Yoga

Friday, June 16, 2017

Meditation, my journey, so far

Deep breathing and focus on the breath is just one beginning practice towards meditation, yet,  Meditation is not this.
As an artist I could get “lost” in my work. Deep in concentration. I often get lost in ecstasy when dancing, I  lose track of time similar to meditation, yet this is not meditation either!
If you get lost in asana practice, nature,making music or art or gardening, you may have entered an altered state similar to meditation, many would call this meditation. I would call it a taste; there is vastly more.  
I had learned and share guided relaxation decades ago. I practiced techniques to “cool-down” students ending fitness classes. Now I do this in savasana and restorative yoga classes. Students greatly appreciate these moments of peace. The benefits of deep relaxation practice are numerous; calmer mind, increased energy, release of tensions in the body, Yet, meditation is not this.
In the early 1990’s I attended a meditation class taught by Deepak Chopra, He did a guided meditation that was a profound experience for me. I think of him often now, and have read his books, though for many years I didn’t practice meditation.
In the mid 90’s I met an extraordinary individual who was able to move and heal with energy. He spent many hours a day in meditation. At that time I didn’t understand the connection.  I was blessed to have had those years of friendship and healing with Jeremiah. He practiced meditation and many people received profound healing and guidance from him. He was a great teacher, a fountain of love. I met him when he was in his 40’s. He had survived a tragic accident at 19 years old.   After this injury (broken neck) he lived decades longer,surprising medical experts. He was genuinely at peace, even though his body suffered much pain as a quadriplegic.  He practiced meditation daily!  
In the late 1990s I was introduced to HeartMath biofeedback.  Direct measurements of the metabolic and systolic heart rhythms combined with techniques to calm the mind showed directly in the program’s feedback. I used this program myself and with children who had experienced trauma.  HeartMath  is great technology and the HeartMath Institute is growing in it’s scope. It is a marvelous tool to help in relaxation and self awareness and self control (emotional health, PTSD) 
This is not meditation, though it is a very good starting point for many people.
Discipline and daily practice opens up worlds of possibilities and awareness.
In 2009 I began study of Reiki, my Masters (teachers) instructed me to do it every day.  I did Reiki meditation and energy work on myself daily for a year.  This form of meditation I was able to stick with. Within months I began to shift into more awareness and profound peace. After Level 2, I began working on others as well and "saw" their inner beauty/ light energy and a flow of love.  Reiki meditation and healing opened up new sensibilities and awareness. I  continued Reiki training to (Masters) Level 3. I came to understand more of what Jeremiah and Deepak Chopra were teaching! Other healers and traditions from many cultures and meditation is at the center of their practices.
These experiences where a good foundation for true meditation.
In 2010 I had the opportunity to take over a yoga class which I had been attending. I knew from past training that if I was to teach yoga, I had to practice asana and silent seated meditation daily, which I began in the months before taking over the class.
When I got to where I could sit still for an hour meditation, I would only have fleeting moments where there was peace, where the mental chatter would subside.
These brief moments where so profound that I continued finding it well worth the hour of sitting every day!
Silent meditation showed me how noisy my mind was and even now, how noise my mind can be!
Now, often during the day no matter how “stressful” or what events are going on, I can return to that peace within a few conscious breaths. This allows me to stay authentic and present. When I have peace with-in I can be present to others in a meaningful way.
Have I experienced enlightenment?  
Yes! and no, and yes! It can be fleeting and can be found again in meditation.
True enlightenment is when that peace is carried out into every part of every day. 
Personally, I do yoga asana to quiet my mind and prepare my body for seated meditation.  When I began daily practice of both, I experienced amazing healing for my mind and body, and more… beyond words, language and description! I have also come to understand the energy that is within and around us.
 Asana can lift us out of discomfort in the body. Meditation can help us have peace even when the body is in pain.
 “Illuminated emancipation, freedom, unalloyed and untainted bliss await you, but you have to choose to embark on the Inward Journey to discover it.”          BKS Iyengar
“disturbances of the mind and emotions fade away, and we are able to see true reality.” BKS Iyengar
Peace, Christina
P.S.  I'm sharing a video,that "speaks" about and "shows" meditation, yet,what can be discovered, and experienced through meditation is beyond what media can show!  Watching and listening may bring about emotions, yet, this not it either.
inspiration to meditate




Saturday, April 1, 2017

Asana is only the tip of the iceberg!

