You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Health’ category.

Photo by Drewski Mac

My yoga journey had a lot of starts and stops initially. When I finally became a true yogi, it was because of running. I was always a runner first and yoga was only a way to stretch for a long time. Even after I became a teacher, running was still my first passion. I began to have an unsettling feeling about this combination of running and yoga. This duo had within it a built in struggle. It was a struggle both in mind and body. But I ignored it. I ran and trained and pushed until finally succumbing to my yoga journey when running was no longer an option. And as they say “I saw the light and I never turned back”. Well not really.

You see, running and yoga are truly yin and yang both mentally and physically. Runners push. Runners compete with themselves and others. They compare. Runners turn off the mind because our bodies CAN do more, do faster, do longer. Runners don’t stop at pain but use pain as a test for mental toughness. Don’t stop. Run faster. Run longer. Rest if you need to but then get back on the track. Running compacts the muscles in the body. It tightens the muscles in the legs. It ignores the upper body. It creates imbalances.

I bought the runner’s message and lived that message. I ran when sick (though my running partner got my wrath that day), I ran in the heat, I ran when my leg had a strange pain, I kept on running. Speed work, long runs, tempo runs, trail runs. I woke up every morning with foot and leg pain. And then I couldn’t run. I had injured myself to the point that it was just not possible.

I turned to yoga. I listened to my body. I saw the alignment issues that were part of my running problems in my yoga and I patiently kept coming to my mat, working on my alignment. I got stronger. I got more flexible. My body began to open up. My hips released. My hamstrings released. I didn’t push, but patiently worked. I woke up without pain. I woke up.

So now I am running again. I love the freedom of being able to put on running shoes and take off. I love running on trails in all weather. The surroundings absorbs me. Mindfulness is necessary as to not trip. I now sometimes walk up some hills. But now, I always make sure that I get into the studio as often as I can to be in class. That takes precedent overrunning, but my need to get outside and fill my lungs with fresh air takes me to the trails. I have started to get the urge to push a little more. Maybe because it is marathon season and just a pattern that I have created. But yoga is what makes me able to run. I need both running and yoga in my life. The yin/yang. The dance. The balance.

Image

Why do we run, swim and bike, but practice yoga? We practice an instrument or a dance routine in the effort of finding perfection. However, perfection is not what we are practicing when we get on our mats. What we practice when we get on our mats is our way of being. We practice opening our hearts so that we can love more deeply and find more compassion and acceptance. We practice balance so that we find balance between work and play, family time and personal time, being strong yet being vulnerable in our lives. We practice to find the moving meditation that helps us clear the “monkey mind”—the chaos of thoughts that jump around in our brains— to bring more clarity, grounding and inner calmness into our day. We practice finding our inner voice and inner strength in discomfort so that we are familiar with acting with purpose or sitting with the discomfort versus reacting to or running away from the discomfort of life that comes in the form of disappointments, challenges and frustrations.

In each class we can practice all of these ways of being. To find which one resonates most we begin our practice connecting to our breath. Breath is the channel to our inner voice. We quite our mind with breath to allow our deepest desires and needs to be heard amidst the usual chattering of intrusive thoughts.

Once we find an intention, we can focus on it as we move on our mats.

Are you looking to find love, deepen connections, accept yourself for who you are flaws and all? While practicing find ways to open your heart in every pose. Back bend in mountain, warrior one, anjaneasana and crescent lunges. Find more heart softening in down dog or opening in side angle and triangle.

Are you looking to increase energy? Bring more energy in by exuding more energy out in each pose. Find strength from the ground up, express energy by keeping fingers and toes active, use inversions to move stagnant energy from within.

Are you looking to clear your mind and find peace? Focus even more than usual on your breath creating a moving meditation. It is easy to lose your breath if you are trying to come to your edge in class. Work on staying with your breath and practice with ease. Use the sound of your ujayi breath to help calm and ground you in your practice.

Are you looking for balance in your life? Though most practices include balance poses, find the yin/yang in each pose during your practice. Find the solidity and the fluidity, the strength and the vulnerability, the control and the surrender in every asana.

