Free Your Mind And The Rest Will Follow

Monday, July 22, 2013

How do you live your life?

How do you live your life and what do you let get in your way?  Hopefully this story will show you that nothing can get in your way if you are willing to try.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Restorative Yoga Pose #1- Legs Up The Wall

Today I want to introduce my first restorative yoga pose- legs up the wall.  I consider this to be the mother pose of all other restorative poses because it's benefits are profound and it can done just about anywhere.  This pose is a gentle inversion which uses gravity's pull as the main therapeutic tool.  The body loves to go upside down.  Think about it, gravity is pulling us in one direction most of the time.  When we flip that upside down, everything gets a little break from the pull.

Time: 5-20 minutes

The following are some basic variations of the pose and at the bottom of the post I have put the benefits and cautions.

Most basic:

 These first two pictures are the most basic versions of the posture.  The only prop you'll need is a wall and some floor space.  This posture can also be done on the bed.
* In all of the postures you will notice I have a small hand towel over the eyes.  This is an easy and effective way to block out the outside world and allow you to go deeper into relaxation

This version is the same as the one above but I have added a blanket (pillow) under my head and towels under my arms for extra luxury.

* For all versions of Legs Up the Wall it generally is more comfortable to get the butt and legs as close to the wall as possible.  This may take practice and the distance for comfort varies for everyone.  

 Leg Variations:
 Sometimes it is helpful to add different leg variations while doing the pose.  These can either add a nice stretch or give the legs a break during a long hold (or both!).

This wide legged stretch is good for the inner thighs

 With the soles of the feet together, ankles resting on the wall, and the legs out at diamond shape this version is good for the hips.

With Props:

Adding a bolster and a blanket can  give  extra support as well as adding a mild back bend to the posture.  In this version the bolster is about 3 inches from the wall allowing the tailbone to slightly curve over the edge.  The blanket is folded long and placed perpendicular to the bolster to support the back.  Extra support, such as a towel, can be added under the neck if needed.

Legs in the air:
 Don't have a wall? Don't fret, you can still do the posture with only a bolster, cushion, couple of folded blankets, or pillow as your prop.  Sit up on the prop and recline back onto the floor.  The prop should be comfortable and support the legs while they "hang" in the air. this version does require some core strength as well as some leg strength.  While some people find this version more difficult others find it easy and very soothing.

~ The Heart.  Ultimately this posture is excellent for the heart.  It sends blood rushing back into the abdomen and chest, nourishing all the internal organs.  However, this posture is especially beneficial for those with hypertension or other heart issues. Personally I believe that people with hypertension and or heart issues benefit greatly from this pose not only because of the physical nourishment that the heart gets but also the mental and emotional benefits of slowing down and being restful.
~ The Lymph System.  The lymph system is unique in the body in that it does not have any mechanism of it's own for movement throughout the body. Therefore it relies on physical activity and inversion for movement.  Obviously physical activity is the main mode for movement of lymph fluid in the body, but why not put gravity to work while you rest?  By inverting the legs upside down, gravity pulls all of the lymph fluid  that has drained into the lower regions of the body throughout the day back into circulation.
~Swollen tired legs, edema and varicose veins.  For years I worked standing for 6-8 hours on hard marble floors and I developed varicose veins.  This pose is God sent for tired legs. 10-20 minutes can make the legs feel rejuvenated and ready to go. With any kind of swelling, be it from edema or varicose, the inverting of the legs helps the swelling go down and has both short term and long term benefits if practiced regularly.
~Calms the mind.  This posture has a nourishing effect on the whole system.  Because it is an inversion all of your energy (prana/qi) goes to an areas in the body called the dantians.  The areas are located below the belly button - lower dantian, in the center of the chest - middle dantian, and between the eyebrow center - upper dantian.  Dantian is also known as "energy center" and during rest or meditation energy accumulates in these 3 areas having profound restorative and rejuvenating effects on the whole system.
~Menopause, Stress, and Exhaustion.  I want to be clear about this. These are three separate complaints but  I grouped them together because the mechanism of relief is the same.  Legs up the wall helps balance the nervous system and therefore relieves nervous exhaustion.  This in turn mitigates the effects of stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline).

