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When I lived in Chicago, I would often stop by the world-renowned Art Institute just to stare for awhile at Marc Chagall’s stained glass windows. What was it about those windows that so captured me? How could I dissect the experience to describe its power: was it the colours of the glass, the shapes, the size, the figures, the sun over the city?

Of course, attempting to take apart the magic of art is futile. Breaking it down only makes it lose its power.

It turns out our lives are much the same. We are made of so many different parts, yet we are somehow more than the sum of them.

Many of us come to yoga hoping to “fix” one part of ourselves. We want to improve our physical health, or train our minds, or fix our relationships with others. But the truth is that who we are—our spirit and essence—is all one magical phenomenon. And if we want to grow, we have to approach our life as the whole that it is.

How do you do that? You start by being completely honest with yourself, by examining all the pieces of your life—even the uncomfortable ones—and recognising what needs attention.

And then, one day at a time, with patience and infinite forgiveness, you apply what you’ve begun to learn through yoga—seeking the truth, stepping out of your comfort zone, shifting your vision, relaxing with what is—to every aspect of your life.

Just like art, much of our magic comes from harmony. By beginning each yoga practice chanting “om”, we are able to experience a moment of harmony with our body and our mind, harmony with each other, and harmony with something larger than ourselves.

The goal is to expand that sense of harmony, every day, in our relationship with ourselves, with those around us, and with the broader world. The goal, as Baron Baptiste says, “is to make peace with all the tendrils and conflicts of your life, both inside, and out, weaving the strands together into your own spiritual coat of many colors.”

As Shakespeare understood, “Things won are done; joy’s soul lies in the doing.”

It’s never too late to begin. You are always ready and always worthy, just as you are. As the poet Danna Faulds wrote:

Now is the only time you have to be whole.
Now is the sole moment that exists to live in the light of your true Self.
Perfection is not a prerequisite for anything buy pain.
Please, oh, please, don’t continue to believe in your disbelief.
This is the day of your awakening.

Ellie Norton is a 2018 Lumi 200-hour Teacher Training graduate and a passionate yogi and writer.  You can read more of her reflections on her blog, What I Learned This Week.

The post Understand that the Whole is the Goal appeared first on Lumi Power Yoga.

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Lumi Power Yoga by Barb Durand - 1w ago

Our many-faceted selves love to contradict each other. One part of us is always striving towards that goal, dreaming about getting the promotion, having the perfect body, finally “making it”. We forget, though, just how fleeting success feels. When we finally get what we want, our euphoria lasts for a day, maybe a week, and then we’re right back where we started, chasing the next goal. Sometimes we push ourselves so hard that all we feel when we succeed is relief.

That’s because a larger part of us actually gets a lot more pleasure from the small steps we take toward a goal. Every little movement along the path brings joy in a way that reaching the end never will. In other words, it really is about the journey, not the destination.

When people take part in Lumi’s 40 Days to Personal Revolution programme, their names are written on a massive poster in the studio. Every day that they practice yoga, they get to put a sticker next to their name. If you have participated, or are participating, in 40 Days, you know the satisfaction of putting on that sticker. And while it feels amazing to finally see all 40 stickers on the board, there’s no denying it’s a satisfaction of a different kind, one that is in fact no greater than what came each day you showed up on your mat.

Of course, the journey is difficult. If you want to grow, to learn anything new, you have to be willing to fail a lot along the way. You have to know there will be days when you drag yourself onto your mat, when you drag yourself through your practice, when you feel lost. You have to trust that every day is making you stronger.

The first time I went to a 40 Days meeting, I felt incredibly awkward, certain I’d never be comfortable fully sharing my personal experiences. But I just kept showing up. I stumbled over my words, kept my thoughts to myself sometimes when I wished I hadn’t, but every week I let go just a little bit more.

Eventually, I did have the courage to stand up and speak. But I know I needed each slightly uncomfortable step to get there, and I know I have many more ahead. I even know that perhaps I will never “arrive”, that it will never feel entirely natural to express myself off the page. But I will continue to try, and to savour the journey.