Are you in need of more strength in life to go after what you really want? Begin each asana from the ground up, creating stability to increase grounding and strength but then find the flight to move you into action. In standing poses keep a 90 degree angle in your front knee, only coming out for a moment when needed and then finding it again, in order to increase your strength and learn to breathe through the discomfort. Change comes from challenge and fear and doubt can be dissolved by staying put in times of challenge instead of taking the easy way out. Find moments of flight in arm balancing poses.

Yoga is not about trying to find perfection in poses or your practice. Yoga is about coming to our mats to find the truth and acceptance in our imperfections. We practice BEING on our mats so that we can be bigger, more honest and show our true selves off our mats.

Next class, listen to your internal voice and follow your intention to greater possibility in your life.

Image

I am nearly done leading an 8 week program for middle school aged girls in self-empowerment and yoga. It has been an incredible experience. The Girl Power program teaches so many important lessons in a very short time.

1. Just as hunger pains tell us to eat and thirst tells us we need a drink, feelings tells us information about our authentic self that we need to address.

2. Our thoughts alone do not give us enough information to make good choices. We must align our feelings with our thoughts to get the most accurate signals to make the choices that are best for our true self.

3. Self care has to do with how we treat our self. Do we pay enough attention to how we are treating our self on a regular basis? Not paying attention to self care hurts our ability to handle stress.

4. Yoga. It helps to bring our attention to our bodies, feelings and thoughts. First we find this connection on our mats through asana practice then we take it off our mats into our daily life to live more authentically.

5. Media is very influential in how we see ourselves. It is meant to make us feel lacking. The way media portrays women is harmful to our self.

6. The path to happiness starts with being authentic.

Yesterday I read the girl’s journal entries that were in the format of a letter to their bodies. I got goose bumps. I felt such a thrill seeing that the messages that we’ve been working on were sinking in and that they have the tools to treat their true self with more kindness and understanding.

It was an honor to lead this program and teach this material, but the real honor is being able to be a part of these girl’s life path and to have given them real tools and skills to leave them with so that their life’s journey doesn’t get cluttered with baggage from bad choices. They have the tools to live authentically.

It occurred to me while I was participating in my Baron Baptiste Level 1 Teacher Training that everyone there arrived with baggage and not just the obvious duffle bags and suitcases. We all came with stories from our past that we’ve taken for truths that create limiting thoughts and don’t serve us on our life’s journey. In truth, this may just be part of life and growing up. But what if there was a way to prevent some of that baggage? Instead of seeking therapy, hiding in destructive behaviors such as eating disorders, drugs and alcohol use or risky sexual behavior to flee from our feelings, what if we learned to tune in and understand our feelings and our inner voice? If given the skills at an early age to help us tune in to our true self instead of tuning out by escaping through texting, music, tv, Facebook and video games, might we avoid the adult versions of feeling avoidance?

Thankfully I don’t have to recreate the wheel. A friend and fellow yogi, Dr. Catherine Cook-Cottone,  that I met during my teacher training developed a program for 5th-7th grade girls to teach them skills to help them navigate through life’s ups and downs. I am fortunate to be able to bring the program to life this spring in my home town. Dr. Cook-Cottone tested her program through the University of Buffalo where she teaches psychology for effectiveness in preventing destructive behavior in this population (specifically eating disorders). The program never focuses on a specific destructive behavior as it uses positive psychology and active learning techniques. The results were positive. By teaching teens awareness of their feelings and how they create thoughts and actions, the girls learn that they have opportunities to make good choices. Using yoga, discussion, journal writing and art, the girls explore who they are, what they feel and what their inner voice has to say. They leave empowered and with real skills and tools to help them through their life’s journey. Maybe these girls will avoid some of the pitfalls that my generation fell into or maybe they will fall too but with a greater understanding of themselves to be able to pick themselves, dust themselves off and leave the baggage behind.

When I was little, I believed things became constant and that all of the whirlwind changes of growing up stilled once you became an adult. I thought life would have less surprises, that relationships stayed the same, that when you chose a way to make a living you stuck with that choice, that adulthood would have the answers and would be easier. What a shock to discover that life is constant in its ability to continue to change every year, every day and every moment. Once I came to accept that life is about impermanence and is ever in flux and changing, it did, in fact, get easier.

