Yoga for Focus & Attention as the Season Changes

Autumn brings a distraction, more so this year as we navigate the change along with the pandemic and all its twists, turns and complexities.  Have you noticed how your mind and thoughts run around like squirrels gathering and burying acorns?

Squirrel!

It is the season of the squirrel.  Summer has said its last goodbye for the year.  The crispness and color of fall is upon us.  With the season change comes distraction, cognitive fog with fewer hours of daylight and maybe even this year, an accompanying worry about what is next as we are still actively in a pandemic.

The nature of the mind is to have runaway thoughts.   Fortunately, the ancient yogis devised techniques for harnessing thoughts to create focus and improve attention.  At our disposable are simple but effective tools and techniques.

Tips for Yoga Practice for Focus & Attention during Seasonal Changes

  • Infuse yoga postures with the breath.  Each part of a movement is accompanied and powered by a phase of the breath.

  • Do yoga postures with contra-lateral adaptations
  • Adapt the breath in yoga postures to lift energy or calm, depending on what you need.  If you need to focus and lift energy, use a short retention after inhale.  If you need to focus and calm down, extend exhale progressively as you do a posture.
  • Do breathing practices (pranayama), especially with nostril valving such as Nadi Shodana (alternate nostril breathing)
  • Use meditative techniques such as fixing your attention to an image of light in your heart and mind or using a mantra (a word or phrase that is supportive for you).  A supportive mantra at this time of year is Om Jyotir Aham (invoking light within).

When to Get Help

As the season changes, it’s important to work with your health care provider if you get significant symptoms of seasonal affective disorder that deeply impact your life such as having trouble functioning at work or home, difficulty in your personal relationships, or you have significant feelings of depression and hopelessness or anxiety.

Resources

If you are interested in using yoga techniques to help with seasonal changes, contact a Yoga Therapist as they are trained in tailoring techniques for your unique manifestation of seasonal changes as well as other health conditions you may have.

For other writing on yoga and seasonal changes, see past blogs on fatigue and general yoga practice tips for seasonal changes.

Intention

As you move toward the winter solstice, use your yoga practice to support and nourish your focus and attention.  Use your practice to gently harness your attention to do what must be done and cultivate light to burn off any cognitive fog that clouds your day.

Stick figure graphics by Sequence Wiz, www.sequencewiz.com.

Mary Hilliker, RDN, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT is a Certified Viniyoga Teacher and Yoga Therapist and Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist with 5 Koshas Yoga and Wellness Center and River Flow Yoga Teacher Training School in Wausau WI. Mary offers individualized Yoga Therapy in person and online.  She teaches therapeutic and wellness yoga classes, mini-retreats, workshops, webinars and yoga teacher training (200 hr. Yoga Teacher Training | 300 hr. Advanced Yoga Teacher Training for RYT-500). 

February:  Expressing Love & Embracing Self-Love

by Renee Peterson, MSW, RYT, RPYT

It’s the season of love.

Most people think of February 14th as a day to celebrate and recognize the love of their life and those dear to them. It is, and this is important! But what about celebrating self-love? Some people might think self-love is self-centered and ego driven but it is quite different. Self-love is being mindful and aware of what you need to be healthy and productive.

Psychology studies report that self-love and self-compassion are key for mental health and well being, keeping depression and anxiety at bay (Medical News Today, Ana Sandoiu March 23, 2018). When we don’t take care of ourselves and continue on the path of Doing vs. Being, we experience adverse health effects, such as, high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, heart disease, etc. Our inner critic, or in yoga terminology, the chitta vritti, is the monkey mind of continual thoughts running through our minds. We experience these thoughts in the form of ridiculing, judging, and constantly reminding us to remember what to pick up from the grocery store or what deadline is coming up. You get the picture.

According to Patanjali, “If you can control the rising of the mind into ripples, you will experience Yoga.” Practicing yoga is one way to cultivate self-love.

How do we achieve self-love?

