Think You’re Done Making Progress on the Yoga Mat? Think Again!

Reaching a plateau in yoga can be discouraging. When we first roll out the yoga mat, a rapid swell in our ability gives rise to our motivation to keep practicing. We embrace the cresting wave of progress, but inevitably, the acceleration that pushed us forward will wane and leave us reeling aimlessly on the proverbial yoga plateau. In between the thrill of being on top of the curve, and the dream of overcoming challenges on the mat, there is a pause. This very moment in time is what makes many give up on our aspirations of becoming better yogis. We owe it to ourselves to keep going.

Progress comes in waves.

First, we must understand that while time may seem to be at a standstill when our practice lags, nothing is ever stagnant. In fact, we are in a continual state of motion. Molecules in our bodies are moving, our hearts keep beating, our blood keeps flowing, and our minds keep thinking. Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, understood this to be true when he said, “The only thing that is constant is change.”

If you have reached a plateau in your yoga practice, the following meditation will keep you from feeling discouraged by your seemingly lack of progress. Practice this meditation when accelerated changes in your mind and body have slowed.

Begin in a comfortable position, free from distraction. Take several deep breaths to clear your mind and relax your body. Bring your awareness to the image of an ocean. Notice the dynamic movement of the sea, and let this image settle in your mind. Next, off in the distance, see a swell begin to develop. Watch this swell pick up speed as it reaches its maximum height. Within seconds, see the swell crash and flatten, as it stretches across the shore.

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While it may seem like nothing is happening as you anticipate the next swell, take a closer look. What do you see? Perhaps you notice a unique pattern of sea foam across the surface of the ocean. Maybe you can hear hundreds of tiny ocean bubbles breaking wind. Whatever you envision, bring all of your attention to the nuances during the plateau before the next swell. Now notice the same subtleties in your body. Become intrigued by the constant changes that are happening moment by moment, and in between the accelerated waves of your progress on the mat. Cherish this time, because the next wave is coming!

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Yoga Provides Relief of Allergy Symptoms

Unusually warm winter days are a treat, unless you are one of the millions of Americans who suffer from spring allergies. This year, allergists are predicting a longer and more severe allergy season, and say sufferers will be seeking relief in droves, even if the high spring temperatures cool down.

It is common for allergy victims to run straight for the drug store to stock up on nasal sprays, eye drops and antihistamines, and some go to extremes for more hard-hitting treatments such as steroidal allergy shots. If you have either given up on unnatural remedies found in a box, carton or plastic tube, or don’t like needles, try yoga for the relief of your stubborn allergy symptoms.

You might think some yoga poses just contribute to the pain and agony of having allergies. Downward dog is not the most comfortable yoga pose to be in if you have clogged sinuses and a pounding head. For some, the just thought of putting their head below their waist with a stuffy nose is enough to bring on the sinus pressure. Plus, taking those long, slow, deep breaths in and out through your nose when it’s clogged up is like trying to vacuum the floor with no power to the vacuum.

To help clear your stuffy head, try the yogic breathing called alternate nostril breathing. Just like it sounds, you will breathe in through one nostril and breathe out through the other, alternating the lead nostril per breath. Use your thumb and fourth finger to block off the nostril that is not in use, and be sure to have a box of tissues nearby because once to get your breath flowing, the rest will flow as well.

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Inversions are a great way to help flush the lymph nodes and stimulate the immune system, two great actions to combat allergies. Again, dropping your head below your waist won’t feel very good, so instead, practice the following semi-inverted pose to gain the same benefits without the discomfort.

Lie on the floor on your back with your hips very close to a wall. You may prop up your head on a blanket or small pillow for comfort and ease. Place both legs straight up the wall and let them rest against it. Legs-up-the-wall pose is a very effective yet mild inversion to assist in flushing your system and restoring your immunity.

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AnneCorrine is teaching a Restorative Yoga class for the prevention and alleviation of allergy symptoms on Sunday, March 12, noon-1:30pm. $12 drop in, or one class pass per person. 

Still Awake? Try This!

Sleep is the antidote to illness, yet many of us don’t get enough of it. Whether it is due to stress, chronic fatigue, or an anxiety overload, insomnia can rob us of our health and wellbeing.

