Yes! Yes! Yes!

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Come Alive!

Yes! Yes! Yes!

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” ~ Howard Thurman

In the past five months my heart has been roaring during my wakefulness, composing sonnets in my sleep, whispering sweet encouragement when I tremble and serenading me each time I meditate.  That’s my heart for yah. She’s pretty wild, courageous, optimistic and deep. Working with people in the arena of personal wellness and healing feels like a big full body “YES!” I know with every cell in my being that this is my life’s work.

Still, there’s this sharp prattling creature of a mind full of fear, shame, hesitation, financial insecurities and a healthy dose of occasional self-doubt. What if you don’t find what I offer worthwhile? Every time she comes to gnaw at my dreams and undermine my efforts I call her a slew of names. Nothing I couldn’t say in a studio full of 5-year old yogis – just naming what she is: “thinking.” Thinking, self-doubt, anger, fear, resentment, insecurity…  I’ve been whittling her claws down calling her by name and although she still sinks her teeth in from time to time, lately she isn’t making any serious flesh wounds.

This month I am embarking on a journey of becoming a Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy Practitioner. Over the next ten months I will be travelling to Canada and Vermont to attend a host of intensives. Even as I write this I have no clue how I’m going to get to British Columbia in less than 10 days. To throw in an extra measure of awesomeness, days after my first PRYT training, I am registered to study with my favorite teacher, Chrisandra Fox Walker, in her 60 hour Tantra Yoga Immersion in San Francisco. My vehicle registration is expired and I’ve got a boot on my car that just ate up my plane ticket funds. I’m not certain how I’ll pay for gas, I don’t know where I’m going to sleep, I’m not sure how I’ll navigate the trainings after that… What I do know is that I believe deeply in the work and I hear the small deep tenor of my heart singing a resounding “Yes!”  Over, and over, “Yes!”

This week has been a great opportunity to practice equanimity, faith, and creativity. This is my yoga. All I have to do is listen in for guidance and show up with all of me: fear and courage in tow. These minor obstacles are a magical invitation to reaffirm my commitment to my path. I live to reveal whatever it is that dims my heart’s shine.

So – here I go! I’m on a mission to put myself out of a day job and unlock deeper avenues of healing in my community and myself.  Yes! Thank you all for your support!

~ artemisia shine

From Artemisia Shine’s March 2013 Newsletter: Issue # 01

 

What Makes Your Heart Sing?

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What Makes Your Heart Sing?

by Artemisia Shine

We each waltz with a unique vibration that adds to the richness and texture of the unifying symphony of the Universe. We are here to playfully embody our deepest passions, gifts and skills in harmony with the cosmic dance. Let’s get our boogie on!
 
As you rise each morning, what is your life in service to – your work, your loved ones, amassing material resources, clinging to momentary pleasures, seeking validation, creating beauty, avoiding pain? What part of this equation is in service to your highest calling? WHAT ANIMATES YOUR SPIRIT? How do you honor that each day? 
 
Close your eyes and tap into your deep inner-rhythm; what inspires your heart to sing? Do you create time each day to listen? How much of your life is organized around this song? You are the eyes, the ears, the breath of essence experiencing life through you. Your entire being is a sacred offering. This body, this lifetime is a precious gift and we are each a miracle wrapped in temporal skin. Every moment is ripe with opportunity to tune into your unique rhythm. Take a moment right now to breath and listen for your own heart wisdom. How does the universe hum through you? Consciously offer up your enchanted vibration to the collective symphony.

Choose what you give your attention to. Not tomorrow, not next week, not after you loose those pesky 8 pounds or when you get a better job. Now. Right now. This moment. This breath. Step into the limitless stream of beauty, strength, love and inspiration that moves you in line with the joy of your own beingness.
 
Let your day unfurl from a continual return to conscious awareness. Find your heart beat in between the big moments even as minor irritations and major obstacles clamor their dissonant chords. Nestle into that pulse of aliveness. Open up to whatever arises as a tuning fork for your soul. 

This practice is not about becoming someone else or morphing into a better version of you. It is about revealing who you really are when you’re not diverting your attention by people-pleasing, minimizing your gifts, affecting a façade, making excuses, or safe-guarding your heart. It’s about realizing the Self through your most tender moments of expression.

You were born to revel in the exhilaration of doing what you most love. Let your presence bring you back to what is sacred within you. Dive headlong into the river of music within. Live on purpose. BE that which most lights you up. Wildly belt out your “YES!!”

Originally Published in the  March 2013 – Issue #01

5 Reasons for Teachers to (re)Commit to your Home Practice

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5 Reasons for Teachers to (re)Commit to your Home Practice

Source: Yogaglo • Jason Crandell • February 12, 2013

 

Commit to your Home Practice

Every training I teach includes a module about home practice and personal studies. And, invariably, it includes a slow dirge-like conversation that reveals the students’ personal practices are not—how can I say this in yoga-speak—thriving.While my teachers were not so forgiving about a lackluster home-practice, I get it. Practicing at home is not always as easy as taking a class and, the truth is, there are a lot of good classes out there (and, some lousy ones). But, developing your home practice is essential for the development of your self-awareness and the cultivation of your voice as a teacher. So, whether you’re practicing a YogaGlo class or doing an old-school, offline home-practice, the following reasons should remind you of the value of your personal practice.

  •  Practicing at home helps you develop the skill of self-care:

Actively participating in the wellbeing of your body, mind and breath is essential for your health. No, it’s not always easy. And, yes, it is always important. It’s incredibly easy for our wellness to take a backseat to our countless daily responsibilities. Yet, when we take care of ourselves with our practice everything else falls into place with a little bit more ease—and, if not, at least we’re in a little better shape.

