Stamina & Soul – Pandemic Ponderings Part 2

“Your Mother is in the closet with the kids.”

I paused and tried to picture this.

My Dad continued, “I’m not sure if she’s teaching the kids something or trying to find a new perspective?” His voice trailed off as I stared at my cell phone.

“Send me a picture Dad. I’ve got to see this.”

Calls and texts have been part of my parents’ communication from Michigan since early September when they began helping my niece and nephew with their virtual learning.

“We hope we are doing this right,” has been their weekly sentiment.

Personal hesitation, uncertainty and curiosity can be revealed within the sphere of daily tasks right up through digesting world updates.

2020 has put the spotlight on how we relate to external situations and internal reactions in addition to reviewing ‘how we used to do things’ and whether we are ‘doing it right.’

A daily check-in can be: “Am I in a teaching moment, learning moment or am I staying the same?”

It takes more than physical endurance to navigate these experiences of life.

Mental health and soul stamina need attention too. Strategies to nurture mind and soul are not always hiding in the closet.

Here are accessible and effective strategies to integrate into daily life:

MIND-BODY RESET
• Stand, sit or move to supine
• As you breathe in and breathe out, wiggle your toes on your left
foot and fingers on your right hand
• Exhale and soften your toes and fingers
• Next wiggle your toes on your right foot and fingers on your left
hand
• Exhale and soften your toes and fingers
• Continue for a few minutes then pause for 4-8 breaths to let your
placement of attention be in your body

CYCLE STRESS THROUGH WITH SOULFUL CONNECTIONS
MoveHow can your body move today? Standing, seated or supine, choose a place indoors or outdoors. Take 5 minutes and move your body. Wiggle, dance, sweep arms into mountain pose, march, walk, yawn, smile.
BreatheInhale & exhale deeply. Stretch while you breathe. Then explore this for at least 4 breath cycles: a 4-count inhale, pause gently at the peak of the inhale, then 4-count exhale, pause gently at the base of the exhale.
ConnectCall, facetime or zoom a friend or family member. If able, reconnect with a favorite person & take a walk. Write a letter & send it by ‘snail-mail.’ Stay connected to your lifelines. We are all trying to figure it out & support systems are vital.
Smile & LaughDo something that sparks your joy. Even if a memory conjures up a chuckle or a full belly laugh. Welcome the endorphins and go with it.

Hugs and stuffed animals. Eventually, I heard the details surrounding Grandma’s closet adventure. Fortunately, she didn’t get a cramp in her foot. Everyone was laughing. For future statistical research, at least three individuals and numerous toys can fit in a 6 x 4 closet quite comfortably. Yet the perspective is much sweeter when all involved embrace in a hug.

Keep Learning – Stay Connected:
Music: Check out Coldplay’s ‘A Head Full of Dreams’ and dance. Listen HERE

Podcast: Brene Brown’s Unlocking Us with Drs. Emily & Amelia Nagoski
on burnout and how to complete the stress cycle Listen HERE

What would you like to add to this list to support each other within our collective, ongoing life practice?
Look for this blog when you visit Facebook at 5 Koshas or Heather Van Dalfsen and Instagram with Heather Van Dalfsen to share your thoughts.

Photo Credit: Photo taken by Heather’s Dad, Jim Thompson

Pandemic Ponderings

Tempers, Tools & Pandemic Ponderings, Part 1

What. Are. You. Doing?!

A low, loud voice attached to an angry face bellowed to me from an open car window. The honking came next to punctuate the intensity.

My emotions rallied and my stress response accelerated.

What WAS I doing?

The drive north over the Mackinac Bridge had become a bottleneck of cars trying to complete the arduous entry into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

The weight of the muggy, summer weather a hovering reminder that there was nowhere to go.

The stand-still traffic literally made me ‘sit’ with everything. I felt so uncomfortable.

I tried to shrug my shoulders and release my grip on the steering wheel. Re-routing my eyes to the shades of blue within the waves of water, shifted my racing thoughts.

I remembered to breathe. 

I remembered I had a choice to respond more and react less.

My efforts weren’t grandiose yet they were sincere. My body and mind realized the nervous-system-brakes were pumping with each inhale and exhale.

What have I been doing?

What have any of us been doing?

Stress, anxiety, anger, grief.

Ease, vitality, peace, calm.

