Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Building a Pose

I was talking with a freind the other day, she is new to Yoga and was describing her struggle to come into Half Moon. Half Moon is a standing balancing pose which also opens the hips. My friend's struggle resulted from the way the instructor built the pose - from the top down; coming from a standing position and lifting the leg backward. My recommendation was to try building from the bottom up - coming from a forward fold and lifting the leg backward. This advice helped my friend and the next time she saw her instructor, the instructor told her that was wrong. I was shocked to hear that!
The Beautiful thing about Yoga is that each person has a unique practice, an individual journey. Never will 2 people practice the same and never is anyone's practice wrong. We, Yoga instructors, are meant to simply guide you on your journey, to offer knowledge and encouragement.
There are a multitude of Yoga traditions and you will find that with every tradition translation and interpretation vary. A pose called "Crow" in one tradition may be another traditions "Crane", an inhale motion in one class may be an exhale motion in another. Different styles focus on different body parts and function - this is why one style teaches to build from the top down and another from the bottom up, or any other way you can use to build a pose. So does this mean that one is right and the other wrong? Absolutely NOT. Yoga is created and recreated each time you come to your mat, every moment is transformative. Try it from all angles, motions and mindframes. The only way a pose is ever wrong is if it is painful or puts you at risk of causing yourself harm. Other than that - it's your practice, it's your pose, it's your peace of mind - make it what you want it to be and ENJOY!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Loving Kindness and Witnessing Mind

By far one of my favorite meditations is Loving Kindness. This for many reasons, but mostly because I enjoy extending my sphere of influence and knowing that my positive thoughts can positively affect the lives of others is a wonderful thing. I think one of the biggest problems in our world today is that so many people are focused on the negative, what they don't want, what's the worst case scenario, what if.... and it is unhealthy for those individuals and everyone they come into contact with directly and indirectly.
I have enjoyed working towards a witnessing mind and cultivating a subtle mind as well. This, in my opinion, goes hand in hand with the Loving Kindness by way of acknowledging what you allow to take up space in your thoughts. If we actively seek out the positive and work to reframe or become proactive about the negative it makes so much difference in everything.
Integration of these practices does not have to be a time consuming thing. Loving Kindness is a practice that I can do everywhere, and the good thing is each new place I practice is an opportunity to extend my positivity to a whole new group of people. The bus ride to work, the line at the grocery store, walking on the treadmill - anywhere and you I have a group to send my energy to available. A witnessing mind is simply becoming aware of what my thoughts are throughout the day, starting in small increments. Over time I've become focused on all my thoughts as they come and go and eventually learn to hold on to the ones that benefit me most.
This journey I am on has been a fabulous one - there have been times when I have been thrilled with the strides I am taking and times when I have been greatly disappointed with a setback. But I mentioned earlier and remind myself often that it is the progress, not perfection, that matters most. I have also begun to realize that the more I grow the more tests I am challenged with; if we are not tested how can we measure growth?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

My obligation as a member of your healthcare team

As a professional it is invaluable for me to realize that I am only as good as the tools I possess. If I stop growing and learning I am doing a disservice to my clients. Science is an ever changing arena - in my profession I study the science of human health; eating, fitness (mental, spiritual, physical) and relationships. What I learn today will be expanded on tomorrow. I feel that I am not able to point my clients in the right direction if I have not glimpsed down that path myself. I can not say that I am fully evolved and have all the answers, nobody does. If I am working with a client that has outgrown my ability it is my responsibility to that client to refer them to a practitioner who will be able to take them further.
A perfect example of this has been seen in many a yoga class...the teacher comes in every week and teaches the same class, the students who attend regularly are able to move through the class by memory and may even be able to recite verbatim the teachers description of poses. Now, this class may be a brilliant class, but as you continue to practice you should continue to grow - if you never press beyond your limits and find a new edge you stop growing and get comfortable.
The best way to handle this would be either for the teacher to recommend these students move up to a higher level class, or, if this is a multilevel class the teacher should incorporate more change and challenge to classes.
Once we stop learning we stop growing, in every day of life there is an opportunity for growth, it is our choice whether we acknowledge these opportunities or let them pass us by. I have chosen to never stop learning and look for the opportunity in all that I do.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Loving Kindness and Integral Assessment

