Living with “AHA”!

As we gear up for the season of holidays and festivities, there is so much for which to be grateful and to look forward!  And along with that, there is also the reality of additional tasks to complete, meals to prepare, shopping to do, etc… which can potentially create added stress.

How do we prevent ourselves from riding the roller coaster of emotion during this time?  How can we maintain our “grounded-ness” and stay “heart-centered” despite the feverish energy that may surround us?

This Sunday 11/24 (TOMORROW!), I hope to help answer these questions during my Living with AHA! workshop at West End Yoga in Allentown.

“AHA” stands for ‘A’wareness, ‘H’onor and ‘A’cceptance… 3 key principles of any yoga practice… ON and OFF the mat!  On Sunday, we will explore these principles through movement, breathing, experiential exercises and open discussion.

And to provide a little more explanation of these principles, I’ve included here 3 video clips introducing each principle.  Each of these clips comes from my Yoga Essentials: Fundamentals DVD and hopefully gives you a taste of what we will delve into much further on Sunday!

AWARENESS Video Clip

HONOR Video Clip

ACCEPTANCE Video Clip

I hope you enjoy the clips!  And if the material moves you…. you may want to check out my Yoga Essentials DVD set!  On SALE now for the HOLIDAYS… these DVDs make GREAT gifts! 🙂

$15 for one, $20 for any 2 and $25 for the full 3-DVD set… Contact Me to order!  ENJOY! 🙂

 

Spring Cleaning for Your Inner Being!

Spring Painting - Butterflies in FieldYesterday, we “sprung ahead” by setting our clock forward by one hour.  For me this action is a form of preparation for spring time itself… and I don’t know about you, but I am very excited for spring to arrive!

And as the spring season approaches, so does the anticipation of spring cleaning… in my “inner” world as well as my “outer” world.  It feels good to rid our closets of old things and clean out areas of our homes to prepare our environment for a more open, sunny, “fresh-air” experience.

Equally important, though not as often considered, is the “sweeping of cobwebs” out of our inner environment to allow for new energy and thoughts to flow through us!  To that extent, I’m happy to offer a good way to do just that… “spring clean your inner being.”

In March, April & May, I’ll be conducting my 3-part “Yoga Self-Care” workshop series with one workshop each month at West End Yoga Studio in Allentown.The goal of my “Yoga Self-Care” concept is to teach, support and motivate you to Move Well, Breathe Well and Think Well each and EVERY day!

Here’s a quick listing of dates and topics  (for more details, see below):

March 17th:  Posture Perfect (Move Well)

April 14th:  Just Breathe… (Breathe Well)

May 12th:  Living with AHA! (Think Well)

I hope to see you in March to share in some fun and important learning about how to move with more ease, comfort and grace by simply ‘tweaking’ our posture.

Be Well and ENJOY your Spring Cleaning! 🙂

~Sheetal

Stop and Smell the Pine!

Here’s your friendly reminder to allow yourself to fully ENJOY the experiences of this season and NOT get caught up in the “holiday hub bub”.

The energy of the season can be full of distraction and overwhelm.  I find that the key to staying present and focused amidst this chaotic and sometimes challenging time is to PAUSE and BREATHE!  I do these “Daily Breathers” several times throughout the day as needed.

Every time I notice my mind wandering and being pummeled by way too many thoughts, I simply…

  • become aware and stop what I’m doing (or thinking of)
  • close my eyes (if my environment allows it) or focus on a specific point/object (if I cannot close my eyes at that time) and
  • take 3 DEEP, SOOTHING BREATHS.

As I’m taking these breaths, I make a point to really FEEL the breath moving in and out of my body.  This very basic, simple exercise of mindful breathing is very grounding and will bring you calm and greater focus.  Like anything, the more “Daily Breathers” you take the easier it gets and the more effective they become!

And in case you need a helping hand with this I’m sharing with you a 4-minute Mindful Breathing Meditation audio for you to follow:

Mindful Breathing Meditation

Some of you may have received this meditation from me before, but I’m re-posting it as it’s short and sweet and does the trick.  You can even save the link in your Favorites on your web browser to use it regularly!

