International Yoga Day and Summer Solstice

It is no coincidence that the International Yoga Day falls on the same day as the Summer Solstice. June 21, 2017 is the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, when the sun appears to stand still, a perfect opportunity to find “stillness” in our lives through the practice of Yoga.

The Sun is a powerful symbol of Light, of Energy and of Consciousness. Yoga is the practice of connecting with the Light, the Energy, and the Consciousness within us, as when we practice Sun Salutations.

Recognizing it’s appeal and health benefits, the United Nations proclaimed this day of Yoga to increase awareness of yoga’s benefits for healthy body, mind and spirit.

“Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. This tradition is 5000 years old. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help in well being . Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day.”

— Narendra Modi, UN General Assembly
Yoga continues to grow in popularity. It is now practiced by over 36 million Americans (up from 20 million four years ago). Of those Americans who don’t practice yoga, 34% of them say they would like to try yoga for the first time over the next 12 months. 
Yoga and the Sun (despite it hiding for many of us today) will be celebrated in iconic locations throughout the word.
Prime Minister  will participate and lead over 50,000 participants (10,000 more than last year) in a  practice in India

The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi participates in the mass yoga demonstration at Rajpath on the occasion of International Yoga Day, in New Delhi on June 21, 2015.
The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi participates in the mass yoga demonstration at Rajpath on the occasion of International Yoga Day, in New Delhi on June 21, 2015.

In Times Square, in Celebration of the Summer Solstice, The 15th annual “Mind Over Madness Yoga” event takes place all day. There are different free yoga classes for people with all different skill levels

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Here on the beautiful beaches of the Chesapeake Bay in Norfolk,  the donation based Bhav Brigade will have a pop-up Yoga class for the community. http://www.bhavbrigade.org

 

 

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How will you celebrate Yoga Day? Maybe, you’ve never done yoga before and are curious – well, there are numerous studios and athletic stores such as Lululemon, around the country offering free classes.

Whatever this day brings for you, live it mindfully and breathe. This is Yoga.

Namaste

Millie

Memorial Day – Warrior Pose

Memorial Day, a day Americans remember and honor those warriors who have given their lives defending and protecting our freedoms that we hold so dear. We must also honor today’s warriors, who have served our country (our veterans), or continue to risk their lives for our country.

A warrior embodies the following characteristics – Courage, Faith and Service. As we honor those brave men and women who have sacrificed their lives in the name of service to this country, we should ask ourselves, “How can we be warriors in our own lives?”

Yoga gives us many opportunities. In Yoga, we often practice various Warrior Poses. But where did they come from? It may seem odd that the peaceful practice of yoga includes postures known as “Warrior”.  As with everything in Yoga, there is a lot of hidden meaning behind it. The meaning is rooted in Hindu mythology. It originated from a story of love, hate, rage, violence, sadness, compassion and forgiveness which begins with the marriage between Lord Shiva, Supreme Ruler of the Universe and his bride Sati.

According to ancient texts, Sati’s father, the powerful King Daksha, did not approve of this marriage. One day, Daksha held a large event known as a Yagna but did not invite Sati and her husband Shiva. Sati found out and decided to go alone to the Yagna. When she arrived, Sati entered into an argument with her father. Unable to withstand his insults, she spoke a vow to her father,

“Since it was you who gave me this body, I no longer wish to be associated with it.”

The story goes that Sati sat down on the floor, went into a meditative trance, and began to increase her inner fire (Agni) until such point that she burst into flames and dies.

When Shiva heard of Sati’s death, he was devastated. He yanked out one of his dreadlocks and beat it into the ground, where upon rose a powerful Warrior. Shiva named this warrior Virabhadra. Vira (hero) + Bhadra (friend) and ordered him to go to the Yagna and destroy Daksha and all his guests.

Here is where the poses come in.

  • Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I): Virabhadra entered the Yagna by thrusting his way up from the deep underground with his sword held over his head in both hands.

  • Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II): Virabhadra sights his opponent, Daksha and steadies himself in preparation to strike.

 

 
  • Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III): Virbhadra lifts his sword (in his hand behind him) into the air, swings forward, and severs the head of King Daksha.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shiva then arrives at the Yagna and sees the destruction. Shiva absorbs Virabhadra back into his own form. Filled with sorrow and compassion, Shiva finds Daksha’s body and gives it the head of a goat, which brings him back to life. In the end Sati is also reborn.

MORAL OF THE STORY:

When Virabhadra kills Daksha, one could say the warrior represents an aspect of the higher self that manifests to slay the human ego, represented by Daksha. Then, when Shiva brings Daksha back to life, he reminds us that inner work isn’t as simple as destroying the parts of ourselves we don’t like. Instead, if we extend compassion toward the harmful sides of ourselves, we can invite them to soften and relinquish control. Through our warriorship, we can accept ourselves, even the aspects we wish to discard.

Reverse Warrior

 

Reverse Warrior teaches us to stand strong on our mats, just as we strive to stand strong in the highest, most benevolent truth of who we are. And as we gaze upward, as if toward our potential, we also reach back for support; we are thus encouraged to call upon the tools we need to navigate the inner realms of ego—whether those tools take the form of meditation, self-inquiry, a regular asana practice, or the words of a master teacher.

So, what makes a great warrior?

Courage, Faith and Service.

It is easy to build impervious walls and shield ourselves from “harm”.  It takes Courage to show up in your life, to feel and care for ourselves and those around us. On our mats, we find courage, not only in the challenging postures, but also, and perhaps more so, in the stillness of Shavasana.

Faith is complete trust or belief in someone or something, sometimes trusting something not easily seen or understood. Our warriors serve with absolute faith that what they’re doing is right and in the best interest of our country. Connecting with your warrior requires you to believe in yourself and your unique gifts. When we develop our gifts, we are serving others. It takes faith (and courage) to show up on our mats, to consciously breath,to stand on one foot, to go upside down and to be still in Shavasana.


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“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth”. – Muhammad Ali –

Being a warrior means taking responsibility for your actions as they relate to others and the world around you. We all have a responsibility to live this life to the best of our ability. This means taking care of ourselves, our family, our neighbors, our Earth, our Universe. The principles of Yoga teach us to live a life of loving kindness, on and off the mat.

To all the Warriors,

Namaste

Millie

 

A Yogi’s Pilgrimage to India

Why do so many Yogis make a pilgrimage to India? A pilgrimage is a different kind of journey. It has a deeper, personal purpose. A pilgrimage is a journey of spiritual significance, in search of spiritual growth. My recent trip to India was more of a pilgrimage than a vacation. I went to India in search of wisdom – about Yoga, about myself, believing that Yoga is the path to that wisdom.

It is incredibly challenging to describe India in a few words. When I think of India, 3 phrase come to mind – 1) sensory overload, 2) coexistence, and 3) spirituality.

While in India, every single sense organ was awakened and stimulated – the eyes beheld the vibrant colors, the beautiful people, the spectacle of the overcrowded streets; the ears rang with the constant car horns, the dogs barking, the chanting; the nose smelled the spices, the incense, the flowers; the tongue enjoyed the spicy food, the delicious naan bread; and the skin felt the hot, hot Indian sun. Woven into all the intensity that is India, is an undercurrent of stillness, of peace.

A friend used the term “Peaceful Insanity”.

This is what I mean by coexistence. The streets are … CRAZY, at least to us Westerners, but apparently, completely normal for India. The streets are filled with cars, rickshaws, buses, people, dogs and cows with no apparent order. At first glance, it appears and sounds chaotic, with all drivers having one finger firmly fixed on the horn. Apparently, however, there is a certain pecking order on the street. The pedestrian is at the bottom, giving way to  the bicycle rickshaw, then the auto rickshaw, then the car, then the bus. The bus stopping only…. for the Holy Cow that rules the street. Then you veer off this busy street, make a quick turn, and enter through a gate into a beautiful garden or temple. Complete juxtapositions. The chaos and the peace co-existing.

