This shortest day, this longest night is the ideal time for turning inward and slowing the monkey mind. The demands of the season often create greater than normal need for stillness and introspection. Honoring the body’s natural tendency to slow down we should turn in to bed a bit earlier whenever possible, eat and drink warming foods, soak in a soothing coconut oil bath and, of course, meditate. Two-minute timed meditations at the transistions of your day are an easy way to stay centered and present with co-workers, co-commuters, family and friends. (Some examples: First thing in the am, before you turn on the ignition, once you arrive at work, before and or after lunch, before driving home, before retiring at night. )
You may want to sit this evening with a warm candle or fire close by and perhaps a plant or festive greenery to remind you of the return of the warming sun in 3 months time. Breathe, settle and So, join the panetary mindfield with a peaceful and open heart, a quiet mind and comfortable body as you settle in to the Yin time of the year.
So, Andrei brought to me a fun beginning yoga book called, Yoga For Wimps by Miriam Austin. I glanced at the pages – my kind of book – lots of photos and not too much detailed instruction unless warranted for the “Fix It” self-healing section. I read the introduction and Author’s notes and was on board with all she said. Then on the last page before the “Instant Yoga” poses she lost me. Folks let’s be clear. Hatha is a wonderful practice. We have all felt it healing, strengthening, and relaxing our bodies. The benefits are very individual and too numerous to list! But it is only one path or practice in the 8-fold path of yoga. I agree with Miriam Austin that we do hatha so that, through the concentration on the activity, the mind quiets a bit. (I am guilty of chat which keeps our neo-cortex wicked active. This is something of which I am painfully aware and working on!) Through the practice we often become quiet, inwardly focused on the body, on the breath and the mind can simmer down a bit. However – and here is where she and I disagree – there is no substitute for sitting in meditation. Period. We need it. It cleanses the mind of old habits and long-seated reactions to similar stimulus (aka “knee-jerk” or conditioned respnses). Hatha prepares the body for meditation by removing the obstacle of physical discomfort as we sit. So, our lovely author has done the world a service by producing a non-threatening introduction to Hatha. Perhaps she discounts meditation in order to draw students in – meditation seems scary at first so some folks are turned off to yoga altogether because of it. “It’s hard to do.” “My mind is too busy.” “My back hurts.” And sometimes the fear is religiously based – “Is it Pagan?” “Anti-Judeo-Christian?!” Of course, it isn’t. In the Bible God says, “Be still and know that I am…” Why do we reisist?
So how to begin?
Try it two minutes before you get in your car or drive from your home. Two minutes in the parking lot before work, two minutes at lunch – in the transitions of your day. Try it one day – see how it goes – and maybe you can begin a scheduled time daily. Just like brushing your teeth, meditation is another healthy habit to practice. Be not afraid of stillness. Stillness is the counter-pose for every day life.
We are adding a Yin Yoga class for all those beginners, people with arthritic joints, or those who are healing injuries. In the universe Yin and Yang are oppositional forces with which you are already familiar. In Vedanta (Yoga philosophy and science) Ida and Pingala are the names of these same forces. Ida and Yin are the quiet, feminine, moon or passive energies of the universe while Yang and Pingala are the active, male, sun energies. So in essence, Yin practice is inwardly focused, gentle movement, held postures, restorative postures and of course, meditation. A lovely way to maintain your balance at this time of year. Join us on Wednesdays beginning 1/18/2017. Register for the studio and reserve your mat with the Sign-up link:
This evening Kathy was up for a challenge to test her strength and stamina and also to explore plank deeply to find her best plank. Here is what she found:
“When I pressed back into my heels and down on my fingers it eased some of the strain in my arms. It also helped if I kept my elbows from locking. Pressing back in the heels made it easier to keep my core muscles engaged.”
TIPS: Hips staying in line helps keep the core muscles firing too. Soften the elbows if your elbow joints feel strain and press into the fingers and thumbs.
Here are a few of the greatest hits of prenatal asanas. Try to do this series once or twice a day to keep the body supple. Doing these poses mindfully and with breath will help you to remain connected to your body as your baby grows. Moving is essential no matter what you do. Taking a walk on a warmer day, using a treadmill inside, swimming or even dancing in your living room are all great ways to improve circulation, increase oxygen uptake, lower blood pressure and create a little endorphin flow! During all exercise, remember to breathe for your baby and stop whenever you feel breathless, overheated, or experience pain beyond the sensation of normal stretching. Enjoy yourself and celebrate every day of your pregnancy!
