Category Archives: yoga therapy

Bliss Blew Into My Being Riding On a Blanket Stack

While I have been a yoga teacher for over 1o years I have not always taken the best care of my personal yoga practice.  Running a fitness studio, being a doula and parenting three children did not leave me enough time for my own personal effective yoga practice.  Well, that is a little bit of an untruth.  The real reason I am in pain is because I had not yet let go of ego.

Yes, I said it.  I have in the past had a larger ego than I currently do. Not the healthy type of ego either that keeps us alive and choosing the path of self preservation.  I indulged in the type of unhealthy ego that many individuals with body image disorders do – that ego that compares you and your self worth with everyone else around you.  My ego in particular liked to prey on my feelings of insecurity around my weight and being in an industry fraught with lean, toned, almost impossible to attain bodies bending into ridiculously compressed positions.  So for me, the more I pushed myself into poses, the harder I worked my muscles, the more I ached after a class, or the further I went into a pose the less I worried about people perceiving me as “less than” because of my fuller figure.

I also ran my own business which required me to teach until 40 weeks pregnant, and go back to work less than 2 weeks postpartum in order to pay rent, instructor’s salaries and for groceries.  I wasn’t the type of newly liberated woman who could make the statement  “I’m skipping maternity leave because my job is important” – I would have loved to stay home and relax with my newborns for even a full six weeks, I can’t imagine saying no to a paid maternity leave of any type.

The stage was set for pain.  Ten pound babies, 40 classes a week teaching aerobics and power yoga with hundreds of planks takes a toll on the pregnant and postpartum body.  Sixteen months after my daughter was born I was still experiencing searing pain in my SI Joint (posterior near the hip) and buttocks, my inner groin (I suffered through diastasis symphysis pubis, something I wouldn’t wish on anyone) and my lower back.  I made old man sounds every time I got off the couch, so many that my little sponge of a daughter started to grunt when she would stand up in solidarity with me.

What changed? I started teaching a prenatal yoga class at Yoga-Rhythms in Lisle, IL.  Years ago I used to take Svaroopa yoga with the same owner at a different location, many pounds, children and years ago when I was youthfully flexible and in class just to relax after a workout.  Now I attend classes every two days to manage my pain and release anxiety. And it works. Really works. If you let go.

Letting go is supposed to be a big part of yoga – letting go can’t truly occur if you are getting dressed up with $150 yoga pants to go to class for whatever the reason – because you can, because everyone else does, because your butt looks great, because you saw an ad for them – you are possessed by your possession still. You haven’t let go if you intensely stare at yourself in a mirror while instructed to push yourself as far as possible while your body goes through the stages of heat stroke – and shocker – the teacher leading you isn’t teaching yoga. I’m sorry to say this and I know some people will disagree ardently with me on these points but there is nothing to argue about.  If you care how you look in a pose, if you care about being seen in class, if you care about how far you can go or if you are addicted, drawn to a certain name on the marquee, only feel like you get something out of the practice if you look like you escaped from somewhere, are drenched, red faced, sore – you get the picture – you aren’t practicing true yoga. You are stagnant, stuck within the Annamaya kosha. I was once there too so I know it can seem as though you are truly practicing yoga and you may be going through the motions, making a good show, even living a very yogic life – I was but I wasn’t truly practicing.

blnk Yoga is about “removing the root cause of suffering and pain.” The first sign that my yoga practice wasn’t authentic were anxiety and panic attacks.  Then came pain. I could also say then came some medical conditions (tumors, gallstones, questionable skin tags, etc) but that may not be a fair assumption.  To those on the outside I had a steady yoga practice and taught daily but to me I was missing something – missing that feeling of bliss.  Sure, I took classes where I felt good at the end, felt like I stretched or got a workout, learned something new – but the bliss was missing.

Then I started taking Svaroopa classes again and the bliss blew back into my being it rode in on a stack of blankets.  I left the first class a little sore and if you saw the class from the outside looking in you would have a “What the? How could that be?” expression on your face.  The style is beyond gentle, it involves lots of blankets and propping – lots of letting go and even more self awareness.  You can’t get through more than 5 minutes of a class without hearing “Do you notice the difference?” or “Does it feel different?” or “How do you feel now?” you get the idea, teachers want you to contemplate your practice, something that is missing in many of the fly by night certifications out there. Teachers in this lineage receive a great deal of training I can attest as a yoga instructor with a great deal of training behind me that I had to let go of.  It isn’t that Svaroopa Yoga (now in its 21st year) is that far removed from “ normal yoga” – it is truly ingrained in the heart of yoga – it just isn’t as capitalized or commercialized and that may be why you haven’t heard of this amazing answer to pain problems.