During this time of year, it can be easy to forget our most basic yet powerful tool:  our BREATH!

Make good use of it so that as you are getting presents…. you’re also getting present! 🙂

HAPPY HOLIDAYS… AND ENJOY!

 

Remake Yourself…

As human beings, our greatness lays not so much in being able to remake the world as in being able to remake ourselves.   ~Mahatma Ghandi

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What a thought-provoking and powerful statement!  I think it’s especially applicable in today’s world where so much change and so many challenges are presenting themselves.

It can feel overwhelming sometimes when we are bombarded by so much negativity and tragedy in our (so-called) news, politics, and current events.  Even if you want to help bring about a positive change, you may ask yourself, “Where do I begin??!!”

Exactly where Ghandi has directed us… with ourselves!  Instead of getting bogged down and worrying about things outside of us that are beyond our control… if we focus our intentions on how we can help ourselves feel healthier and think better… we can each as individuals make a positive impact not only on our own beings… but on our families, communities and our world!

The only things we have complete control over are our own thoughts, intentions and actions.  If we each commit to improving and elevating our own well-being — that is how we feel physically, how we think and how we interact with others  — we initiate our own little ripple effect.  When you start feeling better in your body, thinking with more clarity and calm, managing your emotions and stress with ease… you indirectly affect others by example and energetic interaction.

We’ve all experienced something of what I’m describing before… If you’re in a room full of people and someone who is carrying a lot of negativity walks in, everyone feels it.  It drags everyone else down as well.  But if someone who is uplifting comes into the room, it elevates everyone in the room.

Now imagine if you are working to feel the best that you can each day… Your positive ripple effect collides with my ripple effect which collides with someone else’s… get the picture?!  And soon… the similar positive energies converge to effect larger and larger populations over longer periods of time… this is how movements are started!

If you are tired of feeling like a victim or a bystander… if you want to be a participant in something positive, then I challenge you to commit to yourself and your own well-being!!!  If necessary, start with small simple steps that only require 10 – 15 minutes every day.  For example:

–        take a walk outdoors

–        read something inspirational or educational

–        spend time by yourself to journal or reflect

–        take multiple “Daily Breathers” (just pause from what you are doing and take 3- 5 deep, slow breaths)!

The key is to take some action for YOURSELF every day! And if you are ready to learn even more powerful self-care techniques or just need some support and motivation, come talk to me… I would love the opportunity to help you!

Here’s to remaking ourselves…

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To learn more about yoga self-care and personal wellness programs, visit www.anyonecandoyoga.com… download chapters of my complimentary E-Book on the Home page, check out my 3-Part “Yoga Essentials” DVD set from the Shop or simply contact me.

With Great Responsibility Comes Great Power!

Amidst all the heated talk about healthcare these days, I read a commentary by Dr. Mark Hyman that made a lot of sense to me so I feel compelled to share it.  Read Dr. Hyman’s article.

I share Dr. Hyman’s belief that the majority of the focus in the healthcare debate is misplaced.  I am particularly “on board” with one of his key suggested strategies for improving our wellness landscape…. He termed it “intensive lifestyle therapy.”  To me, this equates to taking charge of our own health as individuals and as communities.

Certainly, making health-care affordable and accessible is important and there is definitely a need and a place for modern medicine.  But that is not what will make us healthier human beings.  Instead, what if we just didn’t have to go to the doctor or emergency room that often??  What if we didn’t have to depend on a gazillion medications??  If we lowered demand of these things, doesn’t it make sense that costs would automatically go down??

Politics is certainly NOT my area of expertise or interest, so I usually stay away from political debates.  That being said, promoting wellness IS my passion and mission and in that regard I will say that so many of us have given up our personal power.  We’ve given up our power to convenient processed foods that don’t nurture or energize us, to “quick-fix” pharmaceuticals that just cover up our symptoms (not to mention they cause many other side effects!) and to the medical community with the mindset that they can somehow “fix us”.

