Going with the Flow

One of my very best traits as a human is the ability to harmonize with others (vocally and otherwise!) However, recently I’ve begun to realize that inner harmony is an even greater skill, and definitely one needing honing in me. Balancing my own inner energies requires the skill of awareness on a deep, deep level. Learning to heed the need for rest, and recognize when something is not good for me are two biggies. 

Letting go of the need to do everything, be everywhere at once, and get it all done requires constant effort (or ease, actually.) And then there is cultivating the ability to ask for what I need from others, clearly and compassionately. Setting boundaries has never been easy for me, but now that I realize their importance I’m getting better at it.

When I’m harmonizing on the inside, not pushing myself through pain or low energy to try and “get it all done,” my emotions are calmer and my mind is also more tranquil. It’s then that the harmony of being with others and really listening (without interrupting) – and connecting with that divine flow of life energy that surrounds us every single minute becomes an absolute joy. 

Achieving this state of inner and outer harmony is only possible for me through a very regimented self-care routine. If I stick with my routine, I can really GO WITH THE FLOW so much better. And the type of yoga that is best for me is actually NOT the vigorous vinyasa that I used to do, but a more gentle type that helps me cultivate this constant awareness both on and off the mat. And that’s what I like to teach, too.

I think that’s the great journey of our lives: getting to know and heal ourselves, learning to listen, and striving for balance every single day – both within ourselves and with others around us.

Yoga for Everyday Movements

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. 

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!

Hatha Yoga on Zoom

Pre-register by paying $10 per person in advance (and be sure to include your email address)! You’ll be sent a link to the Zoom class scheduled for Saturday at 10am once you’ve paid. The Zoom platform will enable us to see and hear each other, thus allowing me to support you more fully in your practice, and perhaps help us feel more connected.

You can pay by clicking the picture above (you’ll be able to use PayPal or a regular credit card), or you can Venmo me $10 @Ann-MacMullan. Be sure to include your current email address.

The classes I’ve taken on Zoom so far have been great, but you should make sure you set up a little early so you can adjust your camera and audio if you want to be seen and heard. I’ll be there to help you the best I can. I’m asking that you pay $10 in advance, and then I will send you the link to our session and info on how to join.

During our session, I may not be modeling poses as much as I have been on YouTube so that I can talk you through your poses. I’m looking forward to practicing with you! Please let me know if you have questions.

Class description: Learn basic yoga asanas to improve strength, balance and flexibility while focusing on the thread of the breath that “yokes” the mind and body together. “Ha” means sun and “Tha” means moon – together, Hatha is the modern practice of yoga as we know it. Our Hatha class will take you on a balanced journey through effort and ease with the goal of creating stable foundations that allow us to reach new heights both on and off the mat. For all levels!

ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR: Ann Grace MacMullan is a certified yoga instructor (E-RYT 200) and believes in the healing power of yoga for everyone, no matter what age, level of fitness, or life circumstance. Ann is currently pursuing her E-RYT 500 and C-IAYT, certification in Yoga Therapy. She has been teaching yoga and meditation throughout the Philadelphia area for five years, and teaches yoga and balance classes every semester through Wallingford-Swarthmore Community Classes.

Classes Week of June 29th

Classes are donation-based and we’d love your support right now. Learn how to 👉🏼donate.👈🏼

MON
June 29th
BREATHING with BRIANWe’ll explore and practice several mindfulness and focused breathing exercises that researchers suggest can enhance our physical mental and emotional health.
10:00-10:30amYouTube Live
TUES
June 30th
CHAIR YOGA with ANNWe’ll explore and practice several mindfulness and focused breathing exercises that researchers suggest can enhance our physical mental and emotional health.
10:00-10:45amYouTube Live
WED
July 1st
KIDS YOGA with the WHOLE GANG!Pull up a chair to practice self-care! All ages and mobility levels are welcome. Learn breathing techniques, easy stretches, and specific yoga poses adapted for the chair.
10:00-10:30amYouTube Live
THURS
July 2nd
GENTLE FLOW YOGAGet grounded, connect with your breath, and relax deeply during this slow flow yoga class for all levels.
9:00-10:00amYouTube Live
FRI
July 3rd
CHAIR YOGA with BrianPull up a chair to practice self-care! All ages and mobility levels are welcome. Learn breathing techniques, easy stretches, and specific yoga poses adapted for the chair.
10:00-10:30amYouTube Live
SAT
July 4th
HATHA YOGALearn basic yoga asanas to improve strength, balance and flexibility while focusing on the thread of the breath that “yokes” the mind and body together.
10:00-11:00amYouTube Live