This fits perfectly on an index card and is easy to remember - May all individuals gain freedom from suffering. May all individuals find sustained health, happiness and wholeness. May I assist all individuals in gaining freedom from suffering. May I assist all individuals in finding health, happiness and wholeness - it is beautiful and selfless.
As i worked through the assessment I realized that I do this quite often already - I sit in a moment of quiet prayer and I ask "What can I do to make each moment of my daily life have meaning? How can I make it all count?" I have found a couple of answers...
Right now my area of difficulty is disorganization. Those of you who know me may not realize it, but I live on the disorganized side of life. Although it does not cause any direct difficulty or suffering it does in an indirect way. Being disorganized causes undo stress and anxiety. It cause me to be short fused.
The area that is ready for growth is definitely interpersonal. I consider myself to be very compassionate and perhaps even empathetic to the needs of others. It pains me to see someone suffering and my heart goes out to the person in pain - I want to help. I have begun to take steps to cultivate this growth in myself... There is a program, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), it is a volunteer program that assigns an advocate to the case of a child who has been abused or neglected and is now in the foster care system. To be very truthful I am nervous to take on this role. But nerves aside I am excited to be able to touch the life of someone who may not have any other constant in his/her life, as many of these children do not.
Going through this exercise this week was great because as I did it seemed to me that the exercise cemented my action plan of becoming a CASA, even the words in the Loving Kindness meditation spoke to me in the same way.
I look forward to updating you on the experience.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Wellness on 3 Fronts

I have learned that these things are interconnected, our spiritual wellbeing can inhibit or promote our mental and physical wellbeing and the same is true in every other direction; mental to physical, physical to spiritual, mental to spiritual on and on and on. For me personally a period of time comes to mind when I was very physically active and fit, but spiritually and emotionally I was lacking and although physically my body was in great shape I did not feel or see the benefits of it. I still found aches and pains and discomfort. Fortunately I have experienced tremendous growth since that point in time, I have reconnected with and increased my spirituality and begun to quiet my mind.
I was talking with a group of friends Tuesday night and I realized all of a sudden that I have cleared SO much of the negative thought patterns from my mind and it has created space for gratitude and peace and quiet. This one little thing of not allowing toxic thought to play over and over in my mind has had a huge impact on my wellness on all 3 fronts. When I pray to God at night I am able to 'Thank God' for the many blessings in my life rather than complain about the burdens.
The gym has always been a refuge for me, whether I am teaching or taking a class. It has been a time when I can life on hold and just enjoy the abilities I have been blessed with - my body is functional, I can run, walk, dance, lift weights, stretch and any other activity that I feel the urge to do. Knowing this all by itself strengthens my wellbeing in other areas.

As of right now I do not have a track 3 on my cd - it recorded poorly. I am trying to locate another one, but if anyone has it readily available and would be willing to send it to me I would appreciate it greatly.
I have read the Subtle Mind practice and it reminds me of running...I am not a well trained runner, I will get out there every now and again and force myself to run a mile or so and the whole time I am running I tell myself - just run, you don't like running but just do it and then you will get better at it over time. When I was looking at the subtle mind practice I felt the same way, when I am trying to quiet my mind with out a focused thought to hold on to I tell myself - ah just clear your mind and the more you do it the better it will get; but maybe I should change the idea to tell myself that I am already good at it and that will make the growth come all the better.
I found the loving kindness practice was easier for me to stick with because I had focused thought in that practice where as the subtle mind was that exact opposite - don't hold on to thoughts at all. That was difficult for me. I will keep trying however.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Loving Kindness

I would like to state the the cd from Dacher's book Integral Health is poorly recorded and I am not a fan of the narrator's voice or tone - it is the opposite of relaxing and encouraging in my ears. Either way... I went on to youtube and found one that was more comfortable for me: (I could not paste the url, I searched Loving Kindness Meditation and found Metta Meditation (Universal Loving Kindness) from yogayak. (It was a little Buddhist-y, but the intention is the same).
One thing that came to mind the first time I was using the Loving Kindness meditation was the phrase that most of us associate with the Statue of Liberty, it was taken from a poem The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus. The phrase I am referring to is "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free...". This came to mind as I was expanding the circle of people that I was meditating on. As I breathe in I take away their pain, illness and struggles to be dissolved in my own heart and sending the individual wholeness, health and happiness.
I believe that this world offers an abundance of health and happiness and wholeness, there is enough to go around for everyone and there is no need to hoard it for oneself. Give it away and it will be returned to you in multiple. I also believe that there is a lot of suffering and we have an opportunity to send out positive healing energy and ease some of this suffering.
As I continued to practice this twice daily I found that it is easier to focus my thought and energy on the people I am sending loving kindness to, I also found that my circle is continuously growing - I began with my husband and my children and then worked through several more members of my family, my groups expanded from my children's scout groups to school, from life groups to church and it continues to grow.
I am left wondering 'What if everyone practiced this just once a week, what a huge and positive impact that would have on the world'!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Relaxation Meditation

The Crime of the Century...why was it entitled this?? I found no reference to either crime or centuries in the meditation.
I am a very visual person and one of the passions in my life is food, I love it! So when I was envisioning the colors coming from myself I associated them with food - tomatoes, carrots, lemons, green peppers, ocean, blueberries and God (the Supreme Being in my life).
This is a meditation I could enjoy on a regular basis and it is also one I would recommend to everyone (client, family or friend) because it is detailed and there is a step by step process - so for those of us who have wandering minds, the narrator continues to bring you back to the exercise throughout the entire meditation ~ you can't wander off too far.
I have read a lot, taught a bit and incorporated much about breathing techniques and how they can be so beneficial to your overall health, the exhale correlates with our calming, relaxing, releasing ability. I find that many people take short inhales and equally short exhales, which does no good for wellbeing whatsoever. I have mastered the art of long, slow, luxurious exhale - it is a truly beautiful thing!

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Grand Scale...

If I were to rate myself on a scale of 1-10 in the areas of Physical, Spiritual and Psychological Wellbeing that would be a seems to be that these are ever changing states and at any one moment I would change my rating from a 4 to an 8 to a 5 etc. But let's give it a shot, shall we;
Physical Wellbeing : 7 - I try to stay pretty physically active, this includes going to the gym a handful of times weekly, walking my 2 unruly dogs when the mood strikes and weather permits and keeping up with my children. The reason I only rate a 7 is because I am not as committed as I would like to be and I don't push myself to reach new limits physical (I have kind of plateaued and been hanging out on that plateau for about 6 months). I want to start pushing my limits and finding new levels of strength, balance, flexibility and endurance.
Spiritual Wellbeing : 9 - I am very satisfied with my spirituality right now! I have become active in a faith community and volunteer my time with children. I am working my way through the Bible and read it at least once a day (my aim is 3, I usually get 2), praying regularly and gratitude for all the blessings and great things I have been given in life. I find myself smiling at nothing at all and when I catch myself doing it, I smile even bigger because I know there are so many things to smile about.
Psychological Wellbeing : 5 - I am one of those people that is much better at giving good advice than I am at following it. I let the small things bother me and this is super disappointing to me. I feel that I have made great strides in the right direction but then something will set me off and I am stressed out and worked up. The disappointment comes in when I look back on that incident, whatever it may be, and realize "wow, there were so many more positive ways I could have dealt with that". I often remind myself that Perfection is not a realistic goal and I should focus on the Progress I have made.
Goals in these areas would be:
Physical : Schedule my physical activity and stick to a schedule
Spiritual : Pay it forward, I enjoy my reawakened spirituality, spread the wealth and good word
Psychological : Make good use of the relaxation techniques we have access to and use them daily