This makes me think of a very profound quote from our pop culture… “With great power comes great responsibility.”  (And yes, for all you comic book fans out there… that is a quote from Spiderman! :-))  While we can debate over whether the great powers in our society are acting with great responsibility, I believe that as individuals we can make a difference by simply following the converse of this statement… “With great responsibility comes great power.”  If we take back responsibility for our health, we take back our power!

How do we do this?  Commit to breaking those bad habits that sabotage your health and in their place create new ones that empower your well-being.  I know… you’re thinking, “This is easier said than done!”  And yes, you are correct… but it is this type of crucial shift made at the individual level that will make a true difference in our society.  As Ghandi said, “As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as in being able to remake ourselves.”

This same week I also came across some interesting tidbits in the latest Yoga Journal that speak to this idea.  The first one was about the CEO of Aetna Insurance who “after a skiing accident left him in constant pain and partially paralyzed, … found relief through yoga and alternative medicine.”

Since then, he’s led the charge to build an evidence base that proves the healing and therapeutic benefits of yoga.  Here are some statistics from these studies:

–        1 hour a week doing yoga resulted in lower stress in individuals

–        33% decrease in stress was found after individuals took yoga stress-reductions classes

–        $2000 in health care costs was saved annually by individuals with the lowest stress levels compared to those with the highest stress levels.

The 2nd piece of interest in the Yoga Journal reported on a new elective course at Boston University School of Medicine that “teaches medical students both the practice and science of yoga.”  A research fellow at the university co-created this program after being inspired by his own personal yoga practice.  He stated “yoga is a way for medical students to take care of their own well-being, allowing them to become better doctors.”

For me, it’s very gratifying and inspiring to see the acceptance of yoga as not just a type of exercise but as an integrative practice for good health in our daily lives.  I know it can seem like an overwhelming task, especially if you have been dealing with chronic pain or stress for a long time… but I speak from experience when I say that you can make a difference for yourself one small step at a time!

If any of this conversation has resonated with you and you are looking for some simple ways to take back your power, allow me to help you with these offers (For more information or to register for any of these, contact Sheetal):

–        Meditation in the Park:  Join me Sun 7/22 from 10-10:45am in Alburtis’ Lockridge Park to learn and practice basic meditation.  If Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, we’ll reschedule. 🙂

–        Complimentary Consultation & Sample Session of my Personal Yoga Program:  This is one-on-one personal training with a holistic approach!  Using yoga, breathing techniques, mediation & mindset practices, I provide a structure that includes education, support, motivation and accountability to help you achieve your wellness goals whether they be physical, mental, emotional and/or spiritual.

–        Yoga Self-Care for LMTs (6 CECs):  In this one-day intensive, licensed massage therapists and bodyworkers will learn practical yoga techniques and principles to not only prevent injury, strain and burn-out but also enhance the massage therapy you provide your clients.

We can either allow the status quo to pull us down, or we can take responsibility for ourselves and rise above…. With great responsibility comes GREAT power.

I look forward in sharing in your journey!

Sheetal

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I’d love to hear from you…. share your comments below!  To learn more about or to register for the programs listed above, contact me.  To learn more about Anyone Can Do Yoga, visit www.anyonecandoyoga.com.

Stuck in a Rut?!

Stuck in a Rut?! (Recording)

I recently read an online Yoga Journal article that I feel inspired to share with you.  For me, this article is timely and inspirational because it validates my focus to a more therapeutic form of yoga services.

Allow me to give you the ‘short and sweet’ of it… entitled “Change for Good”, the article explains that we, as human beings, have specific energy patterns (called samskaras in yoga) that manifest as habitual tendencies.  Often, these habits are disempowering and even destructive.  While the author of the article speaks specifically to samskaras as being of a mental or emotional nature, I would suggest that they also manifest as physical patterns as well.  Let me give you some examples to better explain….

Physical:

–       How do you hold your posture: do you tend to lean forward or round your shoulders?

