One good thing at a time.

🙏One good thing at a time.
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This is what sustainable change and growth looks like.
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one good thing at a time.
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one itty bitty, insignificant feeling step forward.
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one day…
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one moment…
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one breath at a time.
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We see you. ✊️
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👉It’s November 1. There’s snow on the ground and the almost surreal messy residue of costumes and candy strewn around as you feel the reality of the holiday season looming.
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Before you begin to make the plans and say yes to the party invites and commit to the potlucks and start to strategize deals, gifts, and how the heck to get it all wrapped and done in the nick of time, we invite you to consider this.
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Add one good thing for you into the mix.
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Put it on your calendar.
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Like…literally schedule it.
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Do the logistical gymnastics or make the ask to make it possible.
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And just pick that one class you’ve been meaning to make it to.
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The one your belly is longing for and your schedule keeps saying “maybe someday” to.
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Pick that one. Schedule that one. Put it down in pen in your planner.🙌
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And maybe schedule it all the way through into January.
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Who knows, maybe it becomes your weekly go-to, non-negotiable, ride-or-die relaxation and recovery class that brings you back to life through the holiday season and beyond.
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That’s what adding one good thing into your life can do:
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Fill your cup.
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Nourish your energy stores.
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Bring you back to life.
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Why not begin today?
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It is, afterall, November 1st.🤷‍♀️
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The perfect day to start where you are, come as you are, and decide that you will, in fact, make room for YOU in your one wild and precious life.🙌
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Try adding one good thing today.
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Your future self will thank you. 🙏
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Need help getting started? Send our studio manager Barb an email at hello@RenkonStudio.com ❤️

Take a moment…

Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time — past and future — the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is. Eckhart Tolle

A couple weeks, there was one day I woke up wiped out, pooped, exhausted.  So tired, that if I had the chance to go back to bed for 6-7 hours more of sleep, I would have fed my cats and cuddled right back into my warm spot.  Alas, I had a full day between my corporate job, errands, and teaching yoga, so I slowly started my morning.  But I made sure to leave for work a few moments early so I could stop by Starbucks for a favorite latte.

It was a dreary and heavy morning, you could feel a storm on its way, and it resonated as heaviness in my heart, mind, spirit, and body. I recall sipping on my latte as I pulled into the parking lot at work, dreading the day and hoping the extra espresso shot would kick in.

As I pulled into the main road, over the top of one of the corporate buildings, I saw a streak of dark pink…  the glimpse of a sunrise on this dark morning.  This streak was not in the direction I needed to head, the dark and looming clouds were in the vicinity of my building and parking lot.  In that instance, I decided to follow the sunrise.  To take a moment or 5, to appreciate peace, to allow myself a break, and to simply be.

I walked into work 13 minutes late.  In those 13 minutes:

**I saw the dark pink transform into other colors as the clouds shifted, allowing more of the sunrise to come through, before the storm took over my view.

**I took deep breaths.

**I sat in silence.

**I smelled the rain of the coming storm.

**I calmed my heart.

**I cleared my mind.

**I witnessed the beauty of a sunrise.

**I was present.

**It was a moment to be in, with nothing more and nothing less.

**My tiredness went away…  this time revived my mind, body, and spirit.

No one took notice I was late to start my work day.  It was noticed I had a smile, I was calm, I didn’t appear worn or tired.  I was present for friends, able to share a laugh, and able to get quite a bit more completed than I thought I would when waking.  It ended up being an AMAZING DAY!!

My challenge to you – 

  • What if you chased the sunrise a couple blocks and took a moment to appreciate the light?  Could you put down your phone, put aside your coffee, put off that to do list – even if just for a moment?
  • What if you looked at the sunrise and felt it in your heart, in your belly, in your fingers…  ?
  • What if you took a few moments before walking into work and just breathed, without noise or thinking of what comes next or what comes later?
  • What if you took a moment to just be?

Let me know if you take this challenge.. and share your thoughts, feelings, experience, and how this set the tone for the rest of your day!

