Wednesday, June 20, 2018

It's taken a while to get here. To a place where I feel comfortable sharing my love of yoga with the world. I'll never forget the first class I taught about five years ago to my fellow yoga teacher trainees. I was so nervous I thought I might be sick, but once I started teaching most of those fears went away.

I am not a typical yoga teacher- I'm not a super bendy person naturally. I've always been physically active, but not particularly flexible. I did know that yoga made me feel good and I enjoyed it and felt pulled to teach it. My first yoga teacher training was great an I learned and grew so much, but I was made quite aware of my tightness and was sometimes used as an example to the other teacher trainees. I was also one of the older students- already in my 40's with mostly 20 somethings. I somehow knew I had something valuable to share, though and pursued my dream of teaching.

Flash forward five years later, I've found my home at A Gentle Way Yoga! Here I have found a special way of teaching that encourages students to tune into their own experience of their body and their breath. I seem to have fallen into a style, taken from Lanita Varshell's signature MIMSY (Meditation in Movement Style Yoga) that resonates with my students and keeps them coming back week after week. It is the most gentle style of yoga I have every experienced and done very slowly to allow a deep connection with body and breath. By slowing down, you have the chance to tap into the parasympathetic nervous system, which is where to body can begin the healing process. Healing can mean many different things- it's not just physical healing, it's also emotional and spiritual healing. We all carry some kind of trauma whether it be from carrying around stress, dealing with disappointment, dragging around negative beliefs about ourselves, financial problems, relationship and family problems, etc. My students have found the way that I teach them allows them to let go and release so they can move forward with a happier mindset.

I have become more and more comfortable with teaching and letting my intuition guide me. My students tell me I have a gift that needs to be shared with a broader audience which led me to create on-line videos.




Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Importance of Pranayama

Just Breathe!



We breathe all the time without even realizing it. It's an involuntary function of our body that is essential for survival. Our diaphragms contact and expand to push air in and out of our lungs thousands of times each day. When we learn to voluntarily breathe, or in other words control the depth and rhythm of our breath, profound changes happen in our mind and body.

So what does Pranayama mean? The word prana means life force and ayama means to extend. By controlling our breath, we therefore move prana/life force throughout our body. I have used various pranayama techniques to deal with anxiety and stress and it has helped me immensely. I view the breath as a powerful tool we have with us all the time that be accessed to bring us into the present moment and allow us to live a happier, fuller life.

There are many, many different Pranayama techniques. One of my very favorites if called Nadi Shodhana, or Alternate Nostril Breathing. I teach this often in my classes and use it regularly. Just like the pictures above illustrate, the ring finger and thumb close one nostril as you inhale through the other one nostril and exhaling through the other one.

Here are instructions for Alternate Nostril Breathing: Use the thumb of the right hand to close the right nostril, and inhale through the left nostril. Use the ring finger of the right hand to close the left nostril and exhale through the right nostril. Inhale through the right nostril, close the right nostril and exhale through the left nostril and keep going. Breathe slowly and fully. Try it for three minutes, then take a few deep breaths through your nose to notice the effects.

Three reasons why everyone should practice it:
1) It taps into a relaxation response in our nervous system
2) It balances the right and left hemispheres of our brain and improves attention
3) It improves respiratory function.

Happy Breathing!

For more information about Pranayama for Beginners, visit the link below:

https://www.yogajournal.com/practice/pranayama


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Gentle Yoga can help Back Pain!

Image result for gentle yoga for your back images

I was thrilled to see a recent article on the NPR website about a study showing yoga can help with back pain. Most people who are new to yoga have heard that it's good for your back. However, the danger is that if it's not the right kind of yoga for your body, it can actually do more harm than good.

We see many students at the studio where I teach, A Gentle Way Yoga (www.agentleway.com), walk in with numerous things going on with their body. Some examples are arthritis, injuries such as herniated discs, spinal fusions, people healing from knee and hip replacements, etc. Not to mention just basic wear and tear that we all experience with age. We also see students who have taken yoga classes in the past and gotten injured.

It's very important to find the right type of yoga class when a student is experiencing challenges or recovering from an injury or surgery. A class that is too fast or strenuous will not be beneficial to someone with back pain, and may cause further damage. It's so important to learn to listen to your body, to breathe and to slow down.

I love how the NPR article talks about gentle yoga being as effective as Physical Therapy. Maybe one day yoga will be covered in our health insurance??

Namaste!




http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/06/20/533505211/study-finds-yoga-can-help-back-pain-but-keep-it-gentle-with-these-poses

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Problem with New Year's Resolutions (and the solution!)



The problem with New Year's Resolutions (and the solution!)

Happy 2017! I realize I am a little late with this blog about New Year's Resolutions, but that's okay!

I am not a big resolution person - I don't like the pressure of committing to making big changes for an entire year. Not to mention, that I know resolutions almost never work. I do like to think about my wishes and hopes for the new year, and the idea of a fresh start is exciting. One thing I love about the new year is buying a new planner, looking through it and filling it up with appointments and plans. There's something exciting about looking to the year ahead!

Given my aversion to resolutions, however, there are things in my life I would like to improve upon. As a yoga teacher, one of my goals is a daily yoga and meditation practice (right now, it's almost every day). I would like to eat more vegetables too and just take more time for myself. As a working mom, I don't put myself at the top of my list as much as I should.

