There will NOT be classes at RGCSL on Friday Nov 24th due to Thanksgiving Holiday.
I have always delighted in looking at this album cover art! The woman looks comfortable in her body, full of vitality and enjoying a Hot Summer Day (a great song on the album). She has an openness, her heart is exposed, unguarded. She is experiencing the breeze, the sun and life! She is wholly present in that moment!
Along the same lines;
I remember a scene in a visually stunning Chinese *movie. Many people were harvesting or tending rice, they were all bending forward, down. A breeze came up and one by one everyone stretched their backs (similar to the woman on the album cover). At one point all of them were in variations of this position. They were not rushed, they all seemed to be listening to their own bodies needs, stretching their spines as much and as long as each needed to before going back to work!
Think about this for a few minutes…visualize it…
(* I wish I had a clip or remembered the film’s title, if you know, Please comment below!)
…When do you enjoy a nice long stretch of your spine? When are you most comfortable in your body?
I often hear people saying “I don’t backbend” or “I can’t Backbend”, and I see some students struggle with the easiest “backbend” postures. I wonder how much of this has to do with our modern lifestyle and our mindset, and our emotional health (self love, acceptance), to to feel free and safe!
Do rounded shoulders and hunched backs reflect our wounds, our heartaches? Is it some kind of armor over our heart?
As a yogi, I say YES, it is our wounds and our armor both!
I and many people find emotions come up when backbending! Even gaining just a little new suppleness around the heart, has brought me to tears. This is not a bad thing! If I have grief or sadness, isn’t it best to acknowledge it, give it some space and time to release from my being?
“The deeper sorrow carves into our being the more joy it can contain” ~ Kahlil Gibran
I was recently at concerts where the music was amazing, yet few people were smiling and very few danced. I thought of this poem;
O wondrous creatures, By what strange miracle Do you so often Not smile?~ Hafiz
I simply wish for everyone to love being in their body, exactly as it is. To feel comfortable and have a sense of vitality, aliveness.
I wish for everyone to enjoy embodied movement, embodied rest, embodied closeness.
These are some of the many reasons I am passionate about teaching yoga. This is also why I am teaching a Backbending workshop this October.
See you on the mat, Christina
Dear Yoga friends,
– 4th Wednesday (8:30am) every month at Versatile Vitality will be Restorative – be guided and supported in Asanas were gravity and your breath do all the “work” (mostly release of tension) and move deeper into relaxation. Gain awareness of the subtitles, the subtle body!
Individual sessions are available to design or refine your daily home-practice
THE CUMULATIVE POWER OF YOGA
Practicing 1 day per week will produce very little benefit beyond the class time.
Practicing 2 days per week will almost maintain your present level of physical, mental and emotional fitness.
Practicing 3 days per week will incrementally advance your level of physical, mental and emotional fitness.
*Practicing 4 days per week will make your body more strong,flexible and your mind better focused. Anti-aging benefits!
Practicing 5 days per week will make you physically and mentally stronger. And much more emotionally balanced. a
Practicing 6 days a week will unfold your very best in you.
The seventh day… rest!
Dear Yoga Friends,
Sharing a favorite Quote,
2 Articles I highly recommend …
Deep breathing and focus on the breath is just one beginning practice towards meditation, yet, Meditation is not this.
As an artist I could get “lost” in my work. Deep in concentration. I often get lost in ecstasy when dancing, I lose track of time similar to meditation, yet this is not meditation either!
If you get lost in asana practice, nature,making music or art or gardening, you may have entered an altered state similar to meditation, many would call this meditation. I would call it a taste; there is vastly more.
I had learned and share guided relaxation decades ago. I practiced techniques to “cool-down” students ending fitness classes. Now I do this in savasana and restorative yoga classes. Students greatly appreciate these moments of peace. The benefits of deep relaxation practice are numerous; calmer mind, increased energy, release of tensions in the body, Yet, this is not meditation.
In the early 1990’s I attended a meditation class taught by Deepak Chopra, He did a guided meditation that was a profound experience for me. I think of him often now, and have read his books, though for many years I didn’t practice meditation.
In the mid 90’s I met an extraordinary individual who was able to move and heal with energy. He spent many hours a day in meditation. At that time I didn’t understand the connection. I was blessed to have had those years of friendship and healing with Jeremiah. He practiced meditation and many people received profound healing and guidance from him. He was a great teacher, a fountain of love. I met him when he was in his 40’s. He had survived a tragic accident at 19 years old. After this injury (broken neck) he lived decades longer,surprising medical experts. He was genuinely at peace, even though his body suffered much pain as a quadriplegic. He practiced meditation daily!
