Tag Archives: study
Yogic mindfulness techniques evolved from millennia of practice, as we learn what works to create a joyful human experience. Yogis have always been people just like you, figuring out how to live happier, healthier and more fulfilling lives. Come and improve your everyday life by gathering this toolbox of now scientifically proven awareness techniques:
- decrease physical, mental and emotional pain
- improve physical, mental and emotional well-being
- gain mastery of your stress response
We will be practicing asana (postures), pranayama (breath techniques) and meditation (cognitive awareness techniques). All levels are welcome.
April 29th – May 20th.
Mondays, 2-3:30 p.m.
Asheville Community Yoga
8 Brookdale Ave.
Sign up at ashevillecommunityyoga.com
Thyroid symptoms can be challenging to manage in your day to day life, but yoga can help. As a thyroid sufferer myself, I have experimented over the years with different techniques and poses and these are the ones that help me out the most. Some are asana, some are other things, but they all have helped me heal and become a healthy yogi!
Plow Pose: Halasana. This pose balances the thyroid and parathyroid glands, providing compression to re-balance the chakra. Whether you are hyper- or hypothryoid, this pose can help with insomnia, anxiety and nervousness related to this gland.
Wheel Pose: Urdva Dharunasana. This pose is stimulating to the adrenals, which work in very close relationship with the thyroid and the whole endocrine system. It is also a wonderful opener for the front of the throat, letting energy flow more easily through the chakra. Done a few hours before bed, it can help you normalize cortisol levels so that you can sleep. An easier preparatory pose for Wheel Pose is Bridge Pose, or Setu Bhanda. This is a gentle version that both gets you in an inversion (key for nervous system regeneration and support) and compresses the thyroid gland.
Inversions: It is important to get the heart above the head for hormonal problems. You can do this gently or more vigorously. Bridge Pose, as mentioned above, is a great one to start with. Handstands and headstands, however, are great for putting pressure on the pituitary gland, the master remote control for all of your endocrine organs. Rabbit Pose or Sasangasana is a great one for the beginner, however and can be done by most with limited experience in
yoga. It’s not a good idea for those with disc problems in the cervical spine, however. You can modify this pose by decreasing the angle on the neck and placing your hands next to your head so there is only gentle pressure on the very top of the head.
Relaxation is so important for the thyroid sufferer – so the next few poses listed are restorative poses. The first one, Viparita Karani, or Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose, is a pose perfect for grounding the energy of the thyroid. Take a pillow and place it about six inches from the wall (you can also do this pose in bed). Sit on the pillow, with your legs parallel to the wall. Swing your legs up the wall and lay back, so that the pillow is gently supporting your lower back and your hips are on the floor. Slide yourself away from the wall to account for tight hamstrings. A yummy addition to this pose is an eye pillow and fuzzy blanket to keep you warm. Once you are in the pose, you can do some relaxing breathwork.
Another great thyroid balancing pose is Child’s pose, or Balasana. This allows the feminine, yin energy that resides on the back of the body to wash over you. Stay in this pose, focusing only on your breath, for 3-5 minutes. A great modification of this pose is to take your knees apart, big toes together. Then put a big pillow or two underneath your chest so that your head, heart and belly are supported. Then just rest.
Scream. Laugh. Sing. Babble. Whatever you do, don’t stifle something you need to say. If it’s hard to express your feelings, scream them out in the car when you are by yourself. Yes, it may sound crazy, but it allows me to get out any energy that may be inappropriate or cause me to say something I don’t mean. Then when the opportunity to have a conversation with the person in question comes along, I am much more clear and positive about what I need.
Journal. Often there is a lot of junk and gunk that gets stuck in our brains. Try this exercise to get down to the nitty gritty of what you are really looking for in life. Every morning, when you first get up, write out 3 pages of whatever – on a college-ruled notebook. It will take you about 30 minutes most days. This may sound daunting or even repugnant to you right now, but I promise you, if you can throw up your gunk onto the written page, the true you can come out and express yourself. This is all throat chakra stuff! It’s about expressing yourself, creativity, will, determination, discipline – in short, listening to your inner compass.
Eat brazil nuts, coconut oil, seaweed and healthy fats (think fish oil and avocado). Yes, yoga includes nutrition! Important things for the thyroid are selenium, minerals and healthy doses of potassium and iodine (among other things!). A favorite drink of mine is a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in water first thing in the morning. This allows my liver to wake up, gives my thyroid some healthy minerals and makes my body more alkaline. Stay away from sugars, processed foods and unhealthy types of preparations (think fried and overcooked foods). Eat a rainbow – see you can get red, yellow, orange, green and purple on your plate once a day. Also pay attention to your allergies – a big thing that helped me was to stop eating wheat and wheat gluten.
