In this 2 minute video I go over a flow sequence linking spinal movement with breath. The intention is to mobilize and warm up the back in the motions of flexion and extension.
Many people have not heard of Adrenal Fatigue, but understanding this condition is important because some experts suggest that 80% of the Western world will be affected by it at some point in their lives.
The adrenal glands are located above the kidneys and are responsible for secreting more than 50 different hormones that are essential for life. Among these are adrenaline, cortisol, progesterone and testosterone. Because they regulate so many important hormones, their proper function is critical for many functions essential to life such as producing energy, balancing electrolytes and storing fat.
These glands also help you deal with stress. When you are under stress, the adrenal glands engage many different responses in your body to make it easier for you to handle that stress.
But during periods of intense, prolonged stress or chronic illness, the adrenal glands begin functioning below the level needed to maintain health and well-being in the body. They still function but at less than optimal levels. The result is adrenal fatigue.
Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue:
- Feeling tired for no reason
- Craving salty or sweet snacks
- Morning fatigue
- Mid-afternoon sleepiness
- Increased energy in the late afternoon
- Decreased sex drive
- Mild Depression
- Weight gain, especially around the waist
- Low body temperature
Treatment: Treatment for adrenal fatigue should take a multi-faceted approach with whole-body wellness in mind.
Stress: One of the first things you should do is reduce the stress in your life. This may mean clearing your schedule, reworking some relationships or learning time management skills. In order for your adrenal glands to heal, the demands placed on them should be lightened.
Sleep: Sufficient sleep is also important. The main repair work on your adrenal glands takes place between 10 pm and 1 am. If you are prone to late nights, consider training your body to go to bed earlier. It is also a good idea to reduce or eliminate caffeine from your diet in order to help you sleep more soundly.
Exercise: Adrenal fatigue can also be helped by exercise. Exercise regulates cortisol, relieves depression and increases blood flow. Each of these benefits will contribute to your recovery. Try to exercise at least 20 to 30 minutes each day. Yoga is especially helpful in this manner since it teaches breathing and relaxation techniques as well as the physical exercise.
Nutrition: Finally, by decreasing ‘junk’ food as much as possible and eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet, you can improve your nutrient intake. Sometimes adding supplements to your diet can speed healing of adrenal fatigue, check with your doctor, naturopath, or dietician for advice on this matter.
Emotional Hygiene: We seem to be good at recognizing our physical ailments and seeking treatment, but we tend to ignore or minimize our mental health ailments. However, it is just as important to take care of your emotional health as it is your physical health. Improve your emotional hygiene by truthfully acknowledging your emotional status and, when necessary, seek the support your need.
Remember the first step to any change is awareness. If you think you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue, consider these lifestyle tips as part of your self-care plan in conjunction with working with your health professionals.
*For some helpful information on using yoga to reset the body’s nervous system and decrease stress hormones click here.
Here is a short flow sequence I use to warm-up the upper body at beginning of classes. It gently stretches the upper back, shoulders, neck and chest. It also helps to draw energy and circulation into these area, and brings focus into the body and breath.
If you find yourself sitting at a computer for long periods, this sequence is great as a tension reliever for the upper body during your workday. Simply sit at the edge of a stable chair, and move through the sequence 5 to 8 cycles.
Do you believe that our physical bodies hold memory of our past experiences?
I recently worked with a lady who had a painful injury to the left side of her rib cage and every time she leaned towards this area she felt pain. To avoid the pain she would chronically lean away from the pain, and over the course of a year her muscles reset to a new “normal” of her trunk leaning to the right. This makes sense that our bodies shape around physical injuries and most frequent activities.
But what about this notion of storing “issues in our tissues”… can unexpressed emotion, fears, expectations, and our beliefs about ourselves actually be stored in our bodily matrix, shaping our physical form? Take for example, the chronic hiking of your shoulders from years of taking on too much responsibility or the forward rounding of your upper back to shield your front body, the place of your vulnerability and insecurities.
To me it feels very logical that thought, emotion, and memory can affect how we hold ourselves, and over time, how this holding pattern could be memorized through repeated transfer of information from cell to cell. There is a great quote from Ken Dychtwald that considers posture in relationship to the emotional body, “The body begins to form around the feelings that animate it, and the feelings, in turn, become habituated and trapped within the body tissue, itself.”
What I find so interesting about this is how we can go months, years, and sometimes lifetimes being unaware of the storage of memory in the tissues of the body until one day, your attention is called inwards and you experience your body outside the conditioned grooves that day-to-day living assumes. So often is the case for many of us when we first start practicing yoga. As Elisa Cobb writes in her book, The Forgotten Body, “the silence and the moment-to-moment awareness cues in yoga are invitations to finally notice sensations, thoughts, and images that arise, and the physical postures, asanas, knead the body’s cells, moving energetic information and triggering cellular memories. Yoga provides the atmosphere that interrupts our patterned living and provides us with the opportunity to meet ourselves with fresh perspective at the level of bodily experience.”
I find it fascinating that yoga can teach us that a tightly held muscle or rotation in our hip stores valuable information about our past and present selves. A simple stretch or pose becomes an invitation into the psychological and physiological web that form the matrix of the mind-body… a place from which we can let our bodies speak the stories of our past and reveal the ways in which our patterns of conditioning affect us. And with this new awareness of the “issues in our tissues”, it plants a seed for a different relationship with ourselves, the possibility of change, and in some cases a whole new way of standing in the present moment.
A few months ago I read this:
You’ve been up on that diving board. Making sure that it’s nice and straight. You’ve made sure that it’s not too slick. You’ve made sure it can stand the weight. You’ve made sure that the spring is tight. You’ve made sure that the cloth won’t slip. You’ve made sure that it bounces right, And that your toes can get a grip—And you’ve been up there since half past five. Doin’ everything… but DIVE. – Shel Silverstein
After reading this I thought, this poem pretty much sums up how I feel about my yoga career, at least, at this moment in time. For years I have been planning, training, preparing, teaching, waiting, saving, and constructing… such that when I finally got nearer to officially opening my own yoga studio, it seemed to me, well…there is only one last thing to do.
Perhaps you can relate. Have you ever done a big career change, or perhaps something else like move to a new country, quit work and travel, leave a relationship, etc.? Big life changes like these have a way of making you feel vulnerable as you leave the familiar, the safe, and the secure, and sometimes it takes a lot of nerve and planning to finally getting to the point to overcome our fears and obstacles to take the big leap.
For me, it was a slow and steady climb towards my goal. There was no running and jumping – I had bills to pay and kids to raise, so I chose a part-time path. This required more time and patience than I imagined, but I kept at it, and for this I give myself a pat on the back. Ultimately, this journey has brought me to this point, at the peak of my total career change, and now I can finally say, my studio is open for business.
So if you are facing a big change in your life and you’re wondering should I or shouldn’t I? Just remember it doesn’t matter how you do it or how long it takes, it only matters that you don’t stand still. I can honestly say, being at this pivotal point, it does make me feel nervous, but I know in my heart, no matter what is to happen in the time to come, it’s true that it would have been worse to not have tried at all.
