Student Spotlight: David

DAVID, 52, finds the heart of his yoga practice while walking along the bluffs of the Mississippi River and tuning into the rhythm of his breath. On the mat, he brings a quiet focus to each posture, using only those muscles to hold his body in alignment, while letting go of any expectations and judgments. He exemplifies how we can all find in yoga a gateway for attending to our daily activities with greater appreciation and awareness.

“Be gentle with your pace.” – David P.

Name: David Age: 52

  • Length of Practice: Twenty years ago, I spent six months in intense self-practice in order to address a debilitating back injury. This inspired me to integrate the principles of mindful breath and movement into my daily walks. Eight months ago, I resumed a more regular yoga practice with Brian.
  • Most Gratifying Pose: Mountain pose, because it allows for centering and balance. I also appreciate Child’s pose, because it allows my body to reach a more restful state.
  • Most Challenging Pose: Tree pose, because it demands maintaining balance through a calmed strength.
  • Pets: 1 Dog, Bobo, Standard Poodle, 3 years old
  • Favorite Excursion on Bike: The trails under the bluffs along the Mississippi River.
  • Favorite Musician & Recording: Gil Scott-Heron, Spirits.
  • Favorite Novel: Julio Cortázar, Blow-Up and Other Stories.

Equilibrium

David’s yoga practice exemplifies the balance of ease and exertion. He focuses on where to direct his energy while relaxing those areas not directly involved with a pose. Rarely do I notice David’s shoulders hunched up around his ears or his jaw clenched like a weightlifter at the gym. David’s advice to new students is simple, but also profound, “Be gentle with your pace; you can spend a lifetime developing any single pose.” David aspires to carry this quality of attention into all of his everyday routines and interactions.

Groundedness

For many students, the more inward-directed, restorative poses, like Child’s pose are the most challenging. David embraces the stillness, observing his breath and the messages his body is sharing with him. He has remarked that these moments serve as a great opportunity to check in with himself and recharge the batteries.

Playfulness

“We went around without looking for each other, but knowing we went around to find each other.”

― Julio Cortázar, Hopscotch

David balances this steady focus with a quiet, playful sense of levity. In our sessions, we try not to take ourselves too seriously, as it is just practice after all. More importantly, if we’re having fun, we are more likely to keep returning to the mat. Yoga offers us a safe space in which to challenge ourselves and explore our natural thresholds. I am reminded of the guidance shared by one of my own first yoga teachers, who encouraged us to smile when we fell out of a pose. She emphasized that what matters is not achieving that “perfect” pose, but rather staying within ourselves and always following the breath.

Present Moment Awareness

David has always loved walking and feels it is a natural expression of his yoga practice. He reminds me that yoga is not an end into itself, but rather a gateway through which we can bring greater appreciation to whatever it is we are doing throughout the day. It can help us recognize the beauty of our surroundings, and importantly for David in Minnesota, stay upright on those walks through the winter wonderland!

Photos courtesy of Mark Wojahn, 2021

Meet more of OUR STUDENTS

To reach yoga instructor Brian Jeans directly: brian@teamsunwellness.com

Finding Your Why is the Key to Change

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.

Student Spotlight: Deb

  • Some facts about Deb
    • Age:   67 3/4
    • Astrological Sign:  Gemini
    • Hobbies/Obsessions:  Gardening, photography
    • Favorite Sweet Treat:  Almost any kind of chocolate!
    • Years Practicing: 2
    • Most Challenging Pose: Boat Pose
I feel that it works all parts of my body, incorporating strength, balance, and mobility as I move through the pose.

Evolution

Deb started her yoga practice two years ago somewhat reluctantly, by following up on a friend’s invitation to a group yoga session. While Deb wasn’t convinced that yoga was for her after that first class, I remember meeting her then and seeing her strength and stamina right out of the gate. Plus she gave me a bear hug, back when hugs were a thing. She returned to more group yoga classes, with the hope that yoga could help her get stronger, as well as improving her flexibility and balance. Her consistency over a period of time started to have noticeable results, starting with improved flexibility which has helped her while working in the garden.