All of these techniques in yoga are really just to give you a better sense of yourself – a better attunement to your inner compass. As you practice, you will become more and more true to yourself, leading you to make better decisions, healther choices and live in health and happiness more and more.
“Practice and all is coming.” ~ Sri Patthabi Jois.
Lots of us suffer from one type of sleep deprivation or another in our lifetimes. Kids, work, stress or illness can keep us up well past a healthy bed time. What to do when you wake up at 3 a.m. and can’t get back to sleep? Here are some great techniques for calming your energy down and avoiding that frustrating feeling.
Move. Once you are sure that you aren’t falling back to sleep, change your surroundings. Often frustration can build while you lie there, just staring at the ceiling or tossing back and forth. Find a quiet corner of the house, even if it is the bathroom!
Support your body. There are a few great yoga poses to support your endocrine system and nervous system, the two systems that are often put under duress when you are dealing with insomnia. The thyroid and the adrenals are put under pressure (or may be the reason for your insomnia in the first place) and they can be supported through Viparita Karani (Legs Up the Wall Pose) or Setu Bhanda (Bridge Pose).
Viparita Karani. Take a pillow and place it about six inches from the wall (you can also do this pose in bed). Sit on the pillow, with your legs parallel to the wall. Swing your legs up the wall and lay back, so that the pillow is gently supporting your lower back and your hips are on the floor. Slide yourself away from the wall to account for tight hamstrings. A yummy addition to this pose is an eye pillow and fuzzy blanket to keep you warm. Once you are in the pose, you can do some relaxing breathwork.
Viloma Pranayama. This breath work is a great way to active your parasympathetic nervous system. Take a gentle breath in, focusing on inflating your low belly. Take a tiny pause, then keep inhaling into your chest. Take another tiny pause, and fill your lungs to absolute fullness. Then slowly and gently exhale through the mouth. Do this as many times as you need to feel relaxed. For me, it usually only takes 5 or 6 rounds to feel some stress relief.
Setu Bhanda or Bridge Pose. This pose is excellent for those with thyroid issues. To begin, start on your back, feet on the floor. Press your feet firmly down into the floor and lift the hips up. You can support underneath your low back with pillows or blankets. The light pressure at the base of the throat can stimulate or calm the thyroid and bring the throat chakra back into balance. Stay here as long as you like, making your exhales longer than your inhales.
Any of these techniques can be really helpful in balancing out your energies and bring you back to sleep land. Give them a try and tell me if you are successful!
Ok, so I love these rules so much that I had to post a blog about them. Here they are, the Dalai Lama’s 20 rules for living:
1.Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
2. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
3. Follow the three R’s: - Respect for self, - Respect for others and - Responsibility for all your actions.
4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
5. Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly.
6. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great relationship.
7. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
8. Spend some time alone every day.
9. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.
10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
11. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.
12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation for your life.
13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.
14. Share your knowledge. It is a way to achieve immortality.
15. Be gentle with the earth.
16. Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.
17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
18. Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.
19. If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
20. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
So just a few quick thoughts about strength in your yoga practice. Lots of people think yoga is all about stretching. It’s not. It’s about finding strength within you and without, finding the strength to be flexible, both emotionally, physically and mentally. How is the possible, you ask? It’s really quite simple. Find the emotional courage, the mental hardiness and the physical health to be fully and completely present in every moment of your life. Sound hard? Yep. It’s a skill, just like a muscle you build in your body. So how do you do it? Here are 4 simple steps you can take towards this goal RIGHT NOW:
1. Daily practice. This brings CLARITY. If you don’t have one, get one. At first, it doesn’t matter so much what it is other than something that helps you clear your mind. My favorite methods for this are:
A. Morning pages: If you have ever heard of the Artist’s Way, you know of this practice. It’s three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing every morning that helps you dump the garbage out of your brain, so you have space for everything else.
B. Gratitude Journal: When you focus on the positive, the negative stuff that isn’t real or need to be part of your world falls away. Really. When you can reframe your life into what is positive rather than focusing on the negative, your “mental muscle” for noticing the positive really improves and you start to notice the beauty more completely than the ugliness.When you are naturally more happy, this draws more happiness to you without effort.
C. Meditation: This is the super drug of the yoga world, in a really good way. When you meditate, you find yourself more able to deal with the slings and arrows of fortune and more importantly, make the changes that are important for you and your life. It takes courage to sit and be still, to take stock of how you live your life, as it is not always pleasant. (Nobody ever tells you that, but I think it’s important for you to know!) Nevertheless, the benefits quickly begin to outweigh the negatives, and meditation can become like your best friend. Always there for you, allowing you to be just as you are, in any one moment.
