Power Outage? A Great Opportunity To Practice Yoga!

Yoga in ME is currently experiencing a power outage. At the time this post was written there were 484,000 customers without power in Maine. For some of us, it sounds like it might be a while before it comes back. This is a little bit daunting. But, bear with me on this one, this power outage is also a great opportunity to practice yoga.

How, you might ask? I can’t do fully bound lotus without heat! Well, you don’t have to! At Yoga in ME, we think it’s very important to remember that the practice of yoga is not just doing the asanas (or postures). According to the yoga sutras, Yoga is: the attempt to still the fluctuations of the mind.

In other words, all you have to do to be practicing yoga is put effort towards being present in the moment.

That’s right, folks. As long as you are present with what you are doing in the moment, you are doing yoga. This applies no matter whether what you are doing is a yoga posture, meditation, or something more everyday and mundane like folding laundry or preparing a meal.

For some of us, a power outage is our worst nightmare.  Basic things that we have come to rely on like heat, running water (if you have a well) and refrigeration no longer function. This can be very stressful and even dangerous in some circumstances. But a power outage is also a great opportunity to slow down. We are forced to unplug, and be present with what we are doing.

So how exactly does this work?

Well, when the power is out, it simply isn’t possible to be reading an article on your phone while watching something on TV and also playing solitaire on your tablet. In other words, we are forced to do fewer (and often quieter) things at a time. Instead of engaging in multiple activities at once, we might spend our time doing something like reading a book or playing a board game with the family. We are less stimulated and more able to be present with the people around us. THIS is yoga!

Not only are we forced to unplug and do fewer things at once, we are also forced to do many everyday things “the old fashioned way.”. Read, slower and more mindfully. Doing the dishes becomes a much more mindful task when you have to heat water on the camp stove. Washing and rinsing in basins rather than doing everything in the quick instant hot water of the sink!

Are you practicing yoga during the power outage? Tell us how in the comments!

Laughter Yoga: The Art of Laughing for No Particular Reason.

Laughter Yoga: The Art of Laughing for No Particular Reason Written By: Rachel D.A.

Laughter Yoga was really my first experience with Yoga. Wait…What? Laughter Yoga? “What the heck is that?” you might ask. That would be a very valid question.

Laughter Yoga is a series of exercises that promote unconditional laughter.

Yup, it’s silly, very silly, and it IS meant to be. There is really very little Asana involved, however the yoga part comes from the deep breathing involved to keep the oxygen flowing through the body while you are having so much fun. To me, it is another form of Pranayama (a basic aspect of the yoga practice). So, your next question might be “WHY?”

Why would you want to spend time laughing at nothing at all?

There are actually so many reasons to laugh this way. They say that Laughter is the Best Medicine and research is finding that that is very true. More and more studies support the positive effect that laughter has on the body, mind and spirit. In the 1960’s a well known author named Norman Cousins was diagnosed with a severe immune-deficiency disease. This disease left him in extreme pain and unable to function.

At the time there was very little the medical field could do for him and no hope for recovery. He found that when people visited him and made him laugh through funny stories, movies and jokes, he felt better for awhile. He created a rule for all his visitors that they must make him laugh if they wanted to spend time with him. Eventually he did make a full recovery that he credited, in large part, to laughter.

Let’s take a look at just a few of the benefits:

  • Helps control blood pressure and heart disease
  • Boosts the Immune System
  • Alleviates pain by releasing endorphins and serotonin as well as other “feel good” hormones
  • Suppresses the release of cortisol, the stress hormone. In fact they have found that laughter can reduce cortisol in your system by 24% as opposed to medication (4%) or meditation (4 – 5%).
  • Makes it easier to cope with challenge and conflict
  • Defuses fear, anger and boredom
  • Helps build teamwork
  • And possibly the most helpful of all is that 10 minutes of laughter will yield about 2 hours of being pain free

Another advantage is that it makes you vulnerable.

Many might argue that vulnerability is not an advantage and are afraid to be vulnerable, yet, according to Brene Brown, vulnerability is the key to living completely in the present moment – that wonderful place where creativity, joy and hope thrive.

When I talk to people about laughter and it’s benefits, many people react with “Oh, I love to laugh! I laugh all the time.” I always say “that’s great! Keep it up”. But most don’t realize that when you laugh at something funny, like a joke or a funny story, you only laugh for about 20 seconds.