For me it has been a journey of letting go not just of pain but of that evil ego.  Every time I mention this in class a teacher will say “Why do you have an ego about this?” or “why wouldn’t you want to use more blankets, don’t you want to feel bliss?” I do, I do! But my ego has a hard time admitting that all of these years I have been over stretching ligaments and tendons, listening to instructors tell me to go “more straight” or “deeper” into a pose and all the time piling on more pain for myself.  Its hard to look around a class and see “normal students”, average sized men and women of all ages not pushing themselves.  There is no-one to be “more flexible than” no-one to compare myself to and that was the hardest part – realizing my self worth isn’t tied to anyone else’s.

This revelation couldn’t have come at a better time – I’m ready to move on from teaching yoga and start a new/old career in academic teaching.  I have been practicing Vipassana meditation more seriously and learning to wish peace and loving kindness to others in situation where I once may have compared/judged myself. I’ve taken it a step further into wishing happiness to others in their situation instead of feeling jealous or dejected and it is very liberating to be detached. 

Four, maybe five weeks have passed and each class I attend I find new areas to release, I come up against new blocks now that I am getting into the muscles instead of stretching superficial tissues and I am pain-free. The potential to be pain free in one class really does exist, but the more you go – the more you let go. 

Body Mind Therapies for the Bodyworker and Other Health Practitioners

I received a copy of this new book from Kathy Gruver, PHD, LMT to review. The opinions expressed are completely my own and I was not compensated in any way for them.

Armed with the concept that changing your mind can change your body Gruver brings readers an interesting look into the connection between mind and body health.  Although the book is well written and does hold some fascinating concepts the logic, and at times science, seem to be misplaced.

To begin she uses the premise that the placebo effect works with 35% percent of patients therefore mind/body practices truly work since there is something going on with the mind effecting the body within the placebo effect. Ok, she kind of had me there, but there are skeptics of the placebo effect in the scientific community.  An interesting fact I learned is that the father of hypnosis was Franz Anton Mesmer – as in mesmerize – and he started1qhis work in the 18th century, and was not well received.

She believes that “Scientology has something to offer” on page 14 and then goes on to quote What the Bleep Do We Know (a book on quantum physics) and the connection to prayer healing. The problem with this study is that the couples were only in rooms apart from one another and married couples most likely have built over time a pheromone connection.  The real test of healing thoughts and prayers would be strangers working on each other.

Another odd study was the Hidden Messages in H20 regarding frozen water specimens that have negative words played at them, it changes their crystalline structure.  Surely the bombardment of sound waves could have this effect and if the positive words were said in a different tone/frequency that could account for the change.

There are pages more that I had questions about and at no point did I feel these topics should be taken on by body workers dealing with clients.  The author herself continues to discuss throughout the book the need to suggest qualified medical practitioners and that there is a fine line of what a body worker can do.  Several examples to me of her own practices cross the line but since the outcomes were positive the author did not experience any blowback.  Please note although press releases and book do refer to her as Dr., she is not a MD or medical doctor of any kind. Just imagine if the example on page 34 had ended with the wife leaving the husband instead of supporting him? Want to know what I am talking about you have to buy the book.

That one little tidbit doesn’t entice you? Then let me finish this review by stating something that appear to be a contradiction.  I found the book very useful and full of information.  I may not agree with everything stated, but honestly the author is one of the more middle of the road writers on this subject.  She points out therapies and healing modalities of question and goes so far as to call out different practices that are shady – though she supports each individual’s right to choose what they want to waste their money on.

As a yoga teacher, relaxation coach and birth doula I can not argue wholeheartedly against anything she points out in her book.  I know that mind over matter works. I know that I can “feel less pain” if I don’t focus on the pain, even to the point of cessation of pain reception.  I’m doing it right now as I sit in an uncomfortable chair and type.

Dr. Kathy Gruver, author of the new book Body/Mind Therapies for the Bodyworker says, “We have the innate ability to change our bodies, simply by changing our language.” 

Most people think of health as something having to do with our physical bodies, they want a low BMI, they eat organic, do their yoga. But very few people think of the ramifications of their thoughts and how strongly they affect the body. And how paying attention to that connection can lead to total healing.