Have you accepted life’s perpetual changes or do you still hold hope for the elements to settle?

Once I fully owned that life would consist of ups and downs, have its happy moments along with stressful and that relationships change, I was able to detach myself and more easily “go with the flow” of the moment. If all things change, than banking on something or attaching myself to an idea, person or thing was pointless. Instead it requires a finer awareness of what matters which is this very moment.

Accepting impermanence and detachment creates an inner peace that does become a new constant. I find that when I begin to get into my head with worry or fear or self doubt that I have fallen out of the moment and attached myself to an idea of what life should be. Realizing that this too will change brings me back to now.

It is no small feat to give 100%. It takes real effort to put full effort into a task. But without trying your absolute best, you are cheating yourself out of true accomplishment.

How often do we miss opportunities by only half trying? When communicating with loved ones, how often is there full eye contact? I’m not pointing fingers. Really I’m not. I’m sometimes guilty of typing or reading the paper or looking at email while having a conversation. It’s easy to multitask but while doing so I miss the feeling of really connecting.

I recently read in an insightful book called The Game of You that every time we cut corners, give up, put something off or show up late we start to lose trust in ourselves and decrease our self-esteem. These lack luster attempts add up to feelings of dissatisfaction and stagnation.

To move forward we must believe and trust ourselves which we can only do if we know we are trying our hardest at everything we say we are going to do. Follow through until the end. When we consistently miss the mark by not putting forth the effort we begin to create and reinforce a false story about ourselves that we can’t achieve. However, when we follow through until the end we reinforce our ability to take the steps to fulfill both the little and big dreams we have in life.

I took a yoga class today from the amazing Aimee Bohn who talked about the 90 degree knee in standing poses. She said that often people don’t trust their quads and hold the pose midway which doesn’t allow the body to strengthen and doesn’t allow progress. It is better to get fully into the asana and come out and go back then go half way. You only get stronger by giving it your all.

Are there places in your life where you take short cuts or avoid a task or don’t show up? Pick one of these moments and show up fully today. Then tackle another task and another with full attention and effort until you are living your life as the 10 that you are.

One of the hardest things for me to do is to sit in that awful place of discomfort. Life is chock full of these moments. I get to practice being in this place more times than I’d like. I think I am getting better at it but then all of a sudden I’m back in deep and it seems so overwhelming. For me these moments are usually found in times of confrontation, uncertainty or conflict. I know now to take time to concentrate on my breath. I try not to get to caught up with thoughts as those just seem a method that my brain uses to make sense out of the situation and may just be stories created that hold no real truth. So what do you do if you can’t think your way out? Breathe. Concentrating on the moment at hand through breath is the only truth when things are not clear. It is so simple. Breath can dissipate these uncomfortable feelings of anxiety, anger and stress. Inhale 1. Exhale 2. Inhale 1. Exhale 2. It is as easy as… taking a breath.

Being both a yogi and runner has been enlightening this last year. As I recovered from a six month-long achilles injury, I increased my yoga practice. As I increased my yoga practice, I corrected a lot of misalignment and weakness in my feet and legs caused by running and increased my hip and hamstring flexibility tremendously. As my flexibility increased, my injury began to heal. Finally I was able to run again pain and shoe insert free!

But something had changed inside me besides my healed achilles tendon.

In the six months of waiting desperately to run, I began to really listen to my body. I realized that for years my body had been telling me things which I refused to hear. The constant pain I lived in from compacting my muscles from running long distances accentuated by stretching these tight muscles with yoga seemed normal. A runner is conditioned to push through pain and disassociate the messages our brain is telling us to run longer or faster because the body will.

The practice of yoga is called a practice because everyday we come to the mat and listen to what our body needs. Yoga helps us become mindful of what our mind and body is saying. We learn to turn off our mind of needless thoughts not as a way to push our body past a point of pain. Yoga helps us be comfortable in our bodies and minds.

I have started running again on trails and for short distances. I walk up hills sometimes instead of charging up them as if my life depends upon it and I really listen to my legs and bring awareness to my stride. I have woken up to what a body free of pain feels like and I can’t go back to punishing my body in the name of a PR. Marathons are still in my dreams but I have woken up and will approach my running with a new mindfulness and gratefulness. I have woken up and I have no choice but to listen.

