Sunday, February 26, 2017

Reconnecting with the physical

Friday, April 1, 2016

Yoga Off The Mat...

RHave you ever wondered how life would be if you had to raise yourself?  What if you did not have any outside influences on how to live life?  What if your only source of information was from yourself and nature?  

A yoga practice will eventually drive one to ask these questions.  By learning how to control your breathing and applying it to movement, internal layers are shedding.  when you shed the layers, your thought processes lessen. There is space between the conversations in your head.  In that space, you have unexplainable feelings, thoughts, insights, etc.  Questions come up regarding life, for ex: “Who am I? or  “What is my purpose?”  Luckily, there are 8 limbs to yoga.  In a typical yoga class, students will practice  number 3 asana (the postures) and 4 pranayama (the breathing techniques). If the teacher is experienced in the other limbs, the student will become educated more on how to live them.

. The first limb to yoga is Yama (social ethics) and the second is Niyama (personal ethics).

Yamas are social ethics that allow for us to live peacefully within community.  Combined with a physical yoga class, this is what one focuses on off the mat. This teaching is very logical, but challenging.  It is a practice.  There are 5 yamas:

  • Ahimsa- Non-violence. This starts with the self.  Instead of self-blame, escaping with alcohol or drugs, or reacting by lashing out, choose yoga instead.  The beauty of the physical practice is one can burn and release the negative energy in a healthy way.  There are many levels to violence. Our language to self or others can be violent.  When you get upset, how do you react?  Are you assertive, passive aggressive, or hostile?   Aggression is when you allow your expression to come out so strong physically or emotionally, that there is no care for the rights of others.  Example: Stuffing your emotions until one day, you blow up.  You possibly become violent.  Passive aggression is the inability to express the truth out of fear of reaction.  Instead, you express your feelings through sarcasm or indirect humor.  Example: Saying you are not angry when you really are, or saying “fine” or “whatever” and withdrawing to prevent an argument.  This behavior usually backfires because most people are not mind readers. In fact, majority are too busy listening to the conversations spinning in their own heads. Psychological aggression is when someone verbally abuses you.  It’s amazing what we allow others to say to us.  If you don’t allow it to flow through you, it sticks to your heart.  This can leave emotional scars.  It takes a lot of self work to forgive and heal the heart.  Being assertive is the best means of getting in touch with your feelings and peacefully expressing them in a way that respects your rights as well as others.

  • Satya- Truth.  What is truth?  Well, someone asks you how you are doing and you answer “great” when in reality, you are having a tough time.  That is not truth.  Honesty seems to be a challenge for a lot of people.  That is why satya is a practice. Ever lie to your friend who asks your opinion on how their new hairstyle looks?  You know you hate it, but you tell them it looks amazing?  We are trying to be nice, but is untruth healthy?  The more you lie, the more lies become comfortable.  Then you are working against the grain.  One thing to keep in mind regarding honesty is that perfection is an illusion and no fun to be around.  We could all relax a little more if we would just be authentic.  

  • Asteya- Non-stealing.  How often to you end up with an extra pen or pencil?  Do you find yourself borrowing a lighter and not giving it back?  Ever felt entitled at work and took something home like extra pens or sticky notes?  Theft isn't something we get over as children.  Owning a business, I have found that adults (especially those closest to you) can have a huge issue with stealing on many levels.  One thing is for certain, if you question it at all, it is stealing.  

  • Bramacarya- Appropriate use of one’s vital energy.  When not feeling your best, it can be challenging to be around happy people.  Keeping yourself in check is vital to keeping the happy energy unaffected, for example:  In a work meeting, everyone is motivated and feeling great.  The boss is feeding everyone kudos from a successful workweek.  All of the sudden, a co-worker comes in really upset.  The energy of the room shifts to this person.  Energy is lost by this shift because the heart shuts down to protect itself from the madness.  It is important to be considerate in these situations because it is easy to become an “energy vampire”.  Another example is complaining to others habitually.  If you find yourself calling your friends daily just to complain or gossip, stop it.   You leave the conversation feeling amazing and your friend or loved one hangs up feeling drained!  When you are feeling low, stay in or go to a yoga class to try and center yourself.  It may be to a point that a therapist may be helpful to vent to.  If you are the one left drained, then set the proper boundaries and do not condone the behaviors of others. 

