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Surrender to God

by Jessica Bryant

Surrendering to God is not always as easy as it sounds. Whenever you hear sermons or articles online say to “let go and let God,” it is easy to say and hear, and even harder to actually do. Whether it’s jealousy, anger, resentment, bitterness, or whatever else.

In the Bible, we are called to take up our cross and follow Him.

man reading a bible
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Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24 (ESV).

Some pastors will even add this is a daily task. I believe in that and strive to practice surrendering whatever it is I feel I need to yield to Him. Besides what has been mentioned previously, what could you submit to the Lord in your life? Could it be your finances? Your marriage? Your family? Or how about that ” ideal image” for your life which has yet to happen, but you still hold dear? For me, it’s all of the above. 

However, His plan and picture for my life could be drastically different than my idea of what I want my life to look like. As it says in His Word: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord” Isaiah 55:8.

Can I get a “Hallelujah”? Praise the Lord for that because our lives would be a wreck if we went our own way instead of following Him.

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This is where faith and trust come into the picture. If we don’t trust God, then think about the various blessings we could be missing out on. God calls us to trust in Him.

Abraham (back then, Abram) had to have real trust and faith in the Lord to abandon an area he had lived in his entire life, plus the family he didn’t take with him, to go where God told him to. “Now the Lord said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you‘” Genesis 12:1. That is the kind of trust that we need to have in the Lord.

Think about this, Abram had to let go of his life that he had well-established to surrender to God’s will. The Lord blessed him because of it. If God asked you to do the same thing He called Abram to do, meaning leave a place you have lived your entire life to go to a place He would show you; not a place He told you about at the start of your journey, but one He would show you, would you be able to trust God enough to do it? Think about that for a minute. I’ll wait.

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Letting go is easy when it’s something you’re not attached to, whether it’s a toy, a car, clothes you don’t wear anymore, a person, or even an idea or dream. Let me say that again so the people in the back can hear me: letting go is easy when you’re not attached to or have an investment in that thing, person, or idea.

Every day, we live in these little bubbles where we think we have control, even the tiniest little bit. Whether it’s over our finances, how clean our homes are, whatever. The truth is, we don’t have control. God does. And yet, we’ll do everything we can to hold onto something because it makes us feel as though there is something in this crazy world we have control over. It gives us this false sense of security because knowing we really don’t have control over our own lives makes us feel vulnerable. 

Being vulnerable to the God who created the universe can feel scary at first. Surrendering to His will for our lives is scary, if not more so than being vulnerable, but the reward we receive for following Him is well worth it.

What does this mean in regards to a yogic context?

Our physical bodies also need to let go. They have this unconscious habit of holding on to things via tension. This is one reason that when we release that tension during a yoga session that emotions can surface, even after the session is over. 

Don’t resist that emotional release, let it happen. Breathe through it. That emotional release is us letting go of something we never knew we were holding onto. It’s a beautiful thing to use yoga as a tool to help you not only get more fit but to let go and release whatever it is into God’s hands while opening up ours to receive whatever He wishes to give us at the time.

energy practitioner healing relaxed woman on yoga mat
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As Christians, we have this wonderful opportunity to bring anything on our hearts to the feet of Jesus or we can simply sit as Mary did. Sometimes, it’s sitting there in silence, other times it’s in child’s form with no words and only emotions filling your soul. Surrendering to Him can be so sublime. I invite you to do a personal inventory of what you may need to set at His feet and then go to Him in prayer.

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Strength in Jesus = Strength on the Mat

by Ashley Marshall

Stepping onto the mat, closing my eyes, breathing in the peace of the Lord. Beginning to prepare my body, mind, heart, and soul for what the Lord has for me during this time. Saying a quick prayer, I begin to open my eyes and move through a flow with expectations of lightness, satisfaction, and strength. Instead, what I am hit with is defeat and feelings of frustration rising to the surface. This is not right.

“Yoga is meant for empowerment of the body. Yoga is meant for showcasing the inner strength we all have. Right?”

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These irritating questions run through my mind, heightening my sense of dissatisfaction. Then, a quiet whisper says, “NOT IN YOUR STRENGTH, BUT MINE.” And my mind is silenced.

Psalm 73:26: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (ESV) So many times, we push through life going from one thing to the next without stopping and thinking we can do it all. We are tough. We are resilient. The honest truth is: we cannot and we are not. Our strength is finite, it gives out. Our bodies cannot do it all even though we try to push it to the extreme. By nature, we are weak creatures. Rest is a vital part of life. We need rest, but, most importantly, we need our infinite, loving Creator who created us to fully need and fully depend on Him.

Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (ESV) Paul was a disciple of Christ. He walked and talked with Him. He had a close and intimate relationship with Him. Even though Paul was a devoted follower of Christ, he was still weak. He was given a “thorn in his flesh” to remind him just how truly weak he was. When Paul begged to have it removed, Christ met him with a perfect response: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (ESV) HIS POWER IS MADE PERFECT IN OUR WEAKNESS! 

photo of woman standing with one leg
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We all experience limitations throughout our lives, just like Paul. Like Paul, we need to feel the joy and peace that comes from those limitations and see them as perfect gifts from above. When we overcome the pride deep in our hearts of needing to do it all in our own strength and seeing our lack of strength as a failure, we can start to experience it as an opportunity for Jesus to move in our lives. Once we see the good in our weakness, then our Heavenly Father will cover us with His abounding grace and envelop us in His perfect strength.

So, the next time we fall flat on our face on our mat while attempting the ever-elusive inversion, remember the weaker we are, the stronger we become through Him; the One who sees us, knows us, and loves wholly.

Ashley Marshall lives in Texas, has two children. She is a teacher and yoga instructor. Visit her blog www.bindmywanderingheartdotblog.wordpress.com

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Can Christians do Yoga?

By Dr. Amanda Brees, EDD RYT RMT, Meditation Researcher & Pastoral Counselor

I happened upon yoga, reiki, and meditation as a fifteen-year-old evangelical coping with symptoms of developmental trauma. At the time, I was unprepared for the resistance I would face given how much these complementary therapies (CTs) were helping me. Through yoga especially, I was able to experience a calm and stillness that provided an essential reprieve from the chaos of my reality. It was the extent of the healing potential of yoga that kept me committed to the practices despite the resistance I faced in every direction. I was required to meet with the pastor of my church to justify my decision to practice Christian yoga despite being on the leadership team of my youth group. I simply could not understand how something so profoundly helpful to my spiritual life and mental health could be so theologically incompatible with my faith. Unfortunately, this was only the beginning of that struggle. 

Eventually, I felt called to Mount Shasta, California—a small New Age rural town thriving on spiritual tourism. I ended up spending the better part of the next ten years of my life feeling at home in this community. During those years, I became a student of all things related to spirituality and healing. Yet, despite the freedom and acceptance found in this spiritual community, I never completely fit in. I only ‘resonated’ with Jesus, and therefore failed to ‘resonate’ with the fundamentalists who thought yoga was from the devil or the liberals who thought all paths lead to God. 

Then one day, I drove past an Assemblies of God Church with a sign out front that said, “The Gathering: A safe place for spiritual seekers.” I happened to be in the car with my other Jesus-loving yoga teacher friend, and we all but exploded with excitement. Could this be it? A place to love Jesus and meditate without being ostracized? I emailed the pastor shortly thereafter and informed him I was a bible-college graduate turned yoga teacher, and I wanted to know whether he meant what he said. Thankfully, he did, and for the next four years, I served as volunteer staff of that life-changing church plant. In the end, my faith matured, and 18 years after I set out on my Christian yoga journey, I graduated from Liberty University with a doctorate in Pastoral Care and Counseling.

My doctoral dissertation was a reflection of the authentic Christian healing and spirituality I found throughout a lifetime of discovering the implications of Christian yoga. I conducted my research study in the church apartment I resided in before moving back home to Minnesota. When I left, a Christian meditation group had just started. Spiritual seekers were coming to church, and many of them were joining the community and finding Jesus. Many had the same story I did—they had been rejected by Churchianity due to their failure to conform and give up their spiritual practices, but they knew faith still needed to play a vital role in their lives. 

What I found during my doctoral dissertation on Christian yoga surprised me. I decided to appeal to an authority higher than the pastors and professors who had prohibited me from doing Christian yoga. Instead, I conducted a meta-synthesis of 35 scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles on the topic of Christian complementary therapies for healing family trauma—appealing to the authority of the research. What I found was that Christian meditation is absolutely a healing tool that helps address complex and relational trauma in ways other methods fail. I also found a group of researchers asking the same hard theological questions I was regarding Christian meditation and yoga. 