–       Do you have certain common movements or actions you habitually do without even realizing it?  Like always crossing your legs a certain way, tilting your head to one side, or crinkling your forehead when you’re thinking?

Emotional:

–       Do you get defensive when in conversation with specific people?

–       Do you get fearful or discouraged by specific situations and circumstances?

Mental:

–       Are you able to stay focused on one train of thought without getting derailed by other thoughts?

–       Do you make assumptions about your abilities or what you are capable of?  For example when faced with a new challenge, do you automatically think, “I can’t do this” before you even consider what’s involved?

–       Do you have a tendency to procrastinate?

Now if you found yourself relating to any of these examples, you are not alone.  We ALL have our own physical, mental and emotional tendencies!  They are part of the human condition.  Our samskaras have developed over years of experiencing repeated actions, movements, circumstances and thought processes.

Over time, they become our “modus operandi” or blueprint for how we live our lives.  In the article, the author uses the metaphor of “mental grooves, like the rivulets in sand that let water run in certain patterns.”  This offers a great visualization to further understand samskaras.

Imagine your mind as soft, unprinted sand.  As you go through your life experiences and you act or move in a particular way, or think and react in a certain manner to similar situations, grooves are being carved into this sand.

Each time you repeat these actions and thoughts, those grooves get deeper.  As time passes, these grooves become deeply engrained in your mental foundation.  And you “fall into” them whenever those same or similar conditions and circumstances present themselves.

Thus physical, mental and emotional habits are formed and unfortunately, many of these internal patterns can feel very disempowering – like we repeatedly make the same mistakes or perhaps continue to injure our selves in the same area.  Certainly, I am simplifying to illustrate the nature of samskaras, but this is the essence of how they work.

The good news however, is that we CAN change them.  Just as a wave can wipe away the markings in the sand, we too can clear our old grooves.  We have the ability to re-draw the lines of our blueprints and create new empowering habits.  And when we work toward shifting these patterns, we embark on a journey to truly transform our well-being.

This is EXACTLY the crux of yoga.  All the poses, breathing exercises, mantras, visualizations and meditations that we do are tools… tools to help us retrain our bodies to respond and act with more ease and comfort.  Tools to help us re-pattern our thoughts and emotions so we feel internally clam, clear and “uncluttered”.  This combination of retraining our bodies and re-patterning our minds is what allows us to transform our health to …what I like to call… an “elevated state of being-ness”.

And this is EXACTLY the mission of the Therapeutic Yoga program that I have been developing for the past several months.  It offers a systematic structure that supports you in your daily effort to retrain the body and re-pattern the mind to be healthier and more empowered.

So I encourage you to read the full article (http://www.yogajournal.com/wisdom/1719 ), and if it inspires you to want to take charge of your health, give me call… I would love to share more on how the Therapeutic Yoga Program can transform how you feel – in mind, body and spirit!  OR better yet… come see me this weekend (Aug 13/14th) for one of my 3 Therapeutic Yoga workshops and get a live experience of how powerful this practice can be.

Here’s to creating new empowering grooves…  Be Well and ENJOY ~ Sheetal

Got Tension?

Maybe the better question to ask is “Who DOESN’T have tension?!”  For the majority of us, experiencing a certain level of mental and physical tension has become commonplace.

In this context, tension can be defined as:

1.  A strained state or condition resulting from forces acting in opposition to each other

2.  Mental or emotional strain; stress

Thus we can experience tension physically when parts of our bodies feel strained or opposed.  When we have repetitive or “stuck” thoughts and feelings, we also experience mental and/or emotional tension.

Yoga is an excellent way to address all forms of tension.  Through a consistent yoga practice, we not only train our minds and bodies to release the tensions, but we also attempt to discover their sources.

How does yoga teach us this?  In my therapeutic yoga approach, there are 4 key components to relieving the body and mind of stress and tension:

1.    Awareness

2.    Breathing

3.    Patience

4.    Surrender

It all begins with awareness!  Many of you who have taken my workshops/classes before know that this is the first thing I always teach.  Sometimes, we aren’t even aware of the tensions we hold because we’ve gotten so used to them!

For example, do you find yourself crinkling your forehead when you think?  Does squeezing the muscles of your forehead somehow make you think more clearly?  NOT!

How about when the temperature in the room suddenly drops… Do you find yourself shrugging and lifting your shoulders?  Does this action bring you warmth?  NO!

And most of the time we aren’t even aware when we do these things because we are so conditioned to them.  So first of all, we must become aware… we must observe our minds and bodies and ask ourselves, “Where are our holding patterns?”  It is this type of introspective observation that can also help us to “undo” our conditioned responses.

Once we become aware of the areas we hold our tensions, we begin to breathe into those areas.  I know what you’re thinking, “Sheetal, how the heck do I breathe into a part of my body?”

Its actually quite simple… just imagine it!  As you stay aware of your area of tension, imagine your breath flowing into that area… slowly and gently soothing the area and causing the tension to dissipate.  This is a simple form of visualization that can be surprisingly powerful.

The 3rd key, which for many people is the most difficult, is to be patient with yourself!  Only when we give ourselves the patient time to feel supported and safe will our bodies respond.  It’s like wanting to come to a gradual stop while driving a car, but we keep giving it gas.  If we don’t let the foot off the pedal how can we expect the car to naturally slow down?!

Similarly, we must take the time to stop “fueling” our bodies and minds and instead let them come to a gradual halt where they can then unwind or do whatever needs to happen.

Finally, the last key is to surrender.  Just allow yourself to let go.  Sometimes, even when practicing first 3 keys we fail to completely release certain tensions because we are unwilling to give them up.  I know it sounds strange but it goes back to the idea of our minds and bodies being conditioned to respond in certain ways.

“Muscle memory” may sometimes be so engrained into our beings…. or certain thought patterns may be so woven into our psyches that we must willingly and conscientiously surrender them in order to truly release the tension we hold.

And while all of this may seen logical or at least easy enough to understand, it’s the “doing” that is the tricky part!  Like anything, these techniques to releasing tension take practice.  But, believe me, they are well worth the effort.  In fact, I’ll be so bold as to say that the Keys to Releasing Tension are the also keys to proactively staying healthy!

So I invite you to join me in June to learn AND practice these techniques.  Check the Calendar for dates/times/locations in Eastern PA.  And at the end of the workshop when I ask you “Got Tension?”…. you may just be surprised by your answer!

Happy Joints… Healthy Body!

Last month, I talked about Yin versus Yang energies.  And I introduced the notion that we could benefit from more Yin-like experiences to balance out the prevalent Yang-like activities in most of our lives.

This month, I’m offering you the perfect opportunity to experience this!  In my May Therapeutic Yoga workshop, we’re going to learn how to stretch our joints.   Yes, you heard me right…. We’re going to STRETCH our joints!

Now I know what you’re thinking… “Sheetal, you’re nuts!  You’re not supposed to stretch your joints – you can really hurt yourself by stretching them!”  And my response is that you are absolutely correct…. IF you are thinking of stretching your joints in the same manner that you stretch your muscles.  IF you try to use the same type of approach then you may most certainly harm your joints and that is NOT recommended!

Ok – so now that I’ve completely confused you, let me explain further…

At our joints, we primarily have a variety of connective tissue – things like tendons, ligaments and fascia.  All of these things bind or “connect” the muscles, organs and systems of our bodies.  Without connective tissue, we would not be able to hold our “shape” as humans.

When compared to muscle, connective tissue is Yin (hard and inelastic) while muscle is Yang (soft and elastic).  This key difference is EXACTLY why we cannot exercise and stretch connective tissue, or for our purposes – our joints, the same way that we exercise and stretch our muscles.

This idea of exercising and stretching the joints at all may seem foreign to most people.  We all understand and accept that exercising and stretching our muscles are important because that’s how we can stay strong and flexible.  But working our joints & bone is equally as important.