Life gives you plenty of time to do whatever you want to do if you stay in the present moment.” Deepak Chopra

Grounding – The Science Behind Going Barefoot

“Because sometimes lying under trees and walking barefoot on the earth is the most spiritual thing you could ever do in your life “ Unknown

There’s nothing better than kicking off my shoes and socks, and walking around barefoot.  Be it a yoga studio, my home, my courtyard or patio, I just love the feeling all the feels under my feet.  Even in the midst of Midwest winters, I’ll go around my home with cold bare feet most of the time– artic blasts are always the exception.

Energy surrounds us.  We are bioelectrical beings living on an electrical planet. Your body operates electrically. All of your cells transmit multiple frequencies that run, for example, your heart, immune system, muscles, and nervous system. For safety and stability, most everything in the electrical world is connected to energy and/or bodies, whether it is an electric power plant or your refrigerator. That’s what the term “grounded” means.

In this day and age of technology, we don’t always connect to the ground or natural energy, rather we are disassociated from it.  For instance, lights instead of sun, texts instead of conversations, Skype instead of hugs, shoes instead of barefeet.  This isn’t diss against technology; I love my smart phone as much as the next person.

When you are feeling grounded, you are centered, solid, strong, balanced, less tense, less stressed – all true, right?  I suggest walking in the grass more often to help achieve groundedness.

Did you know there is a science, and data backed research on the goodness of walking barefooted?  This is the practice of earthing, or grounding. Benefits include –

· Improved sleep

· Increased energy

· Decreased levels of inflammation and pain

·  Decreased stress – allow for the the natural balance and rhythm of cortisol. Cortisol is connected to your body’s stress response and helps control blood sugar levels, regulates metabolism, helps reduce inflammation, and assists with memory formulation.

· Improved circulation, aiding in the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues in your body.

Let’s look at this another way – we’ve all taken a spring break type of trip.  One of the first things many of us do regardless of how tired we are is run to the beach, kick off the shoes, walk on the sand and into the water, and take a photo to post onto social media. Why?  Because it feels good– the warmth of the sand and usually the bite of the coldish water are invigorating, and we want to make all our friends jealous.  All true – and looking at the benefits of grounding – we can apply most of the research data points to that beach example.  Being barefoot helps us reconnect with nature, a conscious connection with the earth, and share the charge of the natural energy from the earth.

Do you go barefoot?  What is your experience the first time you kick off the shoes in the spring and take a walk?

Going barefoot is the gentlest way of walking and can symbolize a way of living – being authentic, vulnerable, sensitive to our surroundings. It’s the feeling of enjoying warm sand beneath our toes, or carefully making our way over sharp rocks in the darkness. It’s a way of living that has the lightest impact, removing the barrier between us and nature.” — Adele Coombs, “Barefoot Dreaming”

References:

Earthing: Health Implication of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth’s Surface Electrons– Gaeten Chevalier, Stephen Sinatra, James Oschman, Karol Sokal, Pawel Sokal

Grounding the Human Body: The Healing Benefits of Earthing  – Clint Ober and Gaetan Chevalier

Grounding after moderate eccentric contractions reduces muscle damage.
Brown R, Chevalier G, Hill M.

The effect of grounding the human body on mood. Chevalier G.

The biologic effects of grounding the human body during sleep as measured by cortisol levels and subjective reporting of sleep, pain, and stress. Ghaly M, Teplitz D.

Grounded– an independent documentary on going barefoot/grounding

Can I get an OM?!?!

What is OM?  Why do yogis chant it?  How do you practice it and what is the secret sauce of it?

· Om is a mantra, or vibration, that is traditionally chanted at the beginning and end of yoga sessions

· Coming from Hinduism and Yoga, the mantra is considered to have high spiritual and creative power but despite this, it is a mantra that can be recited by anyone. It is similar to: Hum, Amin, Amen, Shalom

· Some translate this to mean divine cosmic energy

· OM is said to vibrate at 432 Hz, which is the natural musical pitch of the Universe, as opposed to 440 Hz, which is the frequency of most modern music.

