Yoga Contentment in Nature

Can We Be Content?

By Jessica Jordan

Yoga Sutra 2.42  

santosha anuttamah sukha labha

Santosha: Contentment

Anuttamah: extreme, ultimate, unparalleled

Sukha: pleasure, happiness

Labha: arises, gained, benefit

 

Yoga sutra 2.42 focuses on contentment, achieving unparalleled happiness by engaging the contentment already within us. But how do we put this into practice?

We are constantly exposed to a barrage of television and internet influences as to what is normal and expected of us, contributing to our lack of contentment. “If I just had that one more thing, then I’d really be happy.” “If I could just get a bigger house, then I’d be happy.” And in a world of online shopping, our instant happiness is just two shipping days away.

The happiness we get from acquiring passions is only temporary. We need to find new ones to sustain this sort of happiness. There is no end to it. But true contentment, leading to total happiness and bliss, is in a class by itself. (Desikachar)

In the Western world, I think most of our lack of contentment comes from trying to keep up with some unrealistic measures of who we’re supposed to be. Where does the “idea” of who we’re supposed to be even come from?

Look around. We are trained our whole lives on what we should and shouldn’t do and say. “What should I wear to this event?” “What kind of car should I drive?” “How much should I participate in my child’s sports program?” “If I say what I really think, will it offend someone?”

Which brings me back to my original question: Can we be content? And how do we do it when external forces are constantly pushing us in different directions?

Our contentment comes from within. Sutra 2.42 tells us it’s already with us. It’s a niyama to practice in order to come closer to the happiness that we already have.

From perfect contentment arises unparalleled happiness. (Moors)

From contentment one gains supreme happiness. (Mukunda Stiles)

There are two practices I try to use in my daily life with guidance from this sutra. I ask myself, “Do I really need that?” “Do I really even want that?” “Is that going to make me happier?” “Is that going to make my life better?” By retraining myself to ask these questions, I’ve started to see that there really isn’t much I truly need to be content.

The second practice is one I use before I meditate. I think of all the things I’m grateful for that I already have. This way, I am retraining myself to notice what is already so wonderful in my life and experience contentment from these observations. Believe me, my list of blessings just keeps getting longer.

Jessica Jordan is a Certified Yoga Teacher, 2020 Graduate of the 200 hour River Flow Yoga Teacher Training at 5 Koshas Yoga & Wellness.  She lives with her family in Highbridge, WI. 

Studio Update Covid-19: Staying Present – Moving Forward

We want to take time to thank you for your support of the studio’s transition to online classes during the pandemic. Our number one concern is the safety of every student, customer, teacher trainee, employee, and teacher. We know that technology has its own unique set of challenges, but we hope that you have found your way back to practicing with your favorite teachers and friends.

Our schedule looks different to assure staffing support for technology and to provide varied offerings for Safer At Home schedules. We plan to continue in the on-line environment for the foreseeable future. We are also excited to continue to look for new and varied ways to expand our online offerings, including some special events, concerts and workshops.

It is hard to predict how operating in the studio will work going forward. Rest assured, safety is our main intention and the best public health science available will guide when and how we re-open. Yet we look forward to the time when we can welcome you back into the studio in person to continue to help you with your health and wellness journey. When the time is right, we will be ready.

Many of you expressed interest in continuing to have some online classes even once the studio is re-opened. We hear you and we will explore all suggestions. Inclusion in our offerings is important to us and everyone has different needs and abilities to attend the studio. Some of you may feel at higher risk during business reopening and we want to support you as much as we can.

Many people in our community are struggling with the pandemic, all in their own unique way. We hope that you can use your practice to be strong and steady for yourself and to help others. We have no other option than to get through this together as a community.

We deeply appreciate your referrals to 5 Koshas. There are options available to those who may be in financial distress. If you know someone who needs our services, please encourage them to connect with us at: office@5koshasyoga.com. Staying strong, stable, compassionate and balanced in perspective is more important now than ever before.

