Happy New Year!
We start each class by setting intentions for the class. Intentions are are goals, purpose, objectives, and more. What are your intentions for 2018? Intentions are pliable and depend on your needs and effort. You can cultivate them just like a garden. If you spend time in your garden; feeding, mulching, weeding, and loving it, the garden will grow and flourish. Sometimes you have to prune or move things around. Sometimes you add companion plants and/or decorations. You can invite bees, butterflies, and birds to enjoy and also care for it. We set intentions before each yoga class. I set them each morning. Sometimes they are simple, other times they are more complex. They always grow and change. That's okay. We are after all humans. What would you like to bring to your world this year?
Happy New Year!
30 Days of Peaceful Activities
As a preschool teacher trainer and early childhood professor my mission was to teach adults how to help children behave and get along. Another words to get along with each other and to be peaceful. Now days, I'm retired from early childhood. I teach yoga and co-own a business that sells African drums and percussion. My mission still is to help people be peaceful. It's really important to find inner peace right now with all of the stress of today's issues. Mahatma Gandhi said, “If we are to reach real peace in the world, we shall have to begin with the children.” In order to teach the children we must demonstrate peace ourselves.
Think peace. Do peaceful things. Send healing prayers to the families in Charlottesville. Open your heart and send love into the Universe. Hug someone. It is critically important to redirect any angry thoughts into constructive thoughts on how to heal our world. It's starts in each of us. Here are some ideas to help with being peaceful.
1. Take long, slow, deep breaths right into the middle of your lungs. Let your diaphragm (the area right below your lungs) push the air out. Pay attention to the air coming in and going out. Do this 3 times. It will help you relax.
2. Hug someone! It alleviates stress, boosts your immune system, and best of all raises your oxytocin (the love hormone). My yoga students all have heard me say that 4 hugs a day is the minimum. The more the better. Holding them for several seconds is good too. And hugging yourself counts. Hugging to the right makes it heart to heart! (it actually presses your left side to the other person's left. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/02/06/hugging.aspx
3. Humming soothes and relaxes you, it reduces insomnia, lowers your blood pressure and helps with sinus issues. You can just hum, hum a tune, practice the Bramhari or Bee Breath, or chant Om. Humming oxygenates your blood and may also vibrate the vagus nerve causing a sense of peace. Remember to hum alone or with others who are humming. It will make you smile.
4. Smile, at family & friends, at strangers, and even at yourself in the mirror. It makes you seem more trustworthy and helps you feel better. Just like those hugs it does amazing things for your body; lowers blood pressure and boosts your immune system. Reducing stress; it helps you look younger; and it helps you be more creative. It actually helps your brain become more positive (which feels much better). Spontaneous smiles are wonderful and even it's an "intentional" smile (you may be faking it), it still works.
5. Try hand drumming (and no I'm not prejudiced because of my business). It's fun. It helps you release a lot of tension and can make you smile and laugh. There are many health benefits to hand drumming. For one thing you are helping the right and left side of your brain communicate. This produces a dopamine (feel good neurotransmitter) uptake that helps you feel pleasant. It also helps with focus. Believe it or not drumming can help you feel peaceful and connected. You can read about the benefits of drumming in this article by Christiane Northrup. http://www.drnorthrup.com/health-benefits-drumming/
6. Dance. Yes I know it doesn't sound peaceful, but it reduces stress. It makes you feel good and also gives you a dopamine uptake (the neurotransmitter that helps you feel happy and helps with focus). It helps you breathe more oxygen and that helps you think better. Plus it can just be fun. You can even dance while you are sitting in a chair.
7. Listen to music. Whatever kind makes you feel good. There are good reasons for listening to peaceful music or music with a strong beat. So whatever you like. It lowers blood pressure, and stress. it helps alleviate anxiety. It helps the brain work better. It helps you relax.
8. Laugh! It's good for the muscles in your face. It oxygenates your cells. It reduces stress and pain. Sometimes it just helps you let go of that negative perspective and see or understand things differently. There's a lot of other theories about laughter that not have been proven. Laughing feels good. Watch a funny TV show or movie, read a funny book, be with friends, etc.
9. This morning breakfast was a nice ripe peach, Greek yogurt, and homemade granola. Shorty slept in so the house was completely quiet (no TV). I sat quietly and savored each bite, enjoying all of the wonderful flavors and the textures. It was so yummy and I felt very peaceful.
