Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ten Reasons to Try Yoga

Hi Friends -As we begin a new year, I want you to consider giving yourself the gift of yoga. A class, videos on youtube, a DVD (Rodney Yee is great), or a show on TV (Namaste on Fit tv). Below is a list I found and wanted to share.
Namaste, (the light in me sees the light in you)
Yoga is accessible to all, recommended by many respected enthusiasts, and has a wealth of associated benefits. The practice of yoga can range from meditation and breathing to challenging movements that require skill and stamina. If you're wondering whether yoga is for you, consider these 10 reasons to give it a try.

1. Mind and Body/ It feels good!

The breathing and meditation exercises taught in yoga act as natural tranquilizers, lowering your blood pressure, heart rate and levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. It is a natural way to improve many stress-related conditions such as anxiety, insomnia, depression and even medical conditions such as migraines or asthma.

2. Lung Function

Yoga encourages deeper, slower breathing and strengthens the lungs by putting these good habits in place for those who practice it.

3. Focus

Yoga increases concentration, memory and focus by helping to discipline the mind.

4. Pain Relief

Some people have reported reduced pain associated with PMS, neck and back problems, auto-immune diseases and many other conditions.

5. Circulation

Various yoga poses aid circulation and oxygenation of cells.

6. Stamina

Yoga movements and poses improve strength. Poses are designed to impact various muscles and are also said to massage internal organs.

7. Flexibility

Those who regularly practice yoga will notice their range of movement increasing and enjoy the benefits of greater mobility and flexibility.

8. Posture

By increasing self-awareness, core strength and good postural habits, yoga will help those who practice it regularly to hold themselves better and move with more grace and agility.

9. Anger Management

By teaching those who suffer from anger-related issues more patience, yoga develops the tools to enhance a calm mind. Yoga can be beneficial as part of an anger management program.

10. Confidence

All of the ways that yoga improves someone's life encourages self-confidence, self-belief and a more positive outlook.
*note - these photos were taken by my amazing 8 year old son Indy in early fall.
My photographer holding my jacket while I snap one of him

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Listen to your Heart

Sit comfortably, close your eyes, inhale, exhale, let go. Stretch your arms up then flow them down. Reach forward, chin down, relax, and breathe.
Give this simple gift to yourself.
Make time to listen to your heart. What does is say?
listen to your heart
painting by Lori Portka

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Gift of the Present

It was really tough for me to get to my yoga class today and my students had no idea. Two of my children had bronchitis this week and I was feeling drained and had a scratchy throat myself. I got up, made everyone breakfast, dropped the kids off at school, and my little Scout (three year old son) and I were on our way to yoga all before 7:40. Did I mention it was a struggle today?

It is a 30 minute drive to where I teach so I turned on the radio and tried to get in the yoga teacher mood. Thankfully a mellow Pink Floyd song came on and I was humming along. A wonderful memory actually popped up of my dad and me, front row at a Pink Floyd concert in the 90's. What a bonding experience that was - talk about living in the moment!

After dropping Scout off at Kids Klub, I made it into the cold studio with two men already on their mats. One of the guys uses his daughter's purple mat and that made me smile. The other man came back from his first class with me last week. I love it when first timers come back!

I had a nice group of 12 - mostly regulars and some new. I explained I my throat was a little scratchy but we were going to really enjoy this hour. I began class with them lying on their backs with knees up and breathing. I read a favorite bit out of Yeah Dave's Guide to Livin the Moment book.
He writes,
Living in the moment doesn't involve any crazy stretches, far-fetched formulas, or life-changing diets. it doesn't require you to give away your possessions, commit to wearing loin-cloths, or memorize sacred texts.... "Livin' the Moment" simply suggests redefining the things you love most (e.g., a taste of chocolate, a sip of wine, a great tune) as gateways to the power and beauty of being present.

It ended up being a great class. A student came up to me at the end thanking me, saying she needed the class so much today and she really focused on being in the moment on the mat.  The "new" men told me they already felt younger after two classes, and I floated out feeling refreshed myself. Sometimes the best experiences happen when we least expect them. It's being open to living in the moment and making it count that matters most.
Shine your light,

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

De-Stress with a Cat & Dog for a Happy Thanksgiving

Hi Friends,
I love the day before Thanksgiving. The house is filled with good smells of cooking spices, and I look forward to gathering with my family. It is stressful and hectic too with so much to do.
Here are a couple quick, easy, and wonderful poses that can be done before and after the holiday whirlwind of activity. This morning I did these before getting the kids off to school, cleaning the house, and cooking for 12 tomorrow. They really help relieve tension held in the upper and lower back.

Begin on all fours, hands outstretched, dropping the belly and inhale in....

Cat lift/Cow
On the exhale round the shoulders, arch the back, and tuck the tailbone under. Feel the tension release. Repeat cat lift and cat arch for a few long breaths.

