Haiku – Kripalu Retreat

~

Kripalu awaits.

Letting go and diving deep.

Being buoyed by Love

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I will be attending an Energy Intensive*  retreat at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health from Thursday through Sunday.

Fall is a time for transformation and letting go.

Feeling gratitude and excitement to have this opportunity for deeper exploration.

🍁🙏🍁

 

*The Energy Intensive Retreat is 4 days of Yoga, Meditation and Pranayama with two of Kripalu’s most gifted and treasured teachers – Sudhir Jonathan Foust and Shobhan Richard Faulds.  Its an exploration into the profound relationship between energy and consciousness, which is the essence of yoga and the foundation of all mind-body approaches. Danna Faulds will be joining us to share her poetry.

* Breathe Well and Live Well

Breathe well and you will find your Middle Ground.

I love to breathe! Its what attracted me to yoga and keeps me passionate about how yoga and mindfulness can transform us.

Without breathing fully, our yoga practice becomes simply a workout. Rather than calming the mind and soothing the body it can have the opposite affect. Yoga is the practice of connecting movement to our breath and moving the prana, or life energy through the body. In this practice we release tension and blocks from our body – and our mind – and come to a natural state of balance and peace.

The content here is to help bring awareness to how you breathe. Its the foundation for mindful breathing to alleviate stress, reduce anxiety and to live a full and healthy life.

breath awarenessIt begins with becoming aware of your breath:

STEP ONE – OBSERVING

Take a few moments to prepare yourself. Sit comfortably. Relax.

Begin by simply observing your breath. Get your own natural baseline.

Place one hand on your belly and the other above your heart.

Notice the rise and fall as you breathe in and out.

Let the wave of breath flow down to below your navel.

Feel that long slow wave of breath.

Now placing both hands just below the navel. Breathe as if your breath can reach your palms.

Notice how this fills the whole body with breath.

Let your belly expand as your lungs fill with air.

Soften your body so it can open to receive the air

Let the sensation of the breath move like waves. Find your own natural rhythm and pace.

Bring attention to your belly. Imagine as you inhale, your belly is like a balloon. With each inhale it fills up with air. Use your diaphragm to expand the belly outwards creating space for the air coming in.

On the exhale allow your belly to come back towards the spine.

This is yoga breathing.

Notice – without any judgment – if this is easy for you or somewhat difficult. Breathing fully using the diaphragm takes practice.

 

STEP TWO – EQUAL LENGTH

Lightly bring equal length to your inhales and exhales. Silently count in your mind to ensure they are equal length.

Imagine waves coming to the shore ebbing and flowing.

Moving on to the next step in a natural smooth way

 

STEP THREE – SLOW IT DOWN

See if you can slow down and expand the length of both inhales and exhales. Making the waves longer let them flow more slowly.

Find the length that is expansive and opening. If you sense any struggle you have gone too far.

Don’t try, just step into this new space, accepting that what is good enough for your body is good enough for you.

In your mind count a number that feels long and strong for each exhale and inhale.

Let yourself be in the space at the end of the exhale without grasping on the intake.

man deep relaxed breathing

STEP FOUR – EXPAND THE EXHALE

When you are ready you might want to expand your exhale making it longer than your inhale. See if you can make it twice as long.

As you release the tension in your body, allow the tension of your mind to also release with each long exhale.

Let the waves of breath flow through you.

Let the prana and life force flow through your entire body.

Come back to your natural breath and notice how you feel after this experience of mindful expansive breathing.

 

You can always come back to your breath to bring you to this place of centeredness and peace… Find your Middle Ground through your own breath.

 

 

Listen to Your Body – its Listening to You

The words we choose in our thinking, our speech and our writing, have an impact on how we feel and our ability to heal.

words

Have you ever noticed how a word can bring up a certain feeling inside of you? A sensation, a thought or an emotion?

Choosing a word that connects with your heart and soul can be not only uplifting, but also brings physical well being.

If you have a few moments, let’s explore.

Take your time as you connect to each of the words below. Go slowly. You can say them out loud:

Love
Tender
Soothing
Joy
Cuddle
Grateful
Smile
Gentle
Pause here and close your eyes. What is alive in you in this moment? Is there a warmth, softening, a feeling of tenderness or love perhaps? How is your breathing? Are you smiling? (me too!) Notice how these words manifest themselves in your mind body and spirit.

pauseNow take a deep breath and take the same time connecting to each of these words:
Irritated
Ugly
Mean
Wrong
Frustrated
Cruel
Unfair
Bad
Pause here and close your eyes. What is alive in you in this moment? Is there tension or constriction or heaviness perhaps? How is your breathing? Notice how these words manifest themselves in your mind body and spirit.

pauseIn general when it is a word associate with lack, dis-ease, suffering or violence, our body responds by becoming tense, our breath shallows and there is resistance.

In western medicine when there is resistance in our body it leads to inflammation, and increases our level of stress. These are both proven factors for disease.

I believe in western medicine, but I also believe that when there is constriction and tension our life energy contracts as well and a part of inner state becomes blocked. This impacts our emotional and physical wellness.

In yoga, when the life energy (prana) is blocked it can be released with postures, breathing exercises (pranayama) and meditation. In Chinese medicine these blockages in Chi can be released through acupuncture.

pause and listen to your body

No matter what we believe in our minds, our body has its own kind of intelligence.

