practice to find balance. I don't think we ever stop learning and adapting. Life changes just as we do.

So what happens when our days don't go as planned and negativity comes lurking around every corner? What do we do when life starts to feel like a job and our pie is being given out to all the wrong people and all the wrong things? When rough circumstances start smashing into us like bricks and we have no choice but to pay attention to them, how do we portion our pie so we can get through the day without scraping the bottom of the pan?

Our energy pie is precious. Our pie shows us what is really important in life. It shows us exactly what we are passionate about and where our vigor for life is. Sure, we won't always have enough pie for the day, pumpkin or otherwise. There will be days when we run out and may have given it to the wrong things. Just remember you wake up with a fresh one every single morning. A fresh start. A new day. An opportunity to spread light and goodness wherever you go.

Go and give your energy pie to the best and most beautiful things in your life.

A special thank you to my beautiful momma and Sharli for being true inspirations in my life. I am beyond grateful to have souls like you to look up to.

With lots of love,

Julia

October 20, 2016

A Guide for Truly Living Life

You May Be a Yogi Without Realizing It!

According to the foundations of yoga introduced by Pantanjali's The Yoga Sutras, Yoga Asanas (poses) are one of eight limbs or branches of our practice. To be quite up front, the yoga asanas were not even part of yoga until Pantanjali introduced the concept, and he did not even describe the postures in his guidelines. Yoga asanas are simply a tool for us to use to find an opening within ourselves, mentally and physically, to tap into the space beyond our five senses--to find our blissful subconscious, our Spirit, our Source. The other limbs that are just as valuable and necessary to living and creating a meaningful and purposeful life, and to reduce suffering, but are so often ignored or forgotten. So why has yoga REALLY been around for thousands of years? Let's review!

  1. Moral codes (sigh...). Yes these do show up in our yoga practice, as well, and include non-harm, truthfulness, non-stealing, sexual responsibility, and non-possessiveness.
  2. Guidelines for personal behavior. These include cleanliness internally and externally, contentment, discipline, spiritual studies and growth, and devotion to love/Spirit.
  3. Postures and the mastery of the body in order to find stillness in mind and body! Ironic!
  4. Breathing techniques such as Ujjayi (Darth Vader) Breathing, Alternate Nostrile Breathing, Breath of Fire, etc)
  5. Withdrawal of senses.
  6. Concentration and focus.
  7. Meditation (there are over 25 styles!)
  8. Merging with Spirit/Divine/Source of Life

Remember, these are guidelines to help reduce the suffering in your life. It is not as Pantanjali shared them with the world so that we would be damned to some sort of hell in the after-life if we do not follow them. Furthermore, know that you are human. You will find it challenging to stay disciplined with these guidelines, and this is normal! However, I am willing to bet that you, at some point, have already integrated one or more of these methods or concepts into your life. Whether you realized it at the time or not, you were "doing" yoga! Wow, doesn't that make yoga less intimidating and more accessible? Yoga is not some activity that is unobtainable because in order to be a yogi you do not have to be an acrobat, gymnast, or even touch your toes! A good teacher, mentor, friend, or studio will help you find the right limb to start your yogic practice with and then the sky is the limit with your journey and expansion from there!

Last, but not least, enjoy the journey, the transitions, and the challenges along the way! After all, what value and reward would there be if it was a completely easy path?

I hope this message finds you in peace.

Sincerely and with Love,
Sharli

October 13, 2016

A Message Regarding Yoga And Limber Tree To You REAL People Out There

Mary McInnis Meyer

There is no mainstream demand [for yoga]. It is way too misunderstood. The closest thing to a mainstream demand for yoga is actually a mainstream demand for a misconception of yoga: that it's a bliss-out for young, skinny, flexy, women.

This misconception leaves out about 99% of the population. My goal is and always has been to share the true essence of what yoga is--and to let you REAL PEOPLE know that it can be life changing. It can change the way you view the world and your perception of the world's response to you. It is not just about the poses or being flexible. It is not fitness.

The misconception tends to cause individuals to undervalue the service being offered. No one bats an eye at $100 per month for their cell phone bill, but with yoga, that's unheard of! "How can I pay $100 per month for YOGA, when I can go to the gym for $40?!"

I have worked so hard to offer a peaceful and safe place for people to discover their practice every time they come to their mats. I have strived daily to create and maintain a consistent schedule with a large variety of (amazing) teachers that is workable for everyone--with at least 4 classes per day, 7 days a week. And then, there is the expectation of making the class styles work for everyone's needs--gentle, yet challenging; physical, yet spiritual, peaceful, yet interesting. Sometimes--actually almost always--this seems impossible.

SO often I want to give up and move on to an easier job. One that easily pays the bills...but my passion keeps me moving forward with the yoga studio--because I do see it making differences in people's lives--and I made commitments to this place, the people that are a part of it, and the new REAL people that have yet to discover what yoga truly will bring to them.

