Yoga

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Ahimsa and Standing Rock




Ahimsa and Standing Rock


Dear Sisters and Brothers,
One aspect of the eight limbs of yoga is Ahimsa – Compassion for all living things. Ahimsa means not to injure or show cruelty to any creature or any person. Practicing kindness, and compassion towards all living things.
We are all citizens of Earth.  A small number of people who have power and immense wealth live in so much fear and isolation that they act with outrageous insane greed. They’ve worked tirelessly for generation after generation to manipulate the rest of us to judge and fight among ourselves so we won’t rise to power.  Most of the manipulation is subtle and all of it pervasive, some of it costs lives, creates wars, poisons rivers and destroys ecosystems.
It tells us that one group of people, women, people of color, people of this or that religious faith, are somehow less than human, and that everyday violence against a group of people is excusable.
As a US citizen, at this point in history,  I will state where I stand.  I have been following what is going on at Standing Rock, ND.  This could be the beginning of positive change, or end horribly for the planet. I believe it is up to each us to make sure the outcome is positive change even though it isn’t easy change… even if it changes our holiday plans.
Please ponder the following;
  • This is an extraordinary example of organised, non-violent, peaceful resistance. Ahimsa
  • The historical context is vast. Consider, Kennedy, Cesar Chavez and Delano
  • A people deeply oppressed for 500 years is asking and trusting they will have help, Allies. That is us!   When I think about how truly brave this is… no words.
  • Though the DAPL hired security, police and Army Core of Engineers have been undeniably violent, these brave women, “protectors” are talking about forgiveness !
  • Americans who care about freedom and justice are flocking to Standing Rock to support the Sioux, just as justice loving Americans of an earlier generation went to Selma, to Jackson and to Delano.
  • At this time in the USA, when the rights of people of color, and the rights of people of various faiths, and the rights of all women are being threatened, native women are in true rolls of leadership for this movement.
At this time, with the current political climate, maybe it is the love of the Land (purple mountains majesty…) and the love of ideals of the US Constitution that will bring diverse women and men together, from sea to shining sea.
I believe this has started at Standing Rock.  I believe We the People are vastly more powerful than our “elected representatives and leaders”.
Patriotically & peacefully yours,  Christina  www.happymountainyoga.com

   UPDATE   Army Corps Denies Easement For Dakota Access Pipeline  This is very good news. This is the power of well organized non-violent action by The Lakota People and many Allies! There are many same, similar and other issues to deal with and all of our participation is key! 

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Dear Ones,                                 September 2016
Change is in the winds.  Children are off to school.  Mine is on the other side of the planet, far away for longer than ever before.  I have cried, already missing her, yet,  I praise the woman she's become, and cry happy tears!  When we talk my heart swells and she makes me laugh, often. For me, Autumn is a time of rest or wildness, or both.  Every autumn, I  am aware of my own domestication process,  school, learning to contain myself, sit still, follow directions, and hold back expression.   So, I  cry more this time of year, missing my wildness. I want to dance with abandon, let tears roll, and laugh until my sides ache and eyes water. Not all the time, of course, but more, deeper.
As autumn deepens, it is a time of decay and dying,  to let go of what has finished it’s time. Some of what we let go of, we may need to grieve. 
I recently listened to these talks, Grief and Praise by a South American Shaman, Martin Prechtel.  His way of speaking is humble and funny.   I hope some of you listen and enjoy this as much as I did, at least read my  notes here.  He reminded me of the medicine of tears (and laughter). 
I am paraphrasing some of Martin Prechtel's talk here…
“The ability to weep is a gift. Laughter and weeping are relatives.   Praise and grief live in the same house, sleep in the same bed. Weeping is not depression, not sadness…it is lack of grieving. Tears loosen  medicine…This is why we feel so alive when grief is done…done properly…there is not a right way, but…you look a mess when you’re done and feel so alive~!  Grief brings you back to life. Grief is a form of praise of life, the gift of being alive.
He talked about how important it is to praise young people,... all their ideas, praise them well, all the time, listen to them and teach them how to grieve properly.  Let then see you grieve so they will know how..... The ”tough” youth play out our illness, for us to see- they act flat- like they feel nothing....flat. (he tells a funny story in the talk)
 When something dies it is important to grieve, or it is as if it was never alive. You can’t deal with it yourself; it takes a community…To grieve properly takes a lot of people, hundreds of people...  Praise is better that way too.  
When the tears roll you have to listen to the person. Nothing to solve… they are in that place, listen to them, let it rock.. Same with happiness... let it roll... Grief makes people care for each other...We love expression in the village, the people watch out for you. People praise and grieve in such a way that the village holds them up while they do it".  
Here is a prayer he spoke in native language, then in English, then explained it's meaning  Long Line, Honey in the Heart, tears of Gods, white roads, paved with the eyebrows of the moon, which is sea foam.  All color roads, which are paved with abundance, from the tail of the morning star, which is the deer.    No evils, 13 thank-yous
Namaste,   Christina  
Dragonflies do you see the frog?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


What Yoga Is and Is Not.

Know What you are getting into, it might not be an “exercise class”!
YOGA IS NOT:
    ·      A physical exercise class


·      A religion


·      Simple

·      Being a contortionist

·      A sport

·      A quick fix to anything

·      Something you master completely on any given day, there is no finish line.
 YOGA IS:


·      Moving Meditation. 

·      Focused Concentration and keen awareness of mind and body.

·      Control of the breath, with movement synchronized to the breath: awareness always with the breath.

·      Vinyasa- a flow through a series of movements - One breath to one movement.  An example is sun salutations.  Vinyasa warms the body from inside and increases meditative focus, awareness of the breath.

·      Asanas- (“poses” and the movement into, with-in and out of them) which build to more difficult Asanas, creating greater freedom of mind and body.

·      A process. Each movement towards, with-in and transition out of an asana is a journey towards mind-body integration, flexibility and strength with-in that asana.

·      Yoga is complex. This is why it is a process! Usually a rather slow process in the beginning.

·      Always a whole being (body-mind-emotions) experience. Expect to change more than your body!

·      Vinyasa and asana are only one of the eight limbs of yoga Philosophy.

·      The goal of yoga is no less than Enlightenment, (knowledge/understanding/insight which brings freedom).

·      The rewards are mastery over the mind and a strong, flexible, yet supple, body.

·       Yoga was originally created so that a person could remain in seated, still in meditation without being distracted by discomfort in the body.

·      It is a philosophy. One branch of Yoga, Devotion, can be devotion in the religious sense, but this is a personal choice.

·      Yoga has been attributed as great tools for religion, or spiritual growth, no matter what faith or philosophy a person believes. The practice of yoga as lifestyle is expanded understanding, compassion, inner peace and peaceful conduct, eventually all of life becomes a moving meditation


Namaste, Christina

Saturday, January 30, 2016

How does our lifestyle affect our mobility?


 
Our mobility, health, physical, mental and emotional well-being are affected by the way we live.

 
Lifestyle can be changed, and with understanding and patience it can evolve to support health of mind, body and spirit.

You may be pleased and surprised at the things you will be able to do with patience and practice. Being aware of daily activities and how to do them in such a way as to support health and well-being can make a huge difference.

 
These are several factors inhibiting mobility which I have seen effect myself and most people I know:

 

Outward focus focus on the job(s) at hand rather than keeping focus on the body doing the job.  In physical education and sports the focus is on the ball, with the team, and the competition. When introspection and body awareness are valued, movement becomes more fluid, safer, and meditative, leading to more useful mobility and reduction of stress.

 

Chairs Think about it - sitting in chairs uses a very limited range of motion in the hips compared with sitting on ground, squatting, or on low cushions several times a day. In olden times and currently in many places, particularly in rural areas, people daily sit or squat on the ground or floors throughout their lifetime, not only when they are young.

  
 








 

Cars – We walk far less than we did historically and compared to rural people. Walking is the most underrated exercise/ activity in modern culture. Many people don’t walk daily or for more than a few steps, many days of our lives, yet daily walking is great for our whole bodies including our posture.  In many large cities  like, New York, NY, people walk as their primary means of transportation. See my earlier post- Walking is the Most Underrated Exercise.

         
 


           

Seat-toilets –Squatting uses a great range of motion in the hips legs ankles and feet Also squatting is the best way for the body to completely eliminate waste. There have been numerous studies showing that the more open position of the colon when squatting leads to easier elimination and fewer problems associated with it.

 

Shallow breathing- Yes, most all of us tend to do this! Deep breathing is essential to mind/body connection, physical performance, and true relaxation. Deep breathing and breath control are essential to progress in any physical practice. When I instruct new students to breathe deeply, more often than not, they do a fast shallow breath and hold it then exhale fast as well. Deep controlled breathing takes much daily practice.

 
“Sit still” - many of us are conditioned from early on to not move. After kindergarten, children in school move-about very little for most of the 7 hour school day. e.g. no longer sitting on the floor, standing, stretching or free play.