To quote Paul Grilley, a leading authority on Yin Yoga which focuses on joint health:

I have known many muscularly powerful adults who are physically incapacitated or uncomfortable because of joint problems….  Bad ankles, bad backs, bad knees – these are the injuries that force athletes to retire and old people to shuffle around.  Yin Yoga postures gently stretch and rehabilitate the connective tissue that form our joints.

So while taking that run, weight training, cycling, power & flow yoga are all great examples of working the Yang parts of our bodies (like muscles), therapeutic and yin yoga are effective methods for exercising the Yin parts (like our joints).  Both are important and for most of us, it’s matter of learning how to balance the two in a way that suits our own bodies.

That’s why I’ve chosen the topic of “Maintaining Healthy Joints” as the focus for this month’s Therapeutic Yoga Workshop.  The manner in which therapeutic yoga and yin yoga postures are experienced is very similar; thus, including some yin yoga as part of our therapeutic yoga practice is natural.

Check the Anyone Can Do YOGA calendar for dates/times and locations.  Remember… Happy Joints lead to a Healthy Body!  🙂

Empower Your Self with Self-Care!

To bring the instrument to its natural state of wholeness, regular care and maintenance are ideal.  The body speaks to us through sensation, not necessarily words; so as we listen to what is tight and where there is stress, we can begin to use the tools of self-care.  Through a practice like yoga, we begin to follow what we need in each moment to feel good in our body. – Cheri Clampett, “The Therapeutic Yoga Kit

I am very excited and fortunate to be participating in a Therapeutic Yoga training with Cheri Clampett in a few weeks!  This quote from her book “The Therapeutic Yoga Kit” nicely describes our bodies as instruments needing regular maintenance and care.

Now this may seem really obvious… “Duh Sheetal, of course we need to take care of our bodies!”  But my question back to you is “To what extent do we do this and more so… do we even have the proper skills for self-care?!”

For many of us, I would argue, “NO”.  And I would also add that the reason we don’t have self-care skills is because in our modern western world, we are not taught these skills.  We are taught to eat well and exercise (whether we practice this as a society is a different story!)… but we’re not taught how to TRULY, DEEPLY and CONSCIENTIOUSLY rest and recover!

And I qualify rest with the words “TRULY & DEEPLY” because I am not referring to simply plopping on the couch and ‘zoning’ in front of the TV!  😉  And I use CONSCIENTIOUSLY to point out that I’m not talking about the rest we get when we sleep.

What I am referring to is the ability to still our bodies and minds in a way that allows us to listen and become aware of what the body needs in any given moment.  It is in that place of quiet, patient awareness that the body’s “relaxation response” kicks in and true healing occurs to counteract the daily stresses we encounter.

Be honest with yourself… what do you do in your daily life to give yourself this level of self-care?  Do you feel you have the knowledge to do what you need to do to feel better, healthier?

I’m not posing these questions to you to make you feel bad about yourself or point out deficiencies…  my intention is to first, make you stop and think!  And second, to suggest that it’s never to late to learn self-care skills!

And this is exactly why I have fine-tuned my own practice and teachings to the therapeutic yoga approach.  What I find empowering about therapeutic yoga is that its tools & techniques are gentle, supportive and non-aggressive.  They include things like:

– meditation & visualization

– breathing exercises

– supported yoga poses

– intentional movement

– self-massage.

These practices can be easily applied to rehabilitative situations and chronic conditions as well as for simple, everyday “maintenance”.

Just to give you a taste of a simple deep breathing and meditation technique, I’ve included below an audio for you to follow.  In just this quick technique, we are practicing deep breathing, maintaining awareness in the moment and quieting the body and mind.  All important things for inducing the relaxation response.

Try it out and let me know what you think!  Post your questions or thoughts regarding therapeutic yoga – I’d love to hear from you!

Breathing Meditation

And if you are in the Eastern PA area and want to experience therapeutic yoga, check out my website calendar for my monthly workshops – February’s focus: ‘Relieving Low Back Pain/Tension’.

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