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Breath is Life

      Breath is Life

In the back of our mind we know that life starts with the first breath and ends with the last. But, as the respiratory system is regulated by the autonomic nervous system, most of us ignore the breath completely. There are two exceptions: pregnant women who are preparing for childbirth and high-level athletes. And yet, optimal breathing is just as important for all of us if we want to be at our best.

The fact that breathing is controlled by the autonomic nervous system is not the whole truth though. Breathing is the body’s only function that can run on automatic pilot and be controlled by the mind. This gives us the opportunity to change our attitude, the way we feel, our thinking, and our actions just by changing the way we breathe. Therefore, controlling the breath in a healthy way provides us with great power and control over ourselves and how we respond even in challenging situations. Focusing on the breath for a few moments gives us just enough time to choose wisely.

Two related disciplines underline the importance of the breath: Yoga and Ayurveda. Patanjali’s exposition of yoga dedicates one of eight limbs to breath control (pranayama). It is the last of the four active limbs. The next four limbs lead deeper and deeper into meditation, in which the breath plays an important part too.

 Ayurveda, the sister discipline of yoga, has a body/mind/soul model that, depending on the model, divides our whole being into 5-7 layers or sheaths (koshas) which are typically diagrammed as a pyramid. Without getting into the whole model, I’ll just address the first three layers.  At the base of this pyramid is the physical sheath (body, nutrition, exercise, sleep). Right above is the energy/breath sheath (pranamaya kosha). The mental sheath (manomaya kosha) rides on the energy sheath.  Located between the body and the mind sheaths, it is easy to recognize that the breath can affect both equally. For example, when we are anxious or stressed, our breath usually is flat. Just by breathing diaphragmatically we can reduce our level of anxiousness or stress, the heart rate will slow down and we can think clearly again.

Here are just a few everyday situations in which specific breathing techniques can help you to

  • calm down your mind
  • cool yourself down in the summer or in the heat of an argument
  • activate yourself
  • stimulate digestion and bowel movement
  • keep your nose free from congestion
  • center and relax
  • fall asleep.

The hard part is becoming aware of your mindset at a difficult moment and choosing the breath that is right for a given situation. It takes practice and patience with yourself, accepting yourself exactly as you are – which means not berating yourself for any specific feeling or thought – and gently guiding your mind back to your breath. Now you are beginning to develop a new relationship with your body and mind.

Welcome your breath as your new best friend.

Often, my students initially give me that quizzical look when I tell them: control your breath and you are in control of your life. But given a little time, they understand. Focusing on the breath gives them the chance to relax and think about their next action rather than rushing into, running away or freezing in a stressful situation. I am always excited to hear their stories about how focusing on their breath has helped them to remain cool, calm and collected when they were in a tough spot and maintain self-mastery.

Would you like to learn how to develop a new relationship with your body and mind by changing your breathing pattern? In as little as a 2-hour workshop you can familiarize yourself with the basics. Then it’s up to you.

Click here to check out my next “Breath is Life’ workshop on July 26, 2019

How well is your digestive system working?

Nearly 80 percent of the American population complain of some type of digestive disorder. The reported symptoms are bloating, gas, indigestion, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Many people are too embarrassed to talk to their doctor about it, so these symptoms often go untreated for years.

According to Ayurveda, all aspects of health and ill health start in the digestive system. Early detection and not sweeping digestive symptoms under the rug is critical not only to a complete recovery, but to long-term health.

If you are experiencing chronic digestive concerns of any kind, please get checked by your doctor.

Most people today jump immediately towards removing particular “problem” foods. This may temporarily help your digestive symptom, but will not treat the underlying weak link in your digestive power. More often than not, doing this results in one food after the next having to be eliminated.

Since you clicked on this blog post and are still reading, you may be interested to know that there are strategies to identify and address the underlying concern, and ultimately attain the digestive strength that you deserve.