  • To focus on specific needs such as shoulder opening, core strength, or deep relaxation:

Most of you know what your body needs in order to experience greater balance. Your home practice provides you with the opportunity to target specific areas of need—like shoulder opening and so on.

  • To focus on specific postures such as backbends or inversions:

A friend of mine began practicing at home for the sole purpose of working on handstand. The one class a week that she went to didn’t provide enough repetition for her to develop the posture. As such, the posture went nowhere for months until she took matters into her own hands and started a daily practice focused around learning this inversion. Not only did she learn the posture by focusing on it more regularly, she fell in love with her home-practice and has been committed to it ever since.

  • To do the poses you love:

Uggghhh and Arghhh. Those are the sounds I make when someone says they have to spend more time practicing poses that they loathe. I make the same sounds exponentially louder when someone says this is the advice that their teacher gave them. Why, the sounds? Simple: The advice is only partially logical and nearly impossible to enact. You will only white-knuckle yourself through things that you have an aversion to for so long—especially when those things are optional. And, since doing poses you don’t like is optional, very few people do actually do this. This is why people always say they should practice the poses they butt heads with instead of say do practice these postures. Instead, treat yourself! There are plenty of reasons you love the poses you love—one is that they are probably very good for you. So, dear ones, do some postures that you like and fall in love with them over and over.

  • To deepen your experience of yoga:

Honing your skills in any subject matter requires repetition. Taking 1 or 2 classes per week probably wouldn’t be enough to learn a new language—not without doing some homework each day. Deepening your yoga practice also requires an immersive experience. At very least, it requires consistent repetition. Sure, 1 or 2 classes per week is absolutely reasonable for a more casual student—and, it may be all that someone can muster at various phases of their life. But, in order for teachers to feel honest, authentic and inspired you need to dive in to your personal practice with much greater frequency.

Jason Crandell was recently named one of the next generation of teachers shaping yoga’s future by Yoga Journal for his skillful, unique approach to vinyasa yoga. Jason’s steady pace, creative sequencing, and attention to detail encourage students to move slowly, deeply, and mindfully into their bodies. Jason credits his primary teacher, Rodney Yee, teachers in the Iyengar Yoga tradition such as Ramanand Patel, and ongoing studies in Eastern and Western philosophy for inspiring to him bring greater alignment and mindfulness to Vinyasa Yoga.

Jason is a contributing editor for Yoga Journal and has written over 13 articles for the magazine and website – many of which have been translated internationally (including Japan, China, Italy and Brazil). His integrative and accessible teachings support students of every background and lineage, helping them to find greater depth, awareness, and well-being in their practice – and in their lives. Follow Jason on Facebook and Twitter.

You Are A Miracle

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You Are A Miracle

Need to bee wildly inspired? Not only is this video by Nini Canino breathtakingly beautiful, the lyrics to this song made my whole being resonate in agreement and wonder. Even better than all that, the band, Medicine For The People, reaffirms my belief in the magic of the human spirit and what we are all capable of when we dedicate our lives to raising everyone up around us.
Thank you Medicine for the People.  Thank you Nino Canino.

Please watch. I promise you it’s worth your time.

Ps. If you love this song (like I do) click this link for a free download of the song from Nahko & Medicine For The People!

“Aloha Ke Akua” Music by Nahko (Medicine for the People) – 2012
Video by Nino Canino on youtube at: http://www.youtube.com/user/SailinJerry
Visual production by The Mates Group for Estrellas Del Bicentario

About Medicine For The People: MAKING THE MOVEMENT MOVE

“Medicine for the People is a third year non-profit organization working with every kind of community imaginable to rekindle old traditions and spark the fire within the youth and elders to live their truths; to use your personal medicine and heal the wounds around us.

A community experience. Spirited thump-hop storytelling. Earth-based-spirit-inspired. Working for social and environmental justice. Musical medicine. Our band tours and performs at benefits to support causes for other non-profits aligned with a similar vision. Please contact us if you have an event that we might be able to help get moving with our music! Be a part of the global movement. We will activate our audience towards positive direct acti1on; a selfless tribe, caretakers of the land, walking in a sacred manner.”

Live by example. Live your truth. Sing loud. Be heard.”

Source: http://medicineforthepeople.wordpress.com

“Aloha Ke Akua” (God is love) 

Lend your ears, lend your hands,
Lend your movement, anything you can.
Come to teach, come to be taught.
Come in the likeness in the image of God.
Because, you can be like that.
With all that humbleness, and all that respect.
All of the power invested in me,
be it hard to love my enemies.
All of the black bags,
over the heads of the dead and dying.
The more I understand about the human race,
the less I comprehend about our purpose and place
and maybe if there was a clearer line the curiosity would satisfy.
Time based prophecies that kept me from living,
in the moment I am struggling
to trust the divinity of all the guides
and what the hell they have planned for us.
I cry for the creatures who get left behind
but everything will change in a blink of an eye
and if you wish to survive,
you will find the guide inside.

MmmMmmMmmMmmMmmMmmmmm. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

I go back and forth every single day,
the clarity that comes to me in a choppy way,
as the feelings
and the places
and the seasons change,
the galaxies remain.
Energy fields cone the body in space.
The angels that are coming from a spiritual waste.
The hate that gets me distant from my spiritual pace.
Ten fold the manna when the planets are in place, in polar alignment.
We’re on assignment.
Mmm,
Bodies on consignment.
Return them to the circus,
and what is the purpose?
What is the purpose and would you believe it?
Would you believe it if you knew what you were for,
and how you became so informed.
Bodies of info performing such miracles.
I am a miracle made up of particles
and in this existence,
I’ll stay persistent,
and I’ll make a difference
and I will have lived it.

