Category Archives: Yoga

Yoga. What can I say? Follow your bliss. Live in the moment. Balance mind, body, soul. Discover your Truth. Get a nice booty! Yoga’s transformed my perspective on the world and I feel a more evolved soul as a result. See www.yogalovin.com for more articles on yoga.

Yoga Resume?

It’s 2014, ya’ll. I’ve seen so many modern clashes with yoga, especially in the last four years or so, I’ve had to take a step back and contemplate whether or not to remain a part of it all.

Twerking in a “yoga” class (for real, though?? Another blog is coming of that one…), America’s cursed classism/racism divides, yogi-preneur courses, and the iconoclasm of asana (my unintentional contribution below! Please definitely read some of my posts on asana if these images lead you to believe I equate asana with yoga ;)).

But I can’t stay away from sharing a practice that’s not just transformed me for the better, it’s literally saved my life. That and … the universe keeps talking to me, “Teach again, Jogini, it’s time!”

Back when I was friggidy fresh out of teacher training, I always had a yoga resume handy. For a good few chapters in my life, I moved countries or states almost every year, so re-establishing myself became a fine art and science.  I still have a yoga resume, though I haven’t really needed to use it much since coming home. This time ’round, I made a conscious decision to work at a non-profit full time and not pursue teaching opportunities.

Now, those opportunities are pursuing me, through friends, family, new acquaintances, and other teachers I’m meeting along the way.

First of all, I’m honored. And at the moment, I’m not sure how necessary a yoga resume is any more. Going through the latest iteration of my resume, I can’t shake this feeling that I’m missing something, some training, or experience . . . some crucial part of the story that’s not being told. It doesn’t specify that each class includes pranayam and meditation. Nor does it really say all the places where I’ve taught. There are no images (though I use them in online mediums), and definitely no stories.

Then again, let’s face it, resumes are fairly limited in their narrative capacity, and is a “resume” even an appropriate summation of a yoga teacher’s ability? Is a resume too Western or modern a way to present a yoga teacherʻs skills?

Whatever the answers to those questions may be, as part of the process of transitioning from “consciously not teaching” to “opening to teaching again,” I’m posting the short version of the resume, along with my asana photo album, as a symbolic gesture 🙂 And it feels really good to do it!

JoanneOSKellyYoga

 

Meditation, Keaiwa Heiau

IMAG0539There’s no diggidy, no doubt about the proven benefits of meditation these days:

1. Strengthens the immune system (Davidson et al. 2003; Tang et al. 2007)

2. Decreases stress-related cortisol (Tang et al. 2007)

3. Increases grey matter in the

  • Insula
  • Hippocampus (a/b: Hozel et al. 2005, 2008)
  • Prefrontal cortex (Lazar et al. 2009)

4. Reduces cortical thinning due to aging in prefrontal regions strengthened by meditation (Lazar et al. 2008)

5. Improves psychological functions associated with these regions, including

  • attention (Cater et al. 2005; Tang et al. 2007)
  • compassion (Lutz-Brefczynski-Lewis et al. 2008)
  • empathy (Lazar et al. 2005)

6. Lifts mood by increasing activation of the left frontal regions (Davidson 2004)

7. Increases the power and reach of fast, gamma-range brainwaves in experienced Tibetan practitioners (Lutz et al. 2004)

8. Helps a variety of medical conditions, including

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Asthma
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • PMS
  • Chronic pain (a-e: Walsh and Shapiro 2006)

9. Helps numerous psychological conditions, including

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Phobias
  • Eating disorders (a-d: Walsh and Shapiro 2006)

10. Improves focus.

Studies show that even if you’re a novice meditator, meditating just three times a week for twenty minutes a pop will yield you (and those around you) many of these potent results.  Empirical evidence like this helps comfort me when I let my personal practice slip, when I succumb to the ebb and flow of life, and find myself in beginner’s shoes now and again.

IMAG0541On my way to drop off my rental car at the airport today I noticed a park on the map I had never been to before – Keaiwa Heiau Park.  I stopped off at Down to Earth to pick up a few snacks and zig zagged up Aiea Heights to the piney top of the mountain ridges.  The citrus pine aroma tickled my senses when I opened the car door.  My eyes felt brighter, my mindscape clearer already.