To hold the body in one position, at computer, TV, phone, in a car, formed into a chair without some movement (especially of the spine) promotes poor posture and weaker core strength when it is done over days and weeks and years (7 hour school day, 8 hour work-week).







Even infants and toddlers in car-seats and strollers need to move frequently (15+ minutes at a time I believe is a long time to “sit still” unless resting or sleeping, and there should still be room to move as the child intuitively will do).






Those fidgeting children in school may have been doing (or trying to do) the right thing for their body!


Not resting  when we are tired.
                                                                I love this picture! Restorative yoga, farm style! So much of the time people drink coffee or tea to keep going, when really they need a rest. Quality rest is a benefit of an active lifestyle, remember how well you slept as a child after active playing all day?
 

We live in a culture of quick-fixes- We are way too easily discouraged.  We expect instant and fast results, and tend to become discouraged if we don’t do something well within the first few days or weeks. Yet we all know that people don't become masterful at anything without years of study and practice. 

Because of all these trends in modern life, many people experience stiffness (inhibited movement)*, discomfort, and often even pain in the tissues of the body. With this, there is also atrophy of the neural pathways; even your brain needs some re-training! *There are other factors also, such as age, injuries and illnesses that effect people’s mobility worldwide.

 

It is disheartening to realize we how much we may have “lost”.  

The good news is it can be gained back with patience and practice.

No wonder getting started is difficult! Do it anyway!!!  And accept yourself exactly where you are at and enjoy the journey! Find teachers who challenge you and genuinely care.  

All the best, Christina
 

If you stay mindful of some basic ideas it might be easier get started.  If you are interested in yoga, you may want to read this blog to know what you’re getting into What Yoga Is and Is Not.

 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Yoga and Bone Health

Sharing this article that a student brought to class.

12 Minutes of Yoga for Bone Health   
By   JANE E. BRODY     NY Times,  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.”

Monday, November 9, 2015

I DON’T DO YOGA! I PRACTICE YOGA!

Just as a runner does not do a marathon, he or she spends hours, days, months and years training in order to run (do) marathons. Dancers don’t just wake up one day and perform complex choreography with ease, they practice daily for weeks, months and years.  
This is why, as a yoga teacher, I get weary of hearing “I can’t do that” or “I can’t do yoga”. I am weary because I couldn’t do 98% of what I do now when I started, either! I did not get to where I am now by magic; I wasn’t at all flexible when I started, my posture was poor, and my core and many other muscles were weak. Fortunately, I have had great teachers and attended many helpful workshops and training. I have been to classes ranging from horrible to excellent.  
Mostly, I work hard at it every day with my mind as focused as possible every moment of the practice.  And when I find a good teacher,  I stay with him or her so that they know me and know what is hard for me. (Because I try to avoid what is hard. Yup, I do this too!)
The other reason yoga teachers get tired of hearing “I can’t do that” or “I can’t do yoga” is that we know it is not true.   We see people practice yoga who let nothing stand in their way. Personally, I have practiced yoga with a person missing an arm, another person dealing with multiple sclerosis, and people recovering from cancer treatments and surgeries.
The main reason I am weary of hearing this (and I suppose most other teachers are also) is because it is a self-fulfilling-prophecy.  It keeps you from starting and inhibits progress when you do start.  
If you have ever tried to teach a kid to swim or ride a bike you know exactly what I am talking about. All those attempts when they didn’t believe they could do it didn’t bring success! Yet once they start to believe even slightly “maybe I can do this”, the attempts become successful.   This isn’t just true for kids!!!   It is true for adults as well.  I and my yoga friends often talk about why we struggle with certain poses, for example I was (still am) frightened of arm balances and handstand poses. I know the problem is in my mind – my thinking “I can’t do this” or fear “what if I fall, and get hurt”. Intellectually I know this is ridiculous because I can do these with a spotter or teacher standing next to and supporting me, and I have fallen and not gotten hurt.  It might be ten or one hundred more attempts before I believe I can do it and/ or get past fear enough to actually succeed. 

So keep trying, keep practicing, there is no finish line.



YES!  It is difficult, and yes it does take discipline. It is especially difficult if you are not active, athletic or young.  It is also especially difficult living the modern urban lifestyle.  I wrote a whole blog addressing this *WHY IS YOGA SO DIFFICULT FOR PEOPLE LIVING MODERN, URBAN AND SUBURBAN LIFESTYLES?
 

All the best, Christina