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What Can You Expect from Practicing Yoga with Your Child?

Experience profound trust and joy with your child!

The Ayurvedic answer would be: it depends.  In my opinion it really depends on the age and even more on the maturity of a child. Although it is rarely too early to start yoga, most children need to be about 3-years old to be able to imitate the movements and enjoy a 45-minute class.  Imitating the poses may be very challenging for toddlers and their moms too, because they may have to focus on their child so much that their own practice suffers.

Children, ages three and up, can imitate most of the postures and need very little help. This allows the mom to practice alongside her child and get equal benefits. Given, the class is a light yoga class, but the poses remain exactly the same, no matter if someone is three, 43 or 83 years old.

In addition to spending quality time together, bonding increases, body and mind are strengthened by exploring movement without pressure or stress. Mom and child can enjoy the gentle yoga stretches together. The breathing exercises, partner poses, games, storytelling, and even rudimentary dance further enhance well-being.  This reduces anger, stress, and anxiety. The class is overall as relaxing as it is invigorating and builds trust, body awareness, strength, endurance, balance, and focus.

Check out one of our Mom and Me classes at Grapevine Yoga, on Tuesday afternoons at 4:15 risk-free and indulge in a 45-minute mini-vacation with your child! If you did not like the class it is on us. If you enjoyed it, sign up for the series.

The Ancient Healing Art of Reiki

Transformative healing energy of Reiki

One way to improve overall health and wellness is Reiki. According to Dr. Oz, it may be the most powerful alternative healing tool available today. It is a form of spiritual healing, can release blocked energy and trauma from the body, release physical and emotional pain and create a deep sense of relaxation and well-being.

Reiki energy has been practiced in Tibet for hundreds, if not thousands of years and may go back all the way to the Buddha. It was rediscovered by the Japanese doctor, Mikao Usui in the 19th century and brought to the west (initially Hawaii) by Hawayo Takata in the 1930ies.

Some people say Reiki energy is the energy with which Buddha and Christ healed; others say that Reiki practitioners hold the space for a client, in which healing can occur; still others simply describe it as channeling divine or source energy.

The meaning of Reiki is usually translated as: REI = universal, KI = life force which flows through everything that is alive. The Japanese word ki is the same as the Chinese Ch’i which also means life force.  Through the practice of Reiki we are increasing the life force. In yoga, this energy corresponds to prana. In physical yoga practices we actively increase the life force, whereas in Reiki we passively receive it.

Reiki is a non-dual, universal, or soul energy. It can be practiced safely at any time and place. It works so well, because ultimately body, mind and soul are one. A physical symptom is usually the manifestation of an initially spiritual and, if not dealt with on this level, an emotional/mental unresolved issue. Louise Hay and others have written extensively about this phenomenon and linked the symptom of a disease to its mental/emotional roots. By releasing the spiritually blocked energy, the body can start healing again.

Often words cannot adequately express the healing power which can be accessed through Reiki. However I have seen the instant relief it has brought to myself and others. I believe that there is an energy field of pure potential, independent of what we name it. With Reiki, we can tap into this potential and restore the balance to our spirit, so it can support the self-healing power of the body. By reconnecting spirit to Spirit, we heal.

Reiki can be received in several ways. Most commonly, a Reiki practitioner channels the energy directly to the person who is present, typically relaxing fully clothed on a massage table. Another way to give Reiki is long distance. Like prayer, this energy is not limited by time or space. Anyone who has received the first attunement can give Reiki to himself. For long distance Reiki, the second attunement is necessary. What is really wonderful is that everybody can learn this technique, begin to self-heal or become a healer.

Reiki energy is transmitted through the hands of a practitioner. Giving Reiki is an intuitive process. Practitioners choose their hand placement according to their awareness and guidance. Yet it is very common to place the hands over the various chakras so they function better and are able to enhance the process of self-healing.

Here is my own experience with Reiki. Before I had my first session, I had been feeling extremely frazzled, tense, and exhausted. My world, or the relative security thereof, was ready to fall apart at any minute. I had no sense of continuity, did not feel I had any options nor was I able to plan my future. There was only a deep sense of impending loss and foreboding.

However, after the first Reiki session I received, I felt whole again. On the outside nothing had changed. Yet on the inside I suddenly felt okay.  It was as if suddenly there was some distance between my little world and the larger world and its workings around me. I felt at peace and reenergized in a way I had not experienced before, not even after a yoga practice.

One more word: Reiki is complementary to traditional medical practices and does not claim to replace them.  Yet, its power cannot be denied. Many of my clients are amazed how relaxed they feel or that some pain they had experienced for many years is gone or at least greatly diminished after as little as one session. Everybody’s experience is different.  No two sessions are alike, yet, as long as we are open to receive this energy, it is a wonderful, new journey.

Interested? Come to my presentation at Grapevine Yoga on February 17, 2013 at 3:00 –  4:30 pm, learn more about Reiki and experience a few minutes of its healing energy. The presentation is free, but I would appreciate a love offering to cover costs.

What you always wanted to know about chakras!

You don’t have to be a yogi in order to be familiar with a few details about chakras. Respected healthcare professionals such as Dr. Oz and Carolyn Myss have reported or written extensively about their meaning, importance, and given suggestions how we can balance them.

Chakras are energy centers which are relatedto specific glands. Although there are many different models, most systems speak of seven major chakras.  If the chakras or wheels are not spinning correctly, the glands can’t do their work properly and, over time, disease will settle in.

The chakras are influenced by our habit of thinking, so depending on what we are thinking or focusing on the most, the corresponding chakra will be affected positively or negatively. This affects our vital energy!

Let’s look at the chakras individually. Although this is only a brief overview, it will give you some good ideas. The first or root chakra is located at the base of the spine. Its color is read, its responsibility is survival and security. It relates to family and tribe. It controls legs, bones, feet, rectum, and immune system. Two of the effects of an out-of balance root chakra are chronic lower back pain and depression.

The second chakra is located two finger- widths below the navel and is related to relationships, sexuality and finances. Its color is orange, its responsibility is your creativity. It controls lower abdomen, sexual organs, large intestine, and pelvis. Two of the effects of an out-of-balance second chakra are arthritis, urinary and fertility/sexual problems.

The third chakra is often called the navel chakra. Its color is yellow. Its color is yellow. It is responsible for the proper functioning of the digestive organs. When it is out of balance, ulcers or diabetes can be the consequence.

The fourth chakra is the heart chakra. Its color is green. It is the motivator of body, mind and spirit and controls the circulatory system and the lungs. Its responsibility is love and forgiveness. If unbalanced, all kinds of heart or lung diseases can follow.

The fifth chakra is the throat chakra. Its color is light blue and it is responsible for self-expression. It controls the thyroid, mouth area, and esophagus. If out of balance, TMJ or thyroid problems are some of the negative effects.

The sixth chakra is often called the third eye. It is located between the eyebrows. Its color is indigo. It is responsible for our mental and psychic abilities. It controls the brain, eyes, ears, nose and the pituitary gland. If unbalanced, it can lead to neurological disturbances of all kinds and brain tumors.

The seventh chakra is also called the crown chakra. It is responsible for our spiritual nature. Its color is purple or white. It controls the muscular and skeletal systems as well as the pineal gland. Energetic disorders as well as extreme sensitivities to light or sound can be the effects of an unbalanced crown chakra.

To learn more about chakras and how to balance them, register for our ‘Balance your Chakras with Yoga and Aroma Therapy workshop at Grapevine Yoga on Jan. 20, 2013. www.grapevineyoga.com.

Out with the Old!

Happy New Year!

Would you like a fresh start in the New Year? Here four simple steps following Sally Kempton’s article: out with the old!

Particularly with the beginning of the New Year, doing some emotional house cleaning may be an important part of a New Year’s resolution.  Sally says that you can’t step consciously into the next phase of your life unless you bring consciousness to your past. This process has been called by different names in different traditions: confession, getting counseling, inventory, and surely many others.

Sally suggests a 4-step process.

