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.

Meditation + Intensive_200hrTTFlyer_2021-22_010922

 

 

 

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.

Matters of the Heart – em.bodi.ment

By Pamela Luedtke, Certified Brain Gym Instructor, Dance Instructor, Certified Pilates Instructor & Creator of em.bodi.ment 

The Fire Element symbolizes our passion for life through the quality of our relationships with others. The connections we make with each encounter is a balance of giving and receiving unconditional love with others and with ourselves

Our heartbeat accelerates with every emotion or physical action we take or slows down to a peaceful waltz during a quiet moment of meditation. Noticing our heart field and imagining our heart field expanding into the space that surrounds us is an opportunity to direct our unconditional love outwards towards others.

The heart field is an energic connection that reaches from our heart space through our distal reach and can expand as far as we can imagine. Noticing our heart field also provides insight to our abilities to receive unconditional love. To create true balance within our heart field, we must be able to give and equally receive love.

The following integrated movement from em.bodi.ment provides the imagery and physical gesture that explores our heart field.

The Fire Element is one of five elements of the Element Wheel. Each element has one action referred to as an integrated movement. This action is repeated multiple times and provides a movement experience that focuses on personal choice-making. Authentic movement is movement that you choose to make however slow or fast you wish to move. The impulse or motivation to move is based on your breath, eyes and internal affirmations creating a reflective process of movement.

The single movement that is repeated is a starting point, where your gestures take you is a precious moment of choice and expression of your authentic self. The movements are based on Brain Gym ® and Touch for Health ® concepts of integrated movements.

Integrated movements are specific movements that correlate to specific areas of the brain. For example, when we walk, we move through cross-lateral movements which activates both hemispheres of the brain while moving our right arm only, activates the left hemisphere of the brain. The potential of daily movement is not only valuable to our body but also to our brain.

In the following video, join me in exploring our heart field of the Fire Element through the em.bodi.ment  actions from the Element Wheel.

Fire

Meridians: Heart/Small Intestine (Unconditional Love & Assimilation) and Pericardium/Triple Warmer (Bonding & Harmony)

  • Standing in neutral placement, feet parallel with the knees unlocked. Take a moment for intentional breathing and place your hands over the heart or lower abdominals. Slowly extend the arms outward and then return to the surface of the body. Breathe in open your eyes and exhale and close your eyes. Breathe in open your eyes and internally state or speak out loud “I am” as your internal affirmation, exhale close your eyes and notice one word that may come to mind. Repeat your inhale with eyes open stating “I am” and exhale notice your key word that may complete this simple but powerful phrase.
  • The integrated movement begins by noticing your heart field. Through the gesture of reaching out and returning to your heart center, notice how far your heart field expands. Does it extend to your fingertips, pass your fingertips, through the walls or does it extend miles away?  Allow the eyes to look outwards with your reach and bring your focus closer following the return to the surface of your body. The gesture of extending out is to direct your intention of giving unconditional love, the gesture of drawing the hands back to your heart or lower belly, embodies your acceptance of unconditional love. Layer this movement experience with your breath pattern described previously, along with your internal affirmation of “I am”.
  • Reach out into your distal space which is as far as you can reach to your fingertips. Our personal space includes the distal reach of our front/back, side/side, up/down and diagonal front/back space. Each direction we reach out into has three levels, low, middle, and high. Expand your heart field by reaching in different directions in a variation of levels. Your authentic movement may expand this gesture into stepping into the direction where you reach. This action of stepping also challenges leg tracking of your gait and balance.
  • Finish by arriving in stillness, take a deep in-hale and ex-hale in stillness to conclude. I find value in taking a moment to write and reflect on your movement experience recalling imagery, emotions or inner dialogue drawn out by the affirmation of “I am”. Observe your reflection through the viewpoint of a witness and not of judgement. Consider exploring this Element for one week.

Join Pamela in her upcoming 11 Video-On-Demand Series: em.bodi.ment Shen & Ko Cycle & One Private Session learn & register HERE

Begins Monday, February 14th – April 25th | Videos are uploaded each Monday; Practice when it’s convenient for you!