The truth is that it takes about 10 minutes or more of laughter to bring you to the place where you can reap the benefits listed above. That’s why Unconditional Laughter (Laughter Yoga) was developed. It doesn’t hinge on something funny, you just keep laughing at nothing at all. Don’t worry, a good Yoga Laughter Leader will help.

One of the most wonderful things about this practice is that you don’t even have to laugh for “real”.  Your body will get just as many benefits from fake laughter as it will from real laughter.

Keep an eye out for more on the benefits of laughter and how to incorporate more of it into your life. And a  Laughter Yoga class.

5 Ways Practicing Gratitude Benefits YOU

Practicing gratitude is an important part of our community here at Yoga in ME. At the end of many of our classes, we offer an opportunity to take a moment of gratitude. Often, I will invite students to silently think of one thing that they are grateful for today. Practicing gratitude is a great way to improve your interpersonal relationships and spread positivity to others in your life. But did you know that according to this (very detailed) article (and a lot of research) practicing gratitude also has “selfish” benefits too?

5 Ways Practicing Gratitude Benefits YOU. Practicing gratitude has been shown to improve:

1) Your physical health.

That’s right, people who practice gratitude are actually healthier! Not only are the sick less frequently, they also sleep better! People who practice gratitude tend to exercise more, have more energy and even live longer!

2) Your emotional wellbeing

People who practice gratitude have been found to be more relaxed, resilient, and to just generally feel better. If you are more grateful for what you have, you may be less jealous of others. You also tend to remember things in a more positive light! That’s right, being grateful in the moment can change how you remember something!

3) Your social wellbeing

People who practice gratitude tend to be kinder and more social. Consequently, they have more relationships. Their relationships also tend to be deeper and healthier. Practicing gratitude is even related to having a happier marriage!

4) Your career

If you practice gratitude, you are more likely to make better decisions, manage better, and be more productive! People who are grateful also network better and are more likely to achieve their goals. Sounds like someone I would want working for me! No wonder people who practice gratitude have better careers!

5) Your personality

Yup, practicing gratitude might even make you a better person! Grateful people are more optimistic, spiritual, and feel better about themselves. They are also less likely to be materialistic or self-centered.

The end result is: practicing gratitude can make you feel pretty good!

Improvement in all of these areas of your life contributes to improve your overall happiness! Yes, practicing gratitude has been show to correlate with increase happiness! So why not try it out… it can’t hurt. And it most certainly can help! How are you practicing gratitude in your everyday life?

Lydia’s Famous Quinoa Black Bean Chili Recipe

Some of you might not know that I LOVE to cook. My favorite method of cooking is to make things up as I go along, and usually my chili recipe is no different. It drives Travis crazy when I’m trying to explain how to make of my recipes (“How much of this do I add?” “Enough” “As much as you need” etc.) But I do have a few recipes that I come back to a variation of over and over.

One of these is my “famous” Quinoa Black Bean Chili Recipe. I make this at home a few times a month in the cooler parts of the year. I also tend to make it for most pot lucks or special events I’m cooking for like the Keep South Berwick Warm Soup Supper. This chili recipe is great for these events because it’s a crowd pleaser, not too spicy, as well as vegan and common allergen-free option.

If you were lucky enough to join us for our 1 day retreat, you already got to try this delicious recipe. If you didn’t make it – you’ll have another chance at the Keep South Berwick Warm Soup Supper (Wednesday November 1 at 5pm).

Want to try it at home? Check out the delicious recipe below:

 

My Yoga Life – A Work in Progress

My Yoga Life – A Work in Progress

Written By Rachel D.A.

Three years ago, I was, mostly sitting in a chair at home watching TV all day long. I did have an office for business that I visited a few days a week, yet mostly I was just sitting around even there. My whole body hurt pretty much 100% if the time. I was very overweight and was walking with a cane. One of the reasons I spent so much time in a chair was that I could barely get up from the chair. When I did, it was painful.

I shared office space with a Chiropractor. At the time she had some patients (a mother and daughter) who owned a yoga studio down the street. The mother, Nancy Garnhart, kept inviting me to try yoga, “Just try it” she said. She even offered me a free class. I was reluctant and told her why. I explained that I could barely get up from a chair, how was I going to get up from the floor? Nancy kept saying, “All you need to do, to do yoga, is to breathe.” Well, I was sure that I was still breathing.

I knew that I had to do something because, essentially, I was just sitting around waiting to die and while I was no longer young in years, I was too young to feel this way. That sounds extreme, yet, at that time, that was how I felt. I had no direction and couldn’t figure out how to get out of the rut that I was in. Finally, my curiosity got the best of me, and I decided to take my free pass and give yoga life a try.

