Meditation

Our Connective Tissue, The Weather & Changing Pain

Our Connective Tissue, The Weather & Changing Pain

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There has always been a relationship between changes in weather and body aches and pains since the dawn of time (or at least since we became aware of the fascia system and moved away from the equator). The earliest recording dates back to the classical Roman age.

 Hippocrates was the first to write, in 400 B.C., that many illnesses seemed to be related to changes in season. The majority of people who suffer from conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, connective tissue disorders, and even those who have suffered structural injuries, like hip replacements, knee replacements, even witt post deployment and shrapnel recovery; all report findings address the feeling of severe or less commonly moderate pain when a weather front is approaching. These symptoms can also occur when the humidity level and or precipitation levels change. Much can be said about the impact of weather on our system as a whole.

Stiff neck, tight shoulders, and pain in the hip, low back and/or knees: You might be thinking it’s your joints, but it’s actually most often connective tissue. Fascia is a webbed, interconnected matrix, that acts like a sleeve that holds muscles, tendons and joints and ideally your bones and skeletal frame. It connects to our adipose tissue via our superfiscial fascia lines, holding the shape of our body and interacting with our nervous system.  As well, as our deep fascia, the thick white fibrous tissue that connect muscle to bone and then our visceral fascia, much like a spider web that encases our organs and co-mingles with our structure.

Jill Miller, a renowned Yogi and functional teacher, once said;

 “Fascia is your body’s soft-tissue scaffolding. It provides the matrix that your muscle cells can grow upon and it also envelopes, penetrates and surrounds all of your joints.”

According to the American Journal of Medical Sciences in 1887, the very first publication of documented changes in pain perception associated the weather with this change in body sensation and pain.  This case report described a person with phantom limb pain who concluded that “approaching storms, dropping barometric pressure and rain were associated with increased pain complaints.

Many of my clients who have had hip and knee replacements, also exhibit changes in structure, like tightness and stiffness in the coming of Fall and Winter, as well as those who are more susceptible to aches and pains, like those who a higher percentage of pain receptors and or chronic pain conditions.

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The historical Lineage:

The term “rheumatism” was one of the first “terms” placed on this kind of condition and it is still used in conventional speech and historical contexts, but is no longer used in medical or technical literature. The term “Rheumatic Diseases” is used to refer to connective tissue disorders, but the scope is so very broad and we are constantly learning more and more about the connections of our fascia, nervous system and other systems. Although these disorders probably have little in common in terms of their epidemiology, they do share two primary and foundational characteristics, which cannot be overlooked.

They are:

1. Can cause chronic (though often intermittent) pain, and they are difficult to treat because we still do not have a prescribed standardized direction, or assessment for proper treatment in our healthcare system.

2. Collectively, very common – 1 in 4 Canadians will suffer chronic pain at some time in their lives; which is why there are many great organizations; Pain BC is one at the top of my health and wellness food chain; which focuses on programs, services and resources for people in pain, but also works with health practitioners and our heathcare system to educate GP’s and professionals who work with chronic pain patients one on one.

Case Studies:

There has long been said to be a link between “connective tissue” pain and the weather. There appears to be no firm evidence in favour or against, apart from the ramblings of scientists, as shown above in the 1800s. Yet in 1995 a questionnaire given to 557 people by A. Naser and others at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Pain Management Center showcased barometric changes and pain. It concluded that “changes in barometric pressure are the main link between weather and pain. Low pressure is generally associated with cold, wet weather and an increase in pain, because of the fact that they restrict movement. Studies have shown that changes in barometric pressure and temperature may increase stiffness in the joints and potentially trigger subtle movements that heighten a nociceptive response. Cold also slows down fine motor control and motor skill. This kind of alteration to our structure may be particularly problematic in inflammatory joints whose receptive and sensitized nociceptors are affected by movement overall.

Clear, dry conditions signal high pressure and a decrease in pain. We all know that when we are warm, we move better, and we feel better overall. Here are a couple great resources for people who not only have chronic pain, but also for those who are more sensitive to the weather and aches and pain.

Therapeutic Treatment:

Many of the clients I work with suffer from mild to acute chronic pain, yet many of them can attest to the fact, that in warmer weather, they feel better. As a Yoga Teacher and Movement Coach I understand that when a client feel pain, they immediately want to stop moving, stop all activity and this, in itself, can be isolating. One of the key foundations I focus on, is to keep moving, keep staying active. In many of my posts I discuss the difference between “rest”  and “relaxation,” the body requires both, but it heals best, not in “rest,” but in a natural state of relaxation. I have found two forms of gentle relaxation and movement; to be successful in many of my clients, including myself are what i like to classify as an internal and external relaxation. Now, both stimulate internal healing and both focus on connection with our external… but when I say “internal” and “external,” I am referring more to the benefits of on the systems, and it is a great way to educate clients on the physiology of changing pain and how everything in our body is connected.

