Monday, December 21, 2009

How I Celebrated the Winter Solstice

Today we celebrate the Winter Solstice which is considered to be the shortest day of the year. Yes, it's the time of year when the days are short and the nights are long. But, it also marks the beginning of the return of the sun. Each day from now on means a little more sunshine for us. Longer daylight hours mean an increase in positive energy. I sure hope so since we just recently had a snow storm here, lost power for a bit, and in general, everything looks pretty gray and funky out there! But, that being said, I decided to practice sun salutations this morning in an effort to get myself in a positive position!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Double Tree

In just about every yoga class I have taught - or attended - we practice some balance poses. The one you are probably most familiar with is the "tree" pose. In "tree", the standing leg is firmly rooted on the ground. Bending your other leg at the knee, slowly raise the foot so that it is pressing against the standing leg's inner thigh. Press the knee back to help open the hips. When you are ready, your hands come together in Namaste position. Then slowly raise your arms up and balance.

The fun begins with "double tree" pose...otherwise known as "partner tree". Paul has been practicing yoga with me pretty regularly now and is becoming quite limber and flexible. He doesn't think so...but he's really improved a lot! The picture above shows two "tree huggers" doing the partner tree pose. We've included this pose in our practice and find it's really helped with our balance. We sometimes end up wobbling a little, though, then laughing a lot!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Keeping track...

Earlier this month I decided to set a goal regarding my yoga practice and study. I've been keeping a log where I list the amount of time I practice yoga along with a short description of postures. This can be either at home, my personal practice, or in a class. I'm also logging the amount of time I spend reading or studying yoga, and including any special training or seminars that I complete as well. They say that goals are usually more effective when they are specific. And I find that if I write something down, and I can see it in black and white, I'm more apt to stick to it. Keeping track of your progress allows you to give yourself a pat on the back and, in turn, helps to keep you motivated.

So, my initial goal is to reach 200 hours of practice/self study in one year. As much as I try to do something along these lines every day, it doesn't always happen. Regardless, I am pretty faithful to my practice and here are the results:

Personal practice: 12 1/2 hours
Self-study: 10 hours
Seminar/training: 5 hours
Total for November: 27 1/2 hours

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Partner Assisted Yoga

At a recent yoga class, the instructor had the students pair up to do some partner assisted stretching of the hamstring muscles. While I have no problem - and actually welcome - "assists" from the teacher, I am a little nervous about having another student work on me...and vice versa. My partner was a tall, young woman who was probably somewhat stronger than me. While I was in the reclining position, my partner was to take my outstretched leg and gently guide it towards my head. Which she did - and by no means am I faulting her. But, my leg was shaking (no, make that trembling) and although it didn't hurt, I'm always concerned about going "over my edge" and injuring myself.

Anyway, I'm just wondering here how other yoginis feel about working with partners.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Moonbeam - a ray of light from the moon...

What, you ask, does the title of this post have to do with yoga? Well, actually, a lot. I used a "Moon Series" of poses taken from Yoga for Movement Disorders in my class this week. Moon poses are similar to the seated sun salutations that we have been doing in that the poses are done in a continuous flowing sequence. Although there are many variations on the moon series, this particular version suited our class well.

Moon series - seated variation:
1. Seated mountain pose
2. Crescent moon
3. Goddess
4. Seated Forward Bend with Twist
5. Seated Hamstring Stretch
6. Goddess
7. Crescent moon

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Yoga Teacher Training - Students w/Parkinson's Disease

On Saturday, I had the privilege of attending a program sponsored by the Mass Chapter of the American Parkinson Disease Association. This was a training class for yoga teachers who may have students with Parkinson's Disease. I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to educate myself about this particular disease - as well as to learn about some strategies for modifying my yoga class to help guide students who may have this or other movement disorders.

The training began with a yoga practice led by Renee LeVerrier, RYT, and author of Yoga for Movement Disorders. We began the class with some breathing exercises and Renee later explained that she spends a lot of time in her classes "cueing" and "counting" so that movement is coordinated with the breath. We "warmed-up" and proceeded to several seated poses for stretching. The standing segment included a lot of movement with music. In a pose called "willow" you begin by standing and then twisting from side to side keeping your arms loose by your sides. You are shifting your weight from left to right - when moving to the right, you lift your left heel off the ground - and then do the same on the opposite side. You could have a lot of fun with this pose by varying your arm and hand movements.

In Renee's classes, relaxation is a treat not to be missed! She says that she uses every prop available which would include pillows for your head, eye pillows, blankets, bolsters, you name it! Having attended one of her classes, I can attest to the fact that I was comfy, cozy in a "nest" of blankets and utterly relaxed.

After the yoga practice, we were given an overview of Parkinson's Disease by Cathi Thomas, MS, RN. She had an excellent slide presentation called "Sharing Hope in Parkinson's Disease". She also emphasized that patients have found yoga quite helpful in improving their quality of life. Tami DeAngelis, PT, MSPT, GCS, outlined the links between physical therapy, yoga and activities of daily living for those with the disease. Tami also provided some practical considerations for teachers. Consider the time of day when classes are scheduled. Early in the day may be difficult. Students could be stiff and medications may not have taken effect yet. Try to involve care partners in the program.

Included in the training packet was a DVD title "Exercise Ideas for People Living with Parkinson's Disease. This DVD featured a 77 year old, Bill Hillman, with the disease. Mr. Hillman devised a personal exercise program using items commonly found at home. We also received a book called Be Active which is an exercise manual put out by the American Parkinson Disease Association and a book titled Parkinson's Disease and the Art of Moving by John Argue.

This was a wonderful seminar!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Let's Make A Deal!

Today, one of my students asked me if she should be doing yoga every day. We got to talking and I explained to her that it is my goal to have a daily practice - but, sometimes "life" gets in the way and I don't always practice what I preach. On our way out from class, we discussed the benefits of a daily practice and decided to make a pact. We would each practice 2 poses - just 2 to start - daily for the next 2 weeks. We decided to do Mountain Pose and Downward Dog every day. Just spending part of each day doing these 2 poses is certainly doable - and now we're "accountable", too. Thanks, Fran! This was just the motivation I needed today.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Easy Does It Yoga Class

On Friday I had a little daytrip for myself and it all began in Rose Russo's "Easy Does It" yoga class in Newburyport. Rose is a kind and gentle teacher and a Reika master as well. After spending a few minutes with her, you could almost sense that she was a healer. She made me feel welcome from the start. Although the class is called "easy does it", it's not as easy as you think. It's important to remember that your body may not be in the "easy" place today. But, no start where you are and go from there. We did several standing poses using the wall as an assist. The wall provides a lot of stability and acts like a security blanket if you're feeling shaky. This was a timely experience for me as I've been neglecting my practice of late. Sometimes you just need a little (gentle) push in the right direction and that's just what I found in this class. :)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Starting Over

We've just returned from an action-packed week travelling to New York City and Washington, D.C. We saw several shows, did lots of sightseeing, had fabulous dinners out, and walked, walked, walked!!!! Of course, I had every good intention of keeping up my daily yoga practice on this vacation...but this was not to be! I could tell you that I was busy - or tired - or pressed for time -and that would all be the truth. Regardless, I didn't practice and now I must start over.

So, today, I began with warm-ups and gently urged my body to open and respond. From there, I practiced standing and balancing poses. I can balance for a few moments now and realize that I'm not where I used to be...and that's ok. From here, I practiced sun salutations - slowly, deliberately, mindfully. At times my body would "creak" and I felt like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz needing oil!

But, gradually, showing myself a little compassion, the stiffness dissolved and I felt at ease. Starting over, in fact, is probably a good thing for yoga practitioners. It puts you in a position to take things slow, to breathe, to notice, observe.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Yoga and Osteoporosis

Once I was diagnosed with osteoporosis (May, 1999), I developed an almost borderline obsession with my posture. Even now as I write this, I consciously just brought my shoulders back and sat up straighter. It was the "dowager's hump" that had me in a state. But a recent article published by Reuters News Service indicates that yoga may decrease this age-related curve of the upper spine. A small study was conducted by Dr. Gail Greendale (UCLA) where a group of elderly study participants did yoga for 6 months and the results were compared to a group who did no yoga. The yoga group saw their upper spine curve lowered by about 5 percent. The yoga group met 3 days a week for 6 months. During their yoga classes, they used breathing techniques and did poses to increase flexibility and strength in their back muscles. Granted, this was a very small study with only about 120 participants in all. However, it is just one example of the benefits of a regular yoga practice...and another reason to spread the word to our senior population.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Seated Sun Salutations

Peggy Cappy introduced me to a Sun Salutation version that can be done entirely while seated in a chair. I've been practicing this and wanted to try it out with my class - but, for some reason, I've been dragging my feet and have put it off. Until Monday, that is! We started off slowly and did the poses in incremental steps. Lift your arms up and kiss the sun. Arms out to the side and bow to the earth. We did that a few times and then followed with the additional poses.

Lo and behold, not only could they do it...they loved it!!!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

"I think that I shall never see..."

