Finding balance: U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr creates a community of yoga instructors
VILSECK, Germany -- Ask most Soldiers what they think of yoga and the response usually includes images of incense, chanting and mystical gurus from faraway lands sitting cross-legged on the floor.
During a recent training program, however, Soldiers learned the practice is more than stretching and meditation, it can also be physically demanding.
"I came in thinking it was a joke, but after one session I felt great," said Sgt. Miguel Maldonado, the rear detachment noncommissioned officer for 8th Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment. "And a little sore," he added.
Maldonado was one of more than 50 participants in a recent training program to become a yoga instructor within the Grafenwoehr military footprint. The program, Yoga 360, is part of Soldier 360, a larger comprehensive multidisciplinary military leaders' health and wellness course.
With multiple deployments and post-traumatic stress disorder on the rise, the Army is shifting its focus with these programs to incorporate holistic approaches such as yoga to relieve stress and build physical resiliency for both Soldiers and their families.
The free 40-hour Yoga 360 training course was offered to Soldiers, civilians and family members and was intended to create a community of educators to teach yoga within the Grafenwoehr military community.
While many spouses are now voluntarily instructing within their family readiness groups, Soldiers are changing the look of traditional morning physical training, giving warriors a different perspective while striking a Warrior Pose.
Clinical psychologist Maj. Glen Wurglitz facilitated the program along with yoga instructor Carolyn Butcher. Together they touched on both the mental and physical facets that promote a healthy balance in overall wellness.
"The Army is concerned with the physical in addition to the other aspects of the Soldier's life," said Wurglitz. "We're living faster and faster without taking the time to breathe. Yoga helps a person find balance ... and develop a sense of (themselves) in that particular place and time."
Wurglitz explained yoga can reduce combat stress and other trauma-based disorders through a variety of exercises that go beyond conventional Army physical fitness.
"Rucking and running are not the only two ways we can develop fitness," said Wurglitz. "And what Soldiers found is there's nothing fluff about yoga."
Staff Sgt. Marvin Caban-Acosta, family readiness liaison, 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 172nd Separate Infantry Brigade, agreed.
"It's a great workout. You build strength, develop muscle and flexibility," said Caban-Acosta. "Plus, it brings in that meditation that allows you to encompass mindfulness -- to slow down and look inside yourself. It's a different approach than what we as Soldiers are used to, but it's a welcomed change."
Caban-Acosta plans to teach a yoga course to his Soldiers as part of their physical training, although he admitted he would most likely omit the Sanskrit name of many yoga poses to make it more "Army strong."
However, whether the instructors say "Ut-tan-a-sa-na" or "bend forward, touch your toes," the benefits remain the same.
Getting away without going away:
Yoga and stress management
By Harriet Russell
Stressed? Feel short on time? “To do’s” building up? When will you ever get your personal projects done? When did the kids grow up, anyway? Time bound consciousness is a common state of mind. Don’t worry. Yoga and meditation can help. Stress reduction is a result of stress management. Learning to live with stress and learning to reduce stress are both related to how we think. How we think determines how we act, or react.
There are three factors in our lives that contribute to who we are in this world. They are heredity, environment, and lifestyle. Heredity cannot change. What we are given is what we have. Environment is difficult to overcome also. Lifestyle, however, we can change. In our daily habits lies the potential for lifestyle changes. How we eat, exercise, and deal with stress can be modified. The situations we put ourselves in and our attitudes about life circumstances can also be altered.
PRACTICAL TECHNIQUES FOR EVERYDAY STRESS
What are the practical ways that yoga can help us solve day-to-day problems in life that can cause stress? On a physical level, yoga goes beyond just toning and strengthening muscles. Standing postures correct structural alignment and strengthen the spine. Twists massage the internal organs. Forward bends lower blood pressure and relax the nervous system. Inverted postures purify the lymphatic system. Yoga postures and breathing strengthen and balance the immune, hormonal, digestive and nervous systems.
Yoga also improves our mental state, increases concentration, builds self-esteem, and helps us to deal with stress in a positive way. Mental and emotional improvements include clarity of mind, greater awareness, increased concentration and focus, a more positive attitude, less mood swings, improved self esteem, "groundedness", and stress reduction.
