Yoga: A Formula for Supporting Mind, Body and Emotions

Written by: Annie Lockwood, RYT-200
Edited by: Bernice Thrill

The state of your life is never as certain as the correct answer to a math problem. If you add up your state of mind + state of body + emotions today, they may equal something entirely different tomorrow.

What are ways you can steady the uncertainty? Consider yoga.

“Yoga is so much more than a physical workout,” says Annie Lockwood, RYT-200. “Yes, yoga can help with increased flexibility, strengthening and toning, but you don’t have to be flexible to practice yoga.”

Along with physical benefits, yoga provides physiological and mental benefits as well, according to Lockwood.

 

Yoga can help you manage symptoms from a wide range of conditions, such as:

The physical:

  • injuries, arthritis, or inflammation
  • asthma
  • high blood pressure
  • digestive problems, such as constipation

The mental/emotional:

  • stress/burnout
  • anxiety and depression
  • difficulty concentration
  • insomnia
  • difficulty waking up in the morning

“The more you practice the amazing tools of yoga, the more you can shift your body’s response to stress and reap the benefits of living in a more relaxed state more often,” she explains. “In this relaxed state, our bodies thrive and function at their best. When we activate the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest state opposite the stress response), our bodies will spend more energy digesting, eliminating, repairing cells, and supporting our immune system. Our blood pressure, heart rate, and breath rate will lower, which prepares our bodies for rest and sleep.”

Lockwood goes on to explain that some people are often living in a chronic stress state that activates their sympathetic nervous system—the fight or flight mode.

“Our adrenals continue to release energy conserving hormones, which result in slow digestion, poor elimination, weakened immune systems, tight or sore muscles and fatigued bodies,” she explains.

How can yoga provide a formula for relief? Lockwood points to three areas.

The Body. “Practicing yoga is like giving yourself a massage—stretching and lengthening your muscles and ligaments. Through movement and activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, yoga aids in digestion and squeezes your internal organs, bathing them in fresh oxygenated blood. Regular practice increases flexibility, strength, and balance.  Yoga is also a perfect supportive practice to an exercise routine.”

The Mind. “Yoga gives you the tools to focus on the present moment, right now. Ever hear of the term ‘mindfulness?’ Mindfulness is the practice of living in the moment; not thinking about what happened in the past and not worrying or planning for the future,” she says. “Through focus techniques on where your body is moving or stretching, along with the addition of breath observation, yoga is a mindfulness practice. The more we can let go of thoughts of the past and future, the more contentment we can appreciate in our lives.”

Emotional Support. “When we balance our stress response we can appreciate steadier moods.  Yoga is a form of self care. As we practice with all the wonderful tools yoga has to offer, we can cultivate self compassion. Self compassion is the greatest form of love. Once we can attain self compassion, the seeds of compassion and love are planted and we can share the compassionate bounty with others.”

Lockwood personally benefited from yoga after being introduced when she was experiencing tendonitis in her forearms from typing at work. Her experience also inspired her to teach.

I learned that there was more to yoga than the physical benefits. I didn’t understand what was happening.” She explains further, “With regular practice I noticed my moods were more balanced, I had increased self-confidence, less anxiety/stress, and more compassion for others. In addition, I found I had increased flexibility, strength, and balance. I found that I wanted to understand yoga better and learn how to apply techniques to achieve specific results, and I wanted to share this amazing experience with others.”

Lockwood currently leads Yoga for Desk Dwellers and Upper Body Care, which offers stress reduction and incorporates helpful adaptations of postures for neck, shoulders, back, arms, and wrists. It’s recommended for computer users, care takers, and anyone with tension in the upper body. She also offers group classes, private instruction and special events.

 Learn more about Lockwood and her classes here

Prenatal Yoga Can Help Prepare Body and Mind for the Journey to Birth

By Renee Peterson, MSW, RPYT, RYT-500, Certified Viniyoga Wellness Instructor and Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher

Preparing and having a baby can be an exciting time. Whether this is your first baby, or an addition to the family, it’s a new chapter of change. Prenatal yoga can help you prepare for and ease many of the changes happening. It provides an opportunity to safely stretch and strengthen your body and to prepare physically and emotionally for labor and delivery.

A woman’s body, mind and emotions go through tremendous changes during pregnancy. To feel confident and prepared for pregnancy and birthing, it is important to: 

  • increase awareness and knowledge about the changes in your body 
  • be physically active 
  • meditate or practice calming breath practices to calm your mind and reduce anxiety and stress, and 
  • have a support system.

Changes in the Body

Shifting hormones that support your body and growing baby can create many changes in your body during pregnancy, including: 

  • Nausea or morning sickness 
  • Cravings or aversions to certain foods 
  • Heartburn and acid reflux 
  • Fatigue 
  • Enlarged breasts 
  • Swelling/fluid retention
  • Circulatory changes (feeling out of breath, having difficulty breathing, lightheadedness)
  • Hyperthermic changes (overheating, dehydrating)

Laxity of ligament and joints throughout the body is another common change, and you are at greater risk of strains, sprains, and over stretching. Over stretching beyond your pre-pregnant flexibility can create instability of the back, hips, and pelvis leading to discomfort and longterm instability. In addition, a growing baby belly creates imbalance and increases the curvatures of the back, which in turn puts stress on other parts of the body.