I’m not going to lie. When I first started, I hated holding a posture for 5 eternal breaths. I couldn’t handle the perspiration that  poured down my face burning my eyes. I basically felt like a baby elephant caught in a ditch.

For some reason, I kept going and kept going. I didn’t really care so much how I looked, or even how uncomfortable I was. The thing that I noticed was that afterward I felt better. So, I kept going and going and going.

Now, three years later, I no longer use a cane or sticks to walk with, I am about 85% pain free. I released 21” and 3 clothing sizes and have learned how to eat mindfully (which is the key to weight loss and maintenance). And I have learned so much more.

I have heard people say that yoga saved their lives. I’m not sure I can entirely claim that. What I do know to be true is that yoga has changed my life forever. It is true that most come to yoga for the physical aspect first. Often, they stay for all the other benefits.

For myself, the yoga life benefits are vast. Surely the calming of the mind is helping me to balance my life. Going deeper with practice is also having a positive effect. I am almost at the end of my 200 Hour Teacher Training Class. I feel that, at my mature age, I have new reasons to go forward and thrive. Now, I am looking forward to getting certified and teaching what I know about yoga to others.

~Rachel

 

Top 3 Reasons People “Can’t Do Yoga” (And Why They Should Do It Anyway)

Whenever I get asked the age old question “What do you do for work?” My answer is: “I own a yoga studio!” Sometimes people are excited and want to know more – but more often, people’s faces fall. “Oh, I can’t do yoga” they say… followed by a reason why. These responses are so discouraging to me. Not just because I want people to come to my business. But also because people think that they can’t participate in this wonderfully healing practice for exactly the reasons that they SHOULD be doing this practice.

Here are the 3 most common reasons people give me that they can’t do yoga:

I can’t do yoga: I’m not flexible.

Guess what! Most of our students aren’t flexible. In fact, I probably have the tightest hamstrings in the room. Yoga is not just for people who can already put their foot behind their head. People who can’t touch their toes need to be here because yoga can help BUILD flexibility!

Strength and flexibility are both extremely important for our health, especially as we get older. And regular yoga practice is one of the best ways I know of to increase flexibility. Furthermore, “flexibility” can mean very different things to different bodies. Or we might be very flexible in some areas or not others. A well rounded yoga practice might not get you touching your toes in 2 weeks, but the best way to start working towards that goal is to start practicing!

I can’t do yoga, yoga is for young, skinny people!

Sorry, this excuse isn’t going to work on me either. First of all, most of our students at Yoga in ME are 50+! Most of us have regular human being bodies here, too. Second, yoga can age right along with you. Here are Yoga in ME, we base a lot of our classes on a sequence of postures called Boomer Yoga (taught to us by Beryl Bender Birch). The Boomer Yoga sequence is athletic, dynamic, and also takes into account that we can’t do all of the things that we could when we were 15. And that’s okay!

Furthermore, physical activity continues to be extremely (if not even more) important as we get older! Regular physical activity keeps us healthier. Plus, yoga improves balance, flexibility and even bone density! Yoga is also great place to make connections with other like-minded people and reduce stress.

I can’t do yoga, I don’t have time.

An old Zen proverb tells us: “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” The same principle can be applied to practicing yoga. If you don’t have time for it, you probably need it even more! Busyness is an unfortunate plague in our modern society. Most of us are on the run from sun up to sun down (and some of us all night too. And we are STRESSED out.

Did you know that yoga is great for stress and anxiety? Find out more about our upcoming series: Yoga for Stress and Anxiety here. Even if you don’t have time to come in for a class, these practices can be extremely beneficial. Sitting in meditation for as little as 3-5 minutes a day can have a huge positive impact on stress. If you’re looking to get started with a home practice you can schedule a private lesson with me to learn more about yoga and some tools that you can take home with you. Another option is to read about these techniques online or in books and start a home practice on your own!

Before you started yoga, did you think you couldn’t do it? Share why – and your experience when you did come to class in the comments below!

 

My 6 Year Old Wanted To Raise Money For Las Vegas Children “Who Don’t Have Parents Any More” What She Said Next Brought Tears To My Eyes…

On Tuesday, my 6 year old daughter, Lilliana, came home from school and told me she wanted to “send money to the kids in Las Vegas who don’t have parents any more.” I was touched. My girl has a big heart and, as a result, she always wants to help others. Unfortunately, there was just one problem: she doesn’t have much money beyond her piggy bank. I asked her where she was going to get the money. Her response surprised me. In fact, it brought tears to my eyes.

