What is Yoga Nidra? By Julie

    What is Yoga Nidra? By Julie Crantz, Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra® Teacher and Reiki Master   Have you ever experienced levels of stress where your health began to suffer? Have you ever had trouble sleeping? Have you ever had a question on your mind that you couldn’t seem to figure out the answer to? Have you ever wanted to begin a meditation practice yet didn’t know where to begin?   The practice of Yoga Nidra will help you with all of these questions, and much more.  With full confidence, I tell you this, not only as a teacher, but as a student of Yoga Nidra. Back In 2013, I suffered a traumatic loss. My beloved Mother passed away from ALS, only 30 days after her diagnosis. The stress wreaked havoc on my body. I went months without sleep. I wondered what was the meaning of life and how do I go on? I was lost not knowing where to turn. And then, a dear friend invited me to Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health for a weekend trip. At Kripalu, I was introduced to Yoga Nidra. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that weekend changed my life forever. Little by little, I began practicing Yoga Nidra. In this practice, I learned of a way I could meditate and not only experience the rest I so desperately needed, but also allow my body, mind, and soul to begin a deep healing process.   Yoga Nidra is a meditative form of yoga otherwise known as yogic sleep. The definition of Nidra is sleep and this is pronounced as...

Picking up the Peace-es – By Jennie

The only constant in life is change. That’s for certain. How we deal with change that comes up in our lives is a reflection of who we are and how at peace we are with ourselves.Here’s something that, when I initially heard it, was hard for me accept: Everything that makes you upset, that annoys you, that brings you fear, is a reflection of your inner self.Think of something that typically annoys you. Not having a tidy room. Not being able to organize the way you want. When someone makes a tasteless meal. When your child disobeys. When your partner leaves their coffee mug in the sink without washing it out immediately. How does that thing make you feel? Sit with that feeling. Close your eyes. Think of why it makes you feel that way. Here’s what the conversation might look like in your head:The clutter in my room makes me anxious.Why does it make me anxious?Because I want to be organized but I don’t have enough space.Ah, so it’s the feeling of not having enough space makes me anxious.So I have to get rid of things.But I don’t know how to get rid of these things.There are memories associated with these things.Ah, so it’s the memory that I think I’ll be losing or a desire that I’m still holding on to. Sometimes when we dig deep, and ask ourselves the question, “Why”, we see things more clearly within ourselves. This is not very easy to do, however. We live with this little friend called the ego who is always clouding this clarity with mental noise. It may tell...
The Reality of Now By Lauren

The Reality of Now By Lauren

  On the edge of Southern England, tucked away along the 96-mile stretch of the Jurassic Coast, lies the most breathtaking green hills and towering white cliffs. Standing at the edge here, gazing out over the English Channel, I simply breathed, completely. It was here I realized how effortless this present moment truly is—just breathing, seeing, believing. I let the seconds pass without any objection. Time was measured by the sun and his spectacular colors while he began to drop down toward the horizon. I thought to myself, this is reality. This is what it is to live this human life, as a microscopic miracle in this terrifyingly vast universe. This is yoga. I traveled to Europe without my yoga mat. For those 2 weeks I did not practice much asana at all. I even forgot to pop into a dancer’s pose at the edge of the cliffs for an epic picture. My mind wasn’t on the physical practice and it was refreshing. I will say, when I arrived back home, my body was craving it. My first time back on my mat was a little creaky, however, my mind felt brand new. The yoga I lived while I was away was on the green hills of England and with the mysterious trees of the Grunewald.     When I came home, I almost said “back to reality”, but that didn’t feel right. If we keep thinking of “reality” as something we don’t look forward to, we’ll never feel truly present. Reality was walking along the cliffs of England, feeling so small, yet so significant at the same time....
Tough Thoughts?  Three Techniques to Tidy the Mind – By Stephanie

Tough Thoughts?  Three Techniques to Tidy the Mind – By Stephanie

    Hello yogis! Last time I wrote for you I shared five simple postures (asanas) to freshen up the body. Some days a handful of stretches is all it takes to freshen up the mind too. Other days the mind over-does, obsessing about the past or anticipating the future. Whether it’s anticipatory anxieties, deafening doubts, woeful worries or all-encompassing emotions, the result is often elusive peace of mind. Asana (physical posture) is the third of 8 limbs of yoga.  We use each of the 8 limbs in conjunction with the others to cultivate integrated body-mind-spirit. Physical movements prepare the body for meditation or Dhyana, the 7th limb.  So, what happens if the body feels ready to sit still but the mind is restless? This is where exercising concentration, Dharana, the 6th limb, comes in handy.  There are many techniques. Here are three simple and effective approaches to focusing the mind, quieting intrusive thoughts. Intrusive thoughts are any thoughts that feel overwhelming or distracting.   1.Breath Awareness Sometimes easier said than done breath awareness is almost too easy.   Step 1. Become aware of your breath. Step 2. Repeat step 1. What is it to be aware of your breath?  Awareness in this case is an open canvas. Watch, listen, feel, sense the breath move in and out of the body.  It does not matter if the breath is quick or slow, deep or shallow, loud or soft. Simply notice how it feels. Can you notice the sensation of air at the tip of the nose?  Is there sound to the breath?  Where does the body move and where is...

Say Yes! By Molly

  SAY YES! Live Your Yoga.   One of the yogic principles I come back to again and again is the idea of abhysa and vairagya (in fact, I wrote about this in my first CMYW blog entry.  To boil abhysa down to a very simple idea, you might just say it means a big ole “Yes!” To say yes to all that is, to engage fully. This is simple when you think about it in the more superficial way. There are all the platitudes on inspirational posters encouraging you to “reach for it, go for it, dream!” in pretty fonts, superimposed on a mountain landscape. And while really, I don’t think there is anything wrong with the sentiment, the idea is lost if its meaning doesn’t extend beyond the words. Or, maybe what I’m trying to say is that “saying yes” is easy, when it is easy to say yes. It’s easy to look at that beautiful mountain-scape on the poster and say, “heck yes!” But to say yes when it is hard that’s…well… hard. It is easy to say yes when we’re not unhappy, scared, or ashamed. “Yes” is exactly where we go when the route is simple, we feel okay, or we are sure of ourselves, but the road to yes can feel impossible when the work is difficult. Let me tell you a little story. Eight years ago, on a balmy, August night, I met my now husband. We were at a mutual friend’s cookout. It was the end of the night, and I was parched and in search of water, while Tim was going...

Evolve or Dissolve By Sawrah

  A friend recently told me to “evolve or dissolve.” It hit home in a lot of ways, especially as we enter a new season. There is a lot shifting in my life (and everyone else’s) and sometimes it can be hard to see where you are going and trust that you are moving in the “right” direction. This evolve or dissolve sentiment has been following me around all summer without me fully realizing it. Nowhere was it more present than during my ankle injury in mid-June. I stepped off a bad curb wrong and sprained my ankle, badly. I didn’t know it then but this injury would drastically change my teaching. I figured I would take a few week hiatus and then get back to normal teaching. My ankle had other plans for me. It slowed me down in all areas of my life, not just teaching, and caused a massive reassessment of many areas of my life. Evolve or Dissolve. When I got back to teaching two weeks later, I was not fully healed and had to augment my style. I started to spend a lot more time off the mat since I couldn’t do as many poses. I like to flow from pose to pose but I couldn’t do that either, so I slowed down and had students spend more time in each posture, getting to the root and alignment of each posture. I had trouble sitting for meditation because of the way my foot had bent, so I had to find a different posture. I was doing less demo time in class, so I had...
Daily Mountain Practice by Marissa

Daily Mountain Practice by Marissa

  Being a working Mommy to a toddler leaves little time for self-care. So my self-care is usually planned over the course of the day. Two minutes here, five minutes there. Usually, I can sneak in a three minute mountain pose waiting for the tea kettle to sing. So I’ve decided to share my daily mountain pose ritual with you. May it help you stand tall, breathe well, and be strong as you go about your day. Close your eyes and visualize yourself standing in mountain posture. Feet are hip distance apart. Root down with your feet – visualize roots growing through your mat/floor into the Earth. Press firmly into the mat with your feet. Engage your lower legs feeling the calf muscles holding close to the bone. , Engage your upper legs, feeling the thigh muscles lift your kneecaps. Squeeze your buttocks and engage your hips by tucking your tail bone slightly, pull your navel to spine, roll your shoulders up toward your ears with an in breath, press your shoulders back and down with the exhale. Repeat 2 more times. Sweep your arms above your head, reach for the sky with an inhale. With an exhale, reverse the direction with your arms. Repeat if you wish. Allow your arms to rest at your sides, hands in a c-shaped position with thumbs facing front. Lengthen your collar bones, raise your chest, find a neutral position for your neck – free of tension. Open your heart. Allow warmth and light to flood in to your heart center . Enjoy the effects of mountain pose. Breathe deeply with an even...

Blessings and Purpose: The Evolution of Yoga Warriors International (TM) By Lucy

BLESSINGS AND PURPOSE:  THE EVOLUTION OF YOGA WARRIORS INTERNATIONAL™  Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself and know that everything in this life has a purpose. There are no mistakes, no coincidences; all events are blessings given to us to learn from. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross   My dad was a WW2 veteran and Italian immigrant.  In 1918 my grandmother suffered PTSD from an earthquake in Italy where she lost 12 of her siblings. Her uncle dug her out of the debris. With these personal influences in the backdrop, my interest in trauma peaked when I started meeting and teaching veterans in my classes. I responded to the students I was seeing in class each week and out of that response and my interest in trauma I began to share ways to cope with the effects of trauma. In 2005, I founded and developed the evidence based Yoga Warriors International™   program (YWI) to help combat veterans suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and PTS (post-traumatic stress).  This program is for active duty military and veterans, individuals working in high stress environments, including first responders, fire, police and their caregivers and family members. The benefits of relaxation, positive thinking and living in the moment have been preached for decades.  So, like most yoga programs, The YWI program combines movement, mindfulness and breath to produce a relaxation response.  Unlike other yoga programs, Yoga Warriors is tailored for people dealing with trauma.  Instructors are trained to provide a safe, non-intrusive setting that reduces potential PTSD and PTS triggers. Based on my experience with veterans and our study in 2009, we found...
A Happy Life by Kayla

A Happy Life by Kayla

  As I am writing a paper for my ethics course on the secret to live a happy life, I have to stop and wonder; is there really a secret or is it right in front of us and we are not allowing ourselves to open up to see it. Yogi’s focus on the here and now with the use of the breath. Yogi’s believe in being conscious in the present moment. The majority of our society agrees with the thought to live in the moment and do not take life for granted. The majority of people believe this, but do they live it? The answer is yes and no. Some people do follow it such as the yogi’s; however, there are people who believe in it, but do not live it. There are people in this world that believe in order to succeed in life a person needs to work hard. Some people would view these words as to work more and to become your job. In our society especially in the United States, people are judged by their careers rather than the people they are. Yogi’s focus on the good in people and the good they can do as a human being. Yogi’s do not label or judge others. Yogi’s believe productive work means to be productive with their life.  This means they treat others with care, kindness and compassion. Yogi’s thinking is to live life fully and to appreciate what was given to them. When life is not fully lived, this can cause negative energy to enter the body and consciousness to fade away. When consciousness...

Five Minutes? Five Foundational Poses to Freshen Up By Steph

  Years ago as a new teacher I heard an interview with composer Stephen Sondheim. When asked about art he said, “Art in itself, is an attempt to bring order out of chaos.” This captured something I feel about yoga. Yoga is art to me: a combination of boundaries and freedom that facilitates creativity. It is a framework that we can use to cultivate safe haven when life (interiorly and exteriorly) feels chaotic or uncertain. Yoga doesn’t hold false promises. It simply leaves itself for us, as if on our doorstep like a package, available to be unwrapped and explored, with curiosity. The deeper I delve into the practice the more I realize that the most simple things can be the most enlightening; the more I trust that yoga is reprieve. Yoga has taught me that our spirit is the source of our safety and our essence is ease. In my last post Healing is Real I explained how my own healing and comfort were cultivated day to day with sometimes the smallest efforts. In that light and with a more practical edge, here I share five staples of my home practice to spark your own or to serve as a blueprint to help you feel stronger and more spacious in your body if even just for five minutes. No mat required! All you need is your body and your presence of mind. Take it slow and hold each pose or link them together for a simple, effective flow. Come to class to learn nuance and polish your form. At home keep it simple, listen to your intuition and...