Aloha, Aloha , Ke Akua, Ke Akua,
Aloha, Aloha, Kuleana, Kuleana,
Aloha, Aloha , Ke Akua, Ke Akua,
Aloha, Aloha, Kuleana, Kuleana,

Each day that I wake,
I will praise I will praise.
Each day that I wake,
I give thanks I give thanks.
Each day that I wake,
I will praise. I will praise.
Each day that I wake,
I give thanks, I give thanks.
Mmm

And the day that I do wake up
and transcend the holy makeup,
I am capable, Iam powerful.
And the day that I do wake up
and transcend the holy makeup,
I am on my way to a different place………..
Hut da da da doooo ……….

I am not a leader, just a creature.
Stick the peaches of my teacher when you follow where they lead.
All mysterious ways of nature and I am in to it.
Hmm
Changing management.
And there are various ways to conquer this, monotonous, metropolis,
my stubbornness is bottomless,
my fear is this is talking shit
and I am wide awake and I am taking names.

I am not a leader, just a creature.
Stick the peaches of my teacher when you follow where they lead.
All mysterious ways of nature and I am in to it.
I am into it.
Changing management.
And there are various ways to conquer this, monotonous, metropolis,
my stubbornness is bottomless
my fear that this is talking shit,
and I am wide awake.
Mmmm and I am takin names.

And there are various ways to conquer this, monotonous, metropolis,
my stubbornness is bottomless
my fear that this is talking shit,
and I am wide awake and I am takin names.

Do you speak to me like you speak to God?
All the love and understanding between the father and the son?
Do you believe in the perfectness of where you are?
He’s my people he’s my children it’s the land that I would fight for.
I saw an ebonese telling me to patiently move the music medicine around the planet in a hurry.
Cuz there’s no time to waste.
Got to wake up the people time to stand up and say,
we know what we are for
and how we became so informed.
Bodies of info performing such miracles.
I am a miracle.
Made up of particles
and in this existence
I’ll stay persistent
and I’ll make a difference
and I will have lived it. ……..
Hmm

Aloha, Aloha , Ke Akua, Ke Akua,
Aloha, Aloha, Kuleuna, Kuleana,
Aloha, Aloha, Ke Akua, Ke Akua,
Aloha, Aloha, Kuleana, Kuleana,

Each day that I wake,
I will praise, I will praise.
Each day that I wake,
I give thanks, I give thanks.
Each day that I wake,
I will praise, I will praise.
Each day that I wake,
I give thanks, I give thanks.

And the day that I do wake up and transcend the holy makeup,
I am capable.
Hm that’s right, I am powerful.
And the day that I do wake up and transcend the holy makeup,
I am on my way to a different place a a ace!
Ho ho ooo eh eh eh eh na na na na na na na hm hm hm hm

Aloha, Aloha, Ke Akua, Ke Akua,
Aloha, Aloha, Kuleana, Kuleana

School Adds Yoga to Physical Education Curriculum

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School Adds Yoga to Physical Education Curriculum
Source: The Bismark Tribune • Associated Press • December 12, 2012

School adds yoga to physical education curriculum

ENCINITAS, Calif. — Public school yoga instructor Katie Campbell proudly looks out at 23 first-graders as they contain their squirming in a kid-friendly version of the lotus position.

In a voice barely above a whisper, she says into her microphone: “Why look at everyone showing me they’re ready for yoga. A-plus, plus, plus.”

Then the lesson begins with deep breathing and stretches common to many yoga classes.

But there is no chanting of “om,” no words spoken in the Indian language of Sanskrit nor talk of “mindfulness” or clasping hands in the prayer position.

Campbell avoids those potential pitfalls for the Encinitas Union School District, which is facing the threat of a lawsuit as it launches what is believed to be the country’s most comprehensive yoga program for a public school system.

Parents opposed to the program say the classes will indoctrinate their children in Eastern religion and are not just for exercise.

It’s a debate public schools across the country are increasingly facing with the rising popularity of the practice and the recent dispute over school prayer.

‘21st century P.E.’

Yoga is now taught at public schools from the rural mountains of West Virginia to the bustling streets of Brooklyn as a way to ease stress in today’s pressure-packed world where even kindergartners say they feel tense about keeping up with their busy schedules. But most classes are part of an after-school program, or are offered only at a few schools or by some teachers in a district.

Encinitas is believed to be the only public school system that will have yoga instructors teach full-time at its nine schools as part of an overall wellness curriculum that includes nutrition and a school garden program, among other things.

“This is 21st century P.E. for our schools,” said Encinitas Superintendent Timothy B. Baird. “It’s physical. It’s strength-building. It increases flexibility, but it also deals with stress reduction and focusing, which kickball doesn’t do.”

The program is expected to teach a 30-minute yoga lesson to roughly 5,000 students twice a week at the district’s schools, which run kindergarten through sixth grade. It is funded with a $533,000 grant from the Jois Foundation, a nonprofit group whose board of directors includes the son of the late Indian instructor Krishna Pattabhi Jois, whose teachings are said to have popularized Ashtanga yoga in the Western world and were followed by Madonna and Sting.

Jois Foundation’s program director Russell Case said Encinitas is building a national yoga model for public schools.

“Kids are under a lot of stress. There are a lot of mandates on them to perform. We think it would be extremely helpful to have 10 to 15 minutes possible to sit and be reflective instead of go, go, go,” he said.

Researchers at the University of Virginia and University of San Diego will study the program, including analyzing data on students’ resting heart rates.