I stumbled upon an article (posted below) about why resolutions don't work and how to fix them, and it really aligns with my own philosophy. The article talks about 'being' the person that makes good choices. Rather than saying, "I want to eat better" or "I want to be more organized" change your identity into the person who eats better or is more organized. How do you change your identify? It starts with visualizing yourself as that person. The change needs to come from the inside out. See yourself doing it and then do it! Here's a quote from the article:

"Your current behaviors are simply a reflection of your current identity. What you do now is a mirror image of the type of person you believe that you are (either consciously or subconsciously).
To change your behavior for good, you need to start believing new things about yourself."
https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/how-to-fix-new-years-resolutions/

This makes me think of one of my favorite quotes from Mahatma Gandhi, "Be the change you want to see in the world." Don't make resolutions - resolve to be the person you want to be!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Holiday Stress Got The Better of You? Try this!

My favorite Pose for Stress Relief:
Viparita Karani/Legs Up The Wall



We all know that we need to slow down and take care of ourselves. We are too busy balancing a myriad of things including jobs, families, kids, school, household chores, and the list goes on and on. The holiday season seems to bring even more stress into our lives - whether you love the season or hate it. 

This is the time, more than ever, that we need to take care of ourselves. You don't have to practice an hour of yoga every day to reap the benefits. Even a few minutes a day of relaxing and breathing can have a big impact on reducing anxiety.

I have a favorite restorative pose that I try to do every day and it never fails to bring my anxiety and stress down. This simple yet extremely beneficial pose is known as Legs Up the Wall or Viparita Karani.

My yoga teacher from teacher training told us that if there's only one pose to do every day, this is it! The benefits are endless - this will ease almost every ailment you can think of from headaches, anxiety, insomnia, to high or low blood pressure.

If this pose isn't comfortable for you, a great modification is put your legs up a chair instead.

For more information on how to safely come in and out of the pose, contraindications, modifications and benefits, please go to this link:

http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/legs-up-the-wall-pose/

Happy Stress-free Holidays to all! 




Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Teaching Yoga & Meditation to Kids in School




I recently came across an article about a school in Baltimore that uses meditation and yoga instead of detention for kids who were struggling. The results were incredible and it spurred me to think about my own kids' school.

My kids go to a public K-8 language immersion school with about 1.000 kids. The school provides an incredible opportunity for kids to become bi-lingual in either French or Spanish and has many other positive points including being very culturally/ethnically/economically diverse. Just like any other public school, it has it's challenges too. It has struggled without strong leadership and we've had a string of principals who were not invested at all.

Last year we got a new Principal and Vice Principal who are young and energetic and open to suggestions! He allowed me to bring yoga in as an After-School Program, but only a handful of kids signed up. When I heard about this program in Baltimore, I approached the Principal about doing a yoga/meditation program in our school for middle schoolers who are struggling. (There is a current detention type program that takes privileges away from kids who are failing or struggling behaviorally). He is open to the idea and is encouraging me to bring the program to the school!

I am currently researching and developing a curriculum program primarily for the struggling students, and we hope eventually to bring yoga/meditation to the school on a much larger scale.

I'm very excited! To read more about the program in Baltimore & why meditation should be taught in school, please see the resources below.


http://www.upworthy.com/this-school-replaced-detention-with-meditation-the-results-are-stunning


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alex-ivanovs/5-reasons-we-need-to-intr_b_11031202.html

Monday, August 29, 2016

Why Gentle Yoga?

Why Gentle Yoga?

"The gentlest thing in the world overcomes the hardest thing in the world.

The gentlest thing in the world is an open mind.
Since it doesn't believe what it thinks,
It is flexible, porous, without opposition, without defense.

Nothing has power over it.
Nothing can resist it.

Even the hardest thing in the world - a closed mind-
cant resist the power of openness.

Ultimately the truth flows into it and
through it, like water through rock."

From the book: A Thousand Names for Joy: Byron Katie; pg. 128


I started practicing yoga in my 20's and like many yogis, enjoyed an active practice. Many years later, I still do, but I have come to truly see the benefits of gentle yoga. Before I was really educated about it, and experienced it for myself, I don't think I gave it the credit it deserves, but this type of yoga truly heals the body and the mind.

While some students who practice gentle yoga do have injuries or limitations, we can ALL benefit from this slower, deeper practice. Moving slowly while really focusing on the breath allows us to become much more aware of what's happening with our bodies. By not pushing to our edge in a pose, we can experience asana in a new way and find opening that may allude us in a more vigorous practice.

I see the benefits and changes in my students, and I've seen it in myself. I experience the usual low back aches, neck and shoulder issues that many people experience.  When I have those aches and pains, it's gentle yoga that is my solace. What we do to our bodies over time through work and stress takes a toll, and gentle yoga allows us to finally listen to our bodies and be gentle with ourselves. It also feels great and increases strength, flexibility and range of motion in ways that may be surprising.


Here is another poem, shared with me by my lovely teacher, Lanita Varshell, who has opened a whole new yoga world for me with her teachings:

"To relax is not to collapse, but simple to undo tension....

The tension that has been accumulated in the body and in the mind
by years of forceful education.

Tension is the result of will, effort and prejudices.

We have been trained, during the first part of our lives, to struggle to achieve.

Now we work in the opposite direction.... by letting go.... giving place to a new action..
the action of un-doing.

This will stop the habitual process of 'doing' which has become mechanical."

By Vanda Scaravelli- European Iyengar Teacher


Can you think of one person who couldn't benefit from slowing down? I can't.

Additional Resources:
http://www.gaia.com/article/go-softly-benefits-gentle-yoga


Kristin Akerele, MPH, RYT 200