What I learned on this dissertation journey was yoga was indeed rooted in the Vedic philosophy of ancient India, but the evolution of yoga continued to be adapted by different religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity, etc.) as it evolved throughout the ages. It was originally more of indigenous Indian shamanism based on the science of meditation that didn’t use postures at all. This is in alignment with yoga’s ultimate goal of union with God where postural yoga is simply a means to the end of preparing the body to sit in meditation. Postural yoga is something newer that was influenced by its movement to the West. Therefore, what surprised me was that the question is not whether Christians should do yoga (postures), but whether Christians should meditate. This left the, ‘Is yoga the intellectual property of Hinduism?’ debate secondary to the conversation regarding the theological implications of Christian meditation. Meditation seemed to fall more under the domain of Buddhism anyway. In this regard, those original pastors and teachers were right. Yoga has been adapted by many religions over thousands of years, which makes it vulnerable to the Hindu and Buddhist adaptions of yoga and meditation present today, but the story doesn’t stop there–enter the need for Christian yoga. 

Instead of treating Christians who practice yoga as theological second-class Christians, it is becoming apparent the Christian adaption of yoga and meditation is paramount. For Christians who disagree about postural yoga, it would behoove us to then shift the conversation to meditation. Meditation is simply a spiritual tool like prayer and fasting. This tool is not the intellectual property of any religion, and Christians have been adapting it for thousands of years. Although some experts advocate for Christian-sensitive practices, the reality is the Desert Fathers were just the original Christian adapters of meditation. Being that 70% of Americans still claim to be Christian, the development of Christian yoga and meditation is more vital today than ever before. Especially with the emergence of the third wave of behavioral therapy which is proving meditation, when combined with counseling, is immensely powerful in healing complex trauma. This was the consensus of the data set: we need Christians to become thought-leaders in adapting the third and fourth wave of behavioral therapy for Christians. 

In summary, Christian meditation is uniquely capable of healing our relationship with God through Christian enlightenment in alignment with yogic philosophy. It holds enormous power to help us to our true identity as being made in God’s image. Christian meditation challenges the Buddhist notion of no-self alongside the Hindu belief that the Self is God. Meditation is not only Christian-adaptable but vital for all Christians hoping to grow in their walk with the Lord. Through meditation, the research suggested that our neuroplasticity (the way our brains are wired) is restored to its God-intended state. As our attachment to God is restored, we awaken to our true nature as being made in His image. 

So, remember these things the next time you are faced with resistance from the yoga community for ‘appropriating’ yoga for Christians. If you’re a Christian practicing or teaching yoga and meditation, be encouraged! Your ministry in this world is important. The world needs your help understanding what parts of yoga and meditation need to be adapted for Christians and how to do that! You have the support of the worldwide growing movement of Christian yogis as you continue to navigate your calling to Christian yoga and meditation. Trust you are making a difference in this world by preserving your unique journey of Christian yoga.

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Yoga Using (Almost) Everything Around the Home

by: Jessica Bryant

There is a common myth about the use of props being “taboo” or makes you “less than.” Props are an amazing tool for any practitioner level. Not only do they help the beginner get the stretch in the targeted area, but they can also help the more seasoned yogi to deepen the stretch. You can use everyday items as props to practice.

Here are some items found around the home you can use to practice yoga:

  • Countertop: I like to stretch the back of my legs by doing a forward fold while holding onto the counter. Countertops can be good tools for helping maintain balance.
  • Table: If a table is about waist-high then it may be available for you to bend your knee and place your calf on the edge of the table (as if you’re in a simple seated position, for an outer hip stretch). You can also use the leg of the table to stretch your calf. Alternatively use the table to place the knife-edge of your foot against while doing a variety of forms. The latter suggestion may not work if you don’t have a steady table.
  • Table Chair:  You could do a whole chair practice here, especially if there are no arms on the chair.
  • Couch: The couch can be used in a similar manner as a countertop. If you sit on the edge of the couch, you could also do a chair practice here.
  • Wall: The wall is a great prop. At bedtime, it is a great prop for “legs up the wall” pose. You could also place your knees against the wall, curl the toes under, lean back to grab the heels for camel pose. 
  • Bedpost: Here, you may be able to do a gentle backbend, placing your hands on the bedpost. It would depend on the height of the bedpost.
  • Folding Step Stool: If it’s available to you, stand on the step stool for a forward fold, grabbing the front or sides of the step stool for a deeper stretch.
  • Blanket/Pants/Towel: If you don’t have a strap, these are a few items that you can use to help you get that stretch in. For example, you can use a towel or pair of pants to help you achieve that nice stretch in “Cow Face” arms. Speaking of this specific shape, for those who have long hair, it may be an option to put your hair in a ponytail and simply hold the top and bottom of the ponytail. It depends on the length of hair, as well.  Blankets and towels are also wonderful tools to place under or behind the knees/wrists for a bit of extra padding. It’s also a good option to have a pillow or a folded blanket under the hips during “legs up the wall,” if it is available to you.
assorted books on book shelves
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  • Books: Remember those thick encyclopedias or college textbooks you don’t use anymore? Well, here’s another use for them. Books, especially thick books, are great props if you don’t have any blocks handy. The idea here is to bring the floor up to you.
  • Pillows: These are great to use for a yummy restorative practice. In addition, these may be used to help get a little extra padding for those with bad knees. If the pillow is thick enough, it could be used in place of a bolster. In a chair practice, the thick pillow can give a little bit of a backbend or lift in the chest, depending on the height of the pillow.
  • People: You can also utilize people around you to help with your balance as well. When you have another person, you can practice partner pranayama, which is a breathing technique. Don’t worry. You don’t have to practice these crazy partner yoga forms you see online, where one person is balancing on top of the other!

This is not an exhaustive list because you can use just about anything to help you practice yoga. What are some items that you can locate in your home to help you practice? I invite you to get creative with your home practice. Have fun with it. 

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The Why & How of Ujjayi Breath in Yoga

Meditation and breathing

Yoga is the unity of mind and body and to achieve this unity, we often focus on our breath as we move through postures. Previously, I talked about How Pranayama Breathing Relieves Anxiety, but now let’s look at a type of Pranayama known as Ujjayi breath. In Sanskrit, Ujjayi breath means “victorious breath.”

Ujjayi breath is relatively easy to practice by constricting the back of the throat (just as you would while whispering) and forcing the breath to pass through the nostrils. The breath can be heard, and some compare it to the sound of the ocean. You may hear some practitioners even refer to this type of breathing as “ocean breath.”

Happy breathing

There are a number of benefits to this type of breathing, including:

  • This type of breathing helps balance our chakras, or “energy centers” in the body
  • Ujjayi breath is calming
  • It helps in regulating blood pressure
  • It helps the lungs work freely to pass air to all parts of the body (even off the mat)
  • Aids in concentration and focus (you can hold a pose longer while using Ujjayi breath!)
  • It can release tension in tight areas of the body
  • Strengthens the nervous and digestive system
  • Helps relieve headaches and sinus pressure
  • It regulates the heat throughout the body

While any type of healthy breathing is beneficial to the body, we can practice different types of breathing during our yoga practice to benefit not just the body, but also the mind!

Namaste,

Tina

Body Prayer—Yoga as Worship & Slowing Down

The world is getting back to being “busy” all the time! Here is an inspirational article to help you slow down and be with God!

Written by Amy Bernier

Life is busy. Isn’t the American way to reply to the question “How are you?” to reply “BUSY!” with a sense of pride? Even our worship time can be penciled in; Church at nine and maybe volunteer here or there. Done. Checkbox- checked. Because of this, true deep connection with our Father can sometimes feel unattainable, maybe even a luxury we just cannot afford.

To help us carve out time for worship we may look to Jesus for inspiration. He was Son of God but also Son of Man; born of a woman, who felt hunger, thirst, fatigue, and an array of human emotions. He had very serious work to do here on Earth; however, he knew when and how to fill his cup and to commune with his Father.

Often, Jesus would walk away from the world so to speak to be alone with God. As a yogi, and one who regularly walks away from the world to connect with God in nature while on my yoga mat, I can see how the Son of Man needed this breathing room. “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” Luke 5:16. And later “One of those days Jesus went out to the mountainside to pray” Luke 6:12.  

The movement of walking to a quieter place allowed Jesus to move his body, giving him the movement he needed and the space to clear his mind so he could be still.

“Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10. The movement of walking or yoga practice for modern day worshippers allows for this deeper connection to God in the stillness. Yoga practice is unique in that the movements of the body quiets the mind, allowing for stillness interspersed through the practice. This happens as we hold poses to simply connect with God in our own way of devotion, connection, and worship; using our bodies to pray.

Life is inherently busy, but sometimes busy is a way to avoid deeper connection with ourselves and God within. There is also the societal push that if we are simply being and not doing and accomplishing, we are not useful!

The beauty of being human and God given is we have choices. In fact, God gave us free will; he does not want to be a dictator Father. He is a loving and patient Father, always waiting and full of joy to connect to and be with his children.  

Today let us choose to find breathing room, in nature, on our yoga mats, sitting in our cars if this is what it takes! To choose to be with God as Jesus did, to choose over and over again, this is called prayer practice. 

Jesus engaged in the world with all the qualities of God. He modeled for us how to be and do in the world embodying the qualities of his Father. This includes things such as patience, humility, forgiveness and in truth and love. Jesus also knew he could not serve the world of his Father with an empty cup.   

So, I encourage you loved ones to use your body to pray. In whatever way serves you. We are all unique, and what serve me may not serve you. I can say for sure my yoga practice has helped me set my worldly ego-self aside. I need to remember over and over again, how loved I am, who I am to him, and move into the world from a place of love, truth, forgiveness, humility, and patience. Let the world have it’s busy!   

I leave you with this final verse. “You have always given me breathing room, a place to get away from it all. A lifetime pass to your safe-house, an open invitation as your guest.  You’ve always taken me seriously, God” Psalm 61:3-4. This safe- house for breathing room is your body my friends. It is always available when you take the time to be still and encounter God and all his peace, wonder, and grace within you and in his beautiful world. 

Amy Bernier is a child of God. She prefers to be identified more as a be-er than a doer. Her favorite be-ing practices include ambling through the woods connecting to the trees, earth, sky, and God, yoga, and meditation. She tries to sprinkle some being as modeling by Jesus and his characteristics into all of her doing as a mom, wife, yoga teacher/ therapist and exercise physiologist. If you would like to “be” with Amy consider joining her via YouTube in a spirit filled yoga practice. 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuJtxF7–Y3JzElAffjAlZA

Raising Kid Yogis Who Pray

Over the weekend I struggled like I do every September 11th. This year was harder than most, because twenty years is a significant amount of time, and much attention was being called to it. It was hard to believe so much time had passed, and still (sometimes) hard to process the emotions we feel as adults. I can not possibly imagine how a child would process this.

I know my children don’t remember, because they are only 4 and 6 years old. With so much coverage about the anniversary, it made me start to think, how do I explain this to my children?

My children have lived through a pandemic, rioting, shootings, shutdowns, a war against the police, racism, the events surrounding the war in the middle east, face masks, and closed playgrounds to name a few things.

My kids probably know more than the average child their age. It is not because daddy is a United States marine, or for any other reason than we have been as honest as we could with them. We are also trying to raise good humans. We have been honest about what is going on in the world, so they know how to navigate this mess because if we are in the end times the Bible speaks of, it will only get worse.

This is something we find harder to navigate each day. Thankfully we are not alone, and we have God on our side, guiding us as parents. I can not imagine living in a world like this without a loving God like the one we have.

This year alone, we switched to homeschooling full time (not just remote learning, we pulled them out completely), they witnessed the remains of a Korean war vet be returned home as their daddy helped escort him with the VFW. My children have never argued when they were told they had to stay inside, and they did not complain when they stood on an overpass, in the bright summer sun, to salute a police officer, killed in the line of duty, and going home.

I then also had to explain to my children why I always say, “I love you,” to Officer Jeff, a friend of the family, when we hang up the phone. Have you ever had to explain “in case it’s the last time we talk,” to a four- and six-year-old? That one not only tripped me up but choked me up.

So, what does this have to do with 9.11?

Well, nothing and everything.

I decided, having dealt with the aftermath of watching our military family fall apart, (to include their own father) in response to the actions in Afghanistan, this isn’t the time to explain 9.11. They have handled SO much in such a short amount of time, and honestly, I am so proud of them. I felt as though they did not need this one other HUGE thing to think about and process.

I lucked out and made it through the weekend without having to explain it, but there was still something not quite right. While I know my kids can handle a lot, and I’m proud of them for it, I missed HUGE opportunities to grow them in the ways of the Lord.