  • Aparigraha- Non-attachment.  This is challenging because attachment is easy!  We love our stuff.  Cars, fancy homes, cool clothes, the latest iPod, diamond engagement ring, even our partners and children.  When the car breaks down, iPod breaks, you lose the diamond, partner cheats, and children move out and on, it can bring disappointment. Being controlled by others or outer forces is not fun either.   If we can accept that we can not control things outside and allow things to be as they are, we are not affected.  

Niyamas are personal ethics used to recondition yourself in order to live a balanced life.  A combination of working on both your outer world as well as your inner self, making sure you are content in both areas.  You condition your body through a regular yoga practice, and the mind through intellectual study.  You are also encouraged to surrender to a higher force.  All of this combined will allow for growth.  You then are able to peacefully experience  life in the present moment.

  • Sauca- Cleanliness, purification.  It is important to keep the energy around you fresh and positive.  When things get dirty, the negative energy piles up. When negative energy piles up, you begin to feel the effects.  It is encouraged to bathe or shower daily.  If anything, clean your face, hands, feet, and mouth.   If you were around a lot of people and got a lot of hugs, sneezes, etc, then its nice to change the outfit.  Cleaning up your surroundings to be less distracting is also beneficial.  If the air is stagnant, burning sage or diffusing of essential oils is a great way to clear the air.  We also need to remember the earth is good for us.  Opening a window or going outside in nature, which is our true home is grounding and purifying.

  • Santosa- Contentment. Without guilt, It is your right to be.  It is important to check in with yourself daily.  Notice how you feel with no judgement.  If you feel blah what would help?  Maybe setting aside some time for yourself?  We all deserve time for self care.  It is healthy to remove helping others from your calendar unless it is a life threatening emergency and replace that time with self care.  For example: A salt bath, a nap, writing or journaling, a yoga class, a massage, or meditation time. It is beneficial to turn off phones and electronics for a bit.   Look at your calendar and see how much time you give to others compared to the time you give yourself.  

  • Tapas- Heating up the body in order to create change.  It is healthy to get the heart rate and body temperature up to stir up energy for release of toxins, create strength, stamina, balance, and flexibility.  It can be hard if not used to exercise because you may be tender or sore from the work.  In this situation know that we are all in the same boat when it comes to taking care of our bodies.  The pain felt in yoga or exercise is a healing pain.  It is the pain you need to feel in order to grow.  Guaranteed it is not like getting beat up or injured.  Healing pain is short term and is a good sign that you are healthy!  It does not have to be every day, but a brisk walk, run, yoga practice, or workout at the gym is important in order to keep the physical body working with ease until our last breath.

  • Svadhyaya- Self observation or self study is necessary in order to learn how to “be”.  We have all said, “I need to find myself”.  Well, the only way to find yourself is through stillness.  Sitting still and observing the breath and movements inside your body will teach you who you are and how you need to be.  You can not get this information outside of you, but you can get “directions” or “signs” on how to get there by researching intellect in books, media, etc.  Dr. Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle, Ram Das, Doreen Virtue, and Jack Canfield are a few wonderful examples of where to begin research.  Yoga of Dickson is a local studio that has free audio meditation and yoga available for download  

  • Isvarapranidhana- Devotion to a higher force.  On the mat, this would mean surrender to the posture. By following the instructions given to us in class, we learn to more easily let go of the ego and get into the heart. Off the mat, this would be surrender and devote yourself to a higher power.  Yoga stands alone.  It is a way of life, not religion.  Studies show there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world. All religions can use yoga).  