We must walk consciously only part of the way toward our goal, and then leap into the dark of our success. -Henry David Thoreau
With nearly 22 million North Americans practicing yoga, there’s a lot of buzz these days about what the benefits, and harms, are of yoga. You will hear and read anything from yoga cures migraines, menstrual cramps, tight hips, insomnia, rid the body of toxins, backache, anxiety to my personal favourites – yoga to flatten the abs and tighten the booty… Needless to say, one can get a little wary and mockingly ask, “What can’t yoga do?”
As much as I love yoga and do believe it provides us with many health benefits, I still appreciate everything has it’s limits, and let’s face it, yoga is a business – so a little scepticism goes a long way. Yoga is also very difficult to define due to its ever-evolving westernization of techniques and myriad of styles, making it tricky to qualify in research. However, plenty of studies have been done, and many more are underway. I recently came across this article,“I read more than 50 scientific studies about yoga. And here’s what I learned” by Julia Belluz’s, which nicely summarizes what the evidence for us. Here’s what it said:
What we know:
- Yoga is probably just as good for your health as many other forms of exercise, but it seems particularly promising for improving lower back pain
- Yoga helps reduce inflammation in the body, which can actually help stave off disease.
- Yoga enhances “body awareness,” or people’s sense of what’s going on inside themselves
- There is evidence showing that yoga helps with stress, anxiety, and other mood disorders, although, the studies thus far are limited in design and inconclusive in what aspect of yoga is actually helping
What we don’t know:
- Whether some forms of yoga are better than others
- Whether yoga should be prescribed to people for various health conditions
- How yoga compares with other forms of exercise for a good many specific health outcomes
- Whether yoga is safe in the long term. The cumulative research so far shows yoga is as safe as any other exercise, but much is still to be learned about long term safety when considering different styles and specific poses.
- There is no good evidence yet behind many of the supposed health benefits of yoga, like flushing out toxins and stimulating digestion
My take on all this:
I always feel great in my body and mind after a good yoga class, and that’s what keeps me practicing. I’m sure the millions of other yogi’s would agree, and for this reason, I think yoga is here to stay. But with its increasing presence in mainstream society, more questions will be asked and the natural progression is for more research to be done, helping us better understand more about the what aspects of yoga are giving us the benefits, and possibly harms. This will indefinitely lead to refinement of techniques and styles and tighter regulations of credentials. Personally, I’m excited about the next chapter of yoga; no doubt there’s much to discover.
Crescent lunge is my go to pose these days. It’s a very similar pose to Warrior I except you don’t rotate the back foot out 45 degrees, instead your back foot remains pointing forward, grounding through the ball of your foot.
You can get so many benefits from doing this pose. Most significantly, the stretch you get through the iliopsoas (hip flexor) muscle of the back leg is greater than the one you get in Warrior I, and when done in a certain way (see infographic below for alignment points), crescent lunge allows for stretch along the whole frontal myofascial line. You also gain stability and strength around the knees, ankles and core, and energetically, this posture lends to generating a sense of power within. This is a great pose to counteract the postural stresses of prolonged sitting.
I love this pose, but it is challenging. For a modification you can do this pose facing a wall: with your front leg position your toes to touch the baseboard and bend your knee to press into the wall ( you can use padding or a block for cushion on the knee). The back leg steps back, in a straight line, pressing through the ball of the foot. Ensure your hips are square to the wall and then concentrate on the alignment points indicated in the picture above.
Ask anyone what they want in life, and surely one of the things they will say is, “to be happy”. But what makes us happy in our lives? That’s the question the producers of the documentary, “Happy” (on Netflix) looked at, and here’s a summary of what they found:
50% of our differences in happiness level is genetic (a baseline if you will), and only 10% of our happiness is related to our circumstances (what job we have, how much money we have, social status, health). This leaves 40% of our differences in happiness unaccounted for, and the theory proposed by the researches in this documentary is this 40% is composed of the actions you choose to do. So here are 6 intentional ways you can create more happiness in your life:
The neurotransmitter dopamine is necessary for feelings of pleasure and happiness in our bodies; therefore seeking out experiences that release more dopamine will increase your happiness. Activities that are best at releasing dopamine are physical exercise, having new experiences, and being involved in community activities involving cooperation with others.
Flow is defined as the experience you get when you are immersed in an activity such as when playing a sport or an instrument. When in flow, all other thoughts about your life are suspended, you feel that nothing else matters, you feel you are in control, you and you forget your problems. The more flow in your life, the more happiness.
Without exception the happiest people in the world all have close family and friends – we are social creatures and community and support are integral to our sense of happiness. Regular social activities increase your happiness.
There are extrinsically motivated individuals (individuals motivated by image, status, wealth), and there are intrinsically motivated individuals (individuals motivated by personal growth, connections with others, sense of community and helpfulness in the world). I’m sure it’s not a surprise to learn intrinsically motivated people are found to be happier than extrinsically motivated people. Interestingly, studies done on random acts of kindness show it to be one of the most significant activities in raising happiness.
Having something bigger to care about other than ourselves generates more happiness. Consider your spiritual connection – for some it is religion, and for others it is more a sense of compassion and caring gratitude that connects them to the universe and other people.
There is lots of new research indicating the benefits of meditation on improving our happiness, in fact some studies show meditation generates more happiness than medication. Specifically highlighted are loving kindness meditations or ones invoking as sense of gratitude for your life where the most helpful in increasing happiness.
What I realized strongly when I watched this documentary are the parallels between what we do in yoga and the activities that help us generate more happiness – flow, meditation, coming together in community, development of the spiritual emotions (gratitude, compassion, caring, love), and exercise. It’s no wonder you feel so good after a yoga class!
I just love the concept of connectivity in the body. If anatomy is defined as breaking things apart, then reversing anatomy the process of putting the pieces back together, and fascia is the connective tissue responsible for this return to whole.
Fascia is a popular topic these days in the therapeutic sciences and yoga – there are numerous blogs and articles describing what it is. Many are based on the work of anatomist Tom Myers, in his books on Anatomy Trains, with his underlying premise that fascia, as a connective tissue, links individual muscles into functional complexes, sometimes referred as myofascial lines or anatomy trains.
Here is an infographic showing groups of muscles being connected through fascia and other connective tissue to form some of the more commonly discussed functional lines:
For this article, it is not my intent to delve into the anatomy of fascia, rather to appreciate its role as a connector in the body, and to consider how yoga is perfectly designed to access its connectivity capabilities.
Consider this scenario: a person gets an injury where they experience swelling and acute pain immediately after. Their natural response is to immobilize the area of injury, and while swelling and pain remain high, the individual’s posture and gait will be altered, e.g leaning away from pain, avoidance of pressure, or limping. Most of the time, the person will gradually restore motion as pain lessens and all is good, but when these splinting or pain avoidance postures get prolonged, the area of injury and the surrounding musculature are negatively impacted as the muscles and connective tissue tighten, loose fluid, and weaken – this has the potential to affect the whole functional system. Consequently, through the connectivity of myofascial lines, a simple ankle injury can work up the chain of tissues causing pain and dysfunction at the knee, hip, back, etc.
