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University Yoga Students “Anecdotal” Experiences-Fall 2015

Breath Awareness in Crocodile

Breath Awareness in Crocodile

As I am gearing up for Spring semester at Cleveland State University, I realized that I didn’t reflect (aka post something here)  about Fall semester.  Looking back (and forward!) I realize what a blessing it is for me to have this platform to bring a comprehensive yoga experience to college students, faculty and staff.

Yoga classes meet twice per week for 50 minutes and consist of asana (postures), pranayama (breathing) and/or a meditation practices.

The follow are some of the responses received from a few of the “reflection type questions” that were part of  and open book (Asana, Pranayama, Mudra Bandha by Swami Satyaananda Saraswati)  ”final exam”.

Yoga Nidra-Just about everyone's favorite!

Yoga Nidra-Just about everyone’s favorite!

“My favorite part about yoga class is the importance of consciousness. Everything in yoga is deliberate and thoughtful. This has brought a renewed thoughtfulness and consciousness to other things I do.”

“I liked everything about yoga. It showed me so much about my life and made me think a little about the things I do that make me stressed out. It also showed me ways I can get rid of stress and ways to fall asleep at night. I would recommend yoga to any college student and many other people.”

“I learned the benefits of meditation. I had always heard that meditation was beneficial but had never given a meditation practice a fair try. I now frequently perform a brief meditation practice in preparation for sleep in my daily routine. I also am now aware of the comprehensive nature of yoga practice. I have already begun to apply many of these principles with my regular personal training clients.”

My favorite part of yoga class has been getting the opportunity to escape the stress and work load from all my other classes, and just focus on me and learning how to do something new. Personally, I liked learning yoga nidra, but I enjoyed the physical movements more because yoga nidra would put me to sleep. I particularly liked the anti-rheumatic movements because Itend to have sore muscles and joints, and these exercises relieved a lot of that pain. 

“ I learned is that learning new ways of thinking is really possible. My mother had tried for years to get me to “try yoga” as a way to ease my anxiety and depression. And I really didn’t think it was possible. But practicing yoga has helped me to learn some tools that help me to stem the chaos of my thoughts – my anxieties – if only for a little while. The meditation practices (especially yoga nidra) have been invaluable.

Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutation)

Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutation)

“My favorite part of the yoga class has been the yoga nidra. I have spoken very highly of it in many of my yoga journals. I have found it to be a great way to relax after a long day. I also enjoyed how involved you were with us in class. It’s obvious that you love yoga, and it is nice to see a teacher care about their students as much as you did.”

I’ve learned that it is incredibly hard to quiet my mind, but when I can, my body and mind benefit dramatically. I can also feel my soul healing. I came into this class with much more spiritual pain than I realized, but now I can tell I’ve gotten much better. Now, if I start to feel that spiritual pain again, I know what I can do to help it.”

“My favorite part of yoga class has been talking with other classmates about their experiences with the poses and practice and how it has affected their daily school life. A lot of people expressed a more relaxed and focused mindset after class. The overall atmosphere of the class was very helpful to me. I never felt pushed or out of place when doing poses. I felt I could at my own pace and explore yoga as I thought myself capable.

“I have learned throughout this class that I hold a lot of tension in my face, whenever it is mentioned I immediately realize my facial muscles are tensed. I also realized that I can utilize the basic practices such as breath awareness throughout the day to help with anxiety. The breath awareness such as abdominal breathing can also help greatly when my mind is hectic and I cannot sleep. I find myself to be much more focused and calm after practicing yoga and it is undeniable that it benefits physical and mental health greatly.”

 

Simple Forward Bend

Sun Salutation-Simple Forward Bend/Hand to Toe Posse

“My favorite part of yoga class has been the extra energy and positivity I have after. On days when I do directly to work after yoga I am much more awake and lively, and ready to work. I also like that I can utilize the skills learned on my own to help when I am low-energy, cannot sleep, or in a bad mood. It is amazing how many benefits there are to yoga.”

My favorite part of the yoga class was getting to really meditate. It has been something that I have learned about for quite some time, but have not really been able to achieve it just yet.  Now, I approach it differently and learn to easily quiet my mind.”