So if you are new to yoga and would like an acceleration in growth, you could dive into the other 7 limbs.  The postures will begin to make more sense, the breathing will become more important.  You will begin living your yoga “off the mat”. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Finding and maintaining our natural essence

From our first breath, we are observing, experiencing, and learning.  Early on, we depend on outer beings to protect us and take care of our needs.  We are taught how to walk, talk, eat, behave socially, etc..  When we have reached the appropriate age, we usually leave our nests and search for our “true selves”, taking all of our handy tools and ideals with us.  The appropriate age may vary depending on how we are raised.  Some humans have to grow up very quickly learning survival on many levels.  Other humans are protected and nurtured from darkness allowing for a sheltered lifestyle.  No matter how we grow, we were conditioned to be like those that raised and educated us with our own natural essence.   Out of all the knowledge we are given, we weren't taught how to maintain our natural state of being.  Because of this, we take our thoughts way too seriously.  It does not matter if it is a past memory from childhood or a thought of a future event; It is not happening now.  When we get emotionally caught up in thought, we are trapped in the “illusion”.  This is suffering. 

 When I was a kid, my papa caught me talking to myself.  I blushed as he laughed and said “It’s ok to talk to yourself.  It is when you start answering yourself that you need to worry”.  20+ years later and three years of yoga under my belt, I had another moment of being caught talking to myself, but it wasn’t my papa that noticed.  It was me.  I noticed I was having a conversation with myself and I was answering myself as well.  That was an awakening moment for me, so I took my therapist’s advice and tried meditation.

What is meditation exactly? It is simple, but a practice.  Meditation is listening and observing yourself while sitting still.  Easy right?  Easy as it is for you to listen to others.  For example: Your dear friend is chatting with you about something important.  You are asked a question and find yourself embarrassed that your mind went somewhere else instead of listening to your friend.  Very apologetically,  you ask your friend to repeat the conversation.  This is what happens in beginner meditation.  You sit still, but it seems impossible to get comfortable.  You try to calm your mind, but the thoughts get worse.  You can not listen to yourself because you can not believe what you are hearing.  Your body may begin to ache or become distracted.   We want others to listen to us so badly, but we can not take time to listen to ourselves.  This is the truth for the majority.  Why do we give up on meditation?  The most common excuses I get is “I don’t have the time”, “I can’t sit still”, and “I can not stop thinking”.  By making the time, you learn how to slow down mentally, physically, and mindfully.  You will begin to notice that you productively get more done than before you had a practice.  

Meditation is a practice that teaches how to detach from the “monkey mind” and find a relaxed state of being.  When we meditate, we consciously observe our mind and as our thoughts come in.  We take control by redirecting the  thought, for example: If a negative thought comes in, replace it purposely with a positive thought.  You could also place your thoughts on a cloud using your imagination and watch them float away.   You use your negative as a teacher to become positive. While doing that, you try to pay attention to the space between your thoughts.  This is where the solutions to the problems are found.  This is the peace you have always been searching for.  This is also where you find yourself.  The more you meditate, the space between gets longer.  

Meditation does not require any particular spiritual or religious belief system.  People of many cultures, religions and spiritual beliefs practice.  Unlike prayer, meditation is listening which allows for both to work hand in hand.  I suggest to students of religion to pray before they begin to add protection.  Meditation is a healthy escape.  In fact, drug rehabilitation centers are adding yoga and meditation to replace addiction.  The more you do it, you are able to release stored toxic feelings and emotions.  With the effort you put into your practice, you are rewarded with clarity and peace of mind. Other benefits of meditation: Happiness, more restful sleep, less stress, dissolve thoughts and negative thought patterns, peace, greater clarity or intuition, relief of anxiety, lower blood pressure, breathe more easily, enlightenment, deeper connection to source, awaken creativity, focused, empower your self to be your true self, heal relationships, ease pain, and end suffering.  The list goes on and on!

How do you begin a meditation practice?  First write down why you want to learn to meditate. What do you hope to experience? Why have you chosen this path? For example: Find self, nurture self, calm the mind, learn how to relax, relieve anxiety.  Now that you know that you desire to meditate, You are ready to prepare your space and gather your tools. Your space does not have to be big, just allow for it to be clean and peaceful. Make sure that you have also set your boundaries with the people around you, letting them know that you need Some time for yourself without interruption.  Meditation suggested tools: Candle, cushion, blanket, aromatherapy, journal, tissue, timer.  It is also recommended that you either shower or clean hands, face, mouth, and feet.  Make sure you eat a few hours before.  Digestion is a distraction.  There are many ways to meditate, but we will focus on these four;).  

  1. Body Scan Meditation: In this meditation, you begin focusing on your breath. As you breathe, you begin scanning your body from the toes, to the crown of your head. You spend a little bit of time on each part of your body. You allow all to be as it is, not judging.  It takes about 10 to 15 minutes at minimum to slowly get from your toes to your crown.  Take your time and if your thoughts take over, just begin where you left off patiently.

  1. Dristi Meditation:  Dristi means one pointed focus.  In this meditation, you will find a place to focus with the eyes either open or closed. During this time, you will listen to your breath and maintain your focus on one point.  If your eyes are open, allow your eyes to soften so that your gaze is easy. Do not allow your eyes to drift. If they do, just very gracefully bring your gaze back to one point. Examples:  Tip of the nose, third eye, navel, thumbs, hands, big toes, far to the right, far to the left, and up to the sky.

  1. Mantra Meditation:  in this meditation, you will be repeating a phrase that benefits you. Examples: trust, om, amen, I am, truth, healing, love, listen, be here, patience, breathe....  You choose this word or phrase to repeat in your head.  Find a comfortable seat at position and tune into the breathing. As thoughts begin to come up to distract you, begin chanting your mantra in your head.  Each time you drift away and get caught up in your thought processes, notice it and observe without judgment.  Take a moment and allow your breath to help you tune back in and continue the mantra. 

  1. Guided Meditation: Guided meditation's are very beneficial and allowing you to train your mind and body. They are quite fun and less challenging. During this time, you are following the teacher’s voice.  They will be guiding you to deep internal exploration.  There are many books, DVDs and CDs available to you on the market. I recommend guided meditation on occasion and that you choose another primary tool allowing for you to empty your mind completely.

One thing to always remember when it comes to self reflection is to have patience, forgiveness, and compassion for yourself.  Life in the outer world is not easy, it too is a practice.  I hope that I have shared enough information to give everyone a good start.  My prayer for all of us is to be free from suffering so that we may live life in the present moment.  Namaste.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Why wait? Don't hesitate to give yoga a try.

 While living in Knoxville, I worked at an Aveda Salon.  Right across the street was a yoga studio.  I would see several cars pull in between class times. Ladies in nicely fitted yoga attire and mats rolled up in hand would be passing and greeting one another.   They seemed really positive and looked physically fit.  I was pregnant at the time and did not have the desire to go into one of the classes, but it did stir my curiosity. Instead of going to a formal class, I received a yoga dvd for Christmas.  6 weeks After the birth of my first child and 55 lbs heavier, my yoga journey began.  The dvd’s served me well until I built up enough confidence to try a class.  

Now, as a yoga teacher and having experienced many different styles, I find there are many reasons one hesitates to going to a class.  There are too many styles to choose from with weird names, you may be required to do postures that will make you uncomfortable,  you're too shy or afraid you won’t do it right, etc..  Where do you begin?  Usually you begin with one intention, then it transforms as you notice the benefits. First establish why you want to try the practice, then decide on the style.

   Modern day yoga teachings in the Western World tends to be based mostly in Hatha Yoga.   Hatha Yoga styles that are more intense for ex: Vinyasa Flow, Ashtanga, Hatha Flow, or Power Yoga will probably include the following:  Breathing, sun salutations , standing and balancing postures, belly or prone postures, reclined postures, seated postures, and final relaxation.  The breathing is primarily Ujjayi Pranayama (I have written instructions for below). You will spend about 5 to 10 minutes just tuning into your breathing to center your mind/body.  Sun Salutations usually follow to heat up the body and give you enough energy to hold the poses.   Salutations are a repetitive series of yoga poses performed in a continuous flowing sequence.  Once you learn how to do them, they do not alter much.  This makes it easy to learn and go to other classes.  For those who have been mislead to think yoga is a cult or religion, salutations are not to worship the Sun.  That is a myth.   The core part of the practice is standing and balancing postures.  Here you are encouraged to hold a particular posture for 3 to possibly 10+ breaths.  You gain a lot of energy during this time.  You will sweat, increase your heart rate, and your thought processes slow down.  Belly and prone postures are considered an important part of the stretches. It is a powerful way to stretch, open, and strengthen the back body.  Seated and reclined postures include many deep stretches, spinal twists, and forward bends. By the time you get to this part, your body is extremely warm and ready.  Moving so much “life force energy” will leave you more alive and balanced.   Finally, corpse pose or final relaxation.  Here you will spend about 5 to 10 minutes lying on your back with your feet hip width apart, palms facing the ceiling, and eyes closed.  You will feel your physical body as your teacher guides you to become more and more relaxed.  You lay still and relaxed until you are instructed to work your way up gently to a simple seated pose of your choice.  You will seal your practice as a group. 

Bikram (Hot Yoga), founded by Bikram Choudhury, is a series of repeated postures.  These asanas are practiced in a room that is 95 to105 degrees.  This allows for more flexibility and sweating.  This practice is usually sealed at corpse pose.  There is no final relaxation practice in this style.  

Iyengar Yoga, developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, is a very popular form of Yoga that is based on alignment.  This style gives you great opportunity to focus strictly on how you are holding the pose.  You gain much focus, concentration, and overall awareness of your physical body.   

Gentle and Restorative Yoga classes are just that.  All that is required here is your mind opening to relaxation.   The format is similar, but these styles usually include lots of props and less invasive postures.  Blankets, bolsters of all sizes, straps, blocks, sand bags are used to make sure you feel comfortable in your pose.  Gentle and Restorative Yoga is wonderful if you have a hard time moving.  If you have chronic ailments or recovering from injury, this practice is for you.     

Holy Yoga is an international Ministry founded by Brooke Boon, a devout lover of the Lord who has facilitated the instruction of more than 500 Holy Yoga instructors world wide, including Philene Trevathan R-HYI 225 from local Dickson County. This system of yoga is built on three main structures;  Asana (postures), Pranayama (breath work) and Meditation.  Holy Yoga applies all three structures with complete focus on connecting to Christ within.

One thing you will definitely learn if you take a Yoga class is Ujjayi Pranayama (Ocean Breath).  Sit comfortably with your spine upright and close your eyes.  Inhale slowly through your nose and exhale out of your nose creating a hissing sound in the back of your throat like the ocean waves.  Make sure the sound comes from hollowing out the back of your throat not your nose.  Try to get a rhythm with your breath, balancing your inhalation with your exhalation.  Make sure to notice the pause between your breaths.  Set a timer for 60 seconds and practice this as often as you like.  You will receive many healing benefits!

The last thing you need to know before going to a Yoga class is etiquette.  Arrive early to settle in, allowing enough time to sign in and set up your practice space. The door is locked during class time to avoid interruptions.  There is nothing more disappointing to the other students than a student walking  in after you have centered your mind.  It is respectful to be on time or wait till the next available practice time.  Bring a towel and purchase your own mat, unless you are new.  Props are like shoes.  You will need your own.   Arrive on an empty stomach.  It is very challenging to do yoga when your stomach is digesting food.  It could make your stomach upset.  Come to class clean and free of strong perfumes.  Prepare to let go of competition and focus inward.  Most studios do not have mirrors for that reason.  You do not need to see yourself or anyone else in practice.  Wear clothes that aren’t too loose and allow you to move freely without distraction.  Remove your shoes and socks at the door (another reason to be clean).   Use the restroom if needed before practice to prevent disturbances during class.  If you need to leave class early, please make sure it is before Savasana, preventing disturbing meditation.

