There are 30 trillion cells in the human body, more than 60,000 miles of blood vessels, 88,000 chakras, and 72,000 nadis. And that's just the beginning.
Awareness is a funny thing. Usually, until something is brought to your attention, you do not realize it exists, is important, or needs to be changed. When I first started a formal yoga practice over ten years ago (I’m pretty sure my shoulder stands in my living room at age eight were a sign yoga was in my future), I had no clue what awareness was. Growing up I was told to pay attention, but I don’t think I really knew what actual awareness was.
What is awareness?
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Happy New Year! With each New Year comes yet another opportunity to regain a sense of self. Regain a sense of purpose and right attitude. I do my best to stay away from the news and adrenal overload fed media messages, but even when avoiding that stuff I am amazed at how much we as people feed into it. Commercials and television shows, new fitness fads and crazy diets. And somehow we as a people believe that this is a means to regain our sense of self, get our lives back so to speak. And what I have observed even more is that for whatever reason I notice people constantly saying in the new year or next week after such and such I will change this or stop doing that. So I wonder to myself what is so special about a day that we put off something we absolutely need or desire to do, to only self-sabotage for a few more days. So along comes the infamous New Year’s day and then for some reason the punishment starts; diets, boot camps and unhealthy “healthy” fasts and workout that are called insanity. Are we insane? Take a look at the few things I listed and notice what they all have in common…..one, they all are crazy and two, none of them offer us a sense of self-esteem, slow continuous change and an understanding as to why we are feeling the need to do these things in the first place.
Each year people ask me what my client retention is at the studio after the first of the year, and usually reply oh good, like anything we of course have a few new people come and a few old people come back and after a few months we have a few of those new people fade away and a few old people do the same. And what I continually remind people is that neither one outcome is good or bad but rather an important thing to remember is that change takes time, and change is hard, and real change takes effort and does not happen overnight. I struggled with an eating disorder for over ten years and I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I tried to stop, to cold turkey turn away from this daunting habit, an addiction-what I know as pure hell.
And maybe some of you are like me and wake up in the morning and say today I’m going to stop doing XYZ, only to find that three hours later you are doing the exact thing you said you were not going to do. And maybe you are also like me in that you get something in your head and instead of finding a healthy balance you go to the extreme and practically kill yourself in the hopes of getting the results you want at literally all costs.
What I am getting at is you can do all the Jillian Boot Camps and go inane on your insanity videos, cut out carbs, gluten, and drink only juice, but none of these things will help you to understand why in the first place you are doing the things you are doing or not doing the things you desire to do.
What you choose to offer yourself in the New Year should allow you to dig deep, be slow and steady and help you change your mind set and attitude. Because what good is a killer body if the person living inside it is rude, negative, insecure or scared.
So for the New Year consider five things:
1. Try adding something to your life that will nourish your soul a bit more.
All that bleeping, shouting, arguing, hitting we accept as normal, is not only imposing violence in us as adults but into our children as well. Choose to step away, and it is as simple as turning off the T.V. and turning on a family conversation.
2. Don’t start a gratitude journal. I love the idea, but to be honest, sharing what you are grateful for with those you love is much more empowering and nurturing for everyone involved. Plus if you have kids it shows them what gratitude really is and for a partner that may not see the light quite yet, may come around sooner than later.
3. Stop with the excuses. My yoga has allowed me to notice the large amount of excuses I was using at one time and now how many the world uses. One thing I have been working on for quite some time is to stop making excuses. Excuses as to why you haven’t been to yoga or why your kids are out of control, why you’re stressed or say you have no time. Realizing my excuses has allowed me to take back responsibility for my life, stop blaming and start living. I don’t get all done I would like but, I know it’s me that can change that, not everyone else.
4. Finally, commit to something. We all have these crazy big plans for the new year, class every day, health harming diets, earlier bed times, no candy for our kids, just to name a few, and the reality is that we just need to commit, and once we commit, realize that we need to start slow in order to find long term results. Few students I have that come three to four times a week started that way initially. Over time they saw value in the classes they were taking and they over time noticed their bodies change as well as their minds and relationships change. And most say it usually just happened without force.