· The rhythmic pronunciation and vibrations have a calming effect on the body and the nervous system similar to the effects of meditation. This lowers the blood pressure and increases the health of the heart. (Cue the parasympathetic nervous system)

· It’s both a sound and a symbol rich in meaning and depth and when pronounced correctly it is actually AUM.

I’ve found leading OM as a teacher and participating as a student, OM sets the tone, calms the room and minds, and creates a magical space with the vibrations.  As the voices unite in the chant and breath, it shows the connection we all have at that exact moment.  How it lands within you is an individual experience – I’ve had chills and/or warmth course through my body and mind, I’ve had tears fall, I’ve felt vibrations in my heart, and I feel part of the collective experience and energy in the room.

How to say it:

Aum actually consists of four syllables: A, U, M, and the silent syllable.

· A – say as a prolonged “awe.” – similar to saying AWWWWWWWesome

· U-  say as a prolonged “oo” – dig in deep and make it a juicy OOOOOO like OOOOOOOOh yeah

· M – say as a prolonged “mmmm” – similar to MMMMMthat’s good to eat

· The silent syllable – as the voices fall silent, the vibrations of sounds are yet in the room.  Dig in and feel all the feels, the magic, the waves, and the silence.

How to practice –

· Find a comfortable seated position in a quiet spot

· Close the eyes

· Take a couple of normal breaths and try to clear the head of anything else on your mind

· Take an inhale.

· On the exhale – let your voice be heard in OM/AUM – all 4 parts.  Make sure to bask in the silent syllable.

· Repeat 2 times, or more if you’re digging this.

· After your last OM, sit with the vibrations.

· Return to a normal cadence of breath for you

· Slowly open the eyes

· Sit and notice – what comes up, what feelings do you have?

· Thank yourself for your practice

If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” Nikola Tesla

References:

Deconstructing AUM: The Primordial Sound – Ashley Turner

Invincible Living – Guru Jagat

OM: What Is It & Why Do We Chant It? – Sam Saunders, MindBodyGreen

Yoga – EVERY.DAMN.DAY

“Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory.”  Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois

I practice yoga EVERY DAMN DAY – just like the hashtag on social media says.  I also teach yoga classes, public and private.  My teaching is not my personal practice, nor is my daily practice my teaching – for the most part.  Each influences the other, and many times my clients are my teachers in ways for which I am most grateful.

People often assume I’ve a sexy, glorious, flexy-bendy personal practice.  Let’s clear that one up ASAP – it’s ugly, brilliant, dirty, surprising, frustrating, astounding – I get mad, I laugh, I cry, I’m ecstatic, and it never ends as I imagined when starting.  Some days it’s a challenge to get on my mat, be it time or lack of desire, some days it’s a sweet relief and over too soon.  Sound familiar?  But I do my best to get in a daily practice, even if its just a few moments of breathing.

My body is not what it was 20 plus years ago when I started this journey.  In most ways, it’s better and I’ve an honest appreciation for the miracle of my body/mind/spirit, and I love it way more than I did in those early days.  In other ways, it doesn’t bounce back as easily nor does it open up as quickly, and I’m cognizant of my known ‘quirks’, like that wrist I broke a few years ago, my cranky knees, and that too much backbending makes my digestion go haywire.

Yet I practice daily in some form or manner, and my go-to practices are the ones I teach regularly.

Restorative and/or Yin Yoga – I do a restorative and yin type of morning practice usually 4-5 days a week, but often have a short night practice to reconnect with my mind and release the day. I choose to do this to bring balance to the fire of my day, by mindfully practicing lunar poses to help set the tone of the day.  Allowing my body/mind/spirit to open and curate a healing sense around sunrise helps me balance the chaos of a full-time job, teaching yoga classes, and constant studying/trainings I immerse myself in. I close my day out most often with a supported restorative pose or two, to release, calm my mind, and prepare for sleep.