Contraindications and Cautions:
~People with glaucoma or other eye issues should avoid inversions.
~Do not practice this pose if you feel any pressure in the head.
~Pregnant women should not practice this pose if they are at a high risk of miscarriage or if you feel at all uncomfortable. Pregnant women can practice for shorter amounts of time (5-10minutes).  You will feel lightheaded and dizzy long before the baby loses any oxygen, so move out of the posture if any symptoms occur. 
~Menses. Most of the time it is contraindicated to do inversions during menses.  I would suggest a modified version, like stone hedge or instant Maui postures, where the legs are not fully extended in the air during menstrual cycle.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

What about love?

The first time I ever heard yoga described as a spiritual science it blew my mind.  In our modern world we are taught to keep spirit and science separate.  Yet here ancient yogis created an entire science dedicated to understanding the spirit.  According to Webster's dictionary, " science n. - knowledge obtained from observation and arranged in a system."  Well duh,why can't the spiritual be a science?  In fact yoga practices can be considered the technologies and or the lab for greater understanding.

Lately my scientific research has been centered around love as medicine.  Now instantly when we mention the word love and science in the same sentence there is a collective eye-roll from the science community, some shifting uncomfortably in their seats, and a disregard as touchy-feely hippie talk, not real science.  In both the Indian system of medicine known as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine, emotions are taken into account in both the diagnosis and treatment of any dis-ease or illness.  In fact in TCM each organ is connected to specific emotions; liver is associated with anger and anxiety, kidneys and fear, spleen worry, lungs are grief, gallbladder is indecisiveness, and heart is joy.  Yet Western allopathic medicine scoffs at any mention to our emotions playing a major roll in dis-ease and illness.

Lately I have been observing how and where love shows up in the external world.  Turns out it is everywhere!  Have you turned on the radio lately or ever listened to music?  What is the most common theme? LOVE of course.  The ups and downs of falling in or out of love.  Outside of the scientific world we can all agree that love, either positive or negative, is the driving force of our human experiences.  Yet strangely it is almost universally kept out of our medicine and healing. I had once heard a psychologist talk about her experience working in a refugee camp in Thailand.  She worked mainly with women who had escaped the war-torn country of Burma, most of which were dealing with many physical aliments. These women had seen and experienced things we couldn't even imagine.  And yet when they came to talk to her all they wanted to talk about was love, Why did their boyfriend run off with their cousin, or who they were attracted to in the camp, or why was their husband being so distant from them now that they had made it out of Burma. Love and it's many forms was the most significant theme that any of the women talked about.

We are taught God is Love.  If God is love and God's spirit is within us all than are we not also made up of love as well?  If our spirit is ultimately love, and our body is the vessel which communicates the spirit then how can we possibly disconnect what is happening in our bodies and how we are either feeling or not feeling the love in our lives?  And what the effect of those feelings are having on our bodies?  Here's a little experiment- take a moment to go back  into an experience of illness or dis-ease in your own life?  Where you feeling loved at the time of onset?  Either self love or love from others?

Maybe the reason there are so many dis-eases out there that are yet to be cured is because our science has been asking the wrong questions.  Instead of asking, "what is the genetic mutation that causes breast cancer?" we should be asking, "do you love yourself? Do you feel loved?  Do you belong to  a community and/or support networks?  Do you have friends you can laugh with?  How's your relationship with your partner?  Do you feel you give and receive love freely?"  In my opinion, most modern science no matter how advance it may be, has utterly failed to observe the most basic and common evidence.

Could it really be that simple? Yes. I believe it is. I challenge you to a science project of your own. For this next week observe all the signs and symbols of love you see around you.  Just witness and observe.  Even better yet, collect the data and arrange in your own research project. The following is a collage of evidence I have collected on my daily walk... 

Exhibit A:

Monday, May 6, 2013

Break Time

Greetings everyone!  Excuse my long absence but I have decided it is time for this blogger to take a mental stay-cation, thought shavasana, checking out for the rest of the month.  I will be back the first Monday of July.

Be well,

Monday, April 15, 2013

Natural Deodorant that actually works!

