To be honest, getting motivated to do anything is a little hard right now, let alone make great transformations. Sometimes I just want the end result – to be able to hold a perfect handstand, to lose a little weight around the middle, to have sustainable energy and less ups and downs in life. But when I try to create change in my body and mind, those goals may not be enough to keep me motivated towards progressing. That’s why I invite you to ask yourself: Why?
What is your WHY? Why do you (want to) practice yoga?
Some of us are seeking to transform, improve or maintain our overall health and wellbeing. We’re looking for better balance, better posture, less pain in our joints, stronger bones, less stress, more energy, more focus, better sleep, to stay independent – to be able to take a walk without fear of falling. But behind those worthy goals lies another reason, the reason that will motivate you and keep you progressing, keep you in touch with who you are in this moment. Continue to ask WHY until you have that core reason, until you find your deeper WHY.
Finding your Core Why Exercise (example):
Why do you (want to) practice yoga? Because I want to improve my balance.
WHY do you want better balance? So I can take a walk by myself without fear of falling.
WHY do you want to take a walk by yourself? Because I want to enjoy the life I have.
Turn Your Why into an Intention
From there, turn your “Why” into a positive, present tense phrase that you can easily repeat to yourself internally.
For example, “I can enjoy the life I have.”
This is your intention. When we repeat intentions internally, we can actually repattern ourselves from within, cognitively. And it works as a motivator, when we’re practicing yoga, to remember why we’re there. More on Finding Your Intention.
Once you find your real why, it can literally help you get up in the morning and onto the mat! What’s your WHY?
Not sure? That’s okay! Practice Ujjayi Breath to hear the sound of a thousand fans cheering for you! Here’s another exercise that can help you channel your focus, and keep you motivated as you move.
Eagles have been showing up a lot this week. First, a private yoga student shared a story about having seen two bald eagles circling her parents’ grave while she and her siblings went to do some cleanup there. “Overhead was a pair of bald eagles just circling around each other!!!” she shared in an email. “I was mesmerized and definitely took it as a sign that my parents were right there with us. The two of them with their white tails against the blue sky was amazing. We watched as they circled again and again,” she wrote. She took the time to look up the symbolism of the eagle for her journal.
This speaks to the inspiring history of the bald eagle’s comeback from near extinction in America. When America adopted the bald eagle as the national symbol in 1782, the country may have had as many as 100,000 nesting eagles. By 1963, with only 487 nesting pairs of bald eagles remaining, the species was in danger of extinction. Loss of habitat, shooting, and DDT poisoning contributed to the near demise of our national symbol. Following enactment of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the Service listed the species in 1978 as endangered throughout the lower 48 states (except in MI, MN, OR, WA, and WI where it was designated as threatened.) In 2006, the Service estimated that there are at least 9,789 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the contiguous United States. Bald eagles have staged a remarkable population rebound and have recovered to the point that they no longer need the protection of the Endangered Species Act. (Bald Eagle Fact Sheet – US Fish and Wildlife Service.)
I had already been flirting with the idea of ending our six-week series with the peak pose of Eagle, or Garudasana, and then the email from Deb sealed the deal. (Even though Garudasana refers to the mythical creature Garuda, and not the eagle in nature, it’s still inspiring!) Eagle Pose is a challenging balance pose where the legs and arms are wrapped around each other, and we use a lot of core strength and stamina to stay upright, to fly right. I’ve always loved Eagle Pose, but wanted to adapt this difficult balance pose for my Gentle Yoga class so that all my students could enjoy its complexity. So, rather than twisting the leg around the back of the calf, I offered students the option of crossing the knee over and stepping on a block outside the standing leg’s foot. And of course, instead of the full eagle arm, since many of us don’t have the range of motion in our shoulders, there was the option of a bear hug with the elbows stacked instead.