Dynamic Yoga – My go-to fire/tapas practice is Ashtanga Primary series, with some Bikram and random creative poses peppered in.  I like the pace, the challenge, the tradition and philosophy behind it – and the fire. This is also educational for my body, as I move and balance through the poses, I am able to tell how I am treating my body with nutrition and rest, good breathing practices, and if I’m meditating regularly.  This is my regular weekend practice and maybe on an easy weekday as its a good way to wake up.   This also can be frustrating, as I can no longer do the jump-throughs like I used to due to wrist issues, nor do I push myself like I did 10 years ago due to lower back issues.  This is the practice that makes my body light up, sweat like no one’s business, and yet I have to watch the fire I light, as I don’t bounce back like I used to.  But, the savasana is sooo sweet and tasty after 90 or so minutes of tapas/fire.

Meditation – I am heavily meditated.  I meditate twice a day, in the morning and at night, and I try to get in a short practice during lunch when I’m at work.  My practice, which I’ve been doing in some manner for most of my life, isn’t overly formal. I sit in quiet and breathe (many times with a cat or two on my lap), I walk slowly outside, I lay in my yard and stare at the stars or clouds, I lay with legs up the wall and my hand over my heart, or sometimes I just close my eyes, feels all the feels, and breathe. This practice is most important to me the older I get, as just being present is the hardest and easiest practice.

Pranayama/breathing technologies – My first yoga teacher training really homed in on this practice, and now I couldn’t imagine my life without it.  Purposely breathing can lift the spirit, slow or speed up the mind/body, calm the digestion, awaken vitality, and simply bring balance.

I don’t physically practice when I teach yoga, but I do practice mindfulness, presence, and restraint, as my focus is on my clients.  These days I am rarely on the mat, unless to demo a pose or show a prop setup, as I’m interacting with the energy of my clients and the space I am holding.  Yet during these times, I am the student as much as I am the teacher.  I learn from my clients, from how they hold a pose, present their energy, how they open up, and what is holding them back, be it body/mind/spirit.  I’ll be honest, I’ve learned some pretty creative hacks from my clients, as we all handle yoga, much like life – in our own way.

What is your daily practice?  What are your challenges in having a daily practice?

“Through daily yoga practice we can become present to our own fundamental goodness and the goodness of others.”  Donna Fahri

Walking in Circles ….a Labyrinth Meditation

The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace.  With each step, the wind blows.  With each step, a flower blooms.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

When I was at Duke Integrative Medicine in June, I was pleasantly surprised to see a labyrinth on campus. The setting was serene and beautiful, peaceful and intriguing, and both quiet and noisy from the surrounding trees and nature.  Taking time almost daily during lunch or breaks, I did walking and sitting mediations. This was a new experience for me, and it was delicious to the mind, body, and spirit.

Why are these so magical?

· Labyrinths such as this are a patterned path, usually circular in form.  Historically, circles are considered universal symbol of wholeness, completion, and unity.

· They are created to be unicursal, meaning there is only one entrance and the path leads in one direction.  The path is arranged so the walker moves back and forth across the forms through a series of curves, ending at the heart or center.

· Labyrinths have been found in many cultures around the world, including ancient India, Spain, Peru, Egypt, and China.  Archeologists have found most were created on sacred grounds and used for spiritual journeys or pilgrimages of all sorts.

· As one is walking a set path, this encourages the brain to suspend logical thoughts, analysis, and planning – left brain activity – as one doesn’t have to figure out where to go.  This encourages the right brain to surge forward allowing for intuition, imagination, and creativity on the journey.

· Research has found the walking puts one in touch with simple body rhythms. With the physical movement on a set path, the walker can notice the breath and patterns, the footfall, and reorientation of the body as one moves through the curves.

· The overall pattern of movement in labyrinth walking due to the organization – starting outside and moving in to the heart holds deep symbolic meaning for many people.

· The setting is simple and organized, many times quiet or in a reserved location, allowing one to go deep inside.