If you have trouble falling or staying asleep at night, the following meditation will help you get the rest you need. Taking all the steps necessary to combat insomnia won’t just help you; it will help those around you, too. Rest is best for everyone.

Practice this guided imagery meditation for a few minutes in bed each night, for a total of seven nights. Use it as a tool to retrain your mind and body to let go of stress at the end of the day. After a week’s time, it will be much easier to fall asleep, and stay asleep throughout the night.

Settle into a comfortable position in your bed. Take five deep breaths. During each exhale, silently repeat the mantra, “Sleep comes easy now.”

Next, scan your body with your mind’s eye beginning at the top of your head, continuing all the way down to your toes. As you scan your body, allow your eyelids, skin, and muscles to feel heavy. During this phase, let your breath be soft and natural.

If you come across areas of tension in your body, silently repeat a mantra on an exhale to relax each tense body part. For example, if your jaw is tense, take a deep breath in, then say to yourself as you exhale, “My jaw is heavy.” Repeat until you feel relaxation wash away tension.

Now, with your eyes closed and your awareness turned inward, notice the effect of gravity on your entire body. Invite the Earth’s pull to deepen the heaviness you are feeling. Let this heaviness settle into your bones.

Continue with your deep breaths by silently repeating the mantra, “My bones are heavy,” for the next 10 exhale cycles. As you count your exhales, start with the number 10 and count all the way down to one.

Imagine your bones are being pulled all the way down to the Earth. Allow your bones to feel so heavy, that it requires little or no effort to relax the muscles around them. Let yourself drift into a deep state of relaxation.

After a week of practice, notice mental tensions diminishing as your body recalls its innate state of deep relaxation. Now, every time you retire for the evening, your mind and body will be conditioned and ready to settle into a deep sleep.

Whether You Think You Can, or Think You Can’t: You’re Right!

The power of thought makes an impact on our attitude. It can affect the way we feel about ourselves and the events and circumstances in our lives. Positive thoughts can help us stay energized through tough times, organized when we have a full schedule, and inspired during a big, scary life change.

The more we think about something, the closer we become to bringing the thought of that something into our reality. Some thoughts can promote negative experiences for us, so keep your thoughts on the sunny side.

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The following affirmations are only examples. Perhaps you’d like to come up with your own. Feel like sharing? We’d love to hear your words in the comments below.

 

Monday

“I rise and I shine”

Start the week off with this affirmation immediately upon arising. Believe you will shine throughout the day and shed positive light on whatever lies ahead. Trust in your heart that you have the remarkable ability to glow and be an inspiration to those around you.

 

Tuesday

“I nourish my body with good food”

Say this phrase to yourself while you are planning a meal. Notice how it enhances your relationship with food and your choices about nutrition. At those moments when you feel the urge to hurry up and eat whatever is available, repeat this affirmation with conviction, and take charge of your health. When you eat well, you’ll have more energy to do the things you enjoy doing.

 

Wednesday

“I am deserving of time for myself”

Mid-week can be challenging as we begin to pine for the weekend. Vow to alleviate a Wednesday slump and take some time for yourself. Give yourself permission to pamper your body, take care of your needs, or just relax. Repeat this affirmation as a firm reminder that you deserve it. Rest, and be your best.

 

Thursday

“I trust in my ability to get things done”

Procrastination can lead to depression and a sense of feeling overwhelmed with the tasks at hand. When you feel confident, you will have more energy to do what is needed. Tell yourself over and over again that you are fully capable to do what needs to be done, and tackle your to-do list with gusto.

 

Friday

“I have a strong and healthy mind and body”

When you believe something you are more likely to actualize it into your life. Repeat this affirmation whenever you need the inspiration to get moving. Try it when you are exercising and feel like quitting, or if you just need a little motivation to go for a run, roll out your yoga mat, or return to your favorite fitness class.

 

Saturday

“I value having fun”

All work and no play makes Jack (or Jill!) a dull person. Whether it’s reading a book, watching a movie, baking a cake, playing with your grandkids, dancing, hiking, laughing, the list goes on…. Have fun! The flood of feel-good hormones will give you a reprieve from your worries or anxieties. When you feel good, you can create and follow through with your dreams and desires.

