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Minimalist Living One's Yogi's Perspective


Coming home from a yoga class today I heard the last 30 minutes of On Point with Tom Ashbrook, a favorite fix for this self confessed NPR junkie.  His guests were Johsua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, minimalists who travel around promoting this new style of living and are promoting their new documentary ...more


Signs of Spring


            Friday strolling down my driveway after a morning walk I noticed that all of the snow had melted around the base of one of the trees in my front garden.  There just poking up from the ground were the tips of daffodils rising up from their long winter sleep.  Letting out a whoop of joy my mood lifted instantaneously.  Seeing this tiny first sign of spring brought me so much joy.

            Fast forward to Saturday morning waking up to snow showers coming down from a cold, steely grey sky.  Oh the depths a mood so easily lifted can just as easily crash down.  This brought me up short and made me think “is my yogic state so shallow”?

            Yoga says that your joy or happiness should not be dependent on what is happening on the outside, the burst of spring or return of winter, but is always there arising from within.  In Svaroopa® yoga we cultivate this yogic state in our practice and particularly with a guided awareness during Shavasana when the teacher guides you through a body scan so you can bring your awareness into your body to notice your state outside and inside.

            You will often hear yogi’s refer to this yogic state as being detached, but that sounds like you don’t care.  What yoga is really saying is that this yogic state you’ve cultivated is not attached to or influenced by external events.  That you or I can be as joyful during the Saturday snow flurries as we are seeing the daffodils and other signs of spring. 

            It isn’t easy, it is a practice.  This is why we refer to it as cultivating a yogic state.  Some external events or people push you out of your yogic state more easily than others.  So I am giving myself a break here, it has been a long, cold, snowy winter and this time the snow pulled me down. I hope to better maintain that yogic state the next time.  Actually like everyone else I am hoping that was the last of the snow flurries for this winter that gives me all spring and summer to deepen my yogic state!


More Confessions of an NPR Junkie: The New Vitamin C

            Last week I was listening to NPR and the guest was talking about the snow in Boston (surprise) and how it affects our health.  She commented how people don’t get out as much, don’t exercise as much, eat too much and sit on the couch more than they should.  She then began to talk about how some of her neighbors were using the blizzards and snow days to better their health by getting a dose of the new vitamin C – Connection.


  Because of the storms people in some areas are meeting their neighbors for the first time, as they help one another to shovel out.  Can’t get out to dinner on a snowy Saturday night? That’s a great excuse for an unexpected potluck with neighborhood friends or an elderly person who might live alone and be house bound.  These planned or impromptu get togethers can provide us with much needed vitamin c, our connection to others. 

In today’s busy society connecting with others is as important to our health as eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep.  Yoga says there is another even more important type of connection the connection to the Self.  Yoga says that Divine Consciousness has contracted down to become each of us, but we have forgotten who we really are.  When you practice yoga and meditation you reconnect with your true Self.  The vitamin c you get from connecting to your true Self as consciousness itself helps you remember who you really are - Divine Consciousness.

Want more vitamin C in your life?  Then take some time from shoveling and connect to friends, join a yoga or meditation class, treat yourself to a yoga therapy session, be in community so you can connect with others and your Self.


Snow: the New Four Letter Word

I am looking out my window and the flakes are beginning to fall again!  I am trying very hard to be heartened by the fact that the forecast is a coating to an inch!  This past weekend as everyone said “it’s only a foot that’s nothing”, I was amazed at how fast our perceptions can change.  I try to maintain my yogic state and not let it bring me down or upset me, after all, you can’t control Mother Nature.

My husband and most people I know, however are not so willing to embrace our current weather conditions.  Most of the time I am hearing, “I’m so sick of this”.  I know he means he is fed up with the constant snow shoveling, traffic getting to work, and the cold.  For others, they are sick of trying to entertain young children during multiple snow days with each storm.  For some small business owners it is lost wages, attempts to reschedule clients, or maybe not seeing your Monday evening yoga students for over 3 weeks.

Yoga says that it is your reaction to that four letter word and most other events in your life that cause you pain.  Alright, shoveling and snow blowing often leave you with aching muscles, but there is another kind of pain.  The stress and anxiety that accompanies your reaction to the snow, or traffic, or many other life events is a different kind of pain.  Plus that stress and anxiety can wind up triggering physical pain such as headaches or tension in your neck and shoulders. The fact that the news and weathermen hype up each storm further increases your anxiety all about something you cannot control.

The only thing you can control is your reaction. You can go out and shovel and realize how achy you are and come in and do some yoga to release those tight muscles, take a hot shower or apply some warm moist heat.  You can shovel out your driveway and then help a neighbor and maybe even shovel out a fire hydrant, you might still feel achy but you might also feel good about helping others.  Or you can complain about how sick you are of snow, worry about when the next storm is coming and how much it will be, either way you get to decide. 

Whatever your reaction might be in any given moment, the one reaction that seems most prevalent for me is absolute amazement at the snow itself, my lamp post is almost buried, I have never seen piles around town and in parking lots like there have been this winter, and the amazing resilience of family, friends, neighbors, and everyone living in New England this historic winter of 2015.


More Confessions of an NPR Junkie

My family, friends and students know that I love listening to NPR radio.  If my family only had a dollar for every time I said “today on NPR I heard…”.  Well today during the Radio Boston program on NPR they discussed how face to face relationships and interactions are good for our health. Of course they are, and yoga classes are just one way to make that connection to others and your community. 

       My students come to class and they get to connect with other people who are also doing yoga.  Maybe a student’s spouse, family and friends don’t do yoga, maybe they can’t understand why someone gets up early to do a yoga practice.  So in class students are connecting with other yogis who are experiencing some of the same things they are.  Students who come to class regularly make new friends and connections. They support one another when things aren’t going well and celebrate with each other the joys in life.

For me teaching gives me face to face time with mystudents.  When teaching a class of really committed students who come to class week after week, not only is there a human connection, but I get to see the changes and lasting effects that they are getting from their yoga practice. 

            So today on NPR when I heard that studies have shown that though we are more connected then ever through social media, we are also lonelier than ever because we lack face to face connections.  That people who have even brief daily interactions with others may live longer and healthier lives.  Among yoga teachers we often talk about commitment and community.  Students who commit to a yoga class and come weekly get not only the physical benefits of yoga but they join a community of yogis.  Come to a yoga class and commit to this wonderful community of yogis, because today I learned that being part of this community can improve your health!


Confessions of an NPR Junkie

I admit it, I am an NPR junkie, I love listening in the car and at home. I teach yoga as well, so imagine my excitement on February 10th when I heard a preview that the Common Health Blog was going to talk about a new course at Boston University Medical School that integrates yoga and medicine!

I tuned in later that afternoon and heard some sad statistics for young people today studying medicine: 20% suffer from depression, 50% drop out and never complete the program and 11% contemplate suicide. This new course was designed to help counteract these statistics and the general burnout that med students suffer.

This course was designed by Dr. Rob Saper Director of Integrated Medicine at BU Medical school. He began practicing yoga after he dropped out of medical school and lived at Kripalu Yoga Retreat Center in Lenox, Ma. for 8 months. He eventually returned and finished medical school and feels that integrating holistic practices like yoga can not only benefit the med student, but eventually benefit their patients.

The BU course also talks about the science of yoga and medical studies that prove the health benefits of a daily yoga practice. Studies show how a 12 week yoga course with a qualified instructor can be very effective in relieving low back pain. Breathing techniques are taught in the course to reduce and counteract anxiety as experienced by the medical students.

I was very touched by Dr. Saper’s heartfelt recognition that the compassion and desire to serve is what motivates many young people to apply to medical school. Unfortunately, the grueling intensity of the program often drives this compassion out of them. His experience teaching this course validates that regular yoga practice helps them to avoid this burn out and develop their compassion again.

As a yoga teacher and patient, I am thrilled to see this integration of yoga and western medicine in our medical schools. Hopefully, your physician will explore yoga and other integrative practices whose benefits contribute to a healthy life style.