Yoga Makes You Well

May you be filled with loving kindness, may you be well,

may you be peaceful and at ease, may you be happy.


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One good habit

Posted on February 24, 2019 at 12:14 AM Comments comments (90)
I read an article recently that discussed why yoga might be so beneficial for those who practice it.  Yoga practitioners will claim all sorts of health benefits, from increased longevity to improved mental acuity, to improvements in almost all markers of physical and emotional health.  Not to be a skeptic, but this does sometimes seem like more than some regular stretching and balancing and chanting a few Oms could really accomplish. But ask anyone with an established yoga practice and they will agree- and their lives will show- that yoga has profound benefits.  

The author of this article said he or she believed it was in part caused by the fact that doing one thing in a day which was good for you (on purpose) actually opened the door to doing a lot more.  The article said a person who went to yoga class and was hungry might choose a salad and a smoothie later in the day- in order to keep up the good feeling from the yoga class.

Something about this line of reasoning makes sense to me.  This is not to say I have never done yoga and then eaten a burger.  I have.  But yoga does create a sense of ease in the body and it feels like something worth holding on to for as long as possible.

This is true of any healthy habit.  Massage is the same way.  Getting a massage creates the same feel good response in the body and makes you want to keep feeling good, so maybe you take a walk later in the day. These small choices add up one by one and pretty soon, everything is better.

The long term effects of massage

Posted on February 10, 2019 at 9:32 AM Comments comments (167)
Massage works very deeply and usually also slowly.  The muscles of the body are innervated by nerves that listen to them and also talk to them.  Massage works to get that system of muscles and nerves communicating more clearly- and more peacefully.  If we take this analogy a bit further, it could be said that pain in the body is loud. Massage clears up some discord and creates some space and opens up a dialogue in the body between some parts that have not been working well together.

Many clients come for massage and they think one massage will make all their pain disappear.  I liken this to imagining that I want to lose twenty pounds and get in shape to run a 5K.  I hire a personal trainer and work out for an hour.  When I leave, I get on the scale and have not lost any weight.  When I try to run, I am still winded.  I tell my personal trainer he misled me.  I have not lost twenty pounds and I still cannot easily run my 5K.  He told me if I worked out, I would get in shape.  I storm off and believe his workout did nothing. 

This seems silly when we look at it through the lens of exercise.  Massage is the same way, though.  Regular workouts and regular massage make the body pump its fluids around- which keeps everything clean and healthy.  I try to get a massage once a month.  Sometimes it is once every two months.  In times of stress, it might be once every two weeks. Whatever the pace, though, the regularity creates the change- just like with exercise.

Famous yoga teachers

Posted on November 16, 2016 at 9:00 PM Comments comments (30)
I am headed to a weekend yoga study with a highly skilled, famous yoga teacher. A yoga teacher star. The class is in a few weeks and I am giddy to be going,  I have watched videos this teacher made and webinars.  I think I will learn a whole whole lot. 

But today I looked on the part of the description of the class that says "required reading". I noticed there was quite a bit of it. And then I noticed all the books were written by the teacher of the class. 

Okay.  So I looked on Amazon and found they were not for sale there. So I went back to the site where the class required reading was listed and followed the website listed for the books.  It turned out to be the teacher's own website. Okay.  

So I see that to buy all these books that are not just recommended, but required reading for this class will come up to over a hundred dollars. Wow. Okay.  

So since I have waited, I know I need to get them shipped sorta fast to read them in time for class. I look and the only shipping available is two day shipping, which is pretty pricey.  Wow. 

I am looking forward to the class and looking forward to the read.  I think I will learn a lot.  But now part of me feels... Maybe used? I don't know. It feels like the teacher is using the class as an avenue to sell books. I would not mind if it were one book.  Or even two. But four books? All the books on the website for sale by this author/ teacher?  I don't know. 

