Loosen up Lighten up

Today Nov 14 is Loosen up Lighten up day!

…. No really! It’s a National Day (I think it should be a National Monday Off from work kind of Holiday, but they didn’t ask me). This is a holiday I can really get behind and support. What could possibly be more important to our health than learning to Loosen up the body and Lighten up the mind and spirit? When we release stress from the physical body that can help in a big way to lighten up the Mind and when we de-stress the mind the Body will follow suit.

So what are the effects of stored stress & tension on our bodies?

First, let’s talk about what stored stress can actually be. It can be tension from repetitive movements or from sitting or standing too much. It can be from overwork, either from a new workout routine or ramping up your exercise. But it can also come from repressed or unexpressed emotions, and while that’s not really my field of expertise it is something I am only too familiar with in my own life. Holding physical tension can lead to overworked tissues in the body and to physical injury. And both physical tension and emotional stress can lead to chronic pain.

Just a few of the areas in the body that hold onto stress and tension are:

The Low back

The shoulders

The chest

The gut

The hips & pelvis

The feet & hands

The jaw

…So just about everywhere

So how do we Loosen up the body & Lighten up our minds?

Stretch it out, Work it out

Stretching is one of the most wonderful things you can do for your body!  The daily impact of our lives causes muscles to bunch up.  Take time at the start and end of your day for some gentle stretching when you can.

Physical movement has proven time and time again, through scientific research and daily anecdotal evidence, to be the most effective way to reduce stress and tension. Gentle stretching and simple movements are the best. So, what are some ways can we add physical stretching to our day?

If you sit a lot make it a point to do a few seated stretches every 30 mins or so and at least once an hour get up and stretch. 1 min or so at a time is all you need…Here are some simple stretches you can do anywhere.

Another great way to Lighten up the mind is through meditation, taking time to quiet the mind either on your own or through guided meditations. So how do we get more meditation in our day?

Several times a day take a Breathing Break, stop and just watch your breath, maybe taking a few slow full breaths and releasing them slowly. Add conscience breathing to your movements, this is my favorite one, simply push away from the desk and sit close to the front of the seat, take time to relax the jaw, and have the tongue on the roof of the mouth. Now take a slow inhale as you take your arms overhead and exhale let them come down. Do this several times or as many times as you need to. You can even add other movements just mindfully combining the breath and movements together, focusing for 1 min only on breath and letting the movement follow.

What are some other ways you can Loosen up and Lighten up?

*Exercise

*talk a walk in Nature

*Massage

*Guided Visualization

*Laugh

*Progressive Muscle Relaxation

*Mindful Breathing

*Yoga

*Tai chi  

*Soak in a warm tub

This is a short list, can you think of anything else you like to do?

Another way is to change things up, instead of exercising in the morning, take a walk after work. Have lunch somewhere new with your BFF. Go do something fun! What brings you joy do a little of that. Take a class (maybe Yoga? LOL) Try out a new hobby, or take a painting or pottery class.

So in the words of the immortal Farris Bueller “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

And maybe try to make every day a little Lighter and Looser

Shanti

Cheryl

Happy Relaxation Day!

I didn’t know it was a holiday either!

So to honor this newfound holiday let’s talk about the Relaxation Response, What is it? Why is it important? And how do we get there?

Most everyone knows or at least has heard of the Fight or Flight response, the reaction to a stressful stimulus that causes chemicals in the body to prepare you to either fight or flee in order to save your life.

The fight-or-flight stress response is our sympathetic nervous system jumping into action when we think that we are in danger, and it protects us from harm.

This creates a number of physiological changes, including increased blood pressure, heart and breathing rate, dilation of pupils, and constriction of our blood vessels, all of which work to enable us to fight or flee from a stressful or dangerous situation.

But in our fast-paced world stress is everywhere, it disrupts our sleep, causes us to eat food that has no real nutritional value, creates anxiety and depression, and this everyday stress, this constant tension in our bodies & minds leads to the break down of our health. At the very least we may get headaches or indigestion but over time it can lead to chronic high blood pressure, stroke, cancers, and other serious health problems.

We aren’t going to live in a world free from stress so we need to know how to combat it, this is where the relaxation response can come in. The relaxation response is a conscious way to overcome the stressors in our lives.  