After our class featuring Eagle Pose, I went for a hike in our local “woods” at FDR Park in South Philly. Off the beaten track there is a marvelous space that was a golf course, that has been recently opened for public use; and this has become my daily sanctuary. On this particular day, it had just snowed, so everything was blanketed in a fresh clean white. With the snow comes stillness and quiet, and after the wonderful feeling of connectedness from our yoga class, I was feeling happy and joyful as I walked, and able to take in the surroundings with full gratitude. I felt a larger sense of connection to the universe, too, and I believe I may have even sent a little prayer up for some kind of sign that the universe could feel me back. I decided to follow some snowshoe, fox and bunny tracks into a tangle of woods near a creak where I don’t normally venture. As I stopped by the creek to take a few breaths, I looked up to see…yes, a bald eagle overhead! This was the sign I was looking for: You are on the right path. Keep trekking. Keep the faith. The divine spirit is in you, and around you. My heart felt so full, and I even cried some tears of gladness for the eagle’s visit. Kree!
I’ll leave you with one of my favorite poems of all time, by poet Joy Harjo, a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. She believes that “Everything is a living being, even time, even words.”
Following Our breath: Staying safe throughout the day
A few nights ago, I learned a valuable lesson while picking up after our dog Lucy. I had been eager to return to my desk to record a few thoughts tied to this post you’re now reading: staying safe as we move through our everyday routines. And wouldn’t you know it, as I bent over, plastic bag in hand, I felt that familiar twinge in my lower back…I shook my head in disbelief and quickly corrected my posture, bending the knees and straightening the back…It was almost comical. Here I was, preaching the importance of proper posture and alignment, and then committing one of the cardinal sins myself…But that is really what it is all about, isn’t it? Building awareness and then informing our movement and mindset with that awareness. It actually sounds a lot like yoga when we’re tuned into a sequence…but what about off the mat, when we’re hammering away at our keyboard or picking up after Lucy? Where can we find that awareness before our lower back joins the discussion? Well, that is where our breath enters the picture…
Research shows that when we pay closer attention to our breath, we can not only relieve stress, but also sharpen our focus in the present moment. Our breath is always there for us and provides the ideal cue for us to pull our heads out of the past or the future, even if it is just to focus on picking up after Lucy. What’s important is that we stay safe during these everyday movements that we normally handle on autopilot…climbing in and out of a deep sofa or easy chair…checking our blind spot when changing lanes on the highway…lifting that bag of groceries out of the cart. As strange as it sounds, our breath can help us pay closer attention to what we are doing in these everyday moments and stay safe, so we can continue doing everything it is that we love doing, or even not love doing so much…
This series of short video tutorials slowly walks you through several basic everyday movements, highlighting how the breath provides us valuable cues on safe posture and alignment. We firmly believe that with practice, you will find yourself paying closer attention to not only these different movements, but also how you are feeling in the moment. It all comes back to following the breath, our gateway into the present. Please let us know what specific movements you would like to see featured in this series, and until next time, stay safe and keep breathing!
1. Everyday Yoga: Getting in and out of our chair
We get in and out of chairs dozens of times every day…in living rooms, offices, kitchens and bathrooms…it only makes sense we take a closer look at this movement to make sure we’re doing it safely. We can all too easily lose our balance, even with chairs we’re familiar with, leading to serious outcomes…in fact, 50% of folks over the age of 65 don’t survive beyond one year after suffering a hip fracture. This video breaks down the proper alignment and breathing that support safely getting in and out of just about any chair you can think of. And as we do so, we’ll also gently tone the core muscles in our back, hips and midsection.
2. Everyday Yoga: Picking Something Up Off the Ground
So, imagine you’ve dropped your keys trying to get into the house, or maybe the dog has left you something to scoop up on your nightly walk…your mind is somewhere else as you bend over and suddenly feel that pull or pinch in your lower back. We have all been there…in fact, 80% of Americans experience significant back pain in their lives. One third report that it impacts their everyday activities, including sleeping! This video breaks down the proper alignment and breathing that support a healthy forward bend, which can also help us build strength and flexibility in our core muscles of the back, hips and midsection.
