Ever feel like you’re a ball of energy trapped into many boxes? From our past experiences, actions, and the people we live with, we lay upon the body layers of tension, and Dis-EASE. Through our yoga practice, we begin to take off these layers, one by one. This is how yoga works to keep us free from DIS-ease. This happens when we surrender, find optimal alignment, and use our breath to release these coverings. These coverings affect our posture, our health, and most of all, our wellbeing.
What are some things that can affect your posture, or the way you carry yourself?
Who we know…..we can copy our friends postures, even family members..
What we do….if we favor one side of the body, due to injuries, or say, playing a violin
Yoga!! What we do on the right, we do on the left, this balances the body, also back bending, forward bending, and side bending all even out the body.
Spiritual connection…..yes, if we meditate, or pray, this affects our posture in a good way
So, it’s time…..it’s time to take off that huge snow suit that you can’t walk in. It’s time to gently peel away the layers of fear, doubt, and worry. This is no easy task, but yoga works when done every day, with effort and ease, consistency, and JOY!
Don’t believe me? Try the March Yoga Challenge…..31 days for 31$. Go ahead, come every day, and tell me you don’t feel better after 31 days of consistent practice.
Our physical yoga practice is a great metaphor for how we show up in the world and how the world shows up in our lives, or you could say, how you do one thing, is how you do EVERYTHING. A couple of weeks ago, my 2 boys exchanged some heated words. Because they work together, it’s sometimes hit or miss, but in the end, they always love each other. I noticed how I was in that moment.
My oldest came in the house, dropped the baby in my arms, and went to go find the youngest, and have a “talking”. During the argument, I noticed that I just “checked out”, and went to the other room, away from the conflict, because that is what I do. In yoga texts, philosophy, they talk about this, because I’m guessing a fair amount of us do it. What they talk about, is stopping violence with loving effort. That means stepping in, and actually stopping the person who is being the most confrontational, and in that moment, if you can do it without being violent yourself, a tremendously good seed will be planted in your mind; that stops violence from happening around you permanently. Yes, what that means is this:
“in your presence all violence will cease”.
Can you imagine a better world that this? I cannot. After everything settled down, apologies were made, I noticed my response. When I was holding my granddaughter in the heat of the argument, she started crying, which made me try and comfort her. Anyone of us would do the same, and offer hugs, especially to little ones who are upset. What would have stopped the strong words immediately, would have been my granddaughter, because everyone has a soft spot for her. Instead of running away (my typical response) I should have walked in with the baby, and believe me, those boys would have stopped fighting immediately.
The yoga practice we do off the mat can be more important than the time on our mat. If we can notice our behavior, and then try to change our thought patterns, we are truly making excellent strides in the practice of yoga; a body that is free from dis-ease. It’s not easy, it takes a humble heart of noticing what you are doing, as you are doing it. Looking at past mistakes, and try to make things better the next time around. At first you just have to recognize your behavior. That is a huge effort. (We all want to think we are above everything, and don’t need to change a thing about ourselves!). After recognizing the way you are, you can visualize a different ending scenario. This helps when this argument happens again. If you don’t recognize how you are “feeding” this energy, it will happen over and over again, until you “get it” or understand this is for you to change about yourself.
This is how we change our world around us. This is our yoga practice on and off the mat. In our yoga practice are we being kind to ourselves?
Reduce stress hormones and increase “well being” hormones
Lowers blood pressure
Balances the immune system
Hugging someone for 20 seconds will put the body and brain in balance
Before Covid, touch was paramount in the classes I taught. A light touch here, can awaken the body part I’m trying to get to move. A nudge there can help the student feel and activate that muscle, and everyone loves a low back release from someone pressing on your sacrum in downward dog.
But what about the touch your partner gives you? Do you feel like you need more? I think most of us do. Touch connects us to each other, and promotes a strong bond of loving communication.
I will be going back to my old way of teaching and communicating the yoga, through demo’s, sight, using my voice and my body to adjust the asana. I believe though touch that the student understands so much more of the energy of the asana or posture, and can avoid pitfalls of pain in the long run.
Come and Learn a new way to communicate with your partner in our Thai Yoga Massage workshop. In Thai yoga you use a pressing down technique with your palms, as well as other methods to promote health to your partner. It’s incredibly relaxing technique that you can take home and practice with each other.
