Friday, September 28, 2012

A Wise Yogini

I want to introduce you to Liz who practices at Santosha Yoga.  She has a great sense of humor, always has a smile on her face and is just fun to be around. The fact that she is 95 years old and does her practice sitting in a chair while the rest of the class moves about is a minor technicality. 

She comes every Thursday night with her caregiver, Karen, who has been a student of mine for quite a few years.  A few months back Karen asked if Liz could attend the class, even though it wasn't a chair yoga class, just to get her out of the house and keep her active.  She has been here every since.  She can't hear all that well but does her best to follow the rest of the class.  Every so often I ask if she is doing OK and with a twinkle in her eyes she gives me thumbs up.

She has had her share of hardship. She married her husband after he was blinded in WWI, lost a son and has had her own battles with cancer.  But yet when ever you talk to her she has the most amazing positive attitude, I could listen to her stories for hours.  She also does a mean boat pose, she has core strength that youngsters’ in their 40's don't have.

Last Thursday we were talking about her marriage and how she managed to stay married to the same man for over 70 years.  She said that one reason that they were together so long was they didn't kill each other and then she laughed as she winked at me.  But then she became a little more serious and said because they never took each other for granted and always respected each other. 

I remind my students that our teachers and teaching come to us in many different ways and forms and we have to be open to that. Liz is a wise woman and I can't wait for Thursdays for her teachings as she has become my teacher as her wisdom reminds me to.... just breathe.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Yoga Upside Down

When my grandson was younger he used to love being upside down.  I would grab Ethan by the ankles and help him as he would walk on his hands, laughing and giggling. Or he would lie on the couch and hang his head off the edge of it and just chill.  I have often said that since his mom did yoga when she was pregnant with him, he got used to being upside down and tumbled about as his mom went through the different yoga poses. To quote Eeyore, friend of Winnie the Pooh "Sometimes the world looks better upside down.”

When was the last time that you saw the world from Ethan's point of view?  For most us it may have been a while. Usually when I teach an inversion in my class, I tell the students that I would need hours to fully explain the benefits of being upside down. Now I am not just taking about the more advanced poses such as handstand or headstand. Even the gentlest pose of lying on your back with your legs up against the wall has powerful benefits. Modern yogis agree that Viparita Karani may have the power to cure whatever ails you. In fact downward facing dog and a standing forward fold are inversions.

Think of it this way, we stand, walk or sit most of our waking hours.  Or we are lying on the couch watching TV. I think it was Sir Isaac Newton that said "what comes up must come down". Gravity is a powerful force. This nonstop pull of gravity can have some undesired effects in our bodies over the years. Over time, it causes our bodies to literally shrink. Our spinal columns compress, our organs grow sluggish, our skin droops.

Although we cannot fight gravity, in yoga we can use its pull to our advantage. When we turn the body upside down, we reverse the pull of gravity and create long-lasting benefits for our entire system. Some claim that for every minute spent in headstand, the aging process is suspended. Inversions allow a fresh flow of blood to the brain, they enable you to see the world from Ethan's point of view and, when you can get your legs above your heart, they provide a much-welcomed rest for the circulatory system. If you are agitated an inversion will calm you down, if you are lethargic, it will help perk you up.

Not sure what kind of inversion works best for you? Ask your trusted yoga teacher.  If you are new at inversions start with your legs up against the wall.  You can even put a bolster or folded blanket under your hips to make it more of an inversion.  As with any yoga pose honor your body and don't go past your edge. Stay there for a few minutes when you first start out, but as you get more experienced you can stay in the pose for up to 15 minutes. To come out of the pose, bring your knees into your chest, roll to one side and slowly push yourself up to seated. 

Ahhhh, better now?  And of course don't forget to breath.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Yoga Story Time

For the past three summers, our four year grandson's parents have allowed us to bring him up north with my husband and myself for a weeklong vacation with my family. He is a great little guy and he even went SUPing like grandma did!

One of the best parts of the week was reading him a book or two at bedtime. I had forgotten how much fun that was.

We all like to hear stories and kid’s stories always have a positive message or "the moral of the story". Why is it that we seem to remember a topic if it is in story form as opposed if it is presented to us in lecture form? In Buddhism they are known for stories that have a positive message.

I recently came across this story that I thought was worth sharing;

The 84th Problem

One afternoon a farmer who had heard that the Buddha was a wonderful teacher came to the Buddha seeking relief from his suffering. “I’m a farmer,” he said to the Buddha, “And I love farming. But last summer we had a drought and nearly starved, while this summer, we had too much rain and some of my crops did not do as well as I would have liked.”

The Buddha sat and listened to the farmer. “I have a wife, too. She’s a great woman, a wonderful wife. But sometimes she can really nag me. And to tell you the truth, sometimes I get a little tired of her.” The Buddha continued to listen and smile, as the farmer continued. “I’ve got three kids. They’re all really great. I’m really proud of them. But sometimes they don’t listen to me and don’t pay me the respect I deserve”

It went on like this for awhile, and then when finished with his litany, the farmer waited for the Buddha to solve his problems.” I can’t help you,” said the Buddha.

“What!” responded the farmer, “I’ve heard that you are a great master? How can you not help me?”

“Well,” the Buddha replied, “First of all, everyone has problems. In fact, everyone’s got about 83 problems. Of course, you may fix one now and then, but another one will pop up in its place. If you think about it, everyone you know and all that you care for is subject to change — it’s all impermanent. And you yourself are going to die someday. Now there’s a problem.”

The farmer was red in the face. “What kind of teacher are you!? How is this supposed to help me?!” he retorted.

“Well….perhaps I can help you with the 84th problem,” answered the Buddha.

“What 84th problem?” asked the farmer?

“You don’t want to have any problems.”

That Buddha, he sure knows how to turn a tale. The moral of the story? Our problems are never really going to go away.  We may have 83 one day and only six the next, but in our perception they are still problems. So if we can't make them go away how do we get rid of them? By changing how we handle them, think of it as a shift in our way of thinking.  What we thought was a problem 6 days or 6 months ago amazingly no longer is, partly because another problem took its place (see how that works) but maybe because we realized "this too shall pass".

How do you start? By just closing your eyes.....and just breath.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Time Again.....

A few of the students were talking yesterday morning as they waited for the 7:30 am Hot Yoga class to start. The conversation turned to time. The common theme was they just didn't have enough time to do everything they needed to do.  Hmmmm....sounds somewhat similar to my last blog.  I knew I wasn't alone with my dilemma.  But was it really a dilemma? 

If I back track to Buddhism 101, my world is not coming at me, but from me.  If I want to change my outside perception of my world, I first have to change the inside. So what was I doing in my life that caused me to have this lack of time perception?  I don't have a corporate type job to stress me, In fact teaching and running the studio doesn't feel like a job at all.  Another student came in yesterday and said she was glad it was Saturday and without thinking I responded "everyday is like a Saturday to me".  I feel that blessed to have this life. 

What can I do to change this perception?  First of all I did my best to stay focused on the task at hand, finish one thing first before going on to the next. It's like when you are working on the computer and before you know it you have 25 web pages open and don't remember what you were looking for in the first place.  Then I became more realistic with what I can actually fit in my day.  And that it's OK to say no once in a while.  If something that I though would take only a 1/2 hour ended up being a hour, so be it.  Accept it and move on. I haven't balanced my personal checkbook in 3 years and haven't bounced a check once. I check my balance on line to keep track. 

I meditated on patience.  I meditated on the attachment that we have on time.  How we think that if we aren't busy we aren't important or productive.  As my perception started to shift so did my week.  Time opened up where I thought there was none.  I still followed through with responsibilities and deadlines that I had (after all owning a yoga studio is still a business) but with a different frame of mind.  No one or nothing got left by the wayside.  In fact yesterday I  taught in the morning, met friends for lunch that were in from California, worked on advertising and promotions for the 3rd year anniversary celebration next month, went for a bike ride with my husband, chit chatted with the neighbor and still had "time" left over.

When I was thinking of taking my teacher training, I really felt that I didn't have enough time in my life to handle it.  My teacher, Michael Johnson told me that the more time we give away the more we will get back.  Crazy talk!!! But he was right....the time was there.  I just had to shift my perception. So give it a try.

Every time I sit down to blog I tell myself today is the day that I will write about a yoga pose and it just doesn't seem to happen. But I am open to any and all suggestions. Yoga is so much more about changing our inner world and everything else just seems to follow...and just breathe.

By the way tonight at our free meditation class, we will be learning how to use bio feed back techniques to reduce stress.  It is from 7 PM to 8 PM tonight.  The class is free but we do accept donations for local charities.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Time After Time

Clock_face : Wall clock Stock PhotoWhat is time?  When I googled the meaning of time, when used as a noun the definition is "the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole. " But when used as a verb the definition is "plan, schedule, or arrange when (something) should happen or be done". That is the one I seem to have a problem with lately. 

In the yogic teachings of the the 8 Limbs of Yoga by Master Pantajali, one of the five Yamas (restraints) is Satya or truthfulness. At first thought we think of lying which is correct, but it goes much deeper than that.  All of the Yamas & Niyamas (observance) do.  (To learn more about the Yamas & Niyamas read the book by Deborah Adele appropriately titled "The Yamas & Niyamas".) But I digress. Am I being truthful about the number of things I can plan in my day?  Do I allow time for hiccups or interruptions of my so called plan and schedule?  Did I allow for the extra time when I took my son grocery shopping with me that he had to read every label?  Do I allow extra time when I take my mom out and take in consideration that being 87, there is no such thing has running in and out of a store (especially Costco, those free samples and all). 

How many times have we heard "we all have the same 24 hours in the day". Are we being truthful in what we make a priority in our 24 hours?  Do we plan for rest, play and sleep?  Don't get me wrong, I love everything I do in my life and I think that is part of my conundrum.  I want to do it all.  But there should be moderation with everything. Who do I say no too?

Goodness, I haven't blogged in over a week.  Sat down several times to do it but.....

As I remind myself and others, I am a work in progress.  So I am still working on this one.  I ordered Mitch Albom's new book of fiction “The Time Keeper” to sell at the studio.  The cover jacket tells us "the inventor of the world's first clock is punished for trying to measure God's greatest gift".  I can't wait to read it...when I can find the time....and just breathe.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Yoga is Hard Work

Most of the time new students come to yoga because they want to make a change in their lives, sometimes they come because they are curious, but occasionally they come because someone more or less strong armed them into coming.

I think this is what happened the other day with two new students. It was obvious pretty much from the start who was who in this duo.  I did my best to offer them both modifications for the poses to help them enjoy the experience.  Student A was appreciative, Student B....well....not so much. I gently reminded the entire class that child's pose was always an option as a modification as it is in any class we teach at Santosha.

As the class was practicing Navasana (boat pose) I offered a suggestion to Student B and she looked at me and said that it was hard and she wasn't going to do it.  OK, not a problem, after all it was her practice. I spoke to them after class, as I try to do with all new students, did they have any questions and reminded them to use their free week to try out other classes and teachers.  I could be wrong, but I don't think I will see Student B anytime soon.

Yep, Yoga is hard work.  We move, breathe and engage muscles that haven't been awake in a long time.  But let's look at this from another angle. What's harder, starting to take care of yourself now while you can still get up and down off the floor or having someone help you in and out of chairs because you have no core strength to lift yourself up?  Lengthen and strengthening your upper body now or hurting your shoulder when you lift a gallon of milk out of the fridge, increasing your stamina now or getting winded walking from your home to the car 20 feet away. These are not fictional situations, these happen to people I love everyday. 

My mom (whom I love dearly) is 87 years old and never has taken care of herself.  I asked her why recently and she said that she didn't think she would live this long.  But it really should be about the quality of the life we live since none of us are guaranteed the length.  It's about the "dash" in between the dates on our tombstone.

Elections are coming up again and with it the talk of health care reform.  But bottom line it is our responsibility to "reform" our health.  My mom says that she never thought that she would age this way, with so many limitations on her body.  But she didn't do anything to prevent it.

Do I know for sure that my practice of yoga will assure me a long, healthy life? Of course not, but all the studies are showing me that it really makes a difference.  Who is going to push you in your wheel chair, drive you to doctor appointments, and remind you to take your daily medications? 

I really didn't mean to get this preachy, I was just trying to make the point that yes yoga is sometimes hard to do, but the benefits are amazing.  For those of us who are mom's, was pregnancy, labor and delivery hard?  It is sometimes hard to be a parent or spouse.  Yes, yes, yes.  But the benefits are worth the labor.  We do things that are hard all day long that don't make us a better person, why not try doing something that does.  Start to take care of yourself now.  Walk, bike, swim, do yoga and.....just breathe.

P.S. I want to share a link with you from the Natural Awakening Magazine . It’s article (starts on page 31)  of the importance of breath and injury free yoga. Enjoy!