“It’s estimated that we have 60,000 thoughts a day and that 50,000 of those are negative, guess how you feel that makes you feel? Significant progress can be made even if we just change a portion of those thoughts.”

“There are countless studies that show how your thoughts and attitudes add to your health and truly contribute to your overall healing.”

“We think that stress is killing us. But it turns out that it not so much the stress; it’s our reaction to the stress. And the good news is that you can change your mind to decrease your response to that stress.” And this book will show you how with current studies, healing modalities you can add to your life and techniques to easily stop the stress response to be healthier.

However, I don’t believe that anyone can move your energy, that anyone can “fix” you. The work has to come from within when you are ready. Although the author does believe this too, the premise of the book at its opening is how you can use these techniques to enhance your work as a healer, something I would not suggest doing boldly. Instead, live and lead by example.

Body/Mind Therapies for the Bodyworker

Dr. Kathy Gruver

List $15.95

Trade paperback 184 pages

ISBN 978-0-7414-8142-9

Infinity Publishing January 2013

For more information visit www.thealternativemedicinecabinet.com

About the Author

Dr. Kathy Gruver is the host of the national TV show based on her first book, The Alternative Medicine Cabinet and has earned her PhD in Natural Health. Kathy was featured on Lifetime Television’s The Balancing Act in 2011 speaking about natural health and has just authored her second book entitled Body/Mind Therapies for the Bodyworker. She has studied mind/body medicine at the famed Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine at Harvard Medical School and pursued further education at The National Institutes of Health. Gruver has been featured as an expert in countless publications and has written dozens of health and wellness articles. She has appeared as a guest expert on over 80 radio shows and has done over 50 educational lectures around the country. She has also served as an expert witness for massage negligence and ethics cases.

A recent winner of NAWBO’s Spirit of Entrepreneurship Awards, Kathy maintains a massage and natural health practice in Santa Barbara, CA, also offering phone and email health consultations. She has also produced an instructional massage DVD, Therapeutic Massage at Home; Learn to Rub People the RIGHT Way and is a practitioner with over 20 years of experience. Her book, The Alternative Medicine Cabinet was selected as a finalist for the Indy Excellence Awards and was recently turned into a national talk show.

#Yoga #Injuries Avoidable Wrist and Hand Tips @skyyogastudio .com

I have always been a strong believer that you get what you pay for, especially when it comes to instruction.  As a certified and registered yoga teacher with the Yoga Alliance Registry I have proven that I have training by credentialed and respected individuals, exposure to teaching in front of other seasoned teachers and continuing credits.  You should always look for a well trained instructor – ask questions about where their training came from – keep in mind anyone can open up their own training school – Yoga Alliance Registry makes sure that qualifying schools meet requirements for anatomy and physiology, and other components of competency for an instructor.  Of course, use your own good judgment and remember you are there to learn from your teacher not learn about your teacher – the class should focus on proper alignment and modifications when needed.   Here’s more info (if you take classes with me, much of the same info) on how to stay injury free….

Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr. Michael Hausman Offers Commentary on Avoiding Hand and Wrist Compression Injuries Caused by Yoga

New York, NY – November 19, 2012: Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr. Michael Hausman, Chief of Hand and Elbow Surgery at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine, is available to comment on avoiding specific hand and wrist injuries caused by yoga. Dr. Hausman has seen an increase in wrist nerve injuries caused by improper yoga form.

Performed properly and under supervision by trained teachers, yoga’s benefits include improvement in posture, flexibility and stress relief. However, if practiced incorrectly, common yoga poses such as downward facing dog may compress nerves and lead to repetitive strain and nerve injuries to the hand and wrist such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Improper positioning of the hands, can lead to compression injuries, strains, sprains, tears to hand and wrist tendons and ligaments.

Dr. Hausman can discuss simple solutions to prevent hand and wrist injuries such as:

• Spread the fingers wide when setting up a pose.

• Ensure the middle fingers are parallel to one another.

• Change hand position to help alleviate pain.

• Bring pressure into each of the fingers, to ensure that the leg muscles are engaged for proper weight distribution.

• If pain is present during the hand-supported poses, maneuver your hands into fists to distribute weight to the knuckles.

• Use props such as wedges, the rolled-up edge of a yoga mat or a thick blanket and hand barbells with square ends can help keep the wrists straight.

