Today over fifteen million Americans regularly practice yoga. It is easy to find a yoga class to fit your needs and your schedule. Why go an extra mile and see a yoga therapist? Who might benefit from that?
Yoga therapy is the application of yogic tools such as physical postures, breathing, chanting and meditation to the specific needs of an individual. In our minds yoga is firmly connected to the class format, but a yoga class is, in fact, a fairly recent phenomenon, dating back to the early 20th century. During that time the yoga of the physical postures (asanas) was gaining popularity in India, partly under the influence of emerging western interest in physical fitness. From India, Yoga was transported to the West, where the class format became the most popular way of practicing yoga.
Before yoga classes gained popularity, yoga was often transmitted one-on-one, from teacher to student. The practice was adapted to the individual, made to address whatever issues the student was dealing with. With most yoga classes around nowadays being highly athletic and physically demanding, there is a movement towards making yoga more accessible. Yoga therapy is part of this movement to make yoga responsive to the needs of the individual, and bring it into the field of integrative healthcare. Here are some of the reasons you may want to see a yoga therapist:
Listen to our "Ask The Expert" Interview with Asya Haikin
Even if you are just dealing with everyday stresses and with life cycle events like pregnancy, or natural effects of aging, yoga therapy can be a great way to support yourself through those life transitions. To find a qualified yoga therapist near you go to: www.yogatherapy.health
About the Author
Asya Haikin is the Owner of Peaceful Mind Yoga Therapy in Falls Church, Virginia. She is a Certified Yoga Therapist working with people with persistent pain to improve wellbeing and quality of life. Her mission is to make yoga safe and accessible, and to raise awareness about the benefits of yoga therapy. Asya has been using mindful movement, breath and body awareness to help individuals move beyond pain for over fifteen years. She has a private yoga therapy practice in Falls Church, VA, and also teaches several public yoga classes in Arlington and Falls Church. Asya is also a Reiki Master, a Tibetan Tones (vibrational sound healing) practitioner, and has an MA from University of Pennsylvania.
To learn more about Asya, visit her website at www.peacefulmindyogatherapy.com
Yesterday evening I hosted our monthly Ask The Expert live interview with Jamie Gallagher, founder of Origin Fitness Fairfax and CrossFit Burke. (Listen to the Live Interview Here) At the end of a great interview, I asked him one final question, the same question I close every interview with each month:
"What gets you out of bed every morning?"
His response? "The pursuit of excellence." Knowing Jamie for some time now, I couldn't agree more with him that this is truly what he looks for each day. But what exactly is the pursuit of excellence? What actually does excellence mean? To answer this question, first ask yourself the same question I asked Jamie during his interview: "What gets you out of bed every morning?" More specifically, what is your purpose in life you are so passionate about that drives you to get up everyday and live every moment to its fullest?
The pursuit of excellence is ALWAYS exhilarating!
Excellence is built upon the standards you set for yourself because they are the blueprint of your life. If your accomplishments in life do not match your overall blueprint, then how could you possibly achieve excellence? From this blueprint, this innate schematic leading you towards fulfillment, you are driven to use your body in a certain way. You mind is flooded with only certain kinds of thoughts. Your spiritual beliefs tie them all together with what you see as your higher purpose in life. Without these connections, we are just an empty, lifeless shell following the robotic actions of what we were taught that society "needs" from us.
By allowing yourself to not just move against the current, but step out of the water altogether, you allow a transition towards personal freedom. From this moment onward, you understand the power of choice. For in every moment lies a new choice in life; one that can create opportunities no matter what lies before you. Be it negativity, pessimism, or doubt, you know that you can step away from that current and walk in the direction of excellence every single time. Your ability to hold the light as you walk to the end of the tunnel rather that walk towards the light that someone else is holding sets you apart from every other human being. However, the light you hold is actually a light shining from within you that is now so strong it has begun to illuminate outward and requires no holding at all. It is a self-generated luminescence that comes from your heart, your soul, and your newfound ability to unlock your personal potential.
I want to warn you though. This is not something I read in an inspiring book or heard on some podcast similar to mine. This is real and this is powerful. How do I know? Because, through experience, this is my life every single day. This is also Jamie's life every single day. Now, do we both stumble? Do we both have our days full of doubts and find ourselves questioning our purpose in life? Darn right we do! But do we ever veer away from the direction we believe to be "right"? Never. No matter the obstacle that appears before us, even if it's in our minds, we look forward to the challenge. Some might even say that I love the game more than the result myself. I might agree with this. That is because the pursuit of excellence is ALWAYS exhilarating!
