Central MA and Southern NH (978) 227-8297

Anita

Yoga professional, teacher, author of Yogaminute, motivational speaker

Practicing Kindness

Peace in yoga

Kindness towards yourself and others is not an easy thing to do. Reflecting on your use of time, how often does kindness figure in? Can you go just a few minutes without letting negative thoughts come through? As a teacher in an elementary school and as a yogi, I hope to model kindness in my everyday actions, yet I realize that there are some days when it is a struggle, when it is easy and convenient to deflect blame or wallow in negative thoughts.

A few weeks ago my mother passed away. In that time I have been the recipient of so many kind acts that it humbles me.  I'd like to acknowledge some:

  • Nashoba Valley Hospital in Ayer which supplied coffee and snacks while we were sitting with my mom.
  • Kelleye, the nurse on duty, who explained the end of life process to us, checked in without being obtrusive, and stayed passed her shift to give my dad a hug.
  • The neighbors and relatives who brought food, sent cards, and sat with us
  • Other neighbors and friends who went to visit and sit with my dad after everyone went back home to their lives
  • The people I work with who came to the wake, sent me messages and cards, and Jeff who baked delicious bread when I returned to work
  • Other people who know me from my yoga practice, blog, and facebook, who sent words of encouragement

Thank you for your kindness. Kindness received becomes kindness given. Perhaps in the aftermath of this election, our leaders can practice that as well.

 

Preparing For (A) Fall in Yoga

changeYesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.– Rumi

 

It is now officially Fall when we prepare our homes and ourselves for the winter months ahead. How can yoga help? As yogis, we know how yoga can help us physically, mentally and spiritually (see Discover Yoga). As we dive deeper into our practice, we invite ourselves to change with it. Sometimes, these changes are not what we expect. Often times, being open to change can also lead us down the path of pain, disappointment, and rejection. It far more comfortable shut ourselves away from people and situations outside our comfort zone, staying in our little hobbit holes of complacency. Yet when you are stagnant in one place, negative feelings will eventually percolate and bubble over. How long can you be ignored, marginalized, and taken advantage of before you become bitter, depressed, and robotic? I always tell my students who are new to yoga that the hardest poses they will do is centering at the beginning of class and savasana at the end because in these poses you are forced to be quiet and to look within.

So how can yoga prepare you for what lies ahead?

First, it is helpful to know that you are not alone. In this age of social media, there is always someone or some group out there who you can connect with (in a safe way of course). Isn't it true that being anonymous is so much more freeing than being face to face? Just remember to use common sense when posting, getting and listening to advice.

Second, change isn't all bad. You can always take "baby steps" if the change is within your control, go with your gut, and don't second guess yourself. You are your best teacher.

Finally, yoga is made to help you navigate changes. Listen to your breath, listen to your body, follow your heart. Be open to the changes within. Let yoga be your guide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fish Pose (MATSYASANA) for Spinal Flexibility

Fish Pose

Fish Pose

Sometimes it is good to be a fish out of water! Here's how to do Fish Pose:

Nikki

Nikki

  1. From a sitting position with your legs extended (Staff Pose), walk back about two steps and come down on your forearms.
  2. Look towards your feet. As you inhale expand the chest towards the ceiling. As you exhale, let the head drop back as little or as much as you would like.
  3. When you are ready to come out of the pose, look towards your feet, and walk your hand forward towards the hips.

    Patti

    Patti

Fish Pose is beneficial to stretching and strengthening the upper back, opening the throat, stretching the hip flexors and abdominals.

Thanks to Patrick, Nikki and Patti for posing!

 

Olympic Lessons for the Rest of Us

olympic rings

Discipline. Dedication. Determination. These are the three descriptors that comes to my mind when I think Olympic athlete. What we see is only a small snapshot of their sport; we don't see the tears, the disappointments, the missed social opportunities, and the sacrifices of their families and friends. What we see is a fleeting glimpse, oftentimes just a few seconds, of what it takes to be an Olympian. Sometimes it's triumphant; sometimes it's not.

I watched in awe the achievements of these men and women. For a few weeks, Simone, Ally, Michael, David, and many others became part of my family. I can't help but reflect on how these athletes overcame the physical and mental challenges of their sports. I can't imagine what pressure they were under with the whole world witnessing. I can't help but wonder in what direction their lives will turn now that the flame has gone out.

How can the common person, you and I, honor our Olympians? Use the achievements of these Olympics to define what and who you want to be. Change something that needs changing. Take a leap with no regrets. Release the past and create a new future. Take just one challenge and overcome it with the same inspiring, goal setting, work ethic. Redefine what we see as an obstacle and reinvent it into a goal. Whether it is career, family, relationships, and yes, your yoga practice, all of us can use the Olympics as a model.  I challenge you to challenge yourself.

 

Warrior II for Strength

Charley & Bernie in Warrior II

Charley & Bernie in Warrior II

 

Warrior II or Virabhadrasana II is a standing pose for strengthening and stretching. Once you are set up and in alignment, the hardest thing about this pose is holding your arms steady. Here's how to do it:

  1. Start by standing lengthwise on your mat, with your front toes pointing forward towards the short end. Your back foot is turned about 90 degrees. Align your front heel with your back instep.
  2. Place your hands on your shoulder blades to push them down away from your ears. Extend the arms out, turning the palms down.
  3. Turn you head towards your front fingertips focusing on your middle finger. Bend the front knee, peeking down to make sure you can still see your front toe. Make sure your knee is not hyperextended or flopped over to one side or the other. If you want to go deeper into your pose, move the back foot to widen the stance.
  4. Press into both feet, keeping your legs strong. Activate the muscles even further by pressing into the feet and move them towards each other without lifting them from the mat. Let your hips sink down towards the floor and extend through the crown of the head to lengthen the spine.
  5. You can hold this pose in a static position or go into a vinyasa flow inhaling as you move the arms up by the ears, pointing towards the ceiling, and exhaling as you sink back into the pose.
  6. Release when ready and repeat on the other side.