Dr. Hausman extolls the benefits of yoga to help people live a healthy lifestyle. “The important thing is to be aware of your body, pay attention to form and do only the poses that your body will allow you to,” said Dr. Hausman.

Dr. Hausman has been interviewed extensively in national and local print, TV and radio outlets such as USA Today, Bloomberg, ESPN, The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal.

About Dr. Michael R. Hausman

Dr. Michael R. Hausman is an orthopaedic surgeon and the Chief of Hand and Elbow Surgery at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine and the Vice-Chairman of the Department of Orthopedics at Mount Sinai. He is an internationally recognized upper extremity surgeon who treats disorders of the hand, elbow, shoulder and peripheral nerves. He has pioneered the use of arthroscopy for treating pediatric elbow deformities and adult fractures and dislocations and has been invited to lecture on these topics throughout the world.

About The Mount Sinai Department of Orthopaedics

Mount Sinai’s Leni and Peter W. May Department of Orthopaedics stands out for its depth of expertise and individualized patient care. Faculty and staff invest the time to learn about their patients, ensuring that each receives the appropriate care from subspecialty-trained orthopaedists. Our expertise includes surgery of the foot and ankle, knee, hip, hand, elbow, shoulder, and spine; total joint replacement for knee, hip, foot, ankle, and shoulder; microvascular surgery; cancer surgery; minimally invasive surgery.

#Acupressure Points to Boost #Libido #GetYourSexyOn @skyyogastudio .com

Three Acupressure Points to Boost Libido

Dr. Edward Lamadrid Explains How to Bring Back Lost Libido with the Touch of Your Hand

Loss of libido can be caused by stress, diet, exercise, depression, or a number of other issues, and has the ability to wreck havoc on otherwise healthy relationships. For couples looking to take a holistic approach to bringing the libido back into their otherwise lackluster bedroom routine, Dr. Edward Lamadrid, DAOM, L. Ac., LMT, weighs in with three acupressure points to help put you back in the mood.

For couples that may be too timid to try acupuncture (needles aren’t for everyone!), Dr. Lamadrid recommends acupressure. A practice in traditional Chinese medicine, acupressure consists of stimulating specific points on the body, also called acupoints, with the finger or hand in order to help restore the body’s natural flow of energy. Dr. Lamadrid recommends incorporating the three following acupressure points into your daily routine (or a great foot massage) to help shift your sexual energy. For best results, perform these techniques daily, pressing and holding each point with your thumb or knuckle for around 60 seconds.

  • San Yin Jiao– Find the inside anklebone, and from this area, go up three inches to the inside calf muscle. Press this point to help boost your drive!
  • Zu San Li – Sitting with your leg out straight, find the lower outside edge of the knee cap. Bring your hands down (towards the foot) about three inches. Pressing this point will give you more energy for the task at hand.
  • Tai Chong – On your foot, find the depression between your big toe and second toe. Begin by pressing lightly at this pressure point, but beware! It may be extremely tender if the individual is irritable.

“Though acupressure can be performed by a qualified massage therapist or acupuncturist, there are numerous exercises you can perform yourself or with your partner to help boost energy, libido, and overall mood,” says Dr. Lamadrid. “Acupressure is especially helpful for those who may be afraid of trying acupuncture, or would prefer to perform these techniques in the privacy of their own home.”

About Dr. Edward Lamadrid: Dr. Edward Lamadrid has been a massage therapist for the last 25 years. In that time, he has developed massage curriculum in both New York City and Chicago, and is a senior massage instructor. He is the co-author of a continuing education program known as Fascial Therapy. Dr. Lamadrid is also a doctor of acupuncture and oriental medicine (DAOM) and the founder of Integrative Health Studio in downtown Chicago. Dr. Lamadrid is a pioneer who has devoted over three decades to studying all forms of complementary and alternative medicine. He is one of approximately one hundred DAOMs in the country. His practice is located in downtown Chicago.

#Crohn’sDisease #Crohn’s #IBD #IBS #Yoga Yoga Sequence to Help Ease Irritable Bowel and Crohn’s @skyyogastudio .com

Several years ago I first met a student with Crohn’s, at that time I had little insight into the disease or other bowel diseases, but I had recently finished a yoga therapy training. I put what I knew to use and created a sequence to help manage flares. The student found the practice helpful, of course she found avoiding food products such as walnuts even more helpful, so I am also including a list of foods to help with flare-ups.

Practice these poses holding them 2-5 minutes each. Start and/or finish with “Sandbag Breathing”. Place a 10-lbs yoga sandbag or make a bag of rice (be sure that the bag has some empty space so the weight is not compact) – across the middle ribcage – below the breast, above the navel. This will help provide resistance to the diaphragm muscles, and direct your breath to massage the internal organs.
Once the bag is in place allow a few breaths to pass getting used to the sensation. Begin to relax the muscles directly under the bag – don’t try to lift the bag with your breath, instead focus on breathing into the space below the the bottom of the bag – in the belly, allowing your belly to fill like a balloon, then relaxing the belly as you exhale. Attempt 10 breaths with the bag, then rest and just notice your breath for several more breaths. Remove the sandbag and notice how your breath feels now.

Although each person has different triggers there are some agreed upon foods that can make flares worse:

alcohol (mixed drinks, beer, wine)
butter, mayonnaise, margarine, oils
carbonated beverages
coffee, tea, chocolate
corn husks
dairy products (if lactose intolerant)
fatty foods (fried foods)
foods high in fiber
gas-producing foods (lentils, beans, legumes, cabbage, broccoli, onions)
nuts and seeds (peanut butter, other nut butters)
raw fruits
raw vegetables
red meat and pork
spicy foods
whole grains and bran

For Foods that are easier to eat checkout http://www.everydayhealth.com/crohns-diet-pictures/joy-bauer-foods-to-eat-during-crohns-flare-up.aspx#/slide-5

#yoga #Sleep Sequence End #Insomnia @skyyogastudio .com

Sleep Sequence
A Sleep Sequence to Help Aid Sleep Relieve Insomnia

For clients who have difficulty sleeping, get into your PJs, be sure you have used the bathroom, and turn down the lights. Try this practice before bedtime, hold each of the first three poses 1-2 minutes, then move onto the poses starting with child’s pose – hold 5-15 minutes or longer as you practice a calming breath.

Inversions, and supported inversions help aid in calming the mind and slowing the brain’s wakefulness centers.

When you are finished get into your bed, make sure all distractions like bright lights and TV are off. Studies reveal that a high percentage of adult insomnia is actually a fear of the dark, so a small nightlight may be useful.
Being to notice your breath. Notice the inhale, and notice the exhale. Don’t try to force or change your breath, just become aware of it, how it travels in through the nostrils, how it fills the lungs and moves the belly/organs, how it exits the nostrils and relaxes the belly / ribcage. Notice the pause at the end of your inhale, then as you exhale, notice the pause at the end of the exhale before your inhale begins.

If your mind wanders – acknowledge your thoughts, but do not fixate on it, come back to the awareness of your breath. Know, and say to yourself “I am not this thought”, and move on.

Start to softly encourage your exhale to lengthen, savor the slow breath out of the body, take your time and imagine your body as your inhale expanding like a balloon, when it is full imagine a small whole that allows your breath to escape in a slow fizzle, deflating your body balloon.

PROPS TO HELP YOGA PRACTICE: A soft padded chair or blanket on the chair, or a block
PROPS TO HELP SLEEP: Yoga bolster for under the knees to help release the back and abdomen. Eye pillow. ACE bandage wrapped around the eyes and head.

You can purchase various props at Sky Yoga Studio and we would be happy to show you how to wrap the ACE bandage if you bring one to class.

Peaceful sleep!

A Life Worth Breathing #Yoga #Philosophy

Go Beyond Yoga to Find Ultimate Happiness and Peace

A LIFE WORTH BREATHING

A Yoga Master’s Handbook of Strength, Grace, and Healing

By Max Strom

“Max Strom’s book is so powerful and straight forward, it reminds me of life’s priorities. Max encourages and explicates what is sacred about life and fully owning our experience of it. Through breath and delving within, we find the very truths that set us free. I can’t wait to read it again.”

—Diane Lane

“This book inspired me. Well done, Max!”

—Erich Schiffmann, author of Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Into Stillness

“A vast treasury of practical wisdom techniques and insights to help accelerate and inspire your personal evolution and contentment connection. I couldn’t put it down!”

—Lilias Folan, PBS host and author of Lilias! Yoga

“This heartfelt and far-reaching rendering of yoga, an invitation to embrace yoga as it was always intended––something much more than just a physical journey–reminds us that to express our best self we need to examine and breathe into the life we are living.”

