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

Reduce Your ‘Coronasomnia’ and Get Your Sleep Back on Track with Yoga

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

When sleep escapes you and fatigue is your daytime companion, it’s time to evaluate what actions you can take to improve sleep.  Your yoga toolbox has many tools, but you need to know which ones to apply to your situation.   

Insomnia was a major health issue across the population before the pandemic.  As routines were disrupted and stress amplified during the pandemic, more people are suffering with insomnia or ‘coronasomnia’.  Occasional sleeplessness is part of the human condition but chronic problems with sleeplessness can take a toll on physical and mental health.

The roots of sleeplessness may be related to stress, age, hormonal changes, pain, digestive distress, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, other health issues, medication side effects, lack of exercise or the wrong timing of it for your body, diet, or lifestyle routines.  Yoga is especially helpful for reducing symptoms of stress, anxiety, pain, and digestive distress – all big disruptors of sound sleep.  Yoga also creates awareness around factors that impact the body’s natural rhythms of wakefulness and sleepiness.

The tools of yoga are skillfully applied based on the characteristics of sleeplessness.  Some people have trouble falling asleep.  Others wake in the middle of the night.  The early risers may wake at 4 am even though the alarm is set for 6 am.  And some individuals sleep for 8 – 10 hours yet never feel rested and refreshed.  An assessment of what is happening for you is a first step in applying the tools that may be helpful.

One of the issues that has emerged during the pandemic is drastic changes in personal, work, school, and household routines.  Working parents of school age children have had some of the most drastic shifts in their routines.  These shifts in routines can be a major source of sleep problems.  One way to approach this is to see what is now returning to normal as we emerge out of the pandemic (hopefully!) and what might still be hanging on as a habit formed during the pandemic.  Some habits are major sleep disruptors – caffeine after mid-day, lack of exercise, no outside time or natural light before mid-day, high sugar consumption, and late in the day heavy meals, consumption of alcohol, too much alcohol and use of electronic devices.

Yoga tools that may be used for sleeplessness include yoga postures, breath adaptation in the postures, breathing practices, guided relaxation, meditation, or sound.  If you work with a Yoga Therapist to improve sleep and reduce daytime fatigue, you might work on:

  • Setting the stage for better sleep with lifestyle techniques and environmental controls
  • Unwinding tightness, tension and pain using yoga postures
  • Using yoga postures and breathing to fall asleep
  • Techniques you can use in bed when you wake during the night
  • Ideas for managing waking early
  • Quick and easy techniques for dealing with daytime fatigue
  • Changing attitudes and stress around managing sleeplessness.

One of the most common experiences of sleeplessness is not being able to fall asleep because of stress and repetitive negative or worrisome thoughts or strong emotions.  Keep in mind that the more stressful the day, the more valuable some movement and breathing to reduce stress hormones.  Yoga tools that may be applied in this situation include lifestyle changes, and a short evening yoga practice of simple postures with breath adaptation, a short breathing practice that promotes calmness, and guided relaxation or meditation.

Here’s one scenario for falling asleep at night:

  • Write down any reminders you need to offload from the chatter in your mind to empty yourself of the day.
  • Turn off the electronics.
  • Take a hot shower or bath.
  • Do a few favorite yoga postures slowly and with progressively lengthening exhales through 4 – 6 repetitions. You might start with a standing posture, then do a kneeling posture, then transition to your back to do a few postures.
  • Crawl into bed and visualize a favorite place in nature. Keep that visualization in your mind’s eye.
  • Make your inhale extremely easy such as 4 sec – 6 sec. Then progressively make the exhale longer (4 breaths with each step that you increase the exhale) until it is twice as long as your inhale.

Whether you need better sleep, more sleep, or better energy during the day, your yoga toolbox has options for skillful action.  You can learn how to use your yoga tools for sweet dreams at night and vitality and clear thinking during the day.

Fresh Air, Perspectives & Possibilities

By Heather Van Dalfsen, MEd. C-IAYT, E-RYT 500, Certified Yoga Therapist and Viniyoga Teacher

Your outdoor ‘green space’ yoga practice invites you to reconnect with the earth, stretch to the sky, inhale fresh oxygen and exhale a sense of groundedness – present for even one breath cycle, especially after such a significant year of change, challenges and growth.