2. COMPASSION. This is essential, both for your path of personal growth and for your community. What does compassion really mean? I think the Dalai Lama always says it best: “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” Compassion for me means the unrelenting commitment to serving others and our community at the expense of our own egos. Our natural ego is a healthy thing, the thing that keeps us identifying with our bodies and keeping them healthy. When the ego gets out of control, as it often does in Western culture, we consider ourselves the most important thing all the time. This can lead to behaviors that are detrimental to not only the health of others, but also to your own emotional, physical or mental health.
Compassion is not always comfortable. In fact, a lot of times it can feel pretty darn uncomfortable. There is a level of intensity that is above the norm when we deal situations that call for compassion. Maybe you are talking to a difficult friend, who for the thousandth time, is complaining about her lack of satisfaction in life. Maybe you are seeing a destructive health pattern happen for the thousandth time in a relative that just won’t own up to the fact that their behavior is causing their suffering. Maybe you are dealing with someone so in pain or suffering in that moment that they literally just can’t process what is happening to them or help themselves. Maybe someone is just causing you pain. Compassion is a blend of patience, grace, love, awareness, vulnerability and strength. It takes the strong, compassionate friend to stick by someone in crisis, putting their needs first over your own. It also is compassionate to put your own needs over others, when the balance tips too far in the other direction. Just this practice can give you strength in many situations in your daily life.
3. Commitment. No one learns how to be strong overnight. When you figure out a practice you are going to commit to every day, make yourself a tracking system. Know, concretely, when you do it and when you don’t. Some easy suggestions for tracking your practice:
A. Write it down. When you figure out what you need to do, write it down. There is something about translating thoughts and feelings from the ether into the written page that can do one of two things: let you let go and crystallize where you want to go. Be as clear as possible with your goals and ideas!
B. Keep a calendar. Maybe it’s something about getting gold stars on my homework and chores chart when I was a kid, but it really helps me to see my commitments as I keep them visually. Something about being real and in front of me that helps a lot in bringing the habits of strength into more and more of a daily practice. Soon, what seemed extraordinary is now ordinary and part of my routine. This helps me quickly gain control of times when I am not successful, and reinforces the adage that “every day is a new opportunity for change.”
4. Accountability: We need people to witness our goals and to hold us accountable for change. If you make empty promises to the empty air – how has that ever got anybody anywhere? Give yourself the following:
A. Small goals. Give yourself something attainable that is not pie-in-the-sky. Don’t promise the moon, either. Pick something reasonable yet still challenging. One great exercise I learned from the Artist’s Way was Ten Tiny Changes. Write down ten tiny changes you can start practicing today that will help you towards your eventual and larger goal. It can be as simple as “I commit to not say this habitual phrase in conversation.” That small trigger you place in your consciousness can help you promote greater awareness in all situations, and even learn a little about what you habitually do that doesn’t serve you.
B. Community: Have someone to hold you accountable. Who is going to tell you when you miss the mark? Find someone you trust to tell you the truth about how you are doing, and create a container for them to do so in a loving and compassionate way. A weekly meeting or check-in at a designated day or time can help you reset the clock if you mess up, and also acknowledge your successes so you can rejoice in your progress.
If you can put all of these things together, they are a very powerful recipe for change. It can also bring you joy in your transformation when you blend in the element of compassion. The formula for change looks just like this:
CLARITY + COMPASSION + DEDICATION (Accountability + Commitment) = JOY & TRANSFORMATION.
Now get out there and give it a try! Come back and tell me how it goes – the community wants to know!
A new Yoga Quickie! This is a preview of my full 60 minute video, Freedom of the Heart: Upper Body Therapeutic Yoga. Enjoy!
5. The bathroom. Maybe this seems like it would be your number one place that was wierd, but it’s actually not as wierd as you might think. It’s sometimes the only place where you can grab 5 minutes of peace and quiet, and you don’t necessarily have to have your pants down! Try this bathroom meditation tip: Take 5 minutes one evening, after its getting dark or dark already. Go in and set a candle near or across from you, somewhere where you can see it. Turn off the lights, lock the door (if you can) and set a timer. Just sit there, breathe and stare at the candle for 5 minutes. Try to keep your thoughts only on the candle, and every time you get distracted with a thought or a noise or whatever, just come back to staring at the candle.