When I speak of spirituality, I’m not talking about any particular religious worship. Spirituality is a search for meaning, for purpose and direction in life. It fulfils our need to have a foundation for living, a path or way of life in the light of a larger context. It speaks to the need to be “aligned” with something bigger than our body and mind. The religions of India (whether it be Hinduism or Buddhism) and their spirituality are greatly misunderstood in the West. Although there are many statues representing numerous deities, it is not about idol worship. What I’ve learned is that all the deities and their different forms and manifestations represent important values that guide us on our path towards spiritual growth.

From my experience, Indian people live spiritual lives where their daily actions are influenced by their belief in loving kindness and compassion to all beings. Imagine what life would be like here if everyone you came into contact with, greeted you with a heartfelt bow, hands to their heart, saying  Namaste.

Namaste – we say it at the end of every yoga class. What does it really mean? Nama means bow, as means I, and te means you.

Therefore, namaste literally means “I bow to you.” Namaste is usually spoken with a slight bow and hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointing upwards, thumbs close to the chest. The gesture represents the belief that there is a Divine spark within each of us that we recognize as One.

My pilgrimage to India included time in Delhi (the capital), Agra (to see the Taj), Khajuraho and Rishikesh. Everywhere I went, I was impressed with the ever-present juxtapositions – from the grand palaces and temples to the poverty in the streets, from the NOISE to silence in meditation.

I had the privilege to stay at the Himalayan Institute (HI) in Khajuraho, founded by the great Swami Rama.  The Institute’s 30-acre campus is the ideal setting for sadhana or spiritual retreat. Surrounded by hills and forest preserves, it is blessed with natural beauty and tranquility. Here, we studied, meditated, practiced asana, chanted and grew together as a beautiful spiritual community.

We studied a book called the Devi Mahatmyam – the Glory of the Goddess, an ancient allegory. Part myth and part philosophy, the text addresses some very important existential questions that have plagued mankind since time immemorial. Its stories can be taken as metaphors relating to our own psycho-spiritual development, as well as the challenges we face in life.

 


 

 

Rishikesh was the exact opposite experience. Rishikesh is a city on the Ganges river that is renowned for being a holy site and a pilgarimage location. Hindu sages have traditionally come here to meditate throughout the centuries.  All of the great yoga masters have their roots here.  The spiritual connections here mean that it is a place that is free of both meat and alcohol.

Rishikesh has also been given the name of “the yoga capital of the world” as students from all over the globe, including myself and the Beatles in the late 1960s, converge here to learn the ancient wisdoms of yoga. YOGA, we learned over and over again, is “simply” a way of life, a way of being and the Wisdom that we seek is found in ourselves. Siddhartha Krishna, a compelling Yoga Philosophy Teacher, that we had the great honor to learn from, told us that the most important component of yoga is Ahimsa, literally translated as nonviolence, which is really all about compassion. Yoga gives us the tools so that we can practice compassion.

In the words of Swami Shivananda who began the Divine Life Society, the goal of Yoga is to:

SERVE       LOVE       GIVE

PURIFY       MEDITATE     REALIZE

With deepest gratitude to my fellow pilgrims and teacher, Indu Arora.


Namaste 

 

Why Yogis Go to India: Spirituality, Curiosity, and Self-discovery

 

As I’m getting ready for my trip to India, I have been asked many times, “WHY are you going to India?

While those who know me, know that I want to see ALL the world and will go anywhere; India, I believe will be a unique journey. The birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, India is also the birthplace of Yoga. As a yogi, I’ve always been curious about and drawn to the country where it all began.