I made a simple ritual of my walks.  Prior to entering the labyrinth, I cleared my mind as much as possible, took a few deep cleansing breaths, and clasped my hands in a mudra, sometimes as simple as prayer hands or hands over heart.  During the walk, I continued with the deep breaths and simply observed as much as possible with all senses – listening, seeing, tasting, feeling, hearing.  Upon entry into the heart, if no one else was there, I took a seat and let the vibrations from my senses and walking reverberate within my body.

This photo is me laying the heart of the labyrinth, yoga stoned beyond belief, after a walk and 10-minute seated meditation.  And yes, that is likely a bit of drool from the corner of my mouth.

Have you ever been within a labyrinth?  What was your experience?  I’d love to hear your experience, shoot me a DM, post a message, or email me!

The labyrinth does not engage our thinking minds. It invites our intuitive, pattern-seeking, symbolic mind to come forth. It presents us with only one, but profound, choice. To enter a labyrinth is to choose to walk a spiritual path.”- Lauren Artress

Yoga Bliss, Yoga Euphoria…

If you consciously let your body take care of you, it will become your greatest ally and trusted partner” – Deepak Chopra

Yoga bliss, yoga stoned, yoga euphoria, that drool worthy feeling after transitioning from a pose or from a yoga class.  If you’ve ever experienced it, you know how mind-blowing it feels both physically and spiritually.

Yoga as a science – Documented research has shown yoga boosts the levels of the feel-good brain chemicals like GABA, serotonin, and dopamine, which are responsible for feelings of relaxation and contentedness, and the way the brain processes rewards. The lack of or overproduction of these chemicals can lead to treatment via various mood medications like antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs to maintain equilibrium in the brain and body. The fact that yoga is linked to improved natural stimulation, levels, and usage of these coveted chemicals is nothing to sneeze at.  Additionally, yoga stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms us down and restores balance after a major stressor is over. When the parasympathetic nervous system switches on, “blood is directed toward the brain, endocrine glands, digestive organs, and lymphatic circulation, while the heart rate and blood pressure are lowered.  With parasympathetic activation, the body enters into a state of restoration and healing.”

Breaking this down further, let’s explore basic tenets of each and every yoga class, which can lead to this yoga blissed/stoned or euphoric feeling:

Breathing – Most of us don’t breathe correctly. For most healthy folks, it’s not like we forget to breath, but the challenge is doing it correctly to ensure full expansion of the lungs to properly oxygenate our systems and remove waste.  When breathing correctly, our brain is stimulated and releases dopamine, our naturally made feel good hormone.  This in turn can create a blissful and/or euphoric feeling.  Yoga, focusing on the proper breathing or breath manipulation (pranayama or breathing technologies), will help with this release.

Alignment – Consciously or unconsciously, we have habits that lead to poor alignment in our body structure.  How do you sit when texting?  How do you stand when waiting in line at the store?  Is the spine straight, the head on as nature intended it, are the hips aligned, is one arm hiked up more than the other?  Poor alignment root causes can be habitual or induced from stress or injury.  Yoga, focusing on alignment, can help us get back to how our bodies are intended to be structured, and this simple action of proper alignment and/or guided movements in alignment can lead to that feeling of euphoria as the body is not in a ‘stressed’ alignment.  In other words, your body is simply THRILLEDyour standing tall or sitting well!

Relaxation – In our modern world, how often do you really relax?  I’m not talking about those nights you plop in front of the TV with a Netflix marathon (no judgement here, trust me).  I mean intentionally turning off as much stimuli as possible, both internal and external, and simply be?  Purposely taking the body out of the fight or flight mode, into relax and rest, triggers the parasympathetic nervous system.  By enabling this trigger, allowing the body and mind to feel safe brings us back to balance, allowing all the juicy feel good brain chemicals to flood the system and elevating us to a point where you might feel you are walking on air!

Taking time to connect with your body – Feeling all the feels.  When was the last time you really checked in with your body?  And not just looking at that thing on your toe while in down dog…. but felt how amazing your body is, what feelings rise up, and how it’s doing. When was the last time you examined how your thighs feel when you’re in a forward fold, or how your fingers feel in mountain pose?  You’ve been rocking this incredible system since your grand arrival in the world, take time to check on how it’s doing, and give it a high five for taking such good care of you.