The power of choice determines your understanding of your own potential and your own ability to empower yourself. This is not to be confused with destiny either. Your destiny points you in a certain direction, but it is your daily choice to get up an start your day with a specific mindset; a day that stems from a desire to pursue something. And the goal of this pursuit should be nothing less than the pursuit of excellence. THIS is personal power. THIS is inspiration. THIS is a life of fulfillment. I challenge you from this moment forward to join Jamie and me together in this pursuit; a pursuit of excellence.
"How old are you?" and "How old do you feel?" are two very different questions. They are questions of external versus internal; questions of authenticity versus a pseudo-you; and questions of freedom versus inhibition. Your outward appearance tells a very different story than your inner truth, if you can reveal it.
The world around us is surrounded by pointing fingers, lines in the sand, and razor sharp words of criticism. The amount of inflexibility in those who enact these destructive motives grows larger every minute they get older. The physical body, as it ages, changes in similar ways. Muscles get tighter; blood vessels get narrower; synapses in the brain fire slower; and our steps get shorter. It seems like we are heading downhill at an alarming speed as we age. But, as I like to say, that's one way of looking at it.
When was the last time you did something your parents told you growing up was either dangerous, difficult, or dirty?
Another way of looking at it is as if everyday we are getting younger. How do we do this? With each day your body gets older, you hold on to the young, free-willed, inspiring, and open-minded you. Can you remember one of your most precious and happiest childhood memories? When was the last time you let yourself experience it? When was the last time you skipped down the street? When was the last time you did something your parents told you growing up was either dangerous, difficult, or dirty? Perhaps you tell your own children these things!
If parents, teachers, and adults in general have the most influence on how children grow and develop their own personalities, then what are you doing to maintain your own inner child?
Can you access him or her at anytime you want?
Could you dance freely in the middle of a busy sidewalk?
Could you sing out loud in a big park?
Could you make up a song with only silly bathroom words that we yell at our kids for saying?
Your experience in life is determined by your ability to enjoy every moment. And if you have a difficult time letting go of your thoughts and beliefs about how life should be or about how other people should act, then your experience is going to be even more of a challenge. So much of a challenge that others will have a hard time being in your presence.
My suggestion to you is to awaken your inner child by first focusing on the most enjoyable experiences of your childhood. Close your eyes and re-experience them. Then, find a way to bring them back to life. Re-awaken your inner child by shedding the shrouds of judgement; the expectations of adulthood; and the belief that the good days are behind you. For the best days are ahead of you if you continue to look forward, move freely, and perhaps even dance a little on the way.
So, go nudge the little one inside you and tell them it's time to wake up.
Breathing. We all do it. You’re doing it right now. We do it all the time. But how many times do we think about our breathing? If you are like most people, the only time you think about it is when you are having trouble with it.
As a practitioner of the martial arts, healing arts, and brass wind instruments I have experienced first hand how an adjustment to our approach to breath can create profound change.
In the study of the Chinese internal martial arts, there is a common saying - “Yi, Qi, Li.” Our “Yi” is our intent. Our “Qi” is our energy. “Li” refers to muscle, or as it is used in this phrase, to our physical actions. The gist of this saying is that all three things must work together. So what does this have to do with breathing? Everything! You see, our breath is directly connected to our state of mind and quality of the movement of our energy and our body. Don’t believe me? Give this a try.
Think of something really exciting, like maybe you just won the lottery. Notice how your eyes open wide; notice how you breathe in; and notice that your breath is probably somewhat shallow. Now do the same thing while trying to move slowly. You may be able to do it, but it won’t be easy. Now try the opposite. Think of something sad. Notice how your eyes start to close and how you exhale. You may even feel your body start to slouch. Now do the same thing while trying to move quickly. Again, you might be able to, but it will take a lot of effort.
By simply changing how you breathe,
So what’s the point of this? Your mind and body want to be on the same page. When one of them gets off track it wants to pull the others along. The cool thing is that breath is the link between the internal world and external world, and by simply changing how you breathe you can change how you think, feel, and move.
And our breath goes far beyond our state of mind and quality of movement. It effects our health. All our metabolic functions are important. Our bodies are designed to be this wonderfully complex holistic system. And while these systems are important and act on their own, our breath is the one function that we can consciously control. And it is through our conscious decisions to adjust how we breathe that we can create change in our other functions. How we breathe has a direct effect on our circulatory, digestive, and even our nervous systems. It’s amazing to think how much impact this simple act has on our total health and well-being.