In the late 1990s I was introduced to HeartMath biofeedback. Direct measurements of the metabolic and systolic heart rhythms combined with techniques to calm the mind showed directly in the program’s feedback. I used this program myself and with children who had experienced trauma. HeartMath is great technology and the HeartMath Institute is growing in it’s scope. It is a marvelous tool to help in relaxation and self awareness and self control (emotional health, PTSD)
This is not meditation, though it is a very good starting point for many people.
Discipline and daily practice opens up worlds of possibilities and awareness.
In 2009 I began study of Reiki, my Masters (teachers) instructed me to do it every day. I did Reiki meditation and energy work on myself daily for a year. This form of meditation I was able to stick with. Within months I began to shift into more awareness and profound peace. After Level 2, I began working on others as well and “saw” everyone’s inner beauty and a flow of love. Reiki meditation and healing opened up new sensibilities and awareness. I continued Reiki training to (Masters) Level 3. I came to understand more of what Jeremiah and Deepak Chopra were teaching! Other healers and traditions from many cultures; meditation is at the center of their practices.
These experiences where a good foundation for true meditation.
In 2010 I had the opportunity to take over a yoga class which I had been attending. I knew from past training that if I was to teach yoga, I had to practice asana and silent seated meditation daily, which I began in the months before taking over the class.
I got to where I could sit still for an hour meditation, yet, I would only have fleeting moments where there was peace, where the mental chatter would subside.
These brief moments where so profound that I continued finding it well worth the hour of sitting every day!
Silent meditation showed me how noisy my mind was and even now, how noise my mind can be!
Now, often during the day no matter how “stressful” or what events are going on, I can return to that peace within a few conscious breaths. This allows me to stay authentic and present. When I have peace with-in I can be present to others in a meaningful way.
Have I experienced enlightenment?
Yes! and no, and yes! It can be fleeting and can be found again in meditation.
True enlightenment is when that peace is carried out into every part of every day.
Personally, I do yoga asana to quiet my mind and prepare my body for seated meditation. When I began daily practice of both, I experienced amazing healing for my mind and body, and more… beyond words, language and description! I have also come to understand the energy that is within and around us.
Asana can lift us out of discomfort in the body. Meditation can help us have peace even when the body is in pain.
“Illuminated emancipation, freedom, unalloyed and untainted bliss await you, but you have to choose to embark on the Inward Journey to discover it.” BKS Iyengar
“disturbances of the mind and emotions fade away, and we are able to see true reality.” BKS Iyengar
There are so many benefits of yoga that are scientifically proven. So why is it that many people don’t “get-it”; don’t stay with it long enough to get real benefits?
One main reason is that it takes time to “see” results. Allowing enough time to get to know the subtleties within your own being. Initially the changes are subtle and experienced within your mind and life, long before they are seen!
Another reason people often don’t stay with yoga is not finding the right class at the right level and where they have trust in the teacher. Be an empowered student, ask questions. Try several classes, until you find the right one for you, and then practice at home also.
I highly recommend reading this recent article from Psychology Today Magazine…
Yoga: Changing The Brain’s Stressful Habits, by Alex Korb, Ph.D.
“Yoga can supposedly improve depressive symptoms and immune function, as well as decrease chronic pain, reduce stress, and lower blood pressure. These claims have all been made by yogis over the years, and it sounds like a lot of new age foolishness. Surprisingly, however, everything in that list is supported by scientific research.
As a neuroscientist, despite my initial incredulity, I came to realize that yoga works not because the poses are relaxing, but because they are stressful. It is your attempts to remain calm during this stress that create yoga’s greatest neurobiological benefit.
Your brain tends to react to discomfort and disorientation in an automatic way, by triggering the physiological stress response and activating anxious neural chatter between the prefrontal cortex and the more emotional limbic system. The stress response itself increases the likelihood of anxious thoughts, like “Oh god, I’m going to pull something,” or “I can’t hold this pushup any longer”. And in fact, your anxious thoughts themselves further exacerbate the stress response. The physiological stress response means an increase in heart rate, breathing rate, muscle tension and elevation of cortisol and other stress hormones.
The fascinating thing about the mind-body interaction is that it works both ways. For example, if you’re stressed, your muscles will tense (preparing to run away from a lion), and this will lead to more negative thinking.
Relaxing those muscles, particularly the facial muscles, will push the brain in the other direction, away from stress, and toward more relaxed thoughts.
Similarly, under stress, your breathing rate increases.
Slowing down your breathing pushes the brain away from the stress response, and again toward more relaxed thinking.
After going back to my Dad’s yoga class a few times, I eventually came to the realization that not only can you practice yoga in real life, but, conversely, you could go to a yoga class and not really be doing yoga…. focused on something else entirely. Without the sustained intention of focusing on the present, and calming the mind, going to a yoga class is literally just going through the motions.” Alex Korb, Ph.D.
Enjoy your practice!
I praise the dance ~ Saint Augustine
I praise the dance, for it frees people
from the heaviness of matter and binds the isolated to community.
