Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mindfulness: This too shall pass

“Mindfulness” comes up a lot in terms of meditation and yoga. After speaking to a group of bariatric patients recently, I realized the huge impact of awareness - whether or not one practices yoga.
Yoga demands mindfulness even as it teaches one to be mindful: awareness of correct posture and form keeps us from injury, and connecting with the breath calms our bodies. It seems rather simple to maintain this awareness while the teacher is instructing and coaching us to feel the breath moving through the body, or sense the correct position of one’s foot relative to the ground.
To become a real practitioner of yoga, however, at some point the yogi or yogini has to take his or her awareness of self and others off the mat and into daily life. Cultivating mindfulness is the cornerstone of finding peace and lasting equanimity.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Yoga in the News

Hey Peeps (not an Easter pun, I promise),
     In addition to my blogs here and on the Innerspace Yoga Mothership, I have been writing as the Indianapolis Healthy Trends Examiner on Although my content has a local slant, I am covering lots of yoga topics including teacher spotlights, tips for practice, and Ayurveda (yoga's ancient sister science). I would love your tips and comments there, so please do tune in and subscribe. You can access my column here. Namaste!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

How to Protect Your Joints in Yoga

Above: A cute mat and terrible alignment. Click below to see what went wrong!

Many people come to yoga seeking relief from arthritis and joint pain. Please click below to read my latest posting of tips for creating no new pain in yoga! Namaste!

How to Protect Your Joints in Yoga |

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

How to Incorporate Yoga Into Daily Life |

Today I began in interesting foray into freelance writing. I've posted an article about getting more out of your yoga practice:

This short piece will give you ideas about taking your yoga to the next level by exploring Yama & Niyama, as well as integrating yoga into your daily life off the mat. Hope you'll check it out and share it. Namaste, Love Kelly

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Who is Your Teacher?

     There is a Zen koan that says, “If you meet the Buddha on the path, kill the Buddha.” What the hell does that mean? It means as you are walking around in your life, question authority. If someone tells you they have all the answers, they don’t. The answers are all inside; you just have to uncover the truth within you. That’s what I mean in class when I say, “You’re good enough. You were perfect when you walked in here.”
     Every one of us has to one degree or another, a bit of self-loathing. Our American culture exacerbates this feeling. No matter how big the house is, how fast and shiny the car is, how perfect the kids are, how many handbags we own, we always want more because we think getting more, achieving more will fill the hole inside. Everyone has her own version of the need to fill up; maybe your trip is addiction to food, or shopping, or getting degrees behind your name. The specifics don’t matter. We all have ways to mask our pain, loneliness, and feelings that we just aren’t good enough.
     This kind of thinking leads to poverty issues. We may live in a mansion, with plenty of food to eat and clothes to keep us warm, but we end up walking around like we have no resources. It’s like a beggar struggling for the basic necessities when he has a three carat diamond in his pocket.
     The antidote for this sickness of need and greed is gratitude. Be grateful to everyone and everything. The worst obstacles and circumstances in our lives are essentially a gift given to us to allow us to WAKE UP!
     Today, I’d like to acknowledge my gratitude to my very best teachers, who have shown me the true nature of reality.
Pictured above at the top of this post is the Venerable Zasep Tulku Rinpoche, my dharma teacher. Rinpoche is a Tibetan exile who teaches in the States; I met him about eight years ago in Bloomington and was privileged to take a few teachings from him. Of course, I am immensely grateful for the teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama as well. Without his love and wisdom, so accessible to all of us, I’d be totally screwed.
     I’d also like to mention Barbara Mayer and Gloria Karr, my first writing teachers who filled me with passion for literature and expression. Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down the Bones is a Zen practitioner who prescribes writing as a means for awakening consciousness. I was able to take a short workshop with her the last time I was in New York, and her insight was amazing.
     I can’t forget my Anthropology professor, Dr. Richard Ward who treated me like a scholar and taught me to think like a scientist, and my idol Dr. Jane Goodall, whose selfless philanthropy has guided me to see the interrelatedness (shunyata in Buddhism) of all beings and our planet.
     Also, a special shout-out to my very favorite yoga teachers, Nikki Myers and Marsha Pappas of Cityoga in Indianapolis. If you want to have the experience of a lifetime, sign up for their yoga teacher training - even if you have no desire to lead classes. I’m also grateful to Hala Khouri, Sean Corn, Gary Kraftsow and Richard Hittleman (whom I have never met, but he gave me my introduction to Hatha yoga in 1986 through the only book I could find in our little community library).
     Every single person who has ever taken even one of my yoga classes is also my precious teacher. I bow to all of you, and ask you to take a moment to reflect upon the teachers in your lives.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Yoga Gets Street Cred With Western Doctors

    In a recent article in Harvard's Health Beat, yoga earned some heavyweight street cred with the Western medical community. Citing the Sept 1, 2009 issue of the journal Spine,  

"Researchers at West Virginia University enrolled 90 adults to participate in a yearlong trial comparing the effects of Iyengar yoga therapy with those of standard medical care. Participants ranged in age from 23 to 66, and all were suffering chronic low back pain. About half of them were assigned to 24 weeks of a twice-weekly, 90-minute regimen approved by B.K.S. Iyengar and taught by a certified Iyengar yoga instructor and two assistants with experience in teaching yoga therapy to people with chronic low back pain. On days when they didn’t have a yoga class, they were instructed to practice at home for 30 minutes using a DVD, props, and an instruction manual. The rest of the participants (the control group) continued with usual medical care and were followed with monthly telephone calls to gather information about their medications or other therapies.
All subjects reported on functional disability, pain intensity, depression, and medication use at the start of the study, midway through (12 weeks), immediately afterward (24 weeks), and at a follow-up six months later. Compared with the control group, the Iyengar group experienced a 29% reduction in functional disability, a 42% reduction in pain, and a 46% reduction in depressive symptoms at 24 weeks. There was also a greater trend toward lower medication use in the yoga group. There were no reports of adverse effects.
Six months after the trial ended, 68% of the yoga group was still practicing yoga — on average, three days a week for at least 30 minutes. Their levels of functional disability, pain, and depression had increased slightly but were still lower than those of the control group.
The study had limitations — a small number of participants, as well as reliance on the participants’ own reports of symptoms and disability. Also, the control group, on average, had been suffering back pain longer than the yoga group. Still, the results are consistent with findings from other studies of yoga for low back pain."

Please note the 46% decline in depressive symptoms: almost half! Aside from the endorphin effect, depression may have decreased as participants gained mobility and were able to resume normal activities their pain previously prevented. Debilitation and chronic pain of any kind can be soul-crushing. Yoga empowers us to trust our bodies again at any stage on the path to recovery. 

Friday, November 13, 2009

Backbending for Seasonal Affectations

Photo: David Martinez for Yoga Journal Posture: Dhanurasana

Winter is settling in for sure. If you’re affected by the change of seasons, daylight savings time, and the cold, add extra backbends to your posture repertoire. We incorporate dhanurasana (bow) into our class sequences because it’s a simple, energizing pose that elevates mood and stimulates the thymus gland, which supports your immune system.
     If you need something less intense, bujangasana (cobra) is also an effective backbend. By keeping your legs flat on the floor and only raising up to your sternum, your chest is still greatly expanded. Contrary to what one might think, backbends don’t, or shouldn’t, come from the low spine. Rather, the thoracic spine/heart center has to be trained to support the spine in this position. 
     Please click on to the full article in Yoga Journal. My favorite backbend is king pigeon! 

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