“I have noticed greater stability through my core and hip muscles which has improved my balance, particularly on uneven surfaces.  

Overall I have felt more energized and I have learned ways to bring ‘calm’ to my day through some breathing techniques and guided meditation.”

Yoga is Essential

“Up until just a few months ago, I was content to take the weekly group classes (in person and then through Zoom) and perhaps practice on my own during the week but most times not. Then a medical incident occurred that impacted my balance.  It caused me to reflect on the fragility of independence and how life could potentially change drastically for me as well as my partner if allowed to persist or worsen.”

As part of her journey back to a state of health and independence, Deb expanded her “wellness team” to include me, and committed to private one-on-one sessions together. We created a practice plan to address Deb’s challenges and goals. I introduced some new tools for her yoga toolbox: restorative and yin postures, breathing exercises, and yoga nidra. I tailored her asana practice to take into account her medical challenges, with her doctor’s approval.

“Overall I feel more balanced during my day…or able to get to that centered feeling just by practicing some of the techniques I have learned from Ann along the way. It doesn’t take a formal session for me to practice yoga during my everyday routine and that, to me, brings value into my life.”

-Deb S.
Heart Opening Restorative Pose, resting lengthwise on a bolster with additional neck support

“Two years ago when I attended my first ‘try it on for size’ session, I certainly did not think that it would be on my list of essential elements for living a healthy, balanced life; but it is. And while I admit I still am not a person who rolls out her mat every day to practice, I believe aspects of my practice are present as I go about my daily routines. And that is a satisfying feeling.”

Deb’s advice to someone beginning yoga: Think about why you are practicing yoga. Look for those aspects of the practice that address your ‘why’.

Air hugs, Deb. It’s an honor to be a member of your Wellness Team!

Meet more of our students

Finding Your Intention

If you’ve ever been asked to form an intention during a yoga class or meditation exercise, and found yourself floundering for one, you’re not alone. Frankly until recently, “intention setting” sounded like some kind of trendy nonsense to me, rather than part of the ancient yogic tradition which I am studying and practicing.

Then I tried yoga nidra, a technique in which practitioners receive instructions to relax the body while remaining aware.

Most of us are floundering in the darkness, like ships without rudders. We don’t know which way we are headed because we are being led, forced and pushed by the tempest of life. Using the technique of yoga nidra, however, we have a choice in life, and that choice is created by the sankalpa or resolve.

Swami Satyananda Saraswati, from his book Yoga Nidra

At the heart of yoga nidra is a personal resolution, or sankalpa, that addresses a topic important to the person. Practitioners will repeat their intentions at the beginning and end of each session, hearing instructions like the ones below for guidance. The purpose is to train the unconscious to achieve the desired state through regular mental repetition.

Creating Your Sankalpa
  1. Scan the phase of life you’re in now, and find one area you’d like to improve, forming your intention around that.
  2. Make your sankalpa short, simple and positive.
  3. Use the present tense, as if it has already manifested.
  4. Repeat 3 times inwardly, with confidence. This is your sacred promise to yourself.
  5. Allow the intention to come to you when you’re in a relaxed state, and open to receiving intuitions from your subconscious.
Some Examples
  • If you experience stress and anxiety – “I am calm and relaxed”
  • If you are scattered and distracted: “I am present” or “I live in the present moment”
  • If you have trouble trusting: “I have faith”
  • If you blame others for your suffering: “I can create the life I deserve”
  • If you feel resistant to change: “I am motivated”
  • If you’re feeling vulnerable and shaky: “I am balanced and strong”
  • If you are angry a lot: “I am grateful”
  • If you experience turbulent emotions: “I am content”
  • If you have trouble sleeping and are often tired: “I sleep soundly and wake refreshed”

While it’s better to try and find your sankalpa in the relaxed state, some of us can get very distracted trying to find the right one, and this can tank your whole experience of yoga nidra. This is the case for me personally. I can never come up with something good in the moment, I change my mind a lot, and then I miss precious minutes of the practice. To assist my yoga nidra practice, I sat down and did some journaling to try and create a list of possible sankalpas. I was really surprised by what I came up with!