In Ayurveda, it is said that 80% of all disease can be attributed to digestive imbalance. Our culture of blaming foods for our digestive distress may be setting us up for more serious problems down the road.

An accurate understanding of digestion requires an evaluation of each aspect of the digestive process. Poor lymphatic circulation, liver function, bile flow, stomach acid strength, stress and a diet of highly processed foods can directly impact digestive strength. Ayurveda says that the digestive system is also our detoxification system. This means when the digestion breaks down, so does the ability to detox.

With the general public being bombarded by more than 4 billion pounds of toxins dumped into the American environment each year, a healthy digestive and detox system is more important than ever before.                                                                                  Dr. John Douillard, LifeSpa

Check out LifeSpa.com to find more information in a free library of over 700 articles and videos or consider taking part in a Colorado Cleanse to reset your digestive system.

 

Explore-Evaluate-Evolve

Enjoy a peaceful mind

Enjoy a peaceful mind

Would you like to experience are more peaceful mindset? Join our “Explore-Evaluate-Evolve” meditation/discussion/healing class on Wednesdays.

So often our mind is cluttered with old, unpleasant feelings and thoughts that cast a shadow not only on the now but also on the future and particularly on our health. However, the good news is that we can let go of painful thoughts and feelings by replacing them with positive ones. Even if you feel as if you were watching a horror movie, you can make a decision at any moment to change the channel and watch something pleasant instead. Simple, but not easy.

Mindfulness meditation is a tool that helps us to be more aware of what is going on in our mind. Then we can change what we want to focus on. However, going the distance alone is difficult. For this reason we are offering a new spiritual meditation/discussion/healing class that provides the support of a safe and non-judgmental group as well as consistency. This also is a place where you can ask questions about issues with which you are wrestling (no politics or specific religions, please).  Together we will explore these questions, get a chance to evaluate them with more ease and therefore evolve in a community of like-minded.

These meetings will help you feel better on many levels. They will reduce stress and anxiety which are at the core of many physical ailments. Therefore participating in these gatherings will improve your ability to sleep and also to digest nutrients. Furthermore, through Reiki and possibly other healing modalities, we can accelerate and deepen our ability to experience relaxation and wellbeing.

Here are the details:

Every Wednesday from 7:30 – 9:00 pm we will come together at Grapevine Yoga.

1st and 3rd Wednesdays: meditation/discussion

2nd Wednesday: Meditation/Reiki healing/and possibly other healing modalities

4th Wednesday: Reiki Share for those who have at least a Reiki I attunement

These meetings are offered on donation basis; however we would appreciate a $ 5.00 donation to cover cost.

Remember, only when we see what is going on in our life and accept it, can we change it. Make a positive contribution to your life and

Be the change you want to see, Gandhi

Living with Purpose, Happiness, Prosperity, and Freedom

Grounded in the earth as well as in the sky

Grounded in the earth as well as in the sky

 

Living with Purpose, Happiness, Prosperity, and Freedom

 Desire fuels our life. Whether it is about taking the next breath, being more aware, healthier, reaching a certain level of fitness, raising a family or winning the Nobel Prize, desire is the driving force. However, often these desires seem to cancel cancel each other out. Therefore my questions are:

 

 

  •  Are you torn in conflicting directions and therefore feel exhausted frequently?
  • Would you like to find answers to your deepest longings and also find ways to fulfill them with ease?

Rod Stryker’s: The Four Desires – Creating a life of Purpose, Happiness, Prosperity, and Freedom gives us a guideline to unlock the secrets that have kept us from having the life we want.

In our new meditation and discussion series, which starts at 7:45 pm on September 2, 2015 at Grapevine Yoga we are using simple, proven steps including, but not limited to discussion and meditation which will support us in finding our direction, being healthier and achieving seemingly impossible goals – all at the same time. In other words, we will study and practice how to find balance in our life and fulfill our highest dreams at the same time. This is important, because there are times, in which we become painfully aware that we are not fulfilling our life’s purpose – often a midlife crisis. But this is not the only existential crisis we know. For many of us, these crises seem to be creeping up on us periodically. When they hit, we may not see the solution to our misery but rather stay in a profession/situation that does not suit us well. We may even become sick as a consequence. However, there always is a way out even if we don’t like the odds at first sight.