The Relaxation Response can help to turn off the fight-or-flight response and bring the body back to pre-stress levels. The term “Relaxation Response” was coined by Dr. Herbert Benson, professor, author, cardiologist, and founder of Harvard’s Mind/Body Medical Institute. He defined the relaxation response as your personal ability to encourage your body to release chemicals and brain signals that make your muscles and organs slow down and increase blood flow to the brain. In other words, a conscious way to overcome the sometimes-unconscious stress response.

Dr. Benson described the Relaxation Response as a physical state of deep relaxation which engages the other part of our nervous system—the parasympathetic nervous system.

In his book, The Relaxation Response, published in the mid-1970’s after more than a decade of research and criticism by his peers, Dr. Benson described the scientific benefits of relaxation, explaining that regular practice of the Relaxation Response can be an effective treatment for a wide range of stress-related disorders. The relaxation response is another way of saying meditation.

But his studies in the 60’s and 70’s were not the first forays into relaxation.

You have to go back to the early 20th century and you’ll find Edmond Jacobson a physician and psychiatrist.

In 1929, Jacobson had published a little, but powerful book called Progressive Relaxation, which detailed a procedure for removing muscular tension. Jacobson’s work asks patients to tighten their muscles and then release them slowly, paying close attention to the sensations of tiny amounts of residual tension. The idea is that after much practice, they become able to detect any tension and then work on eliminating it. Jacobson believed that the muscles of the body hold on to mental tension as much as physical tension, and while this theory was disproven years later, we now know that the body does hold on to trauma and tension, but not always in ‘just’ the muscles. Many of the relaxation techniques to teach us to consciously release tension are directly related to his work decades ago.

This led to many different researchers in the 1930’ and 40’s looking at the stress in our lives and ways to combat it.

Ok is good to relax we know that but how do we do it? Dr Benson helped to bring meditation into the mainstream, by proving at least some of the science behind it and by calling it the relaxation response.

Ok so what is meditation? Go google What is Meditation, seriously go do that, I’ll wait.

Right?! There are a million different way to define meditation but there is an underlining theme to most of the definitions and that is Focus. Focusing on one thing or at least narrowing the focus of your mind and whether its for spiritual enlightenment or to relieve anxiety and depression it’s the act of calmly and gently focusing the mind that evokes the relaxation response.

Sitting in meditation is great if you know how if you have the time if you’re a yogi in a mountain cave. And there are a great many ways to elicit the relaxation response, to meditate. I try to sit on formal meditation a few times a week, but for me, the best way to relax is to move. Yoga, somatic movements, walking or running in the woods, and dancing around my kitchen all serve to focus my mind away from the things that stress it out. Guided types of meditation are wonderful ways to truly relax, your focus is on not only the sound of someone’s voice but on the pictures, they help you create in your mind. Other ways to relax according to the **Mayo Clinic **include:

  • Autogenic relaxation. Autogenic means something that comes from within you. In this relaxation technique, you use both visual imagery and body awareness to reduce stress. You repeat words or suggestions in your mind that may help you relax and reduce muscle tension. For example, you may imagine a peaceful setting. Then you can focus on relaxing your breathing, slowing your heart rate, or feeling different physical sensations, such as relaxing each arm or leg one by one.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation. In this relaxation technique, you focus on slowly tensing and then relaxing each muscle group. This can help you focus on the difference between muscle tension and relaxation. You can become more aware of physical sensations. In one method of progressive muscle relaxation, you start by tensing and relaxing the muscles in your toes and progressively working your way up to your neck and head. This is best done in a quiet area without interruptions. You can also start with your head and neck and work down to your toes. Tense your muscles for about five seconds and then relax for 30 seconds, and repeat.
  • Visualization. In this relaxation technique, you may form mental images to take a visual journey to a peaceful, calming place or situation. To relax using visualization, try to include as many senses as you can, such as smell, sight, sound, and touch. If you imagine relaxing in the ocean, for instance, think about the smell of salt water, the sound of crashing waves, and the warmth of the sun on your body. You may want to close your eyes, sit in a quiet spot, loosen any tight clothing, and focus on your breathing. Aim to focus on the present and think positive thoughts.**

Other relaxation techniques may include:

  • Deep breathing
  • Massage
  • Meditation
  • Tai chi
  • Yoga movements
  • Exercise
  • Biofeedback
  • Music and art therapy
  • Gardening
  • Walking in the woods

And of course, the benefits of being able to evoke the relaxation response are limitless