 

 

 

  1. Take a few minutes and summon the feeling of loving presence and acceptance. Creating this sense of loving acceptance helps you with taking an honest look at yourself in the next step.
  2. List events, words, and ideas that have a particular charge for you. Particularly the negative ones are the ones that hold you back. Write about what happened as objectively as possible, especially your feelings whether they involved pride, shame, guilt, anger, or fear.
  3. Go back to the list and look at your part in the situation. Take responsibility for it, apologize or ‘fix’ the situation and do your very best not to make this mistake again.
  4. Finally, tear up the paper and burn it or dispose of it in some other way. I find that burning the paper is an extremely powerful tool for cleansing. Adding a prayer such as: ‘May these negative events, feelings and actions be dissolved and no harm come to any being because of them’ not only completes the process, but is the ultimate action of letting go and brings us back to harmony with ourselves and others.

This symbolic action can create new pathways in the brain and change unconscious patterns and painful habits.  Furthermore, releasing the past is the secret of creating effective intentions. You can find the whole article in the Yoga Journal, or at www.yogajournal.com/wisdom/2647

Have You Been Feeling More Anxious or Stressed Lately?

Seasons bring change and we need to change with them

Have you been feeling under the weather lately?

Are you more nervous, out of sorts or more anxious than usual?

Is your sleep lighter, more interrupted or more disturbed then usual?

Are you feeling more scattered and have difficulty concentrating or have poor memory?

 

These and other symptoms are typical for a vata imbalance, an ayurvedic term which describes certain types of imbalances. The Fall and Winter are vata seasons. This means, we tend to feel more anxious, have more difficulty sleeping and because of that can’t concentrate as well or have memory problems.

What I like about the ayurvedic approach to health and wellness is the fact that it is not so much a disease model as a balance model.  As with scales, if there is not enough weight on one side, the other side will go down.  By adding more weight to the lighter side of the scales, the tools and techniques ayurveda offers bring body and mind back into balance.

There is no need to be alarmed. Vata energy is something very positive. Its nature is  creative and artistic, however it brings along certain tendencies.  Only if there is an excess of creative energy, too much of a good thing, too many projects started and none finished, we tend to get anxious and feel out of control. The vata season increases this. Your skin may be dryer and you may dislike the wind more than usual. These are just additional signs of a vata imbalance.

The good news is that we can bring something that is out of balance back into balance.  Here are five simple techniques which can help you do this:

  1. Every morning try a whole body oil massage with organic sesame oil. It moistens the skin. It also helps to reduce or prevent osteopenia and osteoporosis, and nurtures the nervous system. Wash it off with warm water (no soap is needed).
  2. Meditate (5 to 20 minutes). You don’t have to sit in a cross-legged position. Sit comfortably in a chair, but try to keep your spine elongated. Observe your breath, or watch the birds through your window. If your thoughts are racing or thundering down like a water fall, just observe them, most importantly : don’t judge them!
  3. Breathe deeply and slowly. If you are a beginner, make your exhale at least one count longer than the inhale. If you are used to deep breathing, inhale on 4 counts, exhale on 8 counts.
  4. Ground yourself: feel the chair or floor under you.
  5. Lie on your back and put the legs up the wall for 5 minutes.

Yoga and Ayurveda are sister disciplines which complement each other. In yoga, we practice many calming, soothing poses which pacify vata and leave you nurtured and refreshed in as little as one class. In my two-hour workshop on Sunday, November 11, 4:00 – 6:00 pm, I am offering tools which reduce vata imbalance and anxiety. The location is Grapevine Yoga. I’ll also include some aroma therapy to reduce worry or anxiety even more. Aroma therapy also indulge the senses and leaves you feeling pampered.

In all my classes, whether for children or adults, in which I have applied these simple, easy to use principles, participants left with a big smile, no matter how exhausted, stressed or anxious they were when they arrived.

Questions? Contact me or register at eva@wellyestoday.org. See you there!

© WellYes TODAY LLC, Nov. 2012

Why is Yoga so Beneficial for Children?

Camel is one of the great strengthening poses!

 

In these hectic times, children often carry our stress. Frequently, they rush from one activity to the next, without much time to catch their breath. As yoga is best known for its stress-relieving benefits, its practice can help all age groups find some peace and calmness and regroup.