Yoga has grown very popular in the western world, mostly as a physical exercise. I. personally am thrilled that so many people are now drawn to yoga. However, the yoga of India, which has its roots approximately 2500 years ago, is of a much more spiritual practice.

Yogis go to India to deepen their understanding of this ancient practice because we know that this is the real gift of yoga. There is just something just so exciting about practicing yoga where so many of our legendary yoga leaders -T. Krishnamacharya, K. Pattabhi Jois, B.K.S. Iyengar, Swami Vivekananda have been and practiced.

India, however, will come will its challenges. India is a vast country with over one billion people. I have been told that India is like no other place, a land of tremendous diversity and contrasts which will awaken all of your senses and emotions.

So, here I go! With an open mind and an open heart, I am ready for what I believe will be a journey of a lifetime.

“Where is the delusion when truth is known? Where is the disease when the mind is clear?

 Therefore surrender to Yoga.” – T. Krishnamacharya

Mind-Body Medicine

I was truly honored to be invited to talk about Mind-Body Medicine at Sentara’s 25th Annual Critical Care and Trauma Symposium for nurses and guide some of the nurses through a “sunrise” yoga practice. When I was first approached, I was surprised because traditionally these critical care meetings focus on evidence based concepts for the critically ill patients, such as how to avoid infections, improve care of heart attack patients, etc. But after thinking about it for a minute, and then talking to Ashley (who invited me to speak), I realized that mind body medicine fits in perfectly.

Mind-Body Medicine is a medical discipline based upon the inseparable connection between the mind (which is not our brain, but our thoughts and emotions) and our physical health.

mind-body

Unmanaged and overwhelming stress can turn into dysfunction and illness. So, we, the healthcare providers, need to embrace a holistic approach to our patients. The technological advances of the last century have been remarkable. No doubt, advancements in medical technology have allowed us to better diagnose and treat patients. Countless lives have been saved. But we are not meeting All the needs of our patients. As an interventional cardiologist, I am profoundly grateful for the technology at my hands which allow me to save lives and care for patients having a heart attack, acute heart failure, arrhythmias and cardiac arrest. But when I see them in the office a week or so after they’ve been discharged from the hospital, they are depressed, anxious and down right scared to death.

The use of complementary self-care modalities can help one manage stress and increase resilience. There is now significant evidence that mind-body therapies are beneficial in many medical situations, including heart disease. Mind-body therapies, in combination with conventional medicine, address the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of patients. Such modalities include Yoga, Meditation, Relaxation, Art Therapy, Music Therapy, Dance Therapy, Taichi and Qigong.

These modalities can obviously be used by anyone & everyone for stress management and the prevention of illness. Stress does not affect only the sick. It affects all of us.

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In the hospital setting, mind-body techniques can be utilized by 1) patients to reduce their pain and suffering, 2) family members to help them cope, and 3) healthcare providers to manage stress and increase empathy.

A little plug for my favorite mind-body therapy – Yoga. The popularity of Yoga has grown by over 50% in the last 8 years. According to the 2016 Yoga in America Study, 36.7 million Americans are practicing yoga with 80 million Americans likely to try yoga in 2016. One of the  most common reasons for starting yoga was stress relief. So, my hope is that more Americans, and especially healthcare providers,will incorporate Yoga into their daily routines as a way to manage their stress and stay Healthy.

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Nurses at Sentara’s 25th Annual Critical Care and Trauma Symposium-A foggy sunrise yoga practice with dolphins

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Staff at Sentara Cardiology Specialists practicing yoga after work

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Maybe, this will be the norm in a few years!

Namaste

 

 

Yoga Therapy

As I return from an inspiring conference for the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT), I realize that yoga therapy is still a new concept, even to many yogis. So, What is Yoga Therapy?

Even though yoga has been applied with therapeutic intention for thousands of years, Yoga Therapy is now (slowly but surely) being recognized as an effective modality for healing and managing many health conditions. Thanks to organizations like the International Association of Yoga Therapists, the science behind yoga is being well documented and disseminated.