3. Everyday Yoga: Looking Over the Shoulder
Imagine you’re checking your blind spot on the highway…or you hear Interstate 95 in the Philadelphia area is one of my most learned mindfulness teachers. I owe so much of my progress in deep focused breathing to the drivers and potholes of this notorious stretch of highway. As I pay closer attention to my breath, I get plenty of practice in managing my stress levels, anticipating the next unexpected move of another motorist, and also turning more safely to check my blind spots. Looking over our shoulder seems like such a simple everyday movement, we rarely pay much attention to it…that is until we pinch a nerve in our neck as I did myself several years ago. I was sitting in my office and quickly turned my head as a colleague walked in the door. I immediately felt a sharp shooting pain down the right side of my neck and shoulder. It was months before I could move my head freely in any direction…This video breaks down the proper alignment and breathing that support a healthy twist, which can also help to relieve back pain and tension
So let’s stay safe doing what we love doing (or maybe not love so much…) by paying closer attention to how we move through our daily routines. Think of it as yoga for everyday living!
“I always feel better after a yoga session than when I started.”
Length of Practice: 18 months
Most Gratifying Pose: Warrior 1
Most Challenging Pose: Transition out of Down Dog
Pets: 1 Cat, Pumpkin (who invariably appears to encourage us during triangle pose!)
Favorite Excursion on Bike: FDR Park & the Philadelphia Navy Yard
I count Ben among those students I most enjoy teaching. He never takes a
pose off. His combination of enthusiasm and discipline allows us to
explore the healing and revitalizing power of each posture. He
epitomizes the ancient yogic principle of tapas, the inner fire that inspires us to “leave it all on the mat”
Life without tapas is like a heart
without love.” – BKS Iyengar
Ben’s consistency in no small part can be attributed to an understanding of his own thresholds and range of movement on any given day. He stays within himself and is comfortable making adjustments to account for “the usual suspects” in his knee and hip. He works with what he brings to the mat and his calm focus provides a solid foundation for building strength and flexibility. He offers this advice to students just starting their journeys on the yoga path, “You would be surprised at how beneficial practice can be if you give it a chance and stick with it.”
Ben enjoys regular time on the bike and tennis court and believes yoga facilitates his active lifestyle. I believe his mindset here is critical. Yoga is not an end into itself, but rather a gateway through which we can continue doing everything it is we love doing AND with greater awareness. Beyond building strength and flexibility, simply paying closer attention to our breathing can help us perform almost any physical activity more safely and efficiently. After all, we don’t stop breathing when we roll out of Savasana!
It has been an honor to join you on the path, Ben!
We are so excited to announce a new yoga class we’ll be teaching together in our South Philly neighborhood – Intro to Yoga at DiSilvestro Playground! Meets the first 4 Saturdays in June from 10:30-11:30am. Price is $45, which includes a yoga mat! Or drop in to one Saturday for $15, mat not included.
For the first four Saturdays in June (1st, 8th, 15th, and 22nd) join Team Sun Wellness at DiSilvestro Playground’s indoor space for 4 gentle one-hour yoga sessions aimed at beginners, but open to all levels. During our sessions, we’ll explore a variety of reclining, seated, and standing postures and the transitions between these poses – adapted to your level. Our accessible sequences are designed to create balance between mind and body by connecting the movement with breath. Blocks and straps provided to help safely attain or deepen poses. Class size limited to 25.
About the Instructors: Ann and Brian formed Team Sun Wellness in 2015, joining forces to help people of all ages and walks of life take care of themselves through mindful movement and focused breathing. Both certified yoga instructors, Ann and Brian are passionate about bringing the principles of yoga – physical postures, meditation, and breathing – to populations outside the typical yoga studio space. We offer affordable classes in community and private settings where participants can feel supported while safely finding their own practice…and we have fun while doing it!
Just under ten miles outside Philadelphia’s center city lies a hidden gem: Fort Mifflin, one of the most important battlefields of the American Revolutionary War. In 1777, American soldiers held this vital supply point located on the Delaware River against overwhelming odds for forty-five long days. It is also a vital green space and a delightful site to wander.
On the Spring Equinox (Tuesday APRIL 17th 2018, from 6-8pm,) we will welcome spring by fusing past and present during a mindful exploration of this impressive fifty-acre National Historic Landmark. The Fort is closed to the public during our event, so we will have full, private access to this beautiful and historic location.
OUR EVENT WILL INCLUDE:
MINDFUL MOVEMENT SESSION: First, we’ll explore the boundaries between our own bodies and the space around us during a mindful movement session. What is mindful movement, you ask? It’s movement that is connected with the breath, during postures that are influenced by yoga – but no yoga experience is needed! Breath-connected movement is essential for health and well-being, fusing mind and body, and can help us “listen to our bodies” with more clarity. This is beneficial for bringing awareness to our everyday routines so that we and attain better balance and posture, and manage stress more mindfully. However, all that said, we do not take ourselves too seriously and like to play and have fun!