So, how do I get this message out to you REAL people more effectively, so you can discover the complete amazing experience of what yoga (and mindfulness, and meditation, and breathing practices, etc) brings into your life? How do I get to more of you REAL people, who just want to learn how you can live based on what's important and with more joy?

I believe this is accomplished by continuing to spread the authenticity of yoga gracefully and patiently through the medium of Limber Tree. How much are you willing to pay to have a cell phone or a car every month? How much are you willing to pay to obtain an education about a lifelong practice that will facilitate peace and well-being into your life? Meditate on THAT for awhile. 🙂

So HERE is Limber Tree's paradigm that makes us different than the gyms and many other studios out there:

1. Our mission is to teach you the entire full-faceted system of yoga that can serve every kind of individual.

2. We will strive to include as many resources as we can that will teach you the value of this yoga system, and make it clear.

Above all else, LOVE resonates throughout Limber Tree. That is at its very foundation and it permeates all other elements of the space and the practices held within the space.

Thank you for reading this! I will see you REAL people at the studio~

Namaste'

Sharli

October 4, 2016

That moment of Quiet

There are days where we cannot find that moment of quiet.

I don't mean that moment of quiet where there isn't any noise. I mean that moment where the mind is completely purified of the control from the outside world. That moment where any negative thought, any confusing image, and any unwelcome energy is blocked by the power of the stillness we have created from inside of ourselves.

There is absolutely nothing better than that moment because we feel powerful but humble, calm but alive, and most of all, we feel grounded and at ease with who we are. But there are times where our minds refuse to accept the quiet. Instead, it chooses to continue thinking the negative thoughts. It focuses on the past and the times we can't change or repeat. Even when we decide to jump on our mats, the place where we allow ourselves to find that moment of quiet, the mind decides it isn't ready to silence itself. It's absolutely frustrating. That's not the point of why we do what we do. After all, isn't that what our practice is all about? Doesn't it give us a path to find peace within ourselves, even if it is just for an hour? A few minutes?

As with most good habits, it takes time, practice, and several failures to really master a technique. There are good days and there are bad ones. Even the most zenned out person has days where they feel like they can't keep their thoughts under control.

I noticed my thoughts drifting a few times during a power flow with Sean (now one of my favorite classes at Limber Tree). He described our minds as the observers of our thoughts, not participants. We were to watch our thoughts drift by as we flowed through our early morning; not grabbing at them, not watching just one or pushing one away from us, but just noticing that they were there.

I liked that analogy more than I could say at the time. My mind had been weighted down with too many things. I wasn't stressed out about any particular one but I couldn't seem to free myself from them. With each pose and move I thought of something different. I would lose balance or strength because my focus was muddled with one too many things. I kept thinking about watching my thoughts go by instead of jumping at them. Sean, our instructor for the morning, kept reminding us to not grab, just watch. It took me nearly until the end of the hour but I finally managed to feel like I was just watching. It took an effort that I hadn't ever exerted before.

Throughout the rest of my week I really focused on being an observer of my own thoughts when I was on and off the mat. I understood which of them mattered and which of them didn't. I noticed that I could disregard a few while truly putting time into others. When I felt distracted and not in control, I took a few steps back and watched instead of intervened.

An annoying (but also hilarious) example of this happened to me a few days ago. I was cooking, which is somewhat of a yogaesque part of my day, and I stopped caring about what I was cooking. I started to focus on a few bad things that had happened in my day and I became distracted from something that was for ME. It was my time to find my moment of quiet and my thoughts were ruining it! Long story short, I cooked the veggies terribly and my meal definitely wasn't as good as it could have been.

Just like my dinner, our days can either be the best they can be or we miss the mark by just a few, all because we let our thoughts and how much energy we put into them determine everything else about us. Of course there will be times of complete chaos that we have to pay attention to but when we give an hour or two a day (or even an hour a week) to ourselves we need to take advantage of what stillness we can get. In order to better the world and those around us, we first have to be our best selves. By feeling pressure of the thoughts we carry during an hour of "me time", we can't feel as rejuvenated and calm as we could.

So take the time to find moments of quiet whether you are on the mat or off. Let yourself observe, not grab, and allow your mind to feel stillness. Your mind, body, and soul deserve it!

September 6, 2016

Limber Tree & The Mind

"I WANT YOU TO OPERATE FROM A SOURCE INSIDE OF YOURSELF TODAY. MAYBE IT'S FORGIVENESS, COMPASSION, DETERMINATION. MAYBE YOU ARE FORGIVING OTHERS, MAYBE YOURSELF. IT MIGHT BE SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. WHATEVER IT IS, OPERATE FROM THAT AS WE FLOW IN CLASS TODAY."

During a class of Breathe and Flow Yoga with Sharli the other morning, we started by sitting on our mats and listening to those wise words. She prepared us for what we were about to do for the next hour. She simply told us to check into our minds and relay that into our actions during the hour we had in the studio. Before we even noticed our breath, we noticed our thoughts.