So if you are forcing something in your life I urge you to step back and take a breath because an all or nothing attitude will usually leave you with all stress or nothing left to give.
Re think your plan of action for the new year and consider stepping back before going all in, because is what you are diving into going to help you resolve what the real issue is, and give you the long term happiness? The happiness we all are craving.
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We all want it, that feeling, where we are overflowing with so much joy we cannot contain it. In the end, after we scrape away all the fluff of our desires, wants and needs, we all do really want the same thing: JOY. Pure blissful joy; a joy where our hearts sing and dance free from judgment; pure and simple joy.
If yoga does really mean to unite, a uniting coming from the Sanskrit root word yuj, it's important to understand that we're also working to unite with the Universal Consciousness, that which is all encompassing.
This uniting in some ways may have become a new catchphrase in yoga, an assumed understanding that we are one. And if you are like me, it can be difficult to truly understand this yoga without understanding the all-encompassing truth of what yoga is.
If you have ever traveled to India or have met someone from India and have had the ability to have a conversation with them about yoga, you may have discovered something quite astonishing. They laugh and haven’t a clue what you're talking about.
To them yoga is a way of life: do you not breathe every day? Do you not interact with the world around you, eat your food, drink your water? Are you not listening to your body’s daily needs? This is all yoga.
To me, yoga is simply a way to live, a guide to keep me moving forward, not just a once a week asana practice.To read the rest of this article by Hope Zvara visit MindBodyGreen
1. Performing sit-ups will increase back health. In all reality there is very minimal research and true testimony to support this concept. The quality of actual core development you receive during core work on your back with full flexion of the lumbar spine in combination with excessive and repetitive disc stresses; this can in fact lead to lumbar damage in most people. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health states that repeatedly compressing the spine to levels higher than the NIOSH standards in a repeat fashion has been shown to increase the risk of low back disorders (Axler and McGill 1997).
2. Strengthening your back will aid in protecting your back from injury. You would think this to be true and many use this catch phrase to assure people that what they are teaching is helpful rather than hurtful. But it is important to understand that muscles work as a team and just because you are strengthening your back does not take into account that you won’t throw it out again or that your chances of injury will be lessened. Your back is a part of your unique core circuit and when I care for my own body and other people’s bodies, I try to make it a point to help people understand that they body should not be segmented into tiny little muscles or controlled areas, but rather seen as a unit. Think of back care as full body care. Many of times the need for back care is really an issue with the hip flexors, or sacrum, hamstrings, even the arches of the feet.
3. Stop crunching your vertebrae. And I mean exactly that. As a yoga teacher and educator in core health, I have seen huge success and head way for those who change their approach to back bending. Most of us lean back and call it a back bend, only to leave the back, particularly the lower lumbar and sacrum to suffer. Now that suffering may not be felt today or even in the next year, but that build up of negative compression over time will eventually lead to an unexpected pain or injury. Utilizing your pelvic floor and leading with your pelvis can allow you to feel a more complete spinal opening and also receive release in the groin, an area we have muscles attaching in and locating their opposite ends at our lower back and ribs. So stand up, find neutral, activate your pelvic floor and torso circuit and inhale raise your arms and leading with your pelvis lean back. Let your spine, neck and head follow in the action of the pelvis rather than the neck and head flailing back as a means to go deeper.
4. Strength and stretch simultaneously. When you work with back care do you find you have separate moves for strengthening and separate moves for stretching? If so, why? What if every pose was its own counter pose, what if what you were doing was able to work the entire body and the back reaps the benefits.
5. Our back muscles cover our kidneys which is an area all about detoxifying and letting go. You can do all the physical exercise you want, but sometimes the physical ailments you are feeling are of something much deeper. Look at your person body, mind and spirit. When I work with students one-on-one or in a group, I am constantly reminding them that their life and issues are not separate of their physical bodies. Our bodies are like a filing cabinet, and if they have not been emptied out in thirty years, well then, I think you get the idea.
