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

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

(by Bernice Thill)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To begin:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After Inhale: Do you feel your belly growing big?

After Exhale: Do you feel your belly growing small?

To end:

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

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

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

Bake Cookies:

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

Wiggle & Giggle: 

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

Walk & Talk: 

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

Rest & Digest: 

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

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

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

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

(by Bernice Thill)

Part I

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

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

At what age can children begin to use yoga?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breath – learning how the body works with breathing mechanics:

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

Movement – expanding the body mobility and developing flexibility:

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

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

Balance Your Summer Heat Using Ayurveda

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

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

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

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

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

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

The three doshas and their associated elements are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Taking Time for Self-Care

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Self-Care Self Checkin

How do you get started?

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

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

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

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

Yoga as Part of Self-Care Practice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raja Guna – Movement, Activation, Mobilization, Turbulence 

Tama Guna – Inertia, Stability, Stickiness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tama Guna 

Prepares the structure for our practice

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

Cultivates stability, trust, and groundedness

Raja Guna

Provides a starting point

Puts forth a goal or intention for the practice

Helps us take intelligent steps toward the goal of our practice

Cultivates creativity and change

Sattva Guna

Cultivates illumination and light, spaciousness, and openness 

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

Provide the means to change habitual tendencies that create suffering

Helps us track progress 

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

-David Frawley in From the River of Heaven

 

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

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

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

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!

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.”

Pandemic Ponderings

Tempers, Tools & Pandemic Ponderings, Part 1

What. Are. You. Doing?!

A low, loud voice attached to an angry face bellowed to me from an open car window. The honking came next to punctuate the intensity.

My emotions rallied and my stress response accelerated.

What WAS I doing?

The drive north over the Mackinac Bridge had become a bottleneck of cars trying to complete the arduous entry into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

The weight of the muggy, summer weather a hovering reminder that there was nowhere to go.

The stand-still traffic literally made me ‘sit’ with everything. I felt so uncomfortable.

I tried to shrug my shoulders and release my grip on the steering wheel. Re-routing my eyes to the shades of blue within the waves of water, shifted my racing thoughts.

I remembered to breathe. 

I remembered I had a choice to respond more and react less.

My efforts weren’t grandiose yet they were sincere. My body and mind realized the nervous-system-brakes were pumping with each inhale and exhale.

What have I been doing?

What have any of us been doing?

Stress, anxiety, anger, grief.

Ease, vitality, peace, calm.

How were we all going to continue to navigate the ‘traffic jam’ of experiences and emotions within ourselves, especially living within a global virus and universal ‘reset’ of systems, institutions and perspectives?

Cleaning the windshield of our perception to channel our speech, actions and thoughts in a direction of healing, compassion and actionable next steps can be gritty, personal work.  Yet it can be the fuel that moves us forward.

What are some of our best tools to leverage our internal guidance system that supports the bridge between physical, mental, emotional, even spiritual wellbeing and growth?

Keep it simple and sincere:

Breathing, moving, observing and reflecting to access and explore:

  • Functional movements and managing the stress response
  • Discernment as to what needs immediate attention
  • Feeling the ebb and flow of emotions

Singing, mantra, meditation and play are additional tools are outlets to express ourselves and release pent up energy while also strengthening transformation and connections with the world we live in.

All of it is a practice. On the good days it takes practice so on the challenging days we can respond more, create choices and move forward.

Take a few minutes or more each day to practice. Choose from the list below and observe the effects of your practices throughout the day. How does your body feel? Where is your attention? What thoughts and emotions do you experience? What supports you to express yourself?

 

Hands to Head to Heart

  • When able, touch the earth with your hands, take 3-4 deep breaths.
  • Practice bringing your attention to the textures, colors and smells.
  • Repeat the mantra: I am here and I am breathing.