Asana (postures) and movement you do in yoga class is one of Eight aspects or limbs of yoga: I wrote another blog which is an article to introduce you to the   8 Limbs of Yoga.  Asana is only the tip of the Iceberguntitled
  The best benefits of yoga cannot be seen with the physical eyes. The best benefits can't be seen in any picture! And real benefits of yoga began with-in the first weeks of daily practice!
For example, this pose took me over 5 years of daily practice, as well as 45 minutes warming up to do for this photo. What is the greatest benefit is beyond words and is related to many benefits through the practice
  yoganidrasana, 2016 

 Peace, Christina

Monday, March 6, 2017

yoga practice at home #DailyPractice



Your Yoga


Yoga is an art.
As a kid I wanted to play guitar. I went to lessons. I didn’t practice between lessons.  My teacher kept saying “you can’t really learn without practicing at home”.
He told me this every week.  He could tell I wasn’t practicing. I think he got tired of going over the same bits over and over, which was all he could do because I didn’t practice. I didn’t progress much at playing guitar either; I lost interest and quit after less than a year of lessons.
Just as a musician must practice their musical instrument daily, or a dancer practice every day, yoga students who want to make progress will have to find the self-discipline to start a daily practice on their own.
The most important reasons to begin and continue a home practice
  • You get to know your own body , your own strengths and weaknesses.
  • You gain the mental and psychological benefits that are the whole original purpose of yoga, and will not come without daily home practice. You will learn more about yourself than  any books or workshops can ever show you, because you will be taking that inward journey every day.
  • You will have this touchstone, this place of anchoring every day, A true blessing in this ever-changing, fast paced and imperfect, sometimes crazy world we live in.
What is a daily “home” or “individual” practice?
Daily – Honestly, 5 to 7 times a week is GREAT!!!
Home – in your home, have a place for doing yoga, a place you like, it can be in any room, outside on nice days… Have a time for yoga; most people who don’t chose a specific time for yoga have trouble doing it 5 to 7 times a week.  I carved out time in the early morning, because too much can happen once my day is started.
Individual – Just you with yourself.  It can be done with or around others, but you are doing your yoga, no chatting, no interruptions, no TV, phone, no distractions!
Practice – is not a competition, not an exhibition, not a performance and not a race! Let it be stress-free. Cultivate a patient mind. Some days you’ll be slow and other days you will feel like being fierce. You will learn to honor where you are at.
How do you begin a home practice?  To start, you do what you can remember from class (so yes, do attend classes.) Take your time getting into and out of postures, and hold postures longer, to make discoveries and build strength.
  • Take some time, five minutes is good, to become aware of and deepen your breath.
  • Begin moving easily and repeat 3 to 10 sun salutations, to warm up the body.
  • Do standing poses – warriors, triangles, tree or others; switching it up is good.
  • Do child’s pose when you need a rest.
  • Do a few seated postures and one or two laying down.
  • Include one inversion.  Legs up a wall counts.
  • Always do savasana for a minimum of 8 minutes.
It is a great idea to get an individual session to design and refine your daily practice, after a few weeks, then at least once a year.
BUT...
“I don’t have time for it every day.” By making time for a daily practice the rest of your day will be more productive.  The rest of your day will be less stressful. These blogs discus how yoga does this in more detail;   yoga for beating stress      yoga as tool against fatigue
“I don’t care if I make progress I’m just doing yoga for maintenance.”  There is no such thing as maintaining, unless you are making progress.   Unless you are strengthening muscles in your body, and moving in your full range of motion 4-6 times a week.  Exercise is stimulus.  The changes to body tissue happens in the 24 to 48 hours afterwards.  You become weaker and more rigid after 48 hours.  This is even truer as you get older.  After the 48 hours… if there is no stimulus again your hard work begins to get undone.  Period, that’s it. (After months and years of daily yoga you maintain better flexibility if you do miss some days or weeks, your base-line has gotten higher).
“I do enough other exercise.” Great! But, by doing a home practice of yoga, you’re less likely to get injured doing other exercises and be able to do them longer as you age.
“I’m active  in my daily work (or life).”  Most often, in our daily routine, we do many repetitive movements, with the focus on what we are doing rather than the body and mind doing it.  We use limited amount of the many muscles, less range of motion and less systematic use of many muscles.  If your work is hard physical labor, less and/or “restorative” yoga might be what you need to practice at home.

Yoga and your bones


12 Minutes of Yoga for Bone Health

By   JANE E. BRODY    NY Times article   DECEMBER 21, 2015 5:45 AM December 21, 2015

 

Yoga enthusiasts link the practice to a long list of health benefits, including greater flexibility and range of motion, stronger muscles, better posture and balance, reduced emotional and physical stress, and increased self-awareness and self-esteem.