“Before taking this class I did not realize how much of a workout yoga really is. The meditation is very soothing and relaxing, but many of the poses require some sort of strength and flexibility to achieve and the sequences can really get your heart rate up! I have also learned that it is actually quite difficult to concentrate on nothing or keep my mind from wandering. This is something I would like to continue working on after class this semester because I think it is really important to be able to clear our minds allowing us to think more clearly and concentrate on the task at hand.”

Sun Salutation-Equestrian Pose

Sun Salutation-Equestrian Pose

“My favorite part of yoga class has been pushing myself. I am not really a person who likes doing things I am not sure I am good at, but I’ve always wanted to try yoga and I’m glad that I did. I used to be a dancer but that was at least eight years ago, so it was nice to see what my body could still do with a little practice and feeling the stretch was always nice!”

“I hope to continue practicing yoga at a studio after this semester ends, but I still plan to integrate the tools in my daily life even if not in a class. I will use the breathing exercises to relax and clear my mind so I am better able to focus on the task at hand and relax. Many of the asanas relieved tension and tightness I felt in various parts of my body, but especially my lower back, so I will continue to practice these. I want to continue to exploring my mind, body, and spirit through yoga and pushing myself to see what I am able to achieve and discover.”

“My favorite part of yoga was actually learning yoga. I have gone to my gyms yoga classes and they honestly taught me nothing. Of course I learned poses but we did not use or practice them the way they should have been – I’m sure the noisy environment did not help the situation. I actually liked learning the meaning of poses and their benefits to the body and mental health – in the gym class he just told us what to do then went into the next pose after a little bit. Now I can actually get something out of the yoga that I do in my spare time.”

By practicing yoga I can improve my concentration and determination. Before it was very hard for me to concentrate one particular think and I used to feel restless very easily. But now, I found a new dimension of my life.”

Pranayama-Humming Bee Breath

Pranayama-Humming Bee Breath

“My favorite part of yoga has been learning the impact of various practices on my mind, body, emotions, and stress levels. I especially enjoyed learning about and practices various meditation practices such as yoga nidra and kaya sthairyam. I found kaya sthairyam (body steadiness) to be very challenging at times because of the subtle movements I made without even thinking. This practice caused me to be more aware of my body and its movements.”

“My favorite part of yoga class, besides the meditation, has been the ability to try something new and get out of my comfort zone.  I like trying to get more in tune with my body.  I still have a ways to go but I can say that I was able to obtain valuable information from this class.”

“I plan to integrate the practices I used to gain energy and become more awake. I want to use the breathing practices to sooth myself from reaching breaking points. I want to use practices to slow my world down and become of aware how my body is feeling. To relieve pain and encourage others to try yoga out too.”

“Taking this yoga class has really made me realize that I can just sit and relax and not move for a few minutes.  I took yoga all last year at the CSU recreation center, but that was more of the poses and not so much on the relaxation part.  I never felt like I could just sit there and mediate or relax without fidgeting half of the time.  This year in this class particularly, I think I surprised myself in how still and calm I can be at some points in our crazy lives we all have.”

“This yoga class made me so calm especially coming into it on a Monday morning.  I loved having you as a teacher because even when you were running late or seemed tired or rushed, you always put on a great practice for us to do.  I love seeing everyone smiling and being happy and relaxed in this class and I think that is what I loved most about it.”

“Taking this class taught me that I can become relaxed and calm even when my outside world is chaotic  and stressful. I learned new limits on my body. I also learned easy and helpful ways to calm myself when stressed and to relieve pains. One of the most beneficial thingsi gained was how to probably breathe with stretches and the proper body alignments.”

“My favorite part of class is the relaxing environment it presents. It taught me ways to perceive and cope with stressful times and experience. I like how it made me more awake and energized after each class.”