Our bodies are simply phenomenal.  Regardless of whether we take good care of it or ignore it, the biological miracle of the human body and life is pretty dope.  When we consciously nurture our body, plus mind and spirit, allowing the biological and chemical processes to occur as intended, we are rewarded by the flood of all the feel goods.  This my friends… is what yoga stoned is all about.

The biochemistry of the body is a product of awareness” – Deepak Chopra

References:

Meditation and Yoga can Modulate Brain Mechanisms that affect Behavior and Anxiety-A Modern Scientific Perspective – Divya Krishnakumar, Michael R Hamblin, Shanmugamurthy Lakshmanan

Penetrating Postures: The science of yoga – Alice G Walton

The science behind the yoga high – Sarah Dittmore

One Simple Thing – A new Look at the Science of Yoga and How it Can Transform Your Life – Eddie Stern

The Healing Self – Deepak Chopra MD and Rudolph E Tanzi PhD

Invincible Living – Guru Jagat

Deep Breaths… and Obnoxious Sighs

“Take a big inhale, filling up the belly, expanding the side ribs… and release it with a long obnoxious sigh.”

Familiar words to you?  If you said yes, then you’ve likely taken one of my yoga classes.  If you’ve heard it in my yoga class, there is a chance you’ve also heard the logic behind it. This is one of my most often repeated phrases, and it’s backed by both science and reality.

Pranayama is the yogic practice and science of controlling the breath, which is the source of our prana, or vital life force.  Guru Jagat alternatively describes it as breathing technology in her writing, talks, and classes, which I’ve really started to appreciate (and use the term a good bit).  All lineages of yoga focus on the breath, yet I really appreciate the Kundalini Yoga list of benefits of the breath:  “Physical well-being.  Lightness of heart. Clarity of mind. Inner and outer health and fulfillment. Weight loss. Purpose, intention, and direction.”

Within our body’s center lies the thoracic duct. Specifically, this powerful vessel starts at the top of the sternum, reaching all the way to the small intestines.  Proper diaphragmatic breathing, a simple pranayama or breathing technology, will massage the duct and move lymph fluid from the arms, legs, and head toward the thoracic duct.  Thelymph fluid is cycled through the body’s laundry system and ‘garbage’, ortoxins,are excreted, sweated out or otherwise expelled in the proper, well-designed process. Simple movements coordinated with diaphragmatic breathing does this.

We often associate sighing with emotion; my typical example when teaching is to sigh like a teenager who’s asked to do chores rather than text with a friend.  We sigh more frequently when we’re feeling frustrated, tired, or bleh; but we can also sigh with relief, or sometimes for no apparent reasonor without noticing. A sigh is different from a regular breath because it’s deeper and fills your lungs with more oxygen — and usually feels fulfilling to have your lungs fill up to the brim with air.

During a sigh, the lungs’ alveoli, or air sacs, expand, providing us with a sense of relief. While sighs may seem like an expression of emotion, it turns out that they serve a specific function — to inflate these air sacs when some of them have collapsed. This process helps keep the lungs functioning long-term.

How to practice –

· Find a comfortable position, seated or laying down, in a quiet spot

· Close the eyes

· Place the hands on the thighs with palms down, or one hand on the heart and other on the belly*

· Take a couple of normal breaths and try to clear the head of anything else on your mind

· Take a big inhale through the nose, filling the belly, expanding the sigh ribs – until you are all the way filled

· Open the mouth and release the breath with a great big sigh (the more obnoxious the better!)

· Repeat 5-10 times

· Return to a normal cadence of breath for you

· Slowly open the eyes

· Sit and notice – what comes up, what feelings do you have?

· Thank yourself for your practice

*This is a suggestion of simple hand placements, and know there are plenty of powerful mudras (hand positions or gestures) that can help channel or focus specific intentions of the practice – stay tuned for this to be featured in another blog post.