They are the following:

Internal Relaxation: Infrared Sauna & Eucalyptus Steam:

Infrared rays are one of the sun’s rays. Infrared rays are the healthiest, penetrate into your skin deeply and they dissolve harmful substances accumulated in your body. The Infrared Rays vitalize your cells and metabolism through the stimulation of sweat glands, as well as vibration. When infrared waves are applied to water molecules (comprising 70% of our body) these molecules begin to vibrate and this vibration reduces the ion bonds and the eventual breakdown of the water molecules causes encapsulated gases and other toxic materials to be released. One of my favorite spots to go is Spruce Body Labs on Richards, it’s like a weekly spa visit with all the perks of self compassion (notice how I did not say self indulgent)!

Eucalyptus steam works much the same as the detoxification process,but it is a wet vs a dry sauna, and does not offer you the benefit of the infrared rays. However, what it does offer you is the healing benefits of eucalyptus.  Eucalyptus steam inhalation is recommended by many alternative practitioners for relieving nasal congestion and sinus congestion, usually from colds and flu, as well as healing tissue. .Toxic substances build up in the soft tissues of the body over time. Without a proper flushing of these toxins your muscles and connective tissue can become sore, create adhesion’s and stiffness and bind together; which reduces movement and increases tight, toned tissue.  The more you perspire – or sweat – the more toxins release from your body. I use a eucalyptus steam once a month to release any nasal and respiratory congestion. Beverly’s spa on fourth avenue in kits, is an amazing spot and it’s kiddy corner to YYoga, combining a class and a steam after – brilliant.

Both stimulate your internal organs and tissue to “sweat it out,” release toxins; which reduces stress, improves metabolism, accelerates healing, eases muscle soreness and tension, enhances heart function and improves connective elasticity.

External Relaxation: Warm Yin, Yin & Restorative Yoga:

Yin Yoga postures are more passive postures which are mainly performed on the floor, where the body and mind can be still The majority of postures equal only about three dozen or so, much less than the more popular yang like practices. Yin Yoga is unique in that you are asked to relax in the posture, soften the muscle and move closer to the bone. While yang-like yoga practices are more superficial, Yin offers a much deeper access to the body. It is not uncommon to see postures held for three to five minutes, even 20 minutes at a time. This style of yoga is very beneficial for clients who have pain, because it allows them to ease into the form and function of the pose. In my YogaFORM sessions with clients, I combine a Yin style practice with Qi Gong and elements of gentle movement sophistication flow sequences to gently open tissue and open the awareness of systemic integration. In the Fall and Winter, this can be very therapeutic for those who are affected by the colder months.

 

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Resources:

Pain BC – Pain BC works toward an inclusive society where all people living with pain are able to live, work, play, relate, and learn with confidence and hope, and without their experience of pain being a barrier to pursuing their lives, through:

  • Reducing their pain and mitigating the impacts of their pain on all aspects of their lives and their families’ lives
  • Accessing the pain management resources that they need, ranging from prevention to self management, and early identification and intervention to more complex and long term pain management programs

Ted Talk – “Elliot Krane: The mystery of chronic pain”

” We think of pain as a symptom, but there are cases where the nervous system develops feedback loops and pain becomes a terrifying disease in itself. Starting with the story of a girl whose sprained wrist turned into a nightmare, Elliot Krane talks about the complex mystery of chronic pain, and reviews the facts we’re just learning about how it works and how to treat it.

At the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, Elliot Krane works on the problem of treating pain in children”.

Link: http://www.ted.com/talks/elliot_krane_the_mystery_of_chronic_pain.html

 

Sources:

Pain BC: http://www.painbc.ca/

Spruce Body Labs http://www.sprucebodylab.com/

Beverly’s on 4th: .http://spaon4th.com/

ABC.net: http://www.abc.net.au/health/talkinghealth/factbuster/stories/2013/06/11/3779124.htm

I.BE TRANSFORMATIONAL RETREAT: FIND YOUR OWN FLOW

I.BE TRANSFORMATIONAL RETREAT: FIND YOUR OWN FLOW

“Our passion is to move you to live yours”

Local Yoginis Christie Baumgartner and Erin Tetarenko are hosting an upcoming retreat themed ‘Find Your Flow’.” This January spend an enlivening 7 Days and 7 Nights on Nicaragua’s gorgeous north coast; where the tranquil ocean side paradise will capture your heart and ignite your soul.

What can you expect?

“You are only limited by your own creativity!”

The list is truly endless; volunteer and cultural experiences, daily yoga, meditation, life coaching and yoga workshops, music (by local music sensation; Vibra Positiva, http://vibrapositiva.beepworld.it/)  hammock time, surf and other outdoor adventures. Where you are encouraged to create the experience that serves you best and that empower you to reach your full potential and transform your life.

What’s unique about this retreat is that a large part of it is focused on working with the Nica community. This is the second year of this annual retreat where people from all over flock to take part in this transformational experience.

“I think one of the most unique aspects is the combination of body and mind transformation with coaching, yoga, nature and connection to the Nica community.” Erin

 

In a recent blog post at Erin and Christie’s website I.BE. (Inspire. Believe. Embrace), finding your flow is exactly what this retreat embodies.

What does it mean to ‘find flow’? 

Csíkszentmihályi (cheek-sent-me-hi) describesflow as a state in which it feels like time does not exist. We are totally immersed in our experience coupled with feelings of spontaneous joy. It is an experience of energized focus, enjoyment in the process, and immersion in the moment.