Pamela Luedtke NCPT-CPT completed her Comprehensive Pilates Certification through Studio B Pilates/Balanced Body in 2014 and Balanced Body Master Instructor Training, Sacramento, CA, in 2020. As a Pilates Instructor at Studio B, she has worked with individuals of various backgrounds and abilities in both large group classes and with clients in one-on-one consultations. Pamela was certified as a Brain Gym® Instructor in 2005 and continues to integrate the theory into her teaching which inspired her to develop a movement exploration titled em.bodi.mentem.bodi.ment  links movement development and reflexive repatterning  that creates a physcial exploration of layered  activities that can enhance and support your  physical practice of authentic and integrated movement.

Pamela completed the 500-hour certification of Brain Gym ® through the Educational-Kinesiology Foundation teacher program in 2005.  As a certified instructor (2005-2010), Pamela facilitated trainings through-out Central Wisconsin instructing; Introduction to Brain Gym ® and Brain Gym ® 101 course work for elementary and high school educators. She has also consulted schools to bring more movement into the learning process by accessing Brain Gym® activities in the classrooms. As a Practitioner, she continues to advocate the integrateation and implementation of movement into our daily lives to enhance comprehension, focus, organization, and emotional health. For additional information about Brain Gym ® visit www.braingym.org to learn more.

Pamela is an active artist in the Central Wisconsin community for more than 20 yeasr. She is the founder and artistic director of Point Dance Ensemble, a co-founder of The Artist In Residence Project (AIR Project) and a founding member of Shuvani Tribal Belly Dance. Pamela was a soloist with the Mary Anthony Dance Theatre in New York, NY for eight years, during which time she also worked with such dance luminaries as Anna Sokolow, Bertram Ross and Agnes de Mille. She is currently a Lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point where she teaches Ballet and Modern Dance technique, as well as a Pilates Mat class.

Let’s take iRest Meditation for a Test Drive – Your Mileage May Vary

by Jay Coldwell, RYT-200 & iRest Meditation Level 2 Teacher 

The stream of consciousness below is similar to what many people experience in an iRest guided meditation practice. As you do your test drive, be sure to notice some things:

  • Moving into direct experience, beyond thoughts and language. Embodiment of sensation, emotion, thought, belief. This is a somatic experience. An experience that welcomes whatever arises. No attachment or aversion. No “trying not to think”.
  • A slow release of the I-centric thought. Noticing presence without reference to “I”. Not trying to do that, but it happens because of the somatic technique of the body scan and breath awareness.
  • Curiosity as to what is coming into Awareness; what is real; defensiveness falling away; letting truth emerge out of insight from the heart.
  • Noticing a Stillness that is always there. It gets covered by the noise of the world, but as we practice iRest, we also notice that Stillness is ALWAYS available, and that everything arises in Stillness.

Enjoy your test drive!

Here I am, attending iRest guided meditation. I hope it’s not too weird. I hope I don’t fall asleep. But how could I fall asleep in a room full of other people, or on Zoom? That’s not going to happen.

Why am I here? What is bugging me? Something is bugging me. Not sure – maybe there is something wrong with me. My boss seems to think so, sometimes….

So. Here we go. Tuning in to the sensations of the room – light, sound, touch, smell, taste….presence of others…..I hope I have time to get to the grocery store. I hope people are wearing masks now……Oh yes, sensations in the room…..Noticing how senses are more vivid when I focus attention on them one-by-one.

Why am I here – oh yes….what is bugging me…is there something wrong??? I should have worn more comfortable clothes, or at least something that looks better….Yes, what IS BUGGING ME? Hmmm. calm down a bit.

Feeling into that memory of Lake Superior, its sounds, movement, deep vitality, it’s gentle swells evoking a feeling of dynamic security, safety, attunement with life……sanctuary…..in the flow.

Remembering that my motivation is for the benefit of all…for myself for sure, but also for all…I even contribute to charity….and I develop skills that help people….I took CPR certification, right? So some things are right with me…..