Sip in the sweet benefits of outdoor yoga:

  • Be a Kid Again – sense you are connected to the ground and reach to the sky
  • Practice Concentration – deepen your awareness and your practice of being present
  • Hone Your Proprioception – understanding the advanced sense of your body in space that helps you with stability, balance and movement
  • Plug in to the Totality of the Experience – be one with the beauty from birds to bugs, sun and clouds.
  • Engage Your 5 Senses and Be Inspired – reconnect to what is important to you

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

Group classes in ‘green space’ invites you to find balance with your heightened five senses and to practice a sense of tranquility and calm.

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

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

Be engaged, be curious, be open to your beginners mind this summer and practice creating fresh perspectives and possibilities that can be supportive through life’s ease and challenges.

You will be welcomed to these Summer 2021 outdoor classes:

Yoga atop Rib Mountain – Outdoor, In-Person class and streamed live June 7 through September 27, 5:30 pm at the amphitheater. A lot of space to roll out your mat, reconnect with people, nature and what you need to re-center. State park sticker needed if parking near the amphitheater. Join Heather Van Dalfsen – Paid pre-class registration appreciated. More Details + Register HERE

Night Out at the Woodson – Yoga in the Sculpture Garden First Thursdays, June 3, July 1 and August 5, 5:30 pm-6:30 pm – Free to all ages. Join Mary Kluz within the expansive space of sun and shade in the Sculpture Garden. More Details + Register HERE

Be Like the Wildflowers: Return to the Core of Who You Are, Rest, Digest, Bloom

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

How can we emerge from this year?   Let’s just say it.  It’s been a crazy year.  Uncertainty and quickly changing circumstances have dominated our lives.  Situations and events that tear at the heart have happened with greater frequency.  Even the most balanced and steady among us have felt stress, anxiety, loss, and grief.  I’ve been thinking about how wildflowers have some answers for us.  

Every year wildflowers return to the core of who they are, allowing their brilliance and show-stopping displays to whither and return to the earth as compost.  I’m not suggesting that you turn yourself into compost right now, but prioritizing some time to be with yourself in quiet reflection is a great alternative.  Turn off the news.  Shut down the electronics.  Let nature be a therapeutic balm for your senses.  Breathe.  Courageously know yourself.  

One of our students has a ritual of watching the sun rise over the Wisconsin River.  It’s his contemplative time of day.  Rituals of connecting to nature, the cycles of the day or season, and faith are all powerful ways to return to the core of who you are.  

Breathing deeply is also another way of returning to Self, that part of you that is unchanging.  Self is that center that is unchanged by the drama all around.  And the quickest way to return to that core is via the breath.  Even 12 deep breaths can lead you home.    

Wildflowers rest.  In all my years of teaching yoga, teaching teachers, mentoring students, and working with clients on therapeutic practices, I’ve never seen a time where people have been so in need of deep rejuvenating rest.  The chronic stress and anxieties of this last year drain our systems.  We can become like wildflowers without any food, water, or sunshine.  

Movement practices like gentle breath-infused yoga postures, Tai Chi, embodiment, Feldenkrais Awareness Through Movement (ATM) or any movement done in a meditative way are all wonderful ways to slow down and provide nourishment in the form of circulation to muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, fascia, organs, glands, the brain, and entire nervous system.  It is just like giving a wildflower some oak leaf mulch, warm spring rain and a good dose of sunshine.  Even if you are extremely attracted to a hard driving workout, it’s supportive of your immunity to do a gentle practice at least once a week to rest and rejuvenate.  

Guided relaxation and meditation also help with deep rest.  Even 5 – 10 minutes of relaxing music with legs up on an ottoman or chair or up the wall will signal to your body to do its “rest and digest” function.  This is particularly helpful to our immune system and can support the work of your Covid-19 vaccine.  