Journaling Exercise
  1. Close your eyes and think of your current daily life.
    • Create a list of “wants” and “needs” — stay away from the trivial, go for the deep.
    • Take a look at your list. What stands out as the most challenging, or maybe even a little scary?
    • Form your intention around that. Simple, positive, present tense.

Although you can use the intention for therapeutic purposes, Swami recommends that it should instead be used for a greater purpose, such as for achieving self-realization. The purpose of sankalpa is not to fulfill desires, but to create strength in the structure of the mind. Studies that used such intentions during meditation have shown that cognitive restructuring processes are stimulated. You can use the same sankalpa for a while, and then because we are ever-changing, over time your sankalpa may change too.

Through the practice of yoga nidra, we are not only relaxing, but restructuring and reforming our whole personality from within. Like the mythological phoenix, with every session we are burning the old samskaras, habits and tendencies in order to be born anew.

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

If you’re stuck in a rut, or stuck at home, maybe yoga nidra could help. I’m not promising personal transformation, but it’s just possible that like me, you have never really explored your subconscious and practiced opening up your mind-space, allowing it to wander. Plant your sankalpa into this open, liberated mind-space, and trust that the suggestion will take root and grow.

What’s your sankalpa today?

Sundays at 4pm / 30 minutes / Drop in for $5

  • Give yourself permission to relax and rest
  • Set intentions for personal growth
  • Reduce your stress levels and sleep better
  • Share your unique experience with other practitioners

Visits from Eagle

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.

What does an eagle symbolize for us? It symbolizes rebirth and renewed life. It is the spirit’s message and our connection with divinity. It’s particularly characteristic of new beginnings, resilience, and stamina for those who have been experiencing difficult passages in life.

-worldbirds.org

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.)

If you see a bald eagle in person – be grateful for the 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.

Remember when doing Eagle Pose: whichever leg is on top – the opposite arm is on top!

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!

Bald Eagle at FDR Park

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.”

Eagle Poem, by Joy Harjo

  • To pray you open your whole self
  • To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
  • To one whole voice that is you.
  • And know there is more
  • That you can’t see, can’t hear;
  • Can’t know except in moments
  • Steadily growing, and in languages
  • That aren’t always sound but other
  • Circles of motion.
  • Like eagle that Sunday morning
  • Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
  • In wind, swept our hearts clean
  • With sacred wings.
  • We see you, see ourselves and know
  • That we must take the utmost care
  • And kindness in all things.
  • Breathe in, knowing we are made of
  • All this, and breathe, knowing
  • We are truly blessed because we
  • Were born, and die soon within a
  • True circle of motion,
  • Like eagle rounding out the morning
  • Inside us.
  • We pray that it will be done
  • In beauty.
  • In beauty.

The Art of Aromatherapy

One of the greatest pleasures of being human is enjoying a good smell. Can you close your eyes right now and bring to mind a favorite smell, filling up your imagination with that scent?

I’ll bet that along with your smell of choice, a specific memory or association was conjured. This happens because the thalamus sends smell information to the hippocampus and amygdala, key brain regions involved in learning and memory. To this day, whenever I catch a whiff of the perfume Fracas, I am fooled into thinking my old boss Martha Stewart is nearby! (Mixed feelings ensue…)

Get started with a few essential essences

Aromatherapy has many potential benefits. Certain scents can reduce stress, hasten a good night’s sleep, or give you more energy. Aromatherapy is already helping office workers stay alert, and hospitals are experimenting with using aromatherapy to help patients relax. Massaging aromatic oils into your skin is another way to benefit from aromatherapy (but please take care to dilute essential oils with carrier oils.)