Yoga therapy is a type of therapy that uses the principles of Yoga and yoga techniques for physical and mental health. It is a comprehensive approach to wellness using asana postures and movement, breath work (pranayama), meditation and guided imagery, with a major emphasis placed on the mind-body-spiritual connection.

Yoga therapy can be done one on one, or more commonly in a small class setting of individuals with similar needs where the yoga therapists will adapt the yoga techniques to those needs. Yoga therapy can be applied to various conditions such as chronic pain, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, depression, anxiety, and autism in children.

Many people know that yoga can be beneficial for their health. However, your typical yoga class may not necessarily be the best place to start if you have any health related concerns. With proper guidance, I believe that nearly anyone can do yoga.

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One of my favorite books on the subject is written by Dr Timothy McCall who is a board-certified physician of internal medicine, who through his own practice and journey of yoga, learned of its positive effects.

yoga as medicine book

So, as my good friend, Mala says, “we have to keep pounding the pavement and spreading the word”

Namaste

Yoga Poses to Lower High Blood Pressure

Yoga, when practiced mindfully, can reduce high blood pressure by regulating the autonomic nervous system. It is the mind-body-breath connection that makes yoga so effective. While a general yoga practice is beneficial, some asanas are better than others for actually lowering blood pressure, and simple modifications of many poses make other asanas beneficial as well.

Start in Sukhasana (Easy Sitting Pose). This pose is relaxing and aligns the spine. Sit in a cross legged position. Ground down through the sit bones. Sit up tall. Neck should be in line with the spine and the shoulders relaxed. If the knees are above the hips, sit on a block or two, blanket or bolster. Rest the hands on your thighs. Close the eyes and take 5 deep breaths.


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Before moving on, I would like to introduce my Mom who will show that anyone can do yoga at any age as she demonstrates  the next few poses beautifully.

From a seated position, come to a tabletop – hands under shoulders, knees under hips. Push hips up into Adho Mukha Svasana  (Downward facing dog) .

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This pose looks like an upside down V with the body. Ground down through your hands, arms straight, relax the shoulders down the back, engage the core as the belly reaches towards the thighs. Its okay to have a slight bend in the knees, especially if you have tight hamstrings, but keep the legs engaged. The inner thighs rotate towards each other, the thighs back and the heels reach towards the ground. Relax the neck and take 5 breaths.

Standing Forward Folds may help lower blood pressure, especially if the head is supported.

From Downward Facing Dog, walk your hands back to your feet and you are in Uttanasa (Standing Forward Fold). Grab opposite elbows and dangle for a moment.

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Place your hands or fingertips on the floor next to your feet or on a block in front of your feet. Ground down through your feet and gently press the thighs back. You may want to place a block between your feet and in line with your big toes to support your head. Depending on your proportions and the flexibility of your hamstrings, you may need more or less support. Stack a couple of blocks, if necessary, or put the blocks or a folded blanket on the seat of a chair to rest your head. To come out of this pose, put your hands on your hips, engage your core, inhale, and slowly roll up.

 Prasarita Padottanasana (Standing Wide Legged Forward Fold) with Head Support if neeed. 

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Separate the feet about 4-5 feet; feet parallel to each other. Bend forward and place your hands on the floor. With a straight spine, slowly straighten your legs. Move your shoulders away from your neck, but let the head relax toward the floor. Lift your thighs firmly and press the thighbones toward the backs of the legs. The back of the neck should feel long and the chest broad.  To come out. place your hands on your hips, inhale, and come up.

Pashchimottanasana (Posterior Stretch Pose). 