Reverse this and consider emotional disturbances in an individual. Imagine what postural changes happen when a person is depressed – their head is usually lowered, shoulders rounded forward, their chest caved in. As Myrthe Wieler writes in her article on Fascia and Yoga, “This postural pattern will start to affect their entire system, including their fascial grid. Think of what part of their fascia is becoming restricted. Their chest cavity is closing in affecting their breathing. It sends a message to the brain … something is happening that is causing the breath to change. Thus the brain chemistry changes. It can start to release stress inducing hormones which further affects mood and stress levels – increasing tension in the body and it’s form.”
So this connectivity through fascia works in both directions… our mind interpreting tension from our body and our body reacting to our mind. Therefore, it stands to reason that if we work with our bodies, releasing and realigning our fascia, it can have a direct effect on our mind, our behavior and our emotions. This is why I find yoga so effective in helping with system/functional disturbances. By design, yoga’s postures are perfectly arranged for global, multi-joint mobilizations, therefore, poses frequently stretch chronic lines of tension along myofascial lines (see picture above for a few examples). Additionally, because yoga encourages all aspects of the individual to be present moment to moment, it affords the opportunity for emotional change as the postures affect our chemistry from the inside out.
However, as a long time practitioner of yoga, what I appreciate most about yoga’s ability to change and affect the body is how we learn to move and stretch in ways that is directed from internal awareness. Having been through countless courses on anatomy and alignment discussing the do’s and don’t of the human body, what becomes more and more apparent is that rules change, and any good rule has exceptions. So when a student of yoga finally learns how they themselves can find safety in movement by listening to their own edges, or when they realize just the slightest movement to the left gives them that just perfect stretch, they are in essence learning how to connect to and heal their own bodies. And because fascia is like a web branching in any given direction; sometimes the line of stretch matches the above listed myofascial lines, or a specific pose alignment, but sometimes it is something quite different and unique to an individual’s body. So in yoga when we learn to explore our sensations from the inside out and to be creative in our postures this can be the most effective source of change.
I often reflect on a what an amazingly complex and intra-connected system the human body is. It is fascinating to study these connective platforms, like fascia, so we can be reminded how health issues in one part the the body don’t happen in a bubble – there is a whole person to consider. And as yogis, it’s nice to know, that as we develop our yoga practice over time, we shape and shift this scaffolding of tissue known as fascia, which inevitably changes our soft-tissue body, internal chemistry, and thoughts/emotions; and sometimes, in just one pose, we gain insight into our who we were, who we are, and who we are yet to become.
There is nothing more important than sleep until you are faced with not getting it. For various reasons, I’ve struggled with bouts of insomnia my whole life, and I’ve felt first hand the effects these sleepless nights can have on health and functioning. It’s important to have a few techniques to break the cycle – below are 3 things I do to promote a better night’s sleep.
[I would also like to take a moment to acknowledge the difficulty some of you face when closing your eyes. There are many who are dealing with larger than life stressors and horrific memories that can really take over your thoughts. This is not a blog to minimize your troubles, it is more to acknowledge the struggle of stress and sleeplessness, and with the combination of the right care, the tips here can be tools in your tool kit to unwind and promote sleep.]
Part 1 – The Prep
Be mindful of things that negatively impact your sleep, e.g. caffeine intake too late in the day, taking a nap, an irregular bedtime (to name a few that affect me). Plan your day and get all your necessary stuff done as much as you can to clear your mind of added debris from the day. Consider writing down those things that you are recycling through your mind; a process I like to call, “name it and put it on the shelf”.
It is best to choose only relaxing, unwinding activities, such as a warm bath, before bed. Resist the urge to do a full yoga routine right before bed. Even a slow moving routine can release hormones affecting your wakefulness. It is best to do your exercises and stretching earlier in the day, at the latest 2 hours before bed (with the exception of a couple restorative yoga poses).
Part 2 – The Position
Make this the last thing you do before bed: the “revised” legs up the wall pose (see picture below). I find it particularly good for those times when my body is jittery with the leftover adrenaline of busy days combined with sleepless nights.
Legs elevated higher than your chest and head
A blanket for warmth
Optional, but recommended: a heavy pillow or folded blanket over your chest and an eye pillow to block the light and gently stimulate pressure over the eyes.
Part 3 – The Guided Relaxation
Not everyone will find this helpful, but for some a guided relaxation or meditation recording will assist you in further unwinding before bed. It works great in conjunction with the position above. There are countless of free recordings you can find out there. Here is a ten minute one I recorded called, “Unwind and Drift”.
Can’t keep up? Getting sucked under? How does one fit 24 hours of work to fit into an 8 hour workday?
Many of my coworkers and friends have been expressing how the demands of their workday are so voluminous, there is no longer a feeling of completion at the end of their day. As we run out of time to “complete” our tasks and projects, things are left hanging, and as they carry over into the next day, the pile gets higher…and no one likes this feeling.
I’ve discussed in a previous blog, Overloaded and Overwhelmed, how high stress, sustained over a long period of time, can negatively affect our physical health. We need strategies and healthy habits to be resilient; we want to break through this “pile” and come through thriving on the other side. For most of us, this requires a break or a step back from the work pile in some way. Even short breaks can give us a sense of renewed energy, a shift in perspective, and better mental clarity.
Today, there is plenty of research indicating a regular mediation practice can be an effective strategy in creating this emotional/physical balance and resiliency in a complex and busy world. There are many types and various lengths of meditations to try. If you want to give it a try, but are unsure where to start, below you will find a very simple and quick (5 minute) relaxation meditation that is great to relax and restore – perfect for a workday refresher.
I hope you’ll find a few moments to plug in and take a listen. Sometimes even 5 minutes can help you be more relaxed and productive in your day.
I was listening to a group of my girl friends chat the other day, and all of them expressed the frustration of time, or lack of it, to accomplish all their daily tasks and personal projects. One friend commented (with a sigh) that sometimes it’s impossible to find balance in life, and instead it’s more about juggling all the pieces. I’m not sure I totally agree with this. There is some truth that sometimes there really is no end to the demands, and letting go of some things isn’t always possible. But I also know that this juggling act can come to a crashing fall if there are too many items or if the juggler themselves isn’t taken care of.
To me balance means taking care of all the parts in our life that are important to us, and no one can deny the importance of health in our lives. Finding balance in life, and making sure to include those items that give us good health, doesn’t just happen. First it takes keen awareness of our needs from day to day, and from moment to moment, to create it. Sometimes we need to take a purposeful pause from the rushing river of daily living and check inwards to notice what it is that we are in need of, or what it is that is missing in our days/weeks to feel healthy and thriving.
It is also a matter of making the choice to prioritize it somewhere in the schedule. Sometimes this means making difficult choices and letting go of things, since time is limited. For example it is easy to get wrapped up in staying true to social obligations and personal commitments, e.g. a volunteer position or a fitness goal, but maybe we are running our reserves low, perhaps even compromising our immune at the cost of our dedication to the activity. It can be tough to admit that one of our time commitments may not be in our best interests or, for a period of time, we need something different. It takes courage and compassion in our self care to make the decision to pause or let go of something that is not serving us.