Walking Meditation

Walking Meditation

“My favorite part of yoga class is a very specific moment – when we state our Sankalpas (personal resolve, goal or affirmation) during yoga nidra. I’ve stuck with one that, if in time I can genuinely embody, will help my life holistically. If nothing else, it brings to mind a goal that without this class I may not think about enough to ever have a shot at reaching. “

“Yoga nidra is probably one of my favorite experiences from this class. I’ve experienced feelings of weightlessness along with being in this dream-like state. The opposites series was really cool too, the heavy one worked well for me. During body stillness I had my hands resting on my lap and by the end of the practice I didn’t even know they were there. I was so relaxed sitting in the chair that I almost didn’t feel anything at all. “

“I learned that I’m more stressed out than I thought I was. It’s difficult to get myself to clear my mind and stop thinking of things during the practice. I have gotten much better though and I learned that I can control my thoughts. I can control what I choose to think about as well as what I don’t want to think about. I also found that yoga nidra greatly improves my energy and just puts me in a great mood every time I do it. I’m going to start incorporating that into my life, because it really does make me feel good.”

“Before taking this class I did not know I was ever capable of doing yoga. It was always one of those things I knew would benefit me but I never took the time to do it. I didn’t know how difficult it was to sit still until I took this class but I found out how much it helps just by doing a little bit of work on it. Yoga taught me a lot about patience, and doing things to benefit my body that are a little out of my comfort zone at times.”

“I will continue to integrate the tools of yoga in my life by meditating most likely. I find this to be very beneficial for peace of the mind and having better focus on life in general. I would like to better learn how to manage my stresses in life and I think that meditative practices are a great way to make this happen.”

“Before taking this class I did not realize how much of ones self they have to give to the practice. I also did not know that yoga was about so much more than just flexibility but so much awareness needs to be dedicated to the craft and with that awareness a lot of healing, both physical and mental, can be done. “

“I have learned that my body was not as relaxed as I thought it was. I learned that it is very important to take at least 30 minutes out of your day to just relax your mind and body. After taking this class, I have realized that I was pretty stress, but yoga showed ways I can relive the stress. It was a great class.”

Sun Salutation-Various Positions

Sun Salutation-Various Positions

“My favorite part of yoga is meditation. In daily life, I always feel I am pretty busy and don’t have time to stop and clear my mind. And another special thing about meditation is that it helps me control my awareness. Because the awareness might wander after closing eyes, the meditation assists me to have better control of my awareness.”

“One thought I had about yoga, for some odd reason (I blame the media), that yoga was for rather girlish. I meant to enroll in class way before this semester during my time here at CSU. I wish I’d taken it sooner so that I’d have more experience with it by the time I graduate after next semester. All other exercises I’ve done focus on improving techniques, stamina, etc. Yoga seems genuinely about having the practitioner feel at ease. Love it.”

“My favorite part of the yoga class was the different meditation practices we learned. I get extremely stressed because of my classes and my lack of sleep results in my being cranky or angry quite often. The meditation practices help me calm down and relax, while also making me a happier person.”

“My favorite part of yoga class has been learning the different breathing techniques and sun salutation. I enjoy the breathing techniques because they are useful and can be used anywhere and at any time of the day. I enjoy sun salutation because it helps me stay concentrated on the present. I also enjoy it because it incorporates several different yoga poses and afterwards I feel more energized.”

“First, I learned that it is very difficult to tune out thoughts.  Yoga has been able to show me that, and it has helped me to better tune them out.  Second, yoga is more than just stretching.  It is a full body experience, and it is very difficult to achieve without really trying.”

 

Yoga Nidra

“I never knew how much yoga could actually affect me. I took the class because it seemed interesting, but I never realized how profound of an affect the relatively simple postures could have on me. Also, I had no idea how many different breathing techniques there were. I knew that breathing was obviously very important in yoga, but I never really thought much of it besides the simple in and out.”

“I really enjoyed how energetic, yet relaxed I always felt after doing these yoga practices. Especially with class so early in the morning! I always felt refreshed and ready to take on the day.”

“My favorite part about the yoga class was the slow progression and having time to learn every pose and posture properly. In past yoga classes, I felt rushed and unsure of the poses I was doing. In this class, I felt completely aware of the effects each pose had on my energy.”

“A tool that I have taken away from yoga is becoming aware of the breath and knowing that I can use this whenever I am feeling stressed or overwhelmed. This practice is convenient in that it can be done anywhere, and I have learned that focusing on and counting my breaths is instantly relaxing for me. It is the concentration on breathing that really ties each yoga practice together for me and helped me to realize why it is such an important part of yoga. I have come to enjoy practicing yoga first thing when I wake up in the morning, before bed or when I need a mental break, and the positive mental and emotional results I get from doing so and the physical results that come with continued practice make it even more worth continuing.