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Sit  and extend your legs straight in front of you in dandasana (seated staff pose). Lift the sides of your torso up. If you find that you’re slumping backward, sit on a blanket. Extend forward and hold the outside edges of your feet with your hands. If you can’t reach your feet, hold a belt around the feet. As you inhale, lift the chest. As you exhale, begin to straighten your legs and press the thighbones toward the floor as much as you can without rounding your back. Relax the forehead and release the shoulders apart and away from your neck. Keep the back of the neck long and soft and relax your facial features. Hold for 5 breaths and then return to dandasana.

Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose).

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Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Extend your arms along the floor, palms flat (fingertips should graze your heels). Press your feet and arms firmly into the floor. Exhale as you lift your hips toward the ceiling.Draw your tailbone toward your pubic bone, holding your buttocks off the floor. Relax the glutes. Roll your shoulders back and underneath your body. Stay here or clasp your hands and extend your arms along the floor beneath your pelvis. Straighten your arms as much as possible, pressing your forearms into the mat. Reach your knuckles toward your heels.Keep your thighs and feet parallel — do not roll to the outer edges of your feet or let your knees drop together. Press your weight evenly across all four corners of both feet. Lengthen your tailbone toward the backs of your knees. Relax your forehead, relax your throat and allow the tongue to drop away from the roof of the mouth. Close your eyes and hold for 5 breaths. To release, slowly roll your spine along the floor, vertebra by vertebra. Allow your knees to drop together.

Halasana (Plow Pose)


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Experiment with this pose using blankets, a bolster, and a chair for support. If you feel any discomfort, simply come out of the pose and rest in shavasana. Bend your knees toward your chest, lift your pelvis off the floor, and take your feet overhead, toes onto the floor, a block or the seat of a chair, toes curled under.Pressing your toes down, lift the fronts of your thighs away from your head and straighten your legs.  Keep your legs active but your head and neck passive, and your throat and face completely relaxed. To come down, bend your knees and slowly roll your upper, middle, and then lower back to the floor, keeping your head down.

Shavasana (Corpes Pose). 

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This is the most important pose and sometimes the most difficult. Lie on your back with your legs extended out in front of you and your arms by your side, as wide as you’d like. Allow the feet to drop open. Close your eyes and allow the full weight of the body to be supported. Scan the body for any tension and consciously let it go. Starting from the crown of the head, relax every muscle down to your toes. Stay here for as long as you’d like.

A few final comments: If your blood pressure is not well controlled, definitely modify the standing poses above with support. In general, modify any standing poses in which the arms are normally extended overhead (like Virabhadrasana or Warrior I) by placing your hands on your hips. In trikonasana or triangle pose, look down toward the floor instead of up at the ceiling to keep blood pressure from rising. Steer clear from poses that compress the front of the diaphragm, such as dhanurasana (bow) and mayurasana (peacock) which can drive blood pressure up. Anyone with untreated high blood pressure should avoid unsupported inversions, such as shirshasana (headstand) or adho mukha vrikshasana (handstand)-or any other pose in which they can feel pressure in the throat or head, or that causes respiration to become heavy or difficult.

This is Mom’s favorite pose – Plank. She held it perfectly for 4 minutes.

Thank you Mom for your beautiful light and energy.

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Namaste

Just Breathe

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It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Just Breathe. We do it automatically, don’t we?

But in our busy, sometimes stressful lives, we really forget to breathe.  

Life begins with the first breath. Life ends with the last breath. But even more important than the beginning and the end is the stuff in between — our lives. On average, we take about half a billion breaths during our lives. Sadly, especially in our western culture, our breath has followed the pace of our busy lives – short and fast.What we may not realize is that the mind, body, and breath are intimately connected and can influence each other. Our breathing is influenced by our thoughts, and our thoughts and physical body can be influenced by our breath.  Scientific research, however, has shown that the slow, long breath has amazing healing power. Learning to breathe consciously and with awareness can be a valuable tool in helping to restore balance in the mind and body.

Yoga is all about the breath! 