Wildflowers digest food, water, and sunshine to emerge in the spring.  We too need nutritious food, water, and light to digest the experiences of this last year.  There are many ways to digest what has happened.  Loss and grief and coping with change looks different for each person.  Prioritizing some time for what helps you is a good start.  As we emerge, we risk jumping back on hamster wheels that are not really our own.  Find what really nourishes you and helps you process what happened this last year.  Some people meditate, some journal, some take counsel in a good friend, some pray, and others return to activities that help them feel like they are contributing to the greater good.  It is enormously helpful to have a process that helps you feel like you are digesting your own individual experience to reflect on what’s been lost, what remains and what feels more important than ever before. 

And that brings us to blooming.  Without fail, the wildflowers return each spring.  From delicate, almost Victorian-like preciousness to bold and strong displays, they return.  They have used the gift of returning to their core, resting, and digesting to emerge once again.    

The lessons for us as we emerge are perhaps simple.  Be like the wildflowers:

  • Return to the core of who you are for at least 5 minutes each day.  Take in nature through the senses.  Breathe deeply.  Turn off the drama of the world for some time every day.   
  • Prioritize some rest in a way that helps your body achieve its most optimal immunity.  We all need that right now.  In fact, the entire world is banking on every human building immunity.  Schedule your restful self-care.  
  • Digest and process the experiences of this last year in a way that suits you.  Reflect on what has been lost, what remains and what feels more important than ever before.  And set your sights to that light of inspiration.  
  • As the time comes, bloom!  Don’t feel any need to rush the process of emerging.  Let what is meant to manifest in your life do so.  Honor the cycle that we are in right now as it is likely to be different with some small and large changes.    

May your mind-body practice (and vaccine) support you like soil, food, water, and sunshine nourishes those wildflowers. 

Em.Bodi.Ment: Movement Exploration Of One’s Authentic Self

By Pamela Luedtke: Certified Brain Gym Instructor, Dance Instructor, Certified Pilates Instructor 

 

Read More About Pam Here 

 

When I was first introduced to the idea of dance improvisation at age 13, the idea of moving how I felt seemed abstract. The structure of my dance experience included my instructor demonstrated and my fellow dancers and I would reproduce what we saw the best we could. When asked to improve, I froze and then began with what I thought was asked from me to dance steps that were instructed in a different sequence of my choice. I was curious at that awkward moment of realizing that there was more to dance than being told to move a certain way, I simply never was taught how to move as my authentic self. This was a starting point and the beginning of a personal lifetime quest to not only experience my authentic self through movement but also to develop a process to instruct and share the expansive and healing nature of movement.

My humble attempt to create a starting point to personal movement choice is through repetitive actions. In the movement experience em.bodi.ment offered at 5 Koshas, each Element from the Element Wheel has one action that is repeated multiple times.  Through repetition we can explore choice-making (how slow/fast, big/small do I make this action?), breath integration (breath is the purpose for your movement and is the pulse in which you move to), and internal dialogue (a short affirmation is stated to focus the mind and body).

The single movement that is repeated is a starting point, where your gestures take you is your 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. 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.

I invite you to explore this movement from the em.bodi.ment class offered as a virtual experience through 5 Koshas Video-On-Demand (VOD). Register Here

In the following video, join me in exploring the one repetitive action from Wood inspired by the em.bodi.ment of the Element Wheel. Watch Video Here

Tips & Steps To Follow As You Watch YouTube Video Experience Wood- Meridians: Gall Bladder and Liver

Part 1: 

  1. Begin by rooting down in the lower half of your body.
  2. Feet place hip-distance apart, root into the surface below you.
  3. Rock the weight of your center of gravity forward, backward, side to side feeling the surface of your feet with soft bent legs receiving the weight of your body.
  4. You may close your eyes or keep them open.
  5. Breath in open your eyes and exhale and close your eyes.
  6. The internal affirmation is “I Act”.
  7. Breath in open your eyes and internally state or speak out loud “I Act”.
  8. Close your eyes and listen to the sonic memory of this affirmation or perhaps a single word might respond. I recommend staying with this response for the duration of the movement experience that follows.

Part 2:

  1. The integrated movement begins by swinging the arms and rotating starting from the push of the feet which rotates the pelvis into the lumbar, thoracic, cervical spine and head. The arms can swing low, middle, or high.
  2. Allow the head to move with rotation, but if you get dizzy, you can keep your head and focus on the center.