I praise the dance, which demands everything:
health and a clear spirit and a buoyant soul.
Dance is a transformation of space, of time, of people,
who are in constant danger of becoming all brain, will, or feeling.
Dancing demands a whole person,
one who is firmly anchored in the center of his life,
who is not obsessed by lust for people and things
and the demon of isolation in his own ego.
Dancing demands a freed person,
one who vibrates with the equipoise of all his powers.
I praise the dance.
O man, learn to dance,
or else the angels in heaven will not know what to do with you.
by Saint Augustine
| This Article by Madisyn Taylorof the Daily Om eloquently says everything you need to know about dance-
Our bodies were made to move and flow and within our movement we find a deeper connection to our bodies and the earth.
As children, most of us were encouraged to dance on a regular basis, freely and openly, in whatever way felt best. A few of us may have retained or regained our ability to engage in dancing unselfconsciously, but by the time we reach adulthood, many of us have stopped dancing altogether. We may have hang-ups about our bodies, or we may fear being judged. Then again, we may simply have fallen out of the habit for so long that we don‚t even realize we never dance anymore. Whatever the case, there‚s no time like now to rediscover the healing pleasure of moving your body to music˜alone, as part of a couple, or in a group. Opportunities to dance abound, once you start looking for them.
If you haven’t danced in a long time and feel too self-conscious to start in a public situation, find some time alone to reintroduce yourself to the joy of listening and responding to music with your body. Turn the lights down low and remember that it‚s much more fun when you‚re not thinking about what you look like. It won’t take long before your body remembers how much it loves to move. Feel the music in your soul, feel the vibrations healing your body. Treat the time like a meditation session in which you agree to allow yourself to fully inhabit your amazing body.
If you feel awkward, remember that every culture since time immemorial has celebrated life and the body with dance. All people carry the memory of dance in their blood and bones. In other words, you were born to do this, it is in you already; all you have to do is start moving. If you prefer more interaction, take a class one night a week. In most cities, you can find everything from modern dance to African dance to ballroom and salsa. Whatever you choose, you won’t regret choosing to rediscover your birthright˜the healing, joyful thrill of dancing.
“In many shamanic societies, if you came to a medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited, or depressed, they would ask one of four questions:… “When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop being comforted by the sweet territory of silence?” Gabrielle Roth
And this article about dance…
Walking is the most under-rated exercise!!!
I was fortunate to grow up in a small town where we walked: to friends, to the park, to ice skate, for picnics on the grass. I also walked several blocks to school. Walking is great for many reasons, such as; focusing the eyes on sights at various distances, (vestibular functioning & eyesight) enjoying nature, trees, the sky, fresh air, and using systems of muscular integration to propel the body forward and remain balanced.
Even if you are very active, if you are not walking regularly, you may not be resetting the body in an important natural way.
Humans were meant to walk. Walking is one way our body resets its natural alignment. It is weight bearing exercise. Walking is natural movement that involves moving all of your muscles and tissue, increasing metabolism, lubricating the joints, increasing blood flow and oxygen to all the cells of the body, nourishing our physical being.
Walking energizes the body, as well as relaxes the mind: walking can even be a meditation. Walking can also be calming for the emotions, through appreciating beauty, nature, fresh air, sunshine, rain, seeing the people of your neighborhood; all this can lift your spirits.
Recently, I overheard a conversation between young people (mid 20’s) talking about numerous ailments, medications, and procedures, which hadn’t brought relief. One young woman said “I wish I was in shape to exercise”, another responded “me too”. I wondered if they considered a walking as a possibility.
I work with older people (up to 102 years old) some who don’t spend any time talking about ailments and medicine; because they are busy living life! They stayed active, they do daily walking.
In the past, (and for many people currently), our bodies are the primary tool of transportation, used with care and awareness for survival and longevity. Sedentary wasn’t an option! Now, the many conveniences of modern life: cars, furniture, chair-toilets, and media are enabling many people to be less mobile, less flexible, less connected and less aware.
Walking is enough to change the whole paradigm of the sedentary lifestyle.
A brisk daily walk, 30-45 minutes, is sound, healthy, preventative medicine. It is that simple, yet not easy; breaking habits & starting new habits requires determination, commitment and an open, flexible mind). Who knows, after this is a habit, you might find yourself enjoying yoga, dance, or a long hike!
It can be a real challenge to begin! Creating time may mean letting some things go…let them go!!! Invest the time to nurture personal health and peace of mind. How does your self-talk, activity and lifestyle affect starting and continuing your walking routine??? Notice who are your allies for healthy Living??? Having walking buddies increases success! Who could be your walking buddy?