10. Cuddle with a pet. Your own pet or your friend's pet. If you can't handle that then maybe a stuffed animal, or look at pictures of cuddly animals. Once again its relaxing and helps you feel good (unless of course you are allergic). This helps you feel peaceful. When you feel peace it helps those around you feel peace.
11. Restorative yoga reduces stress and cortisol. It is very easy, as a matter of fact yogis simply lie around in gentle poses for anywhere from 2 to 20 minutes often propped with blankets and pillows or bolsters. Even though it is passive, it is energizing. It helps to balance the mind and the body. When the class is finished my students are very mellow and peaceful. It is great for everyone....beginners to advanced. You can find classes in your area or online or dvds. Click here for my class.
12. Mindful meditation is so easy. Mindlessly easy. All you do is get comfortable (couch, easy seated pose, a garden, walking, or even your bed or sitting at your desk. The list goes on.) and breathe in and out slowly through your nose. Pay attention to how it feels. That's it. Of course there can be more like paying attention to the sounds around you or how your body feels touching wherever you are. Stray thoughts may come into your head. That's okay. Bring your focus back to your breath, etc. You can observe them too. Mindfulness is powerful. It moves your thoughts out of your brain stem (flight or flight area) to your frontal cortex (rational thinking). Wow, what a boon to being peaceful! Click www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-courage-be-present/201001/how-practice-mindfulness-meditationhere for how to.
13. Eat dark chocolate. Yep, there's growing evidence that it reduces stress, improves brain function and raises dopamine (that feel good neurotransmitter). Some of the substances found in chocolate are similar to the stuff that is used in mood-stabilizing drugs. It's nutritious too. You can google it and find out all sorts of benefits. The bottom line is that it tastes good. It helps me calm down on “stormy” days. Peace!
http://www.chocolateuniversityonline.com/the-emotional-benefits-of-chocolate/14. Take a walk. It can be a slow meandering walk, smell the roses and enjoy the slowness. It can be on a path or a park or even on the sidewalk (you have to stay aware here). It becomes a mediation. Simply walking does a lot of good stuff for your body and mind. It oxygenates your brain, and helps you feel better. Once again this helps you think better. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/beverley-golden/walking-meditative_b_862350.html
14. Yoga Nidra or Progressive Body Relaxation (a little different, and very similar to each other). There are many different ways to do this. Here's what I do: First get comfortable (a cozy place or laying down). Think relaxation and take some slow deep breaths. Tell your toes to relax, then your feet, your ankles, your lower legs...keep going all the way to the crown of your head (include your facial features). Remember your fingers, hands and arms. Then just lay still for a little while and relax. You might fall asleep. I like to visualize a safe. interesting place to be. You can play music too. If thoughts come into your head just observe them and relax. This is a very calming thing to do. It lowers your blood pressure and stress level. It helps you to think better.
15. Keep a journal. Write about your feelings. No judgment just observation. For myself, First thing in the morning I write a paragraph about yesterday, events, feelings, ideas. Then I list at least 3 nice things that happened yesterday (ex. The sales lady was very helpful and smiled a lot or my yoga student gave me a nice big hug.) I also list some accomplishments from yesterday and intentions for today. One of them is usually “ to face the day with courage and wisdom.”
16.Yoga Nidra or Progressive Body Relaxation (a little different, and very similar to each other). There are many different ways to do this. Here's what I do: First get comfortable (a cozy place or laying down). Think relaxation and take some slow deep breaths. Tell your toes to relax, then your feet, your ankles, your lower legs...keep going all the way to the crown of your head (include your facial features). Remember your fingers, hands and arms. Then just lay still for a little while and relax. You might fall asleep. I like to visualize a safe cozy place to be. You can play music too. If thoughts come into your head just observe them and relax. This is a very calming thing to do. It lowers your blood pressure and stress level. It helps you to think better.
17. Be social. Get together with a friends or friends. Enjoy each others' company. Go for a hike, go to the movies, play a board/card game, or just sit and talk. It stimulates oxytocin, “the love hormone”. It helps with empathy, compassion, and bonding.
18. Do something for someone else. Volunteer, help a friend, make a donation. There's a lot of ways to help others. Compassion and empathy are pathways to peacefulness.