Essential OilPotential EffectCategory/DetailNote Type
PatchouliGrounding, CalmingEarthy, WoodsyBottom
CedarwoodGrounding, CalmingWoodsyBottom
SandalwoodGrounding, ProtectingWoodsy (sweet, rich)Bottom
Ylang-YlangBalancingSweet, FloralBottom, Middle
LavenderRelaxing, CalmingFloral, HerbaceousTop, Middle
RosemaryInvigoratingMedicinal, herbaceousMiddle
CloveWarmingSpicyMiddle
Tea TreeCleansingMedicinal, Woodsy, herbaceousMiddle
EucalyptusStimulatingFresh, Medicinal, WoodsyMiddle, Top
NeroliStabilizingFloral, Rich, CitrusMiddle, Top
BergamotBalancing, UpliftingCitrus, FloralTop
Clary SageBalancing, CleansingHerbaceous, Fruity, FloralMiddle
Sweet OrangeBalancing, CalmingCitrus, SweetTop
LemonCleansing, UpliftingCitrusTop
PeppermintInvigoratingMintyTop

Just like wine, you don’t have to be an expert to know what you like when it comes to essential oils. Experiment with a few starter scents: one that might have some calming qualities, one that might have some cleansing or clarifying effects, and one that is uplifting or energizing. Then you’ll have a bouquet to help balance your moods at the ready. There are many ways to use essential oils – for the sake of this post, I am referring to inhalation and topical use only.

I’ve been using essential oils for decades as a way to bring balance into my present moment, and regularly enjoy the concentrated smells and therapeutic properties of plants. Although I’m no expert, along the way I’ve picked up some useful knowledge on the properties of essential oils, which are to be used thoughtfully and carefully, as they are highly concentrated plant essences.

My someday dream: wandering the lavender fields in Provence, France

I’ve always loved earthy scents like sandalwood and patchouli, cleansing notes of citrus, stimulating hits of rosemary…and don’t even get me started on the transportive qualities of lavender. One of my lifelong dreams is to take a nap in a field of lavender in full bloom! These fragrances literally infuse my daily routine, enveloping me with a sense of empowered protection from the hectic stimulus all around.

Morning Nasal Steam: a few drops of eucalyptus and rosemary oils into a steamy pot of water.

Some of my favorite daily ways to use essential oils include:

  • Morning Nasal Steam for Respiratory Health
  • Grounding or Refreshing Roller Ball Blend (for quick massage, perfume, or to accompany yoga practice)
  • Balancing Room Diffuser Blend (or pet-free rooms only)
  • Dreamy Foot Massage (oil + lavender rubbed into feet before bedtime)

Making your own blends

This is where things get really fun and witchy. I’ve done a lot of experimenting, bearing in mind the effect I’m hoping to achieve, as well as finding scents that mix well together. Sometimes I’ve made some really terrible blends that I had to throw out (less is more!) and I learned the hard way not to make all my holiday gift scent blends on the same day, or you will probably get light-headed and possibly hallucinate due to olfactory overload.

Custom blend room sprays as holiday gifts, diluted with water+fixed with witch hazel

Use the chart below to get started on combining scent types, and be advised that they are just guidelines to be explored. Here’s a really helpful formula: your blend should contain 20% bottom note, 50% middle note, and 30% top note (a total of 10 drops for a small rollerball, maybe 10-20 drops for a room spray.) The bottom note is usually the heaviest, deepest scent. The middle note is even and balanced and will stay with you the longest. The top note is often bright and light and will fizzle away after the first sniff. After combining your plant essences, fill up the rest of your bottle with distilled water and some witch hazel for room sprays, or your favorite carrier oil for massage and protective perfume. Shake and enjoy.