But definitively proving these benefits is challenging, requiring years of costly research. A pharmaceutical company is unlikely to fund a study that doesn’t involve a drug, and in any event, the research requires a large group of volunteers tracked over a very long time.

The subjects must provide health measurements at the outset, learn the proper poses, continue to do them regularly for years and be regularly evaluated.

No one knows these challenges better than Dr. Loren M. Fishman, a physiatrist at Columbia University who specializes in rehabilitative medicine. For years, he has been gathering evidence on yoga and bone health, hoping to determine whether yoga might be an effective therapy for osteoporosis.

The idea is not widely accepted in the medical community, but then, researchers know comparatively little about complementary medicine in general. So in 2005, Dr. Fishman began a small pilot study of yoga moves that turned up some encouraging results. Eleven practitioners had increased bone density in their spine and hips, he reported in 2009, compared with seven controls who did not practice yoga.

Knowing that more than 700,000 spinal fractures and more than 300,000 hip fractures occur annually in the United States, Dr. Fishman hoped that similar findings from a much larger study might convince doctors that this low-cost and less dangerous alternative to bone-loss drugs is worth pursuing.

Those medications can produce adverse side effects like gastrointestinal distress and fractures of the femur. Indeed, a recent study published in Clinical Interventions in Aging found that among 126,188 women found to have osteoporosis, all of whom had Medicare Part D drug coverage, only 28 percent started bone drug therapy within a year of diagnosis.

Many of those who avoided drugs were trying to avoid gastrointestinal problems.

On the other hand, yoga’s “side effects,” Dr. Fishman and colleagues wrote recently, “include better posture, improved balance, enhanced coordination, greater range of motion, higher strength, reduced levels of anxiety and better gait.”

Weight-bearing activity is often recommended to patients with bone loss, and Dr. Fishman argues that certain yoga positions fit the bill.

“Yoga puts more pressure on bone than gravity does,” he said in an interview. “By opposing one group of muscles against another, it stimulates osteocytes, the bone-making cells.”

Most experts argue that it’s difficult, perhaps impossible, for adults to gain significant bone mass. Undeterred, Dr. Fishman invested a chunk of his own money and with three collaborators — Yi-Hsueh Lu of The Rockefeller University, Bernard Rosner of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Dr. Gregory Chang of New York University — solicited volunteers worldwide via the Internet for a follow-up to his small pilot study.

Of the 741 people who joined his experiment from 2005 to 2015, 227 (202 of them women) followed through with doing the 12 assigned yoga poses daily or at least every other day. The average age of the 227 participants upon joining the study was 68, and 83 percent had osteoporosis or its precursor, osteopenia.

The 12 poses, by their English names, were tree, triangle, warrior II, side-angle, twisted triangle, locust, bridge, supine hand-to-foot I, supine hand-to-foot II, straight-legged twist, bent-knee twist and corpse pose. Each pose was held for 30 seconds. The daily regimen, once learned, took 12 minutes to complete.

The researchers collected data at the start of the study on the participants’ bone density measurements, blood and urine chemistry and X-rays of their spines and hips. They were each given a DVD of the 12 yoga poses used in the pilot study and an online program in which to record what they did and how often.

A decade after the start of the study, bone density measurements were again taken and emailed to the researchers; many participants also had repeat X-rays done. The findings, as reported last month in Topics of Geriatric Rehabilitation, showed improved bone density in the spine and femur of the 227 participants who were moderately or fully compliant with the assigned yoga exercises.

Improvements were seen in bone density in the hip as well, but they were not statistically significant.

Before the study, the participants had had 109 fractures, reported by them or found on X-rays.

At the time the study was submitted for publication, “with more than 90,000 hours of yoga practiced largely by people with osteoporosis or osteopenia, there have been no reported or X-ray detected fractures or serious injuries of any kind related to the practice of yoga in any of the 741 participants,” Dr. Fishman and his colleagues wrote.

“Yoga looks like it’s safe, even for people who have suffered significant bone loss,” Dr. Fishman said in an interview.

Furthermore, a special study of bone quality done on 18 of the participants showed that they had “better internal support of their bones, which is not measured by a bone density scan but is important to resisting fractures,” Dr. Fishman said.

The study has many limitations, including the use of self-selected volunteers and the lack of a control group. But all told, the team concluded, the results may lend support to Dr. Fishman’s long-held belief that yoga can help reverse bone loss.

Even if bone density did not increase, improvements in posture and balance that can accrue from the practice of yoga can be protective, Dr. Fishman said.

“Spinal fractures can result from poor posture, and there’s no medication for that, but yoga is helpful,” he said.

In addition, “Yoga is good for range of motion, strength, coordination and reduced anxiety,” he said, “all of which contribute to the ability to stay upright and not fall. If you don’t fall, you greatly reduce your risk of a serious fracture.”


Wednesday, February 1, 2017


Bringing Light Into Our Wounded Places & Svadhyaya


Through yoga practice we find peace. This does not mean we ignore what is happening, and just hang out in that “happy place”!
It means we face life head-on!  We look at the hard stuff inside of us and outside in the world. That inner peace, is a reserve, so no matter what is going on outside,  you are coming from a place of peace, rather than fear, anger, hatred, greed or pride.
As yogis we discover another reality beyond hype and fear.   We chose compassion over and over.  We show up to create another reality beyond the divisiveness of racism, sexism, classism,  anti semitism. We look outside our individual socio-economic, racial, political, cultural bubbles to understand those we disagree with and those who we have been conditioned to see as “other”.  We have the courage to build bridges daily.
We continue to reflect and improve ourselves and how we interact in the world.  Svadhyaya – Self study,  Sva means “self’ adhyaya means “inquiry” or “examination” This is the 4th Niyama(Niyamas are one of 8 limbs of yoga) .
We heal our emotional wounds.  Often, especially in times of turmoil, we forget to go to the stillness and listen, to feel, to let our broken hearts weep, to grieve our losses.  Personally sometimes…. I felt so domesticated, so numb, so stoic, so inexpressive, yet, now  I am learning to tap into those wounded places and give them voice.  I have been finding where the old wounds live in my body and discovering ways to move/ wash/ breath  them out.  Doing this work is not pretty, calm or subtle, it is powerful, and can be fierce and messy, but it does not mean your hysterical or insane, you are just alive!
Here are some article links which I have chosen for you, who want to delve further, ( this is also recommended reading for those of you attending the Women’s Healing Yoga Journey on February 18th).
And finally, some  poetic  lyrics of Lenard Cohen’s  “Anthem” which comfort me in these times.(2017 in the USA)
The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don’t dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.
Ah the wars they will
be fought again…
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up
a thundercloud
and they’re going to hear from me.
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in….
Namaste, Christina