What I love about yoga is that not only can the classes draw out our awareness of what it is we need in our lives for better balance, but once you are educated on the styles of yoga and various offerings out there, you’ll find there’s a yoga class that can fill many of your health needs. Here’s a little summary list to get you started on the ways various ways different yoga classes can benefit you:
For the beginner, or a class for initiating mobility and strength, where you may need gentleness and safety to get you on your way:
Therapeutic (Kripalu, Phoenix Rising, Viniyoga are some branches of therapeutic yoga)
Hatha (beginner level)
To calm and relax our systems, or add a little introspection in our day (little to no physicality involved in these styles):
Various meditation classes
For strength, flexibility, and balance:
For an uplift in energy and more vigorous physical exercise:
Hatha (intermediate level)
Hot Yoga (Moksha or Bikrams are a couple branches of hot yoga)
To eliminate tension, when you’re body needs a really good stretch:
(Of course there are many more styles and branches of yoga than the ones I’ve listed, these are just a few of the more common class styles you’ll see offered.)
A class, that is relatively new, that I’ve been doing lately is aerial yoga. I was feeling the need for more more energy, a little fitness, and some good stretching in my day to balance out the mental heaviness and sedentary nature of the work I was doing. I was also craving something new, something exciting. Aerial yoga has been perfect for these needs . It is possible that in a month from now I may may need more relaxation and down time. And letting go of the notion that I have to achieve a certain goal in a specific timeline helps me fill my week with better self care, so I might change to a restorative yoga class or book myself for a yoga therapy session. My “me” time is precious, so I choose to fill it with what serves me best, and I don’t feel guilty for it. This keeps balance in my life. There will be plenty of time to do it all, sometimes just not all at once. Keep your balance by making the right choices for yourself, in the moment.
The other day at work I had a client ask me why we (yoga instructors) don’t just call yoga “stretching” or “gymnastics”. Fortunately, I didn’t have to answer this question since one of my other clients spoke up for me (we will get to that part later). I work in a physiotherapy clinic where there are a lot of injured clients who have had very little experience doing physical exercise, let alone any yoga experience. In this clinic, I teach gentle yoga classes and relaxation meditations. Although, sometimes it takes a little convincing to get the clients to try the classes because they hold an assumption that they need to be some bendy, twisty super yogi to keep up; or, for the meditations, that there is some religious or “new-agey” spiritual practices associated with it. As a result, I often advertise the classes by explaining the focus or intention of each class. One might be a class designed to “help relax” or another might be designed for “pain reduction,” and this usually gets a few individuals through the door.
It’s understandable that there are these assumptions and stigmas out there about yoga and meditation. We see ultra-fit and bendy individuals in the media’s portrayal of yoga and we see these Zen like poses with hands “just so” illustrating meditation. Even though yoga can be like this, it isn’t always, and doesn’t need to be. So when a newcomer to yoga asks me the question, “What is this thing called yoga?”, I tell them it is a lot of things, and that there are many styles and intensity levels out there to choose from, but one of the more important intentions behind most yoga in today’s culture is self-awareness building. That’s right, it’s not just about the physical benefits of stretching, strengthening, and breath (Pranayama) – although, all things being equal, yoga rocks in this department. It provides us with an opportunity to take a step back and be an impartial witness to ourselves.
Here is the secret that I and many other yoga instructors, and practitioners of yoga know. We teach classes intended to take you on a journey inwards. For an hour or so of your day, you are finally getting a break from your mind’s busyness of all your “to do’s,” future, and past thoughts, and instead you are transported into state where you notice your body and your breath, and are focused on the present moment. Whether you are moving or not in the class (in guided meditation you may not move at all), you are spending time experiencing what’s going on with different parts of yourself. You are discovering how you are positioned, where you are tensing your body, how you breathe, what it feels like to move or sit in a certain way, and where your mind goes as you do all this. In essence you are getting in touch with what’s going on inside – you are building awareness to your internal self and your patterns. In a yoga class, the opportunity is there for all parts of you to speak up because there is finally the space and break from the busy chatter of your mind to let them be heard. As a consequence you begin to learn about patterns of holding, and thought, which in turn can lead to a shift in perspective and how you approach the moments of your day.
So it was the best compliment ever when this client of mine spoke up for me when I was asked the question why we don’t you just call yoga “stretching” or “gymnastics”. This is what he shared: He had never done yoga before, nor had he even thought to do so, but was amazed at how it affected him. He explained how during the class his attention was drawn out of his thoughts and into noticing how he frequently tensed his shoulders and jaw in a certain way, and through the guided instructions to breathe and release he could relax these areas, which lowered his internal stress feeling. He told me how these awarenesses lingered with him well after the class was finished. Later that night, he was cooking his dinner on a grill and forgot about it, burning it. Normally he would tense up and get angry, but after the class he felt he could step outside himself a little more, notice the tension that was forming in his jaw, and by taking a couple deep breaths he released the stress of the situation rather than letting it escalate.
What this client explained so eloquently was how he exercised the use of his new awareness. This is what we do in yoga and meditation. We are teaching you, experientially, how to get in touch with your internal self, and then give you some skills of how to manage yourself in a healthier way to deal with whatever it is that you are noticing moment to moment. In yoga and meditation you learn how to pause and step outside of yourself and learn from the language of your body and breath. This is the yoga I know and love.
I was on Facebook the other day and a friend of mine posted a video of a swing championship dance, and let’s just say the male partner didn’t have the “typical” body composition of most well established dancers. Watching this man triumphantly and joyfully show off his moves was fun to watch. I was totally inspired by his confidence, and as my friend said in her post, “This man appears to have a lot of self-love.” Of course we can never really know this for sure, but this guy certainly did seem unabashedly immersed in his art – even if he hadn’t been a really skilled dancer, his energy would have been captivating. (To view video: Phoenix 2008 Swing Dance Champions).
When it comes to our hobbies, activities, and aspired careers, it can be daunting in this day and age to stand confidently in the sea of so much talent – truth is there will probably always be someone better at what you do than you are, and yes, they will probably appear fitter, sexier, smarter, and richer than you as well. But does this matter? Should that steal your right to just try or steal your enjoyment of self expression? I know this answer seems obvious, but countless people every day hold back the best of themselves out of fear of not being good enough. This is why I love this quote by Roosevelt, “Comparison is the thief of joy”. It provides such a great reminder of how we can let our insecurities hold us back from joyful living. Wouldn’t it be blissful to confidently act and do things out of genuine interest and passion, freeing yourself from the weight of the standard you compare yourself to?
Of course this falls under the category of “easier said than done” for many of us, and I recognize the complexity of such a task, but consider that whatever it is that is holding you back can rob you of opportunities and being present to enjoy all the precious moments of your life. It makes sense to me that this is a quest worth pursuing. Life can pass us by so quickly. It is important to figure out ways to remind ourselves that we are unique individuals made up of many parts and although there are things we might like to change or strive towards, you are still a whole being right now, and you are enough just as you are. In essence when we give ourselves permission to engage and live as our genuine selves, imperfect and learning along the way, we give ourselves room to grow, and eventually, we dance like champions.