Physical activity, however, is important before, during and after pregnancy. Being physically active during pregnancy has been found to minimize the discomforts of pregnancy related conditions and better prepare women for labor and delivery. 

What is Prenatal Yoga?

Prenatal yoga focuses on more than the physical practice of yoga. My classes at 5 Koshas aim to support the mind, body, breath, heart, and spirit of each student by integrating affirmations, mantras, breath awareness, breath techniques, connection with inner self, body and baby, and information. 

For each class, I introduce a theme and provide a brief informational summary of a common issue you may encounter. For example, for nausea, I share information about the possible causes and provide suggestions to minimize the discomforts. Throughout the yoga practice, I incorporate a breath technique, physical postures and adaptations to postures intended to minimize the discomforts of nausea. 

As students progress in their pregnancy, I offer adaptations of postures to support their changing body. It is common for your posture to change as the uterus expands and baby grows and develops. I incorporate props during the yoga practice, such as a wall, a chair, a blanket, yoga blocks, a bolster or an exercise ball, to support you in a physically beneficial way. 

Functions of child’s pose, for example, can remain the same in 1st and 3rd trimester yet look very different in practice during 1st trimester than during 3rd trimester. The baby belly needs more space so widening the knees, or using a prop such as a bolster to place hands or forearms on, can help support your body and baby in a positive and safe way.

 

Another benefit of prenatal yoga is to help you feel supported and prepared for birthing. 

Peggy Simkin, a physical therapist, childbirth educator, doula, and trainer, noted in her observations working with birthing women that the essence of coping in labor consists of the 3 R’s: Relaxation, Rhythm, and Ritual. Relaxing between contractions; creating a rhythm during contractions such as breathing, moving, swaying or using sound; and the ritual of repeating relaxation between contractions, rhythmic movement and sound. Instinctively getting in the zone, one-pointed focus. 

Continuing to practice prenatal yoga during pregnancy provides you with the opportunity to practice the 3 R’s, enabling you to instinctively incorporate these methods. Many of these same techniques taught in prenatal yoga classes can be used in everyday life. Breathing techniques can aid in improving sleep, reframing your mind, releasing tension and stress in the body. In addition to the 3 R’s, I would recommend you learn and practice breath techniques to calm and center you. Acknowledge that birthing a baby is not pain-free, however, with the use of breath techniques, sound, rhythmic movement and a relaxed mind and body, you can minimize the discomforts of birthing your baby.

When to Begin

Prenatal yoga is a safe physical activity that you can begin at any stage of pregnancy with the okay of your doctor. It is helpful to know if you have any physical restrictions before you begin and if anything changes along the way. Prior to taking the class, you will be asked to complete a Prenatal Health Questionnaire. This information is helpful to me as the yoga teacher to clarify health conditions, learn about any physical restrictions and offer modifications if needed.

The earlier you start in your pregnancy, the more time you have to practice and prepare your physical body for endurance and strength needed during birthing and learn techniques to increase awareness and relaxation. Honor your body and your level of energy as you move through your day or yoga practice. Avoid force. Know that yoga should not cause pain. Somedays you might only put forth 50 to 60 percent of effort or spend the class time resting, and that is okay.

Following the advice of your doctor and adapting to any contraindications, it is safe to practice yoga throughout pregnancy.

If you are pregnant and have questions about joining a class, feel free to reach out to me via phone, text, email or in-person to ask questions and share your concerns. One of my students, Tanya Ehr, kindly shared her experience.

“I’ve always wanted to have a baby but I was also the most scared person of birth I think in the world. I did as much as I could to prepare. I walked a lot, prayed a lot and did yoga. Some of those things worked, because my labor went so well. I still think back and can’t believe how well it went. I didn’t know it, but I went into labor at 2 a.m. I knew something was happening, but I didn’t realize it was labor. In fact, I even got out of bed very early in the morning and did a yoga class. My labor progressed very fast and I had my baby that afternoon at 4 p.m. without any pain medicine. I just breathed through the contractions. In all honesty, yoga has helped me in so many ways for the past ten years.”  

Tanya shared that she felt many benefits came from practicing prenatal yoga, even on days when she didn’t feel motivated. “I felt more energized, definitely more mentally and emotionally balanced and reset. If my body was sore, it felt so much better after. What you had to say about birth helped calm me and prepare me.” 

“Postnatal benefits are about the same,” she continued. “When my body hurts, I feel so much better after I do yoga. That alone helps me be a happier mom and able to take care of my baby better and be a better person in general to my family or my coworkers and to myself. It also clears my head so I can be more peaceful and still and connect spiritually.”

Note: Every pregnant woman’s body is different. Consult your doctor if you have concerns or questions about your physical, mental and emotional health. 

For additional reading, Mayo Clinic cites the many benefits of prenatal yoga at https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/prenatalyoga/art-20047193).

Applying Yoga Principles in Life and Business

An interview with Kerry MacDonald, RYT-200

Written by: Bernice Thill

Kerry MacDonald is a co-owner and operator of Fashion Villa in Wausau, a yoga instructor at 5 Koshas, and also a yoga student. Yoga has been one way she cares for herself so that she can continue to do what she loves for others.

As a business owner handling multiple roles— payroll, inventory and HR to name a few—MacDonald stands for 8 to 10 hours a day and may work with 6 to 20 or more clients a day. It’s important for her to keep her energy level up, and to be able to engage her customers. Her work requires good listening, conversational and consulting skills. 

MacDonald says that when clients step into her salon, they expect an experience with their services. It’s their opportunity to talk about themselves, so she needs to be able to clear the conversation from her mind from client to client.

Yoga became a practice that helped her manage the physical and mental demands and stress.

“I was introduced to yoga about five years ago. After working behind the chair for almost 30 years and the stress of being a business owner, my body and mind demanded attention,” she explained. “I was experiencing body fatigue and brain fog. I had a workout routine for a long time but found it was no longer suiting my needs.”

Yoga helped MacDonald learn the association between breath and movement, and it has made a substantial difference in her daily living.

“The concept of breath and movement, being able to learn to meditate to help clear my mind was so intriguing,” she said. “I now find that a gentle yoga practice with breath adaptations is my regular practice.”

In her daily work life, yoga has benefitted her in many ways, including:

  • Breathe practices to calm her mind and control her breathing 
  • Stretching to compensate standing long hours
  • Practices to maintain her body for a long and healthy career

“Any business owner or any employee, any person in the world could benefit from yoga and apply it to their daily life. People don’t understand all of the benefits unless they can experience them by practicing,” she said.

Over time, MacDonald became interested in teaching yoga, so she enrolled in a Viniyoga program, a yoga style focused on adaptation. It addresses the entire person (body, mind, breathe and behaviors for example), allowing teachers to adapt postures and practices to support individual needs. 

“I initially took the teacher training to deepen my own practice, and I had a few personal experiences that also inspired me. It was never my intention to teach—it just seemed to fall into place,” she explained.

“I feel everything about the teacher training was applicable to being a business owner, the whole experience was so positive,” she said. “Learning to pause, take a breath, get my mind and breath under control. Adaptation is key, and that is the Viniyoga way.”

Through 5 Koshas, MacDonald offers a gentle yoga class that students can attend either in studio or online. “I love teaching this class and helping students find their best adaptations, as well as helping them grow in their personal practice, exploring and learning what is best for them. My goal for every student practicing is that they personally get the most out of it and feel fulfilled.”

MacDonald’s advice is for anyone to give yoga a try. “Take an array of different yoga classes, have an open mind,” she said. “Don’t be self conscious, be yourself. Yoga is more than a workout—it is an experience you deserve. Viniyoga is all about adapting, it can be applied in so many aspects of your life.”

For more information about classes, check out the schedule here

Read more about Kerry here

Consider Yoga as Part of Back-to-School Routine for Stress & Anxiety | Part 2

A two-part interview with Karey Lynn Krampota, RYT-200

(by Bernice Thill)

Karey Lynn Krampota teaches Viniyoga, a style of yoga linking your breath with your movement that is adapted to support your physical and emotional needs. She offers classes for students throughout various stages of life: sunrise (children) mid-day and sunset (senior). In this second part, Karey Lynn shares specific ideas and techniques for children and parents alike to help alleviate stress and anxiety throughout the school year.

What kinds of advice or practices can you share for parents of kids dealing with higher levels of stress and/or anxiety related to the start of a new school year?

First, it’s okay not to be okay! There will be hard days, but taking a breath makes it easier. When we feel frustrated or overwhelmed what happens? Our breath becomes shorter just like our temper. Use your breath as a guide for ease and support.

When we become aware of our breath, we become more mindful of our feelings. Within this awareness and mindfulness, we can set an example for our children.

Having a set routine each day for your child helps them know what to expect and reduces anxiety. Depending on age or developmentally where your child is, you can have a calendar with different stickers for certain activities. Utilizing a clock with stickers by certain times for daily routine tasks, such as (for younger children) 4 PM has a book sticker for homework and 7 PM has a bed sticker for bedtime. You can also color code the clock for different tasks and have a chart with coordinating colors as a key (for older children).

Getting their backpack ready, lunch made, homework completed and clothes picked out the night before limits morning rushing and stress kids and parents alike.

What are some of the techniques you teach in your classes that can help alleviate stress or anxiety for children?

Here’s an example of something you would learn in my classes, called Tense & Release.