“Flow involves effortless, letting-be of the process and the graceful, integrated nature of being present to an experience.” – G Privette

Flow can be experienced within any activity; although, it is most likely to occur when a person is genuinely intrinsically motivated. This is motivation in which we are driven by internal reasons such as interest or enjoyment in an activity rather than for external rewards or external pressures.

Other ways of describing ‘flow’ include effortlessness of performance, fluid continuity, and the ability to progress with ease.

Why is ‘finding flow’ important?

 

Finding flow in our lives can have incredible positive effects on our performance in life and our well-being. Incorporating more flow experiences regularly invites us to choose authentically, be more present, and experience life more fully.

6 ways to increase ‘flow’ in your life

1 – Get to know YOU and what you’re passionate about. Ask yourself the powerful questions and discover what is really important to you. What do you love to do? What activities have meaning and heart for you? What do you value most in life?

2 – Be Autonomous in your Choices. ‘Let go’ of needing approval. Intrinsically motivated activities are those which you do because YOU enjoy them, not those activities done for approval from others. Let go of seeking approval and start doing more of what you love.

3 – Set Goals. Flow experiences involve clear set short term goals. This helps you create a balance between opportunity and capacity as well as prioritizes activities in your life that provide you with optimal challenge and enjoyment.

4 – Cultivate Mindfulness. Being mindful allows you to fully experience the activities you enjoy. Characteristics of mindfulness include present moment awareness and an attitude of open-mindedness, acceptance, and non-judgement. There are many ways to incorporate mindful presence into your daily routine. I suggest deep breathing, meditation, and/or yoga. Even, try being more present while doing your daily activities such as cooking, washing dishes, walking or driving.

5 – Embrace Change. Flow involves being being able to let go of the past so you allow yourself to be open to what’s available in the moment. ‘Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes’ – Lao-Tzu

6 – Integrate Flow into various aspects of your Life. Since flow can be experienced in any activity, create ways to experience flow in various life areas including: career, contribution, family life, personal experiences, health-related activities, personal growth or education, hobbies and social interactions.

 

 

Details on “Find Your Own Flow”

 

SAVE $100 when you register with a friend before January 1, 2013.

 

Enjoy bringing more flow into your life!

Still Tickets Left for Paul Muller-Ortega next Weekend!

Still Tickets Left for Paul Muller-Ortega next Weekend!

With the onset of fall and the need to draw more inward focus, it’s the perfect time to spend a weekend in meditation and learning. We are very fortunate to have renowned scholar and teacher Paul Muller-Ortega here for a weekend of Sadhana Satsang Inner Space Yoga on Oct 20-21.

Tickets are $300+hst with the class running all Saturday and Sunday (9:30am-5:30pm). Register online here. Don’t miss out on this unique event!

Detailed description of the weekend:

Churn the Ocean of Infinite Possibility and thus invite the most auspicious life for yourself! The ancient Hindu myth
of the Churning of the Ocean of Milk symbolically conveys the centrality and importance of authentic Yogic practice, Sadhana. It is Sadhana, not philosophy or mere ideology which lies at the center of the Tantric Shaivite Yogic tradition. Through the daily application of profound and profoundly transformative Tantric Yogic practices, the
practitioner begins to experience the nectarean luster of the Light of Consciousness within.

Sadhana churns our awareness. It allows for the arising of fulfillment as an ongoing quality of each moment. Through authentic, deep practice, our inherent gifts and skills are gradually, spontaneously activated and become accessible to us. Sadhana becomes the living doorway through which we can inquire ongoingly into the nature of the Great Consciousness, into Reality, into the very Existence of Life itself.

Embark upon a journey with renowned scholar and beloved teacher Paul Muller-Ortega for a Sadhana Satsang where we will deepen our understanding of Tantric Sadhana and learn powerful, elegant, yet accessible practices for the revelation of the Light of Consciousness. Paul will guide students in the Release Practice, Japa (recitation of mantras), Meditation and other beautiful and potent techniques.

Nada Nidra: The Adventure of a Lifetime

Nada Nidra: The Adventure of a Lifetime

One rarely expects to go to a yoga class and not move at all. But during Yoga Nidra, that is almost exactly what happens.

One Yoga for the People hosted Nada Nidra: The Adventure of a Lifetime Friday night.

At first read, “The adventure of a lifetime” sounds a bit dramatic, but after experiencing Nada and Nidra yogic techniques, one really feels as though they have been on an internal adventure. Yoga Nidra is an empowering practice that guides you towards living in the moment. Heather Eschuk led the ancient Nidra practice, which was complimented by Mike Nichols’ chimes, crystal and Tibetan singing bowls.

The practice began with a beautiful sea of Oms. In a hot room full of so many voices, it was a lovely sound and a nice opportunity to explore the sound of your own Om without judgment. Before class began, Mike advised students that some people can find the sound of the bowls a bit intense; and that participants are welcome to cover their ears or lie on their side. He and Heather also mentioned that students are welcome to move during the Yoga Nidra if they feel the need, which was nice to know.