I hope this gives you some insight on where to begin your journey.  Understand that everyone in the West is pretty much new to yoga.  We are all on this journey together.  I will leave you with the statement I frequently get from new yoga students.  “Wow; I wish I tried yoga a long time ago”.  Namaste.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Reconditioning The Mind To Think Positive...

It is said that fight or flight response is a response given to us in order to warn and protect us from life threatening danger.  We still need this presently, but most of the time we are protected.
We tend to have the same stress response during other forms of disappointment.   Today it's the horrible boss, the bills pilling up, the negative in-law, the person who just cut you off in traffic, the partner that cheated, the energy vampire, the bounced check, the video game that got erased. The list goes on and on.  If we experience trauma or loss, for ex: mental, physical, violent, emotional, verbal abuse, bullying, a traumatic accident, or death of a loved one, we tend to repeat the traumas in our  heads.  This re-creates the stress or emotion as if it were happening now.  If we do not speak up for ourselves or set the proper boundaries, the only other choice is to let it go.  Holding  onto stress and worry can spin in our heads like a broken record. Spinning keeps you “stuck” on the couch starring into space.  You lose sleep, while those who may have triggered the stress sleep like a baby.   You feel exhausted, which leads to possibly guilt and shame.  Suffering will eventually lead to physical illness or “awakening”. 

   I spent the majority of my childhood plotting out revenge on those who were harming me.  I just needed someone to reach out to me and take me away from the abuse.  I wanted someone to confirm that it was wrong and I deserved better.  That never happened, and there are millions of similar cases.  The reason being fear.   Being a child and having to stuff all levels of abuse was confusing.  I carried revenge, hatred, self blame, and rage into my adult life. On the surface, I faked happiness to the best of my ability.  Just below my surface, was my inner child smothered in depression, anxiety, and loss of hope. There comes a time in childhood where the actual abuse ends, but because we do not know how to let go, we repeat the abuse in our heads. Being attached to the emotion leads you to the same feelings as if it were happening now. This is self abuse.  Luckily, I had enough self love to reach out for help.  Psychotherapy and medications lead to Yoga and Meditation.  Long story short, I have not taken medications since 2004.  I no longer suffer. I work very compassionately with myself, guiding myself to remain in the Present Moment.  All human beings have the ability to do the same.

What causes suffering and how do we heal?  In yoga, there are five afflictions or obstacles (Klesas) that are believed to cause stress or suffering.  Lack of knowledge, the ego, attachment or desire, like or dislike, and fear of death. 

   Lack of knowledge is your lack of taking time to look it up,  or experience it to understand. It took me giving birth to another life to finally awaken to life’s big questions.  Who am I? and what is my purpose?  I had a huge dislike of reading, so i was grateful for Google and podcasts.  Immediately, I found information that opened my eyes and heart.  Listening to podcasts and researching the web turned into reading books.   Researching and experiencing is what we will do for the rest of our lives.  Assumption is also another form of suffering.

“You are what you think”.  The “Ego” is a mind made sense of self.  We all have one.  If we do not recognize it, the ego can take over.  We mistake the labels we give as our identity.  For ex: “I am a yogi”, ”I am a teacher”,  or  “I am a mother”.  It can get destructive, for ex: “I am stupid”, “I don’t deserve”, “I am bad”, or “I am weak”.  Make a list of your labels.  How do you or others around you identify you?  Interesting.  Is it not? Can you recognize the illusion?  When you can separate yourself from “the illusion”, your true self automatically begins to surface.  Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth (Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose), explains the ego well and how to free yourself from it (audio version available). 