I did not even realize how bad I missed out on the opportunities until I saw a headline from Liz Spenner which was posted on Her View From Home. Her article “I Want To Raise Children Who Stop And Pray at Sirens” caught me from out of nowhere. While my kids know how to pray, and they do so, at the appropriate time, I never taught them about the most IMPORTANT times. All the things we had exposed our children to over the past few years only taught them how to hold themselves emotionally. I left out the spiritual part.

So what does this have to do with yoga?

Again, nothing and everything.

In the moments when things are seeming to just be out of control, their dad and I focused on how to make them respond as a decent human, not a spiritual one. I also have failed to teach them to uses their prayers and talk to God on the mat. My children will ask to bring donuts or gift cards to police officers, but we never taught them to pray for them. We never taught them to take time with God and reflect on the job these men and women do each day, and sometimes give their life doing! My children have volunteered to escort rescue animals to specialty hospitals, spay-neuter clinics, and wildlife rehab, but we have never talked about praying for the people who heal, or even those who abuse animals.

While I realize for some people Christian Yoga is a contradiction, for many of us, it is where we sometimes feel the closest to the Lord, because we are teaching ourselves to slow down, reflect, turn inward, and pray upward (to God).

The good news is, I caught myself. I have time to impress upon them the power of prayer. I can still teach them being a good human also means praying for people we do not know or are not even nice people because they need God the most. There is still time to teach them to use their time on the mat, as young yogis, to connect with God in a private and emotional way. If you have ever experienced emotional release on the mat, you understand. Not only will it foster good humans, but good yogis as well.

Pigeon Pose for Trauma Release

When I first came to yoga, I used to dread hearing the yoga instructor (whom I was quite fond of!) start leading us into Pigeon Pose (known in Sanskrit as Eka Pada Rajakapotasana). The dread did not last long and invariably, something always would happen once I was in the pose. I started to feel wonderful…not just great….WONDERFUL. I mean this not just physically, but mentally. Having suffered the majority of my life with Major Depressive Disorder (depression), I was amazed at my mental clarity with this pose. Now I see my own students making “the face” when I tell them where we are going with our next pose. I tell them it’s okay….trust me on this one! The mental benefits far outweigh the awkwardness of getting into the pose when one is just learning.

Of course, I was sure it was the practice of yoga as a whole, which made me feel so amazing, but something about Pigeon soon had me doing the asana (pose) on my own, not just at the studio. I was addicted. Sometimes I was so busy, I had time for one pose in the morning to start my day, of course, it was Pigeon! A beautiful pose, great for opening up hips, there is more to the posture than meets the eye.

According to those who have studied trauma, the hips are a place where many humans store emotions, including stress, fear, and anxiety. These are feeling the human body pushes down into the hips, causing them to be tight. This is much like how we clench our jaw in a stressful situation or hold tension in our neck and back.

Not only do we as humans store our trauma in our hips, but this tends to be true mostly for women. Thinking about things women go through, such as giving birth, this should come as no surprise.

pigeon-pose-yoga-woman-doing-hip-opener-isolated-white-background-67326909

While the act of pushing negative emotions into the hips is not a conscious decision, it is primal, and we all tend to do it to some extent. I’ve heard several yogis refer to the hips as the “junk drawer to the body.”

Adding Pigeon in any of its variations to your yoga routine can help you release the pent-up emotions held in your hips. For me, I would feel the benefit as soon as I was in the pose. For others, the relief may come later, such as during the drive home, for example.

It may take time to be able to get comfortable in the pose. In my own practice, it took several classes to become comfortable and do the pose without the help of blocks.

Other poses to help open hips and process emotions:

  • Reclining Twist: Supta Matsyendrasana
  • Crescent Lunge: Anjaneyasana 
  • Garland Pose: (Malasana)
  • Goddess Pose: (Utkata Konasana)
  • Half Lotus: Padmasana
  • Bound Angle: Ardha Padmasana

We now know Pigeon Pose is great for our mental health, but there are physical benefits as well. These include:

  • Opens the hip
  • Improves alignment
  • Improves posture
  • Lessens sciatica pain
  • Relieves lower back pain
  • Lengthens the hip flexor
  • Helps with urinary disorder

I highly encourage you to add the Pigeon pose into your regular practice so you can get the benefits of emotional release. It’s time to open up your “junk drawer” and add a pose to your yoga routine. You might just find yourself craving this pose!