Experience has shown that children who are sensitive or artistic, who are prone to feeling anxious or have trouble sleeping, respond particularly well to the calming and soothing stretches and gentle games we play. Also children with ADHD, sensory integration difficulties and mild cerebral palsy love to learn to respect their bodies and enjoy movement by experiencing this non-violent, non-competitive approach to exercise in yoga.

However, yoga is much more than exercise. It has so many benefits that it is not possible to list them all here. Yoga gives children a place to feel comfortable in their bodies, reduce their anxiety, improve balance, coordination, and strength. Practicing yoga even helps them sleep better. With low impact, structured movement, breathing exercises, games and relaxation, the children learn to focus and relax. There is even a connection between movement and speech. Children who usually don’t express themselves suddenly can get quite talkative after a yoga class. Each child responds to yoga in his or her own way and gets what he needs most.

Yoga also is wonderful in building self-confidence and self-esteem. In a survey my students’ parents completed at the end of a school year, they unanimously indicated that as much as coordination and balance improved, the children’s self-confidence and self-esteem improved too. Furthermore, focus and self-control increased as well. Here is the story of a little boy who used to use his elbows rather than his words to make his wishes known. It was wonderful to see that, within a few weeks of yoga practice, he started to use his words first. This does not mean that he had completely forgotten to use his elbows, but at least he tried to settle things verbally first. Behaviors don’t change overnight. However, this was a great success by approximation!

Overall it can be said that, with increased focus and self-control, two fundamental prerequisites for successful learning, the children’s level of performance increases too – further enhancing self-confidence and self-esteem.

© WellYes TODAY, 2012

What to do when you feel blue!

What does Mountain have to do with dealing with the blues?

Think about the majesty of a mountain, its indestructibility, and power. Make yourself as big as a mountain, stretch your arms high up to the sky,  and take a few deep breaths!

As my students have confirmed, this little exercise is most helpful to them to stop the blues or not sink into feeling depressed. I understand that this may be the last thing you want to do when you feel low, but it is the secret to balancing out the mood you are in: do the opposite and move, move, move!

To create balance, do Warrior or Lion when your feel anxious and face your fears. If you are driven, do what seems most difficult for you and relax for 20 minutes. Those, however, who prefer to sit and let the world go by, need to get active. A good walk with moderate intensity, mowing the lawn or other forms of physical activity can do wonders to lift the mood.

One of the reasons I love yoga so much is that I can choose at any moment how much energy I want to put into my practice. True, the more  energy I put in, the more I usually get out, at least up to a certain point, but I don’t have to give 90 – 100% to receive its benefit. I can stop at any time I choose. Particularly when I feel blue, I may want to start gently, release the tension gradually in seated or reclining poses until my body is ready for the more strenuous and stimulating ones.

However, just five minutes of gentle stretches usually help me feel better whether I feel blue or just stressed. The big problem is making a commitment to myself and stretching on a regular basis. Five minutes are not a long time. It is like brushing teeth.  Stretching is part of personal hygiene. I promise it makes a big difference.

Although stretching  is simple, it is not easy. Nurturing ourselves often is the last item on the to-do-list in our busy schedule, if it makes the list at all. Next time you automatically get up to get yourself a cup of coffee or tea, try to stretch instead and see if it makes a difference for you too! It takes about as much time, but does not have any adverse side effects!

Enjoy!

Is Yoga for You?

Release your stress at work with simple stretches

75% to 80% of visits to the family doctor are stress-related.  Stress often creates back pain. Just by observing your posture, aligning the spine, and stretching your muscles gently you can get rid of stress as well as most back pains.

Yoga is so comprehensive that no particular reason is necessary to benefit from practicing it. However, most of my students, including myself, need some motivation to muster the discipline and spend the time and effort to nurture our bodies and minds on a regular basis.

This is a list of some of the most common causes why my students got interested in yoga. 95% percent of them saw positive results after only one class.

Do you experience any of the following…?

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Depression
  • Neck pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Back pain
  • Digestive problems
  • Osteopenia/Osteoporosis
  • Arthritis

Would you like to experience…?