Charles du Bos said it best:

The important thing is this: to be able, at any moment, to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.

Join us on a new journey and discover your true purpose in life and much more.

Equanimity and rewards of meditation

equanimity

equanimity

Following the yoga sutras, we will discuss and meditate on how to gain equanimity and what the rewards of meditation are.

You may ask: why should I be interested in this topic?

We live in a culture in which having fun seems to be the ultimate goal. So many parents ask their children when they pick them up from school: “Have you had fun today?” “Have fun” and “enjoy” have become maxims we feel we are supposed to live by. If we are not having fun, something is wrong, we may think.

If you found what you enjoy doing, something that fulfills you, keep doing it. However, often, what is fun today, is boring tomorrow and we feel we have to up the ante. This keeps us on the chase, draws us away from our center and the constant excitement may even deplete us, thus creating imbalances on the physical, mental and emotional levels. On this constant hunt, we may lose the ability and art of being content, of enjoying the moment, a peaceful mind, and being happy with what is.

The yogic answer to this dilemma is multifaceted. One of the prescriptions is building equanimity.  It is expressed in Yoga Sutra I.33.  The version below is interpreted by Nischala Joy Devi:
 

Kindness to those who are happy
Compassion for those who are less fortunate
Honor for those who embody noble qualities
Equanimity to those whose actions oppose your values.

 

Although this may sound too simple, applying these directions is a whole different story. If you are interested in learning more about how to remain cool, calm, and collected in otherwise challenging situations, join our meditation/discussion class on Wednesdays at 7:45pm at Grapevine Yoga.

What is next in our continued Meditation/Discussion class?

Discover your true nature

Discover your true nature

Preview of the topics we’ll cover in our discussion/meditation class in the 1st Quarter 2015

 In this quarter our theme is Kriya Yoga, which integrates three different yogic paths. Together, they are often called Yoga in Action. The three paths are:

  • Bhakti Yoga (love and devotion)
  • Karma Yoga (service)
  • Jnana Yoga (intuitive knowledge and wisdom)

Usually, Bhakti yoga is listed last. However in the Yoga Sutras the study of the principles of Bhakti Yoga precedes the introduction of Kriya yoga.

This makes perfect sense. Anything we do without love and devotion will only take us a certain distance. If the motivation is not right, our energy may not carry us to our goal.

Our everyday language reflects the attributes we give to the heart and its power to overcome great challenges. We talk about the heart of a warrior, of an athlete or even a race horse. If we discover what makes our heart sing, we will find the stamina to overcome all obstacles and grow wings that carry us to our destination. The same is true for the spiritual path. We need to be able to connect deeply with the path we have chosen.

Today, many believe that Patanjeli’s Yoga Sutras were written in the 2nd century B.C. at the cross roads of antiquity, in a thriving city along the Silk Road. All the wisdom from East and West, from China, India, Egypt and Greece was gathered here and brought into a logical, conclusive sequence of 196 aphorisms or sutras. When applied to our daily life, they are not only life-changing but also lead us to discoveries about which we did not even dare to dream. Suddenly a fresh breeze clears our mind. This allows us to see things in a new way and give them new meaning.

Even if you missed the first three months of our study, don’t worry. You’ll catch up soon as the most important ideas show up repeatedly throughout the sutras. This will help us to understand the crucial themes on an ever deeper level.

We will continue our heart-centered exploration and practice through lecture, discussion and meditation, a journey on which we allow our heart to lead the way. Join us on Wednesdays at 7:45 pm and see if this journey is for you.

