Inspirational Media

You Need Yoga Now

Heather Larson by Heather Larson | November 24th, 2015 | No Comments
topic: Health & Wellness, Inspirational Media, balance

The holidays are careening toward us again, whether we’re ready or not. It’s time to take a look at how we plan to take care of ourselves during the chaos. Let’s start with a few of the demands placed upon us. Although the list can be endless—shopping, parties, where will the money come from, baking, cleaning, entertaining, will Uncle Joe get drunk and ruin dinner—you have to carve out extra time for these chores.

5 Steps to Practice Gratitude around the Holidays

by guest | November 23rd, 2015 | No Comments
topic: Inspirational Media, Yoga

A guest post from Two Fit Moms.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, but the Thanksgiving holiday reminds us to come back to center, to focus on all that is good, and to count our many blessings.  This year, we encourage you to expand your day of gratitude into a daily practice.  While this may sound like another task to add to your to-do list during a busy season, we believe it’s well worth the effort.

Wake Up and Arise

Lynda McCullough by Lynda McCullough | November 12th, 2015 | No Comments
topic: Inspirational Media

For much of my life, I was shy and withdrawn, deep in my own world and very uncomfortable in public settings. Over time, though, yoga, mountain ventures, friendships, and a variety of healing encounters have opened me up and connected me strongly to the life around me. So this summer I boldly ventured forth to participate in the Arise Music Festival in Loveland, Colorado, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains.

Finding Peace

Gaiam Staff by Gaiam Staff | November 10th, 2015 | 2 Comments
topic: Inspirational Media, Yoga

Exalted Warrior is a small organization, based out of a two-room yoga studio in downtown Tampa. The front of the building is unassuming—just a single-story concrete facade with room for maybe five cars to park in front. The interior is about what you’d expect too, from the hardwood floors to the stacks of bolsters and mats in various cubbies around the lobby. What happens in this building, though, is anything but ordinary.
When Nick Caris first came to this studio, several years ago, he was angry. Nick had suffered a traumatic brain injury in Afghanistan, the result of a poorly-timed rocket blast, and had only returned from Afghanistan a few weeks prior. He wasn’t even in class voluntarily—his uncle had dragged him to his weekly Bikram session, hoping it would help him relax. “I remember the first time that Nick came into the studio,” recalls Annie, Exalted Warrior’s founder. “I could kind of tell that he wasn’t comfortable where he was, but he was hanging in there, doing the best he could.”
Nick’s story is, unfortunately, far from unique. Every week, Annie welcomes in dozens of combat veterans, from young men and women in their 20s, fresh off the plane from Iraq and Afghanistan, to Vietnam vets with greying beards and ailing joints that haven’t had a restful night in 40 years. Some have traumatic brain injuries, some are missing limbs, and some just feel out of place and ostracized in a culture they don’t recognize any more.
Nick didn’t like the class, and he didn’t like Annie, but she was persistent. She met him in a coffee shop just down the street and convinced him to keep coming back to class, week after week. Gradually, his defensive walls started to come down. “I didn’t have the awareness that I had changed, when it came to dealing with civilian life,” Nick explains. “The frustration was there—people didn’t understand, or they didn’t want to understand, or they assumed they knew and they didn’t, and I didn’t really know how to respond to a lot of that stuff. It’s really funny,” he adds with a smile, “when you start telling a story to somebody they would start to cry, and it was kind of like ‘well, I just don’t want to tell anybody anymore, ’cause then everybody’s going to keep crying and I don’t want to see anybody cry.’”
Yoga and meditation provide Nick an outlet that other people couldn’t. When the lights go down and his breathing slows, his past comes bubbling back to the surface. But in the calm and safety of the yoga studio, he doesn’t panic or shy away. He’s able to face his problems, acknowledge them, and move on. Nick now teaches for Exalted Warrior, as well as volunteering at the VA hospital just south of town. He’s calm and soft-spoken, happily discussing his past, his injury, and his journey to the man he is today. “It wasn’t until yoga and me finding true acceptance for what I did and letting all of those things go that I really noticed how far away we were, from military veteran to normal civilian.”
At Veterans Alternative, based in the little town of Holiday, FL, they’re taking a different approach to that same transition. “It was very difficult to transition back into the civilian world,” says Gabriel Muñoz-Calene, a former Marine now working as an attorney. It’s hard for returning vets to find people they can relate to, from the life-changing experiences they’ve had to something as small as the swear words or three-letter acronyms that crept into their everyday vocabulary while they were on duty. Veterans Alternative offers them a return to that environment, giving returning vets the culture they’re used to without the trauma or stress of active duty. Vets can participate in military-style obstacle courses, weekly barbecues with their peers, hand-to-hand combat training, and interval-style workouts. Some described the exercise itself as a “moving meditation.”
Every day, though, everyone comes into the main room in Veterans Alternative’s little house and turns out the lights for iRest yoga. iRest Yoga Nidra, shortened from “integrative restoration,” is a practice developed over the last 26 years by Dr. Richard Miller, a clinical psychologist, author, researcher, and yogic scholar. The practice originates in meditative traditions dating back thousands of years, but Dr. Miller thought its spiritual component might seem inaccessible to a Western audience, so he adapted the practice to include more modern language.
“What was interesting about it was that people don’t know how to meditate,” says Brian Anderson, cofounder of Veterans Alternative and a former Ranger himself. “So when you have a practice like iRest where you’re actually able to sit through a guided meditation and just let your mind be free to go where it needs to go, whatever it needs to go to, that day, that time and space, it’s absolutely amazing.” And it seems to be working. Forest Spall, an injured veteran from the area who comes to practice yoga and meditate at least once a week, says that a 15-minute iRest session makes him feel better rested than a two-hour nap.
And Janel Norton, Brian’s co-founder and a former combat photographer with the Air Force, can hardly believe the results herself. She leads the meditation sessions in Veterans Alternative’s main room, a pre-fab building with screen doors and the occasional rattle from an air conditioner. She reads from a well-worn paperback iRest book in a calm, slow voice, reading glasses balanced on her nose, with a dozen veterans of various ages and experience levels laid out on blankets and bolsters around her. Some can’t lie on the floor due to stiffness or injury, so they sit in reclining chairs around the edge of the room. Some have service dogs that lie next to them, resting their noses on their owners’ hands. Some of them even begin to snore as the session goes on. “Since I started using it,” Janel says, “I can’t believe the effects that I’m hearing it has on people. It amazes me.”
There are almost 22 million veterans living in the United States. These men and women often feel ostracized, misunderstood, and even shunned by the people around them. Many of them have physical or mental injuries. And according to NPR, growing numbers of them are becoming addicted to painkillers prescribed to them by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Veterans Alternative and Exalted Warrior are not alone. They’re part of a growing movement, seeking to use interpersonal contact and mental training to help veterans, whether they’re fresh out of the service or have been struggling with inner demons for decades. “In less than a year, we’ve had over a hundred veterans come through our doors,” says Brian. “They’re coming from other states, other organizations are sending their warriors to us, and they’re loving every aspect of it.” Meditation and yoga offer them a non-pharmaceutical alternative to treat what ails them—and a better one, according to Nick Caris, who says that yoga and meditation have helped him more than any medicinal approach ever did. “It was a huge deal to finally find some relaxation,” he says, a smile emerging on his face. Everyone involved with these organizations is as passionate about their work as Nick is. “My favorite part is just knowing that I’m giving these guys something they can take with them that they can use to help them stay focused and calm,” says Janel. “I’m giving them a piece back that maybe they lost.”