Part 3: 

  1. Layer this movement experience with your breath pattern described previously, along with your internal affirmation.
  2. Play an inspiring song and listen to the impulse of choice making.
  3. Move slowly, change a level or travel in space.
  4. Begin at one point, embody every moment of the action and pleasantly be surprised by where you may arrive.
  5. If you feel the inner dialogue of “What do I do next?”, which often takes place, return to the beginning action of the swing to reconnect you to the process of em.bodi.ment.
  6. 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 Act”. Observe your reflection through the lens of a witness viewpoint and not as a judgement. Consider exploring this Element over a week span of time.

Mantra Japa as a Timeless Practice for Conquering Fear

If you take a moment to sit and notice what you are feeling right now, there is probably a mixmaster of thoughts, emotions, beliefs and feelings running around your body and mind.

Continued worries about the pandemic, worry about the future (health, finances, relationships), interacting with people in public again — a mixture of longing and hesitation, seemingly ever-widening polarization of society, wanting to get more involved with extended family, changes that we never anticipated, what comes next? …..worries, anxiety, desire, clinging to the familiar that is now long gone. Uncertainty. Fear. 

Yoga offers many tools to welcome, understand, listen to, and grow from the messages delivered by feelings, emotion, thoughts and beliefs. Those “fluctuations of the heart-mind” have a habit of running around in our heads constantly, telling us our story, keeping us in a self-referenced bondage of our superficial self — our personality, relationships and possessions. Yoga teaches that our deepest self is the Awareness of all these activities of the heart-mind.. And that Awareness is always unchanging, sweet and joyful. Once we calm the activities of the mind, we can notice this subtle Awareness and know that deep down, we are whole, complete and perfect. 

The tools of yoga include yoga postures, breathing practices, meditation, yoga nidra and mantra japa. Mantra japa is the repetition of a word or phrase over and over, calming the mind and helping us be open and aware of our ever-present Awareness. Repeating the mantra evokes the archetypal energy that already exists within us, represented in the mantra. Your mantra japa practice may also have a specific intention.

The topic of this blog is the Mṛtyuñjaya-mahāmantraḥ, the great death-conquering mantra. It is chanted in support of ourselves, family or friends who are going through great difficulty, health challenges, or death. It’s intention is to help us through these difficulties and importantly, to eliminate the fear of the changes that are coming, immersing us in the sweetness of Awareness. 

This mantra is one of a literal handful of mantras that have been in continuous use for over 3,000 years, perhaps 4,000 or more. It is still in use today by millions of people around the world, and so links us to maybe 150 generations of humanity all chanting these very same words, these very same sounds, with the same or similar intention. And since it is a Vedic chant, we chant it even with the same melody. It can provide us a connection to the past that is often missing from our young immigrant / melting pot country. 

It originated, as you would expect, in a very different culture, full of agricultural metaphor and personal deities. The deities, at their root, speak to archetypal structures that all of us have within us, so when we chant to a deity, we call forth that archetype from within. This is a chant to Shiva, the three-eyed one (representing pure consciousness). The archetypal form of Shiva associated with this mantra is Amruteshwara, the lord of the nectar of immortality. 

A literal translation of the mantra is: 

“We worship the three-eyed Lord, who is sweetly fragrant (with awakened consciousness) and who increases well-being. 

Liberate us from bondage to death / fear of death like a cucumber separated from the vine, (i.e., irreversibly and easily) but not from the nectar of immortality.“

That is a bit far afield from our world-view and experience. Since this is a mantra associated with Amruteshwara, we can translate it as follows: 

“We invoke the sweet fragrance of awakened consciousness to increase our well-being.

Forever liberate us from all fear and the fear of death and immerse us in the nectar of immortality.”

So our intention for using the mantra is to be liberated from fear, which is at the root of so much anxiety and suffering, and to be immersed in the sweetness of universal consciousness, which was never born and never dies. We can apply this to specific intentions for health and healing for ourselves and for others. Mantra japa is generally performed in a quiet voice in a space and time where you will not be interrupted. People often use a mālā to further the meditative quality and also track the number of repetitions, perhaps 27 or 54 or 108 repetitions. If you do not have a mālā, you may just set aside a specific time for your mantra japa practice. 