COMBINING SCENT TYPES
Same categories combine well with each other
Floral blends with floral, woodsy, spicy, and citrus
Woodsy blends with woodsy, floral, earthy, herby, minty, medicinal, spicy, and citrus
Earthy blends with earthy, woodsy, and minty
Herbaceous blends with herby, woodsy, and minty
Minty blends with minty, woodsy, earthy, herby, and citrus
Medicinal blends with medicinal and woodsy
Spicy blends with spicy, floral, woodsy, and citrus
Citrus blends with citrus, floral, woodsy, minty, and spicy

Because essential oils are concentrated, they should be diluted with either water or oil depending on their use. For massage and perfume, I use oil; for inhalation or room spray, I use water. Lavender is one of the few essential oils that can be used undiluted on small areas of the skin. Organic and cold-pressed carrier oils are preferred, and examples include sweet almond oil, apricot kernel oil, grapeseed oil, jojoba oil, or avocado oil. These oils do not have a strong smell of their own. I will even sometimes use refined sesame oil: although it’s heavy, my skin is quite dry and it gets absorbed right away.

Calming, Uplifting Rollerball Blend

Cedarwood: Woodsy, Bottom Note2 drops
Clary Sage: Herby, Floral, Middle Note1 drop
Indian Rose Blend: Floral, Middle Note4 drops
Lemon: Citrus, Top Note3 drops

Carefully pour or use a pipette to add the essential oils into a clean dry rollerball vessel (can be purchased on Amazon.) Swirl around and take a little whiff, making any adjustments your nose tells you to. Add your carrier oil (I used jojoba for this one), shake, and plunge the rollerball down to seal it, capping it off and shaking it well. Do a little test, rolling the scent on your hand, your inner wrist, or even behind your ears. Enjoy for yourself, or give as a gift!

Reference books from my library

Another note of caution: some essential oils can be toxic to pets (this linked list is NOT comprehensive.) You can search ASPCA’s site of toxic plants, and use that as a guide since the oil is a concentrated form of the plant. Plants are powerful, use them wisely. Please reach out if you’d like me to create custom aromatherapy blends just for you!

Resources:

The Skinny on Ghee

Over the summer, I took an Ayurveda course as part of my Yoga Therapy certification with Prema Yoga Institute, and was introduced to the concept of ghee, or clarified butter. We needed it to make one of our recipes, so I bought a jar for some astronomical amount, like $13. That first jar was a good investment!

My first batch of homemade ghee, July 2020

Ghee is a staple of the Ayurvedic diet. Some dishes call for one tablespoon of ghee per person! So what is it, and why is it good for you? Is it good for you? Ghee is just butter (use organic, unsalted, grass-fed butter) that is slowly cooked down and strained to remove milk solids and other impurities. After it cools, the result is a beautiful, rich golden color.

Some facts about ghee:

  • It has been used in Indian and Pakistani cultures for thousands of years. 
  • Ghṛta (घृत) is a Sanskrit technical term translating to “ghee” (clarified butter), and is used throughout Ayurvedic literature. The term comes from the Sanskrit word meaning “sprinkled or illumined.”
  • Ghee was created to prevent butter from spoiling during warm weather. Given that its milk solids have been removed, it does not require refrigeration and can be kept at room temperature for several weeks.
  • Ghee and butter are comprised of nearly 100% fat, but ghee may be the better choice for people with lactose or casein sensitivities, since it is free of both.
  • Eating fat-rich foods like ghee can increase the “bioavailability” and absorption of some healthy vitamins and minerals.
  • Ghee is rich in butyric acid, a short chain fatty acid that promotes a positive immune response within the body, to support healing of inflammation and optimal digestion.
  • Its smoke point is 485°F (250°C), which is substantially higher than butter’s smoke point of 350°F (175°C). Therefore, when cooking at very high temperatures, ghee has a distinct advantage over butter.
  • If you’re healthy and looking to add more fat to your diet, ghee may be a fine option; no evidence suggests that it’s healthier than butter overall.
Ghee solidifies when it cools, and doesn’t need to be refrigerated.