  • Slowing heart rate
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Slowing breathing rate
  • Improving digestion
  • Controlling blood sugar levels
  • Reducing stress hormones
  • Increasing blood flow to major muscles
  • Reducing muscle tension and chronic pain
  • Improving focus and mood
  • Improving sleep quality
  • Lowering fatigue
  • Reducing anger and frustration
  • Boosting confidence to handle problems

At the end of most Western yoga classes, there is some type of ‘savasana’ or ‘corpse pose’ in which you should be completely relaxed, without any thoughts but aware and awake. But please know that this idea that while in savasana you are guided through relaxation techniques is a Western thing, esp the tighten and release muscular tension technique. As far as I know, it’s nowhere in the medieval yoga texts. But at its heart, it is what Yoga is all about, ‘stilling the fluctuations of the mind’. Within your yoga practice, you have all the tools you need to practice the relaxation response. You have exercise, movement, the asanas. You have meditation, breath work, and breathing techniques. You have a type of biofeedback, you have the deep connection between the body, mind & spirit.

So what’s the best yoga for evoking the relaxation response? Well, I could be funny and say it’s the yoga you actually do! But especially relaxing are Restorative Yoga and Yoga Nidra meditations.

But really anything you do to be able to relax is going to benefit your life in so many ways.

Om Shanti

Cheryl  

**https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/relaxation-technique/art-20045368

Here are some previous posts I’ve written about Restorative Yoga & Yoga Nidra

https://blissbodysoul.wordpress.com/tag/yoga-nidra/

Dandelion Strong

Let’s consider the humble Dandelion, is it a weed? A nuisance? Something you need to ‘get rid of’? or perhaps its something else.The sweet little Dandelion is one of springs earliest greens that provide us with nourishment after what can often times be a long winter. This plant is rich in vitamins and minerals such as A, C and K, it also contains vitamin E, folate and small amounts of other B vitamins and can provide a substantial amount of several minerals, including iron, calcium, magnesium and potassium. Pretty good for a ‘weed’ we want to eradicate from our pristine lawns.

This beautiful, yet unassuming little plant has been used as medicine and food for countless generations.  It even makes a nice wine, that Ray Bradbury (one of my favorite authors) referred to as “… summer caught and stoppered…sealed away for opening on a January day with snow falling fast and the sun unseen for weeks…”… So now I’m going to have to try and make dandelion wine, I’ll keep you posted.

The Dandelion is a resilient plant that seems to grow anywhere and under the most challenging of conditions. But here’s the thing, it doesn’t just grow, it flourishes and thrives. It adapts to the ever-changing landscape and makes the best of its life, and blooms wherever the seed lands. And then, as their color and life start to fade, the fluffy little seedlings are carried away by the softest breeze, eventually landing, setting down roots and creating a whole new generation of dandelions.

The Dandelion is a transformative plant, that transforms throughout its life span to become food, medicine and to spread beauty throughout the landscape of our lives

So what do Yoga and Dandelions have in common? They both teach us the value of being resilient, yoga by its process and the dandelion by example. Yoga gives us the tools to become resilient, to grow where we are planted and to then to share the seeds of resiliency with others. The hardy dandelion also teaches us about community, of reaching out to help others and of leaving something positive behind.

So lets all try to be a little bit more like the Dandelion, work on thriving and flourishing no matter what our circumstances and bloom where we are. And let’s do our best to send out the seeds of resilience and encourage helping others to thrive as well.

Om Shanti

Cheryl

3 Potential Health Benefits of Dandelion

  • Highly Nutritious
  • Contain Potent Antioxidants. …
  • May Help Fight Inflammation. …
  • May Aid Blood Sugar Control. …
  • May Reduce Cholesterol. …
  • May Lower Blood Pressure. …
  • May Promote a Healthy Liver. …
  • May Aid Weight Loss.

What a year! What. A. Year

goodbye-2020-quotes

Well Yogis we made it! 2020 is in the rearview mirror at last.