Yoga Changed Me

Lynda McCullough by Lynda McCullough | October 14th, 2015 | No Comments
topic: Inspirational Media, Yoga

So much is written about yoga these days. People describe how it helped them through a crisis, healed an injury, made them stronger. Many are inspired to become teachers. Doctors write about yoga’s health benefits and teachers write about its philosophy, anatomical mechanics, or energetics. I am one more fan, student, and teacher, and I want to add my say.

The Joy of a Digital Detox

Elizabeth Wellington by Elizabeth Wellington | October 7th, 2015 | No Comments
topic: Conscious Living News, Detox, Inspirational Media

Two weekends ago, I took part in a women’s retreat at a beautiful farm in rural Connecticut. And I did something unusual—I turned off my cell phone. Instead of glancing at my phone, I soaked in the landscape, embraced time meditating, and laughed with soulful women around me. I took a step away from tech, and I couldn’t have been happier.

Day of Peace

Lisa Truesdale by Lisa Truesdale | September 29th, 2015 | No Comments
topic: Giving Back, Inspirational Media

A few weeks before the International Day of Peace, I posed a question to my Facebook friends: “How, where, or when do you find peace?” Since the official purpose of the worldwide observance is “global ceasefire,” I expected—and received—several thoughtful responses about striving for peace in the world, and they were appreciated.

Practice as a Band-Aid

Matt Cooke by Matt Cooke | September 28th, 2015 | No Comments
topic: Inspirational Media, Personal Growth

What is practice to you?

Is practice something that you enjoy so much that you cultivated it into a daily “practice”? Just an official “ritual” stamp on the activity that is already strongly rooted in your heart? Or did you hear from someone else that meditation is great, or checking your finances daily is “good practice”?

Yogi Not Flexible

Lynda McCullough by Lynda McCullough | September 11th, 2015 | 4 Comments
topic: Health & Wellness, Inspirational Media, Yoga

When You Aren’t The Most Flexible Yogi On The Block: One Woman Finds Her Niche As A Teacher

Who is eligible to become a yoga teacher? Those with X number of years’ experience? The most adept practitioners? Anyone who wants to?

5 Simple Steps To Cultivate A Beginner’s Mind

Elizabeth Wellington by Elizabeth Wellington | August 12th, 2015 | 3 Comments
topic: Health & Wellness, Inspirational Media, Personal Growth

Last time I went to the airport, I saw a small boy with his hands and cheeks up against a large glass window. He watched the planes take off over and over again with a look of awe smudged across his face. His reflection held a sense of luminous possibility, as if he realized he could fly too. I stood there, tired and anxious to get to on my flight, witnessing something magical.