Yoga

Monday, March 12, 2018

4 techniques for success in yoga


Often we common to set new goals, and try new start new habits.
Having trouble or Not reaching those Yoga or lifestyle goals? 

Here are some proven techniques for achieving goals 


1. Share your goal, recruit a buddy and support each other weekly or more often. Togetherness is why yoga classes, are a great place to start and continue, because you are not isolated. To set goals in isolation, sabotages us from the start.

2. Embrace yoga as a non-competitive process!  The  wiser self knows that health, energy and peace come from mindfulness in movement over time.  The wiser self knows that, like life itself, yoga is a process, a journey.

3. Let go of requirements and expectations such as...  "I  have to be good immediately" "I have to already be flexible to start" and "I should be able to do this or that...".

4. Let go of excuses such as - 
“I’m not flexible”--- yoga helps you become more flexible over time!
“I’m out of shape-“-- yoga helps you get in shape, and if you can breathe, you can do yoga!
“I’m too overweight”  regular yoga helps with weight loss!, so love yourself now as you are and begin.
“I’m too old”--- You are never too old to reap the benefits of yoga!
“I don’t have the energy”- Yoga gives you energy! You may feel tired after classes or practice in the beginning but stick with it and you will begin to have more energy.
" I have this condition or injury.."  You are more than your conditions and injuries.  Talk with instructor, focus on all that you can do and grow your practice from there!
“I tried it once ….”  Try a different class or teacher give it a few weeks or months before giving up.– look for a class that is right for you - e.g. if your over 50 look for a teacher over 50, if your beginning go to beginner classes!
Excuses for not getting to  yoga are actually the true reasons to start and continue growing your yoga practice!

 For persons who have suffered accident injury or severe illness, be smart:  choose to do therapeutic ,senior, or gentle yoga to start.  A daily walking program can be an excellent starting point.  If you want success, do not be secretive or isolated in whatever you chose.  You do not have to do it alone.

Some motivating facts...  print post these, share them with your buddy.

  • To avoid  movement  is choosing to age faster, is limiting your future joy in:  dancing, playing with children, easily getting up from and down to the ground, or picnicking in the grass on a sunny day. 
  • The less you move the less energy you have, the less you move the less you are able to move and the more likely you are to become injured when you do move. 
  • The more strength and flexibility you have the less likely you will be injured and the faster you heal and recover from injury. Moving mindfully after injury is the best way to heal and regain flexibility.

REMEMBER to tune-in and honor your own limits- where you are at, today.
REMEMBER you are more than a body, that the mind, spirit and emotions all are involved. Yoga is more about training the mind than anything else.

The physical moves or postures are just the tip of the iceberg, what is underneath is: discipline, practice,  change of attitudes, watching the mind, breath, concentration,  meditation.

Peace, Christina
Consider having an individual session to set and begin your next goal- reach higher!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Winter & Yoga

Winter is upon us, let’s be closer to each other.
We are a species profoundly interconnected and interdependent. Keep in mind modern culture promotes an unrealistic ideal of independence and self-sufficiency. This may be hindering our ability to be close. The truth is we all want closeness and connection.  I shared this article last year and in case you missed it, you may find it refreshing; closeness, togetherness coziness
    I hope you find time for leisurely walks this season. All around us, in the natural world is stimulus for us to understand our own nature, we are made of the same stuff:  Water, Earth (minerals), Fire (heat and combustion, digestion and burning of food for energy) Air (Breath) and Either (space). Appreciation of nature on a walk always lifts ones spirits. 
More about walking in this blog post walking the most under-rated exercise.
Remember to do your daily routine, even in the hustle of holidays, travel and visitors. Your practice, done consistently and mindfully has a powerful healing effect on all levels; physical, mental, emotional, energetic and a multitude of aspects deeper and more profound. Daily practice  allows us to face our life, to deal with our emotions and quiet the chatter in our minds. Our negative thoughts and suppressed emotions are toxic. By gaining control of the mind we can grow through conscious awareness of emotions the energy they have. True yoga is a well of strength and peace to draw from.  This well is filled through daily practice– asana and meditation.
And a couple quotes for inspiration....
“The more you sit in the self the more you will feel an energy that you have never experienced before. It comes from behind rather than in front where you experience your mind and emotions.…When you are no longer absorbed in your melodrama, but instead sit comfortably deep inside the seat of awareness, you will feel this energy from deep within.    …. Feelings, loneliness, fear are just things in the universe like cars, grass, stars, Awareness does not fight.  Within the self you will experience strength of your inner Being, even when the heart is weak…”   From the book Untethered Soul – Michael Singer
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”  Thich Nhat Hanh
Peace, Christina

Monday, November 6, 2017

Stretching The Spine Is Natural Movement!

    
Columbia Records It’s A Beautiful Day, The cover was designed by George Hunter and painted by Kent Hollister based on the cover of a housekeeping magazine from around 1900
I have always delighted in looking at this album cover art! The woman looks comfortable in her body, full of vitality and enjoying a Hot Summer Day (a great song on the album). She has an openness, her heart is exposed, unguarded. She is experiencing the breeze, the sun and life! She is wholly present in that moment! 

Along the same lines;

I remember a scene in a visually stunning Chinese *movie. Many people were harvesting or tending rice, they were all bending forward, down. A breeze came up and one by one everyone stretched their backs (similar to the woman on the album cover). At one point all of them were in variations of this position. They were not rushed, they all seemed to be listening to their own bodies needs, stretching their spines as much and as long as each needed to before going back to work!       

Think about this for a few minutes…visualize it…

(* I wish I had a clip or remembered the film’s title, if you know, Please comment below!)            

…When do you enjoy a nice long stretch of your spine? 

 I often hear people saying “I don’t backbend” or “I can’t Backbend”, and I see some students struggle with the easiest “backbend” postures. I wonder how much of this has to do with our modern lifestyle and our  mindset, and our emotional health (self love, acceptance), to to feel free and safe! 

Do rounded shoulders and hunched backs reflect our wounds, our heartaches?  Is it some kind of armor over our heart?

As a yogi, I say YES, it is our wounds and our armor both!

I and many people find emotions come up when backbending! Even gaining just a little new suppleness around the heart, has brought me to tears. This is not a bad thing! If I have grief or sadness, isn’t it best to acknowledge it, give it some space and time to release from my being?

“The deeper sorrow carves into our being the more joy it can contain” ~ Kahlil Gibran 

I was recently at concerts where the music was amazing, yet few people were smiling and very few danced. I thought of this poem;

O wondrous creatures, By what strange miracle Do you so often Not smile?~ Hafiz

I simply wish for everyone to love being in their body, exactly as it is. To feel comfortable and have a sense of vitality, aliveness.

I wish for everyone to enjoy embodied movement, embodied rest, embodied closeness. I wish everyone to find peace. this is why I teach yoga.

Peace, Christina 


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.”