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Exercise at the cellular level
Yoga and Scoliosis
Yoga as a Resource for Transformation and Health
Winter Solstice December 21 2014
Yoga and Einstein?

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Exercise at the cellular level

Yoga is more than exercise; more than a series of movements to promote muscular strength and flexibility even though that might be what we're after, at least at first. Here's an article that points to the link between focused movement (i.e. exercise) and cellular health. 

Yoga and Scoliosis

Periodically, an article or video related to the benefits of yoga appears on facebook and in the news. 

Although we all know the world is full of acclaims for curative products and services, most of the recent news about yoga supports my own finding that yoga, when practiced carefully, consciously and regularly, can be transformative and healing.   

Just as we can engage in a misalignment of our bodies when bending over our car's steering wheels, curving our spines to look at our cell phones, and slumping forward when using our computers, etc. yoga poses, when properly assumed and held, can enable the body to realign itself. As a result, we are often able to experience less pain, feel a greater sense of wellbeing and even look better. On the other hand, yoga, when practiced competitively and without informed guidance or experience, has been known to cause injury and disappointment.

Here's a link to an article about yoga and scoliosis. 


While the pose mentioned is not one I'd recommend for everyone, it is a pose that builds strength, helps with balance and has proven beneficial to me and others. There are many others that can help with knees, shoulders, necks, hips, etc.  

It's important to consider that the body we've each been given is an adaptive miracle that often needs the kind of help that yoga and other healthy practices can provide. Be open to this.


Yoga as a Resource for Transformation and Health

Recently, the story of Arthur Boorman has come to the attention of the internet. If you're interested in ways people are using yoga not only to feel better but to live a more satisfying life, you might want to take a few minutes to watch this dramatic video.  Arthur's story is unique! The life-affirming benefits of a regular yoga practice are not.

Like most skills, yoga is something you learn. Over time and with practice, you not only begin to feel more comfortable and stable entering and holding yoga poses but you begin to reap the many rewards, some of which you may experience after one or two sessions, others may require several weeks and maybe years. 

Yoga's greatest benefits come from a regular, daily or weekly practice that allows the body and mind to gain a feeling of confidence, stability and focus. From this, greater strength, flexibility and peace of mind will come.

Yet while yoga has attributes of being a physical skill, Yoga - as a discipline for "yoking" the mind and body - is much more than that. Rather than being a series of positions one seeks to hold and master, Yoga is an ongoing process - a journey and not a destination.  Each day you practice with a non-judgmental focus on the body/pose relationship, you are moving along a path towards a greater sense of well being. And amazingly, this sense of well being isn't just a mental or emotional experience, over time it can accompany a condition of actual wellness and above average health. 

With good instruction and support by a trained guide, a comfortable and yet challenging yoga practice has been known to significantly address issues related to fatigue; muscle pain; discomfort in shoulders, neck, back and knees and so much more. 

In fact, for many of us, maintaining a regular yoga practice is the go-to therapy for the aches and pains of sport, injury and aging.  It is both preventative and restorative, and suitable for beginning at any age and condition with appropriate modifications and attentiveness.   While traditional medical attention and advice must never be ignored, yoga - when it becomes a regular practice - promotes a level of healing in both mind and body with which most doctors are not trained to understand.

If you are new to yoga or have started and stopped attending yoga classes over the years, keep your mind open and your heart assured.  It is never too late to discover how a regular yoga practice might quietly or dramatically improve your life. 


Winter Solstice December 21 2014

Winter solstice in the northern hemisphere happens this Sunday December 21. While the week of December 15 is the darkest, next week our days become longer again providing us the opportunity for new light and wisdom to awaken our hearts and for the music from our heart to awaken others. 

For your solstice celebration and enjoyment, I've linked a short video produced by a friend of mine featuring a poem I wrote for another friend several years ago. I hope you might find this poem was also written for you. 

Happy Solstice,

Mary 

 

Yoga and Einstein?

Yoga is not customarily thought of as science. 

For Westerners, the process of science involves long periods of research, clinical findings, and published and proven theories that shape our understanding of ourselves and the world around us. None of this was recognized as science 4000 years ago when yoga was thought to have begun.  

Yet for those of us that enjoy exploring the history and meaning behind yoga (see the eight-fold path of the Yoga Sutra), it seems pretty clear its evolution was strongly influenced by a process paralleling modern science.  Like modern science, the science behind yoga was grounded in dedicated study, experience and observation, and a system of analysis and refinement that has carried on for hundreds if not thousands of years.

For this reason, perhaps it should not be surprising that yoga, as a practice of joining body, breath and mind, and of helping us recognize a connection to something "bigger" than our ego-thinking selves, has always had the ability to connect practitioners to some of the same truths as the science coming out of the 20th and 21st century.

Thanks to Albert Einstein and many others, we are now able to know the following both in our science-thinking minds as well as our yoga-experiencing hearts: 

We are all connected ... not only to each other but to all things, large and small. 