Pranayama are yogic breathing techniques to bring our awareness to our breath. Pranayama is a Sanskrit word derived from Prana, meaning “life force” and ayama, meaning ‘extending out”.The control and extension of breath awakens Prana, the Life Force Energy. Scientific research shows that mindful, deep breathing has many health benefits. It is one of the most effective ways to lower everyday stress levels. Deep breathing lowers the respiratory rate and can lower/stabilize blood pressure levels. It can be beneficial in the treatment of depression, insomnia and diabetes. 

There are about 50 different Pranayamas described in the ancient texts, including Ocean’s Breath (Ujjayi), Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana), and Energizing Breath (Bhastrika). Learning these Pranayama techniques should always be done with an experienced yoga teacher. Not all pranayamas should be practiced by all people,especially if there are any medical conditions that need to be considered.

Complete Belly Breath (or three part breath) is easy to do and can be safely done by anyone.

With one hand on your belly, relax your abdominal muscles, and slowly inhale through the nose, bringing air into the bottom of your lungs. You should feel your abdomen rise (part 1). This expands the lower parts of the lungs. Continue to inhale as your rib cage expands outward (part 2), and finally, the collar bones rise at the low throat (part 3). At the peak of the inhalation, pause for a moment, then exhale gently from the top of your lungs to the bottom. At the end of exhalation, contract your abdominal muscles slightly to push residual air out of the bottom of your lungs. Start by doing this for a minute.

 

Smile, breathe and go slowly. ~Thích Nhất Hạnh

 

Yoga in the Galapagos

 

IMG_9148IMG_0864           To me, yoga and travel offer the same gift. Wanderlust – the inward and outward journeys that bring us closer to discovering our true selves in this world. People travel for many reasons. Yogis travel to BE in the world. As we travel to new lands, we practice “Yoga” – compassion, love for all of Nature, movement (Asana) mindfulness and letting go.

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In the Galapagos Islands, everything is big -sea turtles, iguanas, birds and even the crabs. Erica, our yoga teacher and owner of Escape to Shape, reminded us to also be big – big with our postures, big with our breath, and big with our Love. Doing yoga in the Galapagos makes it incredibly easy to truly Be in the moment – our feet (or hands) grounded in the earth, our focus on the horizon or a sea lion and our hearts wide open. Yoga on the sand and on a boat also introduce the challenge of balance and acceptance.

IMG_6969IMG_0700The preserved, untouched wildlife of the Galapagos reminds us that we are all part of the same Universe – that we share, not own,

DSCF7776IMG_0796this Universe with the Earth, the Oceans, the turtles, sea lions, sharks, blue and red footed boobies, dogs, cats, etc. So, let’s show respect and compassion for us all. After all, we are all here on this planet for the same reason.

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#escapetoshape

Machu Picchu

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What an extraordinary trip to Peru. The energy from the Andes mountains and the Andean people is palpable everywhere you go from Cuzco to Machu Picchu to the Sacred Valley.  The indigenous Incan culture lives on in the Quechua people, particularly their relationship with Nature – earth, water, sun and all living creatures. The Incans knew and the Andean people continue to honor and appreciate the health benefits derived from Mother Nature, treating successfully everything from altitude sickness to abdominal pain with herbs and plants.

Travel is no excuse not to stay fit and healthy. No matter where you are, you can always practice yoga, walk, hike or run. Hiking Machu Picchu was breathtaking – both from the view as well as the physical exertion.

In the Sacred Valley, we stayed at a lovely yoga retreat called Willka T’ika surrounded by the magnificent Andes mountains. Willka T’ika is a serene place with an incredible staff who carry on the Quechan traditions with their organic, local grown meals and healing herbal teas. There is a spectacular Chakra garden with all of the seven gardens beautifully and carefully designed; each garden corresponding to a particular chakra with it’s corresponding color, energy, healing plants & flowers.

It was a beautiful experience. Now off to an entirely different ecosystem — the Galapagos. Very excited!

Jai ma