They want to know if public schools can impact not only children’s learning, but instill in them good eating habits and skills to help their well-being.

Protests

The program started in several schools in September but will go district-wide in January after months of protests by a group of parents.

Mary Eady pulled her first-grade son out of the classes.

Eady said she observed a kindergarten class in which the children did the motions referred to in yoga practices as a sun salutation. The folded over children, stood upright, sweeping up their arms toward the sky.

She said while the teacher called it an “opening sequence” the connotation was the same in her mind: Students were learning to worship the sun, which went against her Christian beliefs that only God should be worshipped.

“It will change the way you think,” she said. “What they are teaching is inherently spiritual, it’s just inappropriate therefore in our public schools.”

Their attorney, Dean Broyles, said they are considering suing to halt the program.

Despite the long debate over prayer in school, constitutional law experts say the courts still have not clearly defined what constitutes religion.

“You might get litigation on a program like this because it’s not totally settled what the boundaries of religion are,” said New York University law professor Adam Samaha.

He points to the 1979 ruling by a federal court that blocked transcendental meditation classes from being taught in New Jersey public schools, deeming those particular lessons to be religious.

But the court did not go so far as to rule that meditation in general is, and Samaha thinks courts would not deem yoga a religious practice. If they did, it would open the door to scrutinizing a host of activities.

“It’s practiced by enough people, who probably don’t believe they are engaging in a religious practice,” he said.

Avoiding risk

Still, Encinitas Assistant Superintendent David Miyashiro said administrators are not taking any risks.

“In light of all the attention, it’s not enough to remove things with cultural references but also anything that can be perceived by onlookers as a concern,” he said. “We think it’s important to keep this program in our schools and we’re going to do what we can to protect it.”

At Flora Vista Elementary School, those precautions were apparent.

“Spread out, we’re getting ready for some airplane,” Campbell said as the children laid on their mats face down and spread their arms, arching their back and then flopping back down. Later she said: “now push back to downward dog.”

At the end, the children sprawled on their backs to relax like a “pancake” as the lights went off. There were soft giggles. Some wiggled in the dark or fiddled with their socks.

“We’re like melting cheese,” Campbell reminded the students.

Principal Stephanie Casperson said fewer children now come to her office for acting out.

“I have teachers who say before a test now students do yoga to calm themselves so they’re transferring it into the classroom, into their lives,” she said.

During a recent fire drill, 6-year-old Sylvia Lawrence said she folded over into a yoga position under her desk.

“It made the fire drill more fun,” she said.

Maria Walsh, 11, said she was never into other sports.

“It’s just a fun way for me to exercise,” said the freckled, blond-haired girl with a big smile.

Military Battle PTSD With Yoga

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Military Battle PTSD With Yoga

Source: Huffington Post David Wood • December 12, 2012

Yoga For Wounded Marines At a retreat for retiring Marines with combat wounds and PTSD, yoga teacher Annie Okerlin helps them work through pain, stiffness and anxiety and begin to relax. Pentagon-funded studies have shown yoga to be an effective therapy for combat trauma. (David Wood, The Huffington Post)

For a decade, troops returning from war with mental and physical trauma have been dosed with cocktails of numbing drugs and corralled into talk-therapy sessions, often with civilian clinicians who have no experience in combat and its aftereffects.

But alarmingly high suicide rates among veterans, as well as domestic violence, substance abuse and unemployment, suggested to some military doctors, combat commanders and researchers that conventional treatments aren’t always enough.

Now, one proven, effective treatment is gaining wide acceptance within hard-core military circles: yoga.

Once dismissed as mere acrobatics with incense, yoga has been found to help ease the pain, stiffness, anger, night terrors, memory lapses, anxiety and depression that often afflict wounded warriors.

“It’s cleansing — I really feel refreshed,” Marine Sgt. Senio Martz said after finishing a recent yoga session.

A stocky 27-year-old, Martz was leading his nine-man squad on a foot patrol through the lush poppy fields and rock outcroppings of the Kajaki district of southern Afghanistan 20 months ago when a roadside bomb knocked him unconscious and killed or wounded the Marines under his command. The blast put an end to his plans for a career in the Marine Corps. It also left him hyper-vigilant, a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder, and carrying the joint burdens of guilt and shame: As a squad leader, it had been his responsibility to bring his nine Marines home safe.

“It’s a feeling of regret — failure — that really affects me now,” he said. “I didn’t see the signs that could have alerted me to warn them to get away.” He stared at the floor and then looked up with a tight smile. “I go on living where their lives have ended. I can’t help them now.”

Yoga gives him relief from the acute anxiety that forces him to listen to and sight-sweep everything around him, constantly checking the doors and windows, always on alert, poised for danger, with no break. It is hard for him to let go.

“I gotta push myself to try some of these techniques,” he admitted. “But last night after yoga, I had a good sleep. That’s a place I haven’t been in a long, long time.”

Martz’s experience is backed up by reams of scientific studies, including research funded by the Pentagon and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Researchers have demonstrated that trauma-sensitive yoga, which focuses on stretching, breathing techniques and meditation, can help patients regain their inner balance, calming that part of the brain that has become hyper-aroused under severe stress.

Trauma or prolonged stress can cause a malfunction of the parasympathetic nervous system, researchers say. That’s the part of the brain which enables the body to relax, easing pain and even helping unblock digestive systems — often a problem for wounded troops who get high doses of medication and not enough exercise.

In war zones, researchers have found, this parasympathetic nervous system often becomes “frozen” as the body gears up for danger by injecting adrenaline into the bloodstream, causing rapid breathing and pulse and hyper-vigilance — the “fight or flight” response.

