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

Movement the energy of life

4cb3767c8fc02e4e474cb252fed83237

When you think of exercise what comes to mind? Well merriam-webster.com has this to say about exercise

  • physical activity that is done in order to become stronger and healthier
  • a particular movement or series of movements done to become stronger and healthier
  • something that is done or practiced to develop a particular skill

but here’s the thing it isn’t “exercise” that we should be promoting, it’s movement.

Friends and I were talking the other day and someone mentioned a trainer she knows and this trainer has a lot of injuries, old and new from ‘working out’, from pushing her body to its limits. And while we can do that (esp when we are young) it will most likely come back to haunt us, in the form of damaged connective tissue, extremely tight muscles, and arthritis. But exercise is good for us you say and we have been told we should do it, need to do it, but now they tell us it could be bad for us….. sheeeshee, its hard to know what’s what anymore.

But here’s the things….. pay close attention please…

Ahem:
It isn’t really exercise we need, it’s movement. But isn’t that the same thing? Nope not really. Exercise is a specific physical activity, based in movement but movement isn’t always exercise.

Think of it this way…An object in motion stays in motion. Right?, thats just physics.

Its movement we need to stay healthy, to age well and to become stronger. And from a yoga standpoint it also about balance. The balance between too much, too little and just enough, we all need to go Goldie Locks on this idea of exercise.

We think of movment as something that happens to us, even if we are doing the exercise, we think of it as being an outside endeavor. Instead think of Movement as starting from the inside, movement in the body, movement in the breath and then moving them together, the synchronicity of movement. First, we move the body, then we move the body with the breath and when they move together then the energy within the body moves. It flows, its an ebb and tide it contracts and expands. It’s movement. From our cells flowing with prana to the earth revolving around the Sun its movement we need.

So what can you do to increase movement in your life? To make movement your lifestyle, not just some exercise you do for an hr 3 times a week.

**Walk your dog, every day.

**Play outside, with the kids, without the kids, with the dog. Make “Play” part of your life too. Climb trees, play kickball, hit some golf balls.

**If you have a job that requires sitting for long periods of time, set a reminder and get up for at least 5 mins every hour and for at least 15 min every 4 hours. Or better still if you can, get a standing desk.

**Dance while cleaning…. Crank up your favorite tunes and Dance like to one is watching. And if you find they are watching, smile and invite them to join you in the dance.

** Wash your own car instead of going through the drive-through car wash

**Limit how much TV you watch. There is so much to choose from any more cable, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu ect ect ect… that we probably spend more time surfing and “looking” for something to watch than actually watching something… If your guilty of that raise your hand

  Image result for raise your hand Yea me too!

**Keep a pair of sneakers & a change of clothes in your car in case the opportunity to walk arises… Plan for that opportunity.

**Park a few blocks away from your destination and walk the rest of the way

**Do toe raises and calf raises while standing in line at the store or bank

** Instead of meeting a friend for coffee meet at the park and walk while you catch up

There are endless possibilities for getting more movement in your life……Oh there’s one more

**Take some exercise classes several times a week, Dance aerobics, Zumba, Pilates, and of course Yoga… they are fun and you can make new friends, just be sure they are a part of the movement in your life, not the only movement.

See you at the park, I’ll be the one climbing a tree 😊

Om Shanti

Cheryl

quote-life-is-movement-the-more-life-there-is-the-more-flexibility-there-is-the-more-fluid-arnaud-desjardins-56-34-87

Yoga, 31 one Blissful days!

Join me on the mat as we take time to practice Sun Salutations for 31 days.

You have several ways to join us on this journey. 1, you can come to classes, I will be highlighting the sequence in my flow classes and variations in my Gentle classes, yes you can do Sun salute all on the floor! And my two vinyasa classes at Fit One Gym are based on the Sun Salutations. 2, You can come to the workshop I have planned for January 12, Foundations in Yoga. A workshop that helps beginners get ready for a class highlighting the SS sequence and also assists the regular student in building their practice.

But first you have to make the commitment to a 31 day practice….. On the mat, at home or in class, every day for 31 days. Can you do that. I think you can.

A home practice seems sooooo overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Just set aside 10 mins… Yep only 10 minutes. In 10 min you can do 10 versions of the Sun Salutation and a few cool down stretches. If you don’t have a home practice use the next 31 days to build one. Here’s a few tips.

~ KISS, Keep it short and simple

               The more elaborate you try to make it the less likely you are to do it

~ Try to do your practice at the same time every day

               Schedule it. Put it on your calendar

~ Keep your mat rolled out if you can

               Less fuss, you only have to step on the mat and go

~ Create a fun, relaxing place for your practice

               If you have the space, light some candles, burn some incense and put on some                     music.

~ Track it!

               Like scheduling, tracking can help keep you focused

Check out this link to an easy tracker page, just print it out ( there are 4 options for printing, look for the “Download here US letter”

~ Hook up with a Yoga buddy

             Accountability baby! You tell them about your practice and they tell you or you                   plan to practice together.

~ Take your practice outside.

             Yes I know its January, but south of the Mason/Dixon we do get some nice days in               the winter and I love me some yoga in the woods.

So there you have it, a few tips for building a home practice. If you have others please share them on the FaceBook page. Pass your wisdom on!

Lets get started!

The Sun Salutation, or Surya Namaskara is a series of poses linked in a sequence to create a flow of movement. Each pose coordinates with your breathing: Inhale to extend, and exhale to bend.

Sun Salutations build heat in the body and are often used as warm-up sequences for a yoga practice. The components of a Sun Salutation also make up a “vinyasa” or flow yoga practice.

There are many variations of Sun Salutations. This sequence presented below is often referred to as “Sun Salutation A” (Surya Namaskara A). Consider this as the base for the other variations.

Benefits of a 31-day commitment:

* strength gains

* Increased flexibility

* Mental balance

* Increased confidence

* Greater sense of commitment

* Improved Sleep

* Increased sense of awareness

In short lots of great benefits!

The plan is simple Everyday do at least 10 rounds of Sun Salutations. You can do any version that suits you, the base practice, with or without modifications… You can ramp up version of Sun salute ‘A’ simply moving with the breath. Or you can do the Sun Salutations series ’B’ with the lunges add.

Also you can do more than 10 if you want and you can add other poses if you like as well. Throw in some pigeons (I know how much you love those) or a Warrior sequence if you like. But no what,  do at least 10 Surya Namaskara every day. Use this time to get to know the sequence better, take time to see how the poses feel in your body. Go slow, savor this time on the mat and make this sequence your own. Never rush the process, stop when you need to, modify as you go and remember this is your practice. Explore it!

Check in every day and let us all know how your doing. You dont have to be a big speech, but do pop in to let others know you  did your practice. You never know but your checking in just might encourage someone else!

I am going to pull together a few videos for you to follow I will post them on YouTube, I will drop the links on the Facebook Group page.

I can’t guarantee a video every day, but I will shoot for at least a few a week.

On a personal note I am looking forward to this, my personal practice for the last 2 + months has been very restorative and uber slow, Slow is good I’m a fan, but ‘Uber slow’ not so much…. I’m ready to re-build my strength and endurance.

So here is the first sequence ….. Surya Namaskara A

sun_salutes_A

Here are the basic poses, this sequence leaves out the lunges, that comes into play in Surya Namaskara B. I will lay that out next

Sun Salutation A also known as Surya Namaskara A

  1. Mountain Pose — Tadasana
  2. Upward Salute — Urdhva Hastasana

          ** Transition here is “Swan dive to forward fold”

  1. Standing Forward Fold — Uttanasana
  2. Half Lift or Monkey pose — Ardha Uttanasana

          **Transition here is “Step or jump back”

  1. Plank pose — Chaturanga Dandasana

           **Technically Chaturanga is a transition not a pose you hold

  1. Cobra or Upward-Facing Dog Pose — Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
  2. Downward-Facing Dog Pose — Adho Mukha Svanasana

            **Transition here is “Step or Jump forward”

  1. Half Lift or Monkey pose — Ardha Uttanasana

           **Transition here is “reverse Swan dive”

  1. Upward Salute — Urdhva Hastasana
  2.  Mountain Pose — Tadasana

………………………….