With our deepest gratitude,

Jay, Heather, Andrew, Mary

A Different Way of Being through Yoga Nidra

By Jay Coldwell, RYT-200, iRest® Level 2 Teacher

The Yoga Nidra experience.

Yoga Nidra is an ancient technique, sometimes called “yogic sleep”. It’s signature practice is a guided body scan led in a particular order. The sequence of the body scan typically follows the physical organization of the motor cortex and sensory cortex in the brain. By focusing on the felt-sense of the body in this order, you reduce the activity of the Default Neural Network, which is where most of us live most of the time. That function of our brain continually tells us “our story”, and interprets the world around us, with a bias towards finding danger. In its place, we activate the Present-Centered Neural Network, which helps us live in the moment, see things clearly, and find inspiration.  

So, what is this experience like? 

You may find a different way of being. A way that is quite aware of the present moment, that is insightful and non-judgmental. A feeling of groundedness, peace, an inner joy. Sometimes the practice will be experienced as a restorative, transformative deep relaxation, and even sleep. Other times the practice will become an opportunity for deep inquiry, healing and integration. Whatever your experience, it is perfect for you, in this moment. 

 

What is iRest® Yoga Nidra?  

iRest Yoga Nidra Meditation is a modern adaptation of ancient yoga nidra techniques, informed by the wisdom of modern psychology.  Studies have demonstrated that iRest is an effective practice for people with anxiety, depression, chemical dependency, and PTSD. iRest has been brought to many diverse populations, including those who are homeless or suffering domestic abuse. It is beneficial for people living their lives in any situation, in work, school, or home life. https://www.irest.org/blog/how-effective-irest-proof-within-research-helps-too

 

iRest teaches that we can use our time in yoga nidra to notice everything that arises. These may be feelings, emotions, thoughts or beliefs; we learn to welcome them as guests, whether they are comfortable or not. We feel these messengers from the heart, as a felt-sense, and gain insight as to the message being delivered. We may receive insight as to actions we need to take, advice, as it were, from this messenger. These actions may help us to live in harmony with ourselves, with others, and with the world around us. We gain ease in living life that continues to bring joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain. We find that we are not these experiences, rather we are the Awareness in which these experiences arise. We then can welcome and be with the great variety of experiences reality has to offer, and always respond most authentically and joyfully to them, no matter the circumstance. That is iRest Yoga Nidra Meditation. 

How is iRest practiced? 

iRest is practiced in many ways. It may be a 35 minute guided meditation in a quiet place. These extended practices are key to developing skills for daily life. But these skills may be practiced throughout the day in very short sessions, no matter where you are: 

  • It may be taking just a moment to scan the body from head to toe when you feel a need to be more present. 
  • It may be evoking your felt-sense of an Inner Resource or Sanctuary, when life feels a bit overwhelming. 
  • It may be noticing the breath and flows of energy in the body to help decode a message your body is sending.
  • It may be setting an intention for the day or the hour or the moment. 
  • It may be recalling your Heartfelt Desire, the feeling of life living you, as you measure whether this moment, or a particular decision fits what you are here on earth to do. 

As you incorporate iRest Yoga Nidra in your daily life, you may find that you now live more out of a sense of present-centeredness, rather than in a continual repetition of your story, and scanning for danger. You may find life living you.

Jay Coldwell is an iRest Level 2 teacher & Partner of 5 Koshas Yoga & Wellness, offering “Mantra and iRest Yoga Nidra Meditation” on Mondays at 11:00 AM and 5:15 PM at 5 Koshas Yoga and Wellness, 2220 Sherman Street, Wausau, WI. Sample guided meditations can be found at this link: https://www.irest.org/try-irest-now

Journey of Sound

by Flora Jerde, Vibrational Sound Therapy Certified & Licensed Practitioner, Licensed Massage Therapist, Reiki 2 Practitioner.

You may have recently heard the term Journey of Sound, but what exactly is it? The term describes an experience that falls under a broader term: Vibrational Sound Therapy, or VST. A VST practitioner blends vibration and sound with the use of Tibetan and crystal singing bowls, chimes and gongs to induce a deeply relaxed state in the body and mind.  Using sound and vibration, VST activates the parasympathetic nervous system to reduce stress in the body.