There will always be that part of us that wants to be the best, to have it all, and it will always tempted by the shortcut. We will want to read that one book that will solve all our problems, to take that magic pill that will make all our dreams come true. But what would we do if they did?

We would still need to learn how to get through, and appreciate, each day in front of us. And that we can do only by committing ourselves to the process anew, every day.

As Shakespeare understood, “Things won are done; joy’s soul lies in the doing.”

Ellie Norton is a 2018 Lumi 200-hour Teacher Training graduate and a passionate yogi and writer.  You can read more of her reflections on her blog, What I Learned This Week.

The post Don’t Rush the Process appeared first on Lumi Power Yoga.

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Lumi Power Yoga by Barb Durand - 1w ago

Often we think that in order to move forward, we have to add something to our lives, to do something. But all we truly need to do is let go of what’s already there, holding us back.

A couple years ago, a single friend of mine was desperate to find a good relationship. She went on dates multiple times a week, trying every dating app, spending a fortune on making sure her hair, nails, and outfit were always perfect. The men she met would often initially seem promising, but would invariably disappear after a few weeks, never to be heard from again.

Another friend suggested that, instead of trying to do more, our friend stop dating for a while and instead focus on doing what made her feel happy. Eventually, she agreed, signing up to run a marathon and spending the summer training solo. We watched her grow strong and confident. We watched as one day, near the end of her training, she decided to go on a long run with a running group. And there, hair a mess, no make-up on, simply doing what she loved, she met a guy who also loved running.

My friend found what she had been looking for, yet at the same time she realised that she had gained so much more just by letting go. She had learned how to be comfortable in her own skin. She had removed the rocks of what she “should” do, how she “should” be, that had been blocking her path to happiness being the person that had always been there, underneath.

We spend much of our lives accumulating those rocks, listening to teachers, parents, and friends who tell us that we have to do things in a certain way, that our paths are limited, that our goals should be apparent. With these words, we build a limited space for ourselves, shaping our lives within its boundaries.

But yoga, meditation, and self-inquiry give us the power to see those boundaries—not as reality, but as something we created by believing in them. And they give us the power to see that, just as we built the walls around us, we can tear them down.

It’s never too late to begin to observe where you are stuck in your body, stuck in your mind, and stuck in your actions. It’s never too late to learn how to simply relax with, and accept, that stuckness. And it’s never too late to appreciate that just as you have the power to hold on, you have the power to let go.

Your true and uninhibited self is always there, waiting for you. All you have to do is clear the path to meet it. After all, “You are confined only by the walls you build yourself.”

Ellie Norton is a 2018 Lumi 200-hour Teacher Training graduate and a passionate yogi and writer.  You can read more of her reflections on her blog, What I Learned This Week.

The post Remove The Rocks appeared first on Lumi Power Yoga.

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Lumi Power Yoga by Barb Durand - 1w ago

You’ve probably heard the term neuroplasticity. It’s our brain’s ability to change, to form new connections and create new pathways, throughout our lives. Think about the route you take home from work every day. You probably feel like you could walk it with your eyes closed. Switching routes would feel weird, but it wouldn’t be long until you got used to it. Your “new” path would eventually become just as familiar.

Our brain works in much the same way. If you’ve ever learned to play a musical instrument or speak another language, you’ve experienced first-hand a massive brain change. At first, the notes or words on the page looked like an unintelligible jumble. But after months, years, of study and repetition, your brain learned how to see those notes or words in a whole new way. What was once scribble became music; what was once gobbledegook became Russian.

And your brain’s ability to change isn’t limited to learning new skills. Consider whether you have a default reaction to disappointment or failure. It could be anger, frustration, or sadness. But it doesn’t have to be. You can learn to shift your vision. Just as black dots became music, so can a setback become an opportunity, a stepping stone, or dodged bullet.

I recently attended a workshop led by an experienced yoga teacher who exuded confidence, ease, and kindness. My natural reaction was to compare myself to her, to think, I’ll never be that comfortable in my own skin in front of other people. (Unsurprisingly, my “I’m not good enough” brain pathway is well-trodden.) But when I recognised this thought, I realised I didn’t have to have it. I could start to create a new pathway.