BENEFITS:

Warrior II strengthens the legs, hips and knees. It helps to lengthen the spine and improve concentration. It helps with balance, stamina, and circulation. It can also help you to open the lungs, improve circulation, and provides energy for tired limbs.

 

Bring Yoga on Vacation

women-doing-yoga-overlooking-the-fjord-in-trolltunga-norway_200_cw400_ch400_thumb

 

Toothbrush? Yes. Swim suit? Yes. Pajamas? Maybe. Yoga? Of course! Packing for your vacation does not have to weigh you down and neither should your workout. Consider adding a select group of yoga poses to your daily routine. Here's how!

Start with visualization

Vacations are meant to be relaxing but perhaps you are combining it with a family event which could be anything but! Before you even start your trip, set an intention to find peace and renewal away from your daily routine. Visualize a happy, content, and smiling you. Couple that with your intention ( i.e. I will take pleasure in..) as you take deep breaths.

Master Mountain Pose

2 hour delays during checkin? You won' t be bothered in Mountain Pose. Stand tall, feet about hip width apart. Roll your shoulders up, around,and down. Let you hands fall loosely by your sides as you fully inhale and exhale. This is a pose of strength, which you will need lugging your carry on baggage through security.

Seated Twists

Sitting during long plane or car rides won't bother you if you get up and stretch at regular intervals. Every twenty minutes or so,add a seated twist as well. Start by sitting up tall in your seat, feet flat on the floor. Inhale as you lengthen the spine, exhale as you turn your torso to the right. If you have room, stretch your arms overhead and let them fall to the right as well. Staying on the right side, inhale and use your exhalations to go even deeper into your twist. Your head can be eye level, or looking down if you need to stretch your neck. Repeat on the other side.

Drink water

Staying hydrated is important anyway, but especially as you might be changing time zones, or consuming items not in your usual daily diet. Visualize the water refreshing and cleansing your body with each sip.

Start and End your day with 5 minutes of your favorite poses.

Your morning routine could consist of a few rounds of sun salutation, or a brisk mindful walk in your vacation environment. Literally stop to smell the roses, walk barefoot through grass or sand, or anything else you do not take the time to do at home. Take mental snapshots and add captions such as "Feeling the morning dew on my toes", "Frolicking in the waves", "Enjoying the sunset".

Say No!

Remember this is your vacation! Yes, you might have to do some compromising with your partner or family if you are not traveling alone, but be sure to set aside time to do the things you enjoy. In yoga this is called ahimsa, or speaking the truth.

 

Keep the vacation going by incorporating yoga into your daily life. A few minutes a day is all it takes!

 

 

 

 

Yoga Breathing at Work

Whether you toil alone in a cubicle or interact with customers on a continual basis, everyone at work has to verbally communicate at some time or other. Even in these days of hiding behind emails and tweets, verbal communication and those who master it are assets to any organization.  Here are some yoga breathing techniques to help enhance your verbal communication.

Nose Breathing

The first breathing exercise to try is traditional nose breathing. In this exercise, you simply inhale and exhale through the nose. Let’s try it now while you are reading:

  1. Let’s start with four counts. Inhale through the nose, counting slowly to four.
  2. Hold the breathe inside your body for two counts.
  3. Completely exhale through the nose for four counts.

How easy it that? You’ve just controlled your breathing! You thought about it (which is called being mindful) and you directed your breath. And though you don’t realize it, all these wonderful things are going on inside your body when you do that-like lowering your blood pressure and relaxing some muscles.

throat breathingThroat Breathing

Another method of breathing in yoga is called the Ujjayi Breath. With this method, you breathe in through the nose and exhale through the throat, making a sound in the back of the throat. It produces a sound similar to an ocean wave or like Darth Vader in his big, black helmet. Usually this type of breathing is used when doing a strenuous pose or when you need a cleansing breath. Visualize your children tracking mud onto your nice clean kitchen floor that you just spent time sweeping, mopping and polishing and you get the idea. Practice your counting system, gradually increasing the amount of counts for inhalation, holding, and exhalation.

 

Sitali Breathing

Is your boss giving you grief? Has a driver just cut you off or pulled another equally idiotic driving maneuver? Here’s the yogic breath for you!

  1. Start by rolling your tongue into a tube. Breathe through this tube and feel the cool, calming air.
  2. Move your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Open the lips and keep the teeth together. (Think insincere, phony smile).
  3. Now exhale through your clenched teeth, with an audible hissing sound. Exhale long and hard getting out all that built up tension and aggravation with your breath. Repeat. (See a short video on this one here.)

 

 

Rabbit Pose

 

IMG_0985

Rabbit Pose

 

It's spring and that leads me to one of my favorite poses-Rabbit (Sasangasana). Here's how to do it:

  1. Start on your knees (you can cushion them with a folded blanket). Place your forehead on your mat.
  2. Inhale as you reach back toward your feet. If you can, touch your heels, if not, then place them by your calves.
  3. Exhale as you bring your chin towards your chest and roll forward placing the crown of your head on your mat.
  4. Breathe normally as you raise your buttocks towards the ceiling. Maintain your chin on your chest.
  5. Stay in this position for 3-5 breaths. Release the buttocks towards your heels.

Follow this pose with Child's Pose.

Rabbit Pose helps to lengthen the spine and stretch the back, arms, and shoulders while stimulating the immune and endocrine systems.

Yoga Mat Reviews

Need a new yoga mat? Here is a post that gives you all the pros and cons, ratings, and everything you need to know when you make this purchase. Thanks to Review.com for sharing this with us!