For Your Practice
If this resonates with you, here’s something you can do to start in a small way. Take a short break in your day; just 5 minutes (you can use a timer). Sit quietly, breathe in deeply, and truly feel your breath moving in and out of your body. Just for short time, give yourself permission to lay it all aside the striving, the comparing, the self-imposed conditions and just be. Feel your body, your, breath, your aliveness from the inside out. For a moment in your day, let go of that whatever flaws, imperfections, and lack you think you have, and just breathe. Repeat these words to yourself, “I am enough, I am worthy.” Do this every day.
What would it be like to put it down
the regrets, the anger, the guilt
the time lost and deeds undone,
the wishing things to be different.
For there is no controlling what is done or cannot be changed.
Unwind yourself from this judgment, this fate,
and let it be independent from all that you are.
It need not define or tether your every move.
Breathe in deep and let it out,
Let your heart beat its song of wholeness,
and step lighter into this moment.
I recently wrote a blog for Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy about how we can learn to work with mental and emotional burdens (persistent thoughts of past regret, trauma, or future angst that permeate our daily presence and interfere with how we live). To read this post visit http://pryt.com/2014/05/become-a-yoga-therapist/putting-load/
Also, I’ve included a short focus meditation to go along with this blog post. You might find this meditation useful in helping to identify and process recurring thoughts which carry the weight of burden. Link below to give it a try.
Many of us suffer from the familiar tension and discomfort of the upper back and neck from sitting at our computers many hours in a day. Here are 5 quick yoga-inspired stretches you can do to relieve this tension, and all you need is a wall!
Try each stretch once or twice through. Hold each posture for the length of 3 – 4 long, smooth breaths.
Some tips for body alignment with each stretch:
Top left: position your hands just below shoulder height on the wall in front of you. Step back bending at the hips (not the low back) such that your hips stack above your feet and form approximately a 90 degree angle at your hips. Let your back relax and chest sink downwards until you feel a stretch along the side body, the underside of the arms/shoulders, and through your chest. You will also notice a stretch in your hamstrings if you work on keeping your spine straight and bending only through your hips.
Top right: Stand sideways to the wall, approximately one foot away, and reach the arm closest to the wall behind you, placing your palm on the wall. Ensure that your arm is reaching back at shoulder height and lower your shoulder away from your ear on this side. Let your torso rotate a little towards the wall, but try to keep your hips and feet pointing forward. Find the place where you feel the stretch through the chest, shoulder, and the inner aspect of the arm. You can also rotate your head away from the outstretched arm for an additional neck stretch.
Bottom left: bring your toes of one foot to the baseboard and step back with other leg (around a leg length distance). Bend the front knee and press it into the wall. The back leg remains straight, the foot turns out slightly, and the heel is pressing towards the ground. Aim to rotate your pelvis so that both sides are parallel with the wall. Then reach the arm up on the same side as the back leg (you can let your other hand rest on your hip), and then gently lean your upper body towards the side of the bend knee. You will likely feel a stretch in the front of your hip (on the straight leg side), and along the side of your body that you are leaning away from.
Bottom middle: Stand tall and gently pull one hand behind your back towards the opposite hip. Let your shoulders relax away from your ears, and soften through the area of the neck and shoulders. Then tilt your head towards the same side that the hand that is being pulled. You may notice this stretch along the side of your neck and the front of your shoulder.
Bottom right: Clasp your hands behind your back and squeeze between your shoulder blades to open your chest and pull the front tips of your shoulders back. Then if your flexibility allows, work towards straightening your elbows and pulling the hands back away from your hips. This posture open the chest, arches your back, and stretches the fronts of your shoulders and arms.
Just finished watching this Youtube clip on Yoga for Cancer. If you or anyone you know is living with a diagnosis of cancer, this video explains beautifully why you might want to consider searching out a yoga program.
For those of you who are online savvy, Inspire Health, a BC based organization offering integrative cancer care has a new online option offering meditation classes, nutrition, and exercise therapy advice!
Also check out this clip from CBC new on exercise and cancer. There’s some new research showing light intensity walking can be the perfect amount to aid your healing.
CBC video on exercise and cancer: Less is more for elite athletes and cancer patients
There seems to be so much to do. Getting it all done is a bit like conquering the beast. But is all this busyness of the 21st century lifestyle actually harmful to us? My answer to this question is it can be. Some would argue, that so long as the busyness is framed in a way of choice and personal interest than the stress is good for us to keep us fulfilled. There is also research showing us that the way we mentally frame the stress in our lives can reduce the negative impact it has on our health. (For an inspiring presentation on a new way to reframe stress in our lives check out Kelly McGonigal’s TED talk). Often though, I find, busyness and the consequent stress in our lives can be insidious and stemming from “things” in our life not so pleasant. Whether it is self-induced or outside of our control, it can leave us feeling overloaded and overwhelmed. When we feel this way, there is tendency to push aside our personal health practices (good rest, good diet, exercise, fun, etc). Left long enough, our physical bodies suffer, and eventually the body has a way of expressing itself on the matter to get our attention.
Consider chronic pain as an example. A course I attended not too long ago reviewed the anatomy and physiology of our nervous system when we are in pain (instructor, Neil Pearson offers many invaluable resources about pain on his site Life is Now). Essentially, the purpose of pain is protection, and it’s the brain’s job to determine if tissue damage or some other experience to the body is dangerous. If the brain decides that it is dangerous, it sends out protection signals that come in the way of pain, muscles spasms, weakened muscles, and a release of hormones. But the nerve signals originating from the area of injury or area of pain are not the only source of input that the brain relies on to decide on whether or not to “protect.” Factors such as our thoughts, emotions, memory of past pain experiences, the amount of stress hormones in our body, and level of fear can all add input to the brain’s assessment of the degree of protection needed, and can therefore affect how much pain we feel. So in the face of persistent pain, keeping our worrisome thoughts, negative emotions, and stress levels in check can help mitigate the urgency and intensity of the pain protection system, and being mindful that keeping these things “in check” is nearly impossible when we are constantly busy, rushed, and overwhelmed.
Add to all of this that when one system of the body is highly active, such as the nervous system when we are in pain, this affects other systems as well. The field of psychoneuroimmunoendocrinology (PNI – if there was ever a word that needed an acronym..) studies the interrelated functions of the brain, nervous system, immune organs/cells, and endocrine (hormone) glands. We know now that there is a unifying network of nerve fibres that wire together the various components of the PNI system, and that there is also constant biochemical cross talk among them. Research shows stressful events trigger cognitive and physiological responses which, in turn, induce nervous system, and hormone changes, and these can impair immune function, rendering us more vulnerable to becoming ill. Things do not happen in isolation in the human body, changes in one system affects other systems, and this can be cyclical and cumulative!
So this is what I’m learning. Adding to a plate that is already full can result in the body protesting, and that persistent pain in your abdomen or the panic attacks you recently developed don’t always seem related to that small thing you said yes to doing last week, but they can be. I like to use the analogy of the human body as being like a large container or vessel filled with various objects representing all the things we do in our lives. When your vessel is already full, it is not such a good idea to keep adding things to the to do list – adding more can result in a full vessel eruption. If there is no room for “you” in the container, some aspect of your health will protest.
Our containers can only hold so much and we can imagine that some items in our lives take up more space than others. A simple acknowledging of what’s in our containers at any given time is beneficial. Sometimes life gives us really big items that take up a lot of space in our containers. For example, the care of an ailing family member takes up a lot of space (logistically and emotionally), and we may not be able to handle as much in our container during this time. When life gives us big-ticket item such as this, it’s wise to let go of some items and ask for help. At other times we may notice we’ve filled our containers with so many small items, we’ve left no room for the more important, substance items such as our health or time with family and friends. Restructuring how we load our containers by placing foundation items as a first priority will free up space and can give us extra energy for the smaller items in our lives. When we delete excess, prioritize, and re-structure what’s inside we can take advantage of our full capacities.
So the next time you find yourself feeling overloaded and overwhelmed, let it be an amber light indicating your body has reached capacity. Any more, and your body may signal red, and your guess is as good as mine as to how this red light will manifest in your body. Maintaining a healthy balance is doable when we respect that our containers have limits, and our limits can vary at different phases of our lives. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed–it doesn’t mean you’re weak or there is something wrong with you. Think of it as being part of a sophisticated protection system, the body’s way to get you to pay attention to take a step back, slow down, and look what’s in your container and how it’s prioritized. Listen, acknowledge the signs your body is telling you, and allow for enough space that you’re enjoying the items and moments that make up your container of life.
There’s always a lot of extras to do over the holidays, and this year, I’ve noticed myself stressing over the hustle and bustle even before it starts. If you’re like me, and you are wondering where you’re going to find time to do the extra shopping, baking, and decorating, have a read through this quick list I developed to help myself ground and refocus back into beauty and harmony of the season. Nothing new here, just reminders on how to keep it real:
Pace yourself and only say yes to those events that you enjoy. Don’t overwhelm yourself and your family. You either want to do it or you don’t. Sometimes we try to pack too much in one day, and miss out on enjoying the moments because we are too rushed from one event to the next. When you find yourself in these situations, it’s okay to decline, to let go of some things, and to be mindfully selective of where you put your energy.
Let go of perfectionism. Hosting parties can be a lot of work and having perfectly dusted table tops doesn’t make you a better person. Take a step back and consider how much you are worrying about what other people think of you. It’s okay if your cookies aren’t perfectly round this year (of course, if baking is your thing and round cookies are your passion, by all means, cut away). This is a reminder to keep perfectionism for the sake of perfectionism in check.
More is not always better – keep it simple, keep it you, and keep it from the heart. Whether it’s gifts, decorating, wrapping, preparing food, think about what is important to you and what you love and share these things. One small gift that is in some way meaningful from you to the receiver, is plenty.
Ground yourself in the bigger picture. Get outside for a walk or hike in nature. Pause and reflect on the abundance around you. If you are reading this, it is likely you live in a privileged society; one that is wealthy in opportunity and freedom, in food, health, and safety. Take moments to reflect on this… be grateful for these essentials.
Use meditation or yoga as a way to connect inwards and keep your priorities in focus. It is easy to get caught up in the current of everything around you when you are disconnected from yourself. Find ways to connect inwards that work for you. Even taking 20 second awareness breaks throughout the day can be of benefit–shift your focus to your breath and body for twenty seconds, and simply be present to how you are breathing and become aware of any sensations that arise in your body during the 20 seconds. This quick break from the mental to do list can down shift your nervous system re-establish a sense of calm. Of course, I find meditation and yoga particularly good for helping me connect inwards, so I’ve included a link to a meditation video I made that I find particularly good for grounding and re-focussing myself.
Hope these tips help and wishing you the gift of presence this holiday season.
Namaste ~ Renee
I’ve always loved hiking. There’s something so fulfilling about accomplishing a long trek, especially when the destination lands you standing on a cliff edge or mountain peak; reaching that point where you can step no further and submit to doing nothing more than being present to the expanse before you. Perhaps this is why I was drawn to yoga, it’s similar in that I can take my body to places where I can explore an edge. Entering a pose, there is a point where my body naturally stops, where it meets some initial resistance, which I call the first edge. Gradually, with time, my body will settle and I will be able to move into a deeper sensation for a slightly stronger edge. Finally, to move to a point where I am at my full edge – any more and it might be painful or unsafe, and my ability to stay present to the sensation and breathe fully would be hampered.
The edge, however, is not always a well-defined line, and sometimes we underplay or overplay the edge. Our unique anatomies, personalities, egos, and histories all play a part in how we arrive at the edge, and yoga is great for revealing these patterns to us. Some of us hold back and approach hesitantly, stopping ourselves before we reach the full edge. While others, might move so quickly or aggressively that we miss the boundary and land ourselves on the other side of the edge into potentially unsafe zones. Only by moving slowly and paying attention moment to moment, can we arrive at just the right amount of edge to optimally stretch our limbs and limits, and reasonably challenge ourselves.
For those of you who have received a Phoenix Rising yoga therapy session, you will likely be familiar with how, in addition to a physical edge, there is sometimes also an emotional edge that we need to learn to navigate. I remember the first time I received a session after having my first baby. I’d been running on adrenaline with sleepless nights, and I carried overwhelming concern that this new little being wasn’t being fully attended to. As a new mom it was easy to forgo thinking about myself, but when I closed my eyes and the practitioner had me notice my body, my breath, my thoughts, my emotions… I realized how distant my mind had been to my own needs, and how strongly my body had been calling for some self-care. Feeling lost within myself, I had a strong sadness envelop me, a grieving of separation of self, which caused my eyes to well up with tears. Within this moment I recognized there was potential for the dam to break, my body yearning to sob, but I also recognized I was at my edge, my emotional edge… I was not comfortable with a full break down sob in my yoga therapy session. And so I chose to take a deep breath and pause, simply absorbing where I was without moving deeper into the exploration.
Afterwards I wondered about my hesitancy to let go fully into my postpartum sadness and I realized much of what held me back was the fear of being so vulnerable in front of another person, a stranger nonetheless. I know I’m not alone on this one – being vulnerable is scary, and in some cultures, taboo. Many of us have carried, from previous generations, the belief that holding “it” in and not burdening our woes onto another is the strong thing to do. (Which, intellectually, I find humorous, because in actuality, the real strength lies in bearing our real, raw selves.) And the paradox here is that I, as a practitioner of yoga therapy(where I have seen many tears shed), have never felt burdened by witnessing another’s emotional release. In fact, I welcome it and feel honoured in the space. But this doesn’t change the fact that I too have an emotional edge to maneuver and I’m working through this process myself. No right or wrong, good or bad… just awareness and learning.