What Ayurveda says about Ghee:

  • Ghee is a digestive. It helps to improve absorption and assimilation. 
  • It nourishes ojas, tejas and prana
  • It is good for improving memory and lubricates the connective tissue. 
  • Ghee makes the body flexible and, in small doses, is tridoshic
  • Ghee is a yogavahi—a catalytic agent that carries the medicinal properties of herbs into the seven dhatus or tissues of the body. 
  • Ghee pacifies pitta and vata and is acceptable, in moderation, for kapha
  • Persons who already have high cholesterol or suffer from obesity should be cautious in using ghee. 
  • Ghee is not to be used when there are high ama (toxic) conditions.
  • If you’re not sure what your dosha is, you can take a Dosha Quiz.
You can’t see it, but ghee is holding this meal together, just like it does your insides.

Personally, I have noticed that I enjoy the preparation and the eating of my food more with ghee in the mix, used in place of vegetable oils to make eggs, stir fry, or spread on bread or crackers – I have even put ghee in hot beverages. I used to ‘say no’ to butter altogether, but why? A little fat is good for you, if you’re healthy! The taste is wonderful, and I feel more oleanated from the inside. I even use ghee on my skin sometimes.

Recipe from Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing, Usha Lad and Dr. Vasant Lad

I made my first homemade batch in July, and now it’s a regular part of my routine and diet. If you want to make your own ghee it’s really easy! Check out Dr. Vasant Lad’s Ghee Recipe. In case you’re wondering, I have not put on any unwanted pounds – in fact, the opposite has occurred, but probably because I have mostly eliminated processed food from my diet, and am consuming more vegetables and fruit.

Bring-Me-Back Kichadi recipe, featuring plenty of ghee, pardon the turmeric-stained page!

If you want yummy recipes and easy-to-understand information on an Ayurvedic diet and perspective, I highly recommend Ali Cramer’s book, Modern Ayurveda: Rituals, Recipes, & Remedies for Balance. I have enjoyed her recipe for hearty, nourishing kichadi/kitchari that uses ghee a few times already!

Final fact: I have to HIDE THE GHEE JAR from my husband.

Sources:

Proning to Increase Oxygenation

Increasing oxygen saturation levels in the blood may be as simple as doing this pose!

Self-proning or Swimmer’s Pose

In last night’s Breath Coaching Course to support COVID-19 prevention and recovery, we learned about Resting Prone and Self-Proning in Swimmer’s Pose; directly from RN and yoga teacher Elizabeth Gottshalk, who worked in an ICU unit in NYU.

This simple technique – resting on your belly to bring the breath deeper into the back lungs, was shown to increase oxygen saturation in the blood by 10%.

During a pilot study done in March in a hospital in Brooklyn, 50 patients were treated. First, O2 levels were measured at an average of 80% – not high enough to sustain life. Our normal O2 level is 98%. They were given supplemental oxygen through cannula, and the level went up to 84% – still not high enough to sustain life.

When flipped onto their bellies, and given the support of pillows, patients oxygen saturation levels went up to 94%.

Elizabeth Gottshalk, RN and Yoga teacher

Self-proning can be used as home care for the flu and viral infections in order to increase oxygenation. Be sure that your head is higher than your feet – and switch sides every 2 hours. Get up and walk around after 8 hours to move ex cess fluid from the lungs.

Why does this work?

Proning, as it’s called, opens up the areas of the lungs that are normally compressed by the weight of the heart when lying on one’s back. And there is some thought that the back area of the lungs is more alveoli-rich, stimulating a faster gas exchange.

Proning is currently being studied as an alternative to intubation.

Thank you to Elizabeth Gottshalk for her dedication to helping others and for her teaching last night. Thank you to Prema Yoga Institute for putting together this amazing course.