  • A calmer mind
  • More focus
  • Increased productivity
  • Better balance
  • Improved coordination
  • More flexibility

Are you looking for a…?

  • Low impact form of exercise
  • Gentle way to relax and nurture yourself
  • A holistic way to reverse the condition/shape your body and mind are in?

Would you like to save healthcare cost?

If you answered YES to at least 2 of these questions, yoga is for you!
                                      Well, yes, you can feel better today!

Anxiety and Breath

Breathing Meditation

Is there anything in your life you are worrying about? Is it possibly your children or parents, your job, income, or a relationship? Anxiety or worry zap our energy and can bring our creativity and productivity to a halt. This state of mind negatively affects our immune system so, above all, we are also more prone to disease.

The good news is that there is a simple solution!

The breath is the single, most powerful tool to control the mind and the emotions. It is absolutely free and can be done anywhere, at any time. It works so well, because we can’t worry about something and focus on the breath at the same time.  By giving the mind something positive or  at least neutral to think about, focusing on the breath gets us out of the obsessive thinking mode or worrying about something we cannot control. The only crux is that we need to be aware of our feelings or state of mind and know what breathing technique helps best in the given situation.

When we feel anxious we  usually breathe shorter, faster breaths into the upper chest. This increases anxiety. To slow ourselves down, we need to sit up tall, with both feet on the ground, the spine extended and the breastbone lifted. Now our lungs can fill up completely. We can breathe deeply into our diaphragm and lengthen the exhale.

There is one simple rule:

–           The faster we are breathing and the more we are breathing into our upper chest the more anxious we are.

–          The slower we are breathing and the more we are breathing into our belly (diaphragm) the calmer we are.  For best results to calm ourselves down, we need to lengthen our exhales: the exhale should be longer than the inhale, i.e. we start with inhaling on three counts and exhaling on four counts.  After having become comfortable with this rhythm, we can increase the length of the inhale and the exhale equally.

In addition to utilizing the breath, my anxiety workshops also allow the body to release anxiety and stress by supporting it in the various poses with numerous props. Feeling supported, the body can relax more deeply and let go of tension. The result is a focused, refreshed, and re-energized body and mind.

Another tool which is introduced is meditation. It is wonderful way to clear the mind and come back to the present moment. Meditation is the perfect antidote to anxiety.  We are anxious when we worry about the future, about either losing what we have or not getting what we want. However, we can only control the present moment. A breathing meditation can get you back to the present quickly.

This gives you a choice of three different tools for your home practice and allows you to choose the one that works best for you. A regular morning practice will get you ready for the day. This means your day will run more smoothly or you will be able to handle what comes your way with more ease.  The return of 5 to 15 minutes of meditation equals being more productive for several hours or even the whole day because you are focused and able to perform at your optimum level.

5 Simple Tips to Learn to Control Your Depression Symptoms Naturally

After a 2-hour, yoga-based workshop designed to help control depression symptoms, participants felt physically exhausted, but emotionally and mentally uplifted.

As symptoms of depression are accompanied by signs of physical and mental stagnation, the most important thing is to get moving – just the opposite of what one may want to do when when dealing with depression symptoms. To counteract the feelings of helplessness, despair or loss, externally often expressed by rolling the shoulders and spine forward, I’ll list 5 tips which can help you get a more positive perspective. Energy follows thought! By changing your posture and breathing more consciously, you can change the way you think and feel. Sometimes, you may have to fake it till you make it, but, as soon as you feel better, you can turn your dreams into reality once more!

 

Here are 5 simple tips:

1. Be aware of your posture.
2. Sit and stand with your spine elongated – make yourself occupy as much space as possible.
3. Get moving: get out of the house and walk in the sun, ride a bike, do yard work, etc.
4. Take deep breaths and fill your lungs completely. This is another reason for sitting and standing with an elongated spine. You can breathe and take in life more fully.  This is essential to living fully!
5. Open your heart by lifting the breastbone and rolling your shoulders back and down.

When your condition is serious and you are contemplating hurting yourself or someone else, don’t hesitate to get psychiatric help immediately.