Learning to navigate our edges takes some practice. But with time and exposure it becomes the climbing ground of possibility. We learn how the edge is a place that is neither comfortable nor painful – it is somewhere in between. For some of us, learning where our physical edge lies is new and challenging, and for others it’s the emotional edge that proves more elusive and daunting. It’s all okay. It’s that one step closer to the unfamiliar, that can be scary at first; but as long as we step mindfully, and we take care of ourselves as we near the edge we will land at just the right spot,allowing us to view new heights and perspectives. This is how we grow and stretch physically, mentally and emotionally, and maybe even, how we learn the freedom and empowerment that can come from expressing our fears and vulnerability.
To say my experience in Yoga Therapy training was pivotal in how I live my life would be an understatement. Here’s a few of the “ah ha moments” I took away from my journey of becoming a Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy (PRYT) practitioner.
1. Words matter. Like a mirror reflecting back your deepest secrets, what and how you say reveals much about your inner beliefs about yourself. There is a technique in PRYT were the practitioner feeds back your words to you, which is done in the training as well. I started to notice trends of word usage that identified lack of confidence in myself and a tendency to soften the message. For example, “If you don’t mind, have a seat”. Rather than saying, “Please have a seat.” It’s subtle, but profound. Taking a moment to reflect on our word choices can lead to great insight.
2. Trust that you know what’s best for you. Despite what anyone else may tell you, you are your best coach. No one knows you better than you do. Sometimes the wisdom is buried a little, but it’s there. There is a Chinese parable that speaks of a man who was going to buy a new pair of shoes but forgot to bring the measurements so he went home to get them. Upon returning he found the store closed and did not get the shoes. Someone asked why he didn’t just try the shoes on, and he replied, “I would rather trust the measurements than trust myself.” This parable speaks to how often we trust some external indication of what may be right rather than trust what internally feels right. In PRYT you are encouraged to take time to connect with your inner knowing and search for answers from within, and in my experience, the more you do this, the more you trust that you do have the answers.
3. Direct experience is always best. It’s easy to fall into the trap of, “I’ve seen that before so I know all about it.” Well, no – unless you’ve directly experienced something for yourself, you don’t really know. For example, as yoga instructors we can learn that certain poses affect certain areas of our body. Camel pose, we learn, arches the back, stretches the front body, and is a great chest opener. This can all be very true, but until you are in this pose for yourself, you can never know how it exactly feels, and what it is doing to you. Each individual is unique in mind, body, and life experience, and because each moment is new, our experience in a yoga pose is truly unique and different each time. And so it is with the training to become a practitioner. Through the process of experiencing PRYT for ourselves, we learn the value of direct experience and the uniqueness of our individual experiences. Effectively, we learn not to impose direction or to assume what is best for our clients; rather, we learn to be open to the possibility of any experience, as it organically arises in the individual.
4. Much of what I was doing (or not doing) was based in fear. In PRYT we are given the opportunity to explore whatever is showing up in the session – thoughts, statements, body sensations, memories, images, etc. Staying in the space of an experience and taking the time to reflect on it can reveal new insights. Here’s an example from one of my earlier sessions. I was lying on my stomach and the practitioner took a hold of my hands, gently pulling me back to lift my chest off the ground. She asked me to tell her when I reached a spot that felt like my edge. Soon into the lift I told her to stop, but as I settled into the experience I realized I’d asked her stop well before my physical limit – I could have gone way further. This realization sparked an insight into a tendency I have in life to limit myself. And underneath this was the realization of the fear of not being enough (or in some cases, a fear of being more than enough). Taking time to experience what we notice in our bodies/minds, and pausing to sit with it, can peel back the layers of armor to reveal an inner truth.
5. It is possible to release deeply held habits and patterns. Sometimes life gives you the opportunity to get a glimpse outside yourself to learn about a pesky habit or way of being that you’ve developed. For example, in one of my yoga therapy sessions it was revealed to me that I hesitate to state my needs directly out of concern of burdening another. Not surprisingly, I started to notice this tendency showing up all over the place in my life and I wondered, “Am I ever going to stop doing this?” Fast forward a couple years and I was able to recognize this “self-imposing” issue sooner (as it was happening) and challenge myself to speak up for my needs. The more often I recognized it occurring the more I could pause, reflect and choose a different way to be. There is no shortcut to this kind of change, but PRYT sessions provide a base and an opportunity to check in as you explore and grow.
Whether you choose to receive the therapy or take it a step further into the training of becoming a practitioner, Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy is, hands down, the best method of self-discovery out there.
Here is a new link that takes you to all the articles I’ve written for Phoenix Rising: http://pryt.com/author/renee-reusz/
Here’s my most recent:
A Letter of Invitation
As practitioners of Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy (PYRT) we are always playing with just the “right words” to describe what it is we do to capture interest. Anyone who has experienced a session knows how truly unique and powerful PRYT can be. As I was completing the training I was so excited about diving into the work and sharing it with the world, but I soon realized that trying to explain to potential clients with words an experiential process would take some careful thought. I think this is why I’ve chosen to blog about it. Today I offer you a letter of invitation. An invitation to get you curious, and hopefully peak your interest to give it a try:
It seems as though yoga’s popularity continues to grow as many of us recognize our need to slow down and connect inwards. I write to you with an offer to try something truly unique that takes this “journey within” a step further. I offer one-on-one yoga therapy, but let me clarify that the “therapy” I am referring to does not mean fixing or healing some ailment. Rather, what I do promotes self-discovery, empowerment and clarification in your life. Combining hands on assisting of yoga postures and active listening, it offers people the opportunity to explore and heal their minds and bodies as one.
Picture a large comfortable mat that sits on the ground in a quiet, private setting. The appointment begins with the practitioner guiding you through a verbal check-in to bring your focus inwards, away from the distractions of daily life. Then, very gently, you will be moved and supported through stretches and yoga postures on the mat. Simple verbal cues will be given to you to help you remain present to your experiences and clarify what you are noticing in your body. The practitioners’ role is to be 100% present to you; we carry no agenda or formula. Each session is unique in its flow as it is directed purely by listening to what your body and words are saying from moment to moment. The intent is to give you the opportunity to connect inwards and gain insight from your body, and then relate this back to daily life. For many, the experience of being physically supported through movement and remaining present to their inner selves can be a very cathartic and relaxing.
The notion that we can’t change what we are not aware of applies here. In this therapy, it is believed that our bodies store memory and information that our busy minds sometimes prevent us from accessing. Consider a situation where you’ve been carrying a lot of stress and your body has been reacting to the stress, but mentally you need to push through. In the yoga therapy session your attention will be guided into your body, into the present moment, and your awareness will land on what’s calling your attention. Perhaps you notice a tension pain in your shoulders and a knot in your belly. From this awareness, you make the connection that you have not had a chance to stretch or take a deep breath for weeks and you realize your pain is directly related to the way your body adapts to stress. It points out how, just because your mind didn’t register the pain in your shoulders (or you choose to suppress this signal), it didn’t mean it wasn’t happening in your body. And this embodiment of experience can range from the relatively benign, like in this example, to the more serious. Only through connecting with our inner selves can we gain this insight and help ourselves.
If you have ever felt that sense of running on overdrive, being stuck in rut, or you simply need some quiet time to defrag and relax, these are signals from your body that a detour from the 21st Century lifestyle would be good for you. Whatever the call of health your body is using to signal internal discord, the clarity gained from a yoga therapy session can facilitate the awareness of your body and connect it to your life for more productive and fulfilling living. It’s called Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy. Would you be interested in giving it a try?