Headstand and me

Posted on October 19, 2016 at 5:53 PM Comments comments (32)

I love going upside down in yoga.  It is one of the funnest feelings.  It feels empowering.  Learning to balance upside down has brought me lots of joy and a sense of strength. 

Like Oprah, I am going to recommend some things I love from my little platform here on my blog.  No pressure to buy them yourselves, but if you find them intriguing, then check them out! (If you use the link above to buy it, I get a little money for the recommendation.)

I read a book talking about the health benefits and also the potential risks of doing yoga.  The author had researched a lot of different yoga claims and looked to see if they were true or not.  He also looked into what might be dangerous about yoga.

I have always loved doing headstands.  Balancing and being upside down is one of the most beautiful feelings to me in the world.  Reading his book made me think twice about it.  He said about 300 people a year have strokes from doing yoga.  Most of those have the issues brought on from doing headstands.  The pressure put on the head can be too much in the necks of people who are most likely already prone to strokes.  ( My thoughts on this: It seems to me that yoga probably prevents more strokes than it causes.  But I think it is worth taking whatever precautions I can and my students can to be sure to stay healthy.  Nobody needs a stroke.  And who knows who is prone to them and who isn't?)

So that was enough for me to look into these headstand stools.  I had thought about getting one before.  But it seemed like a lot of money to spend on something to be able to do what I was already doing for free (headstand).  I went online and read reviews.  Everybody loved this thing.  Really. 

And so I ordered it. 

It came a few days later and I put it together with the little tool that was included in the box.  That took about five minutes.  Maybe less.

I sat on it to make sure it would hold me up before going upside down on it. It was sturdy and solid.

I put the seat against the wall.  I faced the wall and knelt down.  I put my head into the little hole and my shoulders on the pads.  I walked my legs forward so my hips were lined up above my shoulders and head.  And then I kicked up, one leg at a time.

I was instantly addicted.  I went nuts for this thing.  I would try to stay upside down for a minute or two minutes and do it over and over each day.  I was upside down for a long time for the first week.  Probably about five minutes per day. 

And then I looked in the mirror and noticed some little red dots on my forehead.  It looked like I had a rash, but it was not itchy.  I wondered what I had put on my skin that irritated it.  And why would it irritate just my forehead?

It dawned on me.  I was upside down so much I was having capillaries break in my forehead.  Holy moly!  Not good!

I went online and read about headstand and handstand and broken capillaries.  I was not the first person to do this.  Many others got enthusiastic about inversions before me and wound up with lots of little capillaries breaking in their faces. 

It does put pressure on your head to go upside down.  And it also gives your brain a nice flush of oxygen.  It feels great.  And like many other things, it is wise to do it in moderation.

I read on and many people said they had to start with just thirty seconds per day of going upside down regularly.  After a month, they were able to do more.  Increasing slowly and steadily was key. 

And so my excitement had to give way to good sense and I started going upside down just for thirty seconds each day.  I did that for a few months.  I did that until it felt easy and like there was not so much pressure in my head.  And then after a while,  I went up to forty five seconds per day. 

I have been doing these inversions with the headstand bench for about six months.  In that time, I have noticed my teeth getting whiter.  Now, I have also improved my diet, adding in more salads.  But I think it might also have something to do with the headstands.  The blood flowing through my head probably is nourishing to my mouth as well.  And a recurrent ear infection seems to be much less present. 

Maybe those benefits are real and maybe they are things that have come from eating better.  Maybe a little of both.

I have certainly gotten more confident and more smooth with taking my legs up above my head and keeping them there and bringing them back down.  The control of that action that comes with repetition has finally started to be part of my practice.  For years, I kicked up one leg as hard as I could to the wall and then the other came up behind it.  Then I was able to kick one leg up with control and the other followed it.  And then I did not need to be right by the wall to do it.  But now I can do it all smoothly and kick up with either leg or pike up with both at once.  And that came from just doing this over and over for a half a minute every day. 

Teaching meditation to kids with malas

Posted on October 16, 2016 at 8:48 PM Comments comments (37)
My cousin is a pastor in a progressive Baptist church in town. They have summer camp for the neighborhood kids where they learn to love reading. And there are some bible lessons.
And there are some creativity and skill classes, too. They asked me to teach the kids a short little lesson about meditation. I thought that would be lots of fun.

I decided immediately we should make mala beads.

Mala beads are from India.They are used in counted chants and meditation. In traditional malas, there will be 108 beads and then one special bead at the end that is not counted that marks the beginning and ending spot where you turn around. Malas are used in chanting and in prayers and in meditation. Each time you say the mantra, you hold one bead. Then the next time you say the mantra, you hold the next bead. Until you get to the special bead at the end and that is the end. I did not want to make the kids thread 108 beads on their malas, so we just did ten or maybe twelve beads apiece. With the littlest kids, we did three.

Since I was working with little kids, I just taught them to use something they like as a mantra. I asked what they like. Some said kitty cats.Some said video games. Some said Pokemon. And so we used those things, one at a time, to chant while we worked our way through the beads. "Kitty cat, Kitty cat, Kitty cat, Kitty cat, Kitty cat, Kitty cat, Kitty cat, Kitty cat, Kitty cat, Kitty cat, Kitty cat, Kitty cat" works pretty well for calming the mind and clearing out thoughts that might not be positive. The mind can only hold one thought at the time, so the idea behind mantra is to replace the generally negative chatter of the mind with some positive, rhythmic sounds.

All the kids made their bead necklaces/ malas and they learned their personal chant, which is just a favorite thing. They seemed empowered by it and by the idea that their thoughts don't have to stay negative. They can do something to cultivate their minds into peaceful places and think better thoughts.

In America, yoga is something done on a mat moving your physical body for an hour or so. In India, traditionally, yoga is something done as a lifestyle with vows and precepts and there is not a lot of movement involved. It is basically the cultivation of a stable and peaceful mind. I suppose the hope is that the movement of American yoga will somehow stabilize the American mind. And open the American hips to be able to sit long enough to meditate. And it does, to a point. It is an entry point for this sedentary society to get acquainted with yoga and create some health and stability in our bodies and minds.

The original text of the yoga tradition is the Yoga Sutras. It is 2500 years old and is attributed to a man named Patanjali. It is written in Sanskrit, which is an ancient language that is no longer spoken, but which is supposed to be healing to speak and to hear.

The second verse of Chapter one of the Yoga Sutras is (in Sanskrit):
Yoga citta vrtti nirodhah

To look at that word by word, realizing there is much depth lost in translating anything:
Yoga- yoga

Citta- the mind, perception

Vrtti- twisting, whirling, spinning

Nirodhah- halts
(Rodhah is the goddess of storms and ni means the opposite or to negate.)

So it could be translated dramatically:
Yoga calms the whirling of the storm of your mind.

Or less dramatically:
Yoga calms the mind.

Either way works. You get the idea.

And so using mala beads (or cheerio necklaces, or whatever) to chant something pleasant and calming when your mind is feeling unpleasant and less than calm is helpful for establishing stability in the mind.

All together now:
Pokemon, Pokemon, Pokemon, Pokemon, Pokemon, Pokemon, Pokemon, Pokemon, Pokemon, Pokemon, Pokemon, Pokemon...

Yoga Graduate School

Posted on October 6, 2016 at 12:10 AM Comments comments (48)
Studying yoga at Asheville Yoga Center for several weekends over several years.  Sounds like a cool idea.  Okay.  I think I will. 

That was the thought a few years ago.  I had studied and got my yoga teacher certification. Now I wanted to get my advanced certification.

One of my fellow teachers introduced me in a class she was teaching by saying I was studying yoga in Asheville going to yoga graduate school.  I loved the way she put that.

So why would anyone go to yoga graduate school?  Fame?  Fortune?  Bossiness?  Lack of good sense?

