yoga-therapy

When Students Are Teachers: Yoga in Drug Court

Lynda McCullough by Lynda McCullough | April 27th, 2016 | No Comments
topic: Inspirational Media, Yoga | tags: benefits of yoga, growth, help, mental-health, Personal Growth, self growth, teacher, teachers, Yoga, yoga teacher, yoga teachers, yoga-therapy

When I became a yoga teacher 13 years ago, I was keenly interested in introducing yoga into hospitals and mental health centers. I began my own practice right after my father died, and experienced such grounding within my grief that I longed to share the benefits of yoga with people who’d experienced illness or trauma. I taught in hospitals, but it was five years later, in county drug court, that I found my true niche working with teens.

DREAM BIG WITH TFM: Five Steps Towards Making Your Dreams a Reality

by guest | April 20th, 2016 | No Comments
topic: Personal Growth | tags: apparel, dreams, finding happiness, happiness, new, positive, positive-thoughts, practicing happiness, pursuing dreams, two fit moms, Yoga, yoga apparel, yoga-therapy, yoga_positions

A guest post from Two Fit Moms.

Four years ago, we began sharing our love of yoga on Instagram by posting snapshots and picture tutorials of some of our favorite poses. With young kids at home, we rarely made it out to attend classes at yoga studios, but we loved to practice at home. We had a passion for connecting with others and sharing whatever we learned on our mats, so we posted photos often and helped build a virtual yoga community. We hoped to be able to reach a larger audience one day, and seeing that dream come true through our relationship with Gaiam has been a surreal experience.

Learning to be Human

Lynda McCullough by Lynda McCullough | March 28th, 2016 | No Comments
topic: Yoga | tags: beginner yoga, Beginner's Mind, beginners, deepen-your-yoga-practice, gentle workouts, yin yoga, Yoga, yoga-for-beginners, yoga-practice, yoga-therapy

The other day I attended a new yoga class. Though I entered the studio with ten minutes to spare, the entire floor was covered with bodies. For a gentle yoga class? In my experience the gentle classes usually provide plenty of room to find a private space.

Alignment

Dana Damara by Dana Damara | March 18th, 2016 | No Comments
topic: Yoga | tags: alignment, benefits of yoga, bks-iyengar, deepen-your-yoga-practice, Iyengar, Iyengar yoga, Personal Growth, strength, Yoga, yoga poses, yoga-practice, yoga-therapy

The very first yoga class I ever attended was Iyengar-based. This was some fifteen years ago, when I was totally into Tai Bo, Spin and Step Aerobics. Kind of an unusual transition, really. Truth be told, I hated it. I could hear the clock ticking, I did not sweat, and there was no music. It felt like such a waste of time to me. It took me a good month to go back. Honestly, it was like pulling teeth, but something kept me going back once a week.

Yoga, Disability, and Community

Lynda McCullough by Lynda McCullough | March 1st, 2016 | 1 Comment
topic: Inspirational Media, Yoga | tags: colorado, disabilities, seniors, Yoga, yoga class, yoga for everyone, yoga mat, yoga-for-beginners, yoga-practice, yoga-therapy, yoga_positions

Seven years ago I found a copy of yoga teacher Matthew Sanford’s book Waking: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence, in the local used bookstore. The book lit me on fire: Not only did Sanford’s story of loss and healing profoundly move me, his deep and unique experience with yoga’s ability to transform touched into my own and inspired me to teach to people with disabilities.

3 Ways to Return to a Beginner’s Mindset

Michelle Finerty by Michelle Finerty | February 12th, 2016 | 3 Comments
topic: Personal Growth, Yoga | tags: awareness, Beginner's Mind, beginners, benefits of yoga, Yoga, yoga poses, yoga-for-beginners, yoga-practice, yoga-therapy, yoga_positions

How long have you been coming to your yoga mat? When you think about your yoga practice, can you remember what brought you to yoga and how you felt during your first class? It’s been over 15 years since I first stepped on my yoga mat and I remember exactly how I felt. Excited and terrified.

6 Yoga Tips for Deep Sleep

Rodney Yee by Rodney Yee | January 13th, 2016 | No Comments
topic: Health & Wellness, Yoga | tags: help sleeping, how to sleep better, rodney yee, sleep, sleeping, sleeplessness, Yoga, yoga-for-beginners, yoga-therapy, yoga_positions

  1. Release tension. Before you get started with yoga before sleep, know that gentle forward bending will release tension in the postural muscles that support you all day long. When we lay down these muscles can rest but often do not shut off because of habit.

3 Tips to Balance the Holiday Season

Michelle Finerty by Michelle Finerty | December 15th, 2015 | 2 Comments
topic: Health & Wellness, Yoga | tags: deepen-your-yoga-practice, holiday, holiday season, holiday stress, holidays, manage stress, reduce stress, stress-relief, Yoga, yoga-for-beginners, yoga-practice, yoga-therapy, yoga_positions

It’s the holiday season. A wonderful time of year that somehow gets stressful and chaotic with all of the things to do, events to host as well as attend, and relationships to celebrate through gifts and time spent together.

Maintaining balance and letting go of the stress of the season is a practice of its own. Fortunately, with a little mindfulness, planning, and compassion, you can embrace the season feeling more refreshed, grateful, and happy.

Finding Peace

Gaiam Staff by Gaiam Staff | November 10th, 2015 | 2 Comments
topic: Inspirational Media, Yoga | tags: benefits of yoga, Bikram, breathe, how to quiet your mind while meditating, meditate, meditation, meditation practice, military, PTSD, veterans, veterans day, Yoga, yoga teaching, yoga-practice, yoga-therapy

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.”

Finding Balance

Michelle Finerty by Michelle Finerty | October 13th, 2015 | 1 Comment
topic: Personal Growth, balance | tags: balance, compare, crow pose, happiness, life transitions, self care, self confidence, self-affirmation, self-love, tree-pose, Yoga, yoga-for-beginners, yoga-therapy

As seasons change and the beginning of another school year is here, most of the conversations I’ve been in lately have been about how busy life gets and how hard it is to keep everything in balance…emotionally, physically, and mentally.