A Unifying Practice by Ayerland Baker – Guest Post

One of the unique things about teaching where I do is that I have both a community college setting and a university setting in the same town. Many of my community college students are working on their gen ed classes before transferring over to the university. Occasionally that means that I get a student twice or their roommate or friend will be in my class at the opposing location. Sometimes they even have a different yoga instructor at the same time and the yoga becomes a shared experience. Here’s one such story from a student of mine:

 

When first signing up for yoga class at Cape Fear Community College, my initial viewpoint of yoga, before ever taking a yoga class, was that it was all simple stretching and positions that helped you relax. Though yoga does include these assumptions, I soon realized that yoga can be a sufficient workout as well. Not only did yoga begin to stretch my ligaments and muscles in a positive manner, but it created a workout that didn’t necessarily feel like a workout while participating. I would find myself forming sweat as we ran through flows and noticing tenderness and soreness in the days following my yoga class. I realized quickly that I enjoyed the process of yoga much better than I had enjoyed going to the gym or working out in the past. 

As the semester continued I noticed myself getting better at the positions we were practicing in class, able to stretch further, and enjoying myself more and more. While I attended a yoga class at my college, my roommate also was attending a yoga class at her college as well. We were able to use our own experiences in our own practices at home, as well as at local yoga studios where we both fell in love with hot yoga. I found that I could meditate and clear my mind a lot better in a professional yoga studio versus a classroom and that I enjoyed it even better than the class I was already attending and enjoying. Though the semester is coming to an end, I can now take the knowledge I’ve learned from this class and bring it into future classes and my future yoga practice in general.

Have a yoga story you’d like to share?

Contact me to do a Guest Post of your own.

Finding a Mindful Approach to Exercise – Guest Post

I haven’t gotten around to posting the stories from my Spring yoga class yet, but I’m starting today. Here’s a great one from someone who wasn’t a stranger to yoga on the first day, but still walked away with something new.

Yoga has always been a familiar concept to me since I can remember. My mom and dad both have done yoga since I was little, and we were always very active as a family. I danced my whole youth, and loved it, but got burnt out about half way through high school. I had began running cross country and track and was fully immersed in the team and decided to quit dance. My body took naturally to running, and it came easy to me. I loved it! After running extremely hard for four years my body began to show it. My ankles were shot, and I had developed some severe asthma and cardiovascular issues. I knew that I could not continue running at the level I had been, and just decided to forfeit any kind of physical activity. As I started college, I knew that I had to start moving my body again. I felt jaded towards running, and a friend told me about thirty dollars for thirty days of unlimited yoga at Wilmington Yoga. I had never personally practiced yoga, but I committed to myself to going every day for the full thirty days. I was shocked at how easily I transitioned into developing my own practice. Not only that but I was surprised at how strong my body felt. I had always seen yoga as more of a stretching, and meditative exercise. My arm strength was the best it had ever been, and I felt so confident. I continued to practice yoga on my own, but less and less as the years went by.

This past summer when I was signing up for classes I saw yoga offered, and remembered what a great experience I had had with yoga in the past and signed up! I felt very welcomed in the class and comfortable. Coming into the class I had practiced yoga before but never really understood the different kinds of yoga, which poses were helpful for flexibility or strength, I was just told how to do them. I think as with anything you can develop a deeper level of appreciate if you know why you are doing something and how it can benefit your body and mind. I learned so much more about the mental aspect of yoga in class than I expected. It was helpful to connect the poses with focusing my mind on my breath. I also enjoyed how we were guided through different exercises and meditations, like the affirmations and mindful eating. It helped to experience it on my own than just being taught about it. Since the class was only once a week, I did not practice as much as I would have liked. I still felt stronger in my body and more mindful and knowledgeable after taking this class. It has encouraged me to think more about my words, actions, and thoughts towards myself and others. I feel that I also really benefited from the mindful eating exercise and gained a lot of awareness about some disordered eating habits I was beginning to develop. I have also made it a priority to move my body every day in a meaningful way. Even if that doesn’t look like going on a five mile run that’s okay. I have been able to listen to what my body needs and come to terms with that. More than anything this class has just challenged me to think differently about what “exercise” looks like, and how to be mindful of my thoughts on health.

 

Have a yoga story you’d like to share?

Contact me to do a Guest Post of your own.

Meditation Monday #55 – Valuable Reprogramming

I decided to go back to reading Gates today. It’s been on my “to do list” for quite some time, but always seems to be pushed to the side for other Monday activities. Today I did the Day 90 reading about Svadhyaya and asked myself the question:

What are my own limiting beliefs?

My husband is always saying that I have a problem with “men”. I don’t believe it to be true. I work with male students, colleagues, have two sons, and used to be almost exclusively friends with “men”. I see most “men” not as “men”, but as people just as I see “women” as people. It’s only upon interacting with people do I then make judgements about who/how they are.

How very anti-yoga of me to make judgements?! But, also, how completely yoga of me to admit that, to be truthful, honest, and self-aware.

I have written a few posts about judgement (prejudice) and self-study (svadhyaya). I think that learning where we fall short is important for growth in our lives. However, Gates mentions the way that we’re programmed to think based on what we’re told by tv, newspaper, or (now) social media. He writes:

The world is not safe, you are not safe, you need X-Y-or-Z to be safe. Your life is not enough, you are not enough, you need X-Y-or-Z to be enough. p.120

In the past few years we’ve been bombarded with ways in which people (mostly men and some women) are acting in ways that we (as a society) no longer feel comfortable with. I have always stood by these values that people should be treated equally and with kindness and compassion. I don’t always succeed at this, but I keep trying.

Last week a woman came up to me in a parking lot at the beach. She told me that she was homeless and asked if I could help her out because she hadn’t eaten all day. I told her, honestly that I didn’t have any cash. She asked if I would go to McDonald’s across the street and buy her a burger. I told her no, that I couldn’t do that either. This too was the truth. I had my children with me, we were out of time on our parking meter and they were tired and wet from having been at the beach. We had somewhere else to be soon. And my summer money is tightly budgeted as I don’t often work over the summer. But ….those are all justifications. Part of the truth was that I had watched several news reports in our area about people who were pretending to be homeless! People who went on camera (with their faces blurred and their voices altered) and admitted that they sat on a corner for a few hours each day to make money instead of going to a job. They also went to food pantries and other handouts and were letting others pay for their rent and food and utility expenses by pretending to be homeless. So, my instinct in this situation was not to give her the money.

This all made me wonder:

How much of the media influence makes me weary of being open, trusting, and sharing with people?

How much of our culture is making me seem like I have a problem with men when I speak up for equality?

How are my judgements limiting me and am I in need of some valuable reprogramming?

Fave Reads Friday #16 – Summer Reading in Full Swing

Today is the first day of the Summer Reading Program at our local library. They’re doing a big kickoff party tomorrow that we’re going to, but today is the “OFFICIAL” start date. My kids got out of school last week though, so we’ve already been reading. They’re working on the Mensa for Kids’ Excellence in Reading List for K-3rd grade as it encompasses their current reading levels and ages. I’m working my way through the list of books I’ve “saved for later” at the library.

So far I’ve finished three books since I finished teaching for the semester…..

Continue reading “Fave Reads Friday #16 – Summer Reading in Full Swing”

Appreciating Thy Self – Guest Post

I’ll say it again and again….the greatest gift yoga can give someone is not necessarily a more flexible body, but a more flexible mind. It’s always great to hear when a student has learned more about themselves through the practice of yoga. It’s a daily discovery!

 

I first started yoga a few years ago when my brother asked me to try it with him. We set up yoga mats in our living room and followed along with a DVD. Little did I know that my yoga practice had just begun and it would be become a very influential part of my life. From that day on, I would try to do yoga regularly. However, I was inconsistent with my practice, which is why I was very excited to see that CFCC offered a yoga class. I thought it would be a perfect fit in my schedule for my first semester of college. It would help me become consistent in my practice and I was very excited to learn more poses. What I was not expecting is how much I would learn about myself through the process.

