When life gets busy, especially during the upcoming months of seasonal colds and holidays, people often neglect their wellness routines. But the catch is that this can create more illness and stress in their lives and ultimately take up more time than the workouts would have in the first place. I teach a weekly class at an office, and last week after class one of the participants said, “I really didn’t have time to come today but I’m glad I did.” I responded, “You didn’t have time not to.” Yoga has as many benefits as there are people who practice it, but two major effects which are important at this time of year are stress reduction and immunity strengthening. Holidays can be joyful but also stressful and it is important to take some time for yourself. A yoga class forces you to slow down and look within, which helps to remind you of what is truly important when you feel you are being pulled in many different directions. Yoga also helps deepen the mind-body connection so that you become more in tune with your own biological processes. Being aware of your body can help to prevent some illnesses from coming on and reduce the severity of the ones you do catch. And when your body is strong and healthy your immune system can fight germs more easily. The great thing about having a yoga class right at your workplace is you don’t have to find the motivation to fight traffic to get to a gym or studio. A group of co-workers can pay individually to have me come teach a class, or your corporation may be willing to sponsor the class as part of an employee wellness initiative. I can teach the class before or after work or at lunchtime. Contact me to schedule your own workplace yoga class.
Archive for October, 2012
Many adults today have back issues, particularly the lower back. Even children are beginning to suffer from the “technology slouch” that many of us adopt as we huddle over our computers, phones, and steering wheels. Several people close to me have back problems, and in talking to them about their experiences in physical therapy I realized that many of the exercises were based on yoga poses. They were prescribed modified versions of cat/cow, bridge, chair, sunbird, cobra, reclining twist, and reclining extended hand to big toe pose. Together these poses stretch and strengthen the spine in all directions. In yoga the importance of caring for your spine is always emphasized. I make a point to remind those in my adult classes to draw the shoulders down and back to open the chest, while at the same time tuck the tailbone and pull the belly in to protect the lower back. In my kids classes we also talk about sitting tall with a straight spine and the benefits of good posture. Louise Hay talks about how mental patterns can affect us physically and so we can use positive affirmations to reverse the process. Upper back issues may be linked to lack of love, mid-back issues to guilt, and lower back issues to financial insecurity. Opening the chest helps counteract our constant slouching as well as stimulate anahata, the heart chakra, which is connected to love and compassion. Drawing the belly in and up, or uddiyana bandha, helps to stabilize the lower and mid-back as well as stimulate manipura, the navel chakra, which is connected to self-esteem and discipline. So practicing yoga not only helps ease back pain on a physical level, it also goes deeper to help heal the energetic and emotional bodies. Remember, you only get one body, and your spine is the main support for its framework, so be kind to your back.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about taking cues from the universe. Now, I don’t believe that everything is literally a sign directed at me, but I do think that what we notice makes a difference. Where attention goes energy flows, both in yoga practice and in life. If we practice awareness of our bodies during a posture we can focus on a particular area of the body. If we practice awareness of our surroundings during the day we can create meaning out of seemingly insignificant occurrences. Recently I have been busy, which is good for my career, but can get exhausting at times. I have also been trying to take challenging classes so I can bring more energy and postures to my students. I planned to go to a certain class this week that is notoriously difficult, but when I arrived I found that there was a substitute teacher and she specialized in gentle yoga, so the class was much slower and focused on mindful movement and taking care of the body. At first I was a little annoyed but then I began to relax into my body and I realized it was just what I needed. Even something as small as getting stuck behind a slow-moving car on the interstate struck a nerve with me, telling me to take it easy. I remembered a running joke my parents had when I was a kid: they would say in a slow, even tone, “There’s no need to hurry.” (Apparently that’s what the contractor who oversaw the building of their house used to say.) Sometimes circumstances change and you get different cues. There have definitely been times or situations when I needed to learn the opposite lesson, to get motivated and “just do it.” By maintaining a regular yoga and meditation practice I feel better equipped to listen to my body and my intuition, to take these little cues from the universe which help steer me in the right direction.