Ok – let’s focus…..I wonder what the new restaurant across the street is like….we’ll have to go there soon….oops – OK –

Feeling sensations in the jaw…..the teeth….gums….tongue….sides of the mouth….roof of the mouth……any tastes present……and then moving awareness to the inner ear…..really – can people be aware of their inner ear??? ….the structure of the outer ear…any sensation in the outer ear…..hmmm….what was it I needed to do tonight? Something I needed to remember…..feeling the weight of the eyes pressing back into the head….and behind the eyes…..whoa…I do feel something here….following the guidance….really aware of the hands….palms of the hands…..left, then right, then both together…..brain doesn’t talk so much now….oops, focus……..feeling the surface of the body….feeling beyond the body….hey you can!…focus…..following energy of breath on left side, then right side, then both sides…..hmmm…this feels sleepy…..I CAN’T fall asleep – what if I snore???

Now noticing what is present…(what does that mean)….curious…what IS there?…..sensation…pain in left shoulder…..tight….warm…..deep red……pulsating…..radiant……Hmm…it changes as Awareness moves there….bigger, then smaller…..How would it be if that wasn’t there??….curious…..attending…..feeling…..words don’t describe it, but the sensation is distinct…….Now feeling both the pain and the other sensation at the same time…..amazing….shifting…..

A belief comes into Awareness……my boss thinks I’m not good enough……yes, that constricts, right there…..noticing size, texture, movement……..and an opposite belief comes into Awareness……I’m ok….feeling that…size, texture, movement….alternating then feeling both at once….. …… …… …… hmmm….communication could change…..remember that…..

And letting Awareness rest……mind rest….. …… ….. Noticing Stillness…… a brief moment of Stillness….. Resting…… Stillness pervading…. Timeless, Spacious, Familiar, Whole, Perfect…..Resting… Stillness…. …… ….. …..

Remembering – oh yes, change in communication — and – stillness. Feeling surroundings, light, sound, touch, smell, taste…..stillness… opening and closing eyes….was I asleep? Sanctuary….Peaceful….Aware….oh yes, I need to run that errand….and still a sense of Stillness. Breathing deeply, stretching, really back in the room. Moving on with my day.

Lightness & Luminosity in Yoga Practice & In Life – The Play of the Guna-s

by Mary Hilliker, RDN, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT

Do you ever feel that you have a carnival in your mind, heart, or body? 

A stuck emotion here, an attitude lingering, a ruminating thought there, an ache or pain in a joint, tight back or neck muscles – all these possibilities creating either a ‘stuckness’ or a constant motion instead of lightness and clarity.  

The ancient wisdom of yoga says that the natural state of our mind is lightness and luminosity (a state of sattva).  This lightness and luminosity can extend to our thoughts, feelings, memories, emotions, physiology, and physical bodies.  Through yoga practice that is skillful and intentional, we can foster more self-regulation. We can create the conditions to be discerning, less reactive, and positive even in the face of life’s ever-changing reality. 

Our yoga practice can teach us about the nature of things that are constantly changing and that which is always the same. It’s in the quiet space of our practice that we develop the inner muscle of awareness to see what is.  Through a skillful approach to practice, we can feel the universe within us and us within the universe. 

So, what’s constantly changing?  Pretty much everything! In yoga philosophy, we know this concept as Prakṛti.  In their book, Embodying the Yoga Sutra: Support, Direction, Space, Ranju Roy and David Charlton, refer to Prakṛti as “outside.”  

Anything with form or substance is changing and is Prakṛti.  That rock, this river, my thoughts, our loved ones, the earth, the universe – it’s all in a state of constantly changing materiality.  The qualities of all materiality are the guna-s. The qualities of the guna-s are described as:

Sattva Guna – Lightness, Clarity, Harmony, Buoyant, Joy, Understanding

Raja Guna – Movement, Activation, Mobilization, Turbulence 

Tama Guna – Inertia, Stability, Stickiness.

In life and on the mat, the play of the guna-s will find us. If we have too much raja guna, we may experience more pain, anger, greed, agitation, and anxiety.  More balanced raja guna will support motivation and creativity for changes that are necessary.  

When tama guna is dominant, we may feel stuck, deluded, indifferent, heavy, ignorant, limited or restrained. When tama guna is balanced, it may provide a sense of stillness, stability, groundedness and structure.  

When we balance tamas and rajas, we come closer to the state of sattva where inner wisdom, discerning awareness, clarity, and a sense of connectedness persist. Our yoga practice can cultivate a sattvic state where we are able to perceive unchanging source, referred to as Puruṣa.  Think of this as “inside.” 

You may have had the experience of taking yourself from a rajasic state (anxious, in constant motion, distracted) or a tamasic state (dull, listless, foggy, sluggish) and landed in a place in your yoga practice where you feel light, luminous, and more knowing of inner truths.  This is the sattvic state and a goal of yoga practice. 

The sattvic state is where we “park” everything – aches and pains, symptoms our bodies experience, the reality of constant change, the drama of our thoughts, feelings, attitudes, moods, reactions, and behaviors. When we “park” everything, we’re not suppressing it. We’re just resting it in the support of our practice so that we experience the light and luminosity of unchanging source.  By parking everything, we can often be more discerning in how we transform through difficulties.  Call this whatever you want for yourself, knowing that resting in the awareness of unchanging source is helpful, healing, and whole.  It is there that we can allow all of life’s experiences to be a source of growth and transformation.

If we can take the time to see the guna-s at play in our lives and then collaborate with them in our practice, we can avoid being trapped or enmeshed by them.  Like often attracts like. If we’re in constant motion, we may be attracted to constant motion and distraction in our yoga practice and in Life.  If we’re dull and listless, we may not even make it to the mat, avoiding the work that may be helpful. Ultimately, a goal of yoga practice is to bring about a sense of lightness, luminosity and clarity. 

Observing what’s happening without judgement and taking a small step in the opposite direction is a start toward creating a more proportionally helpful soup of the guna-s.  We can use the play of the guna-s in our practice and be grateful for what each guna provides in our practice and in our life.  

Tama Guna 

Prepares the structure for our practice

Put supports in place like a chair, the earth, a view of a tree, a candle

Cultivates stability, trust, and groundedness

Raja Guna

Provides a starting point

Puts forth a goal or intention for the practice

Helps us take intelligent steps toward the goal of our practice

Cultivates creativity and change

Sattva Guna

Cultivates illumination and light, spaciousness, and openness 

Provides insight into suffering and the causes of suffering and how it manifests in our life and in our relationships

Provide the means to change habitual tendencies that create suffering

Helps us track progress 

“Sattva is the natural quality of the mind, rajas of the life-force and tamas of the physical body.”

-David Frawley in From the River of Heaven

 

My teacher, Gary Kraftsow, has advice about cultivating a sattvic mind. He offers recommendations like:

  • Study and understand teachings
  • Cultivate discernment and non-attachment
  • Avoid being excessive in acquisitions and actions 
  • Avoid laziness and too much sleep
  • Practice self-care
  • Watch what you feed your mind
  • Be in good company
  • Practice serenity in the face of praise or blame
  • Be humble
  • Be truthful and respectful 
  • Help others
  • Awaken your faith
  • Endure during times of stress 

The guna-s are always in constant movement, co-mingling in different proportions.  We get our own individual experience of how the guna-s impact our physical bodies, physiology and minds through personality, cognition, emotions, and identity.  We can use our yoga practice to observe the guna-s (aka the carnival!) and gently coax them into the proportions that help us connect to lightness, luminosity, and clarity.  

What is Acupuncture? Ancient Practice For Modern Living

Written By: Dr. E. Reenah McGill of The Healing Energy Center (located inside 5 Koshas Yoga & Wellness)

Hi, thanks for taking your time to read this short informative blog. Let me introduce myself as Dr. Reenah McGill. I offer acupuncture and acupressure a form of Chinese medicine, at 5 Koshas Yoga & Wellness. This will be the first of many blogs to help you learn more about this modality which can help YOU Live, Love and Learn with greater joy and harmony in a PAIN FREE body.

I’d first like to introduce a centuries old method to handle pain to do that.  No, it’s not Yoga, but does work together with Yoga. It is Acupuncture.

Acupuncture has been practiced for over 5,000 years on almost every continent and in many cultures.