Mike began the class with a few Yin poses – Caterpillar, pigeon, a little self-jaw-massage, some supported bridge pose and gentle twists – to the sound of the bowls, which helped to bring the attention deep into the body. After this, Heather began to pilot us through the Yoga Nidra experience, which took about 50 minutes. Everybody spent most of the Yoga Nidra in a physical Savasana. Towards the end, as students became more awake and restless, we were encouraged to practice some gentle postures.

Towards the end of the practice, Heather summed up the experience of Yoga Nidra perfectly by calling it: “presence in your own innate wellbeing.”

Check out Heather’s website: www.heathereschuk.com. Mike teaches at Shine Yoga in Vancouver.

FLEX YOUR  MUSCLES: YOUR BRAIN & NEUROMUSCULAR RE-PATTERNING

FLEX YOUR MUSCLES: YOUR BRAIN & NEUROMUSCULAR RE-PATTERNING

BRAIN S FITNESS

The nervous system is conditioned to operate in a specific way and it takes a conscious effort to change and engage with our mind and body towards better movement, more symmetrical movement.

When we move with intention and purpose, it does not take a rocket scientist to understand that it can lead to optimal wellness, as well as optimal learning. More an more coaches, athletics therapists, practitioners and psychotherapists are paying more and more attention to the benefits of neurological re patterning and neuromuscular corrective movement. “Re-patterning” really means “retraining” the brain to more efficiently use both sides to perform tasks, rather than limiting itself to using only one hemisphere at a time.

This also applies to somatic memory and re-patterning techniques used in neuromuscular training. Neurologists have discovered that we can use the body to “re-pattern” or retrain the brain to change inefficient pathways into more efficient ones. The knowledge of the connection between the brain and the body has been well documented.

Many medical doctors, as well as athletic coaches use a technique called “patterning” or “Brain Integration Therapy” which consisted of exercises replicating the crawling movements of a baby to help students with head injuries and other severe neurological dysfunctions.

For instance, Brain Integration Therapy known as Brain Gym, was introduced by Dr Paul Dennison, an education specialist, incorporated research from many other fields to further explore the mind/body connection. This incorporates performing specific tasks; followed by “re-patterning” techniques which stimulate the neurological connections within the brain and facilitate whole brain learning.

CORRECTIVE MOVEMENT IS THE KEY TO NEUROMUSCULAR RE-TRAINING

Does this sound familiar! The body, as we have previously discussed “the somatic body,” holds onto emotions, patterns, feelings and belief systems.  Some of which are positive, while others no longer serve us. This can be attributed to previous injuries, poor movement patterns, even trauma or childhood nuances that we have not yet let go of and thus, our physical body reacts by offers us feelings of “unwell,” “pain” or discomfort.

When muscle recruitment is less than optimal, that can be a sign of anything from injury to compensation to poor motor learning. Neuromuscular patterns are akin to thought processes or computer programs essentially. Now, when I say “corrective movement” I am referring to any exercise that corrects or improves better mechanics. This can be movement and performance coaching, specialized yoga, kettlebell work, body weight work – anything that promotes better motor learning and in a sequential manner based on the individuals unique mechanics.

SOMATIC MOVEMENT

Somatic patterning is an approach to body therapy that integrates the knowledge of human kinetics and kinesiology with practical applications and corrective movement exercises to improve posture and movement mechanics. Integrative Bodywork facilitates relaxation, structural and neuromuscular re-patterning, and overall healing.

This work nourishes the body — injuries, low energy, imbalances, and uncenteredness are transformed. Whether you need regular work or need a one time gift to yourself, I encourage you to try this work.

The FMS (Functional Movement Systems) assist with this re-patterning because it is based on pediatric development and what coaches call RNT. By taking a client back to pediatric patterns, they can release pent up “somatic emotions,” in their tissue that they may not even realize is preventing them from achieving better movement.  In the therapeutic sense; this style of somatic learning is seen often in Yoga and fascia stretch.

THE ATHLETE’S CORNER

For an athlete, neuromuscular re-patterning come in the form of DNT (dynamic neuromuscular re-patterning) or RNT (reactive neuromuscular re-patterning). RNT operates on the premise that the body will do what it needs to maintain balance – homeostasis.  I am a bif fan of combining this approach in association with Sport NLP (neuro linguistic programming) can support breaking fear based barriers.

Gray Cook often says, “Does turning on your glute give you a better squat, or is giving you a better squat a better way of teaching you to fire your glute?” The chicken and the egg complex.

For instance; let’s take the basic squat pattern (a hip hinge) or chair pose in Yoga. More often when trainers/teachers visually see a client performing an exercise inefficiently, we cue them verbally. For instance “keep the knee tracking in line with the hip,” or “don’t let the knees rotate out.” And the client replies…”I’m trying…. or I don’t get it.”

Many faulty movement patterns, the body doesn’t recognize that the pattern it’s maintaining is sub-optimal. It’s compensated and over time that specific (yet foundational movement pattern) has been altered.

To assist the client in recognizing the error in proprioception; the coach/teacher can  apply a small amount of force to get the movement pattern to correct itself and the client to “feel” the correct movement range of motion. In other words, if the knees tend to drift medially from the midlines of the feet during a squat, then pushing the knees inward while instructing the patient/client to resist the push will cause him/her to activate the muscles that externally rotate the femur (thigh) in the hip more intensely. This will allow the client to understand somatically, as well as neurologically how to clean up and correct the movement. Then you can verbally cue tempo, control, breathing etc.

