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!

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.

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/

Yoga: Function in Life Over Perfect Form on the Mat

by Sally Konkol, RN, BSN, RYT-200

“Can you reach that bowl on the top shelf?”

We have all been there.  Up on our tip toes, arm stretched as much as possible.  Needing just another half inch.  “There, I got it!”  It is times like that when I continue to appreciate the functional benefits of yoga for everyday living.

Yoga movements, postures, and breathing practices help to keep us strong and balanced.  Moving our arms, bending forward, lateral bending, twisting and balance are part of everyday living, and part of any yoga practice.

  • Bending forward: think of tying your shoes; bending and reaching into the dryer for that last sock; or weeding the garden.
  • Lateral bending: think of reaching under the couch for that dog toy; or washing windows.
  • Twisting: think of looking in your blind spot while driving; or shoveling snow.
  • Balance: think of reaching that top shelf on your tip toes.

Having strong legs, a strong back, and a strong core all aid in keeping us steady while we walk, climb stairs or anything else we do on any given day.  Moving our bodies stimulates our circulation and lymphatic system, aiding in immunity.  Weight bearing exercise helps to keep our bones strong.  And the mindfulness of yoga helps decrease the stress that everyone has.  This is what we can do for ourselves, this is self-care.

Here are some self-care practices you can try at home:

Balancing Tadasana (balance posture)

Begin by standing with feet hip distance apart.  Feel grounded and steady.  On an inhale, sweep your arms out to the side and up above your head.  At the same time, lift your heals off the floor.  On the exhale, sweep arms back down to your sides, as you bring your heals back down to the floor.  Move intentionally with your inhale and exhale.  Practice this posture 6 times.

 

Ardha Pārśvottānāsana (lateral forward bending posture)

Stand with left foot forward, right foot turned slightly outward, right arm overhead, and left arm folded behind your back.  On exhale, bend forward, bending left knee slightly, bringing chest toward left thigh, and right hand to left foot.  On inhale, lift chest and arm until torso is parallel to the ground.  On exhale, return to the forward bend position.  On inhale, return to starting position.  Moving with your breath. Repeat 4 times, then switch sides.

 

Sukasana Parivrtti (seated twist posture)

Start with a comfortable seated position on your mat or in a chair.  Place left hand on right knee.  Place right hand behind your hips.  On exhale, twist to the right, looking over your right shoulder.  On inhale, return to starting position.  Repeat 4 times, then switch sides.

 

Mindful Minute (breathing practice)

Inhale slowly, and think peace

Exhale slowly, and think calm

Take 8-10 slow, deep purposeful breaths

 

Think of that top shelf.

Can you reach your goals for self-care?

You can join me on Wednesdays at 4:15 for the Zoom class “Yoga for Self-Care: Creating Calm with Movement and Breathing.  This class is intended for beginners, but all are welcome.  Also, this class will be recorded and is available for 5 days.

Sally Konkol, RN, BSN, RYT-200, has been a yoga practitioner for 8 years and was certified as a yoga teacher by River Flow Yoga Teacher Training School in 2020.  Her yoga teaching is straight forward and practical, helping the practice feel relevant and accessible to new and experienced students. 

 

Stamina & Soul – Pandemic Ponderings Part 2

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

I paused and tried to picture this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cultivating Another Mental Attitude with iRest® Yoga Nidra Meditation

“When in distress, cultivate another mental attitude” Yoga Sutra-s of Patanjali, Chapter 2, sutra 33. 

As the pandemic drags on, do you find yourself wondering, what is wrong with us? Why are we so dysfunctional? This is depressing. Something seems wrong. Something seems wrong….with me.

In my studies for iRest Yoga Nidra certification, I am studying the pratya bhijña hṛdayam, The Heart of Recognition, or alternatively, The Recognition of Our Own Heart. This text is the most direct statement of The Recognition School, that reached its peak around the year 1000 CE, in the Kashmir region of what is now Pakistan. The Heart of Recognition is that we actually are a condensed form of the one consciousness. We Recognize Our Own Heart when we glimpse the qualities of the one consciousness even in our contracted form.

The first five sutra-s of this foundational text (the pratya bhijña hṛdayam) say:

  • Everything comes into being and is animated by one consciousness. The one consciousness is the ground of Being. 
  • This one consciousness has an inherent impulse to manifest, and unfolds the universe from herself, upon herself. She pours forth the universe in continuous re-creation.
  • This consciousness manifests in diverse ways and differentiates into entities that relate to one another as subjects and objects.
  • Even as there are many subjects and objects, they are still all manifestations of the one consciousness. Just as in a hologram, the whole is contained in each fragment, the whole of the one consciousness is within everything, in condensed, but complete form. There is nothing that is not consciousness.
  • And so even our minds, are the one consciousness, in contracted form.