One evening, a Native American grandmother sat around the crackle of the village fire telling stories to the young.
“There is a battle going on inside every human. Including you. It’s a battle of two wolves — a dark and a light wolf. The dark wolf represents envy, arrogance, anxiety, ego, inferiority, regret, greed, self-pity, guilt, false pride, fear, pain, anger, jealousy, rage; the light wolf represents love, peace, humility, kindness, serenity, generosity, trust, tranquility, compassion, empathy, joy, gratitude.”
The grandmother sips her tea and turns silent, waiting for one of the wide-eyed kids to take the bait.
One finally does. “Grandma, which wolf wins?”
The Grandmother responds, “Whichever one you choose to feed.”
At first when you come to yoga, you may be unaware of the dark places that are in your body. But just as much as yoga brings out the light, happy, carefree moments, it also highlights the dark; sadness, loss, anger. This becomes the work of yoga; to get rid of the dark, or at least dim the dark.
What separates us, and really transforms us is our CHOICES. We CHOOSE to eat healthy, because great food creates health in our body. We CHOOSE to practice yoga, because the practice makes us feel good in our body. We CHOOSE to work because we have gifts to contribute to others, and yes, money is a side benefit. We CHOOSE to spend time with family and friends, because our mental health depends on healthy interactions.
All of these are important things to CHOOSE, but did you know that near the top of your CHOICES should be a yoga practice? And WHY?? Yoga practice begins to bring more light in our bodies, thoughts and minds, so that dark CHOICES cannot rule our thoughts. Everyone knows that sitting down binge eating and watching leads to unwanted pounds, and feeling off.
Sometimes despite our best efforts, we CHOOSE to travel down the dark path. We blame the family, weather, or others for feeling down or blue. Luckily, for some of us, it is short lived until we snap out of that way of thinking. Just this morning I woke up, and started to run down the things I had to do, and WOKE up, made the change into Gratitude. I can and do CHOOSE my thoughts, and good thoughts come easier with yoga practice. As I started my day with Gratitude thoughts, my body lightened up, and gave me fuel for all of those things I had to do.
I realize now that before Christmas I was also letting my thoughts travel in the wrong direction. It’s no surprise that I got a head cold. I also took a week off of yoga practice. When I came back I had some shoulder pain and stiffness. Thank God for all the years of consistent practice I had built up, because within 2 practices the pain was gone. See, the dark travels and tries to settle somewhere in your being: your joints, heart, organs. If you shoo it out of one area, it might settle somewhere else, until finally with consistent yoga the dark finally gives up trying to find a home in you. Despite darkness trying to get into your mind, or your body, you feel light.
I’m finding there are levels to our light/dark ratios. When you bump your head on the next spiritual level, more darkness comes in. I think the saying goes, “new level? new devil”.
Thank God there are yogi’s that came before us, and gave us tips, and guidelines on how to live and banish the dark. It’s important not only to do the yoga physically, but to sit down and learn the philosophy behind the poses. That is where change really happens, when we live the yoga off our mat as well.
Did you know that right now, other people in your life are waiting for you to shine your light brighter? We are all on a “spiritual ladder”, with people higher than us, and people lower than us. We are all interdependent on each other’s help. Some are waiting for us to show up, so we make that connection, share our stories, and evolve higher.
For instance, I have taught a lot of people a lot of yoga throughout the years. Occasionally I will hear back from my students. One such student always joked around and called herself a “human ironing board”, she was so stiff. We practiced yoga together for probably 3-4 years, and she even followed me to my house when we started practicing there. Tearfully, we said a good bye, when they decided to move down to Florida. We still kept in contact, through email, and she said I really miss my classes, so I urged her to go and find herself some other yoga classes. Months went by, and life passes quickly enough. Some time ago I heard back from her. She did indeed find another studio, and took their teacher training, and now she is teaching yoga! Little did I know that I had influenced her to take this journey.
You see, we really don’t know how our lives touch others. (btw….love the movie, “It’s a wonderful life”, because it reminds us of this fact!). Getting back to my first paragraph, what really holds us back in moving forward is fear. In our mind, we set limitations, unfounded boundaries, and false information to “us”, until we start to believe those things we are not. Our yoga practice starts to erase that “false information”.