The Sanskrit transliteration of the mantra appears below:

Oṁ tṛya̍mbakaṃ yajāmahe suga̱ndhiṃ pu̍ṣṭi̱vardha̍nam | u̱rvā̱ru̱kami̍va̱ bandha̍nānmṛ̱tyormu̍kṣīya̱ mā’mṛta̎t ||

To learn more about Vedic chant, yoga sutra-s and yoga philosophy, check out the Chanting and Yoga Philosophy Intensive, offered in conjunction with River Flow Yoga Teacher Training School, starting May 17: http://www.riverflowyoga.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/ChantingYogaPhilosophy-Intensive_2021-22_012721.pdf

Awareness Through Movement: “The Possibilities are Endless”

By Bette Stephens, P.T., G.C.F.P.

“Harmonious efficient movement prevents wear and tear.  More important, however, is what it does to the image of ourselves and our relationship to the world around us.”  (Moshe Feldenkrais)

What is Awareness Through Movement?

Welcome to increasing your AWARENESS through Movement from “The Feldenkrais Method”.  I’d like to tell you a little bit about my classes offered through 5 Koshas Yoga & Wellness in Wausau, WI.  Each lesson begins with very easy movements, that you are instructed to do gently, slowly, and repetitively.  As the lesson progresses, interesting, non-habitual variations are weaved in; at this point, it is very helpful to engage your curiosity as you listen to your body following the instructions.

“Learning happens when the brain is confused, out of its habit and then learning can happen.”  (Ruthy Alon)

Guided scans are led in the beginning to enable you to learn more about some of your habitual patterns; later scans allow you to acknowledge changes that are happening throughout the lesson.  The scanning supports your learning process and allows you to adjust the way you are interpreting the instructions.

I remind you to treat yourself with complete self-respect: “do less than you could”, and to “feel, not strain”.  And, when you feel the pleasure of the gains, you’re encouraged to enjoy them and accept them as benefits to your learning experience; this AWARENESS leads to neurological responses, that gradually provide lasting effects or “neuroplasticity”, benefits that you can “keep” or at least, quickly regain.

There are a wide-range of lessons, but, you will find they all benefit your breathing and ability to be in the moment (a kind of “Movement Meditation”); your neuromuscular system relaxes, allowing tight muscles to let go of holding and regain their more normal length; coordination of body parts are reawakened with a sense that your skeleton and muscles are more organized when you stand up, with a more stable base, a feeling of lengthening upright and opening of your upper chest, all leading to lighter, easier movements in your life activities:

“The lessons are designed to improve ability, that is to expand the boundaries of the possible:  to turn the impossible into the possible, the difficult into the easy, and the easy into the pleasant.  For only those activities that are easy and pleasant will become part of (your) habitual life and will serve (you) at all times.”  (Moshe Feldenkrais)

There are many benefits to a wide spectrum of people, the only requirements are an ability to listen with curiosity and an openness to new possibilities.  “The Possibilities are Endless”, words I often heard and embodied with Gaby Yaron; thankfully, she was my trainer in the early 1990’s.  If you have never experienced “ATM” lessons, you do have that opportunity through “5 Koshas Yoga and Wellness”.  And, if you have done “ATM” lessons, previously, wouldn’t you like to do more?

Bette Stephens, P.T., G.C.F.P., teaches Awareness Through Movement Classes at 5 Koshas Yoga & Wellness in Wausau, WI.  You can find her class schedule at https://www.5koshasyoga.com/yoga/class-schedule/

The View From My Yoga Mat

Written By: Janie Martin, 5 Koshas Yoga Student

Photographed above is Janie’s Yoga Buddy Spanky, who watches as she practices daily!

I am a yoga student, usually taking twice a week lessons, for four years. I also practice on my own nearly every day. I consider myself a ranked beginner.

Before I started taking classes, I thought yoga looked easy. My main concerns were not looking silly and keeping up with my classmates the first few weeks. My goal was to remain flexible as I aged; and because my doctor recommended yoga for those who were, like me, at high risk of osteoporosis.

At random, I picked a “beginner” class in Tulsa where I was living and found a gem of an instructor, and a room full of kindred souls.

Even when everyone else was stretching to the right side, and I was inexplicably going left, there were no laughs or corrections. My concerns about looking silly vanished quickly.

After six months it dawned on me that although I was getting (at least most of the time!) into the correct poses, I wasn’t focused on increasing my ability to stretch.

I had heard “go halfway between easy and hard,” from instructor Linda for six months, but that day the lightbulb came on, and I started to feel progress.

As we prepared to move home to Wisconsin two years ago, one of the things that was the hardest to leave behind was my class and instructor.

Finding a yoga studio was a high priority and I was very fortunate to end up at 5 Koshas, in gifted Renee’s class.

Due to the pandemic, I now only see my fun and interesting classmates via zoom, but I anxiously await a return to the studio when it is safe.

Recently, during my solo practice at home, I had another blinding glimpse of the obvious, or BGO, as I call them.

I was focused on breath and movement, and suddenly realized I was matching my breath to my body movement, and not matching the body movement to my breath.

This may sound inconsequential, but when I started to let my breath lead, my physical movements slowed drastically.

This after I have heard multiple instructors coach the correct way for four years! The result when I got it right was a deeper sense of relaxation and calm.

Years ago, I enjoyed taking Tae Kwan Do classes with my son. But in contrast with yoga, the focus was on learning a skill set and advancing.

It felt like a pressurized rush to master and move up. Yoga is complex enough that I am still challenged in a “Beginner and Beyond” class.

I am making slow progress, but I am not impatient. Going slow is delivering gains in my flexibility, but also in achieving a relaxed mental state which is almost addictively enjoyable.

Once in a while, I am busy and tempted to skip my daily practice. But when I “adult myself” to the mat, it only takes minutes for me to be glad I am taking this time for myself.

It never fails when I get on the floor at home our two big dogs come to see if I need their help. (I don’t.) Luckily they lose interest quickly, and when they depart, our cats come and lie on the mat corners.

It is unusual for the cats to seek me out during the day. I believe they are attracted by the calm energy I have when practicing. “Calm energy” is not how anyone who knows me would usually describe me.

I am enjoying my yoga journey at a pace that feels right for me. I am adjusting to a new instructor, and as hard as it is to accept change, I know I will have a BGO or two because everyone helps me see or feel something new.

I am inspired by those I take classes with who are older than I, or have physical challenges, yet persist in practicing.

I hope I can be a beginner still unrolling my mat daily for many years to come. You may still see me sweeping left when everyone else is sweeping right, but after all, they do call it “practice.”

Yoga For Better Sleep

by Kerry MacDonald, RYT-200

“Counting sheep to sleep?”

There are so many reasons for sleepless nights.  Many of us are busy and stressed, unable to shut our brains off. Daily stresses build in our mind and cause anxiety. Others suffer from muscle aches and pains that wake them up and keep them up.

Yoga is similar to a meditation session in that it encourages you to bring focus back to your body and breathe, your mind is less distracted. You will find sleep comes easier when negative thoughts are diminished.

Langhana breathing practice is when your exhale is longer than your inhale, this technique relaxes your nervous system and can be calming to your mind.

Exploring different yoga postures to relax tense muscles can be extremely helpful to ease daily aches and pains. Various poses help to stimulate deeper breathing, which in turn relax your body & soothe your mind.

The more you practice the less you tend to think about your breathing techniques because it becomes more natural.

Everyone feels a little overwhelmed and stressed, it’s normal.  We all find ourselves struggling to fall asleep at one time or another.  Being able to calm your mind and get some extra zzzz’s would be a great gift to yourself.

 

Can you learn yoga techniques to sleep better at night?

You can join me on Sundays at 7 PM for Online Pajama Yoga: Yoga For Better Sleep & Tuesdays at 9 AM for Online Gentle Yoga For Beginners & Beyond These classes are intended for beginners and beyond! Everyone is welcome.  Also, these classes will be recorded and are available for 5 days.

Kerry MacDonald RYT-200, has been a yoga practitioner for 5 years and was certified as a yoga teacher by River Flow Yoga Teacher Training School in 2020.  Her yoga teaching is to help students to feel confident and knowledgeable about their practice while exploring all the benefits the practice has to offer and apply it to daily living.