I think it’s safe to say we have all had one hellova year. Many of you have been touched by the corona virus in one way or another, either you had it or someone close to you had it, some of you may have even lost a loved one to the virus. Some of you had tornado damage in the spring of 2020, with lots of property damage, some of you losing everything. Living with that trauma for many has been challenging. Some of us have faced economic hardships this year, some losing their jobs and others with smaller business having to close completely. It’s been a tough year, this is true. But here we are, on the other side, although we’re not out of the woods just yet, the virus is still out there, but at least there is a vaccine now,. There are still homes in E. Brainard area with blue tarps and blown out walls, but new roofs are being replaced and new homes are being built and evidence of the hardships of the shutdown are everywhere. Even my business, The Chattanooga Yoga center, has been hit hard but the challenges of this year, to the point where I went back into the world of finance. I took a part-time teller position at a credit union in October. I am very bless though that the business has been able to stay open, but with class sizes very limited and not many new private clients on the horizon I felt it necessary to supplement my income. I’m don’t mind taking a part-time job, I had worked the credit union industry for many years before opening the center and I love the work. And after a unexpected health issue came up in Oct, causing me to have major surgery over the holidays, I am ready to be on the other side of 2020.

But to be fair I think 2020, as a year, is getting a bum rap. I personally have had worse years, trust me. And I bet despite everything challenging that has happened you too can find a few things from 2020 that were blessings, that were bright spots in a year that tested us all.

So name a few of those blessing, post some of your brighter moments in the comments. Lets turn our reflections of dismal and depressing into rays of light that might help others see their way through the challenges. And then give some thought to how you can make 2021 even brighter. But hold on to that thought for the next blog post.

Happy 2021 my friends.

Om Shanti

Cheryl

Hello my Yoga loves I guess, like everyone else, I have sort of been hiding under a rock for a few weeks… Ok 2 months, but I just didn’t seem to be anything to write about that hasn’t been said by someone else and probably said better. But as restrictions due to COVID-19 begin to ease I have had many questions as to when I will reopen the Center.

But first let me ask how are you doing? Its been a Helleva ride since the beginning of February hasn’t? First the COVID virus, then everything gets locked down and then as if that wasn’t enough the horrible storms and the tornado roared in forever changing the landscape of our beautiful county and changing the inner landscape for so many individuals. But here we are slowly moving into our new normal. I am certain that your ‘new normal’ is different from mine, and mine is different from someone else’s. I have not been on social media as much lately, I get on to post a few things about work or puppies or kittens or something, mostly to see how all of you are doing, but for the most part I don’t read or scroll the newsfeed much, its sad, depressing and damned infuriating if I’m being honest. The division between us humans is getting scary, what is it about humans that makes us think ‘our way’ is the only right way? Why?

Why when faced with something they don’t believe in or that they don’t totally support, do humans have to be so visceral, so antagonistic?

Why?

Why do we seem to think that a FB meme is the truth just because it supports our particular narrative? And why do we fail to do the right thing, and before we post something so very inflammatory, why do we fail to do the research. Look at many different sources and verify that its correct and reasonably truthful, before posting.

Why?

Why is it necessary to beat up someone or tear them down to get your point across? Is it because you really don’t have a valid argument? Why call names, why create even more hate by spewing garbage.

Why?

Why not instead seek out the truth, read and research and find things that uphold your position that do NOT include hate speech or blatant falsehoods. Why not learn the noble art of debate, why not participate in friendly discourse?

Why not learn how to think for ourselves?

Why not?

Carl Sagan wrote, at length, about critical thinking and while he was mostly writing at the time about superstitious belief, I think we need to look closely at what he called “The Fine Art of Baloney Detection” and learn how to fine-tune our bullshit detectors. We seem to have forgotten how to think for ourselves and we most definitely have forgotten how to be kind.

Here are Carl Sagans rules for Baloney detection.

  1. Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the “facts.”
  2. Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.
  3. Arguments from authority carry little weight — “authorities” have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science there are no authorities; at most, there are experts. ****I would add here that ‘Authorities’ are also Social Media ‘Influencers’, just because you see it on the internet does not make it true. ..again for the folks in the back Just because you see it on the internet does not make it true…CPM
  4. Spin more than one hypothesis. If there’s something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained. Then think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives. What survives, the hypothesis that resists disproof in this Darwinian selection among “multiple working hypotheses,” has a much better chance of being the right answer than if you had simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.
  5. Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. It’s only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will. *** I underlined that part… the pursuit of knowledge, I’m sad to think it’s a dying art CPM
  6. Quantify. If whatever it is you’re explaining has some measure, some numerical quantity attached to it, you’ll be much better able to discriminate among competing hypotheses. What is vague and qualitative is open to many explanations. Of course, there are truths to be sought in the many qualitative issues we are obliged to confront, but finding them is more challenging.
  7. If there’s a chain of argument, every link in the chain must work (including the premise) — not just most of them.
  8. Occam’s Razor. This convenient rule-of-thumb urges us when faced with two hypotheses that explain the data equally well to choose the simpler.  ***Choosing the simpler does not mean choosing the most simplistic, just because it explains or supports your narrative. CPM
  9. Always ask whether the hypothesis can be, at least in principle, falsified. Propositions that are untestable, unfalsifiable are not worth much. Consider the grand idea that our Universe and everything in it is just an elementary particle — an electron, say — in a much bigger Cosmos. But if we can never acquire information from outside our Universe, is not the idea incapable of disproof? You must be able to check assertions out. Inveterate skeptics must be given the chance to follow your reasoning, to duplicate your experiments and see if they get the same result. 