With the way the world is creating today, we seem to have a hard time keeping up with the latest “must haves”.   Desire is healthy, but can create suffering if attachment forms. Do you have anything that would cause major suffering if it were taken away or destroyed?  If we can not attain it, we stress out.  If we break it or lose it, we suffer horribly. Detaching does not mean drive a crappy car and have no desires.  It is recognizing you have no control and everything is impermanent.  Whether it is a partner, a friend, an object, a food, or a pet, if it creates suffering in you, it has become an affliction.  It is healthy to take time and look over what you have.  Pass it on if it no longer serves you.  Plus, it is a wonderful way to give back.  Giving brings happiness to the surface. 

Like or dislike (judgement) definitely causes suffering.  “One we like because it seems to bring us happiness; the other we dislike because it seems to bring unhappiness”.  We all want to be happy.  The aversion is looking for it outside ourselves.  Happiness is inside.  That is why we suffer with disappointment when we can’t achieve it through our partners, kids, pets, or shopping sprees.  We can spread our happiness onto others.  When we are sad, it becomes challenging because we can unconsciously steal good energy from others. 

Fear of aging or death can be a challenge to overcome.  At birth, we are soft and supple.  At our death, stiff and hard.  We have no memory of before or after, but it happens to all of us.  All I can express on fear of death, is it will lessen as you choose to experience life NOW. 

Reconditioning your mind to spin less and think positive will reward you with a better quality of life.   How do we do this?  It takes assistance in the beginning.  May it be attending a yoga class, downloading the latest yoga podcast, or committing to a relaxation practice. Your mind and body will recondition over time.  You will have less stress.  You will notice that life doesn't “affect you” anymore.   

As a Yogi, I am Not completely free of my obstacles.  I use them as teachers or lessons to keep me moving forward in the present moment because the “Present Moment” is all that we truly have.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Breathing For Healing...

We are always seeking what will help us live longer and healthier.  Have you ever taken the time to think about why you breathe?  Take a deep breath In and release it.  Did that feel good? Have you ever tried to see how long you could hold your breath? Take a deep breath in and hold it for a moment then release. How did that feel? Did you feel pressure build up?

Logically we breathe in order to absorb Oxygen and breathe out to release what is toxic to us, Carbon Dioxide.  We do not have to think about it most of the time because it is automatic.    Food and water is a form of energy we need to live, but our breath is our "vital life force energy".

 Usually we take about 15 to 20 breaths per minute.  When we feel threatened, which does not take much these days,  our breath increases and becomes shallow.  The heart rate and blood pressure rises quickly.  Long term exposure to stress leads to high blood pressure (and subsequently heart disease), immune disorders, damage to mental health to say the least.

The benefits of the breathing was the first thing I noticed early in my yoga practices.  I am one of those people that has to see or experience in order to believe.  Breathing exercises  in Yoga instantly showed me I was on the right path to healing myself.  That is what gave me the motivation to keep practicing.  Through my practice, I lost over 55 lbs of baby weight twice, healed postpartum depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and ended my need for medications of any kind since 2004.

There are several breathing techniques used in Yoga, Ujjayi Breathing (Ocean Breath) being the primary exercise practiced along with the postures (Asanas).  To practice this breath, sit up in a relaxed simple cross leg position (you may also sit in a chair).  Take a slow deep breath into your nose, let it resonate down the back of your throat into your lungs to your diaphragm (located below your belly button).  As you exhale with a half closed glottis (just behind the larynx), make a “HA” sound  as if you are fogging up a mirror.  When you are comfortable with this, close the mouth and breath in through the nose and out through the nose.  Some teachers will use Darth Vader or ocean waves as a reference to the sound your breath makes.  As you inhale, pull the air into the lower belly, rise to the lower rib cage, then the upper chest and throat.  The length and speed of the breath is controlled by the diaphragm.  Try to balance the length of your inhale with the length of your exhale, gently pushing it out.   A beginner may breathe in to the count of 4 or 6 and out to the same count.  This will increase over time. The length of each breathing session will depend on your discipline.  You may start with just 2 or 3 minutes.  That will advance to 30+ as you grow.