“Those sighs are music to my ears!” – Melissa Rusk

References:

Y4C – Tari Prinster

Invincible Living – Guru Jagat

The Science Behind Sighing: Breathing Deeply Is A Life-Saving Reflex, Sustains Lung Function- Lecia Bushak
Sighing reduces physiological tension in anxiety-sensitive individuals- Steven Pace

Riding the Wave at Duke Integrative Medicine

What a long strange trip its been” Jerry Garcia

I was fortunate to embark on a learning adventure at Duke University Integrative Medicine in June, completing the Mindful Yoga for Cancer Professional Training course. Lead by Kimberly and Jim Carson, myself and 7 wonderful ladies had the journey of a lifetime.  Seriously – a drool worthy professional and personal experience.

This program was developed by Jim Carson, PhD and Kimberly Carson, MPH, C-IAYT, E-RYT:

Mindful Yoga for Cancer Professional Training is a professional training program offered to registered yoga instructors. It introduces the Mindful Yoga program developed by founders Jim and Kimberly Carson, based upon clinical trials of the Yoga of Awareness intervention conducted with cancer patients at Duke. The program incorporates discussion, practice, and instruction on the ideal yoga practices for people healing from cancer.

Mindful Yoga, as applied in clinical trials of the Yoga of Awareness intervention, has been shown to help patients at both early and advanced stages of the cancer experience to minimize pain and fatigue while increasing vigor, acceptance, and relaxation. Mindful Yoga draws on the principles of integrative medicine, using a whole-person approach to address the mind, body, and spirit.

Topics include: 

·  Safely and effectively teaching yoga to people living with cancer

·  Evidence-based modules for cancer-related symptoms

·  Tailoring asana (posture) and pranayama (breath) to specific symptoms

·  Putting yogic principles in context for people from various faith traditions

·  Effective and clear ways of presenting models of stress

·  Appropriate guidance for working with the mind

·  Partnering with the medical community

*Duke Integrative Medicine course description

Kimberly and Jim are warm, kind, incredible people with astounding backgrounds.   They led us in physical and mindful practices daily, provided tissues where tears were shared, and enveloped us in hugs, both physically and spiritually on this adventure. We were fully immersed in data-driven and documented learning, challenged to lean in, and simply ride the waves of this experience.

As part of this journey, we had presentations and intimate discussions with world-class experts/researchers:

Cancer 101 – Kelly E Westbrook, MD Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Oncology

Dr. Westbrook led a data-based discussion on cancer, focused primarily on breast cancer, of the various types and stages, treatments, concerns, and case studies.  She offered her thoughts on the reality of the disease and treatments, how it impacts lives, and examples of working with patients and their families.

Coping with Cancer-Related Pain – Francis J. Keefe Director, Pain Prevention and Treatment Research Program

Dr. Keefe facilitated a discussion on ‘unpacking’ pain and related biological and social issues, discussed data-driven ways to alleviate, concerns with current medical and practical realties, and shared where the research is happening.  As a world renown researcher, he spoke the human side of pain.  He initially sponsored the work of Kimberly and Jim, and regularly participates in current and ongoing research.

Movement Considerations – Jennifer Thornton-Jones, CLT, PT

Jeni, a world traveler and registered yoga teacher herself, shared her knowledge and experiences using physical therapy and yogic physical practices to help people open themselves physically and mentally while undergoing treatments.  She broke down the immediate- and long-term goals of movement-based therapies, using practical experiences and data-driven findings.

Psychological aspects of cancer – Laura S. Porter, PhD Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Porter broke down the psychology of the diagnosis and reality of the impact of cancer on the mind, body, and spirit.  Using documented medical research, she shared what has been found to work and what is being researched in all parts of the experience, from both the patient and to the caregivers.  She also shared her data- driven findings of how yoga can integrate as part of the therapies to help with the experience.

Palliative Care – Arif H. Kamal, MD Medical Oncologist, Palliative Medicine Specialist

Dr. Kamal broke down palliative care and how it focuses on those facing a serious illness, not necessarily a terminal illness. He led us through how he meets with patients to determine what their definition of quality of life is, and works to map out how to best treat the individual.  This type of medicine is both independent and inclusive of hospice. He shared some of the breakdowns of funding and challenges, the emotional issues and where the research and work is needed.