What is acupuncture? How might it help relieve you of:

  • pain
  • tension
  • discomfort
  • migraines
  • headaches
  • plus other conditions

Acupuncture is a 5000 year old healthcare system that has proven itself over this time to help people enjoy their life more fully. It does this by re-balancing the energy system, called Qi, and removing blocks of pain that have stopped or slowed you down. It helps you build strong and balanced bodies and minds, especially with the additional use of herbs.

In my practice I use a combination of acupuncture, acupressure, herbs, moxibustion, cupping and other modalities. Together these are known as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM is a preferred form of healthcare based on its effectiveness, affordability and lack of adverse side-effects when compared to Western medicine.

In a nutshell, acupuncture is using very thin needles (which rarely causes any discomfort to you, the patient) and your body so your energy is redirected to a healthier flow bringing balance into your body and mind plus relief from pain and discomfort. 

The very thin needles are inserted in very specific places based on what is bothering you and are left there for 20-30 minutes while you relax.  They are then removed and we review how you are feeling. Many clients find multiple sessions are helpful. I am here to support you in your health intentions.

Learn more about Dr. McGill HERE

Visit her website HERE

Dr. McGill has practiced acupuncture for over 25 years, and has been at 5 Koshas for over 5 years. She shares that “Currently Medicare covers it for low back pain and the VA recommends and pays for it to treat a wide variety of conditions from body pain to better sleep.”

To learn more about these conditions, have questions answered or to schedule an appointment, contact Dr. McGill by calling or texting her at: (818) 378-9882

Harvest: The Gathering of the Crop

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

We plant seeds, sometimes with great intention and clarity.  We have a plan and things are working out.  The harvest is bountiful and rich beyond measure.   

The more common situation in life is that seeds are planted but there are obstacles.  We’re still open to the process and looking optimistically to the harvest but we know our methods need to change or be refined. We can avoid harvest failure with the right inputs.  

Other times, we are stuck in the muck, unsure of either what to plant, where to plant it or how to take care of it.  These times are often precipitated by big transitions that may be planned or unanticipated.  Leaving home, getting married, starting a family, a job change, starting a business, closing a business, moving, divorce, retiring, the death of a loved one or friend or a global pandemic are just some examples of things that get us stuck in the muck.  There may be a sense of indecision, a gnawing, an inner discomfort, a disconnection from what feels like an inner alignment, or a frozenness.  

These times of uncertainty will always be part of the journey. When we are in the muck, uncertain of our direction, but knowing that we need to do something different or make a change, the ancients guided us in a few ideas about what to do.    

The Yoga Sutra-s of Patanjali are one of the key philosophical texts of yoga that lay out teachings on the mind and how to cultivate mental clarity and discernment.  They had ideas about how to dig our way out of the muck.  One of my favorite sections is 1.32 to 1.39, a list of practical solutions when you are stuck in suffering:   

  • Commit to the practice of a single principle (1.32) – This might be something as simple as committing to some daily journaling to gain clarity when things are not clear.   
  • Cultivate mental attitudes of friendliness toward those who are happy, compassion toward those who suffer, joy towards those whose action are virtuous, equanimity or disengagement from those who act poorly (1.33) – If we can cultivate these mental attitudes, we will be sorting things out from a place of peace, non-grasping and equanimity instead of being pulled by competition, attachments or aversions. 
  • Pay attention to exhale and suspension of exhale (1.34) – We gain mental clarity by working with our breath to reduce the stress response and quiet the mind and emotions so that we have clear discernment in making decisions. 
  • Work on mastery of the senses (1.35) – Our senses can pull us in many directions but typically the senses run in the direction of avoiding aversions and toward attachments. Our senses like to offer up false solutions by keeping us clinging to what offers a short-term ease from the discomfort of growth. 
  • Mediate on that light that is beyond the mind (1.36) – Meditating on light is common in many of the world’s religious traditions and it stands the test of time for cultivating clarity, optimism, and faith.  
  • Meditate on an inspired being or object (1.37) – This is one of my favorite ideas on this list.  What if we invited into the banquet table in our hearts all those who inspire us to seek their wise counsel?  
  • Pay attention to your sleep and dreams (1.38) – My teacher always counseled that the dreams in the wee hours of the morning are the ones to pay attention to.  This is the time when unconscious problem-solving or other weird, way-out things come up to be sifted and sorted. 
  • Meditate on something that is meaningful to you (1.39) – And this is the ultimate wisdom of the ancients.  What works for us may be something very deeply personal.  I personally like to meditate on plants as a representation of the possibility for growth.  From the muck comes the harvest of trees, fruits, vegetables and flowers! 