...a poem lovely as a tree." ~Joyce Kilmer

My gentle yoga class has met a half dozen or so times now and each week we practice balance poses - and especially tree pose. It's not an easy pose for those with balance issues. We use a chair and do the pose in stages. Stage one has one leg rooted on the ground while lifting the heel only of the other leg. From there, we may lift the heel and toes for just a few seconds. When they are ready, the leg comes up - but we're still holding on to the chair for support. Often, one or two students will take their arms up and start to wobble. I tell them not to worry about swaying because "trees sway" and for some reason or other, that always cracks them up. They start to laugh and lose their balance! Up again! Down again! All the while smiling!

What a treat for me - they enjoy yoga!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Random Yoga Thoughts...

  • I need to fit short yoga practices in throughout my day.
  • And keeping a yoga journal would help.
  • Yoga postures definitely do a lot to relieve stress.
  • As does massage.
  • And add meditation here, too.
  • But relaxing my mind is a real challenge for me.
  • The library has a variety of yoga books, tapes, DVD's.
  • And, I'm building my own mini yoga library.
  • Yoga Mind & Body: Ali MacGraw is still one of the best tapes, though.
  • The "pretty room" is where I practice yoga at home.
  • It's not fancy but there's a sense of serenity there for me.
  • Honor your body - love that phrase!
  • Another one - It's a practice; not a perfect!
  • And, how about downward dog being called the Mother Superior of all poses?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Green Tea Yoga Studio

Today I had the pleasure of attending a class in Core Yoga offered by Green Tea Yoga Studio. The studio itself is quite beautiful and clean. There were plenty of mats, blocks, straps, etc. My instructor, Elaine, has been practicing yoga since the 70's and teaching full-time since 1994. I arrived at class somewhat early and had a chance to chat with Elaine for a few minutes before the start. She told me that she focuses on the anatomy to help the students find the wisdom in their own bodies. And, so, in the class, we concentrated on finding our core and using it for support and for strength. Elaine was soft-spoken and gentle; she played soft music throughout the class. She asked permission to make hands-on adjustments and I was particularly grateful for that. I think I've found my "home" base. For further info, please check out:

Friday, August 21, 2009

Enlighten Up!

This documentary by Kate Churchill follows journalist Nick Rosen around the globe where he studies different schools of yoga practice and philosophy. It was Churchill's intent that a genuine yoga practice is there for those who search for it. Her search, along with Rosen, took them from New York City and Woodstock to Hawaii and the great subcontinent of India.

"This simultaneously tongue-in-cheek and reverential docu will entertain the unenlightened without alienating the faithful" (Ronnie Scheib, Variety). I thoroughly agree. The film was a treat to watch and was filled with humor and passion. At one point, Rosen meets with Dr. Madan Kataria, the laughter yoga "guru". Rosen finds himself laughing at the laughter and asks Dr. Kataria how laughter yoga could possibly be considered spiritual. Kataria replies that laughter lifts your spirits. Your spirits are lifted...what's more spiritual than that?

Yogis, yoginis...go see this movie! You will appreciate it.

Monday, August 17, 2009

First Day of School

Well, not really "school"...but it was the very first day of the yoga class I'm teaching at the Topsfield Council on Aging. I visited the site last week so I could get a feel for the room. It's large with long lunchroom type tables and folding chairs. There are windows and the room was well lit. There was a corner table where I could stash my stuff and electricity was available for my mini boom box. So, today I arrived about a half hour early and met with the Director of the COA. Lydia was excited to have the yoga class up and running and helped me set up the room.

The students trickled in and I greeted them individually. Soon a young man walked in and he was carrying a large camera! Lydia wanted to publicize the class and explained that this fellow is from the local newspaper. (Had I known he'd be there for the entire class, I would have "dolled up" a little bit!!) Anyway, there were 10 people in all and none of them had any past experience with yoga - which was a good thing! I could then start with the basics - which I did - and they were enthusiastic and seemed to enjoy it.

I was a little nervous at the beginning of the class and I guess that's to be expected. But, I was really happy with the way it turned out and I think this is going to be a wonderful experience for me.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Moving Mountains

Take a look at the picture on the left of a woman in Mountain Pose. The body is in perfect balance and her posture is beautiful. I do this pose frequently and feel the difference it makes in my posture.

The other night I wanted to observe myself doing this pose step by step. So, in front of a mirror, I turned sideways so that I could properly check my alignment. I planted my feet and then firmed up my thighs. At this point, I glanced in the mirror. I then tilted my pelvis and gently brought my shoulders back and down. Wow! These two subtle movements made a huge difference in my alignment. Although I seldom practice in front of a mirror, I recommend checking yourself from time to time. You'll be pleased with the results. :)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Restorative Yoga

Everyone has an occasional sleepness night. Mine was on Saturday night and so when I got up on Sunday morning, I was really fatigued - and crabby. And, I just didn't have enough energy to unroll my mat and begin to practice. Then, I remembered reading about restorative yoga in Yoga for Life by Alan Finger. Restorative yoga can help you if you have injuries, physical limitations, or if you are just plain tired, like me. The postures are held for longer periods of time and this, in turn, gives the body what it needs to relax and heal. He suggests a sequence of 4 poses and recommends using several props such as folded blankets, blocks, etc., so that there is less strain on the body.