So I chose instead to see the teacher’s confidence as an inspiration, something she had accomplished and something I could aspire to accomplish. When I taught my own yoga class later that evening, I imagined I was just as comfortable and capable. I accepted that, just like learning how to speak Russian, making that confidence second nature was going to take a lot of practice. And I realised that I had the power to see myself as good enough after all.

But were do you begin when you want to shift your vision? The most important step is to recognise the patterns and perspectives you already have—your default reactions and ways of seeing things. And to do that, you must first learn to pause. In the beginning, that pause will only come after you react, in reflection. Eventually, it will be when you are on the precipice of reacting. You will take a deep breath in, stop, and ask yourself, how am I seeing this situation?

Then you must decide—what vision do you want to have? Do you want to see the possibility rather than the limitations in yourself and those around you? Do you want to see what we all have in common rather than what divides us? As Mastin Kipp wrote, “If you choose to see everything as a miracle, then where you right now is perfect.” And remember, you always have that choice.

Ellie Norton is a 2018 Lumi 200-hour Teacher Training graduate and a passionate yogi and writer.  You can read more of her reflections on her blog, What I Learned This Week.

The post Shift Your Vision appeared first on Lumi Power Yoga.

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A study recently showed that most people around the world who have the ability to control the temperature in their homes set their thermostats to roughly the same temperature as that found in the natural environment in eastern Africa, where all human life is believed to have originated. It’s that temperature (around 20 degrees) where both our bodies and our social selves feel most comfortable.

But think of all the incredible things humans can do, and have done, outside of that comfort zone. A few have walked across Antarctica, traveled to the moon. Thousands have run 156 miles across the Sahara in the Marathon des sables. Even more have climbed to the highest peaks or crawled to the greatest depths of the earth.

Outside of our comfort zone is where we discover what we’re truly capable of.

Fortunately, you don’t have to brave sub-zero or over-35 degree temperatures to step out of your comfort zone. In your day-to-day life, your comfort zone is simply the default you go back to, again and again, because it feels safe. In yoga, if you don’t like being seen while you practice, your comfort zone is the back of the room. At your job, if speaking in front of people makes your stomach do somersaults, your comfort zone is writing, not presenting, the reports.

Your comfort zone is what is familiar. But what is familiar is necessarily limited. Your comfort zone is what you tell yourself you can do. But it’s not what you can actually do.

So how do you get out? Funnily enough, the hardest part is realising you’re there in the first place. Start by slowly testing out the edges, asking yourself at every turn, why I am doing things this way? If the answer is that you’re afraid to try another way, because what would people think, or it doesn’t come naturally, or you’re probably not good enough, then pause. That’s the edge. And that’s when you need to take the next step.

In that moment, when you find yourself on the precipice—wondering whether to set your mat in the front of the room, raise your hand, or say hello to someone new—ask yourself, what’s the worst thing that could happen? Almost invariably, the answer will be not doing it.

Last year, my 64-year-old father left the United States for the first time in his life, traveling to visit me in Paris. As we stood at the top of Montmartre, looking down over the city of light, he had tears in his eyes. He told me that the reason he’d never left home is that he was afraid it would make his own life in our small, rural town seem inadequate.

But what he found when he finally took that step was a whole new kind of beauty, and a new way to see and appreciate the beauty of his home. Letting go didn’t make him fall, it let him fly.

Ellie Norton is a 2018 Lumi 200-hour Teacher Training graduate and a passionate yogi and writer.  You can read more of her reflections on her blog, What I Learned This Week.

The post Step Out of Your Comfort Zone appeared first on Lumi Power Yoga.

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Lumi Power Yoga by Barb Durand - 2w ago

We all have default reactions—the way we respond to people, the way we hold ourselves in a room, the way we deal with challenges. If our life is a chain of those default reactions, then we also have a default future—what will come to pass if we keep living in default mode, drifting.

If you keep living your life exactly as you are living it now, where will you be in 10 years? Who will you be?

You may like the answer. You may be drifting in the right direction. But if you don’t, it’s ok. Just remember that you always have the power to get where you want to go, to be who you want to be—if you’re willing to disrupt the drift.