SUN
July 5th
MENS YOGA with BrianDesigned for men of all ability levels to build strength and flexibility in an informal setting, this class will focus on the core muscles of the back, abdomen, and hips while exploring how to optimize alignment and manage stress throughout the day.
10:00-11:00amYouTube Live

If you miss the class time, you’ll be able to access the recording after the class is completed.

Feel free to visit our past videos to keep your practice going.

ABOUT THE INSTRUCTORS: Ann and Brian are certified yoga instructors who have been teaching yoga and meditation to all ages throughout the Philadelphia area for five years. Lucy their dog is the team’s meditation coach and mascot.

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CLASS DESCRIPTIONS:

BREATHING 101 with Brian: Reduce your stress while building resilience to better adapt to all the changes and disruptions to our normal routines in the coming weeks and months. We’ll explore and practice several mindfulness and focused breathing exercises that researchers suggest can enhance our physical mental and emotional health.  All you need is a comfy place to sit.

CHAIR YOGA with Ann or Brian: Pull up a chair to practice self-care! All ages and mobility levels are welcome. Learn breathing techniques, easy stretches, and specific yoga poses adapted for the chair. Improve your balance with standing poses that use the chair for support, if it’s in your practice.

KIDS YOGA with TEAM SUN WELLNESS: Join us to move, breathe, and stretch while having fun and learning yoga poses and breathing exercises. Kids of all ages welcome.

GENTLE FLOW YOGA with Ann: Explore the equilibrium between effort and ease during this accessible sequence designed to connect mind, body, and spirit. We’ll unleash joyful freedom during rhythmic movements linked with the breath…and find steady poise through stable alignment in classic poses. 

MENS YOGA with Brian: The teaching philosophy for this class is simple: helping us men of all shapes, sizes and ability levels continue doing the things we love doing…by 1) managing past injuries, 2) preventing new ones and 3) building mobility and strength where we need it most. We’ll focus on the usual suspects in the aches and pains department, specifically the hips, back and shoulders; and concentrate on building core strength to stay safe in our daily activities.

HATHA YOGA with Ann: Learn basic yoga asanas to improve strength, balance and flexibility while focusing on the thread of the breath that “yokes” the mind and body together.

Gentle Flow Yoga – May

May Classes: These classes have flexible attendance: buy a class card and attend any session that works for your calendar! This class is safe for all levels: whether you’re a total beginner, haven’t gotten to the mat in a while, or have a regular practice.

When: 

4 Saturdays / May 2nd – May 23rd / 11-12pm

4 Tuesdays / May 5th – May 23rd / 9-10am

4 Thursdays / May 8th – May 26th / 10-11am

Join one of the all levels Gentle Flow Yoga classes and explore:

  • Breath awareness and breathing exercises 
  • The connection between movement and breath
  • Stable alignment in classic poses, modified for your personal anatomy
  • Safe and fun transitions throughout gentle sequencing
  • The philosophy of yoga
  • Taking yoga off the mat into your everyday routine

Show up in whatever state you’re in, and be guided through an accessible fun sequence designed to connect mind, body, and spirit. Blocks and straps provided, and some extra mats available as well.

Where: Wallingford Presbyterian Church 110 E. Brookhaven Road
Wallingford, PA 19086 Free Parking on the premises

12 classes for $120, 8 classes for $100, 4 classes for $55, drop in for $15

Not all monkeys bite

Santosha, or contentment, is one of the five niyamas or personal observances that we vow to explore in yoga. I think the idea is to practice being content with whatever you’re experiencing in any given moment.