Stand by your truths, but there is no need to stand on another human’s throat to prove that your truth should be theirs. I believe there is room in this world for lots of truth, many different beliefs, and certainly many varied opinions. But let’s remember to leave room for kindness.

Om Shanti

Cheryl

 

Motivate me baby

This second, we can sit down and do our work.”
― Steven Pressfield, 

Ok so now that I have a shit ton of time on my hands, apparently all the stuff I told my self I NEVER had enough time to do … well, guess what it was all a lie. I do have time and it still isn’t getting done…. It took me 4 days to sit my butt down to write this. So, what was I doing for 4 days, well the pantry looks amazing and I have managed to re-watch The Agents of Shield, again, all 6 seasons. Yea…. Oh and I am CRUSHING Candy Crush.

So, what is it about motivation? Or what causes a lack of motivation? And is it motivation we are all lacking? Yea you know I’m not the only one.

Actually, I am motivated I really am, I want to write, part of me has always been a writer, my earliest memories are of having a pencil and paper in my hands and words, like butterflies, flying through my mind looking for somewhere to land. My mother was a gifted artist, a painter and a deeply creative person and memories of my childhood are of being given art lessons from a young age. Well, I wasn’t given the lessons; it was more like I was drug kicking and screaming to the art studio on Brainerd rd. and to the Hunter Art Gallery.  To be clear I have a deep appreciation and love of the visual arts, I just can’t draw a straight line. So, every time mom would give us paper and crayons or pencils on a rainy day I doodled and wrote stories. Mostly I wrote because even my doodles stank.

But these days I can’t seem to find my voice, and I sure as hell can’t get it down on paper. But I’m working on it. I’m looking for the push, that internal drive to get up and do….anything, something.
I know I’m not the only person that feels this way. We all have plans, to-do lists, great ideas that never see the light of day, unfinished projects and still we have periods where nothing gets done.

It is possible that Motivation isn’t the problem that it could be a deeper issue, instead could it be… Dun Dun Dun Duuuun… Procrastination!

Procrastination is a complex psychological problem and it has been studied extensively and it can’t be rendered down to a simple solution. It’s not laziness!

And it’s been my experience that motivation is a manifestation of procrastination. We have a tendency as humans to look outside ourselves for answers. Throughout history, we have looked to religion and science to answer complicated questions. And “looking for motivation” is one way to think we are solving the problem of getting shit done.

This might be one person’s thoughts about losing weight….” If only I was motivated, I want to lose weight, but what is my motivation, well Summer is coming, and I want to look good in that bathing suit.” But then summer arrives, and nothing has changed and we think it is because we lacked motivation, or had the wrong motivation. Really what we did was kept putting off making the necessary changes to achieve our goals.

Procrastination!

Why do we do that? Again, it is complicated, and it is different for everyone, Psychologists have terms for different behaviors that lead to procrastination. The biggest for me are Task Eversion, Fear and arousal procrastination (which sounds better than it is) for me arousal procrastination means I work well under pressure, give me task, give me a deadline and 5 mins before its due I’ll throw down and boom, done. Here’s the problem with that it might get done, and it might get done “ok” but trust me it could have been better. Also, self-imposed deadlines don’t work.

And know that there are many other reasons people procrastinate: indecisiveness, overwhelm, stress, depression, goals that are too abstract, anxiety and perfectionism just to name a few.

And now that we are all faced with this new normal, of social distancing and being isolated at home, at least for a while, how can we deal with not getting shit done, especially now that we have the time. How can we deal with our procrastination? Here we are stuck at home and we can’t get the laundry done or clean out the garage, forget the big project for work. What can we do?