The idea for this Mindful Activity is for families to come together to learn and notice the difference between feeling stress/tension vs. relaxation/calm in our minds and bodies. Recognizing the difference between the two helps promote a healthy coping skill to begin the process of releasing the tension we may be experiencing and potentially creating that sense of calm.

To begin:

Invite your Little Yogi to either lay on their back, belly or sit in a comfortable seated position next to you or on your lap. Take a few breaths here. In through your nose and out through your nose.

Inhale creating a fist with your hands, exhale unclenching your hands. Do 3 Times.

After Inhale Ask: Do you feel your hand feeling tight? 

After Exhale Ask: Do you feel your hand feeling relaxed?

Inhale bringing your toes towards your nose, exhale drawing your toes away from your body. Do 3 Times.

After Inhale Ask: Do you feel your legs feeling tight?

After Exhale Ask: Do you feel your legs feeling relaxed?

Inhale extending your belly out. Exhale drawing your belly in. Do 3 Times.

After Inhale: Do you feel your belly growing big?

After Exhale: Do you feel your belly growing small?

To end:

Take a few breaths together. Give each other a hug.

How can parents incorporate more play at home to help alleviate stress or anxiety?

I like to use everyday activities to help parents and children become more connected with their breath and to practice being more mindful. A few examples include:

Bake Cookies:

Before, during and after baking, engage all of your senses. Take time to notice one thing you can see, hear, touch and feel, smell, and finally, taste! This exercise can help kids slow down and be present.

Wiggle & Giggle: 

Turn on your favorite music and dance-wiggle around. After moving through a song or two, sit in a comfortable position. Share a joke or many and laugh-giggle. Movement + Laughter = Stress Reduction

Walk & Talk: 

Take a walk each day with your child to talk. Talk about anything and everything. Talk about your day: What was the best part of your day? Was there a part of your day that wasn’t easy? Is there anything that you need help with? What was your favorite moment today? Walk + Talk = Conscious Connection

Rest & Digest: 

After school when your children come home, give them time to transition. During this time, offer them a quiet space, creating the opportunity to rest from their day and digest the reminder. Rest + Digest = Calm Transitions

Learn more about classes Karey Lynn offers on the 5 Koshas website.

Consider Yoga as Part of Back-to-School Routine for Stress & Anxiety | Part 1

A two-part interview with Karey Lynn Krampota, RYT-200

(by Bernice Thill)

Part I

Karey Lynn Krampota teaches Viniyoga, a style of yoga linking your breath with your movement that is adapted to support your physical and emotional needs. She offers classes for students throughout various stages of life: sunrise (children) mid-day and sunset (senior). 

With school just around the corner for many students and parents, Karey Lynn discusses the benefits of yoga to ease stress and anxiety. Part I of our interview focuses on understanding the stress triggers that affect children and the benefits of introducing yoga at a young age. Part II will share specific ideas and techniques for children and parents alike to help alleviate stress and anxiety throughout the school year.

At what age can children begin to use yoga?

Adults seeking to incorporate yoga into their children’s lives can do so through each juncture of parenthood. From before birth to after. Some opportunities available to interested parents include prenatal yoga, postnatal and baby-bonding yoga, and family yoga. These opportunities can be found in the form of classes at your local yoga studio, online video content or even at the public library through books.

My son was introduced to yoga before he was born! When I was pregnant, I practiced prenatal yoga to prepare for birth and labor. After he was born, I found that my practice shifted to not only self-care, but bonding with him. I would practice while he had tummy time on the yoga mat. As he grew bigger and older, my yoga practice adapted to holding him in certain poses or him sitting on my yoga mat while in full observation. When he was a toddler, he began mimicking my postures and asking questions. Such as, “Mom what are you doing?” and “Mom, don’t I look like you?” As he reached school age, he started becoming more interested in breathing techniques. As he grew, so did his interest in the different aspects of yoga. Most school age adolescents begin as observers then become absorbers!

Based on your experience with working with children, what kinds of anxieties do they tend to exhibit? What triggers them?

Anxiety in childhood can change as they encounter different life experiences, and interruptions in routine related to school can be a big one. Many situations can trigger their anxiety, such as being over-simulated in an environment that is loud or with a big group of people, learning how to navigate a new situation and even witnessing learned behaviors from parents or caregivers that display nervousness or unease.

During the different transitions of age, children may experience anxiety about:

  • Early childhood (birth to age 5)
    • Being away from parents for the first time or starting school
    • Learning to share toys or making new friends
  • Middle childhood (ages 6 to 12)
    • Not knowing an answer when called on at school 
    • Realizing they aren’t a little kid anymore, but they aren’t a big kid yet
  • Adolescence (ages 13 to 18)
    • Going through puberty
    • Becoming an adult and what will I do with my life?
  • Other examples of exhibited anxiety may be from:
    • Worrying about grades
    • Struggling with managing school and/or extracurricular activities 
    • Problems with friends, bullying, or peer pressures
    • Moving or changing schools
    • Dealing with home problems or parents separating

How can yoga help parents and kids manage their stress and anxiety?

