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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

The WHYs of Yoga: The Breath of Life

Some times we need a ‘kick’. Think of WHYs of Yoga to motivate you to yoga class or to practice yoga and meditation at home.

This is a series of blog posts with one of the many WHYs that yoga is so beneficial for your mind and body. Allow this WHY, The Breath of Life, to be your motivational ‘kick’.

Yoga Increases your Lung Capacity – WHY does that matter?

Our lung capacity naturally declines with age, starting at age 30. By the age of 50, our lung capacity may be reduced by as much as 50 percent. This means that the older you get, the harder it is for your lungs to breathe in and hold air.

When we breathe in less oxygen, our body and cells also receive less oxygen, forcing our heart to work harder to pump oxygen throughout the body. The heart working overtime long-term can lead to heart failure.

Earlier symptoms of reduced lung capacity include shortness of breath, decreased stamina and reduced endurance and frequent respiratory infections. YIKES!

How do we counter the natural decrease of lung capacity? A great way is…you guessed it: Yoga

A study published in the journal Chest which involved patients with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) concluded that those who were taught yoga exercises including asanas (poses), pranayama (control of the breath), meditation and relaxation techniques resulted in similar improvement as those who did typical pulmonary rehabilitation. They concluded that yoga is a cost-effective form of rehabilitation and can be adopted as an integral part of long-term management of COPD.

The American Lung Association (ALA) says yoga is a safe exercise option for patients who have difficulty breathing with lung diseases such as asthma, COPD or lung cancer.  The ALA says even simple breathing exercises, performed daily, can have a significant impact on people with lung disease – not to mention the mental benefits of yoga and mindful meditation, as lung diseases are often accompanied by anxiety, depression and stress.

You don’t have lung disease?

Count your blessings and continue to practice yoga to maintain and improve your lung health.

Research in the Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, examined the effect of the yogic breathing technique, Bhastrika Pranayama on lung function capacity in athletes. Bhastrika Pranayama or “bellows breath” is a practice where the inhalation and exhalation move forcefully through the nose.

Researchers assessed 30 healthy individuals, placed into 2 groups. The yoga group practiced the Bhastrika Pranayama for 15 minutes and the control group went running for 15 minutes, 6 days a week for 1 month. Researchers found there was a significant change in the lung efficiency and capacity of the yoga group. They had more maximum ventilation volume, more forced vital capacity, more forced expiratory volume, and higher levels of peak expiration flow.

This research suggested that incorporating yoga in sports training could enhance the efficiency and performance of an athlete by enhancing lung function capacity.

Many people associate keeping fit with maintaining a healthy heart, but physical activity, including yoga, also helps keep lungs healthy. A heathy heart AND healthy lungs are needed to bring oxygen into the body, to provide energy and remove carbon dioxide, the waste product created when you produce energy.

Yoga Pranayama: The Breath of Life