I concentrated on Viparita Karani (Legs up the wall pose) since I find this most relaxing and beneficial for me. In Finger's book, he tells us that "By doing this simple inversion, you redirect the blood flow in the body and remove some of the pressure that builds up in the legs and feet. This simple reversal can be powerfully rejuvenating."

An eyebag over my eyes increased the feeling of relaxation and my spirits were much improved!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Poetry in Motion

Take a look at this beautiful candle holder demonstrating the Upward Facing Dog pose! Is that poetry in motion or what!
My girlfriend, Linda, and I have been doing yoga together for about 4 weeks now. She's making great progress and has been tremendously helpful to me in improving my teaching skills. Yesterday she presented me with this gift and I just love it! Thank you, Linda!!!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Let there be Light!

During yoga teacher training, Peggy and Karen scattered index cards in the center of the room. We were told to select a card, keep it face down until everyone had a card, and then together, we would turn the card over. Each card had one word on it and we then had to use that word as often as we could during that day. On two out of four days, my word was light. Now, what could be the meaning of that, I asked? But, here it is several weeks later and I find myself seeing light everywhere. There's moonlight, sunlight, daylight, and I've been told to lighten up and I'd be sure to see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Here's an affirmation, though, that makes great use of the word:

"The light within me is healing my entire body." Sounds like a plan.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A trip to your mind

I'm thinking of using a beach in Bermuda as a visualization when doing final relaxation. One look at this picture and I am totally relaxed!!!! And, if I think about it, I can recall the pink sand, soft as a pillow - I can see the clear blue sky - I can feel the warm ocean breeze - I hear the sounds of the tide coming in - the tide going out...and in the background, I'm listening to the tinkling music of a steel band. What is amazing about relaxation exercises is that you can truly experience all of the sensations if you just "let go". Of course, this is easier said than done...but that's why it's called a practice!!!!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Where does the time go?????

For some reason or other, time gets away from me. Here it is a Sunday night - a day of rest, mind you - and I barely had 5 minutes to sit down!!!! But, I did manage a mini yoga session early this morning. That seems to be the best time of day for me to do yoga. It's before breakfast and the "to do" list and I'm not as tired as I am at the end of the day. So, this morning I did some warm-ups, some balance poses, and a nice circular flow that I found in Renee LeVerrier's book, Yoga for Movement Disorders. I finished up with a shoulder stand and then relaxed with "legs up the wall" pose. Ahhh, that felt good!!!

Friday, July 31, 2009

When the student is ready...

Since I've returned from yoga teacher training, I've been practicing my teaching skills on various friends and relatives - actually anyone who would be willing to spend an hour with me!!!! Haha - seriously, I gave a mini-demo to my sister, and then had my mother over for a full hour class. Mom was quite the good student and very eager to "do it right" - and, believe me, I kept telling her that she was doing just fine. But, here the teacher was a student, too, as I learned from this class with my mother. There were some movements that I thought would be relatively simple for her (wrist circles) and yet this was somewhat confusing - and there were some balance poses that I initially thought would be too challenging - and she did them with ease.

So, this was a real learning experience for me and I really appreciate the opportunity to test drive my teaching. It also helped to time this class as I wanted to make sure I could comfortably fill an hour. And, it goes without saying, my mother thought I was fabulous!!!!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Yoga Teacher Training

I recently completed the Yoga Teacher Training offered by Peggy Cappy in Peterborough, NH. What a wonderful experience! I met so many beautiful people and learned so much! The highlight of this training for me was observing Peggy's gentle yoga class in action. This particular class of seniors has been meeting every Tuesday morning for over 20 years! I was so impressed by the agility and enthusiasm of this group. Watching them perform sun salutations was like watching a beautiful ballet.

Speaking of agility, I'd like to introduce one of my classmates - Linda - from Washington, DC. Here she is performing a split:

Wow! Isn't she something!!!!! Well, I'm certainly not "there" yet - but, one day...

Monday, July 27, 2009

How this all got started...

When we were in Florida last year, I started regularly attending yoga classes at the Joyful Yoga studio. And, although I have practiced yoga (off and on) for probably the past 15 years or so, this particular yoga class really stimulated my interest once again. The emphasis was on "practice" - not perfect. And, the instructors were kind, gentle and patient. My goal then - as now - was to develop a daily practice. So, I had to shift my perspective a little bit and break out of my routine. Even if I only have 10 minutes to spare, I can use that 10 minutes to improve my overall well-being with my daily yoga practice.