These teachings are timeless and relevant to situations and times in life where we get stuck in the muck.  Through conscious intention we can plant seeds and apply the tools for gaining clarity and discernment.  We can foster growth.  We can produce the harvest.  

Chocolate

By Heather Van Dalfsen, MEd, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT

Habits are always of interest to me. Even though they are part of our human experience, many of us move through life and our habits on ‘cruise control,’ a subconscious auto-pilot, where we don’t stop to see, hear and feel what is happening. 

There are some days we pause. The infamous New Year’s Eve. When we are inundated to at least try at the dawn of every new year to launch the creation of a new habit or resolve a current habit. 

Habit: A routine of behavior that is repeated regularly 

Intention: Commitment to carrying out an action, creating a plan.

So when do we have time to pause and take ourselves off of ‘cruise control’ to review our habits? If that occurs then what happens next?

The reality is habits and intentions are influenced by so many layers of our life

LAYERS: Gary Kraftsow, Yoga Therapist and Founder of the American Viniyoga Institute explores this through a model that invites you to review your habits through the layers of your:

Environment

Society

Co-workers

Family

Physical health

Physiological health

Thoughts, Behavior, Mood 

 

INTERCONNECTED: Even though this can be a lot to process, all these layers of our life are interconnected, giving us many entry points – doorways ‘in’ to continue reflecting, learning and transforming ourselves. 

How do we take ourselves off ‘cruise control?’

LESS IS MORE – Start small. So small that you are able to take a few minutes each day to engage in something from the list below

BE KIND – To yourself. Everyday. This is an ongoing practice and a foundational powerhouse that is always on your side

MOVE – Many experts in the field of ‘Habits’ encourage movement

  • Walk, dance, do yoga, gardening…what interests you?
  • Most movement offers individuals the opportunity to sharpen their attention and be mindful of what they see, hear and feel

THE WORLD OF APPS – While this would seem to be the antithesis of movement, it can offer a fresh perspective on this topic

  • When you take the time to research ‘Apps to Support Habit Change’ the options are plentiful
  • Some are witty, one was created by a Nobel Prize winner, while others are complex, many offer an efficient way to zoom in on your short and long term intentions and systematize your progress

WRITE IT DOWN – Whether using your computer or pen and paper, anchor this time of writing with an existing ritual – while drinking your coffee, before or after your movements or yoga practice, during a pause to eat a piece of chocolate

  • Create a ‘home base’ to support your ritual of documenting your thoughts, observations, intentions

Some questions to keep you curious and engaged:

  • ‘In this season of life what are my habits of speech, actions, thoughts?
  • ‘What habits serve me well at this time as I navigate life? What habits are not as helpful at this time?’
  • ‘What could I add to my daily routine? What could I take away?’
  • ‘What supports me in this review, planning and actions of my life?’

MORNING: Take a minute in the morning to write down a word or phrase that sets the intention and tone for yourself and what you are focused on for the day.

EVENING: Write down words or phrases that ‘distill the essence’ of your day. You could even use the list of layers shared earlier, writing down what you observed about your interaction with co-workers, family and most importantly, yourself!

MUSIC & MANTRA – Sing, hum, silently create sound in your mind

  • A centuries old strategy that can support your body, nervous system, mind and emotions and this current momentum of life
  • Mantra to support a powerful, short practice – SA TA NA MA
    • Translation: SA-Birth, TA-Life, NA-Death, MA-Rebirth
    • Add movement as you say or sing the mantra – palms open 
      • As you say/sing SA – Thumb and first finger touch
      • As you say/sing TA – Thumb and middle finger touch
      • As you say/sing NA – Thumb and ring finger touch
      • As you say/sing MA – Thumb and last finger touch
      • Repeat to create a shift from ‘cruise control’

Now take a deep beath. As always this is an ongoing practice. So, what caught your attention within the words and strategies shared here? There is so much more to explore, learn and integrate when it comes to habits. For now trust you are in good company with this process. 