Ujjayi Pranayama is used primarily during yoga asana (postures) practice. Using the style of breath enables the body to build internal body heat.  This strengthens the lungs and allows for a healthy flow of "life force energy" or Prana.  This breathing technique also calms the mind and allows the body to focus throughout the practice, while releasing toxins.  Mary Irby E-RYT and founder of White Crow Yoga states "hearing the sound of our breath helps prevent our minds from straying from outside distractions and thoughts (our worries, what were doing after class, what is going on at work, etc.). Without the mind-body connection, Yoga is just another form of exercise".

Yogic breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, slowing down your heart rate, lowering your blood pressure, and calming the mind-body.

You gain clarity of the mind, weight loss, stress reduction, lower blood pressure, physical well-being, ease anxiety and depression, increase energy, flexibility, balanced immune function, and much more.  The sweetness of it all is that the breath is FREE!  Yes. There is no charge to breathe.  Knowing this, maybe it will motivate you to try it once a day.

If you have chronic conditions, such as low/high blood pressure or asthma, ask your doctor before trying any breathing techniques.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

What Is Yoga?

There are many misconceptions when it comes to defining Yoga because it is a way of life you need to experience to understand.
 The word Yoga means to join. The practice of Yoga is joining your mind, body, and breath. With this practice, you learn how to live fully aware in the present moment.
 Yoga began its journey west in the late 1800's. Swami Rama amazed researchers at the prestigious Menninger foundation in 1970 when test showed he could control his autonomic nervous system functions including heartbeat, pulse, and skin temperature. of yoga/yogas-trip–America/
 Yoga on the Mat is… Breathing (Pranayama is the sanskrit word for breathing in Yoga) and Postures (Asanas). Breathing is the very foundation of the Yoga practice. Have you ever thought about your breathing? How do you normally breathe? Most of us only breathe shallowly into our chest. “You can go without food and water for days, but you can only go without your breath for a few minutes” is an anonymous comment I read years ago. It makes a lot of sense if you think about it.
 The postures begin with baby steps. You do not have to bend like a pretzel. You begin learning simple postures like Mountain Pose, which is just standing on your own two feet. Standing tall with good posture in connection with your breath is not an easy task. It will become very easy, in fact natural over time.
 There are many styles to yoga. If you are not sure where to begin, please call your local studio. They are usually eager to get you off to the appropriate class. Remember, we are all in this together. Yoga is new to the west.
 Yoga off the mat is checking in with yourself regularly. Asking yourself how you feel. Are you breathing? Are you spinning on your thoughts? Are you listening or thinking?
 Yoga is not a religion. We confuse a way of life as a religion because in Yoga, there is a “code of conduct” (8 limbs) that you have to commit to in order to live life in peace and harmony.
 I was baptized at 16 in a small church in Kingston Springs. I attended church, but did not gain true knowledge of Christ until I began my Yoga practice. It took Yoga to slow me down and discipline my mind to listen. Because of my practice, my religious practices are stronger. Religion and Spirituality work hand in hand. You can have one without the other.
 What does Yoga do for you? Yoga slowly transforms your self to the way you are supposed to “be”. Yoga shows you how to appreciate life and how to experience every moment without the desire to be somewhere else. Yoga teaches you to love yourself, to put yourself first.
I asked yogis of local Dickson County why they practice Yoga. They responded as follows:
“Yoga gets my attention unlike going to the gym.” JL
 “My Yoga Practice makes me a nicer person.” LC
 “I love the stretching.” V
 “It is a wonderful exercise for me. It helps me focus.” CA
 “Yoga saved my life”. RH
 “Yoga got me from not being able to move, to attending a regular Hatha Yoga Class”. RE
 “It brings me back into balance. It makes me feel relaxed and at peace”. TW
 “Yoga has taught me how to not react. To breathe before I take action under some of the most chaotic of situations.” AT
For more information:).