How were we all going to continue to navigate the ‘traffic jam’ of experiences and emotions within ourselves, especially living within a global virus and universal ‘reset’ of systems, institutions and perspectives?

Cleaning the windshield of our perception to channel our speech, actions and thoughts in a direction of healing, compassion and actionable next steps can be gritty, personal work.  Yet it can be the fuel that moves us forward.

What are some of our best tools to leverage our internal guidance system that supports the bridge between physical, mental, emotional, even spiritual wellbeing and growth?

Keep it simple and sincere:

Breathing, moving, observing and reflecting to access and explore:

  • Functional movements and managing the stress response
  • Discernment as to what needs immediate attention
  • Feeling the ebb and flow of emotions

Singing, mantra, meditation and play are additional tools are outlets to express ourselves and release pent up energy while also strengthening transformation and connections with the world we live in.

All of it is a practice. On the good days it takes practice so on the challenging days we can respond more, create choices and move forward.

Take a few minutes or more each day to practice. Choose from the list below and observe the effects of your practices throughout the day. How does your body feel? Where is your attention? What thoughts and emotions do you experience? What supports you to express yourself?

 

Hands to Head to Heart

  • When able, touch the earth with your hands, take 3-4 deep breaths.
  • Practice bringing your attention to the textures, colors and smells.
  • Repeat the mantra: I am here and I am breathing.

Short Breath Practice

  • When able, place one hand at the heart space – upper body and one hand on the stomach
  • Feel your body’s subtle movements as you inhale and exhale
  • Inhale a sense of fresh oxygen and space – Exhale a sense of release
  • Take 3-4 more breaths inhaling through the nose (fresh oxygen and space) and exhaling a loud sigh through the mouth (release)

Soft Pull of Gravity

  • Place your feet on the ground, sense the soft pull of gravity that keeps you connected to earth
  • Inhale -sweep your arms wide and up, Exhale- sweep arms wide and down, 3-4 repetitions
  • Repeat the mantra: I am standing on stable ground. I am creating stability within myself.

 

For those in-car or other moments – reminders you are not alone

Music: Check out Trevor Hall and Brett Dennen’s ‘Put Down What You Are Carrying’
Listen here: https://g.co/kgs/5ngUuP

Podcast: On Being with Krista Tippett – Shaping Grief with Language with Gregory Orr
Listen here: https://onbeing.org/programs/gregory-orr-shaping-grief-with-language/

 

What would you like to add to this list to support each other within our collective, ongoing practice? Look for this blog when you visit Facebook at 5 Koshas or Heather Van Dalfsen and Instagram with Heather Van Dalfsen to share your thoughts.

Photo Credit: Photo taken by Heather Van Dalfsen

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.

Free

“Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into treesThe winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”

-John Muir

Free yourself from winter hibernation +

Free yourself from cold weather tension and stagnancy +

Free time to be outside, breathe, move and participate +

Free outdoor yoga classes in the best ‘green spaces’ of Central Wisconsin =

Better physical and mental health!

Your outdoor ‘green space’ yoga practice invites you to reconnect with the earth, stretch to the sky, inhale fresh oxygen and exhale the doldrums of winter.

Sip in the sweet benefits of outdoor yoga:

  • Be a Kid Again – stretch on the ground and look up at the sky
  • Practice Concentration – foster one-point-concentration as life happens around you
  • Hone Your Proprioception – that advanced sense of your body in space that helps you with stability, balance and movement
  • Plug in to the Totality of the Experience – be one with the beauty as well as the bugs
  • Engage Your 5 Senses and Be Inspired

For a personal practice, rolling out your mat on your patio, in the grass or beside your favorite water provides a familiar space to take 10-15 minutes to breathe and stretch into your favorite postures.

Group classes in ‘green space’ invites you to find balance with/between your heightened five senses and the ease of tranquility and calm.

The grass that tickles your hand, the birdsong that makes you look into the trees and the bug that wants to join you on your mat also provide you the opportunity to stop, breathe, observe and be present.

Shunryu Suzuki-roshi, author of ‘Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind’ shares, “If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything.  In the beginners mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.”

Be free, be curious, be open to your beginners mind this summer.

Learn about all the Outdoor Yoga Classes 5 Koshas will be sharing this summer HERE, pre-register for classes: HERE.