Yoga helps reduce stress and anxiety in adults and children alike by helping them become aware of their body and breath, which can help them become mindful and present. When children become mindful, we then can present them with skills for dealing with stress and anxiety.

Yoga fosters benefits within a family, too. Family members that practice yoga become more in-tune with their feelings, which results in limited reactions due to stress. The family moves away from absorbing and reacting to observing and responding.

Are children more open to embracing different techniques for managing stress?

Absolutely! Children throughout each stage and age from early childhood to adolescence are naturally curious. Children are born full of wonder as they develop and so do the questions of Who? What? Where? When? Why? Children are growing while they try to understand their environment and everything around them including their emotions, stress, thoughts and experiences.

What are some of the techniques you teach to help kids?

Children typically have limited attention spans when they are young, so yoga techniques for children are all about play. Some of the yoga tools that benefit children are:

Breath – learning how the body works with breathing mechanics:

  • Blowing bubbles—creates the awareness of breath through the nose on inhale and out through the mouth on exhale
  • Smelling flowers—develops the breath through the nose on inhale and out through the nose on exhale
  • Fogging the mirror or window—demonstrates how to breath through the nose on inhale and out through the mouth on exhale
  • Creating animal noises with the breath like a bee or farm animals—explores breathing through the nose on inhale and out through the mouth on exhale (making the sound)

Movement – expanding the body mobility and developing flexibility:

  • Moving through static movement that begins slow and progressively gets quicker or movement begins quickly then proceeds to a slow pace
  • Linking movement with songs like head, shoulders, knees and toes or the hokey pokey

Learn more about classes Karey Lynn offers on the 5 Koshas website.

Balance Your Summer Heat Using Ayurveda

An Interview with Pauline Zweck, E-RYT 200 Certified Viniyoga Wellness Instructor

Summer. It’s officially here. It’s a time of excitement—travel, visiting friends, family celebrations, summer projects. 

Summer. It also can be a time of excess—excess heat and humidity, over-scheduled social calendars, indulgent celebrations. We pack a lot into our short summers. They can become a whirlwind of activity. We may find our lives begin to match the intensity of the season. 

To find balance, consider incorporating Ayurvedic principles into your physical or asana practice. Pauline Zweck, E-RYT 200 Certified Viniyoga Wellness Instructor, explains how Ayurveda can help when the summer heat—and busyness—is on.

First, some perspective. Ayurveda is an ancient health system, founded in India over 5,000 years ago. It teaches that everything is made up of the five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether or space.

“According to Ayurvedic teachings, each of us is born with a unique combination of these elements. This is your basic constitution, known in Sanskrit as ‘prakriti’. Your constitution never changes, and it’s expressed as doshas,” Zweck says.

The three doshas and their associated elements are:

  • Vata (air and ether) 
  • Pitta (fire and water) 
  • Kapha (earth and water) 

“When life starts happening—our diet, lifestyle, environment, and even the seasons—can put us in vikruti, or an imbalance of our doshas. Ayurveda, the science of life, suggests introducing opposite qualities to find balance and maintain good physical and emotional health,” explains Zweck. “In Ayurveda, the seasons are also assigned related doshas. Summer is known as pitta (fire and water) season. Even if pitta is not your basic tendency, this hot, fiery season may cause pitta imbalance in our bodies.”

If you are experiencing excess pitta, it may show up as: 

  • Heartburn
  • Skin rashes
  • Irritability
  • Impatience
  • Excess heat in the body

“As someone with pitta as my dominant dosha, during the hot summer days the excess heat makes me quite miserable and I can feel irritable and impatient,” Zweck says. “However, when pitta is in balance, we have mental clarity, vitality, and are joyful to be around.” 

So, how can you get to a more joyful place? Using the Ayurveda teachings that balance is found in opposites, Zweck shared these tips to try during your asana practice to cool and soothe your body and mind:

  • Practice in a cool, dark room
  • Practice before 10:00 a.m. or after 2:00 p.m.
  • Keep your gaze soft at the horizon 
  • Let go of precision and rather find grace and flow in your movements
  • Take time to pause—summer is not a time to be agenda-driven
  • Relax effort to 70 percent 
  • Use forward bends, side opening poses, and simple twists to “vent” the “fire” in the solar plexus (naval and upward) area
  • Lengthen your exhales to release any built-up anger or frustration
  • Be aware of your back body as you breathe

For those new to Ayurveda, Zweck shared this quick, pitta-pacifying hand mudra you can do anytime, independent of an asana practice:

Bring the tip of each thumb to the web between the ring and little fingers of the same hand. Relax your hand and fingers and hold the mudra up to 5 minutes. The fire element represented by the thumb, bows to, and is pacified by the earth and water elements represented by the ring and little fingers.


Zweck recommends incorporating a few of these ideas into your practice. Notice how you might bring some of these ideas into other activities throughout your day. Your body, mind and spirit may welcome the balance.