Part of my aim of this blog is to share useful and practical information.  That's why today I had to post about this deodorant I recently purchased.  I have come across what I consider a blessing, if not a miracle, in body care. Lavailin underarm deodorant cream.  Lavilin is an all natural deodorant and as you can see on the box it offers up to seven days odor free with one application. Now I am not one to promote brands and I certainly do not get any kick backs but this deodorant is almost too good to be true and I want to share it with anyone who struggled like I have with underarm odor.

I am in front of people a lot.  Either teaching yoga classes, small group workshops, or one-on-one sessions, it seems in my line of work I am always "on".  What I have noticed is that this kind of performance makes me sweat and the side effect is stinky!  It's embarrassing to be in front of people or working with people close up and smell my own body odor! For some reason, this sweat odor was even  worse than when I work out.  I was at my wits end. I have tried every natural deodorant under the sun and nothing seemed to work. That was until I found Lavilin.  I had passed over it while trying the bazillion other brands at the co-op several times and while I was always curious at it's claims,  it just seemed too good to be true.  Also at around $15 a container, it is more expensive than other deodorants. I didn't want to waste money on something that wasn't going to work.  However, last week I gave in and -  AAAAHHHHHAAAAAA!!!!!! This stuff is amazing!  I am on day four of my first application and still smelling sweet. No odor whatsoever! I keep checking just to make sure and to my surprise each time I check I don't smell anything- nothing! Even when I have been sweating and I put this on 4 days ago.  That is absolutely amazing to me and I couldn't be happier.

I would purchase this stuff even if it promised just one day of being odor free, but up to 7 days, that still blows my mind. It takes a very little amount of cream, it smells fresh when you apply it and it lasts for 7 days, even after showering. Of course you still sweat, and that's a good thing because your body needs to sweat, but you don't smell and that's what's really important as far as I am concerned. Also, it is all natural and doesn't have any of the harmful chemicals commercial deodorants might have so you can feel even better about using it.  To sweeten the deal even more, in the long run it will actually be a lot cheaper than all those other deodorants I was buying and putting on multiple times a day because it is just one application once a week.

Already this deodorant cream has made a big impact on me.  Before I was always concerned that other people might smell me, now I can be in front of and around people confidently knowing that I smell great!  I found this product at my local co-op in the health and beauty department.  If you can't find it at your local shops I have included the website link below and you can odor on-line.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Invitation to Meditation

Hi everyone! This is a special invitation to any and everyone in the Minneapolis area to learn a meditation technique from the Isha Foundation. Isha Foundation is the organization run by Sadhguru and the organization that I formally learned my meditation from. This is a great opportunity for anyone who is interested in learning meditation basics in a relaxed atmosphere for $15.00. Listed below is all the information you need. Registration is required as there is a limited number of seats so sign up early!

Date: 4/18/2013 Thursday
Time: 6:45pm-8:00pm
Venue: Hale Elementary School
            1220 East 54th Minneapolis, MN 55417

Registration: Class ID: 16148 49012
Class title: Meditation: Be, Breathe, Blossom
Please check out more about Isha Foundation and their website at


Monday, April 1, 2013

What is healthy?

Shigechiyo Izumi- oldest living man ever recorded. 120 years, 237 days
As a health care provider it is my job to teach and guide people to feel better and live a more healthy lifestyle.  Everywhere you look there is some suggestion out there as to what you should do to "fix" what ales ya. Often my clients share with me the ways they "keep healthy".  I see all sorts of different people with completely different lifestyles and ideas about what they think  healthy is, this makes me constantly question, what is healthy?

Does exercise and a fit body mean you are healthy? I have worked with many athletes and triathletes and I can tell you 0% body fat does not necessarily healthy make.  In fact, I see lots of athletes with chronic on-going health issues of pain and depletion.   In my opinion  ripped abs and skinny jeans are not indicators of health.  I once knew a man who ran 9 miles a day, had no body fat whatsoever and had a quadruple bypass at the age of 45.  Is that healthy?