The program in Asheville is completed at your own pace, pay as you go.  You can finish it in one year or take as many as five years.  I am at a slow and steady pace, hoping to finish in about four years. 

Sometimes I see the same student in different weekends.  One such yogini was an inquisitive redhead who always wore interesting brightly colored yoga pants.  I had seen her at three or four weekend courses over the years.  And then she introduced herself the last time and said that was her last weekend of her studies for her advanced certification.

The weekend went by quickly and we learned a lot and had fun trying things and teaching each other little yoga classes.  Sunday afternoon came and we all said namaste and headed out to drive back home.  I saw her in her bright pants with her red hair wandering out, dazed.  I noticed her happy, sad, lonely, lost, hopeful look and remembered she just graduated from her yoga graduate school.  I stopped my little car and rolled down the window and smiled and told her congratulations.  She said thanks with a very grateful smile.  No one else really understands how much work it is or how much time and effort and just money goes into studying yoga and getting this advanced certification.  Except the others who are also doing it.  I think maybe no one really understands why you would.  Except the odd person in the parking lot who rolls down a window to say good job and that is the ceremony.  Hooray!

I only know why I study yoga.  The teaching of yoga, specifically.  I study yoga because it is beautiful.  It is beautiful to feel it and it is beautiful to do it.  It is a beautiful practice that changes every time I come to my mat.  It is beautiful every time I see students try something and maybe fail or maybe get into a modification or maybe feel the pose in their bodies for the first time and be changed because of it. 

I think it shows respect to the practice and the teaching of yoga to get trained at higher levels.  It is a practice that goes back at least two thousand years.  Studying it intensively for six months cannot really help me or anyone else understand it well when it is so ancient.

The more I study and practice yoga, the more safely and calmly I approach the teaching and the practice of yoga.  My initial zeal has calmed from a fire to nice coals and I can really cook over it now.

It also makes me feel so much more confident to know more about what I am teaching.  All the reading and the classes I attend and the classes I teach work together to make me feel like I know what I am doing when I plan a class and when I teach it.  

And I feel inspired by my teachers.  They have more experience as yoga teachers than I do and they put together classes and show up and teach them.  Somehow that validates me in my belief that it is a worthy use of my time. 

Slow and steady wins the race, they say. 

Does the mat make the yogi?

Posted on March 6, 2015 at 9:23 AM Comments comments (31)
I had an injury last fall that made my yoga practice much more careful.  I could not land hard for months, so no jumping or falling.  It was a practice changer.  It opened me up to Restorative yoga and to Yin yoga.  I learned a great deal in the process.

But slowing down has its price, too.  I lost some momentum and started having a hard time motivating myself to get to class.  Also it was cold over the winter.  We humans seek comfort and I found myself reading about yoga more than going to class.

But one other issue was that I had a cheap yoga mat that was too short for my body,  I was constantly halfway off the mat in my practice. 

I have always felt like yoga was too commercialized and people get into it in order to look a certain way more often than they do to achieve the spiritual benefits.

In short, I have always scorned expensive yoga mats and all they symbolize. 

But I found myself really wanting one. 

And I had some reasons to tell myself I needed it.  I have worn out enough mats to pay for an expensive mat that will last.  I am tall and need a longer mat.  There are mats out there that come with a lifetime warranty.  And maybe it would motivate me to get to class more regularly.  It also might cushion my jumps and falls more than a cheap mat.

Okay.  So I bought one. 

I read reviews online and decided on one with a lifetime warranty and a line of yoga teachers behind it saying they will not use any other mat. 

And it has inspired me to go to class more regularly.  It does cushion my feet and knees and elbows better.  It is luxuriously long and I am on the mat most of the practice now.  

I adore my yoga mat.

So did I sell out?  Did I turn into a yogi who conspicuously consumes?  Or did I get myself the proper tool to do my job? 

Maybe a little of both.  But no regrets.  I guess there has to be a middle ground.  I do not look at the others in my class who have cheap yoga mats and feel superior.  And I do not look at others in my class who have expensive yoga mats and feel put off.  I guess I made a choice that is right for me and I feel okay to let others do the same.


Posted on January 24, 2015 at 9:14 PM Comments comments (37)
I recently needed help.  I asked for it, which was hard.  And I got it.  Which was wonderful.

I was amazed at how the people I know who are helpful to others seem to be the happiest.  

I wonder why that is.

They are not the most successful or the most popular.  But they are the happiest.  Which is a pretty good sign of inward success. 

Restorative Yoga

Posted on November 5, 2014 at 2:19 PM Comments comments (45)
This past weekend, I traveled to Asheville for a restorative yoga workshop.  Blankets and bolsters and straps and blocks and all sorts of props make restorative yoga very delightful.  It is easy to slip away and become altered and relaxed during such a class.  Intentional relaxation. 

So needless to say, I loved it.  As did everyone else in my class.  We all got younger and younger as the weekend progressed.  I felt my shoulder melt open and move more freely than it has in years after just laying around in these comfortable positions all weekend long.

When you hold poses for a long time, it melts the harder soft tissues like tendons and ligaments.  The tendons are the parts of the muscles that connect them to bones and to other connective tissue (fascia) throughout the body.  The tendons also have the Golgi tendon organelles inside them.  These little organelles are the control center that tells muscles to relax and lengthen. 

So holding poses a long time makes things very different.  It rules.

Another thing I like about restorative yoga is that there is no pressure that you might not be good at it.  Regular yoga has some intimidation to it because we do measure ourselves against our fellow yogis, for better or worse.  There is no thought of failure in getting into poses that are near the floor on bolsters and pillows, passively laying there for ten to twenty minutes per pose. 

But the physical is only one aspect of this yoga.  Restorative yoga (and all yoga) is also for the mind and the spirit.  And when you start opening up the tissues of the body and inviting them to move in ways they previously did not move, well then the question of why they did not move before that way comes up.  Grief, trauma, injury all heal physically but sometimes stay stuck on an energetic level.  Holding positions of comfort for several minutes at a time invites the yogi to explore the new found comfort and the prolonged discomfort that has been resident in the body.

So restorative yoga is easy and it is hard.  It feels awesome and it also challenges you to show up for yourself and be present with your own body and life.  It changes you.

Making a plan

Posted on October 26, 2014 at 10:30 PM Comments comments (62)
Years ago, I read a book about making a plan and making it come to life.  It was a book about goal setting.  About manifestation.

I got that book after going through an old file in a drawer and finding a piece of paper dated seven years earlier (!) which stated my goal of becoming a certified yoga teacher.  It was still my goal and yet I had done really nothing to make it happen.

So I ordered the book.  It was called "Wishcraft" and it had a dreamy cover, having been printed in the early eighties, I think.  I read it.  Actually, I devoured it.

It had strategies about making goals and making them happen.  I did not try many of them.  But I did try this one...

The strategy that caught my attention was to buy a little dry erase board and choose a goal, any goal.  I chose this yoga teacher certification goal.  Then it said to draw a horizontal line across the board and write today's date on the point furthest to the left and the goal and a date on the point furthest to the right.

So I did.

Then it said to figure out the steps between point A and point B and chart them.

So I did.

Research yoga teacher programs in town online and in person.  
Apply to one.
Figure out how to pay for it.
Read the required reading before class starts.
Do the coursework.
Go to class.

Okay.  Seems simple enough.

The book said to leave that dry erase line up with dates all the way through until the goal was met (or discarded).

And I did. 

I drew a little picture that inspired me about yoga on the board.  I looked at the board every day, usually several times a day.  And I followed the instructions I had put up there about my process.

The book said that it is powerful to write things down and look at them on the wall every day.  I have found that to be true.  It is so simple.  But when those dreams lie tucked away in a drawer, they don't get as much notice each day as when they get put up on the wall.