Namaste, Tina

How Pranayama (Yoga) Breathing Relieves Anxiety

We can all agree, breathing is important. It’s the first thing we do when we are born. We take our first breath, and we continue to breathe the rest of our lives. Without breath, we have no life, but how can the WAY we breathe help our daily lives and the anxiety we face?

Focused breathing, known in the world of yoga as “Pranayama,” can help alleviate some of the symptoms associated with anxiety. Pranayama is the Sanskrit word for “breath or life force.” Alternatively, it also means “breath control.”

Understanding how Pranayama works will allow you to use focused breathing for anxiety relief.

Breathing 4

“The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7).

When something happens causing people to panic, concerned people around them will remind them to “just breathe,” but why do they do this? It’s because the breath can be calming and restorative.

It works in a number of ways. In another post, we will talk about methods for using the breath to calm ourselves, but for now, let us explore the “how” of breathing and finding relief for anxiety.

So let’s start with what anxiety feels like. Everyone is different, but you might feel some or all of these things during an anxious episode:

  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feelings like choking (or a lump in the throat)
  • Chest Pain
  • Nausea
  • Chest Tightness
  • Fear of close-by danger
  • Fear of dying
  • Heart Palpitations
  • The need to escape
  • Feeling disoriented

Most psychiatrists/doctors need at least four of these elements to diagnose a panic attack.

It is with the breath, we are able to help control the feelings we are having during an anxiety attack. With slowed, rhythmic, concentrated breathing, you can reduce anxiety because of proper breathing:

  • Slows your heart rate causing muscles to relax
  • Decreases blood pressure
  • Slows breathing
  • Decreases metabolism

Being aware of HOW you are breathing will help during an anxiety attack. Often in the panic of an attack, many people will breathe faster and shallow. This leads to the feeling of having shortness of breath, fostering the symptoms further. Slowing the breath, and allowing the body to use the breath to calm the body naturally, is the best way to overcome anxiety naturally, wherever you are when you feel anxious.

I will post breathing techniques soon!
Namaste, Tina

Yin Yoga Explained

One of my favorite classes to teach is “Yin Yoga.” One of the questions I get most is “what is Yin Yoga?”

I remember the first time I tried Yin Yoga. During my teacher training course, another student was “testing out” by teaching a class to everyone. While most of us did a typical flow class, Nan wanted to introduce us to Yin. I had never practiced Yin in any of the studios I had practiced, but I wanted to know everything about yoga, so I was eager to try something new. When we were 15 minutes into the class, I knew I was in love and would be teaching this style in my own studio.

http://Photo by Conscious Design on Unsplash

In short, Yin Yoga is a slow-paced yoga class, usually based around floor poses, held for 3-5 minutes.

If you’re new to yoga or the style of Yin, you might try holding poses for 1-3 minutes, and work your way up to 5 minutes. Many Teachers will use egg timers to teach a class, and they are helpful in your private practice as well!

While its roots are founded in India and China, Yin is a relatively new practice (1970’s) to the western world. The practice has spread to Europe recently as well.

What I loved about the practice was how much space I found in my body as I opened up in each pose. As the muscles stretch, it is possible to move deeper into the pose.

Yin concentrates on the areas of the body with connective tissue between muscles and joints (these are the tendons and ligaments). Yin also releases the “fascia” layer of connective tissue. The fascia layer is what holds our body together and gives us our shape (so it’s pretty important!) As we work with the fascia layer, we increase the flexibility of the body. One of the most common reasons people turn to yoga is for increased flexibility!

In addition to the physical benefit of stretching our muscles and become more flexible, Yin Yoga also quiets the most important organ in our body, the brain. During your practice, the brain is not being bombarded with messages, information, ads, conversation, etc. The mind can take the time it needs to be still.

Benefits of Yin Yoga include:

  • Increased circulation
  • Flexibility
  • Calming effects on mind and body
  • Energy movement through the body
  • Improved joint mobility

No matter what benefit you seek from Yin Yoga, it’s worth giving it a try! You might be amazed at how much your body opens up as you move deeper into the pose. You also might be surprised at how relaxing and calming the practice is for the mind!

Namaste,

Tina

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