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Journey On

I love guided meditation - I find that having someone else in my head telling me to let go and relax is helpful and prompts me to really force my mind to quiet down. This mediation reminded me of when I was little and had a hard time falling asleep I would talk my body into sleeping. I would first tell my feet to go to sleep and then my legs and body and arms and head (of course this was all done slowly and with some sort of methodology), if I was still wide awake I would begin again; only this time I would address smaller parts of my body - toes go to sleep, heels go to sleep, feet go to sleep, ankles go to sleep and on up my body. If by some crazy chance I was still awake after coming to the top of my head I would address each individual toe and finger as I worked my way from foot to head one last time. It was rare that I would make it to 3 rounds but if I did I had the method prepared. The technique in Journey On was very similar for me, in the same respect I was now telling the blood how to travel my body as I would tell my body to go to sleep as a kid.
Our minds are capable of controlling our bodies and they possess a great deal of power. Knowing this fact ~ don't you want to be sure you use your power for Good and not Evil ;)

Thursday, February 11, 2010


When I take a moment to sit and think of all the different hats I have worn in my life and the different characteristics of who I am when wearing each of these different hats the word that comes to mind is 'Incredible'. It is incredible to me that I, a single person, can at any point in time be many things to many people and myself. These last 12 years in particular have been such a huge growth period for me and I couldn't have imagined 10 years ago that I would be where I am today, and would not want to, because I have found that many times the unexpected things that happen in life hold the most wonder and joy.
In 1998 I graduated high school and immediately went to boot camp for the Navy - this was, obviously, a transitional time and I learned what it was like to be an adult, supporting myself in every way and discovering the world for the first time without the safety net of my parents.
In 2001 I started my family and now found myself figuring out how to support my son and meet the needs of another life, one that was dependent upon me for his every need. It wasn't long before my husband and I welcomed our second child into the world (2004), and I was no longer a military person but a full time mom - yet another transition. I have since discovered the path of wellness and with each new learning point on this subject I am grateful to have found it and want to learn more.
Today I am living life to watch as my children discover their worlds. At the same time I continue to discover and grow myself. I have found new ways to celebrate the other relationships in my life as a wife, daughter, sister, friend, colleague, classmate, volunteer, etc. and it is truly incredible!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Starting off Clean

I just recently completed my first cleanse of 2010. I try to cleanse/fast twice yearly and often I will have people ask me questions about why I do this, how I feel when I am doing it and is it safe?
My answers sometimes vary depending on my mood at the moment, but the underlying reason I do it is because I feel it makes me a healthier person. When I cleanse I forgo solid food for a set period of time, during this time I am able to really focus on my body and mind. I journal and reflect upon my thoughts and feelings each day during the program and at the end I feel a great sense of peace and accomplishment at what I have done.
The way I feel during the period of cleansing/fasting really does depend on my thoughts. I feel better when I have prepared myself before hand for the fasting process. If I allow myself to dwell on the fact that I am not eating, then I allow myself to be uncomfortable and unhappy during the time. But if I focus on the positive of what I am doing - promoting a time for rest and healing within my body, clearing out build up from foods I eat daily and starting fresh - I feel pretty upbeat and excited about what I am doing.
The safety of a fasting/cleansing program varies for each individual person. This is something I feel each person has to meditate on for themselves, consult a trusted physician or health advisor and most importantly - listen to your own body. If you begin to feel weak, dizzy or tired maybe you have been too limiting or maybe you have been engaging in too much physical activity. Either way whatever the reason for you not feeling good is - accept what your body is telling you and do what is necessary to feel better.
I first got the inspiration when reading Dr. Andrew Weil's book "Natural Health, Natural Medicine" a few years back. "The digestive organs are the largest and bulkiest in the body, and their routine operations consume large amounts of energy. The simple act of not eating rests this system and frees up much of that energy for the body to use in healing" (Weil, 2004). I since then have researched and experimented with other fasting/cleansing programs. I have gotten ideas from colleagues and friends who have tried programs for themselves and liked the results they got from them.
At the end of the day this is a choice that should not be influenced by what you read or hear, it is something that you have to decide for yourself and go into with a positive attitude and excitement.