CONCLUSION

The last 4 part series has been an exploration on the science behind the connection of mind and body, more importantly, between our connection to motor learning, acceptance and improvement towards optimal health of the mind, body and spirit. Buddha, said it best…”what we think, we become,” sometimes we just need a little nudge.

Make sure to stay in touch with my weekly posts on facebook! https://www.facebook.com/pages/YogaFORM/211465704181

Matthew Kocel’s Fantastic Sound Journeys on Now!

Matthew Kocel’s Fantastic Sound Journeys on Now!

Matthew Kocel is a throat singer, visionary musician and healing arts practitioner driven by his mission to inspire unity through the universal language of music and sacred sound. The harmonic overtones of his voice –  two, three, or more notes at the same time – vibrate the core of your being with extraordinary sensations, awakening a deep spiritual presence beyond words.

Having personally attended a number of his events, I can vouch for the marvelous sensations and deep sense of calming energy his sessions create. He is leading a number of events in the coming weeks – including one this Friday night at Live Yoga in White Rock!!  The Healing and Cave adventure on July 28 is going to be simply awe inspiring…

See below, or Matthew’s website, for a full listing of his events.

Pause for a moment. Take a deep breath, and let this healing music take you on a journey to your inner sanctuary of peace.

Friday, June 15, 8:00 pm – 9:30 pm

  • Sound Healing Concert & Journey
  • Live Yoga:15186 Buena Vista Ave, White Rock, BC, Canada
  • Space is limited. Purchase advance tickets at Live Yoga or by phone 778 545 9918 email [email protected]
  • $25 +hst

Thursday, June 21 – Sunday, June 24, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

  • Mastery of Deep Trance States – Bridging Potential
  • Vancouver School of Theology (UBC):6000 Iona Drive, Vancouver, BC, Canada
  • Accessing your deep deep self is the gateway to the answers you seek  Matthew will bring his music and healing sounds to help facilitate rapid transformation and healing in this dynamic experience with Harry Nichols and Kathy Welter.
  • $499

Friday, June 22, 8:00 pm – 9:30 pm

  • Sound Healing Concert & Journey
  • Hari Om Yoga:20230 64 Avenue, Langley, BC, Canada
  • Space is limited. Purchase advance tickets at Hari Om Yoga or by phone 604.539.0566 email [email protected]
  • $20+hst

Friday, July 20, 7:00 pm

  • Healing Sounds of the Cosmos
  • Inspire Studio:1411 Cornwall Avenue,  2nd floor, Bellingham, WA, USA(MAP)
  • Doors open at 6:45. Mats provided, feel free to bring and extra cushion or blanket for you comfort.
  • $15 advance $20 at the door

Saturday, July 28, 2:00 pm – 7:30 pm

  • Horne Lake Sound Healing & Caving Adventure!
  • Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park:Vancouver Island BC, BC, Canada
  • Take a guided 3 hour “Ice Age Adventure” with Brad Morris and Matthew Kocel along with a group of fellow soul journeyers in the magical caves at Horne Lake!
    This thrilling trip starts off with a 20 min hike to the entrance of the Riverbend Cave. During the hike an informative and entertaining guide will explain how the Ice Age created these caves.  While exploring, you will be energized by the amazing energy emanating from crystal formations that are over ten thousand years old!
    Between these two magnificent caves you will see an underground waterfall, marvel at the amazing crystals and squeeze through the ceiling galleries – a small taste of “wild” caving!
    Don’t forget your camera!
    Healing Journey and Prayer Offering
    After visiting the Riverbend Cave, we will enter a series of marble passages and underground spaces in the Main Cave before diving into a powerful sound healing journey and prayer offering guided by Matthew Kocel,  capped off with group toning and chant.
    This is an incredible opportunity to amplify, broadcast, and anchor your deepest prayers for the Earth and humanity.
    Can you imagine how powerful it would be to chant in the deep caverns of an ancient cave in total darkness?
    Do you have prayers you wish to offer to our Mother Earth?
    The Crystal Caverns at Horne Lake are a natural, crystalline temple, just waiting for you!
    Feel into the intention and possibility for what this journey has in store, and you will know in your heart that this will indeed be a magical, once in a lifetime spiritual adventure!
    $144
The (Me)ntal (Heal)th of Yoga

The (Me)ntal (Heal)th of Yoga

Most of us recognize that when we breath and move, we feel better.  Slowing down and taking time to de stress, relaxes our body and mind, isn’t just a “buzz phrase.” There are physiological, as well as psychological proven benefits that extend well beyond the mat when you practice yoga and deeply affects your mental health.

Thursday night I held a salon conversation connecting youth with the positive platform of mental health and at risk youth. Yoga came up frequently,  from all the speakers, as one of the best forms of exercise that can be implemented into schools to help promote self confidence, discipline, and balance.

Lets dig deeper and answer these questions…

Can yoga help them do more than just feel a little bit better?

Can it heal their mental illness?