Our life is full of potential, and sometimes, we just need to take the plunge. Walk into that yoga studio. Make that speech in front of others. Go back to school. Make that shift. Do what scares you, or for some of us, gives us a chill down our back. Other people are just waiting for you to “show up, and be your own hero” to help them!
I wish I could set down with my younger self for a conservation. It would go something like this…..
Wise self: “You know, Paula, you seem a little short tempered, how about doing something good for yourself?”
Younger self: “When I leave the husband and kids, I feel so guilty about the time being gone.”
Wise Self: Having a healthy body, mind and spirit is a gift to others, because you have more love to spread around”.
Younger self: “Really?, it seems like that wouldn’t be the case. Maybe I will sign up for that yoga session, and really stick to it. That made me feel the best I have felt in a long time.”
Wise Self: “Taking care of yourself, is really the ultimate love you can share among family. Taking the time for self-care says I love you enough to want to be healthy for you and me. Taking time for yourself will also make you really present the times you are with your loved ones, instead of wishing you were somewhere else.”
I started my yoga career when my youngest was in kindergarten. And yes, it is so true; the more I did yoga the more energy I had for everyone, and everything on my plate. That has helped my practice stay consistent. Doing the yoga for them, helped me on the days where it was hard to start practice by myself.
You just need to start doing yoga until it becomes something very regular; like brushing your teeth. You wouldn’t dream of going out with a dirty mouth, just like your day is not complete without some yoga in it. You notice the days you do yoga, there is more of an ease, a flow, and a sense of gratitude for your practice. You wouldn’t know how this would feel when you only do yoga once or twice a week.
Our body is our temple. It is up to us to love it, and take care of it. It’s the only one we have, so it’s vital to keep it strong, flexible, and healthy. Yoga will do that.
Give yourself the ultimate gift of health this year. The Gift of yoga everyday. You will not regret or look back the time spend on your mat.
This gift of yoga comes unannounced, and quietly comes into your mind, body and heart without fanfare or bells and whistles. It is not a particular pose, like finally nailing your handstand. It doesn’t come from a particular teacher, nor a particular class or even a particular yoga center. It comes from practicing yoga, day in and day out. It is born of struggles, disappointment, pain, and wanting to give up, because you know, life; you are busy. But something inside of you persists, practices and doesn’t stop. That someone or something inside of you that yearns for light, 24/7; that sees a bigger picture than strength or flexibility combined, that sees you for you, how you really are, what and who you are.
As I woke up this morning, life’s troubles stared me right back in the face, with a big smirk. Life has thrown me a 1/2/3 punch that has threatened to take me down. All that I love and cherished has been on the line. Times where I have gone into the darkest places in my mind, that I ever have. Threatening to consume, and spiral downward, I have rose up. Well, I should say the practice of yoga has lifted me up.
This is a feeling absent from your circumstances. For instance, if we have 2 weeks of solid rain, it might make you feel a little blue or down, or even big life events, such as the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, loss of a home. At times like these, when we are at the lowest of lows, it would be really difficult to see how doing some yoga poses might help you feel better. It’s at this point, even seasoned yogi’s might want to give up their practice.
The yogi’s have a special sanskrit word for this. “Ananda”. Ananda is bliss, joy that comes from these physical postures. It’s not the bliss you feel when life is going right; you have the right job, secure in your finances, secure and happy with your friends and family. But this is the bliss and joy you feel despite circumstances telling you to feel down. This joy brings tears to your eyes, it is so bright, so full, so complete.
This Ananda is within each and every one of us. This is within our grasp, and embedded in our soul. It is who we really are, when we remove all of what life has thrown our way. This is the real gift of yoga. This is why I practice, although I didn’t come to the practice looking for this.
Don’t believe me, like a real scientist, go and practice yourself. And then we you “think” you know all of what yoga is, step up your game. Go to someone who will find your tightness, or the area you are most weak in. That leads you to this path of Ananda.
After a 20+ year consistent yoga practice, I can honestly say I’m just scratching the surface of benefits the practice beholds. Nevertheless, the riches are there….