—Rod Stryker, founder of Parayoga

“A beautifully written, all-inclusive guidebook to the soul. Max provides both inspirational insights and practical skills to help navigate our spiritual journey. Highly recommended, thoroughly enjoyed.”

—Seane Corn, author of the Vinyasa Flow Yoga, the Body and Beyond DVD

We know that we are meant to live an inspired life that rises above mere existence, but how? In A Life Worth Breathing (Skyhorse Publishing, April 2012), internationally renowned yoga teacher and spiritual philosopher Max Strom shows us the way. His groundbreaking book leads us on a journey of self discovery, as we excavate our past in order to better understand our present using the following three-part plan:

1) Heal your body. With the body revitalized you can function at a higher level in all other aspects. Learn to govern the body so the body doesn’t govern you.

2) Calm your mind. The more clear and still your mind is, the better your decision-making process will be, and you will choose from wisdom instead of fear or desire.

3) Heal your heart, your emotions. The more your heart is open and filled with joy and thanks, the more you will enjoy life and shine your light into the world. The more light you shine into the world, the more you can help others with your very presence.

According to Max Strom, “we live in fear of terrorism but in actuality the most devastating terrorism comes from within us as we sabotage ourselves.” With practical techniques, A Life Worth Breathing offers us a path to transformation. The teachings are rooted in Yoga, but make no mistake, this is not just another yoga book of postures, it is a guidebook for living. With these life skills we can achieve our true destiny, that of a fully integrated soul living an authentic life of meaning, success, and joy. A life worth living, a life worth breathing.

About the Author:

Max Strom founded and directed the renowned Sacred Movement Center for Yoga and Healing in Los Angeles. There he taught more than four hundred students a week for over four years, building the program into one of the most respected centers in the world. In 2005, he sold the studio to Exhale Spa, which continues to thrive. Last year he taught and lectured in more than thirty-five cities in nine countries. Max is recognized by the Yoga Alliance at their Advanced Teacher Level (ERYT 500). He has taught tens of thousands of students; trained several hundred teachers; and recorded two videos, Learn to Breathe, to Heal Yourself and Your Relationships and Max Strom Yoga—Strength, Grace, Healing. Max has also immersed himself extensively in spiritual learning. Before his twentieth birthday, he had studied Taoism, Esoteric Christianity, Sufism, and was practicing meditation and Chi Gung diligently. He lives in Ashland, Oregon.

I received a copy of Strom’s  A Life Worth Breathing  for review and was not compensated for this review, all opinions expressed are my own.

Prior to receiving this book I had never heard of Max Strom before but there are many pockets of yoga across this country that have great teachers at their center, Max seems to be one of them.  I did find interesting that in the beginning of his book when he makes mention of all the studied religions of his youth and even this press release, Judaism and Kabbalah are not mentioned – I personally found it interesting because most yoga practitioners these days also tend to look toward the sacred numerology of Kabbalah. There were several quotes and references to the New Testament very sparsely sprinkled in the book.

As a yoga teacher the assumption of those reading this blog might be that I enjoy reading books on the subject for leisure, and while I don’t find the prospect as distasteful as reading mathematics, I am far from a devout believer in all things self help and yoga – and therefore sometimes find it hard to read books about “journeys” and yoga teachers who come off on paper as having Christ complexes.  They all read the same – broken man/woman goes through trials, is “reborn” finds salvation within the need to heal and fix the self and those around them (as though we are all born in original sin and have to work to cleanse ourselves) and then goes on to spread the gospel to others, who can find the same salvation by following in the footsteps of their new spiritual leader. Sometimes along the way the author encounters “primitives” or those who live more simply and therefore are somehow more profound, or authentic than the reader, but also serve as guides/mirror/transformer for our Christ figure into the person he/she is now – a savior of the masses.

Enter page 96 where Strom discusses the only “enlightened” being he has ever met – a young beggar woman whose open heart only he and a few others see, who beckons him to sit in silence with her and I quote “After an unknown period of time, I rose and respectfully put some money in her hand, enough to take care of her for perhaps two months”.