Photo by D. Sharon Pruit

I recently came across a blog post from pigtailpails.com that I shared on Facebook that struck a cord with many parents. The title of the post is Waking Up Full of Awesome. If you haven’t read it, please check out the link as it is short but poignant.

Being the first week of school, most parents have fingers crossed that their children are heading into a year of success both academically and socially. So many self perceptions evolve during those hours away at school.

A friend of mine whos daughter entered 7th grade this week shared that she had heard a principal say that he wished girls would stay how they are in 6th grade – confident, excited, loving life and themselves because in 7th grade self-esteem and confidence drop and peer pressures become more demanding. These girls change.

Many people are still working through traumatic childhood moments in their adult life stemming from messages they picked up from others back in elementary and middle school.

It is heartbreaking to see confident girls lose their authentic awesomeness in order to belong.

I strongly believe that yoga is a pathway for young people to access and proudly display their true selves. Through yoga kids find internal and physical strength, see themselves grow and change and see their life’s path more clearly.

As an adult or child, finding your center allows you to navigate through the challenging moments in life with an internal compass that will not steer you astray.

Whether your child is struggling or not, introducing yoga into their lives will benefit them as they find themselves and head into adulthood.

Photo by Dean Gugler

It’s that time of year again. Many parents are taking a big sigh of relief while others are feeling their own butterflies with the onset of another year of unknown possibilities. Here is a post I wrote two years ago about school nerves followed by a few others about transitions and anxiety. No matter how we feel about the beginning of the school year, it is far better to be present than worry about the future or dwell on the past.

Parenting Is Hard Work – Yoga Keeps It In Perspective

The kids went off to school yesterday…

The night before the big day everyone actually fell asleep easily. My daughter did a little yoga in bed beforehand and it worked like a charm and my son read until he was tired and went to bed at a reasonable time. My husband who is a night owl even went to bed early…. it was just me who had the new school year nerves. Would my daughter like her teacher who is known to be great but strict? Will my son’s high expectations of the 5th grade be met or will there be first day disappointment? There were lunches to be made, notes to teachers filled, asthma medicine to be dropped off. How did school get here so quickly?!

I found myself taking some deep breaths-lying on my back with my hand on my stomach. I allowed those anxious thoughts to pass without bringing full attention to them. I slowed down my breath counting to five as my belly filled. I held my breath for a count and then let my belly fall… and soon I too fell asleep.

As parents, it is so easy to get caught up in the trials and tribulations of our children’s lives. We have hopes and dreams and try so hard to teach them the right things; nutrition, physical fitness, how to be a friend, how to be responsible, how to make good choices. The list could go on and on. At some point we need to just breathe. Accept that although we may have brought these little people into the world, they are individuals with opinions (sometimes different than our own). Like those anxious thoughts that I had last night, sometimes it is better to look at our children and their choices (as long as they are not life threatening) and put some distance between them and our feelings and beliefs.  Be with our children without always turning every moment into a learning experience or trying to control the outcome. Our children’s choices can seem to be a direct reflection of our parenting but sometimes it is just a reflection of our children’s preferences which are different than our own.

Three ways yoga can help parenting:

  • Focus on one’s own breath—let your child breath on his/her own.
  • Find one’s own inner peace so that your child’s life doesn’t become the main focus of your own.
  • Hone your Ahimsa skills by bringing an attitude of loving kindness and acceptance to your own life as well as your child’s.

Other posts about transitions and anxiety.

Help Kids Navigate Through the Stress of Life

Transitions

Positive Affirmations Help Kids

Current Classes:

MIDTOWN ATHLETIC CLUB

Mondays:
6-7:15am Power Vinyasa (H)

Thursdays:
6-7am Power Vinyasa

Story Time Yoga
1-1:45pm

Sundays:
5-7 year olds
9:45-10:30am
8-11 year olds
10:45-11:30am

STUDIO MOVE!

Wednesdays:
10:30-11:30 Power Vinyasa

Fridays:
Yoga for Athletes
9-10am

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 117 other followers