6. Finally, in the end how you care for your back is really a mental change even more than a physical one. We as a society (this is just a generalization, not everyone) have a: give it to me now, quick fix attitude. And that attitude will reflect in our bodies’ responses to healing. If you want to improve flexibility, strength, or heal an injury, we need to start understanding and addressing that those things take time, both as the student and as the teacher to develop and maintain. A little goes a long way. Be detailed in what you are teaching and ask questions as a student. Just getting the movement done is not enough and just because something is hard or you are moving quickly doesn’t mean it’s healthy. So if your back could talk what would it say to you today?
Our voice is such a powerful tool as teachers. We can direct the class towards a certain feeling or experience simply by changing the tone of our voice.
Our voice is also our fifth chakra the Throat Chakra, our voice center, our center of communication, of speech, of being heard. And as a yoga teacher how you express yourself in your voice can and does make a world of difference in the effectiveness of your teachings. So speak up and speak out.
Watching the tone of your voice, and changing the inflection to help facilitate your point or emphasis on the pose or the message you are trying to get across can help by leaps and bounds when guiding students into a deep and meaningful practice on all levels.
By changing your voice tone you also help catch wandering minds and bring them back. Because if you don't seem very enthused to be there--why should they? We often see yoga and think "zen" and yes that is true, but also remember that you are creating a dialogue, so to speak with your students. So know that it is OK to laugh, to get excited, to show power in your voice and show sympathy, all through how you speak.
As a yoga teacher speaking up entails way more than you would normally think. As a yoga teacher you are asked to speak your truth, share your heart and empower yourself with the energy and knowledge that life is teaching you. To be a yoga teacher will push your boundaries more than you will ever imagine and it is unlike any other teaching because you are offering a part of yourself in a way only yoga can offer it.
I am a huge communicator and love the concepts of communication, public speaking, writing and expression on all levels. Yoga is a practice that thrives on this and to be an effective yoga teacher you really must be an effective communicator. And if for some reason you can't speak due to a cold or whatever that voice has to come out through mindful actions and breathing. If you don't seem too enthused to be teaching, don't expect your students to be too enthused to be on their mat with you.
So start your class off on the right breath and introduce yourself to new students, ask about issues or concerns, why they are in class (create that dialogue), use your voice and pitch while teaching to emphasis your point and direction and never to forget to offer gratitude and thank students for coming, for there efforts, and a little humbleness along the way never hurts as well.
So go out and be mindful, speak up!
Let me know how your communication is communicating!
While doing yoga or other activities, we often hear teachers and even doctors tell us, “now use your pelvic floor.” Or, my favorite line I’ve heard from a yoga teacher is, “activate your pelvic floor”, like it’s an assumed, all-knowing action as simple as turning on your blender and mixing a cake!As the creator of Core Functional Fitness and a yoga teacher (and prenatal/postnatal teacher) this is an area we as teachers and students to commonly feel a bit weird talking about, avoid talking about, or only explain it half way. This is likely because we are uncomfortable saying certain words in class or to friends like, “anal sphincter” or “vaginal passageway”, or possibly because we just don’t know how to refer to certain areas.Regardless, this is an area of the body we need to talk about – a lot! For starters, our root chakra is located in the pelvic area, and is our area of grounding and rooting. Just above is our sacral or sex chakra dealing with our reproductive organs and sexuality. Both are areas of deep connection with us and this earth.Both women and men need to work on the pelvic floor (and pelvic bowl) regularly, and this sacred area needs to be better understood not only in yoga classes, but even in activities like Zumba, aerobics, running, and activities with(pelvic floor) impact (such as sneezing). And I don’t know about you, but I’d like to not pee my pants at any sudden moment, be able to keep my organs in place, support and protect my back, and offer some energetic support to my body.Here are some key facts you need to know about the pelvic floor:Hope blogs regularly for MindBodyGreen, to view the rest of this amazing blog post visit MindBodyGreen