With all of this my readers may think I did not like the book or find Strom to be authentic, to the contrary! Even though I found some of the personal dialogue self indulgent as in the above passage – the heart of the book, the truth of the book is undeniable.  We are in control of our own destinies and creating a better life for ourselves. This is what I took away from the book.  I think the most meaningful passages for me can be found on pages 71-75 that discuss forgiveness.  To me Strom is the one author who has finally been able to verbalize the idea of forgiveness and letting go in a way that does not diminish the tragedy suffered by the victim.  In all my years of study and meditation most teachers gloss over this important lesson by saying we just need to let go and forgive. They harp on the fact that to say that an action is wrong is to judge it and the person acting – which in and of itself is “wrong”.  Many other teachers I have had philosophically have not been able to get across how to forgive because they lump forgiveness, letting go, responsibility and judgment into one large pot.  Strom explains that forgiveness is not forgetting, nor is it allowing someone to continue to be victimized, it is merely a letting go of the poison of pain and resentment.

Yes, there were parts of the book that I scoffed at with my husband as I read them aloud to him, but I am not one to quietly “drink the kool-aid” no matter how many people are lining up and declaring its deliciousness.  Would I recommend this book? Absolutely, to those looking for a deeper understanding of some of the subtler philosophies of existence and yoga. Not all of the exercises suggested were helpful, but there were some very poignant ones that stood out like those listed on page 69 – I suggest everyone give these a try!

#Meditation Month in May Learn to Meditate @skyyogastudio .com

May is National Meditation Month – a piece on meditation and health

Americans lead busy lives. We work hard, we take less time off than workers in many other countries and with our high tech devices and the 24-hour news cycle beckoning us to watch and listen, we experience a level of stimulation that previous generations could scarcely have imagined.

Add to this particular worries such as a faltering economy, unhealthy influences on our children, an unstable political world, and the care of aging parents, and it is easy to see why we are stressed.

And even if some of us can escape for a week to an isolated Caribbean island, we will likely carry a good deal of that “noise” along with us in our heads.

Sounds bleak. Fortunately, there is an effective method for quieting a busy brain, creating inner peace, and countering the effects of stress on our bodies and minds that anyone can do. That method is the practice of meditation. And since May is National Meditation Month, this is the perfect time to integrate the practice into your life.

Meditation has both physical and mental benefits that have been clearly documented by medical research. Lower blood pressure, better sleep, reductions in headache frequency and severity, decreased anxiety, improved digestion and an increase in a sense of general well-being, among other things, are all outcomes of a regular practice of mediation.

One of the best features of mediation is its efficiency. You will not need equipment or reading material. You will not be required to take out a monthly or annual membership. You will not have to travel anywhere. In fact, you will not have to leave the house. What else can promise such excellent benefits at no cost to you at all?

Meditation is essentially a process of being quiet and still. A common approach to it involves paying relaxed attention to something that you are doing every second of every day anyway – breathing. Here’s how to start:

Sit on a comfortable cushion or chair in a favored place in your home. Place your hands on your abdomen just below your rib cage. When you inhale, make sure that your abdomen expands against your hands. Do this again and again, and each time you exhale, let your whole body go limp like a rag doll. Over time, begin to slow the process down.

Abdominal breathing changes the balance of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the brain, which has everything to do with how relaxed you feel. Stress-related breathing fuels a condition of heightened brain and central nervous system readiness known as “fight or flight” that evolved as a defensive system for coping with danger by preparing the body to either do battle or beat a hasty retreat. Because the brain does not differentiate between real and imagined threat, it is as likely to respond with a call to action from a news report about something on the other side of the world as it is to a threat right outside the door. Meditation lowers brain reactivity.

Some advanced meditators are able to achieve what is referred to as an empty mind. Although that would be wonderful to experience, it really is not necessary for the new practitioner in order to reap the other benefits. In fact, many seasoned “sitters” frequently have unwanted thoughts coming to mind. These are best dealt with by gently returning attention to each breath as soon as you notice them.

Meditation is best learned by taking time each day to be quiet and still so that the breathing technique can be practiced in a deliberate way. Easy music can be part of the mix. And you do not have to invest a lot of time to benefit significantly. Ten or fifteen minutes is all you need to begin. No need for any other major changes at all.

Meditation is also a relative act, meaning that you can be “quieter and stiller” if being truly settled does not come easily. The main idea is just to slow things down. So, while some might sit in a comfortable chair in a favored room, others may do better strolling around the neighborhood or the park.

With practice, the quieter mental states set the tone for the rest of the day, promoting beneficial effects without our even being aware of it.

That is all there is to it. Can you think of an easier way to improve your life?

Mark C. Brown, Ph.D. is a psychologist and author of Live Like A Window, Work Like A Mirror: Enlightenment and the Practice of Eternity Consciousness. www.markcbrown.com / @markcbrownphd