Dr. Mitchell Gaynor, Director of Medical Oncology and Integrative Medicine at the Cornell Cancer Prevention Center explains, “If we accept that sound is vibration and we know that vibration touches every part of our physical being, then we understand that sound is heard not only through our ears, but through every cell in our bodies. One reason sound heals on a physical level is because it so deeply touches and transforms us on the emotional and spiritual planes. Sound can redress imbalances on every level of physiologic functioning and can play a positive role in the treatment of virtually any medical disorder.”

Science has proven what ancient cultures have known for thousands of years: sound has the power to heal. Studies show that this practice called “journey of sound” or “sound bathing,” directly reduces anxiety and depression.

Participants at 5 Koshas say they like the Journey of Sound because it’s deeply relaxing and nonintrusive. Participants lay comfortably on yoga mats (or sit comfortably in a chair) with feet positioned toward the front of the room where the bowls are arranged. With lights dimmed and the room at a comfortable temperature, the Journey of Sound begins with a guided meditation, then the singing bowls are brought to life and participants are immersed in 45 minutes of beautiful, multilayered vibrations and tones. As you listen to these sounds, you tend to feel them just as much as you hear them, highlighting how the experience of sound manifests not only through hearing but through physical vibrations and frequencies. The Journey of Sound experience is unique to each person.

If you’re looking for a gentle and effective way to reduce stress or anxiety or would simply like to enter a deeply relaxing state, a Journey of Sound may be just the thing for you!

Flora Jerde, Vibrational Sound Therapy Certified & Licensed Practitioner, Licensed Massage Therapist, Reiki 2 Practitioner. Flora was instrumental in developing the Aspirus Hospice Massage Therapy Program and has worked as a Hospice massage therapist for over 14 years. Flora brings her present and caring approach to her Journey of Sound events and offers individual VST sessions in addition to group sessions. To learn more about Flora and her services, visit https://www.beyondblessedtherapy.com/

February:  Expressing Love & Embracing Self-Love

by Renee Peterson, MSW, RYT, RPYT

It’s the season of love.

Most people think of February 14th as a day to celebrate and recognize the love of their life and those dear to them. It is, and this is important! But what about celebrating self-love? Some people might think self-love is self-centered and ego driven but it is quite different. Self-love is being mindful and aware of what you need to be healthy and productive.

Psychology studies report that self-love and self-compassion are key for mental health and well being, keeping depression and anxiety at bay (Medical News Today, Ana Sandoiu March 23, 2018). When we don’t take care of ourselves and continue on the path of Doing vs. Being, we experience adverse health effects, such as, high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, heart disease, etc. Our inner critic, or in yoga terminology, the chitta vritti, is the monkey mind of continual thoughts running through our minds. We experience these thoughts in the form of ridiculing, judging, and constantly reminding us to remember what to pick up from the grocery store or what deadline is coming up. You get the picture.

According to Patanjali, “If you can control the rising of the mind into ripples, you will experience Yoga.” Practicing yoga is one way to cultivate self-love.

How do we achieve self-love?

Professor Neff, Sbarra and colleagues define self-compassion as a construct that encompasses three components:

1. Self-kindness – treating oneself with understanding and forgiveness,
2. Recognition of one’s place in shared humanity – acknowledging that people are not perfect and that personal experiences are part of the larger human experience,
3. Mindfulness – bringing your attention to the here and now, experiences in the present moment. Bringing about emotional equanimity, calmness, clear rational thinking.

Yoga centers us, grounds us and brings us back to neutral. When we practice yoga we get in touch with our breath, physical body, emotional state, spiritual side, and our heart center. The physical and breath practice of yoga allows us to move with comfort to release tension in our body and quiet the voice of our inner critic. This allows us to feel freer boosting feelings of self-love and kindness. When we are kind and loving to ourselves, we can be kind and loving toward others. Appreciating the simple things in life.