Airplanes are actually off-course 90 percent of the time. But almost all of them arrive at the right destination. This is thanks to ongoing course correction. Every time the plane veers away from its flight coordinates, it simply makes a small corrective movement to get back on the right path.

Without course correction, the worst can happen. In 1979, a plane carrying 257 people took off from New Zealand on its way to Antarctica. But the plane’s flight coordinates were off by two degrees. As it approached Antarctica, the coordinates put it in the path of Mount Erebus, an active volcano. The snow on the volcano blended with the clouds, and the pilots couldn’t see it. A warning sounded, but it was too late—the plane crashed.

Living your life in default mode can be like that. If you always ignore that call from your parents, it won’t take long before you drift apart. In your default future, your parents may no longer be here, and you may be filled with regret for the relationship you never had. If you reach for a packet of crisps every time you’re feeling hungry, it won’t take long before your body changes. In your default future, you may not be able to enjoy the freedom of movement, or the health, you’d imagined.

Disrupting the drift means engaging in your own form of course-correction. Fortunately, as with airplanes, your corrections don’t need to be drastic. They can be small, daily actions—like picking up the phone, or reaching for an apple. It doesn’t mean you can’t ever screen calls, or ever have crisps. It just means understanding that if that’s all you do, you may not end up at the destination you’re seeking.

You can explore this on your yoga mat too. Notice if you always avoid a certain pose, or always favor one side. You might even have suffered from an injury years ago but still practice as if you’re protecting yourself. If you keep practicing in this default mode, you might reach a plateau. You’ll certainly never discover what you’re really capable of. But just by taking a moment to pause and see how you’re drifting, you can choose to disrupt the drift.

For at the end of the day, it’s up to you: “We either live with intention or exist by default.”

Ellie Norton is a 2018 Lumi 200-hour Teacher Training graduate and a passionate yogi and writer.  You can read more of her reflections on her blog, What I Learned This Week.

The post Disrupt the Drift appeared first on Lumi Power Yoga.

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We all have the ability to bring our attention or awareness to certain things. Often it’s by using our senses—by looking, tasting, or touching. Often it’s by directing our thoughts—by remembering, analysing, or obsessing.

Wherever we bring attention, we also bring energy and power. This is easy to observe on your yoga mat. Notice how focusing on your feet actually grounds you down. Notice how focusing on your hands sends energy upwards, lifting your body and your spirit.

The same is true for your thoughts and emotions. If you take the time to write down five things you’re grateful for, your sense of gratitude grows stronger. If you keep going back to the moment someone insulted you on the tube, your anger deepens.

We’re programmed to focus on things that hurt or scare us, things that our lizard brains sense as a threat. But we have evolved—there’s more to us than that. We have the power not to dwell on the negative, the power to turn our attention elsewhere.

Imagine the sound of your child crying. The noise itself immediately captures your attention, pulls you in. And your natural inclination is to stop it, to stop the distress—to control the situation. It’s a problem, and you have to fix it. But the more you try and it doesn’t go away, the more frustrated you get, and the bigger the problem seems. Pretty soon, all you see when you look at your child is a problem. Even if she stops crying this time, next time you hear the sound you jump back to that state of distress, and your frustration becomes even more infused with energy. It’s a cycle, one that allows what starts as a simple reaction to take over your life.

But you have a choice. What if, instead of focusing on the problem, you focused simply on being present? On listening to your child crying, being with her, and sensing what she might need. It may be there’s nothing you can do, except be there. But by focusing on being present, you create an energy of presence, and you become able to appreciate that moment with your child, just as it is.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t feel frustration. It just means that you have the power not to let it control you. The truth of who you are and how you want to live your life is always stronger than the forces that would pull you away from that center. Your reactions are not who you are. And if you acknowledge them, but turn your focus to your center, your center is what will strengthen, and you will be free to rest in a sense of larger possibility and presence.

So think about what you want most deeply in your life. Is it connection with others? Well the next time you interact with someone—anyone—focus on making it an opportunity to connect. You can ignore the barista making your coffee because you’re still steaming about the person who insulted you on the tube, or you can come into the present moment and ask her how her day is going. When you focus on connection, your energy will create it, and make it grow.