“I have learned several things about myself and the practice of yoga since I have taken this class. One thing I have learned is that practicing yoga regularly can greatly improve your general health. Another thing I have learned is how coordinating different poses with different breathing techniques can enhance the effects of the practice. As the semester progressed, I learned that my mood had improved and my stress levels had decreased due to the continued practice of yoga.”

Well there you have it.  More “proof” of the positive effects of practicing yoga.

Spring semester starts soon with about 100 students signed up for yoga classes.  Looking forward to another awesome semester of doing my part in lowering stress levels and increasing happiness of students at Cleveland State University!

 
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What Have You Done for YOU today?

Published on November 2, 2015 by in Uncategorized

make time for yourself

What have you done for yourself today? This is the question I ask myself at the end of everyday and all too often I am less then thrilled with the answer.

So really, “What have you done for YOURSELF today?”

Stop what you are doing now and make a list. If it’s early in the day as you read this you might need to think back to yesterday. Start at the beginning of the day and write down everything you did just for you. If you list only includes

1. Ate some food

2. Visited the bathroom

It’s too short and, honestly, kind of depressing.

As a working wife and mother of a 23, 21 and 10 year old, (yes, I have prolonged my childbearing years way, way too long!) I know how difficult it can be to find the time for “me” each day. With so many familial and work responsibilities it is quite easy to put myself last and instead honor the plethora of commitments that have been planned or those that seem to randomly just show up each day.

It seems that just as I have gotten it together to make it to the gym (the one that is only $20 per month-what a deal when you go 2-3 times a week, less of a deal if it is only once per month- another story…) dressed and ready to go with iPod in hand, that my husband, daughter, son, friend, dog, gas meter reader guy, etc. needs me. And being the dutiful and responsible wife, mother, friend, pet and home owner, I take my efforts and energy away from me and putting myself on the proverbial “back burner.”

back burn·er
noun
  1. a state of inaction or suspension; a position of relatively little importance.
    “priorities that have been placed on the back burner year after year”

But the thing about the back burner is that you stop paying attention to what you put on it. You’ve got the burner set on “low” knowing that whatever it is that you are keeping warm probably won’t burn and you go on with preparing the rest of the meal. Not a huge problem when making dinner but certainly an issue when you find yourself exhausted, out of shape, and unhappy because you stopped paying attention to you.

When I find my personal “end of the day list” too short I know that I really only have myself to blame. While I have taken on the responsibilities of my life, certainly not all of them being well thought out at times, I know that I have no one to blame but me when find myself on the “back burner” and my “just for me” list way too short.

So what do I do about it? I start with the intention to “pay attention to me.” “The intention to pay attention.” Say that 3 times fast! Not only is that phrase mouthful, you may be thinking that it’s “easier said then done.” and you’d be right both times.

From my time as a competitive runner and figure skater as well as my experience working with clients as an exercise physiologist, skating, and yoga instructor, I know three things: getting started is the hardest part, consistency keeps you going, and setting reasonable goals brings you to success.

1.  Starting today, set an intention to pay more attention to you.

Because of unplanned disruptions, emergencies, etc, you may not be able to honor this commitment everyday. However, setting time a side holds a space in your day. It needs to be kept sacred and not intentionally filled with something that doesn’t improve your personal health and wellness in some way.

Depending on your current level of appropriated “me time” you may ant to start with only 10-15 minutes and work up from there. Mornings work best for me so I personally have committed to getting up 45 minutes before the rest of the household.

Simple Suggestion: Set an alarm or an alert on your phone or tablet for the same time each. When it goes off stop what you are doing, even if that means sleeping or folding laundry, and move toward you “me” time. If you have full day of responsibilities planned with few opportunities for a

break it might be best to plan to find a period of time in the morning or just before bed.

2. Decide in advance what you are going to during your “me” time and make it truly about you.

Getting up early and staying up late to do laundry, clean the kitchen, binge watch “fill in the blank” show on Netflix, doesn’t count. It must be something that moves you to better health or feeds your soul in some way.