Yoga has long been seen as a tool for improving mental health, although concepts of what that entails have shifted over time and are distinct in different cultures. Not to mention mental health statistics vary globally.

Mental illness affects 1 in every 3 Canadians, and what most of us do not realize is that suicide is the second largest killer of young adults between the ages of 15-24. The annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health, states about 20 percent of adults suffer some sort of mental illness each year, and about 5 percent experience a serious disorder that disrupts work, family or social life. In Canada, one 1 out of every 6 children or youth has access to mental health resources. These are staggering numbers.

There are several schools of yoga that focus specifically on the intersections between asana practice and emotional health, and a growing body of studies indicates that yoga is often an excellent tool to treat the troubled mind.

My personal opinion on style is through experience with populations who have or are at risk for mental illness, and what I have found works for clients with mood disorders and especially my work with vets in the Canadian Armed Forces, injured in combat, a Yin style or light Vinyasa seem to have the largest affect. Both involve breath work and slow, controlled movement.

To date, the most persuasive evidence of the benefits of hatha yoga, and in particular pranayama, stems from research conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience  in India. New studies have shown a high success rate—up to 73 percent—for treating depression with breathing. .” It involves breathing naturally through the nose, mouth closed, in three distinct rhythms.

Yoga has been integrated into many high stress service careers; such as police departments and the Canadian Armed Forces. People who suffer from operational stress injuries or jobs that are high stress physically, as well as mentally are at greater risk, and Yoga can help combat high stress levels. Stress is one of the key factors in the onset of depression and anxiety.

Other benefits of yoga on our mental can include; improved ability to sleep, better moods, increased feelings of self-control, and better concentration and focus.

 

 

Sources:

Check out the full report in The Washington Post : http://wapo.st/wzYeST

Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA): http://vancouver-burnaby.cmha.bc.ca/

 

Vancouver Meditation Group

Vancouver Mediation Group is a Self-Realization Fellowship composed of members and friends of SRF, a worldwide, nonprofit religious movement founded in 1920 by Paramahansa Yogananda for the purpose of disseminating Kriya Yoga, a definite scientific technique for attaining direct personal experience of the higher power.

These techniques are available in a series of weekly lessons sent to your home in Vancouver from their international headquarters. The lessons contain techniques of energization, concentration, meditation, and the higher technique of Kriya Yoga, as well as instructions on how to live a balanced material and spiritual life.

Through its worldwide service and teachings, Self-Realization Fellowship seeks to awaken a greater understanding of the harmony underlying all true religions, and a fuller expression in this world of the love that unites all people when they realize their oneness in Being/ The Universe/ Higher Power/ God.

More information about the Vancouver Mediation Group, visit their website here, or the SRF headquarters: Self-Realization Fellowship.

Meditation & Fibromyalgia: Access Your Inner Qi

Conventional yoga wisdom holds that nothing prepares your body for meditation as well as a regular asana practice. Why? Beccause it allows you to connect mind with body, it is even more significant when our body is in a state of discomfort. When we are atune with our how our body moves, responds and feels, we are much more atune preventing stress and relieving physical stress caused by everyday activities.

Last week we introduced the linkage between fibromyalgia pain and fascial therapy and this week we continue to look at holistic approaches to reducing the pain associated with fascial discomfort and “dis-ease” that the medical community is still identifying.

One of the best forms of therapeutic movement is the slow and steady stillness found in a Yin Yoga practice and meditation. Meditation is key because its rooted are found in becoming more aware of balance and symmetry in our body and in our surroundings.

Let’s recap the physcial practice of asana; Yin and yang are relative terms, not absolutes. It’s certainly true that whenever we move and bend our joints in yoga postures, both muscle and connective tissues are challenged, and thus we begin to work in a more unified fashion.

Yang tissues (like musculoskeletal) are more fluid-filled, soft, and elastic; whereas, yin tissues (connective tissue, as in ligaments, tendons, and fascia) and bones are dryer, harder, and stiffer.  Extension style movements that focus on muscle tissue is yang and movements that focuses on connective tissue is yin. As is with all unique mechanics, connective tissue is different from muscle and needs to be conditioned differently.

When you gently stretch connective tissue by holding a yin pose for a long time, the body will respond by making them a little longer, offering the benefit of additional fascial tensegrity.  This has been found to be a great form of holistic treatment in people with fibromyalgia and other fascia diagnosed syndromes.

Because yin is an asana practice rooted in “stillness” when we incorporate deep meditation, the ancient affects of relaxation, restoration and rejuvenation can be felt throughout the body and this aids in the release of necessary hormones stimulated through deep diagphragmatic breath. Deepak chopra once said, “ In moments of chaos, keep stillness inside of you.”

As we know Yin is the Tao style of Asian Yoga decent,  closely realted to Tai Chi and  accessing the “qi” (pronounced chee) a connection to our “prana” or life force.

Chinese medical practitioners and yogis have insisted that blocks to the flow of vital energy throughout our body eventually manifest in physical stresses; that is linked to “syndromes” like fibromyalgia. Therefore, the combination of slow, steady stillness in meditation really does help us reach down into the body and gently stimulate the flow of qi and prana through the connectiv tissue. Both Yin Yoga and meditation serve as a unique tool for helping you get the greatest possible benefit from a yoga practice.

