Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The First Months / Years of Your Yoga Practice

Practical Guide: Your First Month of Practice, from   James Cardinale-

 James Cardinale trained with Sri Pattabhi Jois, Founder of Ashtanga yoga, James is based out of Albuquerque, NM, USA, and is an awesome teacher!

1. Just show up.

2. Don't worry about memorizing anything.  Your aim is to show up every day. The rest will come automatically. No one in the class cares if you know what you are doing. The teacher doesn't expect you to know anything.  Just show up. (And remember to take off your shoes.)

3. Each morning you will wake up and some days you will feel good and some days you'll feel bad and the thing is to get past the ups and downs of the mind and just show up anyway.  This isn't the kind of thing where you think to yourself "oh, I feel nice today I think I will go to yoga".  Nope.  The yoga bit is showing up regardless of how you feel because feelings are always changing. Philosophically, this is the identifying with the unchanging Yoga Sutra thing. Try to get right away that it ain't about the asanas. Just show up.

4. Or maybe think about the asanas as where your body is located in space.  So rather than your body being at home, take it to the shala.

5. Build up your daily practice with the mantra of "slow and steady".  There is no rush.  There is no finish line.

6.  The first month (actually, the first few years) is all about trying to establish a habit.  That is one of the reasons why you start with a small amount of time.  It is much easier to show up for perhaps twenty minutes each day than 90.  This is different than going to a 90 minute yoga class.  This is about a daily practice as part of the rest of your life.  Start small.  A little each day. This is the traditional method for learning and practicing Ashtanga yoga.  We aren't changing a thing because this really does work
7. It is ok to know nothing. It is ok to feel uncomfortable. It is ok if your ego gets bruised.  Be willing to learn.  Just be a student.

8. Yoga is not friendship time. Yoga goes beyond that. You can leave all that at the door.  You don't have to say good morning or be in a nice mood.  It really isn't about that. Your teacher isn't supposed to be your friend. Your fellow students are busy learning and practicing just like you are.  Let the space be more.  Let the energy be raised.

9. Just show up.

10. Keep showing up.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Moving beyond the soreness


 

Move your body in new ways, build strength, increase your flexibility  and you will be sore.   This is actually a very good thing!
  When you move deeper/more the body will feel “sore” for 24-48hours (while the body is changing); the best remedy for soreness is to move again!  with-in 24-48 hours.   This is how you move beyond soreness. Remember consistency is the key to progress. Practice 4-6 times a week.
 Try enjoying this soreness- it is a clear sign that you are changing, enjoy feeling the muscles, enjoy remembering how your body moves and feels- Enjoy being ALIVE and Vital enough to be able to get sore! See it as a challenge to move (literally) beyond.
  • Yoga Asana (any vigorous exercise, sweating) is Stimulus for change. 
  • Change happens in the body (it becomes stronger, more flexible) during the 24-48 hours after. (1st decay of old cells and 2nd Growth of new cells)
  • If there isn't re-stimulus after 48 hours the body begins to lose that progress  (Decay)
 
To quote Dr. Harry S. Lodge co-author with Chris Crowley of, Younger Next Year and Younger Next Year for Women: "Exercise is healthy stress...When you exercise fairly hard you stress your muscles . You drain them of energy stores and you actually injure them slightly. The stress of exercise is good because it tears you down to build you back up a little stronger....It is a signal to your body that it needs to repair the damage and then some.  It needs to make the muscle just a little stronger. To store just a little more energy for tomorrow. To build a few more tiny blood vessels inside the muscle. To get a little younger."  .... " At rest, only 20percent of your blood flow moves through your muscles: in a trained athlete, that rises, with exercise, to 80 percent. Picture it: torrents, rivers of blood flooding through your muscles with exercise, picking up the cytokines, the messengers of inflammation and repair, growth and healing, and taking them to every corner of your body....Every joint, every bone, every organ, every tiny part of your magnificent brain gets it's bath of C-6, and then the wonderful, rejuvenating C-10 each time you sweat. That's the right balance, good decay triggering growth."
 I recommend this book for understanding  how one can avoid 70% or more of disease and  70% or more of the negative affects of aging; empowering you to live an active, independent life longer.  It is also motivating and funny. We are likely to live a  much longer life than previous generations. Will it be active and independent until near the end?  or will we become increasingly helpless and dependent on "care" for years or decades of our life?  It doesn't have to be all downhill after 40, 50 60,70 you can create a younger body now, and maintain it to very late in life. 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Move it or lose it.~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
 Pain is another thing all together; we tend to stop moving due to injury/pain. Rest it, stop all exercise. This is a huge mistake, keep moving, exercising all the parts you can! Pain is our teacher, so do continue to move, even move the injured parts in the range of motion you are able without pain, move through soreness and to the edge of pain. If you measure the pain from 1- 10, continue to move (slowly with the breath& mindful focus) up to the 1-2 range of pain and learn. This is where to check alignment:  are you breathing correctly? is the joint supported with correct, balanced muscle engagement? Are the spine, shoulders and hips in alignment? Do you feel energy spiraling through the limbs and torso?  Move with alignment and energy in mind, noticing what feels better and doing that!   To think and focus of building new strength and flexibility in improved alignment, rather than focus on what isn’t working. This is the mindset for healing. Homeopathy, Arnica, herbs, Epsom salts baths, essential oils, and acupuncture are some options for healing, but for goodness sake keep on moving!
 Of course if the pain is 8-10 range all the time, seek medical attention. But more and more people are getting results from physical therapy and exercise and avoiding surgeries and other procedures that may or may not help. 
 One of my teachers, recently when I mentioned shoulder pain(in the 4-7 degree range) had me try handstands. I was very surprised to realize there was no pain in doing handstands! Later, even just thinking of handstands, I aligned my shoulders better throughout the day! I discovered the pain was coming from how I was holding my shoulder while at the computer and reaching to the back seat of the car! Changing those habits and doing head and handstands are healing - healing more than just that shoulder too!
 
 
"The body is a treacherous friend. Give it its due; no more. Pain and pleasure are transitory; endure all dualities with calmness, trying at the same time to remove yourself beyond their power. Imagination is the door through which disease as well as healing enters. Disbelieve in the reality of sickness even when you are ill; an unrecognized visitor will flee."  ~   Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri 
 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Learning

I was recently interviewed by Hakim Belamy for this blog and want to share it with you.   this is the  link- I-remember-this! 
 
 
 


 

Monday, March 10, 2014

"Have you lost weight?"

"You look great"   "have you lost weight?"   Recently after improving my posture several people said this to me. Hearing this hit this nerve that just made me sad. Why? I'll tell you why! I hadn't lost any weight and didn't need to either! It upsets my sense of non-judgment how "looking good" and "losing weight" are so linked together in this culture.
Why not just look into someone's eyes and say "you look great!" period!
 or say "you look great, you must be taking good care of yourself?" or "you look great you must be feeling good".
 I love many people who are "overweight" by western popular culture and who are beautiful! Most of the women I spent time with in North Africa would be considered "fat" here, whereas there, the standards of beauty include fuller bodied and even robust women.
Yes, obesity is a cultural problem and health issue in the USA, but many people who are full-bodied and rounder suffer so much trying to fit a norm that is sick, yes, sick! We all know by now, how much digital manipulation goes into the ultra-thin models for fashion magazines. We know about the unrealistic proportions of the Barbie doll and the eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.
Some extra pounds is not obesity, there is a big difference and as a culture we need to stop buying into the fashion and diet weight loss industry's tactics!  I have met people who literally will "not be friends with anyone who is more than a few pounds overweight", saying "it just grosses me out". This is beyond judgmental, it is sad.
Billions of dollars get spent on weight loss and diet programs that don't work in the long run - just exploit people by making an underweight ideal that is abnormal and difficult to impossible for most people to attain, especially people who are rounder in their beauty. I use the word beauty but could replace it with handsome for the males, though this culture is much less judgmental towards full-bodied men.

Beauty comes in many shapes and sizes. Even us women ourselves need to broaden our perception of beauty, and not judge each-other by the cultural ideals that pervades the media."You look great" "have you lost weight"... I also heard this often at a time in my life where I struggled financially and wasn't eating enough. I also wasn't good about letting people in and asking for help, though now, I would.

Again someone says, "You look great" "have you lost weight", I didn't feel like I got a compliment, and I was reminded again how hungry I was, and how being hungry kept me up the night before.
 I wish I would've said "YES, I LOST MORE WIEGHT,  I"M HUNGRY, MY BODY FAT IS UNHEALTHILY LOW, WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS LOOKING GREAT?? Will you get me lunch???!  I did talk about this with some of the women who said it, and think they have a better understanding of the cultural illness that still has women thinking "you can't be too thin".   
I also have been a few pounds heavier than was good for me and went through hating myself and feeling like I was disgusting. Though, far from obese, I didn't like how it slowed me down.  I didn't loss the weigh until I started to love myself exactly as I was, which lead to things like dancing, yoga and hiking and enjoying moving then, the weight shed easily.  So maybe the next person you notice looking good you might just say "you are beautiful, I love you!" Better yet find the beauty in everyone around you and speak to that!
               You are all beautiful, and I love you. Namaste, Christina

Monday, December 30, 2013

Happy New Year! 
“To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” ~ Buddha
As a new year starts many of us make plans and think of ways to be better in the coming year.  Almost everyone I know say’s they want to get healthier in the New Year. Often though, the changes don’t get started or don’t continue past a few weeks.   I encourage you to start simple.
There is no substitute for what eating well, moving your body,
self-love and mindfulness can do for your wellbeing. The Key is Self-Love.
The way to counter-act stress is to relax, get good enough at relaxing and you eliminate stress!  If you approach your “down time” with self-love, it is likely to be a quieter, simple time where you breath deeper and truly relax, mind and body in silence.  Watching TV, internet and/or drinking alcohol, though common ways to “relax”, are actually counter-productive for true relaxation.  Try this- Sit or lie down so you are comfortable and not likely to fidget, then give yourself 10 minutes and do nothing but focus on deeper and deeper breathing. Settle the mind, relax the body. If you do this daily, just this…in time you will make progress towards all you other health goals!  So why not make one simple goal; to relax more?  I actually think this is the best place to start. The whole purpose of yoga poses (asana) was begun to get the body aligned and relaxed enough to be still in meditation. The simple 10 minute exercise above was a meditation, at least a start.
If you approach eating from a state of being relaxed and with self-love, you eat healthier foods and savor the experience of eating. Start as you are shopping; enjoy the colors and smells of the foods. Find pleasure when preparing the foods. Maybe just being grateful for all that had to happen for the food to reach you! Enjoy the textures aroma, the creativity. Start simple do it for one meal a week- enjoy all parts to that one meal- maybe share with a friend. Personally I enjoy good food with good company the most.
If you incorporate movement into your day with self-love, it will be movement you enjoy. A habit or practice for the mind and body, not laborious work-outs that you drag yourself to, but joyfully inhabiting your body as it is now and also challenging yourself to be stronger and more flexible and coordinated as you continue. Dance, Yoga, Tia Chi, walking, running, biking…It doesn’t matter what you choose as long as you can find pleasure in doing it, and do it with enough passion and energy to sweat. I say it doesn’t matter what you choose, yet it does, because if it is not a mindful practice, including inward focus, you are not going to reap the full benefits for health of mind body and spirit. Developing the breath control (and capacity) in harmony with your movement-then it is possible to get in the “ZONE” that place all athletes, dancers, martial artists, etc.. get to when it becomes a blissful moving meditation and there is harmony of body mind and spirit(consciousness).  This is a natural heightened state of being.   aka BLISS!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

many ways to meditate

Mandala by Danmala-link to more below

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

There are so very many ways to meditate. 

 Meditation is practiced by saints, mystics and common folks in all religions, cultures, regions of the world, and throughout time. Though it may not be called meditation. For example, the farmer who paused in gratitude and stared at the fields every morning for a quarter of an hour, this was his form of meditating,  because he did it even in times of drought and it brought him peace.
A Christian friend of mine once said "Prayer is asking of God, Meditation is listening to God". In  Zen seated and walking "practice" the idea is to be fully present in the experience of now. This may sound odd, yet in my own experience at a time when I was stressed and suffering,  it was through beginning meditation and yoga that I became aware of how my mind was so busy jumping from past to worrying about the future that I was missing what was happening right in front of me, I was not present.

 You may already have a preferred method, such as Transcendental meditation, guided meditations.... There are also the moving meditations such as walking meditation, Tia Chi, yoga  Martial arts and dance.  Moving meditation is not simply physical exercise, but,  practiced daily, mindfully and with proper breathing (all these practices ideally include breath awareness) they  become meditation.  Creative practices such as the visual arts, Music, Poetry and theater can also become meditation, under the right intentions and with regular mindful practice.
              How do you know if your practice (of anything) has become meditation?  You lose track of time. You feel restored and peaceful. You have more insight and self awareness. You are not concerned with outcome or results of the practice. You are "lost in the moment", which is an odd phase because one is actually found . You also experience relief from stress.
             When meditation is practiced regularly over time, this peaceful, and increased awareness begins to flow into your whole day, existence. You experience less stress, increased mental clarity, and better health. Everyone who practices true daily meditation begins making healthier life choices, often changing how they are in relationships and community, how and where they work, and letting go of unhealthy habits.
So there is everything to gain and nothing to lose -As this old Zen saying goes- "You should sit in Meditation for 20 minutes, unless you are too busy,  then you should sit for an hour"
On this site  is an article about a happiness study of brain activity and also a video interview with David Lynch "one of America's greatest film makers" about TM Transcendental Meditation.
a-buddhist-monk-shows-unheard-of-brain activity
I'd like to share with you the beautiful mandala's made by Danmala which are also a beautiful form of meditation.danmala.com/gallery

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fallen yogi

      The Fallen Yogi, ...with dementia

As a yoga instructor, I didn't want to share my personal history of being away from yoga,  Asana (poses) meditation and the other 6 limbs of yoga.  I am happy to say I got over that; Happy because I realize there is a level of wisdom that comes from having fallen and climbing back up, which is worth sharing and may help others.
     I know how it feels to do a forward fold (touch your toes) and discover I could barely reach my knees.  I know how a busy mind and out of shape body can't hold the simplest balancing pose (even modified). I was not a yogi for more than two decades of my life. Though I could say "I was busy, working, being a single mom, bread-winner, home-owner" I stopped making excuses.  I faced the reality that I had sold-out, and gotten so out of touch with the inner self, and self-love that it literally made me very sick. The primary symptom being *dementia. Leaving me with little good to offer those around me.  I completely understand the loss of vitality and the unhappiness that comes from a stressful life.
     I lived for a couple years with the fear that I was losing my cognitive functioning. I thought I had Alzheimer's disease or a brain tumor, but mostly my mind was a constant stream of useless worries, dissections of my past and fearful projections into a bleak future. This mental clutter and my clinging to "work" as the answer to everything, kept me running in the rat-race while the quality of my life disintegrated. I was just surviving, existing, going through the motions. Though I was "active" it was in a limited way and with so much tension and misalignment that I was wearing myself down rather than healing myself. Movement is a great healer, but not just any movement, and the occasional yoga classes didn't prevent my falling.
COMING HOME TO YOGA,  At  the age of 50, I started with 1-2 classes a week for a month. This was the only place were I experienced relief, felt at home, or had any sense of well-being and peace. Because I had been a yogi long ago, I knew to return to doing daily yoga, asana and meditation. The changes began to happen quickly, which was motivating so, I kept at it, it became my medicine to thrive in a life worth living.
         The first change was my mind stopped racing long enough (initially less than a minute) for me to remember what calm and peace where.  I began just closing my eyes and taking a deeper breath and recalling that minute which brought another brief moment of calm. With-in days, my physical body was resting better at night and I could see gains in strength and alignment in the first week which brought about increased energy. In that first month I noticed subtle increases in flexibility (I was never naturally flexible). and after a few months increased flexibility of mind begin to re-emerge; I was more open to new possibilities and ways of relating to others.  Most importantly my heart was more open, I wasn't numb, and I knew I was part of something greater, connected, a part of the One.  Perhaps, because of years of yoga dance and other various movement practices stored in my memory (mind and body-memory), I noticed the subtle changes more than many people would. Or it may have been the desperation after having fallen so far. 
How do you to start daily practice? That is very individual.  I began doing 6-10 sun salutations and meditating for 10 minutes, DAILY, in the morning. This created profound changes with-in a few days. This practice set a quieter tone/mind/vibration which I could access throughout the day. I was very aware that I had so much farther to go, so I increased, after just a few days to one hour yoga Asana and 30 minutes meditation. Then within another couple weeks to 45-60 minutes of meditation. It became my daily medicine, and my health insurance.  Now after more than 3 years (over 1095 consecutive days) I can't even begin to express in 100 blog posts all the benefits, joy, peace and clarity that I have gained. Remember I "had a long way to go", now I can find peace in starting one deep breath, most of time, no matter what is going on around me.
 ~ Namaste ~ Christina
     *I will, at some point, write more about the dementia experience.