Since starting this yoga class, I have rediscovered my old love of yoga, and found a new one along the way. I did not realize how personal this class would be, but it has helped me search inside myself and work on problems I am facing. Yoga has helped me grow by discovering self love and self acceptance. It has also helped me stop thinking so negatively about myself, and instead, replace negative thinking with positive affirmations. What yoga has helped me learn about myself is that I am a good person, and that I do not give myself enough credit for that. Yoga has helped, and is still helping me, appreciate myself. What I learned about yoga is that it is a very difficult practice that takes a lot of time to advance in. I can not become a yogi overnight, and that is okay. It is a life long journey. I also learned that meditation is a big part of the practice and that should be the main focus of my journey. I intend to use yoga every day in future. Even if I do not use my mat every day, I plan on using meditation throughout my day to be more aware, connected, and mindful. I am so thankful CFCC offers this class and I am excited to see where yoga takes me in the future.

 

Have a yoga story you’d like to share?

Contact me to do a Guest Post of your own.

Perseverance – Guest Post

Last Fall Wilmington suffered the effects of a slow moving hurricane – Florence. My students were displaced and kept out of school for over a month. They lost weeks of instructional time and had to push through all of the same knowledge in a shortened semester. They were amazing troopers through it all and we were able to put our yoga into practice in so many applicable ways….

 

My personal journey into yoga was a little less successful than I intended. After the hurricane and multiple tragedies in my personal life I was unable to focus as much as I wanted to on my practice. I did successfully develop a knowledge of basic poses and the benefits they have on the body. So I am happy to say I did achieve the main goal I had when signing up for the Fall yoga class. When looking back at the beginning of the semester I assumed this class would be easy in the physical performance half. Now since we have reached the end of the class I have found that correctly practicing poses is much more difficult than it appears. Many different aspects of my practice have improved from the beginning, such as my posture, balance, and breathing. I have learned when it comes to yoga the little details make all the difference, things such as foot placement, continuously breathing, and raising my chest when curving my back, are all things that help that can help prevent injuries. I also learned that there are a few poses that I am unable to perform due to my back, knee, and ankle injuries, but there are also many poses that improve them. This knowledge is good for me in the long run, I am hoping to further physical improvement. I feel as if I grew mentally from this class when we reviewed the Yamas and the Niyamas. I feel as if for the most part I follow the Yamas, but the Niyamas are the ones I struggle with, mainly in the discipline and the surrendering areas. I have found myself now continuously using disciplines in my life, in addition to an attempt at more acceptance, thus surrendering my own opinions to accept others. I feel as if I have grown a fair amount since challenging myself with theses Niyamas.

I highly enjoyed the class, it was unfortunate how we were unable to fully attend due to weather disturbances, but for the time we did receive it was a fun time and was quite informational. I only wish that the class happened more than once a week. I do plan to continue my practice, not only have I signed up for yoga II, but I also plan to find regular yoga classes at my gym to get into more of a routine. I want to incorporate my yoga practice into my life by attending a class at least twice a week. This will not only add to the stretching portion of my workouts, but also will improve my flexibility and balance, both of which are constant restriction on my physical abilities. I intend to move forward and use my practice to improve my back pain, it  is a battle I have been facing my whole life, and with yoga I now have another weapon to use against it. I am thankful for my growth, and the knowledge I gained from this class, I cannot wait to continue my journey.

Have a yoga story you’d like to share?

Contact me to do a Guest Post of your own.

Awakening to Life – Guest Post

Some of my favorite yoga stories from my students are when they just become more aware of their own existence and power in life….as in this beautiful story.

The past couple of years I’ve thought of yoga to be more of a trend rather than a therapy. I would see posts on Instagram of friends doing difficult poses and thought it was cool, but I never really saw myself getting into yoga. Well, I am two years out of high school which means two years without sports or any physical training really. Because I was refusing to workout, this past year I started to notice my body changing into my “adult body” and I was hating it. So, this summer I decided to investigate healthy living. I read of different ways to live healthy with diets and different types of exercising. The one healthy living style that stuck out to me the most was yoga. As I read, I was shocked to read all the benefits. Toning and flexibility were the two benefits that urged me to start going to classes. Though I was interested, because of my work schedule this summer I never had time to go to classes. So, when I learned that CFCC offered a yoga class I had to sign up.