Practicing contentment doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with being unhappy; instead we are invited to train in being content with our unhappiness. That might go something like this:

  1. Acknowledge sadness (or whatever emotion we’re experiencing.)
  2. Recognize that it’s a turbulence that will eventually pass.
  3. Perhaps even develop some gratitude towards our ability to feel so much.
  4. Look at that emotion like it’s an old friend who’s stopped by for lunch.

You already have everything you need.

It’s said that our basic nature as human beings is joyful; that we are happy without even trying to be. I recently learned that as babies, we are born breathing naturally into our bellies; taking deep breaths that utilize our full lung capacity. As adults, we get so disconnected from our bodies, so stuck in our minds, that we develop a tendency towards chest breathing, and must relearn full belly breathing, which can help reset the nervous system and manage stress. (But that’s a blog post for another time.) How do we get so far away from our natural state of being, from being able to take a deep breath?

Get off the rollercoaster of liking and disliking everything.

As we grow up and have our vast and quotidian experiences, we learn to ascribe value to everything. We categorize everything, and naturally move towards the things we like and away from the things we don’t. We make split second judgments based on our layers of experience, our culture, our upbringing. Everything we come into contact with throughout our entire day might get put into some kind of category!

  • Like / Dislike
  • Friend / Enemy
  • Feels Good / Hurts
  • Pretty / Ugly

How can we possibly be content in this digital age? While it is worthwhile on many levels, I believe social media breeds so much discontent and snap judgment. Is it a thumbs up, or a thumbs down? From our brave digital distance it’s also easier to express the flames of hatred…and even our own president does it!

We get caught in a loop of holding on to what we think is good, and we only tell the stories that sing our perfections. We avoid what we think is bad, choose to omit narratives that might bring shame. In all that grasping for the good and rejecting of the bad, we lose our clarity. We lose equanimity. We lose contentment. We forget how to breathe.

Not all monkeys bite.

Weird story: I got bitten by a monkey when I was little, and not only was it physically painful but I got into some trouble for wandering into the yard of the stranger who owned the monkey. (I was raised with a parenting style known as benign neglect, popular in the 1970s.) Now I’m kind of afraid of monkeys, and in particular, sharp little monkey teeth. When I go to the zoo or see monkeys on tv, I have a bit of a reaction. Not a big fan. I’m looking through the lens of my painful memory and putting monkeys into the category of “dislike” or “avoid at all costs.” Which makes sense, like it’s rational to avoid putting your hand into a fire because you will get burned. The process of distilling everything into categories gets dangerous, though, because it leads to the rollercoaster of needing to satisfy our likes and dislikes all the time. We might miss out on the possibility that not all monkeys are going to bite, and maybe some are actually cute. There are other more painful stories I can’t really share here, so the monkey story will have to do.

It is what it is.

When I worked in television, I must have heard that sentence a million times, “It is what it is.” It used to drive me crazy! It seemed to me a copout for not trying harder to make things right. But maybe, in fact, it was the ultimate santosha.

Acceptance of our present moment is one way to get off of the rollercoaster of liking and disliking. In our search for happiness, we ignore the possibility that happiness is already happening right here and right now. We also presuppose it will come from outside of ourselves. If we aim to practice santosha, we must stop seeking it and rest in the moment, whatever it brings. Even if it’s monkeys.

“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”

― Lao Tzu

Gentle Flow Yoga * Spring Thursdays!

When:  Thursdays / March 5th – April 23rd / 10-11am

Our class will explore:

  • The cycles of the breath via awareness and breathing exercises 
  • The connection between movement and breath
  • Stable alignment in classic poses, modified for your personal anatomy
  • Safe and fun transitions throughout gentle sequencing
  • The philosophy of yoga
  • Taking yoga off the mat into your everyday routine

Show up in whatever state you’re in, and be guided through an accessible fun sequence designed to connect mind, body, and spirit. Blocks and straps provided, and some extra mats and kneeling pads available as well.