In todays stressful world we think that by plopping down on the couch and putting on the television is considered relaxation. But it isn’t. Even if you avoid the ridiculousness of realty or  violent shows,  you still are not truly relaxing. True relaxation is when tension in the body and mind are removed and you can be in the present moment.

This is where breath exercises or meditation can come in to play.

Simple Suggestions:

When it comes to meditating, many people will tell you that they would like to try it, or do more of it, but they “just don’t have the time.” And while the benefits of regular mediation or sitting silently are enumerable and well-documented even the most dedicated practitioners go through periods of time where meditation takes a back burner to all the distractions of life.

My personal meditation practice ebbs and flows depending on what is going on in my life on any given week but I do my best to find a few minutes everyday to sit in silence.

However, on days where I am struggling to make time for meditation, I am reminded of an episode of “Oprah” that I saw and actually wrote about in this blog a few years ago. The episode was about being happy and what to do to “be happy.”In addition to being inspired by listening to guest Goldie Hawn speak about her own experiences of meditation, happiness, and love I remember resonating with Oprah’s challenge to her audience to sit in silence for 1-minute a day.  Just 1-minute.

From past experience I know that once I’ve made time for that 1-minute, it most often turns to 2 minutes and in many cases 10-15 minutes have passed and I have managed what would be considered a legitimate meditative effort.

And it all started by making time for just 1-minute!

Even the busiest person can find a minute.  Yes, even you!  No?  Sure you can.

Before getting out of bed, while standing in line, before lunch, before going to sleep, etc. are all great opportunities to take 1- minute to stop ‘doing” and just “be.”

Take that 1 minute, or 2 or 30 for yourself.  It will be worth every second.

You-will-never-find-time__quotes-by-Charles-Buxton-35

 
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ICP Wrapping Up Very Busy Summer of Certifications

Published on September 20, 2015 by in Skating, Travel

Kris with Badajoz Groupo

As the leaves begin to change I am looking back on one of the busiest spring/summers for the Inline Certification Program (ICP) in a long time. Having worked with this program in some capacity since 1995, I can say for certain, this has been one of the most prolific and far reaching in ICP history.

Since the end of May, and May is NEARLY summer in the northern hemisphere, over 200 candidates have come through the program from the following cities/countries:

  • Barcelona, Spain
  • Valencia, Spain
  • Burgos, Spain
  • Washington, DC USA
  • London, UK (2 programs!)
  • Shaozing, China
  • Athens, Greece
  • Chongqing, China
  • Pune, India (2 programs!)
  • Beijing, China
  • Singapore
  • Badajoz, Spain

I have personally worked with about 100 of these ICP instructor candidates during programs in Washington, DC, Chongqing, Beijing and Badajoz.  Each program I have attended I have learned something new about teaching and have been inspired by the enthusiasm for teaching and love for skating  that so many of the candidates brought to each program.

Kris 2015 Program Collage

No matter where I have been in the world this year for the ICP, I have encountered talented skaters who have the same goal in mind:  to teach more people to skate or skate better.

Someone asked me the other day if people around the world are different.  It didn’t take me but a second to answer “Not really”.  While I know we have our cultural differences, when it comes to those who are skaters, people truly seem to be the same everywhere. Friendly, kind and open-minded come to mind when describing many of the people I have met this summer.

IMG_8448

I continue to be in awe at how the ICP team world-wide is able to consistently convey the message of safe and effective skating instructor no matter what language they are speaking.  This is a testimony to the certifications long history, the replicability of the program, and the strong team assembled to lead world-wide.

A huge thank you to all the examiners and coordinators who have worked hard to promote and develop this program in communities around the world.  The ICP would not be growing without their continued support and expertice. It has truly been an amazing summer of international travel and skating.  What a fortunate life I  lead!

I am looking forward to see what will come from all the positive energy the program continues to accrue and how this energy will manifest in skating communities throughout the world this year and beyond.  After 24 summers of certifications it is evident that the ICP is still going strong and truly “teaching the world to skate”.

_MG_0575

 

For more information about the Inline Certification Program and to find a program or an instructor near you, please go to www.inlincertificationprogram.org

 
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