CANDLELIGHT TOUR: Next, we’ll take a tour of one of America’s oldest established forts with one of Fort Mifflin’s knowledgable guides. From the Artillery Shed to the Water Battery and everything in between, we’ll celebrate the beginning of spring in this vital green space to better understand a battle that was not won, but fought by men who never surrendered. There is rumored to be quite a bit of paranormal activity at this site, as well – which we experienced the first time we visited. We’ll see who shows up!
FIRE PIT MEDITATION: We’ll end with a meditation session around the fire pit: practicing different breathing techniques to calm the mind and focus inward, while integrating the movement and tour portions of our event. A daily practice of focused deep breathing is one of the best tools for improving health and well-being and is available to us at all times. We may even close our event with a short chant if participants are open to it.
In the event of bad (cold or wet) weather we will hold our movement and meditation sessions in the bunk room with a fireplace going. Participants need no experience in yoga or meditation.
Things to consider:
Bring a large towel to sit on and wear comfortable clothes.
Arrive 5-10 minutes early to settle in.
Bring something to drink or eat if you like!
Sunset is at 7:13pm.
Address: 6400 Hog Island Road, Philadelphia, PA 19153 – free parking included.
It’s Brian’s birthday, so we may get to fire the cannon!
Whether you’re a history buff, a yogi who likes the outdoors, or someone just looking for other ways to explore your surroundings, we’d love to see you! Come hang out with us – breathe, move, meditate, and experience one of Philly’s hidden gems. To register, you can pay here:
FORT MIFFLIN MINDFUL EXPLORATION
Or feel free to send us an email and bring cash or check to the site on the day of the event. Email: email@example.com
About the Instructors: We are Ann MacMullan Jeans and Brian Jeans, certified yoga instructors (RYT 200) who have also trained in mindfulness practice (Penn Medicine). We teach people of all shapes, sizes, ages and ability levels, both in group and private settings. We are dedicated to helping people establish greater awareness through breath and movement in their homes, workplaces, and communities. Learn more About Us.
Valentine’s Day Partners Yoga-Wednesday February 14th, 2018 – Wallingford Community Arts Center 6-7:30pm (60 minutes yoga, followed by light refreshments) This beginner-friendly yoga session will be held in the beautiful ballroom – surrounded by dark hardwood and fireplaces!
This light-hearted workshop is designed for partners of all types, shapes, sizes and ability levels to deepen their bond with each other while focusing on self-care and not taking life too seriously.
Our fun Valentine’s Day session will:
Use breathing exercises to improve synchronicity
Strengthen both verbal and non-verbal communication through shared standing and balance poses
Balance our own self-care with compassion for our partners during guided meditations
Explore new territory such as cleansing twists, stress-relieving forward folds, and energizing backbends.
Relationships are a balancing act. We support our partners, and expect support in return, but sometimes it’s not always an easy or equal dance. When we share fun activities and create authentic and meaningful ways to relate to each other, we can evolve, and find meaning and joy in everyday routines. Join us for an evening of togetherness! Light refreshments to follow our 60-minute beginner-friendly yoga session held in the ballroom – surrounded by dark hardwood and fireplaces. We believe that the couples, families, and friends that practice yoga together, stay together!
Pricing: $25 per couple for CAC members, $30 per couple for non-members. Bring your own mats (we’ll have a few extra) – we provide straps and blocks.
About the Instructors: We are Ann MacMullan Jeans and Brian Jeans, certified yoga instructors (RYT 200) who have also trained in mindfulness practice (Penn Medicine). We teach people of all shapes, sizes, ages and ability levels, both in group and private settings. We are familiar with a wide range of the traditional Hatha yoga styles including Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Bikram (Hot Yoga), Iyengar and Restorative.We love helping people of all ages and walks of life take care of themselves through mindful movement and focused breathing. It’s truly a blessing to be able to share the tools we have discovered on our own paths to health and well-being with others. And we have fun doing it!