When we are kind to ourselves and acknowledge that we are all ‘perfectly imperfect’ we treat ourself with kindness. When we pause to mindfully reflect on how we are breathing, physically feeling, and listening to our thoughts, we can begin to let go of our stress and tension and lower our levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in our bodies.

Try it: It only takes a minute or two. You decide how you feel.
Take a moment to sit comfortably,
Close your eyes or gaze softly downward,
Notice your breathing. Is your breath short and shallow? Smooth? Hurried? Just notice without judgement.
Now, focus on slowing your breath down.
Smooth breath in, slow breath out.
Soften your physical body with each exhale.
Allow the negative thoughts in your mind to form ripples that move away from your consciousness.
Keep breathing for a minute or two or longer. Smooth inhale; smooth exhale….

Slowly, bring your awareness back to the present moment.

How do you feel?

This may be your first step toward self-love. Simply quieting your mind, quieting your body, and releasing your thoughts.

This is yoga: controlling the rising of the mind. Now direct your thoughts with positivity and kindness to yourself and toward others.

As the song, Seasons of Love*, goes from the musical Rent we have:

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousands moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee….

(The song goes on to teach us:)

Let’s celebrate
Remember a year in the life of friends
Remember the loooooooove
Remember the loooooooove
Remember the loooooooove
Measure in looooooove
Measure, measure your life in love
Seasons of Looooooooove
Seasons of Looooooooove

*lyrics by Jonathon Larson.

Renee Peterson, MSW, RYT, RPYT, is certified as a 200-hour Viniyoga Wellness Instructor (2014-15) and Prenatal Yoga Teacher (Jennifer Colletti, Yoga Center of Minneapolis, 2017) in addition to completing the Yoga Bonding Postnatal & Mom and Baby Yoga Teacher Training Course (2016). She teaches people across the lifespan and is particularly gifted with adapting yoga for a variety of individuals including prenatal and postnatal and people with structural conditions.   Renee has a caring and nurturing approach with her students.  Prenatal, Family Yoga and Yoga for Beginners and Beyond are among Renee’s regular classes at 5 Koshas Yoga & Wellness.  She is also faculty with the River Flow Yoga 200-hour teacher training. Learn more about Renee and her classes at: http://www.5koshasyoga.com/teachers/renee-peterson-ryt-200/

Mind-Body Practices to Manage & Alleviate Chronic Pain

“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”…. Buddhist proverb

Pain is an important part of life. Pain is protective. It helps stimulate the healing response through release of chemicals and hormones in the body. We will all feel pain in our lives. However, pain can also become prohibitive. It can stop us doing the things we want to do. It can become chronic and consuming, where it affects the way we think, and feel and interact with those around us. It becomes suffering.

The best way of dealing with pain is to try to eliminate the source. Sometimes this means medical treatment. Sometimes it means rest and recuperation; breaking the cycle of repeated injury that we can easily fall into. Sometimes eliminating the source isn’t possible though. It continues. There are good days and bad days, changing with the weather, our diet, our mood and for inexplicable other reasons. Some pains relate to diseases or conditions which cannot be cured and we have been told to ‘live with it’.

The Buddhist proverb tells the story. We will all feel pain, and not all pain can be directly eliminated. But do we have to suffer? Mind-body practices have a unique ability to help, especially when it comes to determining whether or not pain leads to suffering, because that distinction occurs within the space of the mind.

On the simplest level body work such as yoga and massage can improve blood flow to tissues, increase lymph flow, help wash away inflammatory chemicals and contribute to tissue healing. The mental aspect of mind-body practices however can help how we process pain. How we react to it, and how we let it affect us. Chronic pain leads to stress, fear and depression which can be reversed. Meditation has been shown to be very helpful for pain from many sources. Science has shown, using scans, that the brain handles pain differently in patients who meditate, even to the extent of different parts of the brain being active. It has also been shown to be able to reduce the amount of pain medication people take. So it is a powerful tool.

Taking part in mind-body practices is not an admission that its ‘all in the mind’, and pain is certainly not ‘weakness leaving the body’ as the military saying goes. One of the core goals of mind-body work is taking a non-judgmental approach. Feeling pain is not your fault, its not because you have not been trying to get better. The very step of calming your perspective to the situation can be a first major step in the pathway to feeling better.

If meditation can improve the way the brain processes pain, then it can alter pain perception, it can improve how the pain affects us emotionally and how we handle our thoughts and feelings in the context of chronic pain. Chronic pain leads to a rewiring of the nervous system that makes it increasingly easy to feel pain; like a memory that becomes ingrained. Meditation has the power to reverse this imprint, as well as improve emotional and psychological well-being.

Combining physical and mental exercise in a mind-body practice therefore has the greatest ability to impact pain by combining the benefits of both. Yoga has a unique power to achieve this and yoga has an increasing amount of scientific evidence to support its power over pain.  Doing a practice regularly and consistently is important. Doing it with a friend or an understanding partner can really enhance things through the benefits of social connection.

While pain may be inevitable, suffering as a result of it isn’t. If you deal with chronic pain consider exploring mind-body practices and deepen your understanding of and relationship with your pain. Wrestle back control of your situation and don’t let your pain become suffering.

Yoga + Mindfulness Tools for Conscious Eating & Embodied Well-Being

When we start to pay attention in an intentional and nonjudgmental way, as we do when we cultivate mindfulness, and thus bring ourselves back into the present moment, we are tapping into very deep natural resources of strength, creativity, balance and yes, wisdom – interior resources that me may never have realized we even possess.  Nothing has to change.  We don’t have to be different or “better.”

– Jon Kabat-Zinn in the Foreward to ‘Mindful Eating’ by Jan Chozen Bays, MD

Are You Ready For A New Relationship to Food, Eating and Exercise?

Are you ready to inhabit your body from the inside out?  Are you ready to listen to your internal cues for what nourishes you?  Have you had enough of scales, diets and external sources of control?  Yoga and the mindfulness tools that are part of this ancient science can re-orient us to our own inner wisdom about what makes us feel well.

How Yoga Helps Conscious Eating

Yoga has a vast set of tools that can be helpful for cultivating conscious eating and emotional well-being around food, eating, exercise and body image.  Here are a few ways that yoga and mindfulness can help:

  • Breath-centered yoga postures done slowly and mindfully can create a feeling of groundedness and rootedness for inhabiting the body we have
  • Yoga posture practice and breathing practices help cultivate stability and strength in body, thoughts and emotions
  • Yoga postures, breathing practices and meditation help manage stress, a saboteur of a positive and healthy relationship to food, eating, body image and enjoyable forms of movement
  • Breathing, meditation and awareness exercises often improve our internal sense of hunger, fullness, thoughts and emotions that ultimately drive behaviors
  • A well-rounded yoga practice helps us continually dig into the well of our own deep wisdom around what helps our energy level, sleep, physical comfort, and emotional well-being

We live in a time where they are so many “shoulds” and “don’t’s” around food, weight and exercise.  The tools of yoga and mindfulness offer an intuitive, conscious and inner wisdom-based approach to food, eating, movement and relationship to oneself.

A Mindful Eating Exercise

As we move through this time of celebrations and resolutions, you might ask yourself, “What is it I really hunger for and how am I hungry for it?”  Here are 6 questions to guide you in your mindfulness around eating:

  1. Are my eyes hungry for this because of its beauty?
  2. Am I hungry for the smell of this food?
  3. Is my stomach feeling hunger or thirst for this food?
  4. Do I have a deep craving for this food at a cellular level and how is my body responding to this food that I craved?
  5. Is my mind running a script about this food, telling me the “shoulds” or “don’ts”?
  6. Is my heart craving this food because it’s soothing or nourishing to me, and what is the story about this food that attracts me to it?