Western psychology holds that consciousness is an attribute of the mind. Eastern psychology takes another view: the mind is the product of consciousness. So, we can take another view: that consciousness is here, and the mind is its product. Everything belongs, it is all a manifestation of one consciousness. Our thoughts and emotions are here, and we can welcome them, without judgment. And, no matter our present state of mind, we are deeply ok, we are the entirety of the one consciousness, in condensed form. 

As condensed consciousness, we forget that we indeed are the one consciousness. And then we can remember……we can get a glimpse of that vast oneness: spacious, timeless, connected, complete and whole through the practices of iRest Yoga Nidra meditation. Using ancient techniques of body and breath awareness, we can disidentify with our thoughts, emotions and beliefs. We can allow that perfume of the one consciousness to enter our own awareness, finding a familiar sense of joy. The more we practice, the more we can live out of a place of remembering. And we find that everything belongs. We find actions we can take that will help transform our suffering into growth, our pain into purpose, our sorrow into joy. We can listen to the longings of our heart, and live with a sense of life living us. And we can let go of our need to control results, because everything belongs.

How to Reduce Stress with Yoga

The stress from the COVID-19 pandemic is as unprecedented as the the public health regulations and recommendations needed to control it. There’s stress around the fear of getting infected. There’s stress around making a living as the economy contracts. Parents are stressed about their children keeping up with their education.  There’s stress in the uncertainty about how long this will last.

Especially amidst this coronavirus pandemic, it’s important to set aside time for yourself to reduce stress levels and process what’s happening for you and your family, even if only for a couple minutes. If you’re looking for a way find some inner peace and balance, yoga reduces stress with simple and accessible tools.

A Holistic Approach to Stress Relief

The pressure can build up, and a sense of discomfort can make us turn to habitual discomfort relievers – checking social media, turning on your favorite reality TV show or heading to the junk food cabinet. We have all been there in the last several months.  These temporary pressure relievers are unable to offer lasting stress relief. Yoga is a holistic approach to stress relief that synchronizes your body and mind to help you come back to your center so that you can mindfully do the best you can in these circumstances.

Research has shown that regularly practicing yoga can help to reduce stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, lower blood pressure, and increase blood flow.

Stress-Relieving Yoga Tools

When it comes to yoga for stress relief, it’s all about awareness, holding attention, and breathing. Start with awareness of where you are beginning (body, mind, emotions). Hold attention on the breath or the coordination between the breath and the movement. By focusing on breathing, you will have more conscious respiratory rhythm, which helps you tune your nervous system. Incorporating meditation (again, holding attention in one place) into your routine will help you become more mindful of the world around you and, more importantly, yourself.

When you focus your attention on one specific aspect like breathing, you temporarily offload the stressors of the world around you to gain new perspectives and regulate your autonomic nervous system

Table to Child’s Pose (Cakravakasana)

Use this posture to connect to your breathing and to stretch your low back. To get into Child’s Pose, start with a tabletop on your hands and knees. Place your knees hip-distance apart and your hands below your shoulders. On an exhale, hug in belly muscles. Lower your forearms to the floor and slowly move your hips toward your heels as you lower your head and chest toward the floor.  Repeat the posture several times and then rest in the Child’s Pose for six full deep breaths.

Cranky Knees? Sit on a chair and fold chest toward thighs on an exhalation.

Morning: Make inhalation and exhalation equal in length to energize. Progressively make the inhale and exhale longer.

Evening: Focus on progressively lengthening your exhale to calm and relax.

Eagle Pose

Pauline Zweck, RYT-200 pictured above in Eagle Pose

Balancing poses require deep concentration, which makes them effective for stress relief. All your energy is focused on staying upright, keeping you in the moment and helping you forget about the stressors around you. Eagle Pose is also a great posture for relieving stress in the upper back and shoulders. If you’re having trouble balancing, try staring at a fixed object or spot in the room. Choose something that’s pleasing or calming to you.

To get into Eagle Pose, begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart and your shoulders down and back. Making sure all your movements are slow and smooth, pick up your right leg and cross it over your left, standing on one foot. Imagine you are sitting on a chair that is not  there. Now, cross your left arm over the top of your right arm at the elbows, and bring the back of your hands together. Bend your elbows until your hands are in front of your face. Hold Eagle’s Pose for at least six full breaths before switching to the other side.

 

Holistic Stress Relief

Stress is not a new invention brought on by the coronavirus outbreak but it provides a learning opportunity. By learning to stay present amidst the storm of the pandemic, you will embed tools for a lifetime. Practicing yoga impacts every layer of who you are – physical, physiology, mind, character and heart. You can become a stronger, healthier person and relieve stress by regularly practicing simple and accessible yoga techniques, leading to an overall higher quality of life.