Sharli Kiner, owner and an instructor of Limber Tree, created the studio's foundation on just that: mentality. The mind. What we can accomplish, explore, understand, and create with what is inside of us. Yoga stems from the mind and the spirit. It acts as the narrator of the story of what our bodies can do. We tell it to move, this way and that, and we are then able to push through the boundaries we put in place for ourselves. At Limber Tree, it all starts with the minds that walk through the door. Every individual has a different story, a different body, and a different soul that is unique. The personal journey that we all are on in yoga is completely different from the person next to us. Sharli has been on her journey for over ten years and is still learning, discovering, and mastering every single day.

Sharli began practicing yoga at the YMCA as a trial run to get in a workout, to deal with some physical pain, and to connect with her own mind. Yoga quickly turned into something that would change her life from there on out as she learned more about herself.

"I started yoga as a way to cope with some sciatic nerve pain and like anyone else, I was dealing with other challenges. Before I found out that yoga was going to be way I managed things, I turned to substances that created an imbalance in my life. I was using these things as a way to hide. I didn't want to explore why because it was a scary place to go. I was in a haze and I realized that the choices I was making weren't serving me. They were blocking a need to grow in my body and mind. Yoga helped me to maneuver out of those tendencies and into a place where I could continuously grow."

Her instructor at the YMCA was an inspiration to Sharli. She carried herself with the calmness and grace that she radiated. Sharli wanted to match that inner harmony within her own mind. Though the actual movement of yoga was something that she loved, the peace that her instructor taught was what stood out to her the most. As Sharli's practice became a more vital part of her life, she began to understand the benefits of yoga and how it would help her and others. The gym, however, didn't hold that "rolling out the mat" feeling that Sharli enjoyed most. The place that she imagined didn't exist in Billings, Montana quite yet.

"The YMCA did an amazing job with their yoga. They got me really into it and helped me a ton. I just knew that the energy I was looking for didn't exist at the gym. I love energetic spaces. I think practicing in a place of peace is really important." She smiled. "So I created this! It's a space where people can freely experience yoga."

Sharli took advantage of the idea that Billings needed a peaceful space where the mind could be free from the distractions of a gym and the concepts of a workout. The focus of Limber Tree was tied to the mind, the body, and the spirit. She wanted to combine them into one being during our practice. Yoga allows us to understand all three and become aware of each one. Once we start to learn our bodies and who we are as a complete being, we start to become more aware of our movements. When we move we can tune into the capabilities we have and the way we are built inside and out. We can tap into ourselves and see what we can do rather than honing in on just the body.

"Nothing is more important than the other. I think of it as a trinity: mind, body, and spirit. It all connects with one another but some only focus on the physical part of it. The ego gets in the way of the growth of the mind which can hinder the physical growth in the end. It's all intertwined. However, I think the physical benefit is just a bonus. It really does start with the mind."

We tend to put our mind second to our bodies when it comes to an activity. That's because anything that involves movement obviously involves our bodies. The word 'yoga' is said and we often picture someone in a pose. Of course, we use our minds for most everything we do. Yoga just gives us the time and place to give everything about ourselves what it needs with an emphasis on balancing 'the trinity'. Without the mind, we don't know our bodies. That can hold us back when we don't challenge ourselves enough but we might cross a line that we didn't know was even there. If we aren't acquainted with all aspects of ourselves, how are we supposed to know what we can and can't do? More often than not, the mind is what we focus on the least. Sharli learned this when she pushed herself a little too far during her practice.

"I injured myself. I pushed my body too far. Why was I wanting so much to get into these poses that weren't good for my body? Well, I figured out I wanted to impress people. Once I figured that out, I needed to know why I felt the need to do that. It all just leads to figuring out who you are physically and on the inside."

The power that our thoughts have over us is dramatic. In yoga, when we step onto our mats with a clouded mind, we can't seem to find balance or focus. A handstand will seem impossible if our thoughts tell us that it is out of reach. The same goes for our bodies. If we aren't aware of the parameters of what our bodies can accomplish than we can end up not reaching our full potential or in Sharli's case, injuring ourselves.

"It wasn't about the things I was doing with my body. It was about learning my body more than anything else. It was a good thing that I injured myself. It didn't feel good at the time but it allowed me to learn more."

This is what Limber Tree is made of. The practice of yoga allows us to delve deeper into ourselves so we can push, calm our body and mind, breathe, feel the burn, release, grab on, be amazed and excited, absorb what we feel, undergo discomfort, play. All of it. Limber Tree was created for people to learn and start a journey unique to themselves starting with the mind.

"EVERY SINGLE TIME I TEACH A CLASS I'M REMINDED WHY I CREATED THIS PLACE AND WHY IT NEEDS TO BE HERE. IF I CAN JUST CHANGE ONE PERSON'S DAY THEN IT'S WORTH IT. IF LIMBER TREE CAN BETTER SOMEONE FROM THE INSIDE IT WILL CHANGE HOW THEY PERCEIVE EVERYTHING ELSE ON THE OUTSIDE."