IMAG0536Walking over to the heiau, I felt surprisingly shy, like I wanted this experience to be more private than I knew it would be.  A family sat picnicking at a bench not far from the entrance to this ancient burial site, their kids playing tag, this earth no different from a playground.  A group of 20-somethings looked to be discussing the heiau in a workshop-esque gathering on the opposite side.  I wanted to be alone, so I could hear the ancestor’s whispered stories, so I could smell the offerings of the past.  I wanted only the trees to watch over our exchange.

But death is just another stage in life, and reverence is always subjective.  So I continued on.

After visiting each of the sacred circles and altars, I found some shade under a tea leaf bush and meditated.  Just a simple session focused on breath, HA in Hawaiian, the conduit of mana (known as prana in yogic philosophy).  It was only a short sit, and rather than experience the grounding heaviness I expected from a site of this nature, I felt incredibly light when I opened my eyes.  And so grateful for the opportunity to practice in such a sacred circle, on a mountain formed from a fire beneath the sea, in a place I still call home.

IMAG0538

Gajananam Sloka, Ewa Beach

Auspicious beginnings may be a matter of set destiny, random luck, or some combination of the two extremes.  But on my first day home to live, after seventeen years away, I wasn’t about to take any chances.

IMAG0531-1

As soon as was humanly possible (since  the power of “Beam me up, Scottie” remains a dream yet to manifest) I drove myself, along with four rather burly suitcases, to my childhood beach.  It was no easy task, especially after 2 hours of sleep, a 10 hour plane ride, a mission getting to the rental car spot, and a dying cell phone.  I realized, no matter how sticky logistics might be on the surface, when you have a solid intention that comes from the core of your being, it doesn’t feel “difficult” at all.  All those challenges are simply what you need to do to get where you want to go.  And everything finds a way to unfold . . .

To the backdrop of sapphire waves and the imminent Diamond Head, with mynah birds chirping, and a cool salty breeze on my cheek, it all started, like so many amazing moments in my life, with the Gajananam Sloka.

ganesha-with-lotus-flower-julie-oakesGajananam Bhutagaanadi Sevitam
Kapittha Jambu Phala Saara Bhakshitam
Uma Sutam Shokavinaasha Kaaranam
Namaami Vigneshvara Paada Pankajam

I prostrate myself before the lotus feet of Vigneshvara (Ganesha), the son of Uma, who destroys sorrow, who is served by the host of angels, who has the face of an elephant, who partakes of the essence of kapittha and jambu fruits.

Shadananam Kumkuma Raktavarnam
Mahaamatim Divya Mayura Vaahanam
Rudrasya Sunam Surasainya Natham
Guhaam Sadaaham Sharanam Prapadye

I always take refuge in Guha of six faces (Subramanya), who is of deep red color like kumkuma, who possesses great knowledge, who has the divine peacock to ride on, who is the son of Rudra (Siva), and who is the leader of the army of the devas (gods and angels).

saraswati9Yaa Kundendu Tushaara Haara Dhavalaa
Yaa Shubhra Vastraavritaa
Yaa Vina Varadanda Mantita Karaa
Yaa Shvetaa Padmaasanaa
Yaa Brahmaachyuta Shankara Prabhritibhi
Devaihi Sadaa Pujitaa
Saa Maam Paatu Saraswati Bhagavati
Nishesha Jaadyaapahaa

May the Goddess Saraswati, who wears a garland white like the kunda-flower, the moon and the snow, who is adorned with pure white clothes, whose hands are ornamented with the vina and the gesture of blessings, who is seated on a white Lotus, who is always worshipped by Brahma, Vishnu, Siva and other gods, who is the remover of all inertness and laziness, protect me.

pbaab002_lord_shiva_meditationOm Namah Shivaaya Gurave
Sat-chit-ananda Murtaye
Nishprapanchaaya Shaantaaya
Sri Sivanandaya Te Namaha
Sri Brahmanandaya Te Namaha

Salutations to Guru Shiva, who is the embodiment of Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute, in whom worldliness does not exist, who is ever peaceful. Salutations to Sri Sivananda, Salutations to Swami Brahmananda.

