Category Archives: Yoga

Yoga For Seniors

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Great weekend – Yoga For Seniors workshop- offered by the Charlotte Yoga Club at the Karma Lounge in Charlotte, NC.  Workshop taught by Carol Krucoff and Kimberly Carson both of Duke Integrative Medicine.

Lululemon Hit By Karma Train

Lululemon Hit by Karma Train

Lululemon Hit by Karma Train

The karma train was chugging down the tracks for Lululemon and it finally struck.  When you charge $100 bucks for yoga pants, the results are inevitable.  There has been a recall of the popular black Luon yoga pants that will create shortages of the trendy apparel. It is subsequently driving the Lululemon stock value down.  Supposedly a manufacturing defect has resulted in a ‘level of sheerness’ thus creating ‘see-through’ yoga pants. CEO, Christine Day is finally acknowledging the situation as ‘unacceptable’ even though the pants have been on the shelves since March 1st.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with this company, it has definitely been enjoying success with the rising popularity of yoga.  The company’s shares have increased more than 380% over the past five years.  As a long time yogi, I find success resulting from overcharging for yoga apparel to be discouraging, to say the least. I am personally glad to see this misstep.  I know it’s not very “yogalike” to wish ill, but what good comes out of charging too much for yoga clothing?

According to www.hopeafrica.org $100 could feed a family of four in Malawi for a year.  Can you imagine what the ancient yogis would have said about people paying this sum for a yoga garment?  Where is the Yoga in paying too much for yoga practice clothes? Yoga means union and expensive yoga pants say exclusion.  If you want a decent pair of pants that will hold up for a couple years of practice, go to Target or better yet, there’s always a good selection at Goodwill.  If you want pizzazz, check out www.jelbel.com.  Jelbel yoga pants are “upcycled”, made out of clothes that would have been otherwise discarded and added to landfills.  Now that feels like yoga to me. 

Sorry Lululemon.  Maybe you can turn this situation into a true yoga practice.  How about donating 50% of your profits to a good cause?  Create some good karma.  Then maybe I could say Namaste to you.

Beer and That’s My Doctor

Dr. Diedrich

Remember when you were a kid and you would claim your favorite teacher by saying, That’s My teacher?  In other words; nana, nana, boo boo, lucky me, unlucky you. Well, That’s My doctor, neurologist, Dr. Andrea Diedrich, and you can’t have her.  Nana nana boo boo. Hold on, it’s not necessary to rush out and get a neurological affliction, I promise to share the top three reasons I claim her, no spinal tap or MRI necessary.

Beer

My love for Dr. Diedrich started not with her understanding of medical knowledge, but with her understanding of being human. What other doctor would give you an “OK, why not?” when you asked if you could drink one beer prior to your spinal tap instead of taking a valium because you could trust beer but weren’t sure about valium? I knew this would be a woman I could trust. Fourteen years later, still a little crazy; me, not her, I still happily put my trust in her. 

Smart as Hell

My doctor didn’t close the books when she finished medical school. Together we have given five medicines a chance and finally landed on one that has worked better than the rest.  Just yesterday she told me there may be a better option.  She’s doing her research. Whew! This MS stuff still scares the  $%#* out of me.  I’m glad she’s so smart.  I know you’re jealous.

Yoga

You know any doctor of mine has to have a healthy respect for yoga.  She credits and applauds my yoga practice as an key factor to my wellness.  During a typical visit I have to balance, walk an imaginary tight rope, show hand eye coordination and hand and leg strength.  She says, wow you’re so strong and your balance is great.  Yoga is really helping you, keep practicing. Yep, I love you Dr. Andrea Diedrich. You’re My Doctor and I am so lucky. Namaste.

 

L, L, Lord! and Laurinburg

meandchathie4When Mrs. Ollis, my favorite high school teacher from Scotland High School in Laurinburg, NC, was happy she’d shout out “L, L, Lord!” Not sure where that came from, but if you want to get it right, you have to say two L’s separately then the word Lord.  That’s it.  You’ve got it.  Wherever Mrs. Ollis was yesterday, she said L. L, Lord because Kathie Milligan Billing and I unexpectedly met again for the first time since high school.  Just saying, the last time we were together we probably were doing the “Bump” to K C and the Sunshine Band.  Do the math.  It was a long time ago. 