 

Introduction to Patanjeli’s Yoga Sutras

Return to love and renew

Return to love and renew

In the last quarter of 2014 we began the study of the first 22 yoga sutras of Book I of Patanjeli’s Yoga Sutras as interpreted by Nischala Joy Devi. The book we have been following is called the Secret Power of Yoga. The fundamental difference of this interpretation is that Nischala refers to the (spiritual) heart instead of mind as the seat of consciousness.

This was a revelation for me. A simple change of words could completely change the energy from struggling to control the mind to allowing something (the heart) to be in its natural state – because, ultimately, we can’t really control the monkey mind. It is restless and will settle down only for short periods of time. However the heart is steady. It has a beat, a rhythm that does not fail us. With the steadiness of the physical heart, the emotional/spiritual heart is the center of our being, not the mind. Also, with its location in the center of our body, it ultimately controls our response to life.

Research has found that it is the heart that starts the stress response. The Institute of HeartMath has graphed the stress response. The normally smooth sinus wave of the heartbeat suddenly becomes rough and jagged. This state is called the incoherent heart. By bringing the heart back to coherence, the stress response ends, anger or anxiety stop. This can be achieved by focusing on the breath and on a joyful memory or the feeling of joy. It works so well, because the brain cannot hold two conflicting thoughts at the same time. It is up to us what we choose to spend our mental and emotional energy on.

On a personal note, when I follow my heart, I feel at peace. When I follow my mind, I usually remain restless, because there are always more details to take into account, there may always be a better way… So for me, identifying the heart as the seat of consciousness makes perfect sense.

Here is an abbreviated version of the first three Sutras:

Sutra I.1 reminds us of starting the study of yoga with humility (which is often underestimated).
Sutra I.2: Yoga is the uniting of consciousness in the heart.
Sutra 1.3: United in the heart, consciousness is steadied, then we abide in our true nature – joy.

If we embrace this, all the other sutras are no longer necessary. They just try to keep the mind busy and entertained. The mind likes reason. It has a need to understand. It wants proof and a road to follow. The heart however is simple. It just wants to exude love.

For this reason, lecture and discussion help the mind to understand, to gain a new perspective and release old concerns or struggles as well as the stress our mindset has created for us. By learning to change our perspective, we create less stress and are able to relax more deeply.

Then, just for that day, we can know that all is well.

Love and peace and a very joyful 2015

Yoga for the Soul

Grounded in the earth as well as in the sky

Grounded in the earth as well as in the sky

 A 5-week meditation series with Eva Rosenkranz

starting October 1, 2014 at 7:45 pm at Grapevine Yoga

Would you like to feel more joyful?
Or would you just like to have more peace of mind?

Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. In the course
of a lifetime we all encounter loss and grief.

This can be loss of a dream, a lost job, or the ultimate loss–
the death of a person dear to us.


In this 5-week meditation series, “How to Handle Life’s Losses,” you will learn to apply
the wisdom of yoga to re-establish or maintain a peaceful mind. This can be very powerful, even if you feel like falling into a bottomless pit.

With grace you will be able to handle the situations life throws at you, no matter how big your personal win or loss may be.

Using the Yoga Sutras as interpreted by Nischala Joy Devi as a guideline, we will explore the nature of our minds through lecture, reflection, discussion, and a variety of meditation techniques.

 

 

 

 

Would You Like to Jumpstart Your Spring with a Mini-Detox Using Essential Oils and Yoga?

Detox with Essential Oils and Yoga

Are you feeling sluggish and would like to rid yourself of this sluggishness and the toxins you have stored in your liver over the winter months? As extreme temperatures can be draining to the body, and the detoxification process requires quite some energy, Spring is the perfect time to start a cleanse because the mild climate does not place additional demands on the body. After removing and eliminating toxins and feeding your body with healthy nutrients, your body is better prepared to protect you from disease and maintain optimum health.

Detoxification mostly means removing impurities from the blood in the liver, where toxins are processed for elimination. Other organs such as the kidneys, intestines, lungs, lymph and skin also eliminate toxins. In order to help the body to detoxify itself, different traditions recommend a great variety of methods to remove these impurities.