Try to figure out what your procrastination issue is. A licensed counselor, especially one who is an experienced life coach can help you.

Establish your goals.

*make sure to define your goals as clearly as possible

*make a to-do list

*Prioritize tasks based on how important they are to the finished goal

*Break large and overwhelming tasks into small and actionable pieces

* Set short term deadlines for yourself on your way to your final goals

*Identify when you’re most and least productive and schedule your tasks accordingly

*Reward yourself when you reach a goal

*Focus on your goals instead of on the tasks that you must do to get there

*Imagine how great it will feel to experience the outcomes of your work

*Avoid a perfectionist mindset, nothing and no one is perfect. And remember we learn from mistakes

What works for me is to pick one thing, one task and do it till its done, finished. If I get distracted it’s all over.

Also, If I know that one big ‘thing’ will take a long time, days or weeks even, I break it up into timed segments. That way I am still working on it, I have a deadline, and I can still break away to go fold laundry.

And Breathe…. you knew I was going to say that didn’t you? 🙂 But it does help.

Breathing on purpose, taking slow deep breaths when faced with any problem can help you to focus. Taking Breathing Breaks can give you time to clear your mind and release any stress that might have come crept into your shoulders and neck. Breathwork, Pranayama in Yoga, can bring clarity to your thoughts and help to relieve anxiety.

So, what are somethings you want to do during this time of isolation? Learn to make pasta? Improve you putting game? Finish the puzzle you started over Christmas?

The greatest thief this world has ever produced is procrastination, and he is still at large.

Josh Billings

Om Shanti

Cheryl

Here is one of my favorite paintings from my mother20200326_164701

 

 

 

A Brief History of Us

Image result for the wayback machine

Lately, I have been reflecting on how many years I have been teaching and as March approaches I have been thinking about my sweet yoga space, so hop in and let’s take a trip in the way back machine…. In March of 2013, I began the process of leaving the corporate world behind and taking my yoga practice full time. After many years of teaching part-time and working “a real job” I found that I was ready to take the plunge and face the risks that come with business ownership and of being a solo-preneur. So, in March of 2013 I formed my LLC and began seeing private clients at Fit One Gym. I love that place! I spent 4 + years there as the gym manager and stayed as a senior instructor even after I found a part-time job at a local bank. The bank position allowed me plenty of time to see clients and teach classes but still make just enough money to pay my bills. It was awesome. It was also verrrrry comfortable, it would have been easy to stay there, to continue to do just enough, just barely enough. But I had a calling, I really wanted to take my Yoga Therapy practice to more people and for that, I needed more time and space. And that’s when the universe stepped in and with a big dose of Shakabuku (a shift spiritual kick to the head) what I like to call ‘Gods 2×4’, we found out that our bank branch was closing and at the same time a lovely space came open at the Gym. And the rest they say is history.

Image result for the universe is calling

By Sept 2013 Cheryl Murman Yoga and Wellness was open for business and I began to change the name to The Chattanooga Yoga Center in 2015. Over the years I have been asked why I didn’t open a more traditional type of Yoga studio, why didn’t I hire more teachers, why didn’t I have many different types of yoga offerings and the simple answer is that’s not what I wanted.

I wanted a different kind of yoga center, a different business model. I wanted a place for people to explore movement and to allow that exploration to seeped deeply into their bodies and their soul. I wanted a space that felt safe, that felt intimate whether there were 20 students in a class or just one client at a time. I wanted a healing space, space where healing could unfold as you needed it to.

And for myself I wanted to be able to explore with my students and clients, I couldn’t do that if I was managing a studio with 30+ classes and a boutique. Many people have come and gone over the years and it seems like many more have stayed than gone. I have always been happy to watch a student grow in their practice and then move on to other styles of yoga taught by other teachers, even at other studios and have been thrilled by how many of my students have gone on to become teachers! That’s humbling for sure. You are all near and dear to me, and I know that I will never make a lot of money doing business this way, but I know that I am far richer than I could ever have imagined.Its-a-wonderful-life-2

So, with the 7th anniversary fast approaching I wanted to take time to thank all of you who have trusted me with your bodies, your spirits and with your healing process. You are all nearer and dearer to me than this humble heart can express. It’s always been a challenge for me to accept compliments but to all of you who have been coming for years, some of you have been on this journey with me for far more than 7 years, Thank you! Thank you for your trust and support.

Om Shanti!

Cheryl

What is Asana?