Om Sarve Mangala Mangalye
Shive Sarvartha Sadhike
Sharanye Trayambake Gauri
Naaraayani Namostute
Naaraayani Namostute

I salute the three-eyed Divine Mother Narayani, who brings auspiciousness and who fulfils all the desires of the devotee (both spiritual and material).

maori-ganesha-tattoo-1803208837 Ganesha, by the way, is said to remove and place obstacles along one’s path, keeping things smooth, or putting you in check, depending on what is needed.  Just hearing this sloka sends a warm release through my body, but chanting it aloud is a fully empowering practice.

I set clear intentions for moving home – though probably not nearly as prolific as my journal entries, I think I covered them all!  I sat in receptive meditation, gave thanks to the universe, and finished it off with a prasad of spicy poke and grapes.

Oh, it’s on . . . 🙂

Instant Balance – Anuloma Viloma

Lawd knows I love me some pranayamSitali for cooling, ujjayi for warming, and anuloma viloma for boosting your energy (prana), focusing the mind and balancing the nervous system.  I find the practice is best done in the morning, bringing clarity and concentration for the rest of the day.  It’s been absolutely indispensable in this transition phase, a time full of visitors, traveling, meticulous logistics of moving, and the inevitable emotional fluctuations that follow.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Sit very comfortably.  This could mean any number of seated postures: padmasana, virasana, swastikasana, or even sitting on a chair.  If you’d like more room for your hip flexors to breathe, place a pillow under you sit bones.  Ideally, your spine is straight, giving your diaphragm and ribcage maximum mobility – thereby giving your lungs the space to expand (and contract) fully.

2. Close the eyes.  Tune into the breath.  Relax all the muscles of the face from the top of the forehead, systematically relaxing all the way down to the chin.  Relax the tongue, but allow the tip to make contact with the back of the two front teeth, right where they meet the gums.  Keep the eyes closed but bring your gaze to the space between the brows.

3. Bring your left hand to chin mudra (the connection between the thumb and index finger symbolizes the unification of self with greater Consciousness).

ChinMudra
Chin Mudra

4. Bring your right hand to Vishnu mudra. Vishnu Mudra is  meant to bring the three bodies (spiritual, mental, and physical) into alignment.  While the index and mid-finger are drawn into the palm, the remaining digits, associated with Earth, Air and Fire are left extended and engaged which can bring a sense of stability and focus.

vishnumudra
Vishnu mudra

5. Inhale in abundance, filling the belly, ribcage and chest.  Exhale in gratitude.

6. Bring your right thumb to cover the right nostril and inhale through the left.  Try inhaling for 4 seconds to begin with, then you can progress toward 5, 6, 7, 8 seconds.  This might elicit more ease-full concentration, and is a nice alternative if Vishnu mudra is not compatible with your hands.

7. Hold both nostrils and retain for 16 seconds.  The retention – khumbaka – is held for four times the length of the inhale.

8. Exhale right for 8 seconds, twice the amount of the inhale.

9. Inhale same side (right) – 4 seconds

10. Retain – 16 seconds

11. Exhale left – 8 seconds

12. Inhale left – 4 seconds, and continue like this.

General Tips

Start out doing four rounds.  If that feels comfortable, add more rounds.  The more rounds you do, the more significant the benefits.  According to Prahlad, the head of asana at Sivananda, it’s best to do more rounds of anuloma viloma than to try and add seconds to the counts.  Remember, the ratio to inhale-retention-exhale is 1-4-2.

You may wish to skip retentions, and simply inhale left – exhale right – inhale right – exhale left.  If you are 100% new to the pranayam, this is probably a good place to start.

noretention

In these directions, I’ve asked you to start inhaling through the left side; to finish the round you will end with an exhale on the left.  Other schools begin with an inhale on the left side; just be sure both sides are balanced when you’ve completed the cycle.

Be sure to keep the shoulder relaxed away from the ear; feel free to adjust if the body becomes uncomfortable.

Just what are the benefits?

The left nostril correlates to the parasympathetic nervous system.  Breathing in and out through this nostril will calm your nervous system, creating feelings of peace and spaciousness.  In yogic philosophy, this side stimulates the ida channel and is associated with moon energy, the cooling calming yin to the yang.  The right nostril is said to stimulate the pingala channel in yoga, igniting firey energy, more closely associated with yang.

Anuloma viloma balances the nervous system, trains one’s ability to focus, and increases lung capacity.