Read more: Breath Coaching to Support COVID-19 Prevention and Recovery

Get Your Flow On to Relax

Most of us don’t know how to relax naturally, and it’s something we have to actually practice. In other words, down-regulating the stress response is an acquired capacity. It’s like a muscle: you have to build it over time in order for it to be strong.

During Ann’s Gentle Flow and Slow Flow yoga classes, we practice safe and flowing breath-connected movement, repeating patterns so you can shut your mind off and calm your nervous system down. 

Once we’ve moved the spine in all directions, worked all the major muscle groups, and hopefully lubricated all or most of the joints in the body, we practice “actively relaxing” to stimulate the PNS or parasympathetic nervous system; also known as the “Rest, Digest and Heal” response. 

Why do it? Because great things happen when we are para-sympathetically dominant. Our breath is full, slow, and deep. The digestive system works well. The body can focus on repair, including reduction of inflammation, tissue repair, and hormone production. Subjectively, people feel fully present and alive. Many report feeling a pleasant softness and warmth, perhaps even throughout their bodies. 

Go with the Flow! with Ann this week:

Gentle Flow Yoga – Wednesday at 9:30am YouTube Live

Outdoor Slow Flow Yoga – Thursday at 6pm – Swarthmore

Outdoor Slow Flow Yoga – Saturday at 9:30am – Swarthmore

If you’re practicing at home, please bring pillows, blankets, whatever you have for the best experience during our final relaxation pose. If you’re practicing outdoors, don’t worry, we’ll still make it work!

“The posture of yoga is steady and easy. It is realized by relaxing one’s effort and resting like the cosmic serpent on the waters of infinity.” -Patanjali, Yoga Sutras

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Breath Coaching to Support COVID-19 Prevention and Recovery

“Whether we like it or not, we are all either in a stage of prevention or in a stage of recovery from COVID-19.” These are words that will get you thinking – am I doing everything I can to support my own health during this time?

Prema Yoga Institute, the NYC-based school where I am studying for my 850hr I-AYT certification (now all online), has gathered an incredible faculty of doctors, nurses, psychologists, and yoga therapists to create this course, and I am so grateful and proud to be enrolled!

Over the next five weeks I’ll be learning and re-learning clinically-informed techniques that can potentially bring more oxygen into the lungs, calm the nervous system, help clients clear excess fluid from their lungs, and more. I will even have my own mentor to help guide me on my way to better breath coaching.

While not a substitute for medical care, the Breath Coach Course is intended to teach supportive wellness activities that complement traditional health care; and some of these techniques are already being instituted in COVID-19 ICU units and other hospitals in New York with success! This makes me so hopeful that as a yoga professional I can make some small difference.

In the beginning of our training manual, there is a call-to-arms for us yoga professionals that I wanted to share because it is so inspiring to me:

  • “Healthcare professionals are the first responders, and the first part of our duty as laypersons is to control the spread – following all advised precautions including mask use and social distancing.
  • As yoga professionals, we can also provide a second means of support: We can teach the breath.
  • We can support prevention with down-regulating techniques for a healthy immune system.
  • We can support our clients in managing anxiety and depression through breath techniques.
  • We can teach how to increase the concentration anti-viral gas within the respiratory tract, and how to best oxygenate the blood using breath, stretch, and restorative postures.
  • We can encourage coherence among the systems of the body, and give our clients mindfulness techniques to support their recovery should they get ill.
  • We, as yoga professionals, cannot stop this disease. We cannot treat it or cure it, but we can do our part. We are arguably the largest profession in North America that addresses the breath everyday.
  • We can do our part. We can teach the breath.” (copyright Prema Yoga Institute, LLC 2020)

I’m all in! I hope with this training I can do my part to help. I am downright so excited to be enrolled. And of course, part of my homework is to teach these techniques, so help me do my homework…come to class or set up a private session with me.

Read more: Proning to Increase Blood Oxygenation

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