What is “asana”?

asana

Asana is just one part of the deep, rich practice that is yoga… but in our western culture, it is, more often than not, the only part people practice. They might occasionally use a few breathing techniques but rarely are the other limbs of yoga taught.

eight limbs of yoga

Somewhere on FB someone posted a question about what movements and poses are ‘actually’ yoga, and then that same week someone new to my classes said to me that they loved I was putting ‘pilates’ and ‘regular’ exercise in the yoga class.

The thing is for me, and this is my interpretation, and I am certain I will get a lot of push back on this, BUT I think all movement has the potential to be an asana practice…..All movement.

Jogging, pilates, hiking, trail running, weightlifting, Zumba and step aerobics. All of it can be asana. Well sort of.

Let’s look briefly at these limb of yoga and try to take into consideration the 7 other limbs (besides Asana) of yoga and see if weaving them into whatever movement you’re doing makes it yoga.

Runners have always used the term “hitting the wall” to imply the place where they can no longer run, extreme fatigue sets in and they cant finish. But most experienced runners know when they may be hitting a wall. When they feel that coming on, they actively turn their awareness back inward, to an internal focus, a concentration on their breathing, on simply putting one foot in front of the other. That internal focus is Dharana, the 6th limb of yoga, meaning concentration, a meditative focus. That’s just one of the ways that running marathons can be yoga. Let’s look at more.

Here are the 8 limbs of Yoga:

1) Yama (The ethical standards and how we live off the mat)

          Ahimsa Non-violence

          Satya Truthfulness

         Asteya Non-stealing

         Brahmacharya Right use of energy

         Aparigraha Non-attachment

2)Niyama (The inner observances)

         Saucha Cleanliness

        Santosha Contentment

       Tapas Self-discipline

       Svadhayaya Self-study

       Isvara Pranidhana Surrender to the Divine

3) Asana (posture, the poses you do on the mat or the movement)

4) Pranayama (breathing techniques/breathwork)

5) Pratyahara (The withdrawal of senses)

               “the checking and curbing of the outgoing tendencies of the mind so that awareness can be directed inwards.” ‘Swami Satyananda’

6) Dharana (Concentration / meditative focus)

7) Dhyana (Uninterrupted flow of concentration / complete stillness of mind)

8) Samadhi (Bliss/transcendence of the Self)

 

So, let’s look at our marathon runner again. To achieve that level of physical and mental fitness required to run 20 + miles, they have probably lived a yoga life and maybe didn’t even know it.

We already looked at using concentration Dharana the 6th limb, but what else?

How about the Yamas and Niyamas, Ahimsa, which means do no harm, so maybe for our runner, that means don’t over-train, and don’t neglect stretching.

Saucha, meaning Cleanliness, could be eating healthy foods that will fuel the body, and avoiding recreational drugs and alcohol.

These are just 2 of the Yoga Ethics, look back at the list and see if you can see where our runner might have use Tapas or Brahmacharya or any of the other Yamas and Niyamas.

Looking down the list at the other limbs we know our runner couldn’t be successful without having some control over his breathingthis is Pranayama.

And Pratyahara, this is the withdrawal of senses, in the case of our runner, this might be the ability to not let the rain or the heat or the bugs or the occasional dog chasing you, to interrupt your concentration.  The ability to curb the tendencies of the mind towards negative thoughts.

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So, this for me is how all movement can be yoga… because it’s really about intention. It’s about being intentional with your movements, about being mindful and kind to your body. It’s about understanding the tendencies of your mind that limit you and how to overcome them.

It’s about an understanding that your practice of movement is about so much more than just exercise. So much more than just core strength and great glutes. So, the next time you’re in a Zumba class and think you can’t finish think about these 7 other limbs of yoga and see if you can apply them to help you live your best yoga life off the mat. And in your next yoga class notice how those movements that are NOT sun salutations are in fact Yoga.

Om Shanti

Cheryl

Planning ahead, looking back

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We’ve all seen the posts on social media about whether someone is a Autumn person or spring or summer … you know the ones I mean! Well in my much younger days I thought of myself as an Autumn kinda girl. I Loved the crisp weather, cute sweaters and boots, but dammit I Love summer too, I will always cherish the warmth of the sun on my skin. And let’s be really honest we all like winter at least a little. If nothing else, it helps us to appreciate the return of spring. And come on, Spring is nice too, the new flowers beginning to bud and fresh greens from the garden, the return of longer days and brighter sun.