Yoga for Men: Dealing with Stress and Pain Before it Gets Out of Control

An interview with Andrew Beaumont, M.D., Ph.D., Yoga Therapist & 5 Koshas Yoga Partner
By Bernice Thill, Writer and Yoga Practitioner

Andrew Beaumont, M.D., Ph.D., was inspired to become a yoga instructor after seeing so many patients in his neurosurgery practice with back and neck pain and few options for self help. In addition to his medical work, he now teaches Viniyoga and yoga therapy focused on helping men and women tackle their structural issues as well as stress.

 

“I realized the benefits of yoga after trying to deal with my own injuries,” Beaumont explained. “I wanted to bring those benefits to others.”

 

While men and women are equally affected by back and neck problems, Beaumont’s experience is that men tend to get into more pain before they seek help. “Some men have a fear of showing weakness, or complaining about pain. They can be less likely to take care of themselves with preventive strategies,” he said.

 

Beaumont sees two consistent and related problems men endure.

 

The first is increased muscle tension, which can cause neck, back, leg and pelvic pain and headaches. The second is stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety make muscle tension worse, and increased muscle tension and pain makes stress worse. 

 

“The accumulated pain and stress can start to influence relationships with wives and children and extended family, which in turn causes more stress,” he explained.

 

“Men and women in middle age are often wearing many hats. They are still raising children, but might be caring for parents as well. They often have to do physical work at their own place of residence and sometimes at their parents as well. There may be workplace stress that compounds all this.” 

 

Beaumont finds that men dealing with these issues often react to the stress by tensing up and holding that tension in their back and necks, hunching their shoulders over and walking with a flexed posture. This is a physically defensive position, brought about by the mental stress. All this muscle tension leads to fatigue and pain.

 

“Yoga can help relieve muscle tension,” he explained. “Through breath work and meditation, it can also help with anxiety and stress. So with regular yoga practice you can begin to unravel the vicious cycle of muscle tension, pain, stress and fatigue.”

 

For men in particular, yoga therapy can help in several ways:

  1. Stress reduction
  2. Muscular relaxation
  3. General and cardiac fitness
  4. Help with neck and low back pain
  5. Improved relationships with family and friends

“Men and women are prone to developing structural spine problems in middle age,” he said. “The most common symptom is pain. It can be hard to distinguish the pain of muscle tension and stress from the pain of structural spine problems. Numbness, tingling, pain shooting into the arms or legs and weakness would all be unusual symptoms for muscle tension and stress, and these symptoms should make you think of underlying spine problems.” 

 

Yoga therapy, when performed with a yoga therapist, has the ability to help with spinal disorders too, and regular yoga and other exercise is an important tool to help prevent flares of symptoms related to degenerative spine disease.

 

“To get the benefits from yoga, it is important to have a regular practice. When you are tired, stressed and in pain, it can help heal you, but it’s also really useful as a way to prevent the build up of stress,” Beaumont added. “Keeping up with that ‘you time’ is key to being able to keep going through all the stress and physical demands we face in life.”

 

With Father’s Day just around the corner, consider giving a 5 Koshas gift card to the men in your life HERE. Gift cards can be used toward exploring various classes and getting started with a new practice to help ease pain and stress.

Taking Time for Self-Care

An interview with Mary Kluz, RYT-200, 5 Koshas Yoga Teacher 
By Bernice Thill, Writer and Yoga Practitioner

Your body is an engineering marvel. And like any well-engineered marvel, it needs maintenance and fine tuning. That’s where self care comes into play, according to Mary Kluz, MS, RYT-200, Viniyoga Teacher at 5 Koshas.

 

What is self care? “Self care is about checking in on oneself, identifying unmet needs and seeking ways to meet those needs,” explains Kluz.

Self care can evolve from our responses to various aspects in life —from physical and emotional, to spiritual, professional and relational, or to some or all of these things at any given time. “Human needs are universal, but how we satisfy those needs vary greatly,” says Kluz, who along with teaching, has been dedicated to a personal yoga practice for 16 years. 

“A good way to check in on yourself is to pay attention to how you are feeling, physically and emotionally. Are you feeling agitated? Do you have a short fuse? Do you feel down?” she says. “Sometimes these ‘bad’ emotions are good indicators that your body is waving a flag. It needs some help. This is a good time to consider self care.”

Kluz acknowledges that society doesn’t always allow people the time they need for self care, or that self care can be viewed as selfish. She believes that you can’t take care of others, whether you are a parent or a caregiver, a leader at work, or a partner in a relationship for example, without taking care of yourself first.

Self-Care Self Checkin

How do you get started?

First, recognize and embrace self compassion. “You have to believe that you deserve to have this care, that it’s ok to focus on your own needs without feeling selfish,” Kluz says.

Second, take the time to slow down enough to check in with yourself and reflect. “Look inside yourself and recognize the feelings you have, and use those feelings as guideposts,” she says.

Third, identify the needs that may be driving those feelings. Can you pinpoint what is serving you and what isn’t? Be open, and also give yourself permission to consider different strategies to better meet your needs. It can be as simple as giving yourself permission to change your mind.