 

Sunday

“I am allowed to feel what I feel”

Whenever you feel burned out, bored, or cranky, and none of these affirmations seem to work, don’t deny it. You are who you are. We are all human, and no one ever goes through life without feeling less than par from time to time. If we can just be okay with how we feel, we’ll have a greater ability to move on from those less-than-perfect feelings. Understand that, “this too shall pass,” and be triumphant in the face of a bad mood.

 

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Is Corpse Pose Killing You? A Guide to Mastering Final Relaxation in Yoga

Savasana (sha-vaa’-sana), aka corpse pose or final relaxation, is one of the most important yoga poses we’ll ever practice. However, instead of relishing in all of the goodness this pose brings, many people will use savasana to sort out their to-do list and ponder pending agendas. After all, it seems like the perfect time to figure out what to make for dinner, or day dream about your next vacation. I know, I do yoga, too. But, the point of final relaxation at the end of class is to slow our thoughts and merge into a place of complete peace. Easier said than done, that’s for sure!

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The following meditation is a guided imagery practice I created to help us stay present in savasana. I use it when my brain just can’t settle down long enough to let go. Notice how, with special attention, you’ll be able to soak in all of the glorious benefits of your time on the yoga mat. Make sure you savor every minute of it, as it will have long lasting effects.

Before reclining onto your back and into corpse pose, take a moment to visualize white snowcapped peaks atop tall mountains. Let the snowy tops of these mountains signify your current state of awareness; perhaps a little icy or rigid in thought. With this image in mind, begin to settle into savasana.

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While lying on your back, allow your body to adjust into a comfortable position. Revisit the image of those snowcapped peaks. Imagine the sun’s rays greeting the ice and snow, and see the frozen caps beginning to melt away. During this section of the imagery, let your thoughts feel warm, and flow slowly, much like melting snow. Let this image begin to wash away any bodily tension or mental anxiety.

Next, imagine the pure and clean liquid runoff from the snowcapped peaks merging into several larger streams that pour down the mountain. See all these fresh, new streams merging into one unhurried river. As your body flows into a deeper state of relaxation, let your consciousness become just like this river. Allow your thoughts to be like slow-moving liquid as they flow through your mind. Imagine the soothing sounds of a mountain stream.

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Natural streams refresh the landscape, as they carry channels of water all the way to the ocean. Your flowing streams of consciousness refresh your mind and your body, as they carry you all the way to a place of inner calm. In our yoga and meditation practices, streams of free-flowing consciousness can erode whatever is in our way to finding inner peace.

Imagine your river of thought merging into the ocean of your soul, washing away anything that keeps you from experiencing your best savasana. Swim in the ocean of consciousness until it is time to awaken. When you do finally come out of savasana, thank yourself for your efforts to clear your mind and calm your body. As it helps you, it will also help those around you. Namaste.

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Yoga: Beneficial or Artificial?

New York Times senior writer, William J. Broad, wrote a sensational article titled, “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body.” If you haven’t read it, it’s worthy of scrutiny. Broad is also the author of the book, The Science of Yoga, which takes you through an in-depth look at the history, beneficial qualities, and artificial health claims of yoga in America.

While we know any type of physical activity comes with risks, we must also understand that we can be responsible for our own actions. As for yoga, we need not take it lightly. It is important to practice with the intention of truly listening to our bodies instead of following the false claims that troll this ancient practice.

These four tips will help you keep your practice beneficial, rather than artificial.

Take the proper class

Yoga styles are like snowflakes; there are no two alike. Before you take a class, read the description or talk to the instructor to determine if it is a good fit. For someone who’s never attended a yoga class, yoga may conjure up an image of middle-aged women sitting on the floor stretching. But in reality, it can be a hard-core and extremely difficult workout. As a beginner, you definitely want to avoid a class that only serves advanced students.

Take the options when needed

It is tempting to just do what everyone else in class is doing, but options are given and modifications are shown for a reason. If your teacher has been made aware of your personal needs, whether they are due to injuries, or other conditions, it is likely the options are there to serve your specific needs. Do not ignore them, use them.