Where: Wallingford Presbyterian Church 110 E. Brookhaven Road
Wallingford, PA 19086 Free Parking on the premises

8 classes for $80, 4 classes for $55, drop in for $15

Student Spotlight: Evan

Yogas citta vrtti nirodhah: Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind. from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 1:2.

  • Name: Evan Silverstein
  • Age: 38
  • Length of Practice: 16 years, most active over past two years.
  • Most Gratifying Pose: Triangle
  • Most Challenging Pose: Crescent Moon
  • Pets: 3 Dogs, Sweet Potato (Beagle Mix) 14, Rosie (Poodle Mix) 12 & Tina (Poodle Mix) 7.
  • Favorite Philly Bike Excursion: Schuylkill River Trail

Curiosity

Improvising a triangle variation to build strength, flexibility and self-awareness

Evan was one of the first curious souls to join our Men’s Yoga class here in South Philly. He brings a sense of fearlessness to his practice, constantly setting new goals for himself and exploring ways to integrate yoga and mindfulness into his everyday activities at work, home and everywhere in between.

Determination

Evan building core strength while flying high in a variation of Locust Pose

Evan brings a quiet intensity to his practice, exemplifying the yogic metaphor of heating the iron in order to shape it. I admire his determination to develop the strength, flexibility and focus needed to find stillness in even the most advanced postures.

Balance

Grounded and focused in Extended Hand to Toe Pose

Evan demonstrates a quiet confidence moving into challenging poses and holding them while focused on his breathing. Evan enters AND exits these postures with the same degree of grace and focus, remaining centered and grounded.

Present Moment Awareness

Evan reflecting on how to pay closer attention to his breath, both on and off the mat.

Our Men’s Yoga class focuses on building the core strength needed to keep doing all the things in life we love doing. We break down traditional yoga postures into basic physical movements that can be applied to our everyday work-life routines. Evan exemplifies this integration of mindful movement into our everyday activities at work, home and everywhere in between. It is perhaps his present moment awareness that makes Evan such an inspiring student. He follows his breath through each posture and then applies what he learns on the mat to reach his full potential off the mat. I cannot wait to take his class when he completes his teacher training!

Yoga for Stronger Bones Workshop

Saturday March 14th 1-3pm / Wake Up Yoga Rittenhouse / 2030 Sansom Street / 215.235.1228

Prevent or Reverse Osteopenia + Osteoporosis with Yoga!

54 million Americans, half of all adults age 50 and older, are at risk of breaking a bone and should be concerned about bone health. The usual prescription for osteoporosis is “weight-bearing and impact exercises.” However most people over 55 also have osteoarthritis, and impact exercise is exactly what the doctor did not order. So, how to prevent and treat the ever-threatening loss of bone without damaging joints? In order to stimulate bones to grow stronger, force must be applied – in the form of compression or tensile stress. Yoga is a safe and impact-free way of applying that force! In fact yoga also exerts a positive influence on arthritic joints.

Did you know that the right yoga, done the right way, has been proven to strengthen bones? More than 80% of steady practitioners of the Fishman method of yoga increase their bone mineral density scores – they actually gain bone!

During this workshop, we’ll:

  • Learn more about the science behind bone synthesis
  • Discuss bone quality and measuring bone mineral density (how to read your DEXA scan results)
  • Learn about lifestyle changes you can actively make to support better bone health
  • Practice the Fishman Method of yoga, designed to specifically strengthen the parts of the body most vulnerable to fracture: the lumbar and thoracic vertebrae, the hip, and the thigh.

Dr. Fishman’s carefully selected and trialed poses offer variations for differing levels of ability. When performed consistently, for at least 30 seconds, and with the proper alignment of joints, they’ll put compressive and/or tensile strength on the bones, so that new bone is stimulated to grow. And they are also safe for those with arthritis.

Triangle Pose – levels 1, 2, and 3

Beginners welcome. We will guide students through versions of each pose according to their abilities and what is safe. All props including mats provided, but bring your own if you prefer.