And…Don’t forget to grab a big piece of your favorite chocolate!

Remembering

By Heather Van Dalfsen, MEd, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT | Photo Credit: Heather Van Dalfsen

I Remember…

When my 7th grade English teacher offered this writing prompt, I sat up with my attention.

“Short, detailed slices of your life,” he repeated as he moved around the room in his cadenced, heavy-heeled walking pace.

He loved his students, he loved words and he knew how to mine experience after experience from teenagers’ growing minds and hearts.

After watching him walk by my desk, I was ready. Big, bubble cursive letters across the top of my paper read I REMEMBER and I began.

I REMEMBER…

  • Fields of grass
  • Humid summers
  • Bikes, radios, riding horses bareback, no helmets, no watches, no cellphones, no deadlines
  • Big blue sky, clouds, heavy humidity, storms, thunder, tornado warnings, then sunshine and more stifling humidity
  • Shade when in the woods, the white ribbon trail from the white ribbons my best friend’s brother tied on the tree trunks – connecting our houses on either side of the quarter-mile swath of dense pine and maples
  • The tree at the edge of the woods, rising above the roof of my parents’ home, perfect ladder-like branches to the top, sitting there within the tree’s canopy, among initials lost in the texture of the bark
  • Breathing with the tree
  • Listening with the tree
  • Dissolving into the coolness of the breeze through the branches, tucked away, high above everything, quiet, alive

It was then that the loss of time and ease of effort lured me into deeper pauses of presence.

I sensed it and liked it, yet as a pre-teen, wasn’t sure what to do with it. So it was tucked away as memories.

Decades later, I remember. Those moments rise-up with clarity, especially when in the presence of trees, soft winds and humidity of summer. Timeless. Effortless.

Reflections:

  • I ask myself: How has my relationship and understanding with those timeless moments
    evolved?
  • I ask you: What experiences invite you into a few breath cycles or longer pauses of mindful, present awareness?

Doorways In:

  • What movements or moments feel natural and intuitive to you? Walking, biking,
    climbing, time with horses, being in the presence of trees? other examples?
  • Which of your senses supports you in being present?
  • What symbols in nature are you most connected to?
  • Sit down, write, reflecting with: I Remember…. What rises-up for you?

Short ‘Yoga Snack’ Practice to support being mindful and present in the heart and heat of summer:

  • Find a favorite space outdoors or indoors
  • Sit or stand and sense how you are connected to the earth, ground or floor
  • Take three steady breath cycles – breathing in and breathing out
  • When external warm temperatures or a sense of heat within yourself, explore three breath cycles of Sitali or Sitkari Breath – a technique I call ‘cooling – calming’ breath
    o Sitali Breath – stick out your tongue and curl it – another option is Sitkari Breath, tongue softly placed behind the top row of teeth, the bottom row of teeth slightly dropping from the top row of teeth
    o Inhale along wet tongue, ‘sipping in’ inhale
    o At peak of inhale let tongue touch roof of mouth and pause
    o Exhale through both nostrils as tongue relaxes, jaw relaxes, let shoulders relax, sense the soft gravity pull of the earth
  • Practice ‘cooling -calming’ breath for three breath cycles, softening eyes to closure
  • Then Breathe freely
  • Listen to the sounds of the space you are in
  • Notice what you feel through the hands, along the skin
  • Sense the colors and textures of the space, even with eyes closed
  • Continue to breathe freely as you open your eyes

May these reflections and short practice support you in remembering what you always have known – your ability to pause and be present, understand and trust your wisdom and integrate it into your life.

Donna Farhi shares her wisdom that reflects the depth of these practices:
“When we begin Yoga practice, we are signing up for a lifelong apprenticeship with our Self and to the Self. Nothing can replace the minutes, hours and days of practice, observation and just plain old trial and error involved in a lifelong apprenticeship. It is the very slowness of this apprenticeship that is the healing, for in slowing down we fall into a more natural rhythm with life and with ourselves. Thus we gradually change, gradually understand, gradually integrate….” From Bringing Yoga to Life