Be physically conservative, at first 

One of the mysteries of yoga is that while we might not feel like we worked very hard on the mat in last night’s class, we’re almost guaranteed to feel muscles we didn’t know we had by morning. Yoga asanas, or poses, can greatly impact the musculoskeletal system at a very deep level. The effects are not always felt immediately, so it is best to leave class feeling like you could have done a little bit more. Until you fully realize how far you can safely push your limits, tread lightly.

Practice the basics

Don’t forget that professional athletes all started with the basics when learning a new skill. Yoga is a multidimensional discipline with a lot to understand and put into practice. If the Sanskrit pose names aren’t confusing enough, the chakras, bandhas, and drishtis can make your head spin. Practice with a beginner’s mind and focus on the most important thing first: your safety. Turn your awareness to your own body; take care of it as best as you can, and vow to learn about the other aspects of yoga whenever you feel ready.

Let yoga be of benefit to your health, rather than an artificial and superficial quick fix that may cause harm to your body. It takes a lifetime to learn, which is why it is called a practice.

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Decisions, Decisions: The Big Mind-Body Experiment

What Should I Do?

Making tough decisions is a learned skill. While some decisions are quite simple to make, others require time and careful examination. Whatever the size and importance of the decision, choosing the best option takes practice.

We have all had plenty of opportunities to lament over the horrible choices we’ve made, only to look back and hopefully learn from our ill judgment. But, when we are constantly battling the consequences of making poor decisions, life can wear us out.

The following meditation is a tool you can use to set your internal compass toward making positive and constructive choices. Good decisions in work and relationships are paramount to our personal development and happiness in life.

First, create or find a space that allows your mind to settle and your body to relax. Perhaps it is walking along a shoreline, or sitting on your own back porch. Go to the place that will best support your process of deciding what to do.

Next, imagine possible outcomes that might arise from your different choices. Notice how thinking about these consequences can affect your body. Do you have a nervous stir in your stomach? Is your heart heavy? Does your head ache when you ruminate over a particular outcome? While these sensations are par for the course in any tough decision making process, they are of great value to observe.

Ask yourself why certain feelings are present. For example, a nervous stomach could be a result of your fear of success or failure, as well as a lack of confidence in yourself. A heaviness in your chest might be a sign you are not following your heart, or are taking on someone else’s feelings. A headache often suggests you are not yet certain about what you want, or are overwhelmed by the process of following through with it. Observe your feelings so you can gather insight into what might be holding you back. Take as long as you need to get clear. Now, let your awareness move beyond your feelings and connect with your internal compass. Trust yourself; your inner guide will never let you down.

Finally, understand no scenario is ever going to be absolutely perfect. If you face your fears head on, set emotional boundaries, and get clear, the right choice often presents itself. And, always remember the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” Go for it!

 

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30 Ways to Leave Your Anguish

The dawning of a New Year brings about a grand opportunity to set our intentions for what we want in life. For some, taking better care of our health is a top priority. Others value closer relationships with loved ones. Some pine for that big break in their careers. No matter how we construct our New Year’s resolutions, we all want the same thing. We all want to be happy.

Perhaps letting go of the desire to achieve your goals is just what you need. The Bhagavad Gita, and ancient yoga text, suggests we can not be free of anguish unless we let go of the results of our actions. In other words, to do something for the pure joy of it brings more happiness than hanging on to expectations and results.

The following are only 30 ways to celebrate happiness in 2017, and beyond. We’d love for you to add to this list. How do you experience pure joy? Please feel free to comment below, and have a very Happy New Year!

  1. Instead of asking, “What was I thinking?” when things don’t go as planned, ask, “What did I learn?” and then move on.
  2. Smile more often. Frowns will make you feel old and tired. Smiles bring light to those around you, too.
  3. Call a friend. Some girl talk or male bonding will work wonders for your mood.
  4. Eat well. Nourish your body with nutrient rich food.
  5. Make love. Sex is good for the soul, as long as it’s safe and consented.
  6. Enjoy a cup of tea. The warm liquid will relax your body and bring ease to your mind.
  7. Stretch. Staying limber helps to reduce morning stiffness.
  8. Pray. Having faith in something instills hope. Hope is necessary for inner peace.
  9. Hug someone. Human contact releases endorphins and allows us to feel connected. Don’t be shy!
  10. Write a letter. Put your thoughts onto paper and express your heart and mind.
  11. Go for a walk. Exercise gives you energy and puts you in a good mood.
  12. Take a new route home. A change in scenery will give you a new perspective and may help you work out a problem that’s been on your mind.
  13. Practice yoga and/or Pilates. But, of course!
  14. Be patient. The adage, “This too shall pass,” means if we can just chill out, we’ll soon feel better.
  15. Volunteer. The feelings you get from selfless giving are better than pharmaceuticals.
  16. Listen to music. Rhythms, beats, and tones bring on a sense of elation.
  17. Read poetry. Pick deep contemplative pieces like those of Robert Frost or William Blake and lose yourself in thought.
  18. Ride in the back seat of a car. Take a break from always being “up front.”
  19. Connect with nature. Watch how simply and effortlessly life evolves around you.
  20. Meditate. Take time to slow down and get to know yourself better.
  21. Dance. That’s right, just like no one is watching!
  22. Sing. Stretching your vocal cords gives you a rush of adrenaline.
  23. Speak your mind. Share you brilliance with the world.
  24. Say NO or say YES, but be firm. Enjoy your personal space and practice integrity.
  25. Give. For no reason, surprise someone with a special gift.
  26. Sleep in. If you are craving rest, by all means, let yourself have it.
  27. Toast life. Even if your glass is half empty, hold it up and say, “Thank you”
  28. Get some sun. Fifteen minutes a day is what the doctor ordered.
  29. Eat dessert. Feeling deprived is no way to live.
  30. Don’t worry. Be happy!

How do you celebrate happiness?

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Be Cross Over Upper Crossed Syndrome

What do you call it when you frequently sit in a chair with an iPad in your lap? Bad posture! Anatomists call it Upper Crossed Syndrome (UCS). This postural misalignment is recognized by rounded shoulders, a head that leans forward, and an aching pain in the low back. It is most commonly seen in the elderly, however due to modern lifestyles, UCS is afflicting the young and middle aged.

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Anatomically speaking, UCS can be defined as tightness of the scalenes, pectoralis major and minor muscles, stiffness in the upper trapezius and levator scapulae muscles, and a weakening in the middle and lower trapezius, serratus anterior, and rhomboid muscle groups. This pattern of muscle imbalance creates glenohumeral dysfunction. In other words, when your neck and chest are tight and your upper back is weak, your shoulder joints will take a beating.  

To combat UCS, you can practice corrective exercises and movements designed to stretch the chest and strengthen the upper back.

The following suggestions may help enhance your posture and alleviate muscle aches. They are not intended to diagnose a disease, or prescribe exercises for an undiagnosed condition. Always consult with your doctor or physical therapist first, when your body is in pain.

 

Chest and Neck Stretches (Pectoralis Major and Minor, Scalenes and Sternocleidomastoid)

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Stand with right shoulder next to a wall. Reach right arm back and place right hand on the wall. Turn chest perpendicular to the wall, until a stretch is felt across the front of the right shoulder and in the middle of the chest. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute. Switch sides.

 

 

 

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Interlace fingers behind your back. If that is not comfortable, grab a yoga strap, a rolled up towel, or a belt with both hands instead. Reach arms down and back as you gently lift them away from your hips. Look up. Broaden your collar bones and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute.

 

Upper Back Strengthener (Trapezius, Rhomboids, and Serratus Anterior)

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From a prone position, extend arms back with palms facing up. Lift chest, arms, and legs. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute.

 

Overall Chest and Back Toning Exercise

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From your hands and knees, begin to flex and extend your spine (aka: round and arch your back). Repeat 10 to 15 times.

 

A special thanks to our Whole Enchilada teacher David Stickler for providing the demonstrations. Come see us in 2017. We’re primed and ready to help you attain your goals in the New Year. 

 

Warmth on a Winter’s Day: A Guided Imagery Meditation

Wintertime can be challenging for anyone who has an aversion to cold temperatures. When we’re chilled to the bone, life seems unforgiving. In a perfect world, we would remain buried under the down comforter until the temperature rises. But inevitably, duty calls.

Scientists believe our core body temperature can be controlled by the brain. Advanced practices such as the Tummo method, have enabled a group of Tibetan monks to perspire in frigid waters. While you probably don’t have a desire to jump into a vat of ice any time soon, if you dream of fleeting to the tropics during the frosty months, the following guided imagery meditation practice will help you stay warm this winter.

Practice anywhere and at anytime, especially when you are feeling chilly. The first step is to bring your awareness to your breath. Gently narrow the passage way in the back of your throat to control the flow of air moving in and out of your lungs. This will produce a sound much like ocean waves. Go ahead and imagine you are actually in the tropics!

Now, during the inhalation phase, imagine a warm tone of red moving into your body. Equate this hue with an increase in temperature, and notice how it affects the way you feel. Next, at the top of your inhale hold your breath for one second. During this pause, imagine your body retaining heat. Feel the warming quality of your breath penetrate your bones and travel all the way to your icy fingers and toes.

As you exhale, imagine you are blowing out the cool color blue, as if to remove the cold from your body. You might even visualize your exhale creating a puff of vapor, if it isn’t already doing so. Allow your exhale to draw the shivers out of your bones and let the frigid air dissipate into the atmosphere.

When inhaling the color red, silently repeat the mantra, ‘warmth moves in.’ When exhaling the color blue, silently repeat the mantra, ‘cold moves out.’ Continue to use your imagination of pulling warm air in, retaining the heat, and blowing the cold air out.

While this mediation won’t bring you to the level of the famed Wim Hof, aka, “The Iceman,” who holds the world record for taking the longest ice bath, it helps when it’s time to part with your nice, warm bed on a cold winter’s morning.

 

Enlightenment: A Journey Through the Realm of Darkness

All throughout human history, people have been captivated by the pursuit of happiness. The pressure to have, be, and do whatever makes us happy can be a relentless, never ending spin on the proverbial hamster wheel. Exhausted by the process, many will settle for a quick fix, but instant gratification can only take us so far. In the end, we’re right back where we started, wondering if we’ll ever find contentment. The journey toward joy is not an easy path. It is convoluted with bumps, snags, and obstacles that blindside us when we least expect it.

Thankfully, we know coming to the yoga mat can help in some ways. If it’s not the quest for enlightenment, it is a desire to eliminate aches and pains in the body that rob us of feeling good. Some take it a step further and seek out a spiritual guru, one who will help bring them from darkness to light. After all, we want to experience the light of life, because if there is darkness in our lives, how could we possibly be happy?

While we understand darkness to be suffering and anguish of the worst kind, we must honor the fact that the dark is as natural and organic as the light. Neither exists without the other. While we equate enlightenment as the absence of dark, we can still be enlightened in the presence of darkness.

The Bible quotes Isaiah as saying, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; light shines on those who live in a land of deep darkness.”

Gandhi said, “In the midst of darkness, light persists.”

Without darkness, it would be impossible to even know light exists, and vice versa. We must experience one to understand the other.

Many of us are either taught to be, or are innately afraid of the dark, but embracing our darkness won’t make us bad people or promote evil deeds. Take a look around the room you are sitting in right now. You’ll see light areas and dark corners. Is one worse than the other? It’s as simple as asking yourself the question, “Is the glass half-full, or is it half-empty?” Do you see a half-empty, dimly lit world, or will you turn your gaze toward the light in life, especially in the midst of darkness?

 

The following meditation can help you embrace darkness so your inner light may shine on you, and out to those around you.

Begin in a comfortable position, in a safe and quiet room, preferably in the dark. Close your eyes and witness the complete absence of light. In your mind’s eye, study the dark. Notice any sensations that arise. Do you feel afraid, helpless, or ashamed? Continue to explore the darkness without judgment or fear.

Next, bring your attention to the place within you that is closest to your soul. To connect with this place, you might recall a fond memory, a place in nature that you love, or a moment in time when you felt completely happy. Appreciate the genuine feeling of connectedness with the light of your soul. If the feeling fades, or you become distracted, keep trying. Continue drawing your attention inward.