That’s good and necessary self-preservation in times of peril that helps keep troops alert and alive. Back home, however, that hyper-vigilance is out of place and can cause insomnia, anxiety and outbursts of anger. Returning warriors with PTSD become dependent on drugs or alcohol “because they have no other way to calm themselves down,” said Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, a clinician and researcher who has studied PTSD since the 1970s.

Not all yoga helps. Some forms of yoga are used by special forces, for instance, to build muscle power and flexibility. But yoga teachers working with wounded troops have developed trauma-sensitive forms of yoga, including a technique called iRest. This adaptation uses meditation techniques in a soft and secure setting to reactivate the parasympathetic nervous system by drawing the patient’s attention and consciousness inward, rather than focusing on stress and the terrors that dwell outside, said yoga teacher Robin Carnes.

For instance, Carnes has learned that when she is giving a class to troops with hyper-vigilance, like Martz, she should first open all the closet doors and drawers, so that her patients don’t spend all their time fretting about what might be inside.

In 2006 Carnes, a veteran yoga practitioner and teacher, began working with wounded troops at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, now located outside Washington, D.C. There, she led a Pentagon-funded program to develop trauma-sensitive yoga, and pioneered the techniques now called iRest. She later established an organization called Warriors at Ease to train and certify teachers to use the techniques with the military.

Drawing from traditional yoga, iRest teaches patients to firmly plant their feet and activate their leg muscles in poses that drain energy and tension from the neck and shoulders, where they naturally gather, causing headaches and neck pain.

“The goal here is to move tension away from where it builds up when you are stressed, and focus it on the ground so you feel more balanced and connected,” Carnes said.

When she started at Walter Reed, she said, she was working with eight wounded troops with physical and mental health injuries. Some hadn’t slept for more than two hours at a time, for years, she said. “They were immediately like, ‘I can’t do this, it won’t work, you have no idea what’s going on in my brain.’ I’d say, ‘Just try it, it’s helped others.’ And probably because they were desperate — nothing else had worked, including drugs — they did try it. And I saw, sometimes within the first day, they started to relax. Snoring! They’d tell me, ‘I don’t know what happened, but I feel better.'”

One of her patients was struggling with outbursts of violent anger, a common effect of PTSD, and had gotten into raging arguments with his wife. Several weeks into regular yoga classes, he went home one day “and his wife lit into him and he could feel a confrontation coming on,” Carnes said. “He told me that he’d taken a deep breath and told his wife he was going upstairs to meditate. And that was the first time he’d been able to do that.”

Practices like iRest and other forms of yoga are so clearly effective that now they are taught and used at dozens of military bases and medical centers — even at Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base in Norfolk, Va., home of the Navy SEALs, the branch of commandos who killed Osama bin Laden.

“I knew anecdotally that yoga helped — and now we have clinical proof of its impact on the brain, and on the heart,” said retired Rear Adm. Tom Steffens, a decorated Navy SEAL commander and yoga convert. Within the military services and the Department of Veterans Affairs, he said, “I see it growing all the time.”

Steffens, an energetic man with a booming voice, first tried yoga to deal with his torn bicep, an injury that surgery and medication hadn’t helped. He quickly became a convert, practicing yoga daily. Visiting with wounded SEALs a decade ago, he noticed that “the type of rehab they were doing was wonderful, but there was no inward focus on themselves — it was all about power as opposed to stretching and breathing.”

Before long, Steffens had helped start a foundation, Exalted Warrior, that holds yoga classes for wounded troops and their families at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital in Virginia, the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa, Fla., and elsewhere.

The military’s embrace of yoga shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, yoga — a Sanskrit word meaning to “join” or “unite” — dates back to 3,000 B.C., and its basic techniques were used in the 12th century when Samurai warriors prepared for battle with Zen meditation. Still, some old-timers are shocked to find combat Marines at Camp Lejeune, N.C. and amputees at James A. Haley VA Medical Center practicing theirDownward Dog and deep breathing techniques.

One early skeptic: Thomas S. Jones, a wiry retired Marine major general who likes to mask his love for Marines with a staccato parade-ground bark and a jut-jawed, prove-it approach to life.

Some years ago Jones started inviting wounded Marines to an intense, six-day retreat at a camp in the mountains of Pennsylvania to help them figure out what to do with the rest of their lives, to set goals and start working toward them. He quickly found that the Marines, struggling with physical wounds and PTSD, had trouble focusing. Someone mentioned that yoga might help. “Well, we’ve tried some ideas that didn’t work out and we threw them away,” Jones said dismissively, “but we’ll try it.”

And? “It has helped,” Jones told The Huffington Post in a slightly disbelieving voice. Yoga has since become a centerpiece of the retreat, called Semper Fi Odyssey. “This whole idea of relaxation, there’s a lotta guys who can’t do hardly anything physical, can still do yoga. And there’s a lot of value in meditation.”

The results, Jones and others have discovered, are indisputable.

study published earlier this year of 70 active-duty U.S. troops, then-based at Forward Operating Base Warrior, in Kirkuk, Iraq, found that daily yoga helped relieve anxiety, reduced irritability and improved sleep — even amid daily “gunfire and helicopter sounds.”

Progressive relaxation, calming breathing and relaxation techniques “reduce physical, emotional, mental and even subconscious tension that characterizes PTSD,” according to retired Air Force Maj. Nisha N. Money, a physician who recently served as chief of fitness policy for the Air Force.

“Guys with trauma — their center is out there,” said Annie Okerlin, flinging her arm outward. She’s a yoga expert who works with wounded warriors, families and staff therapists at the VA hospital in Tampa, Walter Reed and elsewhere. “What we do is gently and sweetly bring them back to their center, here,” she said, touching her chest.