SEASIDE YOGA: ANCIENT BENEFITS

“Blue, green, grey, white, or black; smooth, ruffled, or mountainous; that ocean is never silent, is never still. ” ~ H.P Lovecraft

Regardless of where you practice Yoga, there is always something so serene about practicing Yoga outdoors. Not only is it an opportunity to be more eco-friendly and environmentally sound, but it also offers us a chance to re connect with the beauty of mother natures landscape.

Over the course of the next four weeks, I have been given the opportunity to teach my Yin YogaFORM4athletes workshops outdoors, marina side in False Creek with Le Physique Studio; where my students not only learn about the benefits of Yin and fascial elasticity, but are able to breath in the abundance of practicing seaside.

The ambiance of the sea, cool breeze and practice of Yin to balance out our Yang society evokes a feeling of euphoric calming that not only soothes the soul, but has many therapeutic benefits that go beyond ones practice.

Just take a moment and think that water is the most abundant compound in our body. But what you may not know is the water contained in all of our tissues, cells, blood, etc. is a salty water solution, very similar to the seawater.  

Almost 75% of our body is water:

  • Blood is 83% water
  • Muscles are 75% water
  • The brain is 95% water
  • Lungs are 90% water

Therefore, it is of no surprise that we connect so well with fresh flowing water, streams, rivers and oceans.

One of the largest benefits to practicing yoga seaside; is the abundance of salt in the air. During yoga we focus our attention on the pranyama or breath work; which gives rise to the opportunity to inhale the pure salt air that flows over the water.

Anyone who has enjoyed an ocean swim knows this refreshing feeling! Without salt in our bodies, we would faint due to low blood pressure, as it helps to regulate proper blood pressure parameters.  

Functionally significant to athletes; electrolytes are comprised of sodium, chloride and potassium. These minerals can carry an electrical charge and flow through any part of the body where water resides; which promote healthy cells by carrying nutrients into them and removing any waste as they depart. The main cause of muscle cramping is dehydration. The natural sodium and chlorine in unrefined salt work to maintain body fluids, keeping muscles well hydrated.

We have known for centuries that salt can inhibit bacterial overgrowth and if you are feeling a little under the weather, salt shrinks swollen membranes; congested membranes that can often lead to infections and the common cold. More over, it improves respiratory and cardiovascular functions. Salt is vital for extracting excess acidity from inside the cells, particularly the brain cells, kidneys and liver through sweat and urine.

During the changes of the seasons, salt is a strong antihistamine and combats the particles which cause allergies in the first place. Even in small amounts the salt from the ocean can help to increase circulation and assist in the rejuvenation of the cells, because it naturally aids in healing.

In a Yin practice, as we move and stretch, our fascial and central nervous systems relax and with this the body begins to naturally detoxify our tissues through the process of our asana practice.

Breathing in the sea salt air is just another way to improve your health and your experience of yoga overall. Practicing near water connects us deeper to our own internal water components as water hydrates the body, mind and soul; not only as a physical necessity, but as a symbol of our duality, and in the same time of our unity with all the other elements in nature.  Take time to breath, smell the fresh salt air and connect with your environment.

~Namaste~

BREATHE DEEP FOR INSPIRATION

“Two poles of a battery between which energy flows – in this way bandhas conduct breath through the body. Working against the force of gravity and achieving lightness; a union between the respiratory and pelvic diaphragms.” – Unknown

Last week well known Strength and Conditioning Coach Carmen Bott  CEO of Human Motion Strength & Conditioning (and friend – shameless plug),  asked an amazing question to her fellow friends and team:

 “Connective tissue then, in its various shapes and consistencies, forms a continuous net throughout the entire body. It contains many specialized structures, but it is really one piece, from scalp to soles, from skin to marrow. – Deane Juhan.

So then, how do we isolate the pelvic floor?”  – Carmen Bott

My extension of this question seeks to explore the answer as it relates to Yoga and the connection between the abdominal diaphragms (the respiratory and pelvic diaphragms), in addition to the activation of the mula bandha (in scientific terms the pelvic floor) through deep breathing techniques.

First let’s look at movement and posture for a moment and begin with the simple fact that “posture” comes from the Latin word placement – it is an action, much like sitting or standing. We are never truly placed in stillness, as we are always moving, shifting, balancing and adapting – even in the stillness of mediation and yoga. Therefore, as outlined in our on-going exploration of the interconnected fascial web – isolation is not plausible.

Secondly,  let’s recognize that the pelvic floor is not solely a muscle; its function is complex as it acts as a diaphragm and plays an integral role in breathing mechanics, but is commonly overlooked.  In actuality all three diaphragms pelvic, respiratory and vocal come together in yoga movements that are coordinated to facilitate the breathing cycle. Feeling how breathing works is a good way to realize the power of the diaphragms working  jointly, or sometimes working against one another, as seen in faulty mechanics.

