Calm in a Troubled World

There is a lot going on in our nation and in the world.  I have been silent and contemplative, trying to take it all in.  I have noticed repeatedly that there is distress and unhappiness regardless of which candidate each of us supported on election day.  I have looked to the practices of yoga, mantra and meditation for support.  Many of us have either stopped looking on social media or have blocked posts from one or both sides.  If you have not noticed, ignoring the unease does not make it go away.  We will all have strong feelings, and many times find ourselves in opposition with those around us.  We cannot change this fact.

My religion teaches me that whenever there is distress which one cannot remove, one must fast and pray.
— Gandhi

I come from a line of very spiritual people.  My grandfather was a Baptist Missionary in Africa and Pastor in Maine.  When I read this quote from Gandhi, I was struck by the similarity between their approaches.  I honestly think it would have shocked my grandfather too!  When my grandfather was in distress, he would skip meals, go to his study.  He would spend the time in prayer, reading spiritual books and studying the Bible.  We lived with my grandparents when I was at the impressionable age of 13, and at the time he faced the fact that Parkinson's Disease was robbing him of physical strength and abilities.  He responded by taking frequent time in deep reflection.  The message was clear, "Grandpa is having a hard time with xxx so he is fasting today".  He had a very strong will, and I rarely saw the softer side of him.  The fact that I can look back as an adult and realize the strikingly similar approaches makes me smile.  The more we are different, the more we are the same.

This post is not another political post that is attempting to tell you what to believe.  Notice what makes you feel grounded and brings you peace, and make regular time for those practices.  Get very clear so that you can respond with integrity rather than have an automatic reaction.  I know that I usually end up regretting those darn automatic reactions!     

We must always find a way to back to the calm within the storm.  When we experience the calm, we can be of better service to our core beliefs.  We can come from our true nature rather than a place of fear or anger.  We can better serve the things that really matter to us!    

In addition to my regular yoga and meditation practice, I have found Metta or Loving Kindness Meditation to be extremely helpful.  Here is a short example to get you started, but you can use any words or well wishes that suit you.  You can practice this seated or even silently send these well wishes to everyone you pass during your day and notice how you feel.  I wish you happiness, health, peace and freedom from suffering.  Namaste.



Yoga for Your Health

Even just entering my yoga practice space has calming effects.   I have observed that when I sit down in the yoga studio, my natural respiratory rate drops from 12 breaths/minute down to about 6.  This is before I even start any asana (poses) or pranayama (breathwork).

Physicians are recomending yoga for their patients, and a broader range of people seem to have found a regular practice.  Yoga is offered everywhere, from college campuses to retirement villages.  With great classes like chair yoga, yoga for athletes, and yoga for men, there is something for everyone.  Do these people keep returning to the mat because of benefits like the ones I've observed?

I found a few small studies that highlight the benefits of yoga practice.  For the purpose of this article, when I refer to yoga I'm including asana (poses), pranayama (breathwork) and chanting. 

  1. This study was a small one performed in Italy in 2001.  The physicians observed the subjects respiratory rates, pulses, and baroreflex sensitivity (ability of the nervous and cardiovascular systems to regulate blood pressure).  They observed rosary prayer and mantras during natural and metronome controlled breathing.  Using prayer and mantras, the subjects respiratory rates slowed down to 6 per minute, they had more heart rate variability and better variability of blood pressure.  Hmm, those numbers sound familiar to what I've experienced.  Cool!
  2. This paper from 2010 describes a small study of the effects of yoga on people in a traumatic situation.  The study was performed on flood victims over a 6 week period.  The yoga included 10 minute warm up, 20 min asana (poses), 25 min pranayama (yogic breathing) and 5 minutes guided relaxation.  The yoga group showed a decrease in sadness, while the non yoga group showed an increase in anxiety. 
  3. I also reviewed this paper, a comparison study written by 2 nurses.  It concludes, "The studies comparing the effects of yoga and exercise seem to indicate that, in both healthy and diseased populations, yoga may be as effective as or better than exercise at improving a variety of health-related outcome measures."

 If better stress response and better health sound like something you might be interested in, head to your local yoga studio as soon as possible.  There is a class for everyone, and it's never too late (or early) to start!


Follow me on Instagram using the name yoga.m8

You can find me at The Yoga Place in Ephrata and West End Yoga.



Yoga in the Workplace

If you work a high paced 9-5, there will be times when you are tired, running too many directions, feeling scattered and stressed.  During these times, many of us find time for a coffee break.  This often contains or is combined with high sugar, which is an energetic recipe for disaster.  This is a roller coaster that can lead to exhaustion.   

As an alternative, try incorporating a yoga or meditation break into your day.  I literally go into the room that houses our computer equipment and take a few poses when I'm feeling out of balance.  Here are a few ideas to try.

1.  Breath meditation for anger

If you have a coworker who is having an angry moment, it can be easy to meet anger with anger.  A quick 5 minute breath centered meditation can be the perfect cure.  Instead of building on someone else's negative energy, finding a grounded center will benefit yourself & those around you.

2.  Inversions for a tired, dragging feeling

Ever notice how a well placed inversion like handstand, headstand, or legs up the wall can change your whole mood?  It works when you're outside of yoga class too!  You may have to be creative to find a space, but I find that a large storage room works perfectly.

 3. Gentle backbends for tight shoulders

If you have a job that involves a computer or driving, chances are that you'll notice rounded shoulders.  Gentle backbends or seated cat/cow pose are a great remedy.  They can open the front of the body, move the shoulders back, and release tension in the spine.

These are just a few ideas that I have used in my personal life.  Do you have a need for an additional yogic cure to workplace imbalance?  Maybe you have a favorite solution that you'd like to share in the comments section.  I'd love to hear from you!