Professor Neff, Sbarra and colleagues define self-compassion as a construct that encompasses three components:

1. Self-kindness – treating oneself with understanding and forgiveness,
2. Recognition of one’s place in shared humanity – acknowledging that people are not perfect and that personal experiences are part of the larger human experience,
3. Mindfulness – bringing your attention to the here and now, experiences in the present moment. Bringing about emotional equanimity, calmness, clear rational thinking.

Yoga centers us, grounds us and brings us back to neutral. When we practice yoga we get in touch with our breath, physical body, emotional state, spiritual side, and our heart center. The physical and breath practice of yoga allows us to move with comfort to release tension in our body and quiet the voice of our inner critic. This allows us to feel freer boosting feelings of self-love and kindness. When we are kind and loving to ourselves, we can be kind and loving toward others. Appreciating the simple things in life.

When we are kind to ourselves and acknowledge that we are all ‘perfectly imperfect’ we treat ourself with kindness. When we pause to mindfully reflect on how we are breathing, physically feeling, and listening to our thoughts, we can begin to let go of our stress and tension and lower our levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in our bodies.

Try it: It only takes a minute or two. You decide how you feel.
Take a moment to sit comfortably,
Close your eyes or gaze softly downward,
Notice your breathing. Is your breath short and shallow? Smooth? Hurried? Just notice without judgement.
Now, focus on slowing your breath down.
Smooth breath in, slow breath out.
Soften your physical body with each exhale.
Allow the negative thoughts in your mind to form ripples that move away from your consciousness.
Keep breathing for a minute or two or longer. Smooth inhale; smooth exhale….

Slowly, bring your awareness back to the present moment.

How do you feel?

This may be your first step toward self-love. Simply quieting your mind, quieting your body, and releasing your thoughts.

This is yoga: controlling the rising of the mind. Now direct your thoughts with positivity and kindness to yourself and toward others.

As the song, Seasons of Love*, goes from the musical Rent we have:

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousands moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee….

(The song goes on to teach us:)

Let’s celebrate
Remember a year in the life of friends
Remember the loooooooove
Remember the loooooooove
Remember the loooooooove
Measure in looooooove
Measure, measure your life in love
Seasons of Looooooooove
Seasons of Looooooooove

*lyrics by Jonathon Larson.

Renee Peterson, MSW, RYT, RPYT, is certified as a 200-hour Viniyoga Wellness Instructor (2014-15) and Prenatal Yoga Teacher (Jennifer Colletti, Yoga Center of Minneapolis, 2017) in addition to completing the Yoga Bonding Postnatal & Mom and Baby Yoga Teacher Training Course (2016). She teaches people across the lifespan and is particularly gifted with adapting yoga for a variety of individuals including prenatal and postnatal and people with structural conditions.   Renee has a caring and nurturing approach with her students.  Prenatal, Family Yoga and Yoga for Beginners and Beyond are among Renee’s regular classes at 5 Koshas Yoga & Wellness.  She is also faculty with the River Flow Yoga 200-hour teacher training. Learn more about Renee and her classes at: https://www.5koshasyoga.com/teachers/renee-peterson-ryt-200/

Yoga + Mindfulness Tools for Conscious Eating & Embodied Well-Being

When we start to pay attention in an intentional and nonjudgmental way, as we do when we cultivate mindfulness, and thus bring ourselves back into the present moment, we are tapping into very deep natural resources of strength, creativity, balance and yes, wisdom – interior resources that me may never have realized we even possess.  Nothing has to change.  We don’t have to be different or “better.”

– Jon Kabat-Zinn in the Foreward to ‘Mindful Eating’ by Jan Chozen Bays, MD

Are You Ready For A New Relationship to Food, Eating and Exercise?

Are you ready to inhabit your body from the inside out?  Are you ready to listen to your internal cues for what nourishes you?  Have you had enough of scales, diets and external sources of control?  Yoga and the mindfulness tools that are part of this ancient science can re-orient us to our own inner wisdom about what makes us feel well.

How Yoga Helps Conscious Eating

Yoga has a vast set of tools that can be helpful for cultivating conscious eating and emotional well-being around food, eating, exercise and body image.  Here are a few ways that yoga and mindfulness can help:

  • Breath-centered yoga postures done slowly and mindfully can create a feeling of groundedness and rootedness for inhabiting the body we have
  • Yoga posture practice and breathing practices help cultivate stability and strength in body, thoughts and emotions
  • Yoga postures, breathing practices and meditation help manage stress, a saboteur of a positive and healthy relationship to food, eating, body image and enjoyable forms of movement
  • Breathing, meditation and awareness exercises often improve our internal sense of hunger, fullness, thoughts and emotions that ultimately drive behaviors
  • A well-rounded yoga practice helps us continually dig into the well of our own deep wisdom around what helps our energy level, sleep, physical comfort, and emotional well-being

We live in a time where they are so many “shoulds” and “don’t’s” around food, weight and exercise.  The tools of yoga and mindfulness offer an intuitive, conscious and inner wisdom-based approach to food, eating, movement and relationship to oneself.

A Mindful Eating Exercise

As we move through this time of celebrations and resolutions, you might ask yourself, “What is it I really hunger for and how am I hungry for it?”  Here are 6 questions to guide you in your mindfulness around eating:

  1. Are my eyes hungry for this because of its beauty?
  2. Am I hungry for the smell of this food?
  3. Is my stomach feeling hunger or thirst for this food?
  4. Do I have a deep craving for this food at a cellular level and how is my body responding to this food that I craved?
  5. Is my mind running a script about this food, telling me the “shoulds” or “don’ts”?
  6. Is my heart craving this food because it’s soothing or nourishing to me, and what is the story about this food that attracts me to it?

Access Deep Inner Wisdom Through Holistic Yoga Practice

Slowing down the art of eating with simple mindfulness tools can help re-establish a deep inner connection to food and eating.  Moving, breathing, grounding, and reflecting through a holistic approach to yoga practice can help cultivate a sense of inhabiting the body.  By accessing deep inner wisdom, we become more fully aware of what helps us feel well at all levels of the Koshas – physical body, physiology, mind, intuition and heart.

New Year, New Habits


How can you bring your yoga practice into the New Year?

How can you set the intention of a regular mind-body practice while creating the habit of practice?

Practicing yoga is one way to enlist the wisdom of our minds AND bodies, to generate a lasting shift – if we stick with it. A lasting shift happens if we are able to create new patterns, consistent patterns of behavior we call habits.

James Clear has written a book about habits titled Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, a New York Times bestseller. In it, Clear lists four intervention points for habit management.

In order to encourage a good new habit, the intervention points are:

  • To make it Obvious (visible)
  • To make it Attractive (enticing)
  • To make it Easy (convenient)
  • To make it Satisfying (rewarding)

We might not be able to use all the strategies in developing a good new habit, but we can focus on the interventions that are most effective. I am intrigued, wondering how this meshes with one of the joys I find in yoga, that is, yoga is an enjoyable way to challenge our patterns of movement and patterns of mind.

How can we get into the habit of yoga for the New Year?
Here are 4 ways to bring your Yoga Practice into the New Year! 

  1. Obvious Strategy: To enlist the obvious strategy, Clear makes the case for clarity in our intention. Intention is familiar to yoga practitioners. Clear states that people often don’t have so much trouble with ‘willpower’ as with clarity. In order to envision yourself following through, fill in the sentence: I will __(activity)__ on __(day)__ at __(time)__ in __(place)__. Now your imagination can see you actually doing it!
  2. Attractive Strategy: Make a date. Is there a friend who you would like to see more often, and/or one who you know shares your interest? By using a commitment device, you can make your clear intention more attractive in two ways. One, you enjoy the activity and enjoy the person’s company. Two, it is very unattractive to be perceived as the person who backs out.
  3. Easy Strategy – There’s a word for that in Sanskrit, sukham: comfortable, happy, easiness. It is used in Sutra 2.46, Sthira sukhamansanam: stable and easiness in posture and presence. There is a connection between being stable and being comfortable. By finding your steadiness you grow your comfort; by creating ease you grow more stable. We can make things easier for ourselves as we start to cultivate a habit by building the habit with a series of small steps, instead of making a giant leap. The first thing to do is show up. Step one: every day take out the yoga mat with the rule that you’re doing yoga for just five minutes. Grow steady in how you show up, and your practice can expand from there.
  4. Rewarding Strategy: I appreciated that Clear makes a distinction between types of rewards. He points out that bad habits tend to reward us in the short term (donuts taste so GOOD), and good habits (like avoiding donuts) tend to be more rewarding in the long run. Consistent yoga practice provides many long term rewards, but it can be difficult to recognize them because they develop very gradually. In the practice of yoga, we also take the time to notice the rewards in the now. In this moment, we sense gratitude for our breath, for our abilities and the connection between body and mind.

The beauty of developing a yoga habit is that the practice itself develops our ability to pay attention and expands our awareness. By giving ourselves a structured way to pay attention below the neck, we enroll the mind AND body in remembering our intentions.

Written by: Mary Kluz, MS & RYT-200. Mary Kluz is works in organizational health and leadership and is Associate Professor Emerita with the University of Wisconsin- Madison, Division of Extension. Mary is a Registered Yoga Teacher at the 200 hour level with Yoga Alliance and is a certified 200 hour Viniyoga Wellness Instructor through the American Viniyoga Institute/River Flow Yoga Teacher Training School. She teaches weekly yoga classes at 5 Koshas Yoga & Wellness where she focuses on stress reduction and centering.

Gratitude

“I rarely laughed at my husband’s jokes.”

Recently I spoke at the Alzheimer’s Association Conference to support caregivers. After a short yoga practice of breath guided movements, the caregivers participated in a meditation that invited them to pause in gratitude for themselves, the choice they made to attend the conference and for the sacred work they do to care for their loved one, friend, family member.

An attendee caught my attention when leaving the stage and quietly leaned in to share her thoughts with me.

“I realized something during my meditation. I’m the primary caregiver for my husband who has Alzheimer’s. Before his diagnosis he always told jokes and I rarely laughed at them. Now when my husband tells a joke and laughs, I am more engaged. I am grateful for his laughter. We laugh together.”

Gratitude has a sneaky way of creating a substantial shift in our awareness. In many ways it asks us to ‘come to attention’ and be mindful, even if for a short pause.

Gratitude can encompass a grand gesture or a sincere, simple act. When acknowledged internally or externally with our full engagement, gratitude has a potent power that shifts a moment, an emotion, a person, a perspective and even more.

Can we really benefit from offering ourselves and others gratitude? Research continues to remind us – yes!

You’ve Got This – A short pause each day acknowledging what you have instead of focusing on what you don’t have, can shift emotions of sadness, anger and resentment to happiness, hope and appreciation.

Nice to Know You– Research states, saying ‘Thank You’ and acknowledging others contributions can lead to new opportunities and support healthy relationships.

It’s all connected -Body, Mind, Heart – In addition to relationships, studies show that an attitude of gratitude can motivate you to take care of yourself – to be active, to eat food that fuels your body and mind, which in turn can support your rest and sleep.

How do you fit the practice of gratitude into a busy life? Keep it simple. Pause, breathe, observe, give thanks, repeat.

Consider these short practices to sharpen your Attention and Intention. May your gratitude support the everyday grit and grace, fatigue and stamina, tears and joy, grand moments and quiet gestures.

Internal Gratitude:

Pause and Breathe Gratitude
• Place one hand near your heart and your other hand near your navel.
• Take 4-8 breaths observing the pace of your breath and the subtle movement of your body as you breathe.
• Focus your attention on your breath and body, letting your mind help you choose what you are grateful for at this moment.
• Describe what you are grateful for in a word or phrase. Take 4-8 more breaths to inhale and exhale your word or phrase of gratitude.