So I’ve decided that I don’t have a special season, a time of the year I welcome more than the others and I don’t want one. I much prefer the transitions.

I love to watch the winter slowly get brighter as the days slowly get longer. I particularly love as the summer starts to cool; the days are still warm, but the nights have are cool enough to remind you that winter is coming (a wink to other GOT fans). Have you ever noticed how during the transitions between the season there always seems to be more air movement, more breeze? I think I love the wind on my face even more than the sun…Maybe? The winds of change I suppose.

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Like the transitions during a yoga practice the transitions throughout the year can often times be more important than the season itself. During the transition from winter to spring my thoughts go towards digging into mother earth to plant fresh new life. The transition from summer to fall finds me cleaning and organizing my home and for work I spend time making plans for the new year that is only a few months away. And of course, autumn into winter is filled with holiday plans and plans for your new year’s resolutions.

As you look back at this last year in your rear-view mirror, what transitions or seasons stand out for you? And what plans if any are you making for the year to come?

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Remember that what we see in the rear-view mirror shouldn’t be judged but observed. What lessons did you learn? What expectations were you able to let go of?

Of course, looking forward through the windshield can sometimes seem so broad that the future can feel overwhelming. What can you do to make your plans for next year more “do able” and less overwhelming? By starting now to plan ahead we can have more control as we move forward with life.

Embrace the change, learn from the experiences of from your past and then move forward. Carl Jung said, “I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.”  Become…..

Om Shanti

Cheryl

Be you’re own teacher

“When you are ready to see it you will see it” … “When you are ready to find it it will be in front of you”

Two simple things I say a lot to my students. Yoga has a similar phrase that goes something like this

Image result for when the student is ready the teacher will appear”

That phrase has been attributed to Buddhism and several other Philosophies and great teachers, but no matter its origin it has merit.

It can be taken in its literal form to mean that when you are ready to learn something then a teacher, an actual person will appear in your life.

Say for example that you’re thinking of taking up hiking, you’ve never been hiking, and walking in your neighborhood doesn’t count unless you live in a national forest.

But you’ve been to the park and you liked that and now you’re ready for more and then Boom, you meet someone at your Zumba class who hikes all the time and she invites you to head out up to some cool trails on the AT for a day hike and there you go. Hiking.

You were ready and a teacher appeared.

But experience has taught me that its rarely the external teacher that appears the most often, more the internal one that shows up unexpectedly.

I have a client that has some knee issues and while she is very strong and her practice has evolved so beautifully in the year we have been working together, one of her knees has been a bit slower in gaining strength. A few weeks ago, I re-introduced a movement pattern, in a different way, and she was apprehensive about doing it, but tried it anyway. It was a very simple (or so it seemed) movement but it allowed her knee to move differently and now that knee is getting stronger, even faster than it was before. And she asked me why we hadn’t been doing it from the beginning, the simple answer was she wasn’t ready. Physically her body didn’t have the strength and mentally she was still protecting the knee. The more complex answer was that since she wasn’t ready the teacher wasn’t there. She wasn’t ready to see it and so she couldn’t. It was a pattern we had tried before, just in a different way, but now she was ready, and she could see it. She was her teacher here, not me. She had to make the decision to try and she had to overcome the fear of the movement and she had to step up and step out and try.

We are all like that, there are times in our lives when we must step up, step out and face our challenges and when we are ready to do that our inner teacher shows up.

I have had students and private clients over the years who have experienced this with their yoga practice. After months (or years) of practicing they suddenly have a breakthrough in a pose. Where they couldn’t even conceive of sitting in prayer squat pose a few years ago. Suddenly in a class they try and find it more accessible than they ever imagined.

Why? Why now? What changed?

The mat is the same, the sequence is the same, hell even the teacher was the same, Me! Maybe what changed was something inside themselves. Their confidence level or their understanding of the anatomy of the movement or maybe their courage to try new things changed.

What ever the reason, they were ready, and they made the effort to change. They were their own teacher.

Remember this when life gets frustrating, when you’re in a situation that feels impossible or at the very least more challenging than you expected. Know that perhaps you are still within the lesson, you’re still learning and that someday you will be able to recognize the value of that lesson. 20/20 hindsight right!

When the student is ready the master will appear. Be your own teacher, learn to recognize when you are ready and then call on the master within yourself.

Om Shanti

Cheryl