At Grapevine Yoga, we offer a 2-hour workshop this April. We’ll use yoga and aroma therapy to support a mini cleanse. The yoga poses/stretches and the essential oils together improve digestion and elimination, balance the nervous, respiratory, and immune systems, and create emotional balance. This mini cleanse will also work well if you feel stuck in specific thought patterns and need some support to discriminate which ones are supporting you and which ones you need to let go of.

Check out our events page and mark your calendar for April 7, 2013!

A word of caution: if you are planning to do an intense cleanse over several days or weeks, consult your physician before you start to see if it is right for you. If you have a severe illness, have very low energy, are pregnant, or feel exhausted before you start a detox regimen, this is not be a good time for you to initiate any intense detoxification program. Be gentle with yourself and begin slowly!

 

Here are Gaiam’s 10 ways to avoid re-storing toxins on a continuous basis:

After a detoxification program, you can cleanse your body daily through diet, supplements and lifestyle practices.

1. Eat plenty of fiber, including brown rice and organically-grown fresh fruits and vegetables. Beets, radishes, artichokes, cabbage, broccoli, spirulina, chlorella, and seaweed are excellent detoxifying foods.

2. Cleanse and protect the liver by taking herbs such as dandelion root, burdock and milk thistle, and drinking green tea.

3. Take vitamin C, which helps the body produce glutathione, a liver compound that drives away toxins.

4. Drink at least two quarts of water daily.

5. Breathe deeply to allow oxygen to circulate more completely through your system.

6. Transform stress by emphasizing positive emotions.

7. Practice hydrotherapy by taking a very hot shower for five minutes, allowing the water to run on your back. Follow with cold water for 30 seconds. Do this three times, and then get into bed for 30 minutes.

8. Sweat in a sauna so your body can eliminate wastes through perspiration.

9. Dry-brush your skin or try detox foot spas/foot baths to remove toxins through your pores. Special brushes are available at natural products stores.

10. What is the most important way to detoxify? “Exercise,” says Bennett. “Yoga or jump-roping are good. One hour every day.” Also try Qigong, a martial-arts based exercise system that includes exercises specifically for detoxifying or cleansing, as well as many other exercises with specific health benefits.”

Read the full article at: http://life.gaiam.com/article/10-ways-detoxify-your-bodyHow does detoxification work?

Research Shows that Yoga for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder Is Beneficial!

Some of the greatest difficulties for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are anxiety, uncontrollable behaviors as well as language and coordination difficulties.

My experience in teaching yoga to children has shown that it can help tremendously to soothe the nervous system and release anxiety, improve self-control and coordination. It has also shown that children who were diagnosed as selective mute, started to talk after gentle movement.

Eliza Barclay’s article “Classroom Yoga Helps Improve Behavior of Kids with Autism”, Oct. 12, 2012 confirms that the children with autism who participated in yoga behaved better, showed less aggressive behavior, social withdrawal and hyperactivity then the children who did not participate.  This is the result of a 16 week study in a Bronx school. Researchers found that kids who practiced yoga every morning exhibited significantly fewer problematic behaviors overall than the control group. The key was to reduce anxiety and give kids a strategy to cope.  They used yoga stretches, breathing activities, and singing. As  a regular morning practice, yoga allows children to become calm, focused and ready to learn.

Another research was done in Hartford, Conn.  An 8-week multi-modal program with yoga, dance, and music therapy based on the relaxation response also showed positive results.  The behavior of the children was assessed with BASC-2 and ABC. The study found that the core features of autism measured on the BASC-2 significantly changed.

As far as I know, few schools are open to having a daily yoga class at this time. The next best thing is for a parent and child to go to a yoga class at least once a week,  so they can learn the movements together and then practice them every morning. This will help them both. A parent who models yoga for his/her child gets the same benefits and can lower his/her own stress level significantly by helping the child to control his or hers. This is a wonderful way to start the day!