Lilliana told me she wanted to teach a yoga class for kids “because your job is already to help people feel better”.

I was touched that, not only does she want to help, she wants to do it by spreading peace, love and mindfulness in our local community. I can’t think if a better way to raise money to raise money for such a deserving cause! We hope that many of you will consider taking a break from all of the negativity that surrounds us and joining us for this fun class!

Sometimes it feels like we are surrounded by disaster. One tragedy after another plays out on the news. As a result,  it seems like we are powerless to do anything to stop them or help. Seeing tragedies like the recent shooting in Las Vegas, it is easy to sink into this hopeless mindset.

However, my teacher, Beryl teaches that part of our responsibility as yogis is to practice kriya yoga. Yoga in action. Sometimes, even the most experienced yogis need a reminder of this. And sometimes children are our best reminders.

Please join us Saturday, October 14th and 1pm for a fun, playful family yoga class lead by budding yoga teacher, Lilliana and experienced adult and children’s yoga teacher (and mom) Lydia.

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Live Your Yoga: Staying Calm In Turbulent Times

Bring Your Yoga to Life: Live Your Yoga!

The practice of yoga is a wonderful thing for many reasons. Yoga offers it’s practitioners physical, mental and cognitive benefits. Your yoga mat becomes your sanctuary. A safe haven for your mind, body and spirit to be freely expressed and explored. Yet, for many, their yogic practices and all the life tools yoga provides, gets rolled up into their mat and stored away until they create time to practice once again. However, this does not have to be the case! Instead, we invite you to live your yoga. Bringing it off the mat, and into your every day life!

The beauty of yoga is that can be performed anywhere, at any time, in any circumstance. All of the centering exercises, breathing techniques, meditation methods that you look forward to while on your mat DO NOT have to stay on the mat. This is especially important during times of extreme stress and tension. The past few weeks have been filled with destruction and violence. These are the times when it is most important for us to take a moment to stop and breathe.

Cultivate Calm and Presence

Unfortunately, the times that need your yoga practice the most, you may not have access to your ‘safety mat’. Times challenge your ego, your sense of Self, your faith, anything that may bring you unease. The good news is: you don’t need a yoga mat to do yoga and create peace! Channel your inner yogi and live your yoga at that moment in which you may be feeling those anxieties. It can be as simple as checking in with yourself by conducting a total body scan becoming aware of areas that hold tension, or performing the three-part breathing technique, anything that brings you into the present and clears the mind. Once you have cultivated a sense of internal calm, you will be able to more effectively react to what is causing such turmoil at that specific time.

Love and Kindness Meditation

During times of stress, struggle or anger, it is best to bring awareness to those emotions and  observe them as they are. Here is a meditation practice that may assist in the coping of a unpleasant feeling or situation you find yourself experiencing. Try this meditation in the morning soon after you wake to bring clarity to your day, or practice it at night to bring peace and serenity to your evening.  

 

  • Begin with yourself. Calm the mind/heart and find the center of your being. Generate warm, gentle, loving feelings for yourself:

May I be safe from harm.
May I be happy just as I am.
May I be peaceful with whatever is happening.
May I be healthy and strong.
May I care for myself in this ever-changing world graciously, joyously.

 

  • From yourself, move out spaciously into your immediate surroundings. Include every living being within this circle:
    May all beings in the air, on land, and in the water be safe, happy, healthy, and free from suffering.
  • Stay within your reach. As you feel your immediate surround fill with the power of loving kindness, move on, expanding the surround in concentric circles until you envelop the entire planet.
  • Expand your loving kindness until you are able to visualize Earth, spinning within the vast, mysterious universe. If you like, continue expanding the sense of your loving kindness, filling the endless emptiness of the universe:
    May all living beings everywhere, on all planes of existence, known and unknown, be happy, be peaceful, be free from suffering.  

In these times of environmental unrest, political unease and global instability, and senseless violence, it is easy to fall into the mindset of fear and anxiety, or guilt in the sense you are not doing enough.

Remember, yoga starts with you, and what you receive in yoga you project to those around you. If you can live your yoga, and be the peaceful beacon for those who surround you, you may begin to see subtle changes for the better.

Live. Your. Yoga.

 

-Dannika