Sal Salutations B

Steps of Yoga surya namaskar sun salutation

This is basic ally the same except we added the lunges / Warrior II. I usually teach the lunge version first the on subsequent rounds I add the Warriors. But again do what feels right for you. Also in the classic SS B, the lunge is taught as you step back from forward fold and again as you step forward out of down dog… I teach it both ways. If you need more warm up time or to progress your practice at a different pace do only one lunge each round

  1. Mountain Pose — Tadasana
  2. Upward Salute — Urdhva Hastasana

          ** Transition here is “Swan dive to forward fold”

  1. Standing Forward Fold — Uttanasana
  2. Half Lift or Monkey pose — Ardha Uttanasana
  3. Step right leg back to low lunge – Anjaneyasana
  4. Plank pose — Chaturanga Dandasana
  5. Cobra or Upward-Facing Dog Pose — Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
  6. Downward-Facing Dog Pose — Adho Mukha Svanasana
  7. Step Right leg forward to low lunge – Anjaneyasana
  8. Half Lift or Monkey pose — Ardha Uttanasana

         **Transition here is “reverse Swan dive”

  1. Upward Salute — Urdhva Hastasana
  2. Mountain Pose — Tadasana

So there you have it 2 variations of the classic Sun Salutations sequence. There are many, many variations I hope we can get to some of them in the next 31 days!

 

Oh Shanti!

Cheryl

 

Viparita Karani

Hello loves can you believe its august 2!…. Just yesterday someone said to me “can you believe summer is almost over” My first thought was ‘well we live in the South so summer doesn’t end until Oct’ but my second thought was where did Spring go, let alone Summer! Times is flying by and the seasons change so quickly it’s hard to keep up.

Changes come and go but we will always have yoga, right? No matter the season, the month or the year. We have yoga.

It doesn’t matter if we are sick or feeling fit as a fiddle (how fit is a fiddle reallllly?). We have yoga.

Whatever life changes we are dealing with we have our yoga practice to help us navigate those sometimes-turbulent waters. Maybe you don’t have a regular, everyday practice, maybe you try to squeeze a few (or one ) class a week in but we never seem to develop a home practice. We think that yoga at home should look like, feel like and be like that 75 min practice you take at my center or a studio or gym. But you don’t know how to do that full practice at home..… You try.

You roll your mat out, you put the pets in the other room, you wait for the kids to fall asleep and the spouse to be watching their favorite show. And then you stand there, on the mat….. And think now what? You do a few down dogs, even though you hate them in class, but for some reason it’s the one pose you can remember… Oh there is plank, you know that one too, you also hate it too but you do a few of them. Then you remember the dishes in the sink or the laundry in the washer and you roll up the mat and think I’ll try again late.

Look you have enough stress in your life, instead of making yoga a big production or stressing over poses you can’t remember, just do one pose…. Yea, ONE POSE.

That’s all. And that one pose is Viparita Karani, Legs up the Wall pose.

We posted a little article on my Face book page about legs up the wall and it generated more buzz than most posts do so I thought I’d add some tips for you here. I had questions like ‘how long I should stay in the pose and how often can I do it’… And ‘I have tried it but my back doesn’t like it, how do I make it more comfortable.’

But first the basics.

Sit on the floor with your left side next to the wall and your feet on the floor. Using your hands for support, shift your weight and lower your right shoulder to the ground so that you can pivot your pelvis and sweep your legs up the wall as you lay down.

Lay back & let the arms relax at your side…..

2015-10-13-10-23-00
Legs up the wall

For more comfort, place a blanket in a single fold (about 1 in thick) next to the wall. When you lay back it should be under your hips and low back but allow the shoulders to drape back.

For more height under the hips, (this makes it more like a full inversion)…. To begin, fold a thick blanket lengthwise and lay it next to the wall. It should be around six inches thick, about 10 inches wide, and long enough to prop up your hips in their entirety. (A yoga bolster works well too.) Place the blanket near a wall with the long edge running parallel to the baseboard, leaving a gap of just a few inches between the support and the wall. And then sit on the blanket, with the hip next to the wall and carefully roll back onto your shoulders as your legs go up. You have to decide how much is too much height. If it is uncomfortable for your back remove the extra height.

leg up 2

If your hamstrings are tight, scoot back from the wall a few inches and roll another blanket up and put it between the knees and the wall. Be careful not to be too far from the wall as you run the risk of hyper-extending the knees.

A few other tips to make this more comfortable, is to wear warm comfy socks, your feet will get cold. And drape a blanket across your body so you don’t get chilled. An eye pillow is a nice touch, but if you don’t have one take a hand towel and cover your eyes.

Stay in Legs up the Wall for as long as you are comfortable.
Start with about 5 mins and work up from there. I have been know to stay for up to 30 minutes.