In January of this year, 2017, Harry Dyer of Kenya, Africa was scouting for game and poaching activity near the Mara river. His plane’s wing clipped the trees and sent the plane crashing to the ground. It burst into flames upon impact and in the few seconds before Harry could release himself from the cockpit he suffered burns on 40% of his body. He managed to walk to help, fording the Mara river and found his way home. Harry was admitted to a hospital in Nairobi, Kenya but it had inadequate burn treatment facilities. Once he was somewhat stable he was airlifted to Johannesburg to the one and only Class 1 burn center in all of Africa.
After several weeks in South Africa, Harry’s friends here in Indy had him flown here for treatment at the Eskenazi Burn Center. Here he attended daily therapy sessions for months. Richard was tasked with feeding Harry to help him regain the 40 pounds he had lost while immobilized in hospital.
Harry has survived his wounds and will be working for his whole life to maintain full range of motion in his arms and legs and keep his lungs healthy. Burns are one of the primary injuries suffered by Africans who cook , sterilize their water, and heat their homes with open flame. Especially for children, the scars left by untreated burns can lead to life-long disfigurement, and a lack of social inclusion and employment.
Our newest studio Seva (service) is to raise funds towards the $2,000,000 needed to build a state-of-the-art Burn Center in El Doret, Kenya which is the home of Dr. Joe Mamlin’s IU-affiliated teaching hospital, orphanage and the Umoja project. We will hold a fund-raiser in late August. Meanwhile, if you like you can pay a bit more for class the amount will be earmarked for Harry’s Burn Center. You can also make a donation by cash check or charge anytime. The size is not important. Every penny counts when lives are at stake. Together we can work to help build the Harry Dyer Burn Center in El Doret, Kenya.
As winter starts to wrap itself around us I thought we might appreciate a look back/forward. Here are some images of light and heat and the Mother Ocean. What better way to practice than warmed by the sun’s heat and the sand?
Be sure to take time to be still, breathe and be grateful for everything passing through your lives even in the hectic pace of Holy Days. Traffic drama? “I am grateful to be in my car with someplace to go.” Let breath and music create an oasis inside your car! Long lines at the stores? “Thank you for this opportunity to share a laugh with the strangers around me.” Smile! OR carry a book with you wherever you go – it’s a great way to shut out chaos and take a mini break. Remember to practice equilibrium and non-attachment. In other words, keep your emotions out of problems as they arise – it’s not easy and can be our life-long practice. The more we avoid our knee-jerk negative reactions to events and people, the more our minds become fertile ground for peace! Then, as you prepare and shop for these Holy-days and you will find yourself fully charged and ready for all the joy heading your way. Namaste
Once upon a time I had created a list of hints for losing weight – my students have added to the list and so now is the time for an update! Please leave your comments here as well.
Use small plates to control portion – even at a buffet or dinner time using a salad plate instead of a dinner sized plate will automatically lead to portion control.
No eating after 7pm – your digestive fire or Agni is strongest at noon so that is the best time for a large meal. Also, a fully digested meal won’t interfere with your sleep!
Always use a plate or bowl – never, ever, ever eat out of a bag or box. If you see how much you eat, you will eat less!
Avoid distracted eating – like in the car, watching tv, at the computer or even (Nancy broke my heart with this one) while reading. Sigh…my favorite lunchtime activity…
Cut out soda – even diet. Sorry folks, you can enjoy an occasional soda but the sugar content is incredibly harmful and the artificial sweeteners are neurotoxins. Ever get a headache after drinking a diet soda or soft drink? Not only that but the acid content literally melts our bones like chalk in vinegar.
And finally – CHEW. Swami Veda told us always to “Chew your liquids and drink your solids.” This makes for slower eating, digestion is allowed to begin in the mouth – as it should – and you will feel full without overeating. Try 27 times a bite. It’s not easy but if you love your body, its health and want to have more energy this is key.
As I prepare for a performance or audition my body ramps up with adrenaline, which elevates blood pressure, shortens my breathing and in general creates unease here in my body. Today, I am consciously deepening my breath and finding places where the body just doesn’t want to expand – tense maybe?
The yogis tell us that shallow breathing creates a state where we are more vulnerable to disease. In biological terms, we know that deeper breaths draw the diaphragm down and expand the openings in the diaphragm through which the major blood vessels in the body pass. This allows for optimal flow of oxygen and waste gasses. So, breathing to stay healthy makes perfect sense!
Laughing has the same effect! So, as a gift to your body, try expanding your breath – give up that ideal flat belly for big deep inhalations, then draw in the navel as you exhale. Try it all day today and see how you feel! Who knows, you might just reach enlightenment.
Yoga for better health, better birthing and better life!