Re-solve-lutions

Resolve – settle or find a solution; decide firmly on a new course of action

Revolution – to overthrow a social order in favor of a new system  (Google.com)

Could ‘New Year Resolutions’ be overthrown?  What if they were erased from our culture? How would we react? What would we talk about? Would we still have a purpose? We seem to want to solve and re-solve things for ourselves, equating a new year with an amped up willpower to change. Making resolutions has become an important ritual.

Many scholars and sages have written and discussed the importance of having a purpose, committing to something that creates positivity in life every day, beyond fleeting ideas only at the beginning of the year.

With many scientific and soulful studies of ‘self,’ there is momentum of a ‘revolution of the resolution,’ helping us dig deeper to support our health journey.

Here are some healthy perspectives to support you in your purpose – all year:

Gratitude. Take 5- 10 minutes to write down what you are grateful for. Research has proven that a simple ‘Gratitude List’ has high impact on our ability to be kind and realistic with ourselves and others.  We are hardwired to change ourselves and be better.  Your ‘Gratitude List’ can keep you grounded in what is positive and what is purposeful in your life.  For more on the science of gratitude, read this article. And because we live life through our mobile apps, try this Gratitude Journal 365

If/Then. Write down your ideas, intentions, goals, plan of action for the year (yes, more documentation). Take the time to sit down with no other agenda except to grab a pen, paper or iPad and document what you are interested in for better health and wellbeing in your life.

Then dig deeper and document when and where you are going to carry out these intentions with an If/Then statement. For example, ‘If my alarm wakes me 30 minutes earlier three days a week, then I will take 20 minutes to participate in my home yoga practice.’

To help you problem-solve when challenges arise, take your documentation one step further, anticipating the barriers keeping you from implementing your intentions.  For example, ‘If I feel too tired when my alarm goes off, then I will get up and take 10 minutes for my home yoga practice, fixing my favorite cup of coffee soon afterwards.’

According to psychologist Peter M. Gollwitzer, this ‘implementation intention’ of creating an ‘If/Then’ statement will help you implement your goals.  “The forming of the plan is conscious,” Gollwitzer explains. “The execution is unconscious.”

For more details on this research, visit the article on Forbes.com.

Silence. One of the most powerful tools you have within yourself is the ability to be quiet, inhale and exhale and observe the present moment as you breathe.  Your yoga practice, a winter walk or sitting for 5 minutes with your phone and computer silenced will offer you time to center yourself.

In his book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Deepak Chopra describes it as the ability to, ‘Slip into the gap…that silent space between thoughts.’

Even with a plan of action for health intentions and predicting barriers that may arise, Chopra reminds us to set intentions yet, ‘Relinquish attachment to the outcome, giving up rigid attachment to a specific result and living in the wisdom of uncertainty….Enjoy every moment in the journey of life….’

Your quiet time will give you respite from the static of life so you can practice focusing your attention in the present moment and trusting the development of your intentions.

Everything takes practice.  Donna Farhi reminds us in her book, ‘Bringing Yoga to Life’ that your yoga practice is a parallel to life, ‘When we begin Yoga Practice, we are signing up for a lifelong apprenticeship with our Self and to the Self.  And as in any apprenticeship, many skills can be learned only over a long period of time.  There are no shortcuts and no crash courses, and there is no replacement for the satisfaction and richness that follow in the wake of such wholehearted commitment.’

In the spirit of the new year, may you offer yourself the opportunities for health and wellbeing: with gratitude, a written plan, openness to all possibilities and a commitment to a life-long apprenticeship of learning.

Let your new year resolutions be revolutionized.

Creativity

“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.” — Pablo Picasso

Most of us are aware when we are stressed: the shortness of breath, tension in areas of the body, stomach twinges and mental meltdowns indicate how much stress we are dealing with.

It also invites us to slow down, breathe and acknowledge what is triggering our stress.

‘Letting go’ of stress is easier said than done, because there is always stress in life.  Practicing living a balanced life within stress instead of becoming the stress is an ongoing practice.

Opportunities fostering creativity are proven to help us stand with a bit more steadiness and balance on the tightrope of life.

In 2010, the American Journal of Public Health published a review titled, The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health.  In that article, researchers analyzed more than 100 studies and found that music, writing, dance and art can improve health and our ability to heal ourselves.

The National Institute of Health encourages us to participate in hobbies that involve color, creating, building, drawing, photography, movement, music and singing.