When the body and mind are synchronized, a spiritual dimension comes forth: improved intuition, a deeper "knowing" inside, an openness of heart, a feeling of greater love and compassion for oneself and for others, a connection to the divine, to God, in whatever way that expresses for each individual.
CHAIR YOGA FOR THE OFFICE
How can you take care of your body and mind while sitting at a desk or computer for hours on end? When I worked on Wall Street, I used to stretch while in my chair. Pretend to look at someone behind you, grab one side or back of the chair and twist first to one side, then to the other. While seated, you can arch the back opening the chest and then round the back releasing. Do this several times. Stretch your arms overhead and interlace the fingers. Or just stand up and stretch your arms overhead for a moment. Lift the shoulders into a shrug and then release them (and the tension) suddenly. Moving the head up and down then side to side gives a good neck stretch.
TAKE A DEEP BREATH
Take a deep breathing break in the non-smoker’s lounge. Get fresh air in good weather at lunchtime. Mental anxiety caused by thinking or worrying too much, creates tension in the shoulders, the “should-ers” Notice when you feel tension in the shoulders. It is usually a result of too many “should’s” you put on yourself. What should be is projection or expectation. What is, however, is reality. Facing reality with a deep breath brings us into the present, and provides clarity.
Here is a simple breathing exercise that oxygenates the blood, increases lung capacity and cleanses toxins and allergens out of your system. It also takes the mind away from mental worry by focusing on breathing. It can be done seated or lying down.
Locate three parts of the torso: belly, lower lungs, and upper lungs. You may place a hand on one part moving it to another, until you get familiar with the technique. Do not force the breath. Do not hold the breath at the top of the inhalation nor at the bottom of the exhalation. Let it be a circular breath with smooth and even transitions. Breathe into the belly gently filling it, then move the breath into filling the lower lungs, then all the way up under the collarbones into the upper lungs. Exhale slowly with one long breath. Repeat 6 times. Then breathe regularly.
You may use this as the only practice and repeat it over and over, or add on the following two steps. Breathe into the entire torso with one full breath. Exhale slowly in three parts from the upper lungs, to the lower lungs to the belly. Repeat 6 times. Then breathe regularly. Breathe into the belly, the lower lungs, then the upper lungs in one long smooth three part deep breath. Then exhale slowly from the upper lungs, lower lungs, and belly. It is like a glass of water filling in from the bottom to top and pouring out from the top to the bottom. Repeat 6 times. Then breathe regularly.
If you keep your eyes open, no one will ever notice you are doing this while seated in your chair. What a stress buster! It is great to use in heated discussions as it improves your ability to listen because you are better able to remain calm.
Competition is stressful. Stay focused on what you are doing in the moment and don’t worry about how it was yesterday, or how it will be in the future. Keep your eye on the goal, but be open to whatever results actually happen. An attitude of acceptance is key stress management.
Relaxation is a vital part of stress management. At the end of the posture practice or any exercise work out, lying down in relaxation pose brings the final integration of body and mind. The quiet allows for awareness of our inner self. Given time to reflect, we can discover the spiritual side of our nature. We awaken refreshed, rejuvenated, and renewed.
If you have your own office, ask not to be disturbed for 20 minutes and close the door. Lie down on the floor with your feet slightly apart and your arms at your sides with palms facing upwards. You may do the three part breathing, a tension and release exercise, or a body scan. You may combine them together as well.
TENSION AND RELEASE EXERCISE:
Tighten your fists, arms and shrug your shoulders up towards the ears, lifting only one inch off the ground. Then release suddenly. Repeat twice more. Tighten your buttocks and legs and flex the feet, lifting only one inch off the ground. Then release suddenly. Repeat twice more. Tighten your face and squinch your eyes. Release. Repeat two more times. Relax into the ground and practice the same three part breathing described above to continue to the calm the mind.
With your body relaxed now, begin the body scan. Without moving, focus the mind on the soles of the feet, then the ankles, calves and knees, