Sunday, August 7, 2016

It's More About the Breath than You Might Think

Recently, I became ill after being at a family gathering at an Oklahoma lake on the Fourth of July weekend.  It was a painful experience caused by contracting a parasite in the lake water that affected my stomach and small intestine along with shutting down my colon.  The pain felt severe, and I found myself constantly gripping my hands and gathering my knees into my chest.  I realized that my breath was erratic and tight in my upper chest; no longer was I belly breathing, nor using my diaphragm to deep breathe on the inhale and relax on the exhale.

The more pain I experienced, the more shallow my breath became and anxious my mind became.  As a yoga instructor, I teach breath practice on a daily basis.  However, the pain caused me to forget the pattern of breathing deeply and slowly to create a relaxation response in my body.

I even wondered, "Why me?"  How could this happen to me?  I was healthy, ate a very healthy diet, exercised on a regular basis, meditated daily, slept and rested, was not overly stressed.

As a person who believes that everything happens for a reason, I can honestly say five weeks later that I learned a lot about pain plus the body's reaction to it.  We simply stop breathing deeply and evenly when the body experiences trauma.  This, in turn, creates more stress for the nervous system and creates a downward spiral or cycle of more tension.

What if we focused more on the breath and less on the movement?  What if we noticed our breath as much as we observe the thoughts of our mind?  What if our pain is intensified by not breathing?

How could God use this experience to teach me a new lesson?

Breathe in; breathe out more slowly.  It's more important than you think.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Facing Off Facebook - Letting Go of Those Things that Do Not Serve You Well

Yes, I got caught up in the idea of how many "likes" our studio received on Facebook.  Actually, I started using the site just to see photos of my children and grandchildren.  Then, a relative suggested that I start a Facebook page for Tranquility Yoga Studio.  What began as an innocent desire to spread the good word of yoga to the surrounding community became a daily issue as my responses were timed on the site, my phone number being exposed to middle of the night calls, people checking in to the studio at 2:30 a.m. or at a time when no classes were being taught.

Finally, Brian and I said, "Enough."  We are finished with trying to keep up with social media.  Our yoga community receives two newsletters each week, paper calendars are available in the studio, and our website is current.  The idea of "likes" or being "un-liked" is no longer an issue.

Plus, all the drama and wasted energy are over from scrolling, and the worry of being "unfriended," is no longer a scare, and noticing that you are "blocked" on some people's pages.  It's all over for us on Facebook, but Tranquility Yoga is going strong.

We are a yoga and spin studio.  We believe in what we do.  We love our people and our yoga community.  We are experienced and hard working.  We study and continue learning from others who are knowledgeable. We love keeping our prices low and our classes frequent to fit around our community's needs.  Our studio is clean, caring, and compassionate.

So, bottom line is ... Facebook is no longer a daily activity.  We will survive all the comments of what happened to Tranquility, negativity, and gossip.  We have been doing this yoga studio since 2008 in our home, and we love the quiet, peaceful feeling of welcoming all people of all levels, ages, sizes, and ability/flexibility.  It is my passion, and Brian has made it his as well.

Facing Off Facebook, but practicing and persevering with more joy!  Namaste'

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Yoga for Sleep and Relaxation

How do we wobble?  Why can't we relax?  Why does sleep elude us?  Perhaps we need to take our yoga off the mat and into our sleep.

Find contentment.  Gandhi said, "We get caught in the peripheries of life.  Do not lose your center.  Hold fast to the peace in the middle.  Let go of the peripheries of life."  
Stop looking over the fence and competing, comparing, gossiping.  Why not fall in love with what we already have?  Someone looks at us cross-eyed, or doesn't acknowledge us, it can throw us off center and out of contentment.  We are disturbed when our plans do not turn out, or someone lets us down.  Noticing where we are by asking ourselves, "What is it?"  "Where am I?"  Why am I hurting or angry or discontented?"
Embrace contentment.  Embrace the wave of change. Embrace the peace and toleration of the extremes of life without wobbling.  
The practice of gratitude keep us from wobbling.  Follow peace.  If you find no peace, sit with it, get quiet, go for a nature walk alone, until you do.

Do you find it difficult to relax or have trouble sleeping?
According to the American Psychological Association, much of your stress may be attributed to: “ineffective coping mechanisms that appear to be ingrained in our culture, perpetuating unhealthy lifestyles and behaviors for future generations."
The fact that many Americans struggle to cope with their stress probably doesn't come as much of a surprise. We've all been exposed to the crushing burden of feeling that there is never enough time in the day to get everything done. Between juggling kids, work and other responsibilities, our to-do list can seem never-ending. Many of us spend our days running from one place to another, always trying to get ahead.
As a result, our mind can be so agitated from the day-to-day grind, that it can seem nearly impossible to get calm and relaxed, even in our downtime. This can leave us tossing and turning all night. But if you're able to shift some things around in your routine, there are plenty of simple things you can do to find relief. Whether it's spending more time outside, hanging out with friends by candlelight, or curling up in a soft chair at a local coffee shop, there are plenty of ways to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life. And since it's not always possible to change your external circumstances, it's carving out those few moments each day that can create big changes within, decreasing your overall stress. The practice of Yoga Nidra and other forms of guided relaxation, can release muscle tension, lower blood pressure, slow down the heart rate and regulate breathing.

​Ideas for helpful sleep and Yoga Nidra:
  • 61 Points for Meditation - starting with a the crown of the head "Relax and release" each body point imagining a cool blue light in each part from the head to the toes on each side of the body."
  • Mantra for Positive thinking (the mind must have something to think about)
    • "Breathing in, I breathe in peace; breathing out, I breathe out calm."
    • Body Scan Mantra
      • My arms and legs are heavy and warm. (repeat each section three times, then just the last three words three more times)  "Heavy and warm, heavy and warm, heavy and warm..."
      • My heartbeat and breath are steady and calm.  "Steady and calm, steady and calm, steady and calm..."
      • My forehead and jawline are cool and released.  "Cool and released, cool and released, cool and released..."
      • My neck and shoulders are letting go.  "Letting go, letting go, letting go..."
      • ​My fingers and toes are relaxed and at ease.  "Relaxed and at ease, relaxed, at ease, relaxed, at ease..."  
      • My belly and back are soft and supported. "Soft and supported, soft and supported, soft and supported..."
      • My hips and sacrum are free and easy.  "Free and easy, free and easy, free and easy..."
      • My mind is calm and at peace.  "Calm and at peace, calm and at peace, calm and at peace..."
      • My emotions are quiet and at rest.  "Quiet and at rest, quiet, at rest, quiet, at rest..."
      • My spirit is one with God.  "One with God, one with God, one with God..."
    • Tighten and Release
      • Each body part lift a few inches, tighten the muscle, and intentionally relax the muscle
      • Notice if you could be five to ten percent more comfortable and adjust.  I always recommend the knees higher than the hips while lying down and seated - the knees lower than the hips.
      • Soothe, soften, and allow
        • soothe with a quiet, gentle touch
        • soften with an exhalation - cooling breath
        • allow what is to be without trying to fix it or create change
    • Tonglen Meditation
      • Say a prayer of dedication
      • Breathe in the feelings of anger, discontentment, frustration, suffering of any type (or someone else's suffering)
      • Imagine it as a dark cloud or puff of smoke, heavy or hot air
      • ​Breathe out the letting go process by releasing the feeling and changing it to a positive emotion
      • Imagine it as a light, white, fluffy cloud of healing
      • Continue as long as needed until the darkness decreases and the light increases.
    • ​Focus, Flow, and Let Go
      • Focus on the breath - especially the exhalation
      • Flow with the breath - feel the chest and abdomen rise and fall with each in-breath and out-breath
      • Let go of each thought that arises
    • ​Metta Meditation (continue saying it over youself, then add in loved ones, acquaintances, colleagues, and even those people who have hurt or harmed you)
      • May I be happy and have the causes of happiness
      • May I be healthy in my body, soul, and spirit
      • May I be safe, free from harm
      • May I be at peace​
These are some of the techniques that I personally use​ to help me as I need to go to sleep or awaken before it is time to get up.  May you be blessed by these techniques.  Remember sleep and relaxation are healing to the body and mind. Too much multi-tasking robs us of the ability to be present and concentrate.