Gratitude Table at Your Heart Space
• Choose to take at least 5-minutes for this short meditation.
• Sit comfortably, close your eyes, breathe and notice the flow of your breath at the tip of your nose.
• Place your hand at the center of your upper body – heart space.
• Place your attention at your heart space.
• As you breathe connect to a mental image of light and place it at your heart space.
• As you inhale let this light expand.
• As you exhale rest your attention in this light.
• Give yourself time to create a mental image of a gratitude table placed in your light at the heart space.
• Let your personality shine through as you notice the details of this gratitude table that is meaningful to you.
• Mindfully observe what and who you are grateful for within your life and place it on the gratitude table.
• Take time to connect to what is a challenge for you at this time and place it on the gratitude table.
• Mindfully observe what you are grateful for about yourself and place it on the gratitude table.
• Illuminate all that is placed on your gratitude table as you inhale and exhale, breathing gratitude for what you have been graced with, for what is challenging at this time and for yourself.
• Take 4-8 more breaths inhaling and exhaling gratitude.

External Gratitude:

Connect with Someone
• Pause and decide who you’d like to connect with today.
• Sit down and create an email or choose a card to send – telling someone that you are thankful for them.
• Better yet, when you see someone who you are grateful for today, stop and look them in the eye and tell them, “I wanted you to know I am thankful for you.”

A Tangible Table
• Choose a table, a window sill, a shelf in your home.
• Take time to place a few (or many) objects that are meaningful to you on this space.
• Notice each object you choose, mindfully reflecting upon what the object symbolizes for you, individuals connected to this object, how it represents the richness of your life journey.
• Let this be a ‘table’ of gratitude that reminds you to pause, breathe, reflect and offer gratitude for your experiences, challenges, teachers, all that continues to guide you.
• Roll out your mat near this table and let it be a foundation for you as you practice your asana, pranayama, meditation.
• Sit near your gratitude table with a cup of tea, book, journal; or simple pause quietly and reconnect to your breath.

As we enter this season of reflection and thanksgiving, the Teachers and Therapists at 5 Koshas welcome you to:
• Explore and practice within the classes at 5 Koshas. May these support you in your intention and gratitude.
• Ask us for guidance with choosing a special gift for a favorite person or for yourself – a gift card, a book, a yoga mat, a DVD.
• Write your gratitude on a star and place it on a tree of light near the entry of 5 Koshas.

May your experiences this season be a balance of grand and quiet, internal and external; and may the collective energy of all our gracious actions support our intentions for ourselves, our loved ones and the communities we are connected to.

On behalf of the teachers and therapists at 5 Koshas, gratitude for each of you.

Yoga for Fatigue as the Season Changes

Summer has said it’s last goodbye for the year.  The crispness and color of fall is upon us. With the season change comes the very real problem of fatigue for many who live in northern climes.  It’s one of the more overwhelming symptoms of seasonal affective disorder and a troubling symptom for many as the hours of daylight fade.

Fatigue can have different qualities.  It may feel physical (more muscular) or physiological (shortness of breath, no “mo-jo”, lethary) or cognitive (presenting as difficulty concentrating and processing information).  It can be mild at one end of the spectrum or bone-numbing and paralyzing at the other extreme.   A dandelion scattering its seeds is symbolic for the scattering of energy that comes with fatigue.

The ancient yogis devised models for understanding human energy and how to transform it.  We can use these ancient models for the fatigue that comes with the season, health conditions, treatments, grief, or other factors that cause fatigue.

Breath-centered postures, breathing practices and relaxation/meditative practices have the greatest potential to help us transform fatigue.  We can choose postures that build energy, adapt the breath in postures to awaken and nourish, or use breathing practices that feel awakening when we are tired or calm us when stress is depleting our energy reserves.  We can also use yoga to become more sensitive to when we need more energy-conserving practice like relaxation or meditation.