The benefits of this pose are almost endless. I read some where many years ago that, Krishnamacharya the father of modern yoga, said that this pose was the most important for good health. All inversions are good for us, but not all of us should do the more strenuous versions such as head stand or shoulder stand. Viparita Karani is a wonderful pose for triggering the Relaxation response in the body. It is a deeply relaxing pose.  Just a few of the other benefits are:

  • Facilitates venous drainage and increases circulation
  • Eases menstrual cramps
  • Relieves swollen ankles and varicose veins
  • Restores tired feet or legs
  • Stretches the back of the neck and back of the legs
  • Provides migraine and headache relief,
  • Calms anxiety

So stop making ‘yoga at home’ so difficult, just do this one pose. Try it for a few minutes a day and let me know how you feel.

Om Shanti

Cheryl

DSC03662 BK

Svadisthana Chakra, the chalice of life

36416778 - chakra svadhisthana

I have had many requests for information about the chakra system over the years. I even based the theme of last falls Autumn Retreat on the chakras.

So, I thought that since I am hosting and leading a workshop next Saturday all about the pelvis & Pelvic floor that I would touch on some of the information I will be talking about related to the pelvic floor and the chakra system. Particularly the Sacral or second chakra.

The Svadisthana chakras special gift is allowing us to experience life through feelings and sensations. Svadisthana in Sanskrit means ‘ones own abode or seat’. Another Sanskrit translation has part of the word meaning ‘to take pleasure in’.

The second chakra is the very center of feelings and sensations, emotions, pleasure, sensuality, intimacy, and connection all come from this chakra. And since this chakra is also the center of creativity it helps you to create change and feel transformation within your body.

But there is a problem, we live in a world where feelings are not valued, where passion, and emotional reactions are frowned upon. We are taught not to lose control and encouraged to hide our emotions. And because of this we can get disconnected from our feelings and from our body. Disconnected from our very center.

And the center of the body is the pelvis. From this place we create life. Even if we don’t have children we still have this space within us that creates. From this place we move forward, we use our feelings, our intuition, to guide us through life’s many changes.

The sacral chakra is located in the lower abdomen near the coccyx or tailbone, between the sacrum and pubis. The chakra color of the second chakra is orange, vermillion, and its element is water.

Imbalances in the sacral chakra can lead to:

  • Emotional overreactions or Emotional detachment
  • Excessive neediness in relationships
  • Codependency
  • Muscle tension and abdominal cramps
  • Fear of happiness or pleasure,
  • Lack of creativity and authenticity
  • Low libido
  • Pessimism, depression
  • Pelvis area infections and illnesses

 A balanced chakra can help you be more emotionally and creatively balanced. You will be less likely to be affected by the highs and lows of relationships, life, career, creativity etc.

You will less fearful about expressing your sexuality or other emotional needs. A balanced second chakra will help free from the blockages of ego and control issues. Often, our creative pursuits or focus get driven away by our emotional impulses, anger, frustration etc. A balanced chakra makes the person more self-aware, and able to express their emotions through creative work.

Sacral Chakra Affirmations

  • I have healthy boundaries.
  • I have healthy relationships.
  • I am open to experiencing the present moment.
  • I am open to feeling pleasure and abundance.
  • I know how to take care of my needs.
  • I respect and love my body.
  • I allow myself to experience pleasure.
  • My emotions are balanced.

Yoga poses to open the second chakra

Hip openers are primary in helping energize the second chakra. Poses such as Baddha Konasana, wide angle forward fold, and happy baby pose, just to name a few.

 

DSC03662 BKBaddha Konasana

DSC03671 seated wff Wide Angle Forward Fold

DSC03732 happy babyHappy Baby

Try a few of these poses and let me know how they feel.

Om Shanti!

Cheryl

Lets rant a bit about scales

scale-diet-fat-health-53404.jpeg

It’s a number thats all… just a number…just one indicator of your health.

It’s not how you judge your worth or value. It’s not representative of who you are or what you are. It’s not a measure of your success as a human being.

It’s a number. Nothing more.

We (woman especially) approach the scale with fear and dread, hoping it will tell us how we measure up. We step on that scale as if it’s number can tell us if we are lovable, or desirable. But what you need to know is that the scale is a liar. It can’t tell you what portion of that weight is healthy fat or unhealthy fat. It can’t tell you how much muscle you have, it can’t tell you if you have light bony structure or dense heavy bones.

It can’t tell you if you’re a good parent or if your partner thinks your sexy.

It only measures body weight. That’s all. And if you are judging yourself on that one number only let me tell you from experience that no matter how low that number is it can’t, it shouldn’t define you.