Now, imagine the light of your soul shining upon the dark spaces that surround you. It can be as simple as brightening the scary, dark corners of your mind, or shedding light on challenges in your life. Perhaps you imagine shining your light around the globe, reaching out to people in need.

While darkness will always exist, your spirit doesn’t have to be darkened by its influence. St. Francis of Assisi believed that all the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle, and it’s the same with the light of your spirit. When when you realize this, the light in your life, and possibly the light around the entire world, becomes so much more evident.

In your darkness, let your light lead the way, and may you live happily ever after.

 

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Got Snow? Winter Yoga is Bliss for the Hips

After a full day of playing in the snow, whether it be snowboarding, skiing, or snowshoeing, the muscles of the hips can shorten and tighten. Flexible, open hips are a must if we want to avoid injuries during the winter months.

The following yoga poses are suggestions for keeping the body healthy and limber this winter.

 

Warrior I, II, and Crescent Lunge for the Hip Flexors

The psoas muscles (psoas major and psoas minor), attached to the spine and spanning across the front crease of the hips, are the powerful muscles that help us walk through the deep snow with strength and stamina. When they are tight, the low back can become strained, and as a result, injury can occur.

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Psoas major muscle illustration/warrior one showing psoas major, hip adductors, and more

Friendly yoga poses that stretch the psoas muscles include warrior one and two, plus crescent lunge. Similar to a runner’s lunge, these poses extend the front of the hip, giving those mighty hip flexors a dose of elasticity.

For warrior two, stand with feet hip width apart. Step the right foot back until your left knee bends no further than 90-degrees. Place the back foot flat, at a 45-90-degree angle to your ankle, align shoulders and hips with the long edge of the mat. In warrior one, hips and shoulders are aligned with the short, top edge of the mat.

For crescent lunge, stand with feet hip width apart. Step the right foot back until your left knee bends no further than 90-degrees, keep back heel lifted.

In all three poses, the back knee is straight, or just slightly bent, and for best results, gently tuck your tailbone. Hold for up to five deep breaths and switch lead leg. Practice one or all pose options.

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Yoga and fitness teacher, David Stickler, in warrior two, crescent lunge

 

 

 

Hip Opener for the External Rotators and Gluteus Maximus

If there is one area in the body that works the hardest in winter sports it’s the ever so strong and tight gluteal muscle group. Responsible for punching through deep snow, keeping our balance and stamina while cascading down a mogul field, or getting to the bottom of a slope in one piece, the glutes take a beating in the winter months.

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Gluteal muscle group illustration/external rotators, glutes, psoas, adductors, and more

Hip openers are bliss for the hips, however they are not always accessible to everyone, especially those with cranky knees. The ‘thread the needle’ variation using a wall is gentle on the knees and low back. This pose will loosen, open, and stretch the deep six external rotators of the femur, and lengthen and restore the gluteus maximus muscle.

Bring both legs up a clear wall, free from baseboards, art, and other obstructions. Place your right ankle on top of your left thigh, just above your left knee. Begin to bend your left leg until you feel a stretch across the back of your right hip, and as far as it is comfortable. Hold for up to one minute each side.

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Yoga and fitness teacher, David Stickler, in ‘legs up the wall’ and ‘thread the needle’ poses

 

 

Reclined Wide Angle for the Hip Adductors

Ever pull a groin? Stretching the inner thighs is important to reduce the incidences of muscle strain and knee injuries, especially for women who tend to have slightly wider pelvic bones. Tight inner thighs pull the knee inward and out of a natural alignment, and this can lead to unnecessary wear and tear over time.

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Hip adductor illustrations

This restorative yoga pose is an efficient way to lengthen and relax tight inner thighs. With both legs up the wall, begin to widen your stance until you feel a comfortable stretch in both hips. If necessary, bend both knees and place the bottoms of your feet on the wall. That can alleviate any knee discomfort that might arise in this pose. Hold for up to one minute.

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Yoga and fitness teacher, David Stickler, in ‘legs up the wall’ and wide angle poses

 

Want to learn more about anatomy for yoga? We have anatomy workshops coming this summer, for teachers and students alike.