Both of us were attending an exposition for alternative healing businesses.  She came up to my booth and we just stared for a moment, knowing, but not knowing.  We began connecting the dots.  “What was your last name?”  “Cheeseman”, I replied.  Kathie said, “I’d know those blue eyes anywhere”.  I would know her smile and her blue eyes anywhere. 

Kathie had a few stories to tell.  She is a wife, mother, animal activist, wellness warrior, and 3-time cancer survivor. You can read more about her at http://www.soulmovingyoga.com.  Her story will make you want to jump off your couch and get moving.  When I gave Kathie a Namaste card, she pulled out her roll of “You are Beautiful” stickers and gave one to me.  No.  I am not kidding.  Can I hear an  “L, L, Lord” ?

Kathie, you are right.  You can’t keep those women from Laurinburg down.  Until we meet again and I know it will be sooner, Namaste.

Creative Pause

waterdropserenetreesThere’s a great deal buzz in the media now about achieving what’s being called the “creative pause”.  Edward de Bono has been credited with the discovery of a phenomenal new technique for inspiring creativity.  Here are the instructions for creative pausing.

  1. Find a place where distractions are minimized, including noise.
  2. Let the body engage in a monotonous, mundane, or repetitive activity and free the mind.
  3. Change your environment.

De Bono suggests taking a shower because it generates a type of “white noise” that blocks out distractions. Indeed there are benefits to showers. You can multitask – get clean and simultaneously allow yourself time for pause. Only in our crazy culture do we multitask in our search for peace in our lives.

Here’s my conclusion. This is MEDITATION or PRAYER, a timeless, age-old, peace creating tradition. It’s powerful, costs nothing, relaxes your body and you don’t need to shower at the same time. You just need a quiet place and your breath. It is simple, natural, timeless magic. If you have not allowed yourself time for this  beautiful practice, give yourself the gift of time. If you have gotten away from your practice, come back.
Sit comfortably, spine straight, close your eyes, breathe. You may want to repeat meaningful words to yourself if you need to calm your mind. Choose something simple that resonates with you. Perhaps on the inhale – you say “love yourself” as you inhale with each syllable. On the exhale; say to yourself “love others”. Sit for a few moments with your breath and your words. Notice how you feel after just a few minutes of simple breathing. It’s all the “buzz” right now and more importantly it is life changing.

A Calming Breathing Practice for this Season

 

love thyselfA nice yoga practice for the winter season is a Three-Part-Breath. It is warming and nurturing for the body and spirit. The deep and slow breath sends a signal to your body that you are safe and happy.

Start the practice by sitting or even lying down. Keep the spine erect, shoulders relaxed. You could use a blanket to cover your body or wrap around your shoulders.
Place your hands on your belly. Exhale all of your breath. Begin taking a slow, deep, breath through your nostrils. Feel your belly rise with your breath. The lower part of your lungs expands and creates a type of internal massage.
Move your hand from your stomach to your ribs as you continue to fill with air, feeling the ribs expand with your inhale. Move the breath all the way up to your collar bones.
Exhale naturally until you return back to the bottom of your belly.
Begin again, breathing in very slowly starting with your belly first, moving up to your rib cage, then to your collar bones. Practice 3 rounds and sit or lie quietly for a few moments before arising. Smile and give yourself a hug for taking a few moments to relax.

The Power of Yoga

frog poseIf you practice yoga, you know it makes you feel good.  The power of the practice is undeniable.  What price would you put on a bottle of “yoga state of mind” that follows a soul stirring class with a relaxing savasana?  There is scientific proof to support what you feel in your body as a yoga student.  EEG’s and brain topography scans provide physical evidence of the correlation between mood and brain function.  There have been many studies of the brain over the past 30 years and now there are brain maps that indicate areas of happiness in brain function after practicing yoga. A yogi doesn’t need a brain scan to understand positive effects on the body, mind, and spirit.  Texts derived from an extended study of the nature of the mind were written thousands of years ago to provide the guiding principles of meditation and yoga  These ancient texts are the oldest forms of neuroscience known to man. With all this supportive evidence, why do we sometimes deny ourselves the opportunity to experience something so powerful? When we are the busiest, we need yoga the most.  Whatever the reason may be for you, if it has been a long time since you have experienced the power of yoga; your bottle of “yoga state of mind” is always waiting for you. Treat yourself now and often.  Community Yoga has a shelf full of bottles. With soft pillows, blankets and lavender filled eye masks, the visit will nourish and strengthen you.  The more you put the ancient principles into practice, the better you will feel. Slow down breathe, relax, have a bottle of yoga.