 Coming back to center, inhale and lift the hips toward the sky and stretch the heels toward the earth into downward dog pose. Feel the lengthening in the legs, back, and shoulders.  
Downward Dog
 Legs Up the Wall Pose
A final pose for total relaxation is so simple and totally great for stress relief.
Find some wall space, lay down facing the wall and scoot to the wall so your legs are up the wall. Your bottom can be a few inches from the wall. Relax the shoulders, neck, lower back and breathe. Stay there for as long as you want. Gently bend the knees, roll to one side, and come up softly. Don't forget to breathe.
And now, off to make the whiskey cream sauce for my pecan pie...
Happy Thanksgiving,

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

If you can breathe, you can do yoga.

If you breathe well, you will live long on the earth. ~Indian Proverb

Welcome Friends! If you have found your way here it is my hope to share my passion for yoga with you. I have been learning about yoga for 20 years.

If you can breathe, you can do yoga.
This is how I was introduced to yoga at my first Yogafit training weekend a few years ago. My instructor also advised: There is no competition in yoga. There is no judgement. Yoga should never hurt. I liked hearing this!
Breath/Pranayama: Prana means breath, vitality, or energy. Ayama means to stretch. Pranayama regulates and extends energy flow through the body.

Easy Seated Pose
 I have found the best way to begin yoga is to find a comfortable place, close the eyes, and begin breathing. Inhaling through the nose softly filling the lungs, and then exhaling deeply through the nose. It instantly puts the body and mind in a calm and soothing place.
Reclined Pose with knees up
These are my favorite two ways to begin my yoga practice. Sitting in Easy Seated pose, or reclined pose with the knees up. Both poses are good for relaxing the body, straightening the spine, and releasing tension. Take a few minutes and give it a try. Just breathe and listen.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Refresh with a Seated Forward Bend

The most important pieces of equipment you need for doing yoga are your body and your mind.
RODNEY YEE, Yoga: The Poetry of the Body

Seated Forward Bend
The Seated forward Bend is one of my very favorite yoga poses. You can do it anywhere - in front on the TV, outside, or in a quiet room. It opens the whole back side of the body. It is great for going within as the head draws down as we reach toward our ankles.
  • Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
  • Stretches the spine, shoulders, hamstrings
  • Stimulates the liver, kidneys, ovaries, and uterus
  • Improves digestion
  • Helps relieve the symptoms of menopause and menstrual discomfort
  • Soothes headache and anxiety and reduces fatigue
  • Therapeutic for high blood pressure, infertility, insomnia, and sinusitis
Take a few minutes each day or before bed to do the seated forward bend. It will do wonders for you!

1. From seated position with the legs straight in front and the hips square and spine straight, bring the arms straight out to the sides and up over your head.
2. Inhale and draw the spine up long.
3. As you exhale, begin to come forward, hinging at the hips.
4. On each inhale, extend the spine, and on each exhale, come a bit farther into the forward bend.
5. Keep the neck at the natural extension of the spine.
6. Do not round the back.
7. Take hold of the ankles or shins, whichever you can reach.
Beginners: Put padding under the sit bones if necessary. Imagine the belly coming to rest on your thighs, rather than the nose coming to the knees -- this will help you keep the spine long instead of curving over.

*note: Many of the photos are taken of my by my eight year old son on our walnut tree farm. We have had fun doing this.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Yoga Encourages Optimism

Yoga heals, nourishes, and challenges us. The practice infiltrates every corner of our lives. ~VALERIE JEREMIJENKO

In my years of practicing yoga, I have observed that those who do yoga on a regular basis tend to be optimistic. They have a positive aura about them and it attracts positive and good things into their lives.

I often start my classes by thanking my students for giving this hour of yoga as a gift to themselves. It is my goal to have my students float out of class feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally refreshed.

The poet Walt Whitman must have been an eternal optimist. Here is a wonderful poem that shares his love of life.
Namaste, (the light in my sees the light in you)

Miracles By Walt Whitman
Why! who makes much of a miracle?
As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles,
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach, just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with any one I love--or sleep in the bed at night with
any one I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with my mother,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive, of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds--or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sun-down--or of stars shining so quiet
and bright,
Or the exquisite, delicate, thin curve of the new moon in spring;
Or whether I go among those I like best, and that like me best--
mechanics, boatmen, farmers,
Or among the savans--or to the soiree--or to the opera,
Or stand a long while looking at the movements of machinery,
Or behold children at their sports,
Or the admirable sight of the perfect old man, or the perfect old
Or the sick in hospitals, or the dead carried to burial,
Or my own eyes and figure in the glass;
These, with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring--yet each distinct, and in its place.

To me, every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same;
Every spear of grass--the frames, limbs, organs, of men and women,
and all that concerns them,
All these to me are unspeakably perfect miracles.

To me the sea is a continual miracle;
The fishes that swim--the rocks--the motion of the waves--the ships,
with men in them,
What stranger miracles are there?
- Walter Whitman (1819 – 1892) was an urban American poet, essayist, journalist, and humanist.