In the next few weeks, I’ll continue to share more of my experience from this program, as well as how it can benefit yoga students – regardless of whether they have cancer.

We humans have a way of touching each other’s lives deeply even despite ourselves. In finding our way to each other, we find what is, after all, already there, waiting to be found, wanting to be found.” Andrew Cooper

Restorative Yoga – The Science Behind the Stillness

You lie there not doing anything, just being—something most of us feel too guilty or strung out to do on our own. “- Unknown

We live in a ‘do’ and ‘go’ world, where we’re always connected, moving, and competing.  Many of us judge ourselves by a list of accomplishments and/or returns.  It’s hard to disconnect or stop, both by our own expectations and that of those around us.

I’m no less guilty of this than you.  I’ve to do lists on my fridge, reminders on my phone, feelings of guilt that I went to bed without completing X, and always trying to squeeze in Y in those downtime moments between my day job and teaching. And of course, the guilt – the errands not run, the laundry not started, and the dust on my bookshelves.

But enough on what we all know exists in our lives… let’s talk restorative yoga.

What is it:

·  Restorative yoga is a passive, gentle, yet powerful slow-paced practice consisting of seated and supine (laying down) poses typically held for several minutes.

·  This practice is about slowing down and opening your body through passive stretching. During the long holds of restorative yoga your muscles are allowed to relax deeply. Props such as bolsters, blankets and blocks, rather than your muscles, are used to support your body.

·  Moving slowly into and holding these opening postures alongside intentional breath work allows you to calm and center the mind and nervous system while accessing deep opening and release within the body.

Benefits:

·  Restorative yoga is documented to boost the immune system and accelerate the body’s natural healing process.  It’s considered an ideal balance to hectic and stressful modern lifestyles.

·  The intention is to relax as far as possible into the postures, using as little physical effort as possible. The mind focuses on the breath to cultivate mindfulness and release tension from the body.

·  The practice by nature encourages you to deactivate your sympathetic nervous system while activating your parasympathetic nervous system. This slows the heart rate, regulates the blood pressure and relaxes the body.  By activating the relaxation response, the nervous system is balanced which creates an optimal energy flow to the organs and brain.  The immune function is lifted and the digestion process is enhanced, setting the whole body up for deep healing, growth and repair.

· The passive quality of this practice and environment draws your attention inward and away from external stimuli/situations. This redirection allows you to open yourself to self-exploration and contemplation as the mind and spirit are in a quiet state.

Other random notes on restorative yoga:

· You do not need to be flexible.  All postures are supported to meet you where you are at that day and moment in your practice.

· You do not need to have an active yoga practice, background or knowledge.  Do you know how to breathe?  Good – you qualify!

· This is unlike any other yoga class.

· Falling asleep, snoring, farting, emotional breakthroughs, tears, relaxation, release of tension, stress relief, yoga euphoria, yoga bliss– may all happen – and space is held for whatever else surfaces during this practice.  No feelings are invalid.

Interested? Curious?  Want to give it a go?  Renkon Yoga offers both classes and special events featuring restorative yoga.

My weekly class offerings (regular class pricing)

· Wednesday, 5:15 – 6:30pm

· Thursday, 7:00-8:15pm

· Friday, 4:30 – 5:45pm

July – Chill out: A restorative yoga special practice (event pricing, refer to Renkon Yoga’s website for pricing and signup)

· Saturday, July 20 4:00-6:00pm

· Sunday, July 21 12:00-2:00pm

It took me many years to realize that the practice of yoga has to do with letting go of control much more than gaining it” – Judith Hanson Lasater

References:

Restore and Rebalance –Judith Hanson Lasater PdD, PT

Restorative Yoga for Life – Gail Boorstein Grossman, E-RYT500, CYKT

Restorative Yoga – Sue Flamm

The Healing Self – Deepak Chopra MD and Rudolph E Tanzi PhD