Finally, take action toward self care. “Ask yourself, ‘Can I do this on my own or do I need to ask for help?’ This is where yoga can play a role, because it focuses on creating unity between your body and mind,” she adds. “Yoga cultivates more consistent communication between our bodies and our brains.”

Yoga as Part of Self-Care Practice

There are different triggers in life that may bring students into a yoga practice. When they join her classes, Kluz meets her students where they are and helps them explore the benefits of yoga.

“Yoga can provide students with an opportunity to practice interoception — that is the sense of what is going on inside our bodies,” she explains. Interoception is what helps people recognize different emotions, and also can help with understanding and responding to them. 

Yoga also provides an opportunity for proprioception, or the perception and awareness of where our bodies are in space. “For example, if you’re doing a yoga pose and have to put one foot behind your body where you can’t see it, proprioception allows you to be certain that your foot is still back there, supporting you. Focusing on this sense allows one to be more in the moment, feeling grounded to the earth.”

Lastly, yoga helps tone the nervous system, fostering unity between the body and mind. 

Self care is for anyone — and while Moms are on our minds as we look toward Mother’s Day — self care is critical for anyone in a caregiving role. It’s a life skill that can be modeled for our own children to help them approach and experience life on a more even keel.

For further exploration, 5 Koshas offers an in-studio and online class, Gentle Yoga for Beginners and Beyond learn more HERE Consider a gift card for the caregivers in your life this Mother’s Day. You can learn more and purchase HERE

Cakra (or Chakra) Practice to Refresh the Body Temple One Room At A Time

By Mary Hilliker, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT

“Each cakra represents an essential chamber in the temple of the Self.  Each one houses an aspect of the sacred and is necessary for wholeness.  The more we clean and properly decorate the temple, the more we court the presence of the divine.”

– Anodea Judith in Eastern Body, Western Mind

When The Body Temple Needs Refreshing

Do you ever feel off, stagnant, stuck, spinning out, unable to propel forward, unable to achieve something, unable to manifest something that you know is possible or less connected to your sense of faith or the divine?  If you answered “yes,” welcome to being human.  There are times when our prana (life force) is not flowing freely or it’s too active at some level in our energetic body.  Those times tend to be reflected in a lack of harmony in how we feel about ourselves, how we relate to others, and how we connect to sources of inspiration and the divine.    It’s like a house in need of spring cleaning.

What Are The Cakra-s? 

The ancients conceived of the cakra model to help us understand the energetic nature of who we are in relationship to our self, others, time and change, and death.  The cakra-s are “whirling vortices that receive, assimilate and express vital energy in its many forms.”

Coming back to the idea of a temple with rooms, we might consider each of the rooms of the temple as an energetic center with a purpose and action.  The first floor takes care of survival needs and grounds us.  The second floor produces innovative ideas.  The third floor helps us take an idea and make it into something.  And up we go until the seventh floor dials us up (hopefully with a good cable connection) to our relationship with the divine, faith, God, source.

Where Are These Teachings From?

These teachings come from the ancient transmission of Laya Yoga.  My favorite sources on the cakra-s besides what I’ve learned from my teacher, Gary Kraftsow, is Chakras: Energy Centers of Transformation by Harish Johari and Chakra Meditation by Swami Saradananda.  In more modern times, teachers like Anodea Judith, have added a synthesis of the ancient teachings through the lens of Western psychology which may be of interest to teachers, health care, and mental health professionals.

Why Do Cakra Practice?

One of the most important reasons to consider cakra practice is to refine our relationship to ourselves, to better harmonize with others, to be able to manage the changes that occur through life, and as my teacher Gary says, “have a good death.”  Well, we hope that isn’t coming anytime soon, but we must face that we have an expiration date.  Why not slide into our final passing with all our humanly work done and our relationships in harmony?  Why not elevate our potentials now?

At an overarching level, the cakra model helps us understand the interplay between the microcosm and the macrocosm.  At an individual level, the cakra model helps us understand our challenges and potentials in relationship to the macrocosm.

The Cakra Model in Brief Form

There are several models of the cakra system but for purposes here, let’s focus on seven major energetic areas in the body.  Each of these areas are associated with qualities of potential and dysfunction.

 

Major Potential of Cakra

 

Sanskrit Name Location in the Body
1 Survival, Trust, Stability

 

Muladhara

Base of the spine

Pelvic floor

2 Creation, Bringing to Life

 

Svadhistana Just above pubic bone
3 Transformation and Self-Esteem

 

Manipura                                                                          Navel
4 Yummy Qualities of the Heart

 

Anahata Base of sternum
5 Communication and Listening

 

Visuddhi At Adam’s apple
6 Decision-making and Discernment

 

 

Ajna Above nose and between eyes
7 Inspiration and Connection to our Faith

 

Sahasrara Crown of the head

Creating the Conditions for Transformation

How can we cultivate the conditions for transforming our potentials and weakening dysfunctions?   The roadmap of the cakra-s link the microcosm to the macrocosm, especially in any cakra meditation practice.  The first five cakra-s (the earthlier duty ones) are associated with the five elements and the five senses (jnanendriya).   Each cakra is associated with an action (karmendriya) and an organ of action.  In meditation, we connect to the elements, senses, cakra actions, and organs of action to surface what’s there.  Then we use that information to meditate on the potentials that we want to strengthen.