Gratitude ~ Renee
Here’s the link to my latest post for Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy. This month’s topic is on the ways our body take shape and form from our life experiences. Like the way the a tree becomes weathered on the side facing the shoreline and it’s branches and leaves grow in the direction of the stability and nourishment. Our form becomes a physical representation of our life’s story – a complex interplay of physiology and psychology weaving and webbing to form the shape our our beings.
Tell me the story you have not told anyone, the tale braided into your skull and tied with a string.
-Naomi Shihab Nye
A big thank you to Kali Yoga for promoting and housing my latest workshop, Yoga as Therapy, where we explored the topic of connectivity in the body – first from an anatomical/biomechanics perspective and then from a physiological/energetic perspective. I’m hoping the participants left with a bit more appreciation for how every bit of our being is connected and intertwined.
Here’s an except from Elissa Cobb’s book, The Forgotten Body, that I read in the workshop to get the participant curious about the intelligence of our cellular bodies….
For some reason, unknown by modern science, at a certain point in our fetal development our tiny hearts suddenly begin to beat. Yet even before this miracle occurs, the cells of our body already have mapped out the essential framework of our bodies and have created the tin pump of a heart that will soon begin the thump-thump sound of “I am.” And all of this intelligence occurs before our brain, the part of us that we consider the be the house of such intelligence, develops.
The human body – what a marvellous, mysterious, machine…
It was a great group of people at the workshop. Thank you all for sharing, experimenting, and discussing with me!
Namaste ~ Renée
The other night I taught a class with the theme of the triple-effect, in honour of those perfect, come-together moments of pure bliss. We called it a bliss trifecta. The students and I shared our personal trifectas in class. Here’s a few examples:
- Open road, convertible, favourite tune
- Campfire, coffee, sunrise
- Hammock, Tofino beach, salty sea air
- Early morning, horse back riding, sunlight twinkling through the trees
- Sunny patio, morning coffee, birds chirping
In our class we celebrated this theme by sandwiching poses/movements/stretches that our bodies were calling for at the beginning, middle, and end of the class. Some students chose energetic poses such as standing balances, handstands, and dancing. While others chose inversions or relaxing restorative poses. It was great to see each person truly honouring their own needs in the moment.
My teacher, Julia Shields, from Free Spirit Yoga, pointed out how in most of our bliss trifectas described simple, non-monetary things… so true.
I read this poem at the end of class to send us off into a lazy, blissful savasana:
yes to the afternoons of reading and napping in the sun.
yes to the hummingbird flitting about the lemon tree.
yes to the spontaneous afternoons of laughter, beer gardens and sunburns.
yes to my sweaty, everchanging yoga practice.
yes to sleeping in on a monday.
yes to it all right now. a big ol’ yes.
(Found this poem on a blog website by Mary Beth Larue – not sure if she’s the author).
Here’s to enjoying the small moments in your day when things come together. I hope you can sandwich your day with things that fill you up.
Shanti ~ Renee
P.s. What’s your bliss trifecta?
Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapists are mind-body practitioners. By blending supported yoga poses/stretches with non-directed dialogue, the connection between what’s happening in your body is explored in relationship to your thoughts and emotions.
To borrow a phrase from a Vancouver based yogi, Eoin Finn, “Our issues are in our tissues.” And let’s face it, we all have issues… it’s just a matter of how much and when. And when life deals you a case-lot size of them, it might be time to check in with what valuable information your body has to offer you.
Here’s a list of 10 really good reasons to try yoga therapy:
1. When you’re faced with a big decision or difficult life choice and need clarification on what the next step can be.
2. When you’re feeling overwhelmed and the pace of 21st century life feels out of balance. Like many people seeking out their first yoga class, you feel a need to slow down, reflect, and regroup.
3. If you have run into a roadblock with your healing, either physical or emotional and you want to assess the source of your obstacle or want to investigate other options for healing.
4. Because you put everyone else first. Ever sit down at the end of a day and realize that between work and family you’ve done absolutely nothing for yourself? You’ve been taking care others for so long you’re left wondering, “Who am I and what do I want?”
5. Your body needs it. You have tight muscles and stiff joints and you feel you could use some deep relaxation and, really, when couldn’t you use some gentle stretches and traction done to your body?
6. You’re confidence is low and you’re up against feelings of self-doubt and you are doubting your aspirations.
7. Life took a turn you didn’t expect and now you’re left sorting and processing – What now? What are my options? Where do I go from here?
8. You’re in a creative slump. You feel your source of inspiration–your creative well–is all dried up and are looking for ways to access it again.
9. Your past is catching up with you. Whatever you have pushed away and avoided dealing with, whether it be some aspect of your physical health that you’ve ignored or an emotional issue from your past, it’s resurfacing again and it’s time to check in about it.
10. For the joy of Discovery. You are interested in delving into your spiritual and mindful self and seeing what might be revealed.
For more information about what it’s like to received a yoga therapy session link here.
Three little words used in a yoga therapy session to anchor you into the present moment and, as I have found, tethers you to your future goals and dreams…
To read more check out my latest post at Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy here.
The mind is an ever-evolving, multi dimensional landscape. Moving in all directions, it’s like a lost puppy, darting from past to present to future, and back again. Alongside your busy mind is your breath–a steady companion to the wayward puppy. As the mind changes, so does the breath, as our mood changes, the breath mirrors it, as we become excited, the breath moves as rapidly as the mind. The breath and mind are inextricably linked; they dance together, mirror and mimic each other and share clues about one another.
We can experience the mind and breath partnership, for instance, when we are afraid–our breath might be held and we become very quiet, ready to flee or take action against a predator or attack (real or imagined). When we are anxious, as another example, our breath is rapid, high in the chest or in the throat. Or, if we’re depressed our breath is slower, usually lower in the body. When grieving, we sigh a lot–all of these changes in breathing patterns are caused by, or regulated by emotional or mental states. Subsequently, knowing that breath and mind are connected, we can become curious about it and familiarize ourselves with its patterns. We can become intimate with its signals, rhythms, and reactions—it’s a way to take a look more deeply into our own mind and behaviour.
Once we attune ourselves to our breath and begin to be mindful about it as we go about our day, we can recognize it’s more subtle signals. Noticing a change in our breathing pattern can alert us to an emotional state about to arise. For instance, if you are holding your breath as someone is talking to you, or begin breathing more rapidly, this can be information for you. Do a quick check in and ask yourself what is going on for in this moment–what are your thoughts, your emotions? Is it real or is it imagined? From this awareness we have choice, and by simply taking a moment to bring your breath into a more stable rhythm or relaxing the area of the body where we feel the breath being held or strained, we can alter the process and progression of the emotion.
Whatever is happening with the breath is a reflection of the mind and its thoughts and emotions; it is a profound and useful self-awareness skill. It is a key for the practice of being awake in the moment, seeing things as they are, not missing out on life, and being aware of it as it is happening. Intimately knowing the breath and mind as partners allows us to be participants in our life and all that occurs in it.