Monday, January 30, 2017

Universal Morality and Personal Observances

I am writing from my own study and understanding of first two limbs of the Eight limbs of Yoga, Yama and Niyama. This is an introduction.  Further study of the Yoga Sutras is advised for continued learning.
 It is important when practicing these restraints and disciplines to be kind and non-judgemental of yourself and your progress.
 These are not things generally mastered, one by one,  these are  similar to lamp posts to guide your way at night or similar to a compass for your journeys. Yet, sometimes lessons will come from wandering off course and in the dark.  
They are not mastered in any order, but studied and contemplated frequently.  These are ideals that speak to our highest self, but we are here as humans and will likely fall short, maybe even frequently.  It is better to have this moral compass, even if we forget to use it, we can learn from wanderings, learn from our errors... and then study them again with new insight. Mindful progress over time and progress is certain.
First consider all Eight limbs (in the usual presented order)-  not as steps, for it is best to think of them as 8 spokes of a wheel. 
  1. Yama :  Universal morality
  2. Niyama :  Personal observances
  3. Asanas :  Body postures
  4. Pranayama :  Breathing exercises, and control of prana
  5. Pratyahara :  Control of the senses
  6. Dharana :  Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
  7. Dhyana :  Devotion, Meditation on the Divine
  8. Samadhi :  Union with the Divine
The 5 Yamas (Universal Morality) disciplines or self restraints that are primarily concerned with the world, and our interaction with it, in our day to day life
1. Ahimsa – Compassion for all living things Ahimsa implies that in every situation we should adopt a compassionate attitude and do no harm.
2. Satya – Commitment to Truthfulness 
Satya means "to speak the truth,"  and is based on the understanding that honest communication and action form the bedrock of any healthy relationship, community, or government.  Asking yourself before speaking, is it true? is it kind? is it necessary?
3. Asteya - Non-stealing 
 Take nothing that does not belong to you.  The practice of asteya implies not taking anything that has not been freely given. This includes fostering a consciousness of how we ask for others’ time, for example demanding another’s attention when not freely given is, in effect, stealing.
4. Brahmacharya - Sense control 
Brahmacharya  is abstinence, particularly in relationship to sexual activity. Brahmacharya suggests that we should form relationships that foster our understanding of the highest truths. It does not necessarily imply celibacy. It means responsible behavior, that we use our sexual energy to regenerate our connection to our spiritual self. It also means that we don’t use this energy in any way that might harm others.
5. Aparigraha - Neutralizing the desire to acquire and hoard wealth 
Aparigraha means to take only what is necessary, and not to take advantage of or act with greed.  Aparigraha also implies letting go of our attachments to things and an understanding that impermanence and change are the only constants.
The 5 Niyama (Personal Observances) The second limb usually refers to self discipline and also with our actions towards others in our day to day life.
1. Sauca - Purity 
Sauca is purity and cleanliness, outer cleanliness, daily washing etc, and Inner cleanliness for healthy,  functioning of our bodily organs and also the clarity of our mind.  Practicing asanas and pranayama are means for inner cleanliness.  Asanas tone the  body and removes toxins while pranayama cleanses our lungs, oxygenates our blood and purifies our nerves. Most important is t cleansing of the mind of  toxic emotions - hatred,  anger, lust, greed, delusion and pride.
2. Santosa - ContentmentSantosa is modesty and  being content with what we have. To be at peace within and content with one's lifestyle, finding contentment even while experiencing life’s difficulties then life becomes a process of growth through all circumstances. We begin to accept that there is a purpose for everything - yoga calls it karma – and we cultivate contentment to accept what life sends us and flow with it.
3. Tapas – Disciplined use of our energy 
Tapas refers to the activity of awareness and control of the body's energy.  Literally it means to heat the body and, by so doing, to cleanse it. This is the understanding that we can direct our energy to engage life and achieve the ultimate goal of  union with the Divine. Tapas helps us "burn up" the desires that stand in our way of union.  Other forms of tapas are paying attention to what we eat, to body posture, , eating habits, and breathing patterns.
4. Svadhyaya – Self studysvadhyaya. Sva means "self' adhyaya means "inquiry" or "examination".  All activities which cultivate self-reflective consciousness can be considered svadhyaya. It means to intentionally find self-awareness , even to the point of welcoming and accepting our limitations. Learning to be centered and non-reactive to the dualities, and to dispel self-destructive tendencies.
5. Isvarapranidhana - Celebration , devotion to the Spiritual 
Isvarapranidhana  is  contemplation on God (Isvara) It is the recognition that the spiritual is everywhere and  through our deepening awareness we can attune ourselves with our role as part of the Creator.  The practice requires that we make time, each day, to recognize that there is some omnipresent force larger than ourselves that is guiding and moving the the universe. this might be meditation, prayer ,study or service.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Peace into the New Year 2017


2016, this too, shall pass. Whew!

Perhaps this crazy time is meant to awaken us to new ways of being.

The darkest is right before the dawn.

Let’s be the dawning. 


Some ideas for creating deeper inner peace ~~~~~~~~~

~ Awaken with a prayer or sense of gratitude for another day. Look at the sunrise or anything beautiful for a few moments before starting your day.

~ Be receptive, allowing, and curious. Be willing to forgo your schedule. Try setting this as an intention before getting out of bed; see it in your mind’s eye! Be ready for surprises; keep open to the freedom of the unknown. Change is the only constant.
                            
~ Walk in the great outdoors – with curiosity and wonder! Walk tall, without fear into whatever arises.

~ A daily spiritual practice ~ You do have time! Try setting your phone timer for 2-3 minutes and focus on your breath, slowing it and deepening it, receiving nourishing oxygen from the Universe on your inhales, and Letting go of tension on your exhales. When you’re done, notice how you feel. Do it daily. This is meditation, one of the 8 limbs of yoga! ~ Spiritual practices are nourishment, elevating your vibration to help you have power to react creatively and constructively to what comes up in life.

~ Stay in the moment ~ Now is where life happens. The present is our point of power. To live in the moment is so fulfilling. This is liberation. No matter what is going on outside of you, open up to the possibility of experiencing freedom in this moment.

~ Lift your energy in a private session with me! We will discuss what is up for you and find new tools that support your moving forward. I offer yoga including breath work & adjustments, reiki, or a healing session using all of these.

Whole-hearted thank you for the support and co-creation this past year. I look forward to evolving with you in 2017!
Love, Love, Love,
 Christina
  ******Two gong sound bath healings with Sat Guru Kaur - Jan. 21st Saturday 6-8pm in Albuquerque, and Thursday Jan. 26th 6:30pm at The Garden Gate Day Spa in Las Lunas