I am a healthy, and pretty damn, fit Grandma and full disclosure here I weigh 175 lbs. I went to the Doctor recently for my annual and it’s the only time I step on a scale, I don’t own one. I am 5’ 9.5” tall, and according to the charts I am over weight. But what that chart doesn’t know that I can do a 2 min plank or run trails (slow but I do it) or throw kettle-bells around like a boss. It doesn’t know that my BP is 100/60 and my total cholesterol is 160.

That lying scale measures only one thing, the tug of gravity on your body. And it doesn’t consider certain variables like water retention, changes in hormones, or how much muscle you have.

Would I like to be a little bit thinner… yes…. Because I have been programmed to think that if I am thin then I will be happy… In Oh so many ways…. Well guys I have been thin, very thin, too thin and I was not happy. Not even close.

There was a time in my adult life, even after having had 3 kids, that I was about 45 pounds lighter than I am now. Wow! I can’t even imagine what I would look like at 135lbs! Gaunt? Emaciated? At my age (nope not telling you that, I gave you my weight, that’s enough) there is no way that would be a healthy weight. I would have to lose all the muscle I have put on in the last few years. Am willing to do that… No. But what then is a healthy weight? And who decides what number we should be targeting?

My doctor? The insurance companies? Self or Shape magazine? And if my BP is with in a healthy range, my cholesterol is on the low side of the normal range and I get copious amounts of exercise, then what does it matter what number comes up on the scale?

If you take my class often enough you hear me say that nothing in the body happens in isolation and that wellness is a layering process. What that means is no one thing makes you healthy and well. No single exercise will make you fit. And that one number on the scale is not the only indicator of health and well-being. Step back and look at the myriad of ways you can improve your overall life and start to layer them, see what works for you and what doesn’t. But don’t rely on only one thing to dictate your life. Remember that your happiness and self-worth are not dependent on reaching one single criteria.

So ditch the scale, or at least use it only as one, just one, of many tools that help you live your best life right now!

Om Shanti

Cheryl

bost cropped   (p.s. I will turn 58 this year)

Breathing Breaks

breath1

Breathe easy……Take a breather……Take a breath ……Catching your breath

These are just a few of the different ways we express using breath to ‘take a break’. It’s in our lingo, part of our culture, and yet it’s something we rarely seem to do. Instead we ‘take a break’ by getting a cup of coffee or surfing facebook or Netflix on our pc…you know you do and your boss knows it too. We all need to take breaks from our work, even if we love what we do taking a break has many benefits ….

Better Circulation, increased muscle tone and flexibility

Sitting all day long can have a negative impact on the body, which is why it’s essential to get up and move at least once every hour. This increases blood flow improves muscle function, joint mobility and genuinely keeps you from feeling sluggish.

Boosts your Creativity

Get those creative juices flowing! Taking a break from the action allows you to recharge your mental batteries, improving the chances of coming up with that new genius idea.

Increased Productivity

Productive and engaged employees aren’t necessarily ones who work 80-hour weeks, it is usually someone who is engaged in the task at hand and productivity should be measured by the quality of the work.

Reduced Eye Strain

Taking just five minutes away from a computer screen is typically all you need to keep eye strain at bay, and it’s crucial to sustaining work for a long period of time.

Lower Stress Levels

Stress is one of the main things that causes burnout. To preserve your sanity, de-stress and improve the quality of whatever you are doing, you need to step back from the action. And remember it’s not goofing off,

it’s really about taking time to Refuel and recharge.

At the Cleveland Clinic they use yoga and modified traditional yoga breathing exercises as a way to help patients manage their pain and disease. Deep breathing is not only relaxing, it’s been scientifically proven to affect the heart, the brain, digestion, the immune system — and maybe even the expression of genes.

Dr. Mladen Golubic, a physician in the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine, says that breathing can have a profound impact on our physiology and our health. “You can influence asthma; you can influence chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; you can influence heart failure,” Golubic says. “There are studies that show that people who practice breathing exercises and have those conditions — they benefit.”  He’s talking about modern science, but these techniques are not new. In yoga, breath work is called pranayama and Yoga practitioners have used pranayama as a tool for affecting both the mind and body for thousands of years.

According to Psychology Today, breaks at work improve employee performances. Below is a list of breaks that may be effective during the work day (Fritz et al., 2011):

  • Meditation helps you detach from work thoughts by clearing your mind and focusing on relaxation.
  • Physical activity helps you increase blood flow to areas in the brain that are necessary for focus and attention.
  • Learning something new or playing a game will help you feel confident and boost motivation.
  • Setting a new goal and thinking about the future will help you see the bigger picture and re-evaluate life in a positive way.

Meditation, physical activity, learning something new, and setting a new goal can sound like a lot of different things you need to do to take that break, but the reality is you can do all these things by simply taking a ‘Breath Break’.

Instead of reaching for coffee to give you a boost, allow your breath to soothe your body, mind and spirit.

If you don’t have time to leave your desk here is a 2 min ‘Breathing break’ you can take to de-stress, invigorate the spine and enliven your brain…

Push your chair away from your desk, place your feet on the floor under your knees, sit near the front of the chair and lengthen your spine.

Now close your eyes and place your hands on your belly and begin to take long slow deep breaths. On each inhale lengthen a little more through the side and back body, while doing your best to keep the chest and shoulders relaxed. After about 5 or 6 breaths open your eyes and let the breath return to normal.

Then begin the deep, calm breaths again, this time taking your arms overhead on the inhale and bringing them down on the exhale, again about 5 or 6 times.

Then place the hands on your knees, inhale to lengthen the body and on the exhale ‘roll forward over your knees’ keeping the hands on your knees for support. Go as low as you are comfortable. Inhale as you bring your body up and exhale you roll forward. About 5 or 6 times.

You can do another round changing the dynamics if you like and if your back is strong enough….

On the Inhale raise your arms up and on the Exhale as you roll forward you release your arms out to the side (swan dive fashion) and towards the floor. If you need to support of your hands on your knees, please keep them there.

If you have more room and time, try the above sequence standing up…. Just adjust from sitting to standing in mountain pose for the first round of breathing, on the second round arms go overhead slowly as you inhale and slowly come down on the exhale. You can add a little bit of fun here, as you go up on your toes slowly raise your heels off the floor.

For the next round (keep the heels down) raise your arms up on the inhale and on the exhale, bend the knees and roll down towards the floor. And on the inhale bring your body back to standing.

Again 5 or 6 breaths for each round. And remember to smile and have fun.

Breathing is the original mantra and just a few minutes of deep breathing is easy, it is an act of self-care and it accelerates the benefits of the work break. And connecting movement with the breath enhances brain function and amplifies the benefits of your ‘Breath Break’.

I could be talked into a wee little video of the above mentioned breath breaks….Hummmm? Interested?

So try substituting the ‘coffee break’ for a ‘Breath Break’ do it every day for a week and let me know how you feel!

Namaste my lovelies 

Oh Shanti

Cheryl

For information regarding events, Classes, Reiki and workshops, please check out the FaceBook page for The Chattanooga Yoga Centre.

 

Gentle Yoga

FITONE 1

As I started to write this month’s blog about the difference between Gentle yoga and the yoga everyone thinks they know…i.e what they see on magazine covers. I found myself journeying down memory lane.

I took my first yoga class sometime in the late 70’s…. 1976 or maybe 1977. I was visiting my sister in Alabama where she was a graduate student, she took me to the university gym and we took a class. No yoga mats, no lulu lemon clothes. No blocks, bolster or blankets Oh My!

Just yoga.

No jumping, no flipping your dog, no flow, no power and no heat.

Just yoga.

The students used beach towels and old blankets and gym mats (you know the thick one’s gymnasts use).

810b4b6a940ce9f91a852a96f8a765fb (This is pretty much what classes looked like way back when. Street clothes and no sticky mats)

I was hooked. I loved it! And over the years I mostly learned from books and I practiced on my own.

As I grew older and married and began raising a family my practice fell away, as is the case for a lot of people. But during the mid 80’s after a long illness and all of life’s challenges I began to teach fitness classes. Aerobics!

Yes I wore head bands and scrunchy socks and played “lets get physical” by Olivia Newton John on my boom box. But I always added yoga in my workouts, Always!…… now jump ahead a few decades and trust me yoga looks very different. I started teaching full yoga classes in the late 90’s and in early 2001 I was teaching at a gym in Nashville. A flow class because that’s what everyone was teaching. That’s what everyone wanted in the gym. But my practice, my own personal practice, didn’t look anything like the power classes I taught. You see, that long illness I had in the 80’s never really went away. I have had many diagnoses from Fibromyalgia to MS. And most recently (about 10 years ago) a neuromuscular disorder.

I don’t really care about the name of my disorder because any way you spin it, it means I tire very easily and that my muscles spasm and ache and don’t always work like they should. Oh we could chock it up to age at this point in life and I have been told by well meaning friends, family and even Doctors that this is all part of the aging process. Really? Then I have been aging for as long as I can remember.