Ellie Norton is a 2018 Lumi 200-hour Teacher Training graduate and a passionate yogi and writer.  You can read more of her reflections on her blog, What I Learned This Week.

The post Where Focus Goes, Energy Flows appeared first on Lumi Power Yoga.

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Lumi Power Yoga by Barb Durand - 4M ago

In the world we live in, being still is looked down upon. How busy you are has become a marker of your success. Multi-tasking, juggling, and occasional double-booking are expected. The idea of stopping just to be still seems almost inconceivable. Why stop, when you could be achieving something else?

But what are you afraid would happen if you did stop? If, for example, you woke up ten minutes early to sit and meditate. It wouldn’t affect your productivity, but would it be uncomfortable? Would it allow those thoughts in the back of your mind to start to come out? Because you’re doing amazing at keeping all those balls in the air, but deep down, how are you really feeling?

Often, staying busy is a way of running away, of hiding from the truth. In the moment, it makes us feel like we’ve accomplished something, like we’re worthy. But every moment is inevitably followed by another, when the satisfaction of crossing one thing off the list is replaced by the anxiety of starting the next, and the deeper knowledge that the list will never be complete.

When you pause, you allow yourself to listen to what’s really going on. You give yourself the chance to be honest, to consider how you’re living your life—the ways you treat others and yourself, the ways you react in stressful situations, the ways you spend your days. As Ram Das said, “the quieter you become, the more you can hear.”

What you find might be uncomfortable at first, but only when you find it will you have the opportunity to make a choice—to begin to align your actions with who you truly want to be. Meditation means “remembering”. Remembering to come back to your breath. Remembering to come back to how you feel. Remembering what works and is best for you. Remembering to listen to and follow your truth.

And you don’t have to sit down for formal meditation to find stillness. You can start on your yoga mat, in any pose. Notice that even there it’s often hard to stop—when a pose gets uncomfortable, you shift, your eyes dart from your hand to your foot to the ceiling, you do anything to distract yourself from the feeling in your body. But also notice that when you do stop, when you focus your eyes on one point, deepen your breath, and settle into the pose, only then can you hear what your body really needs—and only then do you find the possibility of true expansion.

The more you know the feeling of stillness and the truth it brings you, the more you can come back to it even in the midst of the daily whirlwind. When you find yourself overwhelmed, swept up in the stress of planning, or reaching to the nearest comforting thing to help you forget, just pause. Take a breath, come back into your body, find a moment of stillness, and remember. Then you can take your next step from your heart.

It can be helpful to have an anchor, or a reminder. I often wear a beautiful ring my sister gave me. When I look at it, I think of her poise and wisdom. And whatever I’m doing, I try to recenter, to come back to myself. This morning, I was trying to finish up several important emails. My partner was eating breakfast, and I kept getting annoyed that he was interrupting me. Then I looked down and reminded myself to pause. I remembered how little time I get to spend with him, and how much he means to me. So instead of pushing him away, I joined him for breakfast. It took me away from my emails for ten minutes, but it made my morning.

It’s almost as if our default is to be underwater. When we learn to find stillness, we learn to stick our head up above the waves. And as our ability to drop into stillness grows, we realise we are floating through even the darkest of storms.

To choose stillness is not to be “unproductive”—it is the greatest gift you can give yourself.

The post Be Still and Know appeared first on Lumi Power Yoga.

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Lumi Power Yoga by Barb Durand - 4M ago

“How can I not be true to myself”, you ask? “I’m me.” Yet haven’t you ever done something that felt good or easy in the moment, but deep down you knew wasn’t really what you wanted? Something that felt wrong not because someone else told you it was wrong, but because it went against something which, in your core, you knew to be right?

Being true to yourself means listening for and to that something in your core—that voice illuminating the truth. Of course, it’s often hard to hear. There are so many things we ‘want’ in our lives that it’s easy for the short-term wants to drown out our deeper needs. In each moment, we crave what is easy and comfortable. Our immediate desire to satisfy a craving, or please someone, or quit something difficult often seems so pressing that we don’t listen any deeper.