Much of her work is with amputees. “I always tell the guys, ‘Your brain still thinks your leg is there, so we are going to speak to your brain as if your limb IS still there,”’ she said. “I tell them to flex the foot — spread your toes! — and the brain goes, ahhh, that feels good, I’m stretching — even though that limb is no longer there. It settles the brain down, because it’s doing its job, the blood flow increases, guys can feel their body again, the trauma fades. It’s beautiful!”

Working at Walter Reed, she once came across a double, above-the-knee amputee, who had been wounded by an IED. He was huddled in his hospital bed, his mother perched beside him on the edge of a chair, and for weeks he had refused to move, even for his physical therapy sessions. He admitted he was ashamed to be seen with his stumps twitching. Okerlin sat with him, leading him through some gentle breathing exercises. She could see him relax, and after a few minutes he fell asleep.

The next day he showed up for his physical therapy appointment to begin the healing.

With partially-paralyzed patients, Okerlin often has them lie on their back, put their hands on their rib cage and feel their breathing. One patient told her he was amazed to find he could feel a rush of energy toward his legs even though he still had no sensation in his legs.

Okerlin recently spent several days at a Semper Fi Odyssey retreat, teaching yoga and iRest to Marines with physical wounds, PTSD or traumatic brain injury. She has a warm and engaging style and works to establish a non-threatening environment in her sessions. “People who’ve been traumatized have lost their ability to feel secure,” she said.

As the wounded Marines settled onto floor mats, she told them, “You can close your eyes if that feels comfortable, but I will have my eyes open all the time watching,” emphasizing that they are safe and can relax. “There’s no wrong way to do this,” she said. “Are there any head injuries here?” she asked, and a wiseguy in the class called out, “We’re ALL head injuries!” to general chuckles.

At one point she had them on their backs, knees drawn up and held by their arms, a posture she tells them “massages the descending colon.” “This will help ensure you have that morning constitutional,” she told them cheerfully as they gently rocked back and forth.

Soon she had them focusing all their attention on their breathing, urging them to feel how each inward and outward breath lightly traces their spine. “Now I’m going to turn the lights out,” she said softly, “in three, two … one. If you fall asleep, that’s fine. If you’re snoring too loudly, I will come by and touch you on your right shoulder.”

On the mat next to Sgt. Martz were two Marines. One was Billy Wright, 49, who did two combat tours in Lebanon in 1983 and was later paralyzed from the chest down in a car wreck. He uses yoga breathing exercises to loosen up his muscles and joints that stiffen from long periods in his wheelchair. “Even lying on my back I can feel my hips flex,” he said. “Sitting in the chair, they get real tight and this loosens them up.”

The other was 24-year-old Joshua Boyd from Dry Fork, Va., a Marine lance corporal who did two combat tours in Iraq and came home wounded, with PTSD and mild TBI. He lost a good friend, a fellow Marine, who was killed by an IED. “They had stuck it inside a culvert,” Boyd said. “I had just gotten to Iraq and didn’t have IED training and I didn’t know what to look for. I didn’t look where I should have. It was my fault.”

After the blast, he said, he and his platoon collected the body parts.

At night, Boyd often jackknifes awake, yelling and sweating, dreaming of an intense firefight he experienced in Iraq in 2007. During this recurring dream, his wife is there in the middle of the battle and his buddies have abandoned them both while insurgents are closing in on them. He can feel them sense his weakness.

“I do have trouble sleeping,” he said sheepishly. During the long nights, he is often either deep in his nightmare, or terrified he is about to have it again.

But yoga has helped change the way he sleeps and dreams. “Yesterday I did the iRest session. I fell asleep,” he said. “When I got done, I felt so much more energized. I haven’t felt like that for years.”

Find the Conditions That are Conducive to Life…

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“…And the wild geese are calling down. And it’s getting louder and louder. And then they circle and circle, and they land. And honestly, I was like, no way. No way. I look at Eduardo who is near tears looking at this. And I say, you’re telling me that your geese are calling to the wild geese to say, come for a visit.

And he says, no, no, no. They come to stay. They come to stay? Think about that for a minute. I mean, imagine– I don’t know– imagine a hog farm in North Carolina. And a wild pig comes upon a factory farm and decides to stay. The DNA of a goose is to fly South in the winter, right? I said that. I said, isn’t that what they’re put on this earth for? To fly South in the winter and North when it gets warm? He said, no, no, no. Their DNA is to find the conditions that are conducive to life, to happiness. They find it here…”

Stay curious, keep asking questions – open minds and hearts with the essence of who you are. Practice protracted and thoughtful observation.

 

The Yoga of Ray Bradbury

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Ray Bradbury, one of the most revered and loved science-fiction authors of all time, died Tuesday, June 5th at the age of 91.

Obit_Ray_Bradbury_03d66

Ray Bradbury – Thank you for being alive and sharing your richness with us all. I am honored that I had the extreme privilege of hugging you, sharing my homemade vegan cookies and drinking in your brilliance in person on so many occasions in my youth. I learned so much from you.

I remember meeting Ray Bradbury when I was 20 (working at his favorite bookstore in Santa Monica) and he told stories of growing up always wanting to be a writer… He was rejected HUNDREDS of times and everyone he knew told him to give up, he was a terrible writer, told him he would NEVER be successful. His passion was writing. He wrote every day. He reminded us all to never allow others to define our purpose or our passions or shrink us into a smaller version of self. His passion was to flowing thought from mind and soul to tip of pen. He lived his passion.
Thank you Ray Bradbury. Thank you for being. Thank you for leaving so many beautiful words behind. ♥

Come celebrate building your own wings! Ray Bradbury tribute yoga class today at Om ShalA Yoga at 4:00pm with moí, Artemisia Shine:

 

“Stuff your eyes with wonder, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories.”