The point of saying all this is that I am a ‘spoonie’…. A spoonie is someone who struggles with chronic illness or chronic pain. The term spoonie was coined by Christine Miserandino who created the Spoon Theory. The theory provides an explanation about what life is like for anyone living with chronic illness/pain. Check out her explanation here

What does all this have to do with how Gentle Yoga is different that Magazine yoga? Well for starters the way I teach yoga, or fitness for that matter, grew out of my own experience with chronic fatigue and muscles spasms. Even when I was teaching High impact STEP classes and Power yoga classes I taught them differently because otherwise I simply could not do them.

Personally, I hate the term ‘Gentle Yoga’ it implies a practice that is less than… that you do it because you can’t do real yoga… I cry bullshit on that! But what else can describe the class in a way that separates it from it’s Power / Ashtanga cousin. A description that lets people know that here is a class you can do. How is Power Yoga the Real yoga anyway. It is simply one way to do yoga.

Don’t be mistaken, Gentle Yoga isn’t an easy class and it isn’t a beginner class either, it is simply a class that doesn’t have a heated room, it doesn’t have Jump backs or head stands. It doesn’t have hand stands or any pretzel poses. And it doesn’t always ‘Flow’. It is a class that makes sense to the body and it makes sense to the brain. It moves, perhaps more slowly, but it moves. And it moves far more deliberately than many other styles of yoga.  What I mean by that is that it allows for a great deal of movement but interlaced with static poses and poses that protect joints and promote strength but gives the student choices for resting, modifying and changing poses so that their body can participate.

I started doing some research on what Gentle yoga was and I could list you all kind of benefits of gentle yoga and I could give you a stock definition of gentle yoga, no doubt written by someone more articulate than myself. But that’s not what I wanted to really write about, I guess I wanted to write about why gentle yoga is appealing to someone like myself.

You see someone in chronic pain or dealing with an on-going illness is often very frustrated with ‘regular’ classes, because some days they might be able to get through all the vinyasas and some days it’s all we can do to hang out in Childs pose. Also, yoga classes themselves are often taught by instructors that don’t know how to make the class accessible for everyone. Even I find it difficult to take public classes and I am often embarrassed that I can’t do everything that a yoga teacher should be able to do.

But a Gentle class (gotta come up with a better name!) is anything you want it to be. Anything you need it to be in any moment. Taught well a Gentle class will help ease pain, it will help you gain mobility and it will help you get stronger. And that extends off the mat too… well all yoga should extend off the mat. We’ve talked about that before haven’t we? Here and Here.

So in a nut shell the difference between Regular yoga and Gentle is …. Nothing… no real difference. They are both ‘Real’ Yoga, both styles help you make strength gains and changes in your body that are positive and both styles should also give you a better sense of yourself. They are simply two different approaches that help you bring yoga into your life.

That yoga class I took in the 70’s, well that is pretty much what my practice still looks like today. Simple but challenging, Gentle but never easy. Poses and movements done with an attention to the breath and stability more than linking them together and making it a dance.

What does your own practice look like? I really want to know.

Om Shanti!

Cheryl

 

 

 

Rock your Paripurna Navasana

 Rock the boat

Let’s talk about Paripurna Navasana aka Boat Pose, just a few quick tips for finding balance and connecting to your core strength.

In Sanskrit, “paripurna” means ‘full’, or ‘complete’, “nava” means boat, and “asana” means pose;  Full Boat Pose.

This is one of those poses that can truly challenge people even those that have been doing yoga for some time.

Getting Into Full Boat Pose:

Sit on the floor with knees bent, feet flat, and legs together. Slide your hands a little behind your hips, and lean back slightly on your ‘sit bones’ without putting to much weight on your hands.

Draw the navel center in and up (uddiyana bandha) and lift your feet a bit off the floor.

Try putting your hands on your thighs and make sure your front body stays open and that your back does not round. Try to maintain length in the spine throughout this pose.

Draw your shoulder blades back to open your chest and broaden through the collar bones. Keep the knees at about a 90 angle, parallel to the floor.

If you’re stable and comfortable you can slowly begin to straighten your legs.

Now, try reaching your arms forward alongside your legs, palms facing down. If you are unable to raise your arms while in Paripurna Navasana, you can gently hold the back of your thighs.

Breathe steadily and hold for a few breaths.

Taaa Daaa Boat pose!

Have fun with this and let me know how you do~

Benefits of Full Boat Pose:

  • Tones and strengthens your abdominal muscles
  • Improves balance and digestion
  • Stretches your hamstrings
  • Strengthens your spine and hip flexors
  • Stimulates the kidneys, thyroid and prostate glands, and intestine

bost cropped If I look very serious here it’s because I set the camera on a timer and I set the timer for what felt like 20 minutes LOL

Om Shanti

Cheryl

Heart and Breath of stillness

“The heart has no limit in regards to the body’s shape….If you want to know the shape of the human heart, simply take a look at your fellow human and behold the human heart before you”….. Gil Hedley

Our heart like the rest of our body is steeped in movement. It is movement.

Yes, it squeezes and releases, it physically moves blood throughout the body. But what other adjectives could you use to describe the human heart? I bet most of the words you thought of are descriptions of movement… the heart Pushes, Expels, Draws in, Squeezes, Contracts, Relaxes, Pulsates, Beats, Circulates, Pumps. Take a moment and sit perfectly still, feet resting on the floor and the body relaxed. Now put your hand over your heart and feel the heart, feel the beat and notice that you aren’t really completely still. So while on the outside you seem to be completely still, there is still movement in your body, and you are aware of that movement because you can feel it with your hand and consciously you know the heart beats.

But on an energetic level, the movement of the heart is much more subtle. The heart is filled with spirit and life, it continuously dances with the body and its favorite partner in the breath.

Gill Hedley, a wonderful anatomy teacher, talks about the dance of the heart and he even has an amazing, quirky video about it and I love it! But for me, I tend to think about hows things move together, how things move physically and energetically together. So when I think of a dance or the dance of the heart I think more about how it dances with the rest of the body.

In particular the heart and breath dance together, they could and can dance alone, but never for long, for without the breath, the heart couldn’t beat for very long and without the heart, the breath couldn’t move oxygen along the river of energy to reach out to all the body.

When healthy body moves, take walking as an example, all of its parts move together. The legs propel us forward, the arms swing by your side, there is an up and down motion as well, as the feet come away from the ground and then set back down. You may even have a slight sway side to side. Your head may bob. And your feet, oh the movement in your feet alone as you walk, well that’s a whole post by itself. Your heart beats faster, your respiration increases, your blood flows with more force, your body temperature increases and you sweat.

Walking is never just about the legs.

And a movement is never about only the body. Or only the body parts we see. When you peel away the layers you find movement everywhere. In the muscles, the joints, even the bones have movement to them. Blood flow through veins and arteries and the Breath brings draws in oxygen. The cells inside us move through out our body and within the cells themselves there is movement. The body dances with itself all the time.

All movement is a dance that is constantly happening not just physically but mentally and spiritually.

And it begins with the breath and the heart. Together they take to the dance floor and in that dance, you find a rhythm. The heart and lungs share space in our body and as we breathe, they dance creating a sense of rhythm and making room for each other. They change shape to allow each the other to function, each breath and each beat of the heart they are inseparable.

My friend Amber and I went to Nashville to listen to Gil Hedley lecture (it was amazing, He is amazing…Got a little FanGirl thing going on I admit) and after the lecture, we grabbed a bit to eat and chatted vigorously and enthusiastically about what was in the lecture and well as in our  own practices. You see Amber is a skilled body work expert and Neuromuscular Therapist, she is skilled in many different aspects of massage therapy and me I am a skilled Yoga therapist and teacher. And this is how I summed up the work we do…

Bodyworkers facilitate movement for those who can’t…. And Yoga Therapists, facilitate stillness with movement and facilitate movement within the stillness.

Stillness in movement?? Movement in the stillness?? What does that even mean?

I mean that when we dance with the heart we create stillness in the mind and when we become still we can dance with Spirit.

You need to learn to tune in deeply to the body and begin to listen to the stillness within the movement and then notice the stillness that resides in the movement. This, for me, is meditation. I have never been one to sit quietly in meditation, I try… Oh, how I try to be still, physically still… not a muscle moving, like all the great Gurus of the world … it’s torture and I die a little inside every time…Every damn time. But over the years as I would try yet again to sit in meditation I would say to myself ‘be still’ … ‘stop fidgeting’  but over time I began to notice that if I would just wiggle my toes or watch the movement of breath and listen to my heart that I was moving, that even in the stillness I was still moving. And then I began to incorporate the movement of the body with the movement of breath and I could slip away into the place of stillness in the mind even though the body was moving.

You see even in the stillness of the body I was moving and within the movement of breath and beats of the heart, I found stillness.

Om Shanti

Cheryl

gran pic