Did you know? Singing releases substances that serve as the brain’s own natural pain-killers and increases the “bonding hormone” that helps us feel a sense of trust. And when we listen to music, levels of molecules important for fighting infection can rise.

Bebrainfit.com states, “When you get totally immersed in a creative activity, you may find yourself in what’s known as ‘the zone’ or in a state of ‘flow.’

This meditative-like state focuses your mind and temporarily pushes aside all your worries. Creating art trains you to concentrate on details and pay more attention to your environment. In this way, it acts like meditation.”

Many of you have cried out, “But I’m not creative.”

It doesn’t matter.  Take advantage of opportunities that let you engage in art, music, and movement and encourage creativity in others.  You and your health depend on it to thrive.

Here are some easy opportunities in the month of November at 5 Koshas:

  • DANCE – Belly Dancing every Tuesday at 7:00p with Anna
  • MOVE AND MEDITATE – Tai Chi every Thursday at 10:30a with Lee
  • MEDITATE – Offered in a variety of classes, mini-retreats and retreats
  • CONCENTRATE AND LAUGH – Kali Martial Arts every Thursday at 4:15 with Jamie

For more reading:

Violence

Just the word ‘violence’ catches our attention.

We are inundated with violence in movies, media; an overload of destruction and hurt and an ‘underload’ of kindness and compassion.

For many, MMA – Mixed Martial Arts – is synonymous with some type of combat, rough and tumble contact and yes, even violence.

So where does the Filipino Martial Art of Kali fit in at a yoga studio?

Kali, derived from a matriarchal culture, carries a rich history, steeped in a balanced approach of awareness, adaptation and assimilation.  Communicating through the language of movements by individuals imprinted with centuries of survival.

Kali offers the modern day warrior – the desk dweller ‘in the trenches’ at work, the professional mom ‘battling with her toddler,’ the 80 hour a week healthcare professional ‘under attack,’ the individual preparing ‘to invade’ the supermarket to buy groceries – many physical and mental health benefits:

  • Feeling stable in feet and legs
  • Fostering mobility in hips up through shoulders
  • Practicing hand-eye coordination
  • Deepening concentration
  • Activating the whole brain
  • Developing team building skills
  • Increasing confidence

5 Koshas Martial Arts teacher Jamie Sparling states, ‘I have students of all ages with attention deficit challenges who are looking for more focus and calm.  I have students who want to stay mentally sharp because their family has a history of dementia.

These are real challenges and Kali can be a non-violent outlet. The use of the left brain and right brain within rhythmic movement patterns is similar to Yoga, Tai Chi and dancing just to name a few.  All of these practices simply help us ignite our innate ability to adapt.’

With over 20 years experience as a practitioner and teacher, Sparlings most in depth study and practice derives from his time with Guro Dan Inosanto, student of world famous martial artist Bruce Lee.

In a Kali class, Sparling provides students with a tailor made practice that fosters growth in mind, body and spirit.  He also invites students to continue to learn about the parallels of Kali and Yoga, with classes using yoga to prepare the body and mind for the variety of fluid movement patterns experienced within Kali.

Awaken your compassionate warrior and overload on the benefits – you’re invited to Yoga & Kali classes on Thursdays, 4:15p at 5 Koshas Yoga and Wellness.

 

 

 

Fuel

How do you fuel yourself?

  • Working-out
  • Outdoor activities
  • Food
  • Family and friends
  • Music
  • Quiet…?

Recently a student stated, “Remind me what the 5 Koshas represent.”

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Boredom

Did you grow up in a family where there was little time for boredom or do you remember days of announcing to anyone that would listen, ‘I’m bored!’

As an adult trying to stay physically active and mentally sharp, boredom can be a challenge.

Muscles get bored with repetitive activity while the multi-tasking mind needs a respite from over-stimulation.

When the body and mind call out for something to spark curiosity and ignite creativity, your yoga is listening.

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Light, Joy and a whole lot of Contentment

It’s almost that time again.

The snow that filled the amphitheater atop Rib Mountain has been soaked back into the earth or evaporated into the sky.

This corner of the world that peers over Wausau offering quiet respite, a vast view and one of the best ‘seats in the house’ is ready and waiting for us to roll out our mats and set ourselves free with yoga.

Yoga on top of a mountain during the heart of summer will make you healthy and happy.

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