 

If we listened to our intellect we’d never have a love affair. We’d never have a friendship. We’d never go in business because we’d be cynical: “It’s gonna go wrong.” Or “She’s going to hurt me.” Or, “I’ve had a couple of bad love affairs, so therefore …” Well, that’s nonsense. You’re going to miss life. You’ve got to jump off the cliff all the time and build your wings on the way down.

 

 I have two rules in life — to hell with it, whatever it is, and get your work done.

 

 We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is, knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.

 

I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories — science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.

 

Insanity is relative. It depends on who has who locked in what cage.
Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.

 

Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spent the rest of the day putting the pieces together.

 

The best scientist is open to experience and begins with romance – the idea that anything is possible.

 

We are the miracle of force and matter making itself over into imagination and will. Incredible. The Life Force experimenting with forms. You for one. Me for another. The Universe has shouted itself alive. We are one of the shouts.

 

I believe the universe created us — we are an audience for miracles. In that sense, I guess, I’m religious.

 

We must become astronauts and go out into the universe and discover the God in ourselves.

 

 

Psychology beyond the Brain: What scientists are discovering by measuring the beating of the heart

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Psychology beyond the Brain: What scientists are discovering by measuring the beating of the heart

Source: Scientific American • Adam Waytz • October 5, 2010

Image: David Marchal

The brain has long enjoyed a privileged status as psychology’s favorite body organ. This is, of course, unsurprising given that the brain instantiates virtually all mental operations, from understanding language, to learning that fire is dangerous, to recalling the name of one’s kindergarten teacher, to categorizing fruits and vegetables, to predicting the future. Arguing for the importance of the brain in psychology is like arguing for the importance of money in economics.

More surprising, however, is the role of the entire body in psychology and the capacity for body parts inside and out to influence and regulate the most intimate operations of emotional and social life. The stomach’s gastric activity , for example, corresponds to how intensely people experience feelings such as happiness and disgust. The hands’ manipulation of objects that vary in temperature and texture influences judgments of how “warm” or “rough” people are. And the ovaries and testes’ production of progesterone and testosterone shapes behavior ranging from financial risk-taking to shopping preferences.

Psychology’s recognition of the body’s influence on the mind coincides with a recent focus on the role of the heart in our social psychology. It turns out that the heart is not only critical for survival, but also for how people related to one another. In particular, heart rate variability (HRV), variation in the heart’s beat-to-beat interval, plays a key role in social behaviors ranging from decision-making, regulating one’s emotions, coping with stress, and even academic engagement. Decreased HRV appears to be related to depression and autism and may be linked to thinking about information deliberately. Increased HRV, on the other hand, is associated with greater social skills such as recognizing other people’s emotions and helps people cope with socially stressful situations, such asthinking about giving a public speech or being evaluated by someone of another race. This diverse array of findings reflects a burgeoning interest across clinical psychology, neuroscience, social psychology, and developmental psychology in studying the role of the heart in social life.

A key moment for the field came in 1995, when Stephen Porges, currently a professor of psychiatry at the University of Illinois at Chicago, put forth Polyvagal Theory, a theory that emphasized the role of the heart in social behavior. The theory states that the vagus nerve, a nerve likely found only in mammals, provides input to the heart to guide behavior as complex as forming relationships with other people as well as disengaging from others. A distinguishing feature of Polyvagal theory is that it places importance not on heart rate per se, but rather on the variability of the heart rate, previously thought to be an uninteresting variable or mere noise.

Since 1995, a broad spectrum of research emerged in support of Polyvagal theory and has demonstrated the importance of the heart in social functioning. In 2001, Porges and his colleagues monitored infants when they engaged in a social interaction with the experimenter (cooing, talking, and smiling at them) and when they encountered the experimenter simply making a still face—a frozen expression—toward them. Infants’ HRV not only increased during the social interaction, but also increases in HRV predicted positive engagement (greater attention and active participation by the infants) during this interaction. In adults as well, HRV appears to be associated with success in regulating one’s emotions during social interaction, extraversion, and general positive mood.

A number of recent findings converge on the role of heart rate variability in adaptive social functioning as well. One study by Bethany Kok and Barbara Frederickson, psychologists at the University of North Carolina, asked 52 adults to report how often they experienced positive emotions like happiness, awe, and gratitude and how socially connected they felt in their social interactions every day for a period of nine weeks. The researchers also measured the HRV of each individual at the beginning and end of the study by measuring heart rate during a two-minute session of normal breathing. HRV at the beginning of the study predicted how quickly people developed positive feelings and experiences of social connectedness throughout the nine-week period. In addition, experiences of social connectedness predicted increases in HRV at the end of the study, demonstrating a reciprocal relationship between heart rate and having satisfying social experiences.

Although high heart rate variability seems to have largely positive effects on people’s emotional state and their ability to adapt to their social environment, the story may soon become more complicated. For example, in unpublished research, Katrina Koslov and Wendy Berry Mendes at Harvard University have recently found that people’s capacity to alter—and in a sense regulate—HRV predicts their social skills. In three studies, Koslov and Mendes measured this capacity to alter HRV during a task involving tracking the location of shapes on a computer screen (completely unrelated to anything social), and demonstrated that people’s capacity to alter HRV during this task subsequently predicted both their ability to judge others’ emotions accurately and their sensitivity to social feedback (how much they responded positively to positive feedback and negatively to negative feedback). These findings suggest that although high HRV at rest may be adaptive for social engagement, the capacity to modulate HRV also promotes social sensitivity.