4. Your car. Now, please don’t try to mediate while rolling down the highway! That’s not what I mean. What I do mean is between the grocery store and the post office, take 5 minutes to sit in your car and breathe. Set a timer on your phone or try this technique: Count your exhales for one minute (you can watch your car clock as you do this). Then take that number, whatever it is, and repeat that number of exhales 5 times. It may not be right on the money, especially as you start to concentrate on the breath, you are going to slow down your rate of breathing. It will be about 5 minutes and the resultant piece of mind will be priceless. And who can say you don’t have just a few minutes to pause in between going to one place or another? If you don’t run errands during the day, try this at the beginning of lunchtime. You will find you will make better food choices, once you are relaxed and aware of your surroundings!
3. In the middle of the supermarket. What??!! Yes, meditating in the middle of a busy crowd can be quite empowering. It can also be a test of your concentration skills. When I am feeling especially rushed or frantic, I will stop for a few moments and concentrate on my breath. Now some may argue that is more breath control work or pranayama, but they blend together a bit when you are using the breath as a concentration technique. So try this – in the pasta aisle, stop for a few moments and close your eyes. If you are concerned about looking weird to others in the store, turn and face the shelves so it looks like you are looking for the right pasta sauce at eye level. Then close your eyes and employ the breath counting technique employed above. Count your exhales for 2 minutes, and when you open your eyes, take note of how you feel, mentally, physically and emotionally. You will probably be clearer-headed and more relaxed as you move forward into your day with strength.
2. In an ugly and unwelcoming space. As westerners, we spend a lot of time making our spaces pretty or beautiful to us. There is a lot of serenity to be gained by sitting in meditation in a well-kept, peaceful space. But have you ever tried meditating in the middle of your garage or in a warehouse full of building materials? Again, this can be a challenge, especially if there is noise or other people around. Next time you are in a place that you just don’t like (not one that gives you the skeevies, mind – that’s not what I mean), take a moment or two and see what serenity you can tap into in that place. Maybe there is a rythym you can follow in your mind or a profound silence because no one is in there. Take a moment to methaphorically turn the ugly stone over and see if what is under it can be helpful in teaching you to control your mind.
1. I am going to leave this one up to the readers. Where is the weirdest place you have meditated? Please comment and let us all know!
So if there is one theme that is posted about over and over and over again in yoga blogs, it’s gratitude. Be grateful for this, be grateful for that and everything will go well in your life. But guess what? Just being grateful in your head doesn’t cut it folks. I’m here to talk about radical gratitude. What is radical gratitude mean? It means being grateful for every piece of grit life throws your way, as well as all the nice, pleasurable stuff. Have you ever tried being grateful for every unpleasant thing that happens to you? What if you tried that today? Here are 5 tips to help you be a yoga warrior:
5. Be grateful for the ability to practice every day. And DO IT. Just get to the mat and be grateful that you can get there. So many people don’t have the ability, awareness or introduction to the beautifully life-enhancing practice of yoga. You do!! So get on the mat, no matter how you feel and do something. Be grateful for the aches and pains, as well as the yummy, delicous, “oh this is my favorite pose” feeling. (Note: And TRY the hard poses for you every day. If you try them once a day, eventually they won’t be hard any more!)
4. Keep asking yourself if you are being grateful in each moment. We want to not be grateful. We want to complain and say it’s her/his/its fault for the way things are going. The truth is, that never helps anyone do anything or be anything they want to be. It’s okay to have that thought, but bust right through it and do something else with that energy. Use it as fuel for the fire in your soul to achieve your deepest desires and dreams.
3. Do your best, forget the rest. When you fumble and fall (which we all do), forget it. Move on. Don’t look back to the past, you aren’t going that way. ‘Nuff said.
2. Have fun with the hard stuff. When everything seems to be so hard and you just can’t feel grateful for anything, find a way to play. Be soft within the structured determination of your practice of gratitude. Allow yourself to feel your feelings, but don’t be overtaken by them. You are in control of your life.
1. Take FULL responsibility for everything that happens to you. And I mean everything. Even if it feels horrible. Ask yourself – how can I learn from this to make sure I don’t make the same mistake twice? Now, if you are thinking, whoa, that is totally unfair, there are things that happen to me that I can’t help. Sure, there are some things that happen to us that are beyond our immediate control – take the recent economy as an example. You and I didn’t make Wall street crash – but the action we can take at home is to be fiscally responsible, protect our finances, learn about smart financing and teach others in our community to be so as well. That is taking responsibility with what is called your “locus of control.” Taking to hand everything you CAN affect does wonders for self-confidence, feelings of security and personal growth. And to do it with an attitude of gratitude? Now that’s radical, dude!
Have a great practice!