Lokah samastha sukhino bhavantu. May all beings, everywhere, be free from suffering.

Yoga for Serenity and Courage – Wisdom

Wisdom Sharing!

We started with serenity moved to courage and finished today with wisdom ending our three part workshop on Yoga based on the Serenity prayer.  We met three weeks ago, first to focus on  Serenity in acceptance by meditating using a mantra of  “Open my heart, to receive your wisdom”.  We practiced gentle relaxing poses.  Week two, our eyes were on Courage, to change the things we can, the second part of Serenity Prayer.   We moved together through Warrior poses of courage, returned to our mantra and gentle practice.  The culmination - Wisdom, to know the difference.  The moon salutation brought us the feminine energy to find balance and gather wisdom to know the answers when we see them.  We revisited our goals that we set on week one and found that we had made movement toward our goals through the practices of yoga.  The best part was that we made new friendships and have each other for support!  Carol Anne Lawler and I look forward to offering this workshop again for others who seek more serenity, courage and wisdom in their lives.

Carol Anne Lawler - Co-facilitator

Wisdom from Friends

Courage and Wisdom of the Spiritual Warrior

The teachings of yoga were recounted in the Bhagavad Gita written, some scholars say,  in the 1st Century CE.  As the warrior Arjuna prepared for battle he became paralyzed with thoughts of doubt and fear.  Fortunately his chariot driver was the god Krishna who revealed the teachings of yoga to him, urging Arjuna to free himself from the fluctuations of the mind.  Arjuna was able to find his internal center and focus on the task before him.

Mahatma Gandhi used the teachings of the Gita as guiding principles for his life.  He saw the battlefield as a metaphor for our internal conflicts.  Arjuna represents the archetypal warrior within.  One who sees through illusions to the truth allowing acts with courage and inner focus.

As we move through our yoga practice related to the Serenity Prayer;

Grant me the . . .

Serenity to accept the things I cannot change

Courage to change the things I can

Wisdom to know the difference

we have learned serenity enhancing practices of breathing and gentle yoga poses.  We now look to active poses that build courage and increase wisdom as found by Arjuna.  We will transition our practice to ancient spiritual warrior poses that create an inner calm strength.  These poses teach us to act with purpose instead of thoughtless reaction to life’s challenges.

When we explore the warrior poses’ alignment and inner attitude, we feel the heart of the peaceful warrior.  We learn to become centered mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  Yoga becomes a practice of courage and wisdom in action.

Courage and Wisdom Building Yoga Practice:

Tadasana – (Mountain Pose)  Mountain Pose

This pose begins the training of the spiritual warrior.  We let go of an external distractions as we stand with our spine erect, shoulders buoyant, heart open, rising through the crown.

Vira IIWarrior II Pose

Step wide with your right foot forward.  Bend your right knee positioning it directly over your ankle.  Feel the feet planted like roots, connecting all 4 corners of your feet.  Lift your arches.

Arms stay relaxed at your sides.  Scan the body to feel where you are losing awareness and balance.  Move from putting more weight on the front foot to more weight on the back foot.  Find the center point of balance.

Extend your arms wide with a soft gaze toward the right center fingers.  Relax the shoulders.  Feel your peaceful warrior spirit in action.

Change sides by bring your right foot back and stepping your left foot forward.

Where do you feel unnecessary tension that shifts you off center?

Instead of a hard gaze, soften your gaze.  Breathe in and calm yourself.  Breathe out and smile.  Let the shoulders relax.  Arms stay energized and strong.  Shoulder blades press toward the center of your back then down. Gaze toward the center of your extended fingers.

Like an archer who practices holding a bow for years before ever releasing an arrow, find balance in your focus.

Vira IWarrior I Pose

Start in Tadasana – Mountain Pose.

Find again the strength of a tall mountain.   Balance is equally distributed to both feet.  Toes spread wide.  Shoulders move up and back and relax downward, stomach lifting toward the spine, tailbone relaxed.  Lift through the crown of your head.

Step forward with the right foot.  Bend your right knee, positioning it directly over your ankle.

Find balance between working to find your full potential and completely relaxing.  Extend your arms to the sky, relaxing your shoulders, palms facing inward, fingers extended upward.