Then there are the foodies. Is it the vegans? Atkins? Raw foodists? Gluten free?  Cave man's diet? Mediterranean diet? Juicing, fasting, cleansing, and detox- oh my!  What  is the best food diet?  This is an on-going debate that seems to change by the hour.  Coffee- good today bad tomorrow. Should I or shouldn't I eat eggs?  Opinions on food are as plentiful as food choices themselves.  And why we may all be able to agree, "you are what you eat?" We can't seem to come to any consensus on what the heck to eat.

There is a multi-billion dollar industry to keep people looking young. As long as you look the part, no mater the cost, then you must be healthy right? These are the folks that are constantly chasing the fountain of youth through pills, supplements, vitamins, injections, reductions, surgeries, peels, scrubs and the likes.   These folks will do anything to keep their youthful appearance.  Youthful on the outside but what is happening on the inside?  In our youth obsessed society if you said taking a trip into outer space would take 10 years off, there would be mobs of desperate people breaking down NASA doors.  However, many of these remedies can have serious side effects.  Is that healthy?

Finally there are those folks like my grandma and Shigechiyo Izumi who don't follow any "health rules",  or in some cases defy all the rules and still out live everyone.  My beautiful grandma Flo lived to be 103 years young and up until the very end was still kicking everyone's butt in Scrabble.  She was a farm wife who lived on meat, white foods (potatoes, white flour, white sugar) and weak coffee.  I can't say I  ever saw her exercise (like at a gym or even go for a walk for that matter) or eat kale and still she got around quite well until her mid 90's.  If you looked at her she wouldn't exactly qualify as the picture of health but then no one can debate 103 years.  And then there is Shigechiyo Izumi, the second oldest person to ever live recorded in modern times. Izumi was 120 years 237 days old when he passed.  What is so fascinating about him is that he took up smoking at the age of 70 (which meant he smoked for 50 years) and liked to drink brown sugar shochu (a Japanese alcoholic beverage).  Izumi isn't exactly what most of us would consider healthy yet proof is in the pudding so to speak- 120 years and 237 days young!

So that brings me back to my original question- WHAT IS HEALTHY? Does living to 120 years 237 days mean you are healthy, or just old?  Does appearing young on the outside reflect health, or just a deep wallet?  Do ripped muscles and physical feats determine health, or just accomplishment?  And how important is our diet- grandma  Flo what do you think?

Then there are those other factors that I like to consider when I am talking to people about their health.  How well do you sleep at night? Do you sleep through the night? Bad dreams?  How well do you handle stressful situations? Do you laugh everyday?  What are your eating patterns? How's your poo- quality, quantity, frequency?  Do you fatigue easily or often? What are your relationships like?  How many hours a day are you on some sort of  electronics device?  What is happening in your body that you disregard as, "oh that's just what happens when you get older"?

You see there are all types of indicators to this elusive ideal of health that we overlook.  In allopathic medicine they look at numbers- your cholesterol levels, blood pressure, BMI etc.  Yet, with all it's advance technologies Americans have shockingly high mortality rates-considering.  With all of our medical advancements everyone should be living to at least 100- but we're not.  U.S. heart disease rates are shrinking but mental illness rates are skyrocketing. In Chinese medicine we consider your shen- life force.  When I look at you do you radiate and glow or is your life force/shen dull?  Not exactly a measurable qualifier is it?  But very helpful none the less.

This much I do know about health.  Health is about balance.  If you truly want to be healthy you have to have an honest observation about every aspect of your life.  The guy that had a quadruple bypass at 45, ate "right" and exercised but he carried a lot of anger for a very long time.  My grandma who had a terrible diet as far as modern standards might believe had an amazing attitude and let stuff roll off her back fairly easily. When one area of our lives is out of balance it can throw off everything else.

In my practice I look at all aspects of a persons well-being and take a 360 degree approach.  What is happening physically, energeticly, ad mentally and bring them all back into balance.  This is working in the yogic concept of Koshas- all the layers of your being.  While I find this approach to be extremely effective, there are always exceptions to the rule.  Like Izumi for instance.  Modern logic says there is no way someone who starts smoking at 70 should live another 50 years.  Is health about quantity of life or quality of life, or both?  It's so fascinating and perplexing to me, makes me wonder really,  what is healthy?