Calling all allergy sufferers! (Excuse my stuffy nose-nerd-voice.) Yes, you! This yoga magic in the picture above is seriously the best remedy in the world for the headaches, stiff necks and swollen glands rampant in the oh-so-fragrant springtime.
I’ll be teaching this, along with a dozen other magical yoga tricks for healing your painful aches, this upcoming Saturday, April 29, 2017 in my “Yoga for Pain Relief” Workshop. The workshop is held at Westport Yoga KC and runs from 2-4 pm. You can find details and registration links on our brand-spanking-new website: www.westportyogakansascity.com
Yoga is a system of thought (science) and worldview (cosmology) which originated in the Indus River Valley about 5,000 years ago and evolved to include:
A medicine component: called Ayurveda
A movement component: called Asana
A breathing component: called Pranayama
All 3 of these components of yoga can contribute to a healthy mind and body. Yoga is primarily a way worldview that orients oneself in the universe to be free from suffering (or self-inflicted frustration.) In this workshop, we will learn how to use the therapeutic poses in the yoga system to relieve pain in the places we most commonly experience chronic pain: neck, shoulders, back, hips and heart. Stress manifests in our bodies as discomfort; learning techniques to relieve pain and discomfort opens a world of healing. I’d love to share with you the ways to relieve pain and suffering in the mind and in the body– the workshop is filling up quickly, so please register soon! (Open registration is $35 (WY Members are $25).
Springtime. I come out of hibernation and act like a maniac. I want to take all sorts of yoga classes all over town, attend all sorts of events, run all sorts of trails with Russell Clive, plant all sorts of herbs and be ridiculously active until the sun goes down. I think, “I have so much energy now that the sun is shining! I am invincible!”
And then the next day, I need a 2 hour nap and am wearing pajamas by 3 pm.
My reality slackens its grip on the wisdom of “a balanced lifestyle,” something I wholeheartedly endorse as a yoga instructor. In yoga, we call wisdom “ishvara.” Ishvara is the collective consciousness that we all have access to if we are quiet enough to listen. However, if we are unbalanced– if our energies and attentions swinging wildly between frenetic activity and forced hibernation, then we are not listening to this wisdom.
Ishvara is a wisdom tradition and also a teacher. Ishvara teaches us to humility by reminding us that there is a wisdom bigger than our individual ego. Each of us has direct access to these teachings through yoga and through meditation.
Isvara doesn’t demand or cajole or plead, it teaches and leads our life back into balance when we are at the end of our tether.
My go-to fix for finding balance in an unbalanced world is a pranayama technique designed specifically to restore balance to the mind and increase focus.
Nadi Shodana: Alternate Nostril Breathing
Use your right hand. Make a ‘mudra’ of first two fingers extended, other fingers lightly folded in to the palm.
Rest the first two fingers lightly between the eyebrows. The knuckle of the thumb rests lightly on the right-side bridge of nose and the knuckle of the ring finger rests lightly on the left-side bridge of nose.
Take 3 cleansing inhales and exhales.
On an inhale, apply light pressure to the right side of the nose and inhale through the left side of the nose.
On an exhale, apply light pressure to the right side of the nose and exhale through the left side of the nose.
Continue alternating the breath in the nostrils for 10 rounds.
To finish, rest your hands lightly in your lap. Take 3 cleansing inhales and exhales.
Quietly affirm to yourself: “I maintain focus and balance.”
Emerge from this practice feeling focused and balanced. Use it as often as needed throughout the day. It’s perfect before an important meeting, after lunch break or anytime your mind slides towards imbalance.
(editor’s note: a version of this story was published April 10, 2017 on mayayoga.com. used with permission.)
There’s no shortage of ‘make your own energy bar recipes’ out there, but this one is just absolutely the best and the easiest. It’s sugar free, gluten-free, peanut-free, soy-free and protein packed. The best part is the clean-up (lack thereof) because I make the whole batch of nutty protein bites in one pot, one 9×9 pan and 1 baking measuring cup. In the spring and summer, I make one batch weekly, slice it into squares and keep it in the freezer. These little bites are filling; perfect for early mornings, trail snacks or quick energy boost before teaching a yoga class.
They are packed with protein and have absolutely no artificial anything! I’ve adopted this recipe from Angela Liddon’s excellent Vegan Cookbook Oh She Glows.
I’m always surprised that my shower isn’t very clean—it gets ‘washed’ every time I shower, but is somehow still dusty. If I’m not diligent with the shower scrubbing (which I’m not) guess what? It stays dirty and dusty no matter how many times I take a shower.
Studying yoga is similar. It requires attentiveness and daily commitment. The Yoga Sutras say that studying you requires abhyasa, or ‘diligent practice.’ Abhyasa is required because there are a billion gajillion distractions vying for our attention. Identifying our happiness and worth as being inextricably tied to these distractions leads to confusion and frustration. However, as we’ve learned in previous posts, uncovering purusha (our inner Light of awareness) leads to a path of inner contentment and happiness. The knowledge of our inner Self requires turning our attention inward on a regular basis.
Abhyasa (diligent practice) sounds daunting. I mean, I have a lot going on. I’m planning events, preparing workshops, writing my first book, keeping my website up-to-date, managing a yoga studio, teaching upwards of 12 classes a week, learning how to be a wife, keeping Russell Clive healthy, buying potted herbs like they are going out of style and maintaining loving friendships.
Do I really have time to do my yoga practice every day? YES. YES. YES. (Remember this post about how to practice daily?) I absolutely have to make time, if I want to be serious about studying yoga.
There’s a story about Mahatma Gandhi that I love (and paraphrase frequently when students try to tell me they don’t have time to come to my yoga classes). The story goes that Gandhi said to his staff one morning, “Today is a very busy day. I won’t have time to meditate for one hour today.” His staff was shocked—apparently this peace-loving-world-changing-guru never missed his hour of morning meditation. Then he said, “Today is so busy, I must meditate for two hours.” He understood the power of diligent, focused practice.
Abhyasa is the desire to maintain a committed effort to know yourself at your deepest core and to use your yoga knowledge to heal your life, thought by thought, moment by moment. It is the recognition that no one else is going to clean your shower: you are the only person who can turn inward, examine your thoughts, and use discernment to choose which thoughts are helpful in your healing process.Abhyasa is knowing that it is important to stay on track, even when you experience physical and emotional set-backs and you want to throw in the towel on this whole ‘finding meaning and enlightenment thing’ and just go sit in a hot tub.
When I think about abhyasa, I remember that consistent, focused practice will deepen the connection to my Divine Inner Self. It may happen slowly, like little drops of water filling up a bucket, but eventually I’ve got enough water collected for a foot soak (yay!). Over time, my body, mind, and heart will be clear and healed. This cleansing process benefits myself and everyone who knows me. This inevitable truth makes it a lot easier to get up at 4:45 am and get myself on my meditation mat every morning. Abhyasa is worth it.
If you already have a regular practice, make it more regular. If you don’t already have a regular practice, carve out some time in your day. Even if it is only 5 minutes, that’s a great place to start. During this time, turn inward. Sit quietly. Allow the breath to wash away any residue of fatigue, tension, stress or distraction. Make this cleansing process a priority, I can’t think of anything more important than becoming happier and healthier.
If you need a good place to start, try listening to one of my Guided Meditations, like this one: