Got Stress? ANB – The Insider’s Life Hack

Got Stress?
ANB – The Insider’s Life Hack  

Regardless of your politics, we know that this particular yoga student above had quite a stressful 2016!

“Alternate Nostril Breathing” – mistakenly called “alternative nostril breathing” by some news sites – is an old and reliable way of managing stress.  I actually used it before going on stage for the first time as an understudy on Broadway.  It can take as little as 2 minutes, but no more than 15, to manage hormones, stress, feelings of anxiety and depression.

Here’s how our Mindfulness teacher, Karen Nourizideh teaches it:

Nadi Shodhana (Alternate Nostril Breathing)

Purifies the body and stills the mind, brings oxygen to both hemispheres of the brain.

Place the right-hand index and middle fingers between the eyebrow center, the right thumb closes off the right nostril.

Inhale through the left, count “Inhale 1, Inhale 2, Inhale 3”.

Close off the left nostril with the right-hand ring finger, exhale through the right, count “Exhale 1, exhale 2, exhale 3”, inhale through the right nostril, close off the right nostril, exhale through the left for 3 count, inhale thru the left through 3 count, close off the left, exhale through the right, etc.  End on the left side exhalation.  Practice at least 10 rounds.

Nadi Shodhana has immediate effect on cardiovascular, pulmonary and higher functions of the brain.  Nadi-shodhana pranayama practice for 20 minutes showed statistically significant difference in Heart Rate (HR), Systolic Blood Pressure (SBP), Diastolic Blood Pressure (DBP), Reaction Time (RT) and Peak Expiratory Flow Rate (PEFR).*

*Subbalakshmi NK, Saxena SK, Urmimala Urban JAD, Immediate effect of nadishodhana pranayama on some selected parameters of cardiovascular, pulmonary and higher functions of the brain. Thai Journal of Physiological Sciences, 18(2):10-6, 2005.

IAYT Yoga Therapy Letter of Intent for New York’s Prema Yoga Institute

It’s begun!  IAYT has accepted Prema Yoga Institute’s initial materials for full accreditation as an IAYT Yoga Therapy Training School.  This application process will take 5 months to complete, and additional time for review.  Our promising start means great news for previous, current, and future PYI students:
  • PYI intends to honor all completed hours in current and prior trainings.  We will offer an opportunity to audit updated courses when needed.
  • Should you wish to be certified with IAYT, expect to complete 800 hours of training AND 200 hours of guided Practicum – which can include paid hours in your private practice!
  • PYI is expanding with 200+ hours of online content, including a Yoga for Osteoporosis Certification with Dr. Loren Fishman, and a 3-part Embodied Philosophy course with Jacob Kyle.
  • PYI continues to expand its scholarship program through work study and placement programs with our partners at Kula for Karma.
  • As we expand to exceed the international criteria for Yoga Therapist certification, PYI will continue to be the most affordable Yoga Therapy training in the Northeast.
  • Our modular enrollment process makes it possible to pay as you go, and join when ready.

Thanks to all the students who have been taking this incredible journey with us – with grads working at Mt. Sinai Hospital, NYU Hospital, Bellevue Hospital, ICahn School of Medicine, The Oscar Center, and at studios and wellness centers across the Northeast, we are thrilled to see what the next graduating class will do.

Be sure to check out the trainings below.  They are required for graduation, and spots are limited!

Yoga for Positive Body Image” September 23 -24,  Prema students get a $50 discount!

Yoga in Healthcare” October 6 – 29 with Dr. Loren Fishman, Dr. Chris Walling and more.

An Interview with Dr. Shari Becker – Yoga for Positive Body Image

Dr. Shari Becker will be leading PYI’s specialty training, “Yoga for Positive Body Image” September 24-25, 2017 in Manhattan.  The class is part of Prema Yoga Institute’s offered Specialty Yoga Therapy Courses.

GREAT NEWS:  NYS Social Workers can receive 16 CEU’s for this course!  You can sign up for the class directly at Kula for Karma’s website. Enjoy the interview!
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DANA SLAMP: Hello Shari! I understand that you’ve been a clinical psychologist and practicing since 1998. Tell me about the realization you came to when you started practicing yoga.

SHARI BECKER: Hello, Dana! Your question addresses my favorite topic: the integration of traditional psychotherapy with the philosophy and teachings of yoga. About 3 years into my clinical practice, a yoga studio opened up in my area. I took my first class with Sheryl Edsall, and I was hooked! I could move my body in ways that didn’t require athleticism AND listen to her talk about spiritual concepts that resonated with me at the same time?? I’m in! In her words, through yoga, I found answers to some of the issues I had been struggling with in my own life. “Speak your truth and let go of the results” is an example of a life-changing comment she made during one class. “Live in faith, not in fear” is another. Once I started integrating the teachings and lessons I learned from my own practice into my life off the mat, I soon began to recognize specific ways in which this wisdom could help some of my patients with their struggles.

DS: Did you see some natural applications of yoga philosophy and techniques in the clinical setting? Or was it odd to consider at first?

SB: While the relevance of yoga philosophy in the clinical setting seemed quite apparent to me in a very natural way, I ran into two issues. The first was that my training, a traditional approach to clinical psychology, strongly discouraged therapists from “self-disclosing” or bringing their own experiences or beliefs into the therapy process. I was a fairly new therapist and still following the rules. Even mentioning that I had gone to yoga class that week was outside the structure of traditional psychological treatment. In addition, we were taught as psychologists the importance of empirical validation, or research to support our methodology. Yikes! I couldn’t find any research to support what I was doing. It was pretty scary to leave the tried and true approach that I had been trained in.

However, I recognized that with careful attention to the impact on my patient, I could responsibly introduce the subject of yoga and respectfully ask each patient individually, if the appropriate circumstances arose. I also jokingly told them they were free to call the “therapy police” on me if they were so inclined! Over time, my anxiety around breaking the rules lessened and I witnessed the successful application of yogic wisdom in facilitating happier and healthier lives for my patients. One of the first patients I introduced to yoga found a community that she desperately needed in the yoga studio and became a beautiful yoga teacher herself!

DS: Eating disorders are known to be very complicated diagnoses. What about yoga is useful in such a case?

SB: This is a great question, Dana, and the answers will be found in the upcoming Advanced Yoga Teacher Training for Disordered Eating and Negative Body Image. Yoga is an ideal adjunct modality to complement more traditional approaches to treating eating disorders. The training will draw upon many of the therapeutic qualities of yoga to inform yoga teachers and therapists about how they can promote healing, in a very deep and embodied way, for the eating disorder population.

Yoga offers us new perspectives, interrupts our habitual patterns of thinking, teaches us to recognize physiological signals, and invites us to slow down, reflect and pause before we move into action. In addition to addressing the specific needs of the diagnosed eating disorder population, our training will provide information and practical application of yoga philosophy and practice to those who struggle on a regular basis with sub-clinical disordered eating habits and negative body image.

DS: As yoga teachers, so many of us know students who are struggling with negative body image, and most of us have danced with that demon ourselves. It strikes me that in our image-saturated culture, it’s not really a fair fight. How can yoga help us reclaim our self love and worth?

SB: This question raises an important and provocative issue that evokes passionate response in many. Advertisements and messages about food consumption and body image prevail in our society. It is never easy to go against the flow of cultural norms, but no one ever said practicing yoga was easy! Many people have a misconception of yoga and believe it is a physical practice. In its fullest form, yoga invites us to explore our inner selves to get to know our mental, emotional, spiritual and relational bodies as well as our physical body. Once we are able to recognize that we are so much more than our physical bodies, we are able to disengage from the superficial values promoted by the media and other societal factions. From this safe position of boundary and clarity, we are free to cultivate love and compassion for ourselves.

DS: Our Kula for Karma friends have shared how giving you have been in supporting their efforts to bring yoga to at-risk communities and groups. Tell me about what drew you to serve with Kula as a teacher.

SB: Kula for Karma recognizes the therapeutic value of yoga and touches the lives of individuals who are greatly in need of healing, medically, emotionally and spiritually. The populations served by Kula reap the benefits that yoga offers, including stress and anxiety reduction, increased awareness of physical and emotional experience, and self-compassion.

Kula for Karma was founded in my NJ community 10 years ago by two incredible women, Geri Topfer and Penni Feiner, I knew Geri and Penni from our local yoga studios and was very interested in the work they were doing right from the start. Fortunately, Kula offers many opportunities for volunteering and involvement at every level of the organization, so I was able to support them for many years before I was certified as a yoga teacher. It has been a great source of pride and joy to watch my teenage sons join the Kula team by volunteering their IT skills at the annual gala.

DS: We’re so thrilled to now invite Social Workers into the program, and to provide them with 18 CE’s in New York – a huge feat! Other then just about every yoga teacher (IMO!), who else could benefit from this two-day intensive?

SB: I agree with you that every yoga teacher could benefit from understanding how to teach in a way that promotes non-judgment, self-compassion, non-competitiveness and a gentle approach in relationship to our bodies. I also believe that mental health professionals would gain a different perspective on the struggles their patients face in relation to food, eating and body image. Many, if not most, women in particular spend an enormous amount of time and energy believing there is something wrong with themselves, their bodies and their eating habits. The yogic approach to healing offers many profound lessons that would serve all of our patients well. It is sometimes easier to think about our patients as the ones with the issues, but this training will also help each participant become more self-reflective about their own personal dance with the thoughts and feelings that often stand in our way of a healthy and joyful experience in our own bodies. We can only teach what we know, and most of us are works in process on this topic of food, eating and body image. I am looking forward to sharing my own journey with the participants in this training.

Wait, the Point is Pleasure!? June Ayurveda Essentials

Quick: Can you name a calorie-free, addiction-free, just downright FREE daily pleasure that doesn’t involve another person? If an answer doesn’t come to you quickly, but a whole list of other crap does, then you may need a refresher course in the simpler things in life.

That’s how it was for me.  I was knee deep in my third career, and – even though I loved my job – my career, my friends, a handful of vacation days and whole lot of hustle were all I had.

When I burned out and searched for another way to live, I luckily found myself in an Ayurveda course. The first lesson was that Kama – or pleasure – is one of the primary reasons for life.

Not just something you do one day a week,
Not just something to distract you,
Not in a bottle,
Not in an invite,
And definitely NOT a diversion, but
Pleasure is the POINT of life.

Every day offers us a multitude of opportunities to be fed by beauty, healthy rituals, amazing food, and uplifting study and community.  Real energy lies in “pleasure refueling,” and finding these free sources of mojo can significantly cut down on the Starbucks bills!

As a teacher, the Ayurvedic lens saves me time and effort, and has made my yoga therapy work infinitely more precise, effective, and direct.  Imagine if you could determine what a person needs just by looking at them – isn’t that a skill you’d like to have, especially if you are in the healing arts?  And wouldn’t you love to empower your clients to nourish their health and happiness?

That’s why our June Prema Yoga Ayurvedic Training is both an essential life course and a required course for therapeutic teachers.

We study outside,
We indulge in the senses,
We seek to become better listeners,
Better teachers,
And better caretakers of our bodies and minds,
All through infinite sources of pleasure.

Sound Yoga Training – Interview with Jessica Caplan

Did you know that it is sound that creates the world? All the creation stories begin with sound – God spoke to create the world, “Om” is the sound of the Universe vibrating – sound is truly our most powerful tool for change.  Sound is where thought becomes action.  I was able to sit down with PYI’s resident Sound Healer and new mother Jessica Caplan to get the full scoop on how this alchemy works:

Dana: Hi Jess!  Please tell us about what led you to sound healing.

Jess: I’ve been a singer for my whole life, and a yoga teacher for over a decade. For the most part, those two parts of me were separate, and I had a strong desire to integrate them. I started to sing to my students in Savasana – usually improvised chants or melodies without English lyrics – and my students would often come up to me after and say how much my singing had helped them release and relax. Around the same time – and this is before this field became as popular as it is now – I started to hear the words “sound healing.” I started to research and read books on the subject. I quickly knew this was something I wanted to explore and practice. That led me to the wonderful year-long program at the Open Center, at the time supervised by Wendy Young. That was the beginning of my journey, and I am still exploring and learning so much. This subject is truly infinite.

D: I notice that many can reach a more meditative state using sound and music.  Why do you think this is?

J: Sound and music has such a profound impact upon us. It’s universal and it’s ancient. Sound works on the brain and body in real and measurable ways. For example, our brain waves entrain (fall in step with) sound waves, so certain sounds can actually shift our brain waves into the more meditative brain wave states of alpha and theta, and even delta (sleep). Sound can also stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, helping us to relax and rest. In my experience, sound engages us in ways that can cut through the mental static and open us up to deeper parts of ourselves.

D: Sound Yoga Training often brings up the most delightful moments of the “school year” for me because you see people open up so easily.  What would you say to those who are a little hesitant to sign up because they aren’t “musical?”

J: I’d say that we are all inherently “musical”! What is sound, but vibration, and what are we, but vibrating atoms? This is another reason why sound has such a profound impact upon us: we are vibrational beings. Watch a baby explore her voice – she is totally free, playful and curious. Somewhere along the way, many of us have shut off our connection to the full range of our voice and our own musicality. Getting in touch with that part of ourselves is touching our essence. On a practical level, this training doesn’t require any previous musical experience – though musicians are always welcome. We’ll have plenty of instruments for beginners to explore playing (singing bowls, tuning forks, harmonium, shrutti box and more); all you need is an open, curious mind, and the ability to listen.

D: Awesome. What can we expect this May 10-12 from the training?

J:  A highly experiential weekend filled with exercises in deep listening, meditative sound and mantra, reconnection to our voices as an expression of our soul, and exploration of a wide range of traditional sound healing instruments. This is a get-your-hands-dirty immersion: less exposition, more experience. Like yoga, the magic of sound healing lies in the practice, not the theory. While students will come away with some understanding of the theory and science, what we really want them to leave with is a newfound connection to sound and music.

Ready to dive into the healing powers of sounds? Scroll down to download a free audio meditation track to help you let go.

Article: “Yoga Is Really for Imperfect People”

Hey guys,

My darling yoga geek friends at Yoganonymous just published my last article. I suggested the title, “Return of the Yoga Clown,” but they went with the classier title below. What do you think?

Thanks, D

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Yoga Is Really for Imperfect People

Lately, we’ve had another wave in the culture at large to satire and make fun of our yoga clique.

And why not? The yoga culture is absolutely begging for a good roast. Hula hoops, bandhas, scandals, and unicorns—oh my! It’s like the mid-60s overtook a bad ashram.

So it’s not so much that we’re a known punchline, but that some of the stock yoga characters have already become cliché—the lecherous male yoga teacher (on Modern Family), the hypocritical hot yoga chic (on “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”) — haven’t we seen these clowns already?

Read More

ayurveda and pleasure [ayurveda series no. 2]

Recently I was asked to contribute an article to the site the Five Tattvas.  A sampling is below.  Enjoy the whole article here.
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Dana Slamp

Guess what? There’s a lot of it!

At the beginning of this earth, legend has it that the Devas (the demigods) and the Asuras (the demons) each desired the nectar of immortality.

To possess the nectar, they first had to draw it up from the ocean of consciousness. But how? The Ocean of Milk was vast – even for deities – and held its secrets beneath fathoms of icy green water. They determined to stir it up – to churn the waters until they got what they wanted. To that end, they picked up a mountain and turned it upside down into the ocean to use as a “churning stick.” To turn it, they enlisted Vasuki, the snake. But when they wrapped the snake around the mountain and worked together, with each camp pulling on one side at a time like a cosmic tug of war, the mountain did nothing but drill into the earth.

Luckily Kurma, the tortoise, volunteered to swim to the bottom of the ocean, withdraw his five limbs and head, and become the base for the mountain. After this cosmic engineering, a great many vast and wonderful things emerged from that ocean. There are many ways to tell the stories that grew out of this episode. I will tell you one as it was told to me:

The last deity to emerge was Lord Dhanvantari – medic to the gods and the father of Ayurveda. And what did he hold in his hand but Amrita – the nectar of immortality!

A great fight was soon brewing. Each side wanted the nectar for its own. Any camaraderie that had been built in their endeavor was immediately lost. The Devas readied their weapons as the Asuras’ breath focused into flames. It seemed like what little existed of the world was about to die in a clash of opposites – the hideous magnet that is war.

Lord Dhanvantari, an avatar of Vishnu, prayed for help. And this time Lord Vishnu sent another avatar in the form of Mohini. Mohini was beyond beautiful – she was beauty itself. When she moved her hips, the pleasure of the vision settled the armies immediately. When she spoke her honeyed words, they agreed to come to terms.

Mohini assured them that each one could get a taste of immortality. All they had to do was line up, like boys, in an orderly line. She was so beautiful and persuasive that they complied immediately. Mohini then went down the line, placing a drop of nectar on each of the Devas’ tongues. The Asuras waited patiently, their fiery breath contained. But when Mohini got to their place in the line, she began to disappear!

The largest and closest of the demons reached out to grab her and stop her. But Mohini’s curves were ephemeral, and all he could grasp was the edge of her sari. At that moment, a drop of the nectar fell to the earth.

From that drop came all the vitality of all earthly living. Using this force is called Ayurveda.

To read the whole article click here.

Need an Abundance Tune-up?

Recently I was asked to contribute articles to the new “Embodied Philosophy” site the Five Tattvas.  I chose a personal subject for me – tackling inherited Poverty Mentality from an Ayurvedic perspective.  A sampling is below.  Enjoy the whole article here.

Tips to Tune-up your Abundance Mentality

Abundance is a practice, and takes time to become your new mindset.  If – like me – you’ve discovered that you have a worldview that might not be serving you, give it time!  I see my students and family members evolving every day.  Part of living abundantly is acknowledging your personal progress as well.

Here’s a few truths I’ve learned in my transition from a mindset of scarcity to abundance:

  • We’re already rich.  We are living in a time and place that is absolutely abundant with opportunity.  There are times and places on this earth where people don’t have enough food or a roof over their heads.  We are not in one of them.
  • You need very little of what is being sold to you.  Take a look at your monthly bills and credit card statements.  Are these all necessities?  Are you using some funds for your pleasure (another purpose of life), or are you using a pursuit of pleasure to avoid the present?  Pleasure is passing and variable.
  • Contentment is free, but must be cultivated through proper thought and discipline.  For a quick jolt of contentment, try some time in nature.  For me, a swim or a walk in the trees can bring me back to equilibrium.
  • Care for your earnings, and your earnings will care for you.  Be sure to always save a little income, and invest when you can.  This will give you the security you need to continue giving.
  • Being abundant costs less in the long run.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked away from a group dinner wishing that I wasn’t petty about the check, or walked away from a conversation wishing that I had been more generous in listening and with my compliments.  When I am abundant – and still well within my means –  I can reserve this mental energy instead of using it to judge or second-guess myself.
  • If you are too busy to volunteer sometimes, you are probably making yourself too busy.  Is checking social media absorbing too much time? Do you have a tendency to overbook projects, or to overbook your children in programs? The world needs your skill set and your expertise in service, and service can instantly bring you back to a state of abundance.
  • Ask for what you need, including help.  As a woman, I’ve had to learn negotiating skills that protect me from over-giving at work and over-exerting for less income then I may deserve.  As a stubborn woman, I’ve had to learn to ask for help!
  • Give from your “froth” and not from your “depth.”  This advice comes directly from Nevine Michaan, master teacher of Katona Yoga. To give from my froth, I must first “fill up” with satisfying hobbies and down time, not just fulfilling work.
  • Take time out every day, every week, and every season.  “Dharma jobs” often have odd schedules – nurses and doctors can work 14 hour shifts.  Yoga teachers can never take a day off.  A parent’s work is never done.  Be sure to be abundant with time for yourself.

And when in doubt, always practice gratefulness. A quick inventory of all you have may reveal that you are already in abundance.  If your worry is overwhelming, try one of my favorite mantras:

There is plenty of time
There is plenty of money
There is plenty of space
There is plenty of love.