Today’s article, we  are looking for reciprocity between the respiratory and pelvic diaphragms. When relaxed and in balanced acture, they face each other (like a beach ball) with a top and bottom. Understanding that we are always moving and our posture is constantly changing, the positioning of the shoulders-to-spine and spine-to-pelvis can vary; therefore  balance and reciprocity between these two diaphragms (like a slightly deflated or overly inflated beach ball) can be compromised. Balancing of the respiratory and pelvic diaphragms means an equal balance between 4 main muscle groups; which Tom Myers calls the four pillars.In easiest terms – a  constant balance of the back muscles, psoas complex, and the abdominals with breathing supported, ensures that the pelvic cavity is properly pressured.

In Yoga deep breathing techniques are used to bring about an awareness of the muscles associated with breathing, align proper intra abdominal pressure and calm the body into a state of stillness.

Of particular interest to Yoga practitioners is the action of mula bandha (pelvic floor) or as Carmen Bott’s question asked “So then, how do we isolate the pelvic floor?”

We already know isolation is not truly plausible, but through breath we can engage the pelvic floor and associated fascia– simply by initiating a lifting action produced in the pelvic floor muscles that also includes the lower fibers of the deep abdominal layers through breath.  Mula bandha is an action that moves apana upwards, and works to stabilize the central tendon of the diaphragm and fascial net.  Inhalation, while this bandha is active then requires a release of the attachments of the upper abdominal wall, which then permits the diaphragm to lift the base of the ribcage upwards establishing energetic dynamics of the pelvic girdle and aids to properly pressurize the pelvic cavity.

When relaxing the body in the more supported, horizontal, restorative practices and postures, it is important to remember to release the bandhas and constrictions that are associated with vertical postural support. This gives rise to zen-mode-relaxed breath work!

 Deep Breathing Yoga Exercises:

  • The Stimulating Breath /  Bellows Breath:  which aims to stimulate the pelvic floor/mula bandha and reflex actions of the diaphragm through quick exhalation)
  • The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise: (nurturing and calm meditative breath work to balance out the breath cycle)
  • Breath Counting: (designed to lengthen and strengthen the breath cycle through targeted breath counting)

All of these breathing exercises are adapted from various yogic breathing technique, all of which aim to raise vital energy and increase alertness, a clear state of mind and a physical stillness through movement and unify the abdomen through the respiatory and pelvic diaphragms – your organs will thank you for co-mingling support!

Sources:

Posture in Action, Anatomy Trains: Tom Myers (http://www.anatomytrains.com/)

Breathing Exercises: For a complete breakdown of breathing exercises link to Dr. Weil at   (www.drweil.com)

Carmen Bott, M.Sc, B.H.K,  CSCS: Founder & President of Human Motion Strength & Conditioning (http://www.humanmotion.ca/home.php) Blog: (http://www.carmenbott.com/blog2/)

Sound Journey with Matthew Kocel

This week was brilliant. I finished the second part of my 3-stage yoga teacher training certification. The highlight? After 8 straight days in class, our teacher Dan Clement arranged to have the Vancouver-based sound healer, throat singer and energy worker, Matthew Kocel, spend an afternoon with us before our 2-day break.

It was marvelous.

After a short intro about his journey and his work, Matthew explained that all matter is composed of dense vibrating energy. Combining the pure sounds of a harmonium, crystal and Tibetan singing bowls, conch shells, throat singing and mantra, Matthew creates sound that resonates in our bodies at a very tangible, energetic level.

He then invited us all to lie down on our mats and “go on a sound journey” with him.

Words seem so deficient for explaining the depth of experience we all felt. Without attempting to explain and thus limit the range of sensations my peers and I encountered, it was clear that something wonderful was happening. I was being moved by sound, my whole body was light and vibrating.

Matthew’s website is www.omshaman.com I strongly recommend attending one of his sound journeys – you will be amazed by the effects of sound on your body, mind and spirit.

Matthew trained as a massage therapist and attained his Reiki Master Level while in Colorado. He has delved into other energetic healing practices (see his website for more details, as well as music and events). He performs sound journeys routinely in the Vancouver area, as well as one-on-one healing sessions which combine all of his healing arts.

Matthew Kocel, www.omshaman.com Source: http://omshaman.com/fr_musicforawakening.cfm

Indecision…

I have been on the fence lately– about everything.

I’m making some changes in my life and it seems that the moment I change one thing, everything else is up for grabs too. I’m thinking about the life that I want to live, and realizing that everything is on the table. What is really important? Not what I think.

Indecision is about balance. It’s not always clear what choice leads to balance. My tried and true way is to go with my heart. Choose the option that makes my heart beat faster. But tonight, the ramifications of going in that direction seem extensive. Striking the balance between what feels best for me and what’s really best for me is daunting.

So I’m indecisive.

And that’s fine. It’s like the moment in a Yin yoga pose when you can’t bear the sensation, but you keep breathing and then your body opens up, like a sigh. It’s that moment– my teacher Cam calls it joyful discomfort. There is such freedom in that place.

Source: softwarebyrob.com

I’m meditating on my indecision. Getting still and breathing, quieting my mind even as it races. Staying with the joyful discomfort of not knowing how to find balance, confident that I will find the opening I need. Using this indecision as a reminder of how free I am.

Really, it’s a gift to be indecisive.

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