Step the right foot back and left foot forward. Positioning the knee directly over the ankle.

Extend the arms upward.  Mirror the effortless stillness of an eagle hovering over a current of wind.

Vira IIIWarrior Three

Begin again in Tadasana.

Step forward starting with your right foot as in warrior one.  Extend your arms straight forward at shoulder height.  Lean forward by bending at the hips, gaze downward neck straight.  As you are able, simultaneously engage the muscles in the front leg and lift the back foot off the floor.

A partner can act as a support of the pose.  Have her stand in front of you.  When you reach your arms forward just before lifting into the full pose, she should grasp your wrists in her hands as you grasp her wrists.   She should guide you into position, not pull, and support your wrists.  You can also use the wall to support you.

When you move between active and receptive in all of these warrior poses, the teaching from the Gita becomes clear.  “One who can see action within inaction and inaction within action in the wisest among all beings.”

May our practice of the spiritual warrior poses give us the courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference.

End your active practice the Serenity Building Gentle Yoga Practice!

GENTLE YOGA PRACTICE FOR SERENITY

1. Seated Pose

Benefits Invites stillness into the body.

Affirmation Serenity comes when I surrender.

Sit in a cross legged position with the spine straight.  Relax your shoulders.  Breathe deeply and slowly to help you relax the body and mind.

2. Butterfly Pose

Benefits Gently opens the pelvis and hips.

Affirmation My spirit is as gentle as a butterfly.

3. Child’s Pose Balasana

Benefits Releases tension in the shoulders and spine and relieves mental fatigue. Encourages feelings of safety and protection.

Affirmation I rest in trust and patience.

Come to hands and knees on floor.  Widen knees and touch big toes together.  Relax forward, resting your forehead on the floor or a pillow.  Breathe and relax.

4.Hugging Knees

Benefits Releases the lower back and lengthens the spine.

Affirmation I hold myself with compassion.

Lie on your back and bring your knees in toward your chest. Wrap your arms around your knees and legs, hugging them toward you. Keep your chin slightly tucked so your neck stays long on the floor.

Hold the position and breathe.

5. Knee-Hug Spinal Twist

Benefits Releases the lower back and lengthens the spine. Increases flexibility of the spine, back, and ribs.

Affirmation Everywhere I turn I see beauty.

Lie on your back and hug your knees into your chest. Keep your knees bent into your chest and place your arms out to your sides. Your palms can be up or down, whichever feels most comfortable to you. Inhale. As you exhale, move your hips and knees to the left as you turn your head to the right. Hold the position and breathe. When you are ready, do a gentle spinal twist to the other side.

6. Relaxing Pose Savasana

Benefits This basic pose of relaxation is done at the end of each hatha yoga session. It helps relieve the body of tension. It relaxes, rejuvenates, and replenishes the mind and body.

Affirmation I allow myself to relax completely and surrender to my Higher Power.

Lie on your back and gently close your eyes. Place your feet and legs slightly apart.

Place your arms along the sides of your body with your palms facing up. Make sure your teeth are slightly parted so that your jaw is relaxed. Start taking some deep breaths. Lie absolutely still. Close your eyes, take deep breaths, and let healing energy restore any areas of the body or mind that have been depleted by stress or tension. Visualize healing energy flowing through your entire body. Relax your body, quiet your mind, and soothe your soul. Stay in this position for up to 20 minutes.

NEXT WEEK . . .

Next week we look to the gentle feminine spirit building poses of the Moon Salutation as we move from Mountain to Five Pointed Star and Goddess poses!

May the Long Time Sun Shine Upon You

All Love Surround You

And the Pure Light Within You

Guide Your Way On.

Namaste


Yoga for Serenity and Courage

A yoga practice based on the Serenity Prayer –

SERENITY  to accept things I cannot change.

COURAGE to change the things I can.

WISDOM to know the difference.

A beautiful image of yoga in action in our lives!

Incorporating the ideas of Serenity, Courage and Wisdom into a practice can transform the way we interact with the world.

We start this week with SERENITY to accept the things I cannot change.

Seinfeld devotees may remember the mantra used by one of the characters: SERENITY NOW! Oh, if it were as easy as ordering it up and magically feeling serene! Not allowing things we cannot change to control us; focusing on those things we can control – ourselves- how we view and react to the life’s fluctuations or waves of challenge is not easy by any stretch of the imagination!  Waves inevitably roll into our lives.  Sometimes it feels like our boat is on the verge of capsizing as we get caught in our emotions of anger or sadness. From an unkind word to a significant loss of a loved one, our boats are rocked in this life.