If you can breathe, you can practice yoga. Yoga is not just for the young and bendy. In fact, according to a 2016 study conducted by Yoga in America, 17 percent of current yoga practitioners are in their 50s, and 21 percent are age 60 and older.
Unfortunately, many of the older people practicing yoga are also getting injured. “Participants aged 65 years and older have a greater rate of injury from practicing yoga when compared with other age groups,” states a study published last year in the Orthapaedic Journal of Sports Medicine. Injuries may arise from trying to fit into yoga classes or styles of yoga that do not take into account the possible health challenges that middle aged or older bodies are faced with, such as arthritis, heart conditions, and high or low blood pressure.
At Team Sun Wellness, we teach many beginning adults over the age of fifty, whether on a mat or in a chair. The principles of posture, breath, and balance can be applied to any yoga practice no matter what level of fitness or mobility.
What are the things to look out for if you’re an older adult either starting or continuing your yoga practice?
1-Listen to your body. You’ll hear this a lot from us, and it’s not always the easiest idea to understand. While we don’t want you to push past any pain, we do want you to challenge yourself and test your limits. By connecting your breath with movement, you’ll start to gain clarity of what your body is asking for, what you really do need in any given moment. Silencing the mind that can compare and judge too harshly is sometimes the hardest part of our yoga practice. Be wherever you are, not where you think you should be!
2-Use props like blocks, straps, and even chairs. Props can help use achieve and deepen poses we could never otherwise perform in their full expressions – aligning the joints and muscles safely to avoid injury. We modify poses and adapt poses and sequences for your particular range of motion. Trying to attain a pose that we are not ready for can cause injury, particularly to areas like the lower back, shoulders, hamstrings, and hips. There’s no reason to be embarrassed by using props in a yoga session!
3-Stop making excuses and focus on the positive. 95% of the effort of your yoga practice is actually just getting to the mat or chair! When you make a consistent effort, you begin to tap into the well of yoga’s benefits, such as increased vitality and better quality of life. Available scientific literature suggests that the regular practice of yoga can improve physical, mental, emotional, social, and vital planes of elderly individuals, offering a better quality of sleep and quality of life.
Aging gracefully: Our health and the rate at which we age entirely depends on our choices. We can actually reverse or slow down the pace at which we age by practicing yoga and meditation! This is not just a self-aggrandizing claim from some yoga teacher, this is from an evidence-based study, the first study to demonstrate improvement in both cardinal and metabotrophic biomarkers of cellular aging and longevity in apparently healthy population after Yoga and Meditation based lifestyle intervention.
You’re never too old, it’s never too late, you’re never too inflexible to start a yoga practice! We provide chairs, mats, blocks and straps to help you find the yoga practice that’s right for you – so you can start reaping the benefits of yoga. Avoid injury, manage stress, and get more joy out of life!
About the Instructors: We are Ann and Brian Jeans, certified yoga instructors (RYT 200) who have also trained in mindfulness practice (Penn Medicine). We teach people of all shapes, sizes, ages and ability levels, both in group and private settings. We are familiar with a wide range of the traditional Hatha yoga styles including Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Bikram (Hot Yoga), Iyengar and Restorative.We love helping people of all ages and walks of life take care of themselves through mindful movement and focused breathing. It’s truly a blessing to be able to share the tools we have discovered on our own paths to health and well-being with others. And we have fun doing it!
“Highly recommended! I’ve been going to classes at Brian’s the past few months and it’s making a big difference. Brian’s a great guy and knowledgeable.” Evan S.
Sundays 10 AM & Thursdays 6:30 PM. 60 min group session. $15.00. Three session discount $40.00. Email Brian to join the group! His address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
This class is specifically designed for men of all shapes, sizes and ability levels to build strength and flexibility in a comfortable informal setting. Men tend to have greater muscle mass and less range of movement and may be intimidated by a traditional yoga studio environment. We’ll work on how to:
Build our core muscles to manage old injuries and prevent new ones
Expand the range of movement in our shoulders, backs and hips
Use the breath to improve posture and balance
Learn simple techniques for managing stress and developing work/life balance
Yoga Instructor Brian Jeans stretches the hamstrings in a modified Head-to-Knee Forward Bend
In the gym many of us tend to focus on building the muscles on the front of our bodies and neglect those running down our back, where 70 percent of our muscle mass resides. And on our daily run, we put a lot of strain on the joints of our lower body and tighten the hips. Yoga offers a range of postures that build strength through body-weight resistance while utilizing the full range of the joints in a healthy, less repetitive way. And it’s a great complement to any fitness routine.