Here are 5 ways to get started with yoga practice tools to transform fatigue:

  1. Awareness – track your fatigue level, stress level, work hours, leisure activities and lifestyle habits such as exercise and diet for 1 week to see if you notice any trends
  2. Asana – do a short practice of 1 – 3 postures to get going in the morning.  Lengthen your breath over 4 – 6 repetitions of the posture.  Standing postures are the most energizing but if your energy is really low, you may need to do something on your back or in a kneeling position.
  3. Breathe – when energy is low but you need to be present or productive, do 12 full deep breaths with Inhale = Exhale and a short 3 sec pause after Inhale.  An example is:  Inhale 6 sec, Pause for 3 sec after Inhale, Exhale 6 sec.
  4. Meditate – spend about 5 minutes visualizing light moving to every part of your body, especially the heart space, center of the head and hands and feet.
  5. Breath-infused Relaxation or Nap – systematically work through the body, sending a deep breath to each major part of the body (R arm, R leg, L leg, L arm, center of the head, center of the chest, belly, abdomen).  Do 1st round with 1 breath, 2nd round with 2 breaths, 3rd round with 3 breaths.  Continue until your body feels suspended in a deep state of relaxation and rejuvenation.  Spend 5 – 10 minutes in this rejuvenation.

Fatigue is often transformed more by a variety of short practice tools that are “do-able” and not too energy-consuming than a monster practice. As your reserve of energy improves, you may be able to exercise more or add stronger yoga practices or begin to work with breathing practices that build your energy reserves.  A yoga teacher or Yoga Therapist trained in the Vedic models of human energy can help you out.

It’s important to work with your health care provider if symptoms of fatigue feel overwhelming or are new without any discernible reason.  If you have trouble functioning at work, home or in your volunteer work, your personal relationships suffer, and you have significant feelings of depression as a result of the fatigue, it’s time to talk with your doctor.

As you move toward the winter solstice, use your yoga practice to support and nourish steady energy and to transform fatigue when it presents itself.

Transition and Transformation

Change in our life comes in many different ways.  Sometimes we plan for the change.  A retirement, career change or getting married are examples of things that we often consciously choose.  And then some changes blow in like a strong wind taking with it any sense of order and stability.

There are many teachings in the ancient tradition of yoga for transforming through life’s inevitable changes.   Some of the most profound and useful teachings on change come from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.  The teachings most helpful center on our relationship to attachment and aversion, understanding what causes suffering, how to free ourselves from suffering and staying centered in regular practice that is suitable for us as individuals.

Radical and deeply shocking changes may require the simplest yoga tools possible.  It may be a very basic but comforting posture infused with a long exhale.  It may be simply trying to extend your exhale to try to fall asleep.  It may be extending the breath in the morning as you first wake up to try to get more clear-headed to face the day.

Whether changes is radical or planned, yoga can be profoundly useful in helping us build our prana shakti or vitality so that we are strong and stable in body, physiology (especially our immune system) and mind.  We build prana shakti through postures and breath practice (pranayama).  We can then use our vitality to work with the more difficult aspects of change including thoughts, feelings, attitudes and behaviors that create suffering around the inevitable changes that life brings our way.

When unexpected visitors come to your door, welcome all knowing that you have the tools to be present, open and grounded.

Staying Connected to Your True Self Through Practice & Detachment

By Karey Krampota, RYT-200, Certified Viniyoga Wellness Instructor

“In Yoga Sutra I.12, Patanjali explains that to achieve a state of yoga, or focused concentration, one must utilize both practice (Abhyasa) and detachment (Vairagyam). Practice and detachment are two of the very first tools Patanjali offers to help in this process of refining the mind toward clearer perception and a deeper connection with your true self.”

For a while now, my thinking pattern was directed by and committed to attachment and with-holding from regular practice. I was attached to my thoughts, feelings, body, mind, relationships, experiences, and surroundings. If you can relate to this pattern, then you may also experience what I did. My thinking pattern was interfering with my practice, my mood, and my ability to be fully aware. Holding on to my thought pattern of attachment and inconsistent practice caused me to be distracted, disconnected, unfulfilled, and untrue to my self.

Practice and detachment work together. Without one, the other does not progress. To break my thinking pattern, I recommitted to practice and to my goal of a more focused, present, and peaceful state of being. My practice is a combination of asanas, breath practice, and chanting.

By combining these, I’m able to quiet my mind and focus my attention, taking me closer to my goals. I also have started to implement the discipline of letting go of the thought patterns and habits that are standing in my way.

How can you begin to learn and experience the benefits of practice and detachment? Here are a few tips I’ve found helpful.

1. Identify attachments. Can you identify attachments that are affecting your mood or ability to be fully aware? This is a good starting point for knowing where to focus when you commit or recommit to your practice.

2. Shift your thinking patterns. This takes time but being aware of your patterns is a good step. Shifting my thinking pattern to practice and detachment has taught me to do things to the best of my ability and to not be attached to the end results of my actions.

3. Move on from holding on. Whenever I have negative thoughts or feelings, I move on instead of holding on to them and allowing them to take hold of my current state of being.

4. Focus on the bigger goal. If something doesn’t go as I anticipate, I continue to move toward my goal without the results altering my true self.

5. Breath. My breath is my connection to my internal quiet space and my external being. It is my source to the stillness and peace within my mind. While breathing with this Sutra 1.12 in mind, I focus on what supports me and let go of what doesn’t. As I inhale, I bring my awareness to anything within that serves my goal, such as patience, strength, courage, clarity, and wisdom. As I exhale, I let go of what no longer serves me or my goal, such as doubt, anxiety, distraction or negative thinking. I try to concentrate on the process and journey of my goal, releasing obstacles or anything else that is no longer serving my soul or goal. After I have completed a good amount of breaths, I begin to return my awareness to my body and my surroundings. Reminding myself that through regular conscious breath practice, my true self is always there, unaltered and unchanged.

Incorporating Sutra 1.12 into my life has reconnected me to my deepest layer, where I can be present, focused and intuitive with my true being. This has been my goal for a long time, slowly keeping this Sutra to heart in order to make steady progress. To remain unaltered and unchanged by my current experience and remain true to who I am.

Source for Opening Quote: https://www.yogajournal.com/yoga-101/decoding-yoga-sutra-1-12-embrace-the-value-of-practice-and-non-attachment 

Karey Krampota, RYT-200, is a recent graduate of the River Flow Yoga Teacher Training School at 5 Koshas Yoga & Wellness.  She teaches Toddler Yoga, a chair yoga class and subs for various classes at 5 Koshas Yoga & Wellness.  She also works on customer relations, marketing and promotion.  

Yoga for Cancer Treatment and Recovery

The ancient tools of yoga can help you feel your best through cancer treatment and assist in helping you reclaim your life after cancer.  Yoga can help with side effects from medically essential and life-giving treatments.  Yoga can be adapted to provide relief for nausea, fatigue, constipation, sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, “chemo brain”, and neuropathy.  Feeling more like yourself after treatments is often a side benefit of developing a personal yoga practice.

Yoga for YOU

Yoga therapy uses therapeutic application of the tools of yoga to help you address issues that are especially problematic during treatment and post-treatment.  Based on your interest and need, simple practices are developed to help you address specific issues.  Yoga practice might include yoga postures, breathing practices, guided relaxation, sound, meditation or other practices.  There is no “one-size-fits-all” yoga approach when it comes to the type of cancer, the treatment side effects or the recovery.  Let’s address a few common concerns.

Nausea

Nausea is a common side effect of chemotherapy treatment.  A therapeutic yoga practice might be very simple in the days following a treatment.  Prop your head and chest up with pillows or cushions in bed or on the couch.  Breathe in and out through the mouth, focusing on a long exhale.  On the inhale, direct your attention into the navel area.  On exhale, focus on directing your attention down through the pelvis, legs, feet and toes.  You might even try a quiet sound on the exhale such as “haaa”.  Some patients benefit from a curled tongue inhale and a long sighing exhale.