So, if you are interested in learning a little more about the basics of breathwork, go to my Personal Mastery and Growth online academy and take my FREE course on Breathing Fundamentals for Qigong.
About the Author
(See José's full in-person interview on YouTube)
José Johnson has been described as a modern Renaissance Man. Jose is an accomplished martial artist, musician, teacher, entrepreneur and change merchant. Jose currently owns and operates Jose Johnson’s Chinese Martial Arts & Wellness Center in Harrisburg, PA. He is also the founder of Integrated Wellness Consultants and in 2017 established the Personal Mastery and Growth online academy. (link above)
As a martial artist, José’s accomplishments earned him the honor of being included in the 2008 publication “Extraordinary Chinese Martial Artists of the World” and the invitation to take part of the filming of the 2015 Chinese docu-drama “New Legends of Martial Arts.”
As a musician, José has developed a reputation as being one of Central Pennsylvania’s most dependable lead trumpet players and arrangers specializing in funk and R&B. He regularly works with The Impact Band, The Maxwell Project, Gumbo Junk Brass Band, Big Boy Brass and Windish Music & Productions. He is also an endorsing artist for Robinson’s Remedies and Warburton Music Products. José exclusively plays Warburton trumpets, flugelhorns and mouthpieces.
Here are a few places where you can find more about Master José Johnson
- José Johnson’s Chinese Martial Arts and Wellness Center: www.dowellness.com
- José Johnson’s Personal Website: www.josejohnson.com
Our mentally and emotionally-induced unnatural resistance to adjust our basic routines together with the seasons causes a clash between our internal environment (our physiology) and the external environment.
Each morning for the past week, I have found myself to be a bit more tired than usual. There were nights when I went to bed a little late and nights I went to bed early, but it didn't make a difference. Some mornings I even felt a little tickle in my throat and others I noticed a slightly runny nose and little extra saliva in my mouth. Too much detail? Well there's a reason.
When the seasons change, our bodies do the same. When the physical environment, and even the emotional environment, begin to change around us, our bodies, being the pros they are, automatically make an effort to change with them. If they didn't, we would enter an unfortunate state of dis-ease. Our mentally and emotionally-induced unnatural resistance to adjust our basic routines together with the seasons causes a clash between our internal environment (our physiology) and the external environment.
This is the reason I personally prescribe the art and exercise of Tai Chi during these times of the year. Although there are numerous styles of this exercise, its overall gentle movements and calming nature provide one important element in this time of seasonal transition; Movement.
A consistent Tai Chi practice during any seasonal transition, especially from summer to fall, will allow for a healthy experience of movement from one season to the next, no matter the type of climate. Whether you live in the northern or southern hemispheres, on the equator, or in Antarctica, there is always a transition in the environment, which has an inevitable effect on your body's physiology.
The main reason why practicing during the summer to fall transition is so important is due to the overall nature of the seasons. What I mean is, during summer exists the peak temperatures of the year in the external environment, which create physiological changes that lead to the release of heat (sweating) from our bodies. Or it can lead to something we refer to as warm diseases (think heat exhaustion) because our bodies are unable to release the heat inside of us leading to dangerous and sometimes life-threatening conditions. Additionally, as you may already be aware, there is a large amount of breathing occurring during the practice of Tai Chi. This breathing is a constant exchange of air and its contents between the external and internal environments which allow is to more rapidly create a level of balance between the two ultimately guided by a mindful approach to practice.
After summer, we transition towards the colder seasons, first moving through fall; a season of dryness, chilly temperatures, and less and less movement in the outdoors (e.g. the beginnings of hibernation). So as you can see, if we live in these environments, then our bodies are certainly affected by them, and we must take appropriate action to adjust in parallel with them.
What action is that? The action is Tai Chi. Which I believe, as a Licensed Acupuncturist, to be the single most effective form of exercise that offers and guarantees (with your consistent practice and close observation of your physiological changes) the opportunity for a healthy transition through any season change.
So, if you usually struggle during these times of year, particularly from summer into fall and then into winter, start your Tai Chi practice as soon as you notice the seasons beginning to change. Don't wait! Unless of course you prefer to catch a cold, get the flu, dine on throat lozengers, suffer from sinus infections, and yell at the top of your fluid-filled lungs "I hate this season!"
Every single day people get out of bed and go on with their lives and their routines. What sets some people apart from others is their point of focus. They focus on their purpose, their WHY in life. They find drivers for success and always move towards them.