- Fresh air
- Enjoy the beauty of trees
- Enjoy the beauty of terrain
- Enjoy the beauty of the sky
- Enjoy the beauty of clouds
- Enjoy the beauty of stars
- Enjoy the moon
- Enjoy the moonlight world
- Focus your eyes at different distances
- Enjoy the beauty of plants
- Remember the cycle of life
- Enjoy the beauty of creatures
- Enjoy the beauty of birds
- Experience the environment
- Enjoy the beauty of breezes, wind
- Get creative inspiration
- Enjoy the sense of smell
- Enjoy the sense of touch
- Eat, food tastes better outside.
- Get away from screens
- Get away from phones
- Get away from traffic
- Get away from day to day routines
- Possibility for adventure is high
- Remembering how change is a part of life
- See something new
- See something old
- Hear your own intuition
- Enjoy quiet
- Enjoy the sounds of birds
- Experience different temperatures
- Experience rain
- Experience snow
- Feast your eyes on colors
- Feast your eyes on textures
- Feast you eyes on patterns
- Enjoy sunrises
- Enjoy sunsets
- Release emotions
- Enjoy the beauty of flowers
- Enjoy the smells of flowers and plants
- See life all around you
- Experience phenomena of the sky- rainbows, northern lights, shooting stars.
- Experience stillness or storms
- 50 to 100 enjoy all 50 things by sharing them in the company of different friends especially curious children!
Yoga is an art. As a kid I wanted to play guitar. I went to lessons. I didn’t practice between lessons. My teacher kept saying “you can’t really learn without practicing at home”. He told me this every week. He could tell I wasn’t practicing. I think he got tired of going over the same bits over and over, which was all he could do because I didn’t practice. I didn’t progress much at playing guitar either; I lost interest and quit after less than a year of lessons.
Just as a musician must practice their musical instrument daily, or a dancer practice every day, yoga students who want to make progress will have to find the self-discipline to start a daily practice on their own.
The most important reasons to begin and continue a home practice
- You get to know your own body , your own strengths and weaknesses.
- You gain the mental and psychological benefits that are the whole original purpose of yoga, and will not come without daily home practice. You will learn more about yourself than any books or workshops can ever show you, because you will be taking that inward journey every day.
- You will have this touchstone, this place of anchoring every day, A true blessing in this ever-changing, fast paced and imperfect, sometimes crazy world we live in.
What is a daily “home” or “individual” practice?
Daily – Honestly, 5 to 7 times a week is GREAT!!!
Home – in your home, have a place for doing yoga, a place you like, it can be in any room, outside on nice days… Have a time for yoga; most people who don’t chose a specific time for yoga have trouble doing it 5 to 7 times a week. I carved out time in the early morning, because too much can happen once my day is started.
Individual – Just you with yourself. It can be done with or around others, but you are doing your yoga, no chatting, no interruptions, no TV, phone, no distractions!
Practice – is not a competition, not an exhibition, not a performance and not a race! Let it be stress-free. Cultivate a patient mind. Some days you’ll be slow and other days you will feel like being fierce. You will learn to honor where you are at.
How do you begin a home practice? To start, you do what you can remember from class (so yes, do attend classes.) Take your time getting into and out of postures, and hold postures longer, to make discoveries and build strength.
- Take some time, five minutes is good, to become aware of and deepen your breath.
- Begin moving easily and repeat 3 to 10 sun salutations, to warm up the body.
- Do standing poses – warriors, triangles, tree or others; switching it up is good.
- Do child’s pose when you need a rest.
- Do a few seated postures and one or two laying down.
- Include one inversion. Legs up a wall counts.
- Always do savasana for a minimum of 8 minutes.
It is a great idea to get an individual session to design and refine your daily practice, after a few weeks, then at least once a year.
BUT... “I don’t have time for it every day.” By making time for a daily practice the rest of your day will be more productive. The rest of your day will be less stressful. These blogs discus how yoga does this in more detail; yoga for beating stress yoga as tool against fatigue
“I don’t care if I make progress I’m just doing yoga for maintenance.” There is no such thing as maintaining, unless you are making progress. Unless you are strengthening muscles in your body, and moving in your full range of motion 4-6 times a week. Exercise is stimulus. The changes to body tissue happens in the 24 to 48 hours afterwards. You become weaker and more rigid after 48 hours. This is even truer as you get older. After the 48 hours… if there is no stimulus again your hard work begins to get undone. Period, that’s it. (After months and years of daily yoga you maintain better flexibility if you do miss some days or weeks, your base-line has gotten higher).
“I do enough other exercise.” Great! But, by doing a home practice of yoga, you’re less likely to get injured doing other exercises and be able to do them longer as you age.
“I’m active in my daily work (or life).” Most often, in our daily routine, we do many repetitive movements, with the focus on what we are doing rather than the body and mind doing it. We use limited amount of the many muscles, less range of motion and less systematic use of many muscles. If your work is hard physical labor, less and/or “restorative” yoga might be what you need to practice at home.