Anxiety Tool: The Calming Breath

Breathing techniques are especially helpful for many treatment symptoms.  Anxiety around the diagnosis or treatments is very common.  Here is a simple breathing technique to try to create some calm when thoughts and emotions are taking away your calm.

Sit upright in a chair or rest back on the couch or in bed.  Inhale with ease, pause for 2 – 3 seconds and exhale smoothly. Do this for 6 breaths.  Continue the same pattern and make your exhale 2 – 3 seconds longer than your inhale.  Do this for 12 breaths.  Then gradually allow your breath to settle back to normal.

Care and Tending of the Immune System

One of the most important self-care strategies for cancer treatment and recovery is caring for your immune system.  A tailored yoga practice does this by reducing stress, improving sleep and promoting better digestion.  Yoga, along with nutritious food, adequate sleep, regular exercise, social support and other therapies, promotes the optimal functioning of your immune system during and after treatment.

A Yoga Therapist or yoga teacher who specializes in cancer care can help you through different phases of treatment and recovery that may present different symptoms that keep you from feeling your best.  Seek out specialized help to feel your best and integrate all that’s happened to you.

Still the Mind, Find Your True Self

By Pauline Zweck, RYT-200, Certified Viniyoga Wellness Instructor, 5 Koshas Yoga & Wellness

 “There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the end of strings that somebody else pulls.”     –      Howard Thurman

1.3 Tadā draṣṭuḥ svarūpe ‘vasthānam

Then the Seer (Self) abides in His own true nature.

1.4 Vṛtti sārūpyam-itaratra

At other times {the Self appears to} assume the forms of the mental modifications.

We humans are constantly letting our thoughts define our world and ourselves. We cannot get in touch with our true Self until we learn to clear our mind. Patanjali reminds us that we are all divine expressions of the universe. Behind the different forms of energy is one unchanging Self.  A still mind understands this and sees their neighbors as themselves.

When I was young, I felt connected to Self. Growing up on a farm afforded me many opportunities to just be one with nature; a creek, tall grasses, a woods with wildflowers and raspberries, a 360 degree expanse of the horizon, witnessing skies before they had to compete with manmade light.  Utter and complete freedom. There was a oneness in my small world of nature and family.  My mind had yet to start carrying on conversations with me, or if it was, I was too pure and innocent to know I should be listening.

Then the layers came. I’ve often contemplated on when this first occurred. A time comes in one’s life when you realize other people have expectations of you. This repeats and repeats many times over.  I dutifully lined up to accept the layers and identities. Even when these are positive, the separation begins. I am this, you are that. Many of us relish and foster our uniqueness, voraciously adding to our collection. Until we experience a burden.

All the things we identify with sometimes gang up and clutch at our true Self like heavy armor that is a few sizes too small and it becomes necessary to step back, breathe and let the armor fall away lest it smother us. Once we remove the years of labeling, we can discover that we all exist from the same source of energy.

Pauses are necessary. I connect with my true Self by meditating, or resting in my hammock. Taking time to watch a leaf, the sky, a bird, brings the oneness back. I give over. The armor drops away. With the Self there is no effort. It just simply is.

Pauline Zweck, RYT-200, trained at the 200 level in 2007, studying a blend of yoga disciplines with a focus on modifications and moderation to make the practice available to all. In 2015, Pauline became certified to teach Viniyoga, a style of yoga that is adapted to support your physical and emotional needs throughout the various stages of life.  Pauline teaches at 5 Koshas Yoga & Wellness on Tues at 5:30 pm (Yoga for Beginners & Beyond), Wed at 12 noon (Mental & Physical Balance) and as a long-term sub from Nov – April for Mon 8:30 (Senior Yoga Therapeutics-Mat) and 10:00 am (Senior Yoga Therapeutics-Chair).  She is also faculty with the 240 hr. River Flow Yoga Teacher Training.