Listen to your body’s wisdom.

Be mindful of your thoughts and your words. Your body is always listening!

Breathe Well and Be Well

There is something so well known in the yoga world that we often take it for granted. To the world outside of yoga, it can be a revelation.

deep breathingThe ancient yogis knew the power of our breath and the energy behind it for calming us, energizing us, opening up spaciousness in us and healing ourselves physically and emotionally. They also believed that if we slowed down our breath we would live longer….

There is now research being done in Europe as to the power of our breath for healing and reducing anxiety and depression. The hope is to prove that breathing therapy is a cheaper and healthier alternative to drugs. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? For us yes! For the Pharmaceutical companies, not so good!

pranayama breathingYoga breathing is called Pranayama.

Prana means life force. We bring Prana into our body through our breathing, as well as our senses. Ayama means expansion, while yama means control.
So Pranayama is the expansion of the life force in our body through regulating our breath.

As we deepen and harmonize our breathing we also slow it down, which in turn calms down the autonomic nervous system and our stress response.

There are different Pranayama practices that can bring about altered physical, mental, and emotional states. Some of them are quite energetic and transformational and take years of practice. Caution is advised when trying to do the advanced practices.

I think because of this risk, many of the calming and soothing practices, which are completely safe, may have been overlooked.

breathe

I’m happy to share some simple breathing awareness exercises on the main pages. Please click here to begin your exploration of your breath.

My hope is that it will begin to transform how you breath, and how you feel.

It starts with tuning into your own breath. Getting a base line of how you breathe, and then gradually deepening it and slowing it down.

Aahh…. now that feels so good…. and does a body good!

 

* My Yoga Story

People come to yoga for many reasons. In my experience, some people are wanting to be more flexible and strong in their bodies, yoga treewhile others are looking to calm their minds and  find an inner connection with themselves.  Yoga practice brings together mind body and spirit … and allows each individual to grow, heal and strengthen in their own way.

My story about how I came to yoga is a bit different, and I wanted to share it with you…

When I began my training to become a coach in 2002, we did a lot of self exploration about our strengths, values and needs, and what makes each of us unique.  I also had a mentor coach to support me in my skill building and growth. Its a time for getting real and personal transformation!

One day we did a class on Integrity. We looked at what it meant to us and how we could bring that to our coaching….. As I sat back in the chair with my headphones on, I reached for a cigarette and lit up.

quit smokingI felt such a wave of guilt and disappointment in myself for being a smoker.

How could I coach others to be their best while I was feeling so uncomfortable about being a smoker. I realized I was out of integrity.

And I was also scared about giving up my habit. Cigarettes had been a friend and a support for me for so many years. Could I really go it alone? What if I failed miserably (again) and couldn’t give them up? Wasn’t it better to be healthy in other parts of my life to balance out the toxicity of smoking? I was trying to do a deal with myself and it wasn’t working…. That icky feeling in my gut was still there.

I was out of integrity and I had to do something if I wanted to face myself and my potential clients. So I told my mentor coach and set a date – March 27th 2002. We put together a coaching plan with the steps that I would take. Each step was something that I felt I could do. … and I did 🙂

Part of my smoke free plan was to start doing yoga. My mentor  said it would calm my mind so that I didn’t get as agitated during the change of habit and the physical withdrawal. I hadn’t ever considered yoga ….but  I went along to a yoga studio near me……. and I found that it wasn’t as weird or woo woo as I had anticipated. The people were very friendly and made me feel welcome.

I discovered two things that day that would change my life … and my life span!

The first thing I discovered was that my body enjoyed being stretched. The poses felt a bit awkward, but there was a definite opening and flexing that felt good.Yoga Val on beach

The second thing I discovered was how I loved to breathe! Smoking cigarettes had been a way, not only to get a nicotine fix, but also to let me breath fully. Smoking relaxed me. Each big inhale and exhale released the tension. I felt immediately calm as I took a big draw in and then exhaled out.

It was pretty amazing to me that in yoga I could feel the same calming effects without poisoning myself!!

Yoga became a part of my life and cigarettes became a part of my past.

Now I teach yoga to people at all stages of life and share my love of breathing, stretching, focusing, accepting and letting go….

There is no judgment in yoga, just acceptance of where you are and being your best to live life fully…. and breathe fully.

If you have experienced something other than this, then please look for an other teacher!

Namaste

 

 

* Meditation and Pranayama Class at Awaken on Sat Feb 1st at 10.30am

Thank you for asking! We’ve re-scheduled the Meditation and Yogic Breathing class at Awaken Massage and Yoga in Media. Please join me as I share my recent Kripalu experience and knowledge about bringing Pranayama and Meditation into your yoga practice. A regular balanced pranayama and meditation practice increases the flow of energy in the body, is a great way to get centered, and will make you feel more alive and well!

meditation

In this focused and calming class you will:

  • Learn yogic breathing techniques to calm the mind and energize the body.
  • Develop awareness of the subtle energy system of the body through mindful breathing.
  • Use the breath to prepare for your meditation practice.
  • Gain understanding of the different kinds of meditation – and what might work best for you.

This class is suitable for everyone, unless you have a heavy cold!

Please sign up on the Awaken Website or contact Val directly. Thank you!