No one is too old to do yoga, and the earlier you start, the better it is for your bones.

Dr. FISHMAN

No one can entirely halt the aging process, but we can control lifestyle, which can affect bone density and increase or decrease your risk of fracture in as little as two years. Yoga also improves your balance, posture, strength, range of motion and coordination, and lowers your anxiety—all factors that further reduce your risk of fracture.

About the Instructor: Ann MacMullan Jeans, E-RYT 200, is a certified yoga teacher and registered to teach Yoga for Osteoporosis through Dr. Loren Fishman, MD. She is qualified to guide students through the poses for the dose response study as per Dr. Fishman. She will be Certified once she has taught yoga for 5 years, in August 2020.

Read more: Yoga for Stronger Bones

To sign up, visit Wake Up Yoga’s page here: Yoga for Stronger Bones Workshop or call Wake Up Yoga at: 215.235.1228. NOTE: When you click through to the link, if at first you don’t see the information, make sure the tabs at the top are on the right settings. The location has to be set either to All Locations, or Rittenhouse; and it must be set to the Enrollments tab (not Classes.) Scroll to the one with my pic, or select the exact date. Let me know if you have any questions!

Tuition: $35; save 10% if enrolled by 2/20. Space is limited to 12 participants. 

Yoga for Stronger Bones Series

4 Tuesdays Feb 18th – March 10th 9-10am / Wallingford Presbyterian Church / $55

Prevent or Reverse Osteopenia + Osteoporosis with Yoga!

Did you know that the right yoga, done the right way, has been proven to strengthen bones? More than 80% of steady practitioners of the Fishman method of yoga increase their bone mineral density scores – they actually gain bone!

54 million Americans, half of all adults age 50 and older, are at risk of breaking a bone and should be concerned about bone health. The usual prescription for osteoporosis is “weight-bearing and impact exercises.” However most people over 55 also have osteoarthritis, and impact exercise is exactly what the doctor did not order. So, how to prevent and treat the ever-threatening loss of bone without damaging joints? In order to stimulate bones to grow stronger, force must be applied – in the form of compression or tensile stress. Yoga is a safe and impact-free way of applying that force! In fact yoga also exerts a positive influence on arthritic joints.

During this 4-week series, we’ll:

  • Learn more about the science behind bone synthesis
  • Discuss measuring bone mineral density
  • Learn about lifestyle changes you can make to support bone health
  • Practice the Fishman Method of yoga, designed to specifically strengthen the parts of the body most vulnerable to fracture: the lumbar and thoracic vertebrae, the hip, and the thigh.
Yoga for Stronger Bones

Dr. Fishman’s carefully selected and trialed poses offer variations for differing levels of ability. When performed consistently, for at least 30 seconds, and with the proper alignment of joints, they’ll put compressive and/or tensile strength on the bones, so that new bone is stimulated to grow. And they are also safe for those with arthritis.

Triangle Pose – levels 1, 2, and 3

Beginners welcome. We will guide students through versions of each pose according to their abilities and what is safe. Bring a yoga mat if you have one; props such as blocks, straps, and chairs if needed will be provided. Extra mats also available. Pre-purchase your spot – credit card and PayPal accepted. Or bring a check or cash to class, but email to hold your spot: info@teamsunwellness.com

No one is too old to do yoga, and the earlier you start, the better it is for your bones.

Dr. FISHMAN

No one can entirely halt the aging process, but we can control lifestyle, which can affect bone density and increase or decrease your risk of fracture in as little as two years. Yoga also improves your balance, posture, strength, range of motion and coordination, and lowers your anxiety—all factors that further reduce your risk of fracture.

About the Instructor: Ann Grace MacMullan, E-RYT 200, is a certified yoga teacher and registered to teach Yoga for Osteoporosis through Dr. Loren Fishman, MD. She is qualified to guide students through the poses for the dose response study as per Dr. Fishman.

Read more: Yoga for Stronger Bones