Short Breath Practice

  • When able, place one hand at the heart space – upper body and one hand on the stomach
  • Feel your body’s subtle movements as you inhale and exhale
  • Inhale a sense of fresh oxygen and space – Exhale a sense of release
  • Take 3-4 more breaths inhaling through the nose (fresh oxygen and space) and exhaling a loud sigh through the mouth (release)

Soft Pull of Gravity

  • Place your feet on the ground, sense the soft pull of gravity that keeps you connected to earth
  • Inhale -sweep your arms wide and up, Exhale- sweep arms wide and down, 3-4 repetitions
  • Repeat the mantra: I am standing on stable ground. I am creating stability within myself.

 

For those in-car or other moments – reminders you are not alone

Music: Check out Trevor Hall and Brett Dennen’s ‘Put Down What You Are Carrying’
Listen here: https://g.co/kgs/5ngUuP

Podcast: On Being with Krista Tippett – Shaping Grief with Language with Gregory Orr
Listen here: https://onbeing.org/programs/gregory-orr-shaping-grief-with-language/

 

What would you like to add to this list to support each other within our collective, ongoing 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 Van Dalfsen

Tips For When Life Slows You Down

By: Julie Bonasso Krolczyk

“The Power of the Pause” – Shannon Sommerling

Are you dealing with physical or emotional pain and have had to slow down? Are you tired of being frustrated? Not sure how to move forward?

I recently was sidelined from physical activity for 3 months due to a back injury.

Here’s what I learned – just as in a yoga pose, there is strength in stillness, resilience through releasing (what doesn’t serve) and wisdom 
from wonderment.

TIPS FOR WHEN LIFE SLOWS YOU DOWN:

1) Change the Narrative – Our thoughts create our actions create our life. When we have self-limiting beliefs, we engage in self-limiting behaviors. When we change our inner critic to self-love, and change our limiting beliefs to the power of possibility, we start to act differently and feel better. Catch your inner-critic and ask: Would you say those same words to a child? If not, change the story you are telling yourself.

2) Practice Gratitude – When we are grateful, we are not resentful about the things we have lost nor are we worried about the future. Every day, write down 10 (TEN!) things you are grateful for during the day.

3) Look Within – What needs to be released in your life? Is your pain associated with something you are holding on to that is no longer serving you? What is God/Universe saying to you? “Slow down and listen.” Be honest with yourself. What is the downtime trying to teach you?

4) Find New Ways of Coping – All of my normal strategies (yoga, spinning and hiking) were not available to me. I thought – what do I do now? Find new ways to de-stress: Meditation, Prayer, Deep Breathing [INSERT YOURS HERE!]

5) Seek Support – Isolating yourself can give you a short burst of temporary respite, but in the long run, you need the encouragement of others to keep moving forward. Reach our to your tribe – your partner, your friend, your community. They love you and want to see you thriving.

Julie Bonasso Krolczyk, is a Certified Health and Wellness coach with 15 years of experience coaching individuals on lifestyle behavior change:
Stress Management, Nutrition, Exercise, Relationships and Career.  

You can see her for individual health and wellness coaching at 5 Koshas Yoga & Wellness.

Learn more about Julie and her services at: https://www.5koshasyoga.com/wellness/health-wellness-coaching/.

Free

“Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into treesThe winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”

-John Muir

Free yourself from winter hibernation +

Free yourself from cold weather tension and stagnancy +

Free time to be outside, breathe, move and participate +

Free outdoor yoga classes in the best ‘green spaces’ of Central Wisconsin =

Better physical and mental health!

Your outdoor ‘green space’ yoga practice invites you to reconnect with the earth, stretch to the sky, inhale fresh oxygen and exhale the doldrums of winter.

Sip in the sweet benefits of outdoor yoga:

  • Be a Kid Again – stretch on the ground and look up at the sky
  • Practice Concentration – foster one-point-concentration as life happens around you
  • Hone Your Proprioception – that 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 as well as the bugs
  • Engage Your 5 Senses and Be Inspired

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.

Group classes in ‘green space’ invites you to find balance with/between your heightened five senses and the ease 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.

Shunryu Suzuki-roshi, author of ‘Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind’ shares, “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.”

Be free, be curious, be open to your beginners mind this summer.

Learn about all the Outdoor Yoga Classes 5 Koshas will be sharing this summer HERE, pre-register for classes: HERE.