My physical health. Generally, I feel pretty great. If an ache comes up in my body, I’m usually able to work it out in yoga practice. This alone is worth keeping up the practice. I speak of this all the time, but let me tell you something of what happened lately. My family’s DNA has had its fair share of neck issues. Low thyroid, tumors on cervical discs, to name a few things. My sister has had 3 surgeries, removing tumors from the neck area, with the last surgery being quite painful and difficult to heal from. They were benign thankfully, but still needed to be removed. Six months ago, I noticed a sizeable lump on the back on my neck. I watched it come and go, and noticed that it was bigger on day’s I was feeling “off, angry, and a host of other emotions”. I buckled down in my yoga practice, and consistently did a practice revolving around the neck and shoulders. I made sure that when those emotions came, I had coping mechanisms in place, such as breath, getting out in nature, and meditation, and doing some things that filled me up from the inside. It’s been a couple of months now, and I feel no lumps back there, but I know I still have more work to do. Right now, I’m content with the fact that it looks like I’ve healed myself from a potentially, painful expensive surgery.
This is exactly how yoga works to heal us. Underneath everywhere, trapped in fascia, organs, breath are “unfelt” emotions. We hide our emotions, because we are taught as children to not cry, to not throw temper tantrums, or even discuss our feelings. At least not in our family. All of those emotions are buried in the body, but can be accessed, felt, and let go through the practices of yoga and meditation.
My mental health. Yoga practice has made a huge impact on my mental outlook. Before yoga, I can remember crying over the drop of a bucket, or a harsh word from someone. I am so much more steadfast, and less reactive than I ever was. This makes me enjoy life to its fullest degree.
I know I have work to do yet. I feel strong, capable, balanced and able to focus on the task ahead. A journey, I’m so thankful to be able to take.
Thank you all, friends, clients, and teachers of Anahata to walk on this journey together. May we all lift each other up, and feel good together!
Aerial yoga is such a wonderful practice to build strength and flexibility in the body. This picture demonstrates how to take an ordinary pose, such as pincha mayurasana, or scorpion, and use the hammock to build up strength for the final pose, unassisted, without the hammock.
When the hammock is down at the hip crease, (blue shirt) more of your weight is supported by the hammock, say about 50%. When you stretch your legs up long, (pink shirt) the fabric falls out of the hip crease to your knees; this changes the weight ratio to 20% supported in the hammock, and 80% support coming from the core, arms. Final version in the hammock is where you let the fabric wrap around your ankles, and lets you work on the flexibility part of the pose.
Pincha handstand benefits are:
* increased back strength, increased core strength, increased digestion, inversions are wonderful for calming your mind, they also develop focus, and arm strength, particularly in lower arms and wrists if doing the pose resting on lower arms. Most importantly, they allow us to play, and test our limits and beliefs on what we think about ourselves. The hammock supports our journey to awesomeness!
I have told my students, I will always practice aerial, as you use your body weight through space, it’s the ultimate core work out. It alone has has eased my back, knee pain like no other practice.
It’s also a great way to learn traditional head stand. If some of these more difficult poses seem unatainable for you, come and give hammock a try, not just once, but at least 6-8 times, or until you are reasonably comfortable with a beginner class.
The other day I was struggling. I was in the midst of family disputes, money concerns, and spouse concerns. I was feeling anxious, overwhelmed and not quite sure how or what to do. I decided to “table” everything in the back of my mind, for I was going to the studio to teach an aerial class. Stretching, strengthening, and most importantly breathing my way through teaching the aerial class, I felt a huge shift happen. At one point during class I was feeling so GOOD, coming right out of an inversion, I shouted “God Bless America that feels so GOOD!”
Turns out, this is a huge secret on how yoga works to keep us healthy: A positive Mood. I left that class feeling there was NOTHING I couldn’t handle, and when I got home at least some of the above concerns were settled. Having a positive mindset can be a total game changer when life throws us curve balls of stress.
Yoga philosophy promises that “yoga brings on a feeling of Wellness”. Previous to yoga, I ran, cycled, and exercised, but what is unique about yoga? To some extent, you are moving your body, breathing in those other things. We hold mental, physical, and emotional tension in the body, and by yoga’s moves of strengthening and stretching along with breath, we are able to let go of the tension that is literally strangling our good health. In Savanna we realize that above concerns/stress can’t weigh us down. When we invert, we are able to change our perspective and realize how harmful the stress really is.
It’s not just me, ask any yogi why they practice. Another client from the class mentioned she almost didn’t come to practice she had such a bad headache, and after class her headache was gone. This is not unusual for me to hear. It’s one of the very best Secrets of yoga.