Science for the curious and skeptics

If you’re interested in reading studies on pranayam techniques from an empirical point of view check out a few from PubMed here:

Sitali Breath

Beads of sweat merging on my brow, hair stuck to my neck,  long yoga pants and a two layers of tops covering most of my skin, no air conditioning, a subway car full of French people (and their respective body odors), I’d been traveling for 10 hours and still had 13 stops til my destination.  The air quality may not be ideal, but the best way to cool down – sans icey cool water – has got to be sitali breath (Monday’s source of gratitude).

The Cooling Breath

Sitali Pranayama is often translated as “the cooling breath” because the act of drawing the air across the tongue and into the mouth is said to have a cooling and calming effect on the nervous system. To practice Sitali, you need to be able to curl the sides of your tongue inward so that it looks like a straw. The ability to curl the tongue is a genetic trait. If you can’t, try an alternative technique called Sitkari Pranayama, which offers the same effects.

Benefits: Can improve focus; reduce agitation, anger, and anxiety; and pacify excess heat in the system.

sitaliTry it: Twice a day, or as needed during stressful times. Sitali and Sitkari Pranayama are particularly supportive when you’re feeling drowsy in the morning or during an afternoon slump when you need to improve your focus.

How to: Sitali Pranayama: Sit comfortably, either in a chair or on the floor, with your shoulders relaxed and your spine naturally erect. Slightly lower the chin, curl the tongue lengthwise, and project it out of the mouth to a comfortable distance. Inhale gently through the “straw” formed by your curled tongue as you slowly lift your chin toward the ceiling, lifting only as far as the neck is comfortable. At the end of the inhalation, with your chin comfortably raised, retract the tongue and close the mouth. Exhale slowly through the nostrils as you gently lower your chin back to a neutral position. Repeat for 8 to 12 breaths.

Sitkari Pranayama: Open the mouth slightly with your tongue just behind the teeth. Inhale slowly through the space between the upper and lower teeth, letting the air wash over your tongue as you raise your chin toward the ceiling. At the end of the inhalation, close the mouth and exhale through the nostrils as you slowly lower your chin back to neutral. Repeat for 8 to 12 breaths.

(cheers to Kate Holcomb at Yoga Journal for that)

California Judge Allows Yoga in Schools

Setting the right precedent …. seeing this article in my inbox today had me smiling …

From THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, Published: July 1, 2013

A judge ruled Monday that the Encinitas Union School District can teach yoga, siding with administrators who argued that the practice was a secular way to promote strength, flexibility and balance and rejecting pleas of some parents who said the classes were inherently religious and violated the constitutional principle of separating church and state. Yoga is a religious practice, but not the way the district teaches it, Judge John S. Meyer of San Diego Superior Court said. He emphasized that the district stripped classes of all cultural references, including the Sanskrit language. The lotus position was renamed the “crisscross applesauce” pose. A lawyer for two Encinitas parents said he would most likely appeal. About 30 families have opted out of the classes.

Yoga Family

Aspects of yoga can be rather isolating –the meditating, asanas, pranayam, and svadhyaya are all done solo.  You travel inward to get to know yourself, uncovering the patterns and surprises within your layers – some latent, some rather more active.  All paths are unique, yet we become aware that we are all connected somehow. It can seem like a contradiction – if you’re thinking about it too hard ;).

Seekers are often brought together in random places like bus stops and cafes, but I’ve more commonly met my yoga family in centers, ashrams, studios and monasteries.  We rock up there for long periods of spiritual development and, inevitably, deep connections are made.

Friendships formed in the mold of yogic experience are forged in the heat of tapas.

When we’re blessed to explore these friendships outside of our practice spaces as well, my instinct is to call these beautiful souls my yoga family.  Of course, there is a greater yoga family, the international crew of people who are shining that inner divine through all sorts of yogic paths and funky combo approaches. Millions of us out there – doesn’t it warm your heart to imagine?

Here in France, my yoga family has been representing in full effect. My yoga brother in Paris and yoga sister in Nice have gone above and beyond mere hosting – they’re even feeding me disgusting French foods so my facial expressions will delight the table.  We’re officially in the realm of family now!  Ha!

So, Tuesday’s source of thanks: Yoga Family.  With love from the infinite source, for the shared intentions, depth, trust, honesty, generosity, and oodles of good times, thank you!