Access Deep Inner Wisdom Through Holistic Yoga Practice

Slowing down the art of eating with simple mindfulness tools can help re-establish a deep inner connection to food and eating.  Moving, breathing, grounding, and reflecting through a holistic approach to yoga practice can help cultivate a sense of inhabiting the body.  By accessing deep inner wisdom, we become more fully aware of what helps us feel well at all levels of the Koshas – physical body, physiology, mind, intuition and heart.

New Year, New Habits


How can you bring your yoga practice into the New Year?

How can you set the intention of a regular mind-body practice while creating the habit of practice?

Practicing yoga is one way to enlist the wisdom of our minds AND bodies, to generate a lasting shift – if we stick with it. A lasting shift happens if we are able to create new patterns, consistent patterns of behavior we call habits.

James Clear has written a book about habits titled Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, a New York Times bestseller. In it, Clear lists four intervention points for habit management.

In order to encourage a good new habit, the intervention points are:

  • To make it Obvious (visible)
  • To make it Attractive (enticing)
  • To make it Easy (convenient)
  • To make it Satisfying (rewarding)

We might not be able to use all the strategies in developing a good new habit, but we can focus on the interventions that are most effective. I am intrigued, wondering how this meshes with one of the joys I find in yoga, that is, yoga is an enjoyable way to challenge our patterns of movement and patterns of mind.

How can we get into the habit of yoga for the New Year?
Here are 4 ways to bring your Yoga Practice into the New Year! 

  1. Obvious Strategy: To enlist the obvious strategy, Clear makes the case for clarity in our intention. Intention is familiar to yoga practitioners. Clear states that people often don’t have so much trouble with ‘willpower’ as with clarity. In order to envision yourself following through, fill in the sentence: I will __(activity)__ on __(day)__ at __(time)__ in __(place)__. Now your imagination can see you actually doing it!
  2. Attractive Strategy: Make a date. Is there a friend who you would like to see more often, and/or one who you know shares your interest? By using a commitment device, you can make your clear intention more attractive in two ways. One, you enjoy the activity and enjoy the person’s company. Two, it is very unattractive to be perceived as the person who backs out.
  3. Easy Strategy – There’s a word for that in Sanskrit, sukham: comfortable, happy, easiness. It is used in Sutra 2.46, Sthira sukhamansanam: stable and easiness in posture and presence. There is a connection between being stable and being comfortable. By finding your steadiness you grow your comfort; by creating ease you grow more stable. We can make things easier for ourselves as we start to cultivate a habit by building the habit with a series of small steps, instead of making a giant leap. The first thing to do is show up. Step one: every day take out the yoga mat with the rule that you’re doing yoga for just five minutes. Grow steady in how you show up, and your practice can expand from there.
  4. Rewarding Strategy: I appreciated that Clear makes a distinction between types of rewards. He points out that bad habits tend to reward us in the short term (donuts taste so GOOD), and good habits (like avoiding donuts) tend to be more rewarding in the long run. Consistent yoga practice provides many long term rewards, but it can be difficult to recognize them because they develop very gradually. In the practice of yoga, we also take the time to notice the rewards in the now. In this moment, we sense gratitude for our breath, for our abilities and the connection between body and mind.

The beauty of developing a yoga habit is that the practice itself develops our ability to pay attention and expands our awareness. By giving ourselves a structured way to pay attention below the neck, we enroll the mind AND body in remembering our intentions.

Written by: Mary Kluz, MS & RYT-200. Mary Kluz is works in organizational health and leadership and is Associate Professor Emerita with the University of Wisconsin- Madison, Division of Extension. Mary is a Registered Yoga Teacher at the 200 hour level with Yoga Alliance and is a certified 200 hour Viniyoga Wellness Instructor through the American Viniyoga Institute/River Flow Yoga Teacher Training School. She teaches weekly yoga classes at 5 Koshas Yoga & Wellness where she focuses on stress reduction and centering.

Gratitude

“I rarely laughed at my husband’s jokes.”