Writers from Ovid to Stevie Wonder have used the heart as a convenient metaphor to convey emotional responses toward others. Emerging research suggests, however, that this metaphor is an oversimplification. The heart has complex interactions with how we treat and evaluate others, how we cope with social stress, and how we manage our emotions, and research has only begun to explore the relationship between cardiovascular processes and social life. Although philosopher Blaise Pascal noted, “The heart has reasons that reason cannot know,” it is clear that psychological research is beginning to illuminate this mystery.

 

Harvard, Brigham Study: Yoga Eases Veterans PTSD Symptoms

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Harvard, Brigham Study: Yoga Eases Veterans PTSD Symptoms

Source: Common Health | Reform and Realty • Rachel Zimmerman • December 8, 2010

The words “Department of Defense” and “yoga” aren’t often uttered in the same breath, let alone in a long, conscious, exhale.

But preliminary results from a small study funded by the U.S. Defense Department, and led by a Harvard Medical School assistant professor, found that veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder showed improvement in their symptoms after ten weeks of yoga classes, including meditation and breathing, done twice a week, and fifteen minutes of daily practice at home.

William Haviland never considered himself a yoga kind of guy. He served in Vietnam in 1968 during the TET offensive. Ask him about his combat experience and out comes a torrent of trauma: “I remember the things that happened, I’ve seen people killed right before my eyes,” he says. Among his vivid recollections, more than 40 years after the fact: a sergeant lured into a booby-trapped village, then castrated by shrapnel; the screams of a woman being raped and tortured all night. “I have a stream of memories,” he says, many which come out during sleep. Haviland, 63, says he frequently attacked his wife in the middle of the night, after nightmares that he was being chased by a fast-approaching enemy. Yoga, he says “took me out of myself” and had a more profound calming effect than drugs or drinking.


“PTSD is a disorder involving dysregulation of the stress response system, and one of the most powerful effects of yoga is to work on cognitive and physiological stress,” says Sat Bir S. Khalsa, Ph.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and the principal investigator of the yoga study. “What we believe is happening, is that through the control of attention on a target — the breath, the postures, the body — that kind of awareness generates changes in the brain, in the limbic system, and these changes in thinking focus more in the moment, less in the past, and it quiets down the anxiety-provoking chatter going on in the head. People become less reactive and the hormone-related stress cycle starts to calm down.”

One common symptom of PTSD is the dissociation of mind and body, feeling disconnected from oneself and one’s surroundings, as well as an experience of time displacement. The brain portrays the traumatic event as though it is live and active in the present even though it may have happened decades ago. The practice of yoga combines physical exercises, postures and breath regulation together with meditation and awareness in the present moment and Khalsa says this integrative characteristic of yoga is likely important in resolving this dissociative aspect of PTSD.

Joseph Muxie served in the military from 1977-1984. While stationed in England, he said, he experienced an unbearable assault that is at the core of his PTSD. After years of alcoholism and a stint in rehab, he saw an ad about the Brigham yoga study and decided to try it. “I think what the yoga has really allowed me to do is give me the ability to ground myself,” said Muxie, 51. “As a result, I’m more peaceful with myself in whatever moment I happen to be in.”

According to the VA, as many as 20% of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have PTSD; 10% of Gulf War vets and 30% of Vietnam vets are diagnosed with the disorder. In addition, approximately 23% of women reported they were sexually assaulted in the military and 55% of women and 38% of men experienced sexual harassment while serving. Military Sexual Assault (MSA) is a known factor in PTSD.

Because the incidence of trauma is so high, Khalsa says, the DOD’s, Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center, which paid a total of $600,000 for this study, is exploring new approaches to treatment.

In the Brigham study, which has so far evaluated only the first 9 subjects to complete the protocol, each veteran’s PTSD severity was assessed using a tool called CAPS, the clinician-administered PTSD scale. The patient is scored by a trained psychologist using the CAPS scale both before and after the yoga intervention to determine any change in the scope and intensity of symptoms, which can include flashbacks, nightmares and a pervasive hyper-vigilance. According to Khalsa, the average baseline CAPS score before yoga in the subjects was 73.0, and the average score post-intervention was 43.6. (The average reduction in CAPS score pre-to-post was 29.4.) Here are the subject’s individual scores, before and after yoga:

– 113; 81
– 81; 40
– 111; 21
– 37;33
– 62;36
– 53;15
– 84;78
– 66;72
– 50;16

So, for 6 subjects, their scores improved quite a lot with yoga; for 3, there was little change. Khalsa said that typically even well-known, highly effective treatments don’t work for every patient and he is still evaluating other measures to determine if the yoga had any other non-CAPS benefits. “These subjects may possibly have benefited in things like depression or anxiety, even though their overall PTSD CAPS score did not change much (as was observed in a preliminary yoga-PTSD study in Australia)… Human subject research is pretty messy.”

Ultimately, he said he hopes to evaluate a total of 60 subjects, including a control group, but so far, recruitment has been slow, due to yoga’s “new age” reputation and its association with women. “There’s some sense that sissies do yoga,” he said.

Jennifer Johnston, a yoga teacher, licensed mental health counselor and the project leader, said that beyond recruitment, yoga’s “hot” reputation has in some sense eclipsed its greatest assets. “Because yoga is so sexy now, certain aspects get forgotten,” she said. “Yoga is a path to reconnect all of the parts of yourself. It’s a self-care strategy. The poses are important, but the philosophy is how we do our lives. The magic is in the meditation, integrating it and taking the yoga off the mat and into your life.”