 

Throughout this Fall semester I have learned so much. I have learned of ways to relax, how to improve my understanding of others, and lastly, I learned how to truly appreciate my surroundings. Almost all my life I have let stress overcome me, whether it was because of something small or big, I would over think a situation until I was stressed. Yoga has helped me cope with stress through breathing exercises and different yoga poses. I never realized that stretching was so healthy, and that breathing a certain way could help with different emotions. Alternate-nostril breathing and sound of breath breathing are two types of breathing exercises that I use on a daily basis to ease my mind. The supine spinal twist and child’s pose also help me when I am feeling stressed. Taking this yoga class has helped me understand others through a statement that Mrs. P. said one day in class. She said, “a truth is not a truth but an opinion”. This is something I will always remember because it has opened my eyes to why there is so much hate in this world today. Now when I hear others talk about certain topics, I am not judgmental to their opinion as I was before, but more open to why they feel the way they feel. Lastly, in this class I learned the importance of tuning into your five senses. Since I started to do so, I have gained an appreciation for so many things in my life. From cooking and smelling the aroma of my food, to walking downtown and noticing how beautiful the history of Wilmington is. I now have a different appreciation to my surroundings.

Yoga has been a blessing in my life. I am thankful for this course this Fall semester because I have overall grown as a person throughout this semester. Learning different ways to make myself better not only physically, but mentally is the best kind of healthy living I could ask for.

 

Have a yoga story you’d like to share?

Contact me to do a Guest Post of your own.

Meditation Monday #54 – A Prayer for Jeannie

I’ve been heavy in the heart of late. A good friend of mine and neighbor has been battling Stage 4 Lung Cancer for over a year now. She is currently in the hospital and they don’t know what made her sick enough to enter the hospital, how to fix it, and if she’ll make it home ever again.

My usual nature and pulling on my Yoga teachings tells me to be accepting of life and the challenges that come with it. My normal instinct when someone of Jeannie’s age ends up facing the eternal is that we look at the wonderful life she’s had and empathetically look for a way to see this as a blessing to end the pain. However, just a week before she entered the hospital we were chatting in her living room and she was making plans for a trip. She has been battling fatigue and some pain, but perhaps more than she’s let on. Now, three weeks later, when I saw her in the hospital the other day she said she has accepted that she may die soon. My heart broke and I told her not to lose hope and to believe that miracles can still happen.

My heart strings pulled and I reminder her of a beautiful story she told me of her own mother. Jeannie’s mother had gone in for a flu shot and slumped over in the waiting room. She ended up in the hospital in a coma and on life support. After 90 days Jeannie was asked to take her mother off of life support. She asked the doctor’s for one more day to make arrangements and say good-bye. The next day she came in and her mother opened her eyes and pulled out her trach tube and went on to live for 2.5 good years. I am usually a realist, but I also believe in miracles. I believe that people are watching over me and all of us. This surrender to some bigger connection to the universe around me is part of the yoga practices of Isvara-pranidhana.

I want to believe that Jeannie will pull through and have a few more great years left. I want to know that this person I care about and love in my life will not leave us in this way. I am unready to face the fact that for the first time my children may lose someone who they are close to. They have been sheltered from that kind of loss thus far. And so, I turn again to yoga for guidance, hope, and healing.

One of my favorite yogis is Deva Premal and she shared this mantra on her Facebook page last April:

Om Shree Dhanvantre Namaha (Healing)

Salutations to the being and power of the Celestial Healer.

This mantra helps us find the right path to healing, or directs us to the right health practitioner. In India it is also commonly chanted during cooking in order for the food to be charged with healing vibrations – either to prevent disease or assist in healing for those who are sick.

This mantra can be chanted for any situation that one would like to be healed or remedied. Good to remember and be open to the path of healing not necessarily looking the way we expect it! Dhanvantari is the celestial healer/physician – the patron saint of Ayurveda.

Jeannie needs healing from some divine power and I need to remember to be open to the path of healing my heart in whatever may come. So, today in my mediation practice, I will be using this mantra for her and for me. I will chant it out loud so that the reverberations of my words may travel to her and out into the universe for her. I will say it in my heart and my head so that I too can feel healed. This is my way of praying and may it connect us both in this world and all others to come.

Namaste.