Recently I spoke at the Alzheimer’s Association Conference to support caregivers. After a short yoga practice of breath guided movements, the caregivers participated in a meditation that invited them to pause in gratitude for themselves, the choice they made to attend the conference and for the sacred work they do to care for their loved one, friend, family member.

An attendee caught my attention when leaving the stage and quietly leaned in to share her thoughts with me.

“I realized something during my meditation. I’m the primary caregiver for my husband who has Alzheimer’s. Before his diagnosis he always told jokes and I rarely laughed at them. Now when my husband tells a joke and laughs, I am more engaged. I am grateful for his laughter. We laugh together.”

Gratitude has a sneaky way of creating a substantial shift in our awareness. In many ways it asks us to ‘come to attention’ and be mindful, even if for a short pause.

Gratitude can encompass a grand gesture or a sincere, simple act. When acknowledged internally or externally with our full engagement, gratitude has a potent power that shifts a moment, an emotion, a person, a perspective and even more.

Can we really benefit from offering ourselves and others gratitude? Research continues to remind us – yes!

You’ve Got This – A short pause each day acknowledging what you have instead of focusing on what you don’t have, can shift emotions of sadness, anger and resentment to happiness, hope and appreciation.

Nice to Know You– Research states, saying ‘Thank You’ and acknowledging others contributions can lead to new opportunities and support healthy relationships.

It’s all connected -Body, Mind, Heart – In addition to relationships, studies show that an attitude of gratitude can motivate you to take care of yourself – to be active, to eat food that fuels your body and mind, which in turn can support your rest and sleep.

How do you fit the practice of gratitude into a busy life? Keep it simple. Pause, breathe, observe, give thanks, repeat.

Consider these short practices to sharpen your Attention and Intention. May your gratitude support the everyday grit and grace, fatigue and stamina, tears and joy, grand moments and quiet gestures.

Internal Gratitude:

Pause and Breathe Gratitude
• Place one hand near your heart and your other hand near your navel.
• Take 4-8 breaths observing the pace of your breath and the subtle movement of your body as you breathe.
• Focus your attention on your breath and body, letting your mind help you choose what you are grateful for at this moment.
• Describe what you are grateful for in a word or phrase. Take 4-8 more breaths to inhale and exhale your word or phrase of gratitude.

Gratitude Table at Your Heart Space
• Choose to take at least 5-minutes for this short meditation.
• Sit comfortably, close your eyes, breathe and notice the flow of your breath at the tip of your nose.
• Place your hand at the center of your upper body – heart space.
• Place your attention at your heart space.
• As you breathe connect to a mental image of light and place it at your heart space.
• As you inhale let this light expand.
• As you exhale rest your attention in this light.
• Give yourself time to create a mental image of a gratitude table placed in your light at the heart space.
• Let your personality shine through as you notice the details of this gratitude table that is meaningful to you.
• Mindfully observe what and who you are grateful for within your life and place it on the gratitude table.
• Take time to connect to what is a challenge for you at this time and place it on the gratitude table.
• Mindfully observe what you are grateful for about yourself and place it on the gratitude table.
• Illuminate all that is placed on your gratitude table as you inhale and exhale, breathing gratitude for what you have been graced with, for what is challenging at this time and for yourself.
• Take 4-8 more breaths inhaling and exhaling gratitude.

External Gratitude:

Connect with Someone
• Pause and decide who you’d like to connect with today.
• Sit down and create an email or choose a card to send – telling someone that you are thankful for them.
• Better yet, when you see someone who you are grateful for today, stop and look them in the eye and tell them, “I wanted you to know I am thankful for you.”

A Tangible Table
• Choose a table, a window sill, a shelf in your home.
• Take time to place a few (or many) objects that are meaningful to you on this space.
• Notice each object you choose, mindfully reflecting upon what the object symbolizes for you, individuals connected to this object, how it represents the richness of your life journey.
• Let this be a ‘table’ of gratitude that reminds you to pause, breathe, reflect and offer gratitude for your experiences, challenges, teachers, all that continues to guide you.
• Roll out your mat near this table and let it be a foundation for you as you practice your asana, pranayama, meditation.
• Sit near your gratitude table with a cup of tea, book, journal; or simple pause quietly and reconnect to your breath.

