A few years ago, I wrote a story for the Wisconsin State Journal about a study at the UW-Madison involving veterans who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Back then, I interviewed one of the study’s designers, Emma Seppala, and was so impressed by her passion for helping these veterans overcome the trauma that they had endured.
Recently I came across a blog post she wrote for Psychology Today. I’ve been thinking a lot about anxiety, and I was looking for more proof that it’s difficult to simply talk ourselves out of feeling anxious. Her post reminded me of this one revolutionary fact: We can change how we feel by using our breath. Our therapists are skilled in using the body to change the brain, empowering people to overcome the obstacles in their lives to participate in the world from a healthy place. One simple tool — the breath — can truly transform suffering. If you’d like a guide on your journey out of suffering, please reach out.
A new study out of the Harvard School of Public Health found that women can reap the benefits normally associated with aerobic exercise by participating in weight-bearing activities, including yoga. According the the study, “women who did muscle-strengthening and conditioning exercise more than 150 minutes a week lowered their diabetes risk by 40 percent.” Of course, aerobic exercise is crucial for physical health, but it’s encouraging to know that weight-lifting, yoga and stretching can also help lessen diabetes risk. Read more about the study at npr.org.
And because I love planners, fitness trackers, sticker sheets, etc., I’m including a link to a booklet from the National Institutes of Health that can help you keep track of your fitness. Check it out here: tipsactive.
During a recent trip to Washington, D.C., to visit friends, I toured a very enlightening art exhibit at the Smithsonian titled “The Art of Yoga.” I wrote a story for the Sunday Wisconsin State Journal Travel section, which you can read here. The tour featured a 45-minute yoga class, which was definitely worth the $15 price of admission. Practicing asana in a Smithsonian gallery was a once-in-a-lifetime experience! (And for my traveling companion’s take on a 5K running tour of the monuments, click here.)
I just had to pose with Vishnu, that blue poster boy outside of the museum, and of course, my attire was carefully chosen. Team Yogafit represent!
Yes, it’s cliche. We indulge ourselves over the holidays and then wake up with a wicked hangover and a renewed resolve to get healthy. Sound familiar? Well, let’s try something new this year. It takes at least three weeks to create a new habit, so I challenge you to get on your mat EVERY DAY for four weeks to reconnect with your healthier self. We’re not setting a weight-loss goal, we’re not going full bore with P90x, we’re not training for a half marathon. All of that can come later if you desire. For now, let’s commit to spend time every day — at least 30 minutes, please — practicing our yoga. Feel free to take your favorite class, break out a cherished DVD, or stream a class from a site like yogavibes.com. Keep track of your progress (stickers are highly encouraged) on this four-week yoga challenge form.
Email me a picture of your form after the last day of the challenge (Feb. 1), and you’ll be entered to win a free hourlong yoga therapy session with me. If you’re too far away to meet with me in person, I’ll happily supply you with a 30-minute guided meditation instead. Need a class to motivate you? Check out my classes here and I hope to see you soon!
A study out of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds offers further support that meditation is good for you, even on a cellular level. Researchers surveyed molecular changes in the body in two groups of people: a group who engaged in mindfulness meditation for 8 hours, and a group who engaged in non-meditative, quiet activities for the same amount of time. According to Dr. Richie Davidson, the genes of the meditators were changed to reflect a faster recovery from stress. So by paying attention to your life in the present moment, you’re training your body to protect itself against the harmful effects of stress. So don’t just do something, sit there!
Whether we toiled away in the kitchen or drove miles for the privilege of sharing a feast with family and friends, we likely earned those calories ingested at the Thanksgiving table. But when the inevitable guilt sets it, it’s easy to overcompensate with a punishing workout just to quiet our inner critic. However, there is a smarter way to stay fit for the holidays. I asked the experts at MSCR to weigh in on the most effective workout, one that uses body weight and items you can find around the house, like a chair and a few feet of free wall space. All it takes is 7 minutes (but 14 or 21 is even better). Read all about it at madison.com. If you’re one of those exercisers who needs a group to stay motivated, sign up for Fit for the Holidays at MSCR to sample a variety of classes to offset holiday indulgences.
MSCR’s Winter & Spring Program guide is out! For those of you who have been wondering, “When can I possibly dance with Jeanne?” — the answer lies in the book. Go to mscr.org to cruise through the listing of classes; registration begins Nov. 18. Starting Jan. 6, Monday nights will offer a Hip Hop Hustle and a Yoga Flow at Emerson Elementary on the East Side. Take one or both to stay fit and flexible in the new year.
Sometimes it’s quite easy to feel as if the act of maintaining a website is a “shout into the void,” to borrow a phrase from Augustus Waters. But shout I must, so welcome to the new space for my ideas to roam free. I would love it if you’d poke around the new site — I hope that you’ll find everything you need to stay in touch with my work as a yoga teacher, counselor and writer. And please let me know what you think of the new design, so that I feel a little less lonely in my new digs.
It’s been a gorgeous summer so far, and my MSCR yoga classes have been absolutely inspirational. While I feel a bit of sadness at seeing the summer session end because of the friendships I’ve formed, I’m very excited about the fall offerings that MSCR has bestowed upon me. Check out the fall program guide at the link here. I’m grateful to have so many fun opportunities — two yoga classes, two cardio dance classes, and a joyful Yoga Mama! I look forward to seeing my fitness friends at either Kennedy Elementary or MSCR Odana starting in September. Registration begins Monday, and if the past is any indication, these classes will fill up pretty fast. So check out the Classes menu to see what might fit into your schedule, and let’s make this autumn our fittest ever!
As part of my yoga therapy journey, I attended YogaFit‘s Mind Body Fitness conference a few weeks ago in Minneapolis. I spent four days with an incredible master trainer who introduced ways that we as yoga teachers can help people heal their physical and emotional trauma. It was a powerful learning experience for me; I was so excited about the material that I promptly ordered 6 books that I want to read. One of the books, “The Revolutionary Trauma Release Process” by Dr. David Berceli, is a self-help manual on how we can help the body release chronic tension that is stored in our muscles.
Here’s where it gets really interesting: When I got back from my training, I had an email from a kind reader of the Wisconsin State Journal who shared with me that she enjoyed a series of stories I wrote about veterans and PTSD. She said that she is a big fan of a doctor who travels the globe and trains traumatized people how to release built-up tension, and in fact she’s going to be at a training that he’s leading in Madison this month.
I followed up with her, and a week later I was on the phone with Dr. David Berceli, who explained to me his Trauma Releasing Exercises, in which the body is allowed to shake out all the tension and trauma stored in the muscles. I’ll be writing a story for the State Journal on what his technique might mean for holistic health care. He was an absolute joy to speak with; his enthusiasm about empowering people to take charge of their own healing process is admirable. I’m beyond excited to witness his training this week!
And if you’re interested in my book order, here are the other five that are in my queue:
“Core Awareness” by Liz Koch
“Meditation as Medicine” by Dharma Singh Khalsa
“Yoga and the Twelve-Step Path” by Kyczy Hawk
“Yoga for Emotional Balance” by Bo Forbes
“In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness” by Peter Levine