Sometimes, however, people get caught up in the idea of success. They have the thought flowing through their head that success is the only option. They are constantly bombarding their brains with success this, success that, no failure this, no failure that. They shield themselves from the rest of the world by opening an umbrella of success. In most cases, this works in the long run. As long as you don't focus on the label and, instead, focus on the contents of the success jar in connection with your vision of what success looks and feels like..
It doesn't matter what label you put on the jar because it will be meaningless if you don't focus on filling it up with the necessary contents or ingredients for your success! Yes, you can have an image or vision of what your success ultimately looks like, but if you only focus on the outcome, you never get a chance to observe the environment and the landscape you are traveling on. You will never appreciate the journey and what you learn along the way because of your unbeknownst ignorance.
So, if you are working your tail off to achieve the success you envision for yourself, then label the jar and be done with it. Then focus on filling it with as many awesome things in your life as you possibly can. It doesn't matter the experience, the size, the weight, or any other method you use to measure with to see if they will fit in your jar. Because the moment it is filled is the moment it's time to get a new jar and pour the contents of the old one into it. All the while using the same label.
Labels are things that keep us confined and comfortable within a specific set of boundaries we or other people have created for ourselves. The label does not matter. NOT AT ALL! The contents of the jar are the most important and require the most attention. In order for you to be fulfilled, your jar of success must also be Full Filled.
My question to you then is...
What are you going to put in YOUR jar today?
In this very moment, take a look at where you are. Take a look at what you are doing. Take a look at who is around you. Take a look at the thoughts going through your mind. Be aware of everything in your external AND your internal surroundings. Now take a deep breath in. As you exhale, breathe out the words Thank you and imagine sending these words as a kind, heart-felt message to everything in your external surroundings. Now do this two more times; once for your internal surroundings, thanking yourself for your breath, your heart beat, your abilities of sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch, then once more for everything inside and outside of you. ~Now smile!~ You've just completed an exercise in mindfulness and being present.
What does it mean to be present?
What does it mean to be mindful?
What does it mean to just BE?
These are questions that we typically do not focus on from day to day. So, even better than making an attempt to provide an answer of some sort, I invite you to experience what it means to you to be present, be mindful, and just BE. Here are a few tips on how to get started:
Step 1: Atten-Hut!
Sit on the last half or 2/3 of your chair so that you back does not touch the support behind you. Place both feet flat on the floor and directly under your knees. Straighten your back from the bottom of your tailbone to the crown of your head. Finally, rest your hands on your lower abdomen, one on top of the other.
Step 2: Breathe.
Slowly and evenly take a deep breath in and push your belly into your hands and notice your abdomen expanding in all directions. Hold this breath for a brief second and then continue by exhaling out at the same speed you inhaled. Notice your hands and your abdomen returning to their original positions.
Step 3: Close Your Eyes.
Let your eyes relax and slightly lower about 20-30 degrees to look at the ground in front of you. Then close your eyes and begin to focus only on your breath and the natural movement of your abdomen. After you complete a few breaths, you should begin to feel more relaxed. At this point, you should begin to let your breath fill your whole body, almost as if you are breathing with every inch of yourself, not just your lungs.
Bonus Step: Take a Look Around.
Once you feel confident with the first three steps, begin focusing on the bottom of your feet. Feel every inch of your feet relax and spread out on the floor as you continue to feel your breath move throughout your entire body, especially the bottom of your feet. This will help you to feel more grounded and stable in the present moment so that you do not fly away into every thought that enters your mind and attempts to overtake you.
"Always say 'yes' to the present moment... Surrender to what is. Say 'yes' to life - and see how life starts suddenly working for you rather than against you."
To understand what it means to be present, mindful, and just BE, you must experience it first. Practice these steps every day for at least five to ten minutes, and then notice what you feel. Has there been a change after one week? How about even one day? Being present, whether you are a beginner at it or make it look effortless, we must all remember it is not just another exercise to be added to your daily list of things to do. Begin by making it a routine, something you won't forget, and something that is important to you. Then, and only then, will you be closer to remembering what it was like to just be here and now. After all, if you cannot allow yourself to be present, what makes you think everything else around you will be?
If you need more guidance on being present or mindful, please contact us at (202) 505-2805 for a Mindfulness Jump-Start Session to help you on your journey towards a more relaxed and present you.
Enjoy this Video from "60 Minutes" on Mindfulness with Anderson Cooper & Jon Kabat-Zinn
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inspirational ideas on healthy living through eastern medicine, optimism, and possibility through empowerment.