19. Taking a bath or a shower can promote peacefulness. We all know it's cleansing, there's more. A warm bath can do the same thing as a hug. (think about boosting the love hormone). It helps get rid of loneliness, and make you more trusting. And of course you sleep better after a warm bath or shower. (Shorty sits in the hot tub, it's a from of meditation for him). Cold baths or showers are refreshing. It helps alleviate depression too, and improves mood and alertness http://independenthome.com/the-benefits-of-bathing-for-mental-health/
20. Take a walk or just be near a body of water – ocean, lake, waterfall. It can be soothing. It let's your brain relax. It can put you in a relaxed, meditative frame of mind. It generates negative ions which helps with absorbing oxygen and balances seratonin. Looking at water is looking at “Blue Space”. This has been shown to improve quality of life and creativity.http://www.lifehack.org/424336/science-explains-how-staying-near-water-can-change-our-brains
21.Try taking a yoga class (with a good teacher). A gentle yoga session will calm you down. It moves you into a meditative state. It also helps your brain because if you are breathing deeply and moving, more oxygen gets to your brain. Once again there can be a dopamine uptake – remember that's the feel good neurotransmitter that also helps with better focus. Yoga should be pleasant. When the class is over you will feel peaceful and relaxed.
23. Have an adventure. It can be small (exploring new territory on a Sunday drive) or it can be big (skydiving). Stir up a little anticipation, and that feeling that you get when facing a scary challenge. Once you do it you feel a sense of accomplishment. This helps with positive feelings. Oh and sharing the experience with a friend is even better. Hike, kayak, explore...Once again this helps with peacefulness.
24.Forgiving will bring peace. Holding a grudge because of something someone has done, hurts you. Forgiving strengthens you. It's not about saying, “it's okay.” It's more about understanding and empathy. Sometimes it takes time and reflection. That is okay. It helps you focus on the positive rather than the negative.
“It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.” ~ Maya Angelou
25. Perform a Random Act of Kindness – Befriend a new neighbor, smile at someone, send a thank-you note or a post card, help someone who has a lot on their plate (ex: caring for an elderly parent). It makes you happier and even reduces blood pressure and anxiety. Feeling good about yourself is part of a path to peacefulness.
26. Build yourself a nest or a safe space. It will help you feel safe and get a handle on your emotions and fears. You can put books, magazines, musical instruments, stuffed animals...anything that you like to do that is soothing. Remember it feels good to be cuddled. I have a chaise lounge with a “husband” pillow and a soft throw. Shorty has the corner of the couch. Feeling safe helps promote peacefulness. It's best to turn off the media. You can also say things like, “I am at ease. I am calm.” etc. https://consciousdiscipline.com/free-resources/shubert/shuberts-classroom/safe-place/
27. Sometimes one feels "powered over" or controlled by another. It can be annoying or worse. Resistance causes bigger problems. Taking slow deep breaths and relaxing really helps. Let your heart open and try to change your own perspective. Its okay to walk away when you need too.
28. Think loving thoughts for yourself first. Get to know yourself... strengths, weaknesses, likes, conflicts, etc. How do you do so? Observation. Ask friends. Keep that journal. Make a list of your strengths and weakness, likes and dislikes. Stop negative self talk. Remember you are a person with strengths and faults. It's a whole lot easier to accept others when you have accepted yourself first. https://www.wikihow.com/Love-Yourself-First
29. Look at the positive. Sometimes that takes some serious re-framing. Ex: the car that passes and jumps in front – the driver is in a bigger hurry than you. Another idea is that the “glass is half full” instead of half empty. Look for the good in actions and events. All of this can contribute to being peaceful because it helps with contentedness.
30. Intentionally choose to be peaceful. "Make Love not War. "
Recently a few of you asked about the philosophy of yoga. It's interesting and complex. The first references to yoga was found in 1700 BC in the Vedic Texts (which are part of Hinduism). Yoga was considered a lifestyle. It was brought to the US in the late 1800's. BKS Iyengar really did a lot to help Americans understand and practice Hatha Yoga in the later 20th century. Now there are several types of yoga practiced in the US and the world. It is not a religion, however it can and will help you to be more spiritual. We practice a Satsang/Hatha/Vinyasa Yoga (we gently flow between physical poses with the focus on breath and alignment) and Restorative Yoga. There are beliefs in yoga that are divided into 8 Limbs. Below there is an explanation of 4 of the Limbs.
Yoga is an art and science dedicated to creating union between body, mind and spirit. The 8 limbs are guidelines for a happy, satisfying life. The first four are Yama, Niyama, Asana, and Pranayama. 1) The Yamas are about personal ethics, how you conduct yourself. 2 ) Niyamas are social ethics, how you treat others and the environment. 3) Asana, the physical part, are the postures and movements that characterize yoga. 4) Pranayama is about the breathing and breath control that we practice during class. Asana and Pranayama are the two aspects that we use in class. They help build and maintain strong bodies, rejuvenate, and help with relaxation. You can read more about the 8 Limbs at this link.
Jamie and I have decided to postpone our teacher training until 2018. We both have a lot going on in our lives and need to let these settle before taking on that commitment again. We did just graduate 4 fabulous teachers. Karri teaches classes in Seymour. Savannah teaches in Hartford and Wear's Valley. Amy has taught some of our restorative classes and has taught the teachers at Pi Beta Phi Elementary School. Hannelore teaches in West Knoxville. We enjoyed the course and are very proud of the graduates. They are awesome.
My family is visiting from July 10 – July 17. Jamie has family visiting at that same time. All classes are canceled from 7/10 – 7/14. There will be yoga on Saturday 7/15 (maybe some of my family will join us). Since there are no classes on July 4th too, I am offering a special rate for July: Modified Month is $25 (2 classes per week) and the Unlimited Month is $37.
Have a Happy Summer!
Have you ever tried Restorative Yoga? At first it seems like you're just laying around for long periods of time. The first time I took one Somewhere in the middle of the class I began feeling really comfortable and good. Then I started looking forward to that class. It was a six week special class. Jamie has begun offering a Restorative Yoga class on Tuesdays at 7pm. It is very relaxing and healing.
Restorative yoga has some great benefits and has been studied by National Institute of Health. It reduces stress and cortisol. There is even evidence (the NIH study) that it can help with weight loss due to the lowering of cortisol. Even though it is passive, it is energizing. It helps to balance the mind and the body. The poses are usually propped with blankets and blocks, and they are held for longer periods of time, perhaps 5 – 20 minutes. We often receive requests for restorative yoga so we thought we'd try a class. It is great for everyone....beginners to advanced.
Here are two links that will take you to more information:
National Institute of Health
Introduction to Restorative Yoga
Jamie and I are very excited to offer yoga teacher training, Yoga for Every Body, in Seymour, TN. We hope to help create some more teachers for this area. It came to my attention that the two of us just cannot do it all. There's room for all sorts of yoga classes too. Our training will give the student the basic knowledge that a yoga teacher begins with. Upon completion the student will be able to get certified with Yoga Alliance and hopefully will go on and increase their knowledge and experience of various paths of yoga.
What if you don't want to teach? That's okay. The training will give you the opportunity to "deepen" your practice. We will go into more detail about the various poses and stretches that we can do in every class. You will probably get the chance to do some poses that we do not get to during the normal yoga classes that we teach. You will also get a chance to explore all of the parts and pieces of yoga that we definitely do not cover in the classes.
If you are interested check out our new website http://yogarys.com/, and come to one of our informational sessions. The cost is reasonable. We have an early bird discount and also a payment plan. We plan to start on the weekend of April 22, 2016.
On Sunday, September 27th I started a 6 part workshop series entitled "Shift Into Positive." Anyone is welcome to join in at anytime. the next workshop is scheduled for 10/25. Click here for information.
Here are 10 Simple Tricks for Keeping Positive:
Restorative yoga has many benefits such as lowering depression and anxiety. It increases GABA, a chemical that is made in the brain. It increases a sense of well being and decreases body fat. So laying around on bolsters and blankets for an entire class is soothing and relaxing while it reduces cortisol (a hormone that helps create belly fat) and stabilizes blood pressure. Restorative yoga helps us feel nourished and contented. Restorative yoga is not about moving or stretching its about relaxing. Props such as blankets and bolsters are used to make the body as comfortable and relaxed as possible. Jamie and I have been adding some restorative poses to our classes. I am adding restorative yoga to the Monday meditation class that I have at my home studio, and will be doing more restorative asana during the Wednesday class.
We have been doing a lot of work on hip and shoulder openers. Why? They are both soothing, ease anxiety and even help with depression and arthritis. People store a lot of stress and negative emotions in their hips and shoulders. Hip and shoulder stretches help you feel good because they release stress, improve posture and breathing, and even strengthen your immune system. Think about how much you depend on your hips and shoulders throughout the day.
Hip openers have many benefits including increased flexibility, range of motion, and mobility. Athletes need hip opening stretches to help them perform better in their sport. Hip opening poses help with digestion and circulation. They also make spines and knees happy because they take some of the pressure off of those areas. Almost every yoga pose (asana) stretches and opens the hips to some degree. The goal is to loosen the hips so that the rest of your body is happy and you can do more physical things (like bending over or sitting on the floor). Remember that hips need stability too, so it is important to find and maintain balance while working on the hip area. Note hips that are too flexible can also hinder athletes and the rest of us.
Shoulder stretches and chest openers have many benefits and also show up often in yoga practice. Stretching the shoulders helps to counteract the effects of hunching over things like computer keyboard and the car steering wheel. Hunching interferes with correct breathing and posture. This is tiring and creates stress. Stretching the shoulders and opening the chest feels good because of improved breathing and posture. These stretches help with more challenging poses. Again, take your time and be gentle with yourself. It’s painful to over do any stretching.
Jamie and I follow a progression from gentle, warming stretches to more complex asana. Our intention is to lead you safely through a satisfying practice. It is important with all yoga asana that you pay attention to your body. We can see the outside and make corrections and suggestions. You feel the inside and know when something is not right for you. It is always okay to modify a pose or stretch to fit the needs of your unique body. It's also always okay to pass.
Poses That Work on Hips & Shoulders
Tortoise or Kurmasana is a soothing pose even though it looks pretty impossible. An intense forward fold it works on the hips and shoulders. It tones and stabilizes the spine. Deeply relaxing, it gives the student the opportunity to go inward.
These are just a few of the poses that we practice frequently. Some like the lunges are hip stretches and some like Downdog stretch the shoulders. Most work on both areas. There are many more. If you are interested in learning more about the poses you can click on this link for a comprehensive list of yoga asana.
A new study by Harvard University has shown that daily mediation can increase the gray matter in your brain. They looked at 30 minutes a day however other studies show 10 or even one minute can improve your cognitive abilities. Here is a simple way to start your home practice. Its best if you can set up a consistent time in a quiet place for your daily meditation.
Use your imagination to create a place that you can go to for meditation. Consider this a safe place. It can be anything from a mountain trail to a sunny beach or it may just be plain darkness. You can imagine sounds or music (or you can play some). Tell your body to relax. Breathe deeply. Try to breathe in to a slow count of 4 or 5 and to increase your exhalation by a second or more. Repeat to yourself, “I am.” Allow your thoughts to come as they do. Let them go. At first it may be hard to quiet yourself, and after a while you will go to that meditative frame of mind quickly.
The Benefits of Twisting
Almost every class has a twist or two in the beginning and again in the end. Twists early in the class are done lightly. They help with opening your spine and to develop mental focus. Twists at the end of the class are deeper and restorative, helping to realign the spine and relax your body.
Twists help with flexibility by stretching and lengthening the back, waist and side muscles. Toning the oblique muscles helps to improve posture. Sitting or standing posture is important to the well being of your internal organs and your energy level. Good posture keeps you from collapsing and compressing your back, vertebrae, and internal organs. Compression can cause problems with your entire body.
Twists improve circulation throughout you body. A common theory is that twisting squeezes blood and fluids out of your internal organs (liver, kidneys, spleen, etc) allowing fresh blood to flow into the organs nourishing and lubricating them. This flow of blood and energy (oxygen) revitalizes cells, tissues and nerves. Digestion is improved. Bloating and gas are reduced.
Twists encourage the synovial fluid to lubricate the lumbar vertebra and the hip area. Twisting helps with all the little muscles that support the vertebrae and keeps the whole structure of your spine free and mobile. A flexible spine helps you feel and look younger. Twists can also reduce headaches and improve both eyesight and hearing. This is because you are releasing refreshing your neck and shoulder areas.
Twisting releases tension. Most people really enjoy them because of this big release of toxins and stiffness. They quiet the nervous system. When tension is released and relaxation sets in some biochemicals are stimulated help you become calm and focused. Twists are relaxing and energizing all at the same time.
Here are a couple of sources to read more about twists.