Yet if we were to pause and ask ourselves what we truly want, who we want to be, we might find something bigger—a desire to challenge ourselves, to take care of ourselves, to grow.

Of course, once we hear that voice, we have to trust it, to believe and honour what it’s telling us. Then we have to act. And that is the hardest part.

Fortunately, every moment of your yoga practice is an opportunity to be true to yourself. In down dog, your teacher might be telling you to bring your hands shoulder-width apart. And everyone around you might have their hands shoulder-width apart. But if your shoulders feel pinched, remember that you are not necessarily most people—and you don’t need their approval, or your teacher’s approval, to know and do what your body needs. So if it’s telling you to widen your hands, widen them. You might not look like anyone else, but you’ll feel like yourself.

And when you look around again, remember that each person around you is on a different path, in a different body. You can appreciate the expression of their truths, but only you can express your own. That’s why the sound of “om” is so beautiful. It’s everyone speaking in their own voice—no one the same, but all committed to the truth.

So listen to that sound, and carry it with you off your mat. When the crowd is yelling in one pitch, remember that you have the right to speak in another. And while going against the grain may feel awkward or uncomfortable in the moment, it will never match the deep satisfaction of feeling truly comfortable in your own skin, of doing what you know is right.

Remember, too, that being true to yourself may mean disagreeing with others, but it doesn’t mean disregarding them. Your truth may be to treat everyone with respect—yet the highest form of respect is not to please others, but to be fully honest with them. As Shakespeare wrote in full, “This above all, to your own self be true, And it must follow, as the night follows the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” You respect others by respecting yourself.

The post Be True To Yourself appeared first on Lumi Power Yoga.

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Lumi Power Yoga by Barb Durand - 4M ago

When I was younger, I couldn’t catch a ball to save my life. Every time I saw the ball coming towards me, I panicked. I either so badly wanted to catch it that I tried too hard and couldn’t actually focus on catching it, or I was convinced I’d never catch it anyway, so didn’t really try at all. Only many years later did someone give me a piece of advice that seems to universally apply: just take a breath and focus on the ball.

It sounds so simple, and yet it can be so difficult. We often encounter the same thing on our yoga mats. We dread a particular pose in the sequence. And when the time comes to do it, we either struggle, straining and frustrating ourselves (and finding only strain and frustration in the pose), or we just do the pose half-heartedly, believing it’s not really possible for us anyway.

But what if we just took a breath and focused on our bodies? If instead of forcing or avoiding the pose, we relaxed into it? It is in those moments, when we let go of our thoughts and just stay with each inhale and exhale, noticing our muscles, our discomfort, our boundaries, that we realise we are truly in the pose.

Paradoxically, it is when we surrender that we find our power.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we can always just shift from being tense to being immediately relaxed. It’s ok to ease our way into it. Our bodies tighten for a reason. We have boundaries for a reason—to protect ourselves from harm. But often our bodies, and we, are overly cautious. We have to be reassured that we’re not going to fall off a cliff before we can take a step forward. But if we show our bodies and ourselves that we’re all right when we let go a little bit, soon we’ll find we can let go a lot.

This is wonderfully visible in almost any forward fold. When we first reach toward our toes, a cell in our hamstrings sends an alarm to our brain, signaling that we might be in danger of tearing our muscles. Our brain responds by making us feel pain, encouraging us to stop. But if we relax for a moment, then stretch a little further, our cautious little hamstring-protector cell sees that we’re actually ok—no tears! So it gives the go-ahead for us to go a little deeper. And if we do this a few more times, allowing our bodies to slowly relax into the pose, soon we’re surprised to find our hands on the ground.

As with most everything we learn from yoga, this is true not only when it comes to touching our toes, but in doing anything that we’re afraid of, anything that takes us outside of our comfort zone. When we encounter a challenge in our lives, it’s natural either to back away or to try to muscle our way through. But sooner or later we realise that both just make us more stuck. To get unstuck, we can only face the challenge, breathe, and take a small step forward. Then do it again. After all, as John Kabat-Zinn said, “You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf.”

The post Relax With What Is appeared first on Lumi Power Yoga.

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