Category Archives: yoga and the mind

Winter & Yoga

Dear Yoga Friends,

Winter is upon us and so is the “holiday Season”. Rather than get caught up or annoyed with the frenzy of consumerism that seems to dominate western culture, let’s be closer to each other.

We are a species profoundly interconnected and interdependent. Keep in mind modern culture promotes an unrealistic ideal of independence and self-sufficiency. This may be hindering our ability to be close. The truth is we all want closeness and connection.  I shared this article last year and in case you missed it, you may find it refreshing; closeness, togetherness coziness

    I hope you find time for leisurely walks this season.                         All around us, in the natural world is stimulus for us to understand our own nature, we are made of the same stuff:  Water, Earth (minerals), Fire (heat and combustion, digestion and burning of food for energy) Air (Breath) and Either (space). Appreciation of nature on a walk always lifts ones spirits. More about walking in this blog post walking the most under-rated exercise.

Remember to do your daily routine, even in the hustle of holidays, travel and visitors. Your practice, done consistently and mindfully has a powerful healing effect on all levels; physical, mental, emotional, energetic and a multitude of aspects deeper and more profound. Daily practice  allows us to face our life, to deal with our emotions and quiet the chatter in our minds. Our negative thoughts and suppressed emotions are toxic. By gaining control of the mind we can grow through conscious awareness of emotions the energy they have. True yoga is a well of strength and peace to draw from.  This well is filled through daily practice– asana and meditation.

“The more you sit in the self the more you will feel an energy that you have never experienced before. It comes from behind rather than in front where you experience your mind and emotions.…When you are no longer absorbed in your melodrama, but instead sit comfortably deep inside the seat of awareness, you will feel this energy from deep within.    …. Feelings, loneliness, fear are just things in the universe like cars, grass, stars, Awareness does not fight.  Within the self you will experience strength of your inner Being, even when the heart is weak…”   From the book Untethered Soul – Michael Singer

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”  Thich Nhat Hanh

Peace, Christina

_CLASS Schedule December January, all same except....
There will NOT be classes at RGCSL on Monday  Dec 25th (Christmas day)
or Monday January 1st (New Year's day).
 No los Lunas classes on Tuesday Dec 26th. 
Consider joining the Wed. class- Versatile Vitality, 4100 Silver SE
 8:30am - 9:45am.(wonderful group,lovely space & easy parking)
or treat yourself to an individual session to design or 
refine your daily practice. 
 Gift Certificates available now.


Re-training your body’s stress response through yoga practice

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!

Namaste, Christina

 

Your Yoga, a home practice

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.

June quotes

sky

Hello Dear Yoga Friends,

 Sharing a few Quotes you might enjoy:    

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”  Thich Nhat Hanh

 

“The more you sit in the self the more you will feel an energy that you have never experienced before. It comes from behind rather than in front where you experience your mind and emotions.…When you are no longer absorbed in your melodrama, but instead sit comfortably deep inside the seat of awareness, you will feel this energy from deep within.    …. Feelings, loneliness, fear are just things in the universe like cars, grass, stars, Awareness does not fight.  Within the self you will experience strength of your inner Being, even when the heart is weak…”   From the book Untethered Soul – Michael Singer

 “The chemistry of mind is different from the chemistry of love. The mind is careful, suspicious, advances little by little…advices “Be careful, protect yourself” Whereas love says “Let yourself, go!” The mind is strong, never fells down, while love hurts itself, fells into ruins. But isn’t it in ruins that we mostly find the treasures? A broken heart hides so many treasures.”  ~ Shams Tabrizi 

Peace, Christina 

Proprioception

Dear Yoga Friends , 

IM000661.JPG“Flowers are love embodied. Look deeply at the color. Feel the vibrancy. Put your nose a little closer. Look deeply. Fall inside. Start your life over right here, right now, inside a flower. Make a new decision. Then feel again. Decide you are okay right here now. ” ~ Lao Tzu

   

“We all possess an acceptable level of proprioception that allows the body to move through life, but we’re now learning that high-quality proprioception can be an extremely important key to healthy aging. Researchers have recently uncovered a link between increased levels of proprioception and decreased levels of pain in the body. In other words, the more that your brain can sense your body accurately, the less pain you tend to experience. In addition, the more developed your proprioception is, the more skillful your daily movements will naturally become, reducing your chances of injury in the first place (and this becomes increasingly important as we grow older)”.          Link to article here  https://yogainternational.com/article/view/yoga-anatomy-what-every-teacher-and-practitioner-should-know-about-fascia

An Interesting article  /anxiety-yoga-and-brain-chemistry.html

A motivating article  /the-secrets-of-yoga-asana/

 Namaste,    Christina

     

 

What is Yoga, Really?

What Yoga Is,  and Is Not.

Know What you are getting into.  

YOGA IS:

    • Moving Meditation.
    • Focused Concentration and keen awareness of mind and body.
    • Control of the breath, Movement synchronized to the breath: Awareness  with the breath.
    • Vinyasa– a flow through a series of movements – One breath to one movement. An example is sun salutations. Vinyasa warms the body from inside and increases meditative focus, and awareness of the breath.
    • Asana– (“poses” and also the movement into, with-in and out of them) which lead to doing more difficult Asanas, creating greater freedom of mind and body.
    • A process. Each movement towards, with-in and transition out of an Asana is a journey towards mind-body integration, flexibility and strength with-in that asana, the unique way you find it within your own body.
    • Everyone’s individual body structure means there is great variety in how a person gets into, and looks in any pose.
    • Yoga is complex. This is why it is a process! Often a slow process, even with diligent daily practice.
    • Always a whole being (body-mind-emotions) experience.  Expect to change more than your body!
    • Physical asana is only one of the eight limbs of yoga Philosophy.
    • The goal of yoga is no less than Enlightenment -knowledge/understanding/insight which brings freedom. (Though better health or physical appearance are often the goal in the west)
    • The rewards are mastery over the mind and a strong, flexible, yet supple, body.
    • One theory of how physical Yoga was originally created is so that a person could remain in seated, still in meditation without being distracted by discomfort in the body.
    • Yoga has been attributed as great tools for religion, or spiritual growth, no matter what faith or philosophy a person believes. The practice of yoga as lifestyle is expanded understanding, compassion, inner peace and peaceful conduct, until eventually all of life becomes a moving meditation.
    • It is a philosophy. The branch of Yoga, Devotion, can be devotion in the religious sense, but this is a personal choice.

 

YOGA IS NOT:

  • Classes, (Just like any art form, you take classes but you practice on your own.)
  • A religion
  • Simple
  • Being a contortionists
  • A physical exercise class
  • A sport
  • A quick fix to anything
  • Something you master completely on any given day. (there is no finish line).

Know What you are getting into.   Find the class(es) and teacher(s) right for you.

Namaste,  Christina

I DON’T DO YOGA!   I PRACTICE YOGA!

I DON’T DO YOGA!   I PRACTICE YOGA                                 !02250002a

Just as a runner does not do a marathon, he or she spends hours, days, months and years training in order to run (do) marathons. Dancers don’t just wake up one day and perform complex choreography with ease, they practice daily for weeks, months and years.

This is why, as a yoga teacher, I get weary of hearing “I can’t do that” or “I can’t do yoga”. I am weary because I couldn’t do 98% of what I do now when I started, either! I did not get to where I am now by magic; I wasn’t at all flexible when I started, my posture was poor, and my core and many other muscles were weak. Fortunately, I have had great teachers and attended many helpful workshops and trainings. I have been to classes ranging from horrible to excellent.

Mostly, I work hard at it every day with my mind as focused as possible every moment of the practice.  And when I find a good teacher,  I stay with him or her so that they know me and know what is hard for me. (Because I try to avoid what is hard. Yup, I do this too!)

The other reason yoga teachers get tired of hearing “I can’t do that” or “I can’t do yoga” is that we know it is not true.   We see people practice yoga who let nothing stand in their way. Personally, I have practiced yoga with a person missing an arm, another person dealing with multiple sclerosis, and people recovering from cancer treatments and surgeries.

The main reason I am weary of hearing this (and I suppose most other teachers are also) is because it is a self-fulfilling-prophecy.  It keeps you from starting and inhibits progress when you do start.

If you have ever tried to teach a kid to swim or ride a bike you know exactly what I am talking about. All those attempts when they didn’t believe they could do it didn’t bring success! Yet once they start to believe even slightly “maybe I can do this”, the attempts become successful.   This isn’t just true for kids!!!   It is true for adults as well.  I and my yoga friends often talk about why we struggle with certain poses, for example I was (still am) frightened of arm balances and handstand poses. I know the problem is in my mind – my thinking “I can’t do this” or fear “what if I fall, and get hurt”. Intellectually I know this is ridiculous because I can do these with a spotter or teacher standing next to and supporting me, and I have fallen and not gotten hurt.  It might be ten or one hundred more attempts before I believe I can do it and/ or get past fear enough to actually succeed.

So keep trying, keep practicing, there is no finish line.

All the best~ Christina

Asana is only the “tip of the iceberg”

Hello Yoga Friends,
Asana (postures) and movement you do in yoga class is one of Eight aspects or limbs of yoga: I wrote another blog which is an article to introduce you to the   8 Limbs of Yoga.
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Asana is only the tip of the Iceberg,

  The best benefits of yoga cannot be seen with the physical eyes. The best benefits can’t be seen in any picture! And real benefits of yoga began with-in the first weeks of daily practice!

For example, this pose took me over 5 years of daily practice, as well as 45 minutes warming up to do for this photo. What is the greatest benefit is beyond words and is related to many benefits through the practice  

yoganidrasana, 2016 

 Peace, Christina