Our modern tech-driven lifestyles aren’t doing us any favors either. The hours we spend hunched in front of the computer or over our smart phones can have serious effects on our overall health by degrading our posture, breath and balance. Together, we’ll explore how to optimize our alignment to stay safe and manage stress throughout the day.
About the Instructor: My name is Brian Jeans and I am a certified yoga instructor (RYT 200) and have also trained in mindfulness practice (Penn Medicine). I have taught folks of all shapes, sizes, ages and ability levels, both in group and private settings, here in the Philly area for close to three years. I first became a student myself about ten years ago after a friend mentioned that it might help with my recovery from a mountain biking injury. I am familiar with a wide range of the traditional Hatha yoga styles including Vinyasa, Bikram (Hot Yoga), Iyengar and Restorative. As both a teacher and a student, my greatest interest lies in maintaining proper alignment both on and off the mat. Ultimately, yoga has allowed me to continue doing all the things I love well into middle age. The studio has has an inversion table to assist folks with nagging shoulder, back or knee issues.
Studio Location: Our studio is centrally situated in the Newbold North neighborhood at 1809 S. Bancroft St. There is generally plenty of street parking available and we are a three minute walk from the Broad Street Tasker-Morris Station.
Payment: Use the PayPal button below or pay in cash or check on site.
“They did an excellent job as our workplace wellness instructors. Everyone loved it and was so relaxed!!!” – Roune B., Housing Alliance of Delaware
Corporate Yoga Session – photo by Grace M. at LexisNexis Risk Solutions
“Ann is fantastic! She helped our organization institute a corporate yoga program that our employees love and benefit from tremendously. All the participants adore Ann! She is terrific at helping each of us modify our practice to our own specific needs, is incredibly friendly and has been an amazing instructor. She is the main reason our onsite program has been so successful.” -Grace M., LexisNexis Risk Solutions
Healthy workplaces all start with healthy workers. As adults, we spend one third of our lives at work, yet so often we barely stop working to even eat lunch. If we make time to create routines that support our physical, mental, and emotional health and well-being, we can change the health of the workplace. Healthy workers are present and feel good about themselves and their workplace roles and relationships. They are responsive, notreactive in stressful situations, and understand the importance of self care for achieving work-life balance.
Our Recharge sessions employ mindful techniques that focus on the fundamentals: improving posture, breath and balance. We’d like to help your team:
Manage stressful workplace situations through simple, focused breathing exercises.
Improve posture and balance by connecting the breath with simple yoga-based movement.
Enhance workplace safety and injury prevention through situational awareness.
Build work/life balance through mindful meditation and simple self-care routines.
Here is how we can help your team recharge through optimizing three simple tools: posture, breath and balance.
Understand how the systems of balance – vestibular, vision, and proprioceptive – rely upon our posture and breath.
Practice basic balance exercises that can be integrated into everyday situations.
Explore how the theme of balance can be applied to self-care and our relationships.
What makes our workplace history unique? We established Team Sun Wellness after learning workplace self-care the hard way. Having spent years in fast-paced, high-performing corporate environments, we, like many, struggled with prolonged exposure to stress and were challenged to find that elusive work/life balance. Being so focused on our relationships with customers and colleagues, we forgot to take care of ourselves.
Over time, we both experienced what’s called in the world of teachers, “the burnout cascade.” Cumulative stress had slowly worn down our resilience to the constantly shifting demands of each day and challenged our ability to best serve those around us. More and more often, we found ourselves reacting and not responding. Eventually, we chose to leave our highly rewarding positions to take a step back and determine how to excel in our workplace roles while also taking care of ourselves. We have learned through our training in mindfulness, yoga and agile/scrum that every tool we need to succeed is and always has been right in front of us. Our mission is to share what we have learned and help teams like yours reach their true potential.
Reach out through the form below to begin discussing your workplace wellness needs.