This is where the practice comes in.  A yoga practice that enhances serenity can help us to “surf the waves”; allowing our boats to roll along rather than capsize and render us incapable of finding and feeling joy.

What can’t be changed?

  1. The past
  2. What people think
  3. What people will do
  4. The outcome of events

What yoga practices will keep our boat rolling along?

CENTERING OR MEDITATION

Hang in there with me!  I am not talking about the kind of meditation where you have to sit still on a cushion or a mountain top for hours or days at a time!  Just a few minutes of relaxing breathing will do!  In fact, there is even science to support this.  Changes in the brain take place at the very beginning of learning according to neuroscientist, Eileen Luders, who used MRI scans to look for these differences.  What do the differences tell us? When you spend even a few minutes in a time of centering, you will be better equipped to manage you emotions.

Breathing Meditation Practice

A breath count using words is a great way to keep the mind centered.

  1. Breathe in slowly to each syllable: “O-pen My Heart” (a four count inhale).
  2. Pause with breath in.
  3. Breathe out slowly to each syllable “To re-ceive the wis-dom” (a six count exhale).
  4. Repeat 1 -3 for five rounds.

If thoughts come to you, thank them and turn them into clouds that float away.

When you sync your mind with your breath, the mind stops its endless churning and starts to slow down.  Here is another practice that will help with Serenity from author, Annalisa Cunningham.

GENTLE YOGA PRACTICE FOR SERENITY

As you practice the following sequence, remember to honor your limitations, using love and acceptance rather than judgment and discouragement. If you are unable to move into a posture at this time, focus on breathing deeply as you think about the affirmation—that in itself is healing. At the end of the routine, take some time to write down your thoughts.

1. Seated Pose

Benefits Invites stillness into the body.

Affirmation Serenity comes when I surrender.

Sit in a cross legged position with the spine straight.  Relax your shoulders.  Breathe deeply and slowly to help you relax the body and mind.

2. Butterfly Pose

Benefits Gently opens the pelvis and hips.

Affirmation My spirit is as gentle as a butterfly.

3. Child’s Pose Balasana

Benefits Releases tension in the shoulders and spine and relieves mental fatigue. Encourages feelings of safety and protection.

Affirmation I rest in trust and patience.

Come to hands and knees on floor.  Widen knees and touch big toes together.  Relax forward, resting your forehead on the floor or a pillow.  Breathe and relax.

4.Hugging Knees

Benefits Releases the lower back and lengthens the spine.

Affirmation I hold myself with compassion.

Lie on your back and bring your knees in toward your chest. Wrap your arms around your knees and legs, hugging them toward you. Keep your chin slightly tucked so your neck stays long on the floor.

Hold the position and breathe.

5. Knee-Hug Spinal Twist

Benefits Releases the lower back and lengthens the spine. Increases flexibility of the spine, back, and ribs.

Affirmation Everywhere I turn I see beauty.

Lie on your back and hug your knees into your chest. Keep your knees bent into your chest and place your arms out to your sides. Your palms can be up or down, whichever feels most comfortable to you. Inhale. As you exhale, move your hips and knees to the left as you turn your head to the right. Hold the position and breathe. When you are ready, do a gentle spinal twist to the other side.

6. Relaxing Pose Savasana

Benefits This basic pose of relaxation is done at the end of each hatha yoga session. It helps relieve the body of tension. It relaxes, rejuvenates, and replenishes the mind and body.

Affirmation I allow myself to relax completely and surrender to my Higher Power.

Lie on your back and gently close your eyes. Place your feet and legs slightly apart.

Place your arms along the sides of your body with your palms facing up. Make sure your teeth are slightly parted so that your jaw is relaxed. Start taking some deep breaths. Lie absolutely still. Close your eyes, take deep breaths, and let healing energy restore any areas of the body or mind that have been depleted by stress or tension. Visualize healing energy flowing through your entire body. Relax your body, quiet your mind, and soothe your soul. Stay in this position for up to 20 minutes.

Next week . . .

COURAGE to change the things I can.

  1. My attitude – how I respond to other people and events
  2. What action I take
  3. What I do next

We will focus on the spiritual warrior poses and add another relaxing breathing practice.

Namaste,

Laurie