As we enter this season of reflection and thanksgiving, the Teachers and Therapists at 5 Koshas welcome you to:
• Explore and practice within the classes at 5 Koshas. May these support you in your intention and gratitude.
• Ask us for guidance with choosing a special gift for a favorite person or for yourself – a gift card, a book, a yoga mat, a DVD.
• Write your gratitude on a star and place it on a tree of light near the entry of 5 Koshas.

May your experiences this season be a balance of grand and quiet, internal and external; and may the collective energy of all our gracious actions support our intentions for ourselves, our loved ones and the communities we are connected to.

On behalf of the teachers and therapists at 5 Koshas, gratitude for each of you.

Yoga for Fatigue as the Season Changes

Summer has said it’s last goodbye for the year.  The crispness and color of fall is upon us. With the season change comes the very real problem of fatigue for many who live in northern climes.  It’s one of the more overwhelming symptoms of seasonal affective disorder and a troubling symptom for many as the hours of daylight fade.

Fatigue can have different qualities.  It may feel physical (more muscular) or physiological (shortness of breath, no “mo-jo”, lethary) or cognitive (presenting as difficulty concentrating and processing information).  It can be mild at one end of the spectrum or bone-numbing and paralyzing at the other extreme.   A dandelion scattering its seeds is symbolic for the scattering of energy that comes with fatigue.

The ancient yogis devised models for understanding human energy and how to transform it.  We can use these ancient models for the fatigue that comes with the season, health conditions, treatments, grief, or other factors that cause fatigue.

Breath-centered postures, breathing practices and relaxation/meditative practices have the greatest potential to help us transform fatigue.  We can choose postures that build energy, adapt the breath in postures to awaken and nourish, or use breathing practices that feel awakening when we are tired or calm us when stress is depleting our energy reserves.  We can also use yoga to become more sensitive to when we need more energy-conserving practice like relaxation or meditation.

Here are 5 ways to get started with yoga practice tools to transform fatigue:

  1. Awareness – track your fatigue level, stress level, work hours, leisure activities and lifestyle habits such as exercise and diet for 1 week to see if you notice any trends
  2. Asana – do a short practice of 1 – 3 postures to get going in the morning.  Lengthen your breath over 4 – 6 repetitions of the posture.  Standing postures are the most energizing but if your energy is really low, you may need to do something on your back or in a kneeling position.
  3. Breathe – when energy is low but you need to be present or productive, do 12 full deep breaths with Inhale = Exhale and a short 3 sec pause after Inhale.  An example is:  Inhale 6 sec, Pause for 3 sec after Inhale, Exhale 6 sec.
  4. Meditate – spend about 5 minutes visualizing light moving to every part of your body, especially the heart space, center of the head and hands and feet.
  5. Breath-infused Relaxation or Nap – systematically work through the body, sending a deep breath to each major part of the body (R arm, R leg, L leg, L arm, center of the head, center of the chest, belly, abdomen).  Do 1st round with 1 breath, 2nd round with 2 breaths, 3rd round with 3 breaths.  Continue until your body feels suspended in a deep state of relaxation and rejuvenation.  Spend 5 – 10 minutes in this rejuvenation.

Fatigue is often transformed more by a variety of short practice tools that are “do-able” and not too energy-consuming than a monster practice. As your reserve of energy improves, you may be able to exercise more or add stronger yoga practices or begin to work with breathing practices that build your energy reserves.  A yoga teacher or Yoga Therapist trained in the Vedic models of human energy can help you out.

It’s important to work with your health care provider if symptoms of fatigue feel overwhelming or are new without any discernible reason.  If you have trouble functioning at work, home or in your volunteer work, your personal relationships suffer, and you have significant feelings of depression as a result of the fatigue, it’s time to talk with your doctor.

As you move toward the winter solstice, use your yoga practice to support and nourish steady energy and to transform fatigue when it presents itself.