Today cosmologists tell us we are 40% star dust, our origins having emerged out of a cosmological stew some 14 billion years ago. And based on recent geneticists' findings, we now know we're more closely related to animals, insects, plants, and fungi than our world view has led us to believe. For instance, new studies confirm: humans and lowland gorillas are about 98 percent identical on a genetic level, and genetic material from plants we eat have the ability to change genetic processors, effecting cell function and demonstrating at a molecular level that our human lives are intimately shaped by the nature both in us and around us.

Using the "hard" sciences of math and physics and the "soft" science of psychology, we are now beginning to find reliable data confirming: 

We are grander than the chit-chatter of our minds even as our ego-thinking encourage us to feel separate, self-important, and sometimes ashamed of who we are. 

Our minds and hearts are grounded in the mysteries, magic, and perfection of the universe even when - at our horror - our species' destructive beliefs and behaviors may indicate otherwise. 

Whether it be through modern science or the science behind yoga, discovering our connectivity to all things and truths as to who we are provide amazing opportunities for expanding our consciousness and transforming our world. 

Here are two quotes from Albert Einstein I find inspiring:  

"The ideals which have lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth. The trite subjects of human efforts, possessions, outward success, luxury have always seemed to me contemptible."

"A person experiences life as something separated from the rest - a kind of delusion of consciousness.  Our task must be to free ourselves from this self-imposed prison, and through compassion, to find the reality of oneness." 

Resources for exploring consciousness and our connectivity to the larger whole include the books, films, and videos of professor and mathematician Brian Swimme, The Institute of Noetic Science founded by Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell, a rich but heady interview with Dr. Amit Goswami, a presentation by NASA physicist Dr. Thomas Campbell, the website Closer to Truth which features a series of interviews with some of the greatest thinkers of our times, and books and videos by Eckhart Tolle.

Best wishes,

Mary


Joining Yoga and a Wedding

This past Saturday I had the pleasure of leading my first yoga session prior to a wedding. What an honor!  

And what a lovely opportunity to join an ancient practice of connecting movement, breath, and rhythm to another ancient practice of celebrating the joining of two people through marriage. 

The participants included the couple - Melissa and Michael - as well as several members of the bridal party.  And although rain and clouds surrounded our early morning setting in the Virginia countryside - and participants seemed a bit groggy from the festivities of the night before - there was a sweetness in the room that affirmed in my mind that the pairing of sacred traditions is yet another way for surfacing the deeper meaning and beauty in our lives.  

Thank you Melissa and Michael for the opportunity.

Yoga as a Practice in Transition

Hatha Yoga, the branch of yoga that's focused on connecting (“yoking”  **) our bodies and minds through physical movement is not just, or even primarily, about holding poses.  Rather, it is about transitioning into, through, and out of poses in a way that enables us to feel fully connected to the whole experience.  And while it is important to attend to the physical dimensions of these transitions - the parts that involve activating muscles and balance while attending to safety and comfort concerns  – setting our attention on being present and conscious as we find and release one posture after another is a key aspect of the Hatha Yoga experience, one that can be as challenging as it is rewarding and often more challenging than the poses themselves. 
 
When we dwell primarily on the physical aspects of the pose, the notion that we are doing these poses or not doing these poses right or "good enough" may become dominate. On "good days," we may notice how stress-free, graceful or energized we feel - and our egos celebrate!  On "less than good days," we may feel stiff, less capable, and disappointed in our inability to hold poses in the way we feel we should. When our yoga practice becomes about judging ourselves rather than experiencing and accepting ourselves, our capacity for yoking our minds and bodies together into a state of greater awareness and harmony becomes less available. 

By anchoring our practice purely in the physical aspect, we miss the benefits of being present and focused in the moments between poses, the moments in which we can become deeply conscious of ourselves and the journey we are taking from one present moment to and through the next.  It is this journey through a series of conscious moments that can connect us to a deeper sense of harmony, flow, grounded-ness and, most importantly, a welcoming awareness and acceptance of who we are.
 
Training ourselves to feel a sense of "arrival" in the moment – every moment - and not just at points of perceived destination is worthy of our best yoga selves.  

So as we transition from one season to another, from summer into fall, from August into September, let's challenge ourselves to focus on yoga as a practice of peaceful transitions, strengthening and stretching our physical practice as well as our hearts and minds.

Enjoy the August wild flowers.


** Yoga, a word from ancient Sanskrit,  is derived from “yoking together” as in yoking oxen or horses.

 

Connections Between Yoga and Health


Summer is a terrific time to begin or restart a yoga practice. 

As we put away our winter coats and find ourselves drawn to outdoor activities, somehow we also begin paying more attention to our bodies and often our health. Nature has a wonderful way of letting us know that summer is a time to relax and bloom!

For those of us who have experienced the "blooming" effects of yoga for years, the fact that more and more scientific studies show a direct relationship between a regular yoga practice and positive changes in health and attitude is reaffirming but not a surprise. Many of us have already discovered yoga as a deeply energizing resource for softening stiff joints, relaxing tight hips and hamstrings, reducing blood pressure, regaining balance, and strengthening and aligning achy shoulders and backs so we can live active, strong, pain-free lives again. 

But all yoga classes and types of yoga are not the same and often have different goals. 

Most often, the type of yoga that is associated with positive health results is not the "hot" or fast paced yoga that often appeal to the physically fit seeking variety in their extreme gym regimes. While "hot" yoga may be "hot" and may even feel "therapeutic" for some of us, it's important to note that the transformative effects being discovered by respected universities and medical schools are most often attributed to practices focused on comfort, stability, regularity, and the connection between mind, body, and breath.  

Here's a recent article highlighting findings you might find interesting. John Hopkin's University among others are featured.

Best wishes,

Mary




Yoga and Earth Day 2014

It's April 22, 2014 and Earth Day.  

Since the tradition of yoga is "grounded" in our connection to the earth and includes the values of non-violence and compassion for all things, consider taking a moment to feel that compassion for the earth today ... and for yourself as part of this amazing blue and green planet.

Those of us that practice yoga as a resource for getting in touch with our bodies, for feeling better, and becoming stronger and more limber know that yoga is about "asanas" or postures. But what some of us might not know is that the ancient wisdom of yoga goes much deeper and wider. 

For an overview of what is called the"Eight Limbs of Yoga" you might want to check out the other aspects of yoga.  Today, being Earth Day, you might find that focusing in on one or several of these limbs is a nice way to celebrate the earth - and you!

Best wishes,

Mary


Yoga is So Much More than Exercise

Many of us view yoga as a form of exercise.  We do it because we believe it makes us stronger, more flexible, revs up our heart, and helps us become more slim and trim.  And we don't do it because we believe it takes too much effort, we don't have enough time, or we think we're too old or out of shape (etc).

But yoga is much more than a system of exercise.  In fact, if you think of yoga on par with running, weight lifting, playing tennis, or evening walking, you've missed a huge aspect of yoga that makes it unique, remarkable, and potentially transformative.

By nature, yoga is an integrative system that, at its core, provides a means for maintaining, healing, and restoring our bodies so they can function more efficiently and more consistently with our physical and energetic natures. 

By focusing on "the whole" - on the deep and connective aspects of our bodies and minds - yoga enables healing and restoring to happen, not quickly, but overtime through practice and focus. 

It also helps prevent us from succumbing to habits that arise because we live and work in a physically demanding world even when we are relatively inactive.  For instance, when we hold our shoulders unnaturally forward as we do when we commute by driving our cars or work by using our computers for hours at a time, we create and perpetuate in-balances. The "holding" patterns realign the muscles in our backs and chest in a way that causes the rest of the body to have to adjust.  And, overtime, these adjustments cause stress and strain frequently combined with pain and limited mobility. 

Even the simplest tasks can cause long-term stress. Activities such as picking up small children using only our back muscles or carrying heavy purses and briefcases in a way that puts stress on one shoulder, or walking to avoid discomfort from an injured knee or hip creates vulnerabilities that will bite back when we least expect it. Although medical intervention may help with the symptoms (pain, etc), the underlying causes are hard to find and addressing them are often way beyond the scope of traditional medicine.  And so, in many cases, the pains we experience as we move toward our forties, fifties, (and even much earlier) become associated with the inevitability of getting older rather than the truth:  Our bodies natural response to misalignment and stress is more of the same as long as we mentally and emotionally disengage from our ability to repattern ourselves.  

Preventing and repatterning our sources of stress - breaking the cycle of stress - is a huge part of yoga.  For yoga - unlike "exercise" - enables us to rediscover our natural balance, strength and flexibility through focused and comfortable movement and rest.  It engages not only our bodies but our minds and breath in a way that reinforces a reduction of physical stress and misalignment. And for many of us, this reduction not only creates an overall feeling of well-being but actually helps minimize the physical and attitudinal affects of long-term stress, dis-ease, and aging. 

Ren Fields, founder of The Healing Arts and Yoga Center in Fredericksburg, VA puts it this way: "Re-patterning is the natural outcome of practicing yoga and, with it, comes dynamic healing and more energy.  By re-patterning the body/mind we rearrange connective tissue, reshape musculature, increase blood flow and even reform thought patterns. We develop the habit of repeatedly unlinking from these patterns embedded in our cell memory and relinking with what is desirable, comfortable and stable." 

For lots of important reasons, yoga is a whole lot more than exercise. It's a powerful means for rediscovering one's body, engaging one's mind, and enjoying life from the inside out regardless of age, fitness, or previous experience. Please tell your friends!