Archive for November, 2014
I grew up about five miles outside of our town village. Our “next door” neighbor was actually a half mile away. So neighborhood gatherings consisted of those within a one mile radius of our home. When I was around nine years old a very nice gentleman moved in next door. His name was Norm and my siblings and I loved that he put up a tee-pee in his yard. Our family welcomed him with open arms. One night I remember mom and dad going to his house, he had asked a few of the neighbors to come by for a party in the tee-pee. Unfortunately this was an adult only gathering. Later that night when my parents got home I saw mom was upset but did not understand why. It wasn’t long after that gathering I was sitting down on my mother’s lap and she told me that Norm was sick. She told me he had AIDS but I didn’t really understand what that meant.
As a kid growing up in the 80’s there was a lot of talk about a newly discovered disease that brought “fear” to our nation. Because there was so little information about AIDS itself, fear was a natural feeling or emotion to have. Contrary to popular belief around our nation, my parents made sure we understood that nothing would happen to us when we spoke with Norm or gave him a hug, that we couldn’t catch what he had. Norm was deteriorating so quickly that mom and dad no longer let us visit him. They wanted us to remember him as the healthy, fun-loving guy. The last several weeks of his life my mother became his main caretaker. If she could spend all day with him and not get sick, then I knew there was nothing to fear from AIDS. This personal experience at such a young age helped me develop an understanding of what it means to help someone in need that we don’t have to fear AIDS.
There has been a steady decrease in AIDS cases being reported which means educating our youth and at risk populations is working. The CDC released a Vital Signs report about HIV Among Youth. The full report can be seen here: http://www.cdc.gov/VitalSigns/pdf/2012-11-27-vitalsigns.pdf
Tomorrow, December 1st, is considered World AIDS Day. If you support the research and education for AIDS, thenrock the red.
“While the finish line is not yet in sight, we know we can get there, because now we know the route we need to take.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
A few years ago I wrote a piece about the power of touch. I would like to revisit that today. With the holiday season around, the energy we give and receive will shift slightly. This is a time of year friends and family gather. Spirits are high and we tend to be willing to give more of ourselves. Part of this is physical contact with others. Maybe U2 had it right back in 1991, in their hit song Mysterious Ways with the lyric, “To touch is to heal.”
I don’t necessarily mean intimate physical contact. Maybe it’s a hardy handshake with a coworker or new friend. Sometimes a kiss on the cheek or embrace someone in your arms that you’ve not seen in many years. It could be holding the hand of a friend in need. Or even a simple adjustment by your yoga instructor.
Much of our society shies away from physical contact. When in fact, it’s what we need more of. The power of touch has profound benefits. It can ease pain, lessen anxiety, and generate hope. I am reminded of a story that a fellow yoga instructor shared. She told her class that she would soon be moving from Denver to NYC. After that class, a student approached her in tears. As they began to talk, the student shared that she goes weeks at a time without having the physical contact of another being. She worked in a cubicle and only greeted her co-workers with a “hello”. There was no boyfriend in her life. She had no pets. And her friends rarely hugged each other. So when the yoga instructor made a simple adjustment during class, it meant so much more than deepening the student into a pose. It was a healing touch.
Maybe it’s time to shed some of our own insecurities. Make the effort, reach out to someone, literally. See all the great benefits that follow.
I had a recent conversation with a new friend about my journey into yoga. Nearly ten years ago I started my own practice as a way to supplement all the physical work I was putting my body through training for triathlons. My muscles were tight, my posture was compromised and my mind was a bit chaotic. Through yoga, much of that changed.
Fast forward a few years, I attended my first 200 hour training. Here I learned much more in-depth about philosophy, the eight limbs, meditation, sequencing, anatomy and the asanas (the physical practice). This training set a strong foundation in what I do and how I approach my own practice and as an instructor.
We tend to over stretch where we are bendy and collapse where we are dense. Finding correct alignment rather than always taking the path of least resistance is a challenge. So this is where we set the foundations for future poses. Simple doesn’t always mean easy. Learning to breathe. Creating space. Taking time. Allowing ourselves to really explore. Instead of using the body to get into a pose, use the pose to get into our body….
During the conversation I had with my friend, I said that I still was not super flexible and that’s why I teach beginners. I love teaching to students who come to their mat for the very first time and can be in the same room as someone who has been practicing for 20 years. Taking a basics yoga class is something we all need.
I think it’s great that people try to challenge themselves with new and more difficult poses. But at the end of the day, a true yogi will say, “Great if I can, Great if I can’t.”
The pics below are me exploring off the mat at Mt.Chocorua in New Hampshire.
Starbucks has pulled out their red coffee cups, holiday music is playing in retail shops and the weather has given us a sneak preview of what it to come for the next several months. We are about to embark on a crazy time of year. Social engagements, work parties, holiday gatherings with friends and family. Our minds start to go a bit chaotic and we lose our sense of mindfulness. It’s time to reign it in.
Below are a few tips to help keep you centered and focused during this time of year.
- Set priorities. Delegate. Learn to say “No.”
- Exercise, continue healthy eating habits, and get plenty of rest.
- Journal. Read. Mediate.
- Take a few moments every day where you eliminate distractions and focus solely on yourself.
By incorporating these tips, you’ll see the difference between Mind Full and Mindful.
Breathing is an action which is one of the few functions considered both voluntary and involuntary. Right now, take a moment to notice the rhythm of your breath. Does it feel like long steady inhales and exhales? Or does it feel a little more shallow or disconnected?
The breath is a great tool we can use to help guide us. When all systems are working together, the breath tends to be soft, free-flowing. But when there is a disconnect, it may feel otherwise. Sometimes we feel this uneasiness when a situation becomes difficult or we experience a strong emotion such as anger or excitement.
Breathing exercises offer us the opportunity to reduce anxiety, stabilize our mood, improve our VO2 and help us feel energized.
- Inhale for a count of 1, Exhale for a count of 1
- Inhale for a count of 2, Exhale for a count of 2
- Inhale for a count of 3, Exhale for a count of 3
- Repeat this pattern, matching 1-1, 2-2, 3-3 for five total rounds
If you need a pick-me-up or are feeling a bit anxious, try the following breathing exercise; it can help to bring energy and clarity to your mind. The first time, do it for just 15 seconds, increasing the duration by five seconds every time until you can complete one full minute. Always breathe normally between exercises.
- Sit upright with your back straight, eyes closed, and shoulders relaxed.
- Place the tip of your tongue against the bony ridge behind and above your upper teeth.
- Breathe rapidly through your nose, in and out, with your mouth slightly closed.
- Keep your inhale and exhale short and equal. Your chest should be almost mechanical in its movements – rapid, like air is pumping through it.
- Try to inhale and exhale three times per second, if you can, keeping your breath audible.
Improve Lung Capacity–
- Stand up tall, exhale all the air in your lungs.
- Slowly breath in to your max capacity, feeling the lungs and belly expand.
- Hold for 10-15 seconds.
- Gently release the air.
- Repeat 3-4 more times.