Cakra practice may focus on a variety of yoga tools including:

  • Yoga asana and pranayama that regulates flow of prana in different areas of the body
  • Mantra-s (sounds, chants)
  • Mudra-s (hand gestures)
  • A variety of meditations including the use of mantra repetition and yantra (geometric designs)
  • Other practices (example: Take a walk near water, go swimming)

We can return to cakra practice throughout our lifetime to help us continue to transform through life’s changes, develop our potentials, work with our challenges, and continue to refine our relationship to time and change.

The Fruits of Practice

I’ve been doing cakra practices for about 30 years, adapting the practices to what’s happening.  These practices can be incredibly helpful during grief, big life changes, or periods of feeling stuck, rudderless, and indecisive.  They are also helpful in continually checking in with yourself to surface your blind spots and to address what’s pushing your buttons.  It’s like doing spring cleaning on a regular basis so nothing piles up into a big mess.

If I can leave you with three words to describe the fruits of cakra practice, it’s process, harmonize and elevate!  If you want to learn more about the cakra-s, what and how to practice, and discussion around exploring each of the cakra potentials, consider joining 5 Koshas Yoga & Wellness and the River Flow Yoga Teacher Training School for our upcoming Meditation + Cakra-s Intensive.

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Pilates through the eyes of a Yoga Therapist

By Heather Van Dalfsen, Certified Yoga Therapist, Yoga Teacher & Pilates Teacher in Training

Movement.

Everyday you have the opportunity to move.

• From fingers, toes, limbs and spine
• To creating facial expressions
• To subtle internal movements through shallow breathing, deep breathing
• Through softly singing, humming or
• Even imagining these ‘movement’ practices

Pilates and Yoga work as team-mates, adding more tools within the movement toolbox, giving you a variety of options and fresh perspectives as you check in with your short term and long term goals of physical and mental health.

Many foundational layers of a Pilates practice are similar to the building blocks of an intentional Yoga practice. Each of the following ‘foundations’ could create ongoing discussions and learning curves within your lifetime of practice. Let’s review and keep the dialogue and practice going.

Foundational Intentions:

Breath as a Guide – Breathing can be the bridge between mind and body, supporting you in understanding how you are moving in the space you are in and how you can continue creating alignment and stability from feet to pelvis to shoulders; from spine through limbs. Breathing can support controlled movements while offering a rhythmic pace to your practice. When do you most notice you are breathing and how does it support you?

A Neutral Spine – There are many verbal cues within movements and pauses of movements that ask you to explore and create a neutral spine. What is this and why? A neutral spine equals the natural curves of the spine. This can support the spine’s bones, discs, ligaments, tendons and muscles to handle weight and impact, letting the body work with efficiency and minimal damage. What do you notice about your spinal curves?

Directions of Movement of the Spine – A lot of our daily activities is moving forward – leaning over things, sitting, walking. In our movement practice we can also explore backbends = spinal extension, side bending = lateral flexion/extension, twisting = rotation of the spine and axial extension = verticality of the spine. Practicing all of these builds our stability, mobility and overall balance. What are your daily movement habits?

Stability Supports Mobility – It is quite amazing to move in ways that sharpen awareness of the pelvis as part of the “360” core of the body. The core is more than the stomach! How the pelvis is in relationship and alignment with the knees down through the feet; how the pelvis is in relationship and alignment with the shoulders and neck are all examples of creating stability throughout the body. When there is stability and alignment of your structure, mobility can be explored, feel more natural and create less stress. What are the ways you would like to increase your mobility?

Everyday Snacks – Like Yoga, Pilates can be practiced everyday – even if short snacks of practices once a day or throughout the day. At some time each day we are either standing, seated or supine. Within these positions of the body, there are ways to check in with your neutral spine and how you can create stability within this foundation throughout the habitual movements each day. What short practices do you already integrate into your day? What else would you like to learn?

As a Yoga Therapist I continue to learn and practice Yoga and Pilates using these foundational intentions and many more. Yet for now, these are a kind reminder that these movement modalities should be and can be accessible and effective, sustainable and even joyful for everyone.

Whether you are new to movement practices or a consistent student of movement, what are you interested in learning and integrating into your daily routine? How would a practice support your short-term and long term health intentions?

5 Koshas Yoga and Wellness has many compassionate and educated teachers who continue to be students of movement. You are always welcome to join us in learning more through attending in-studio or online classes or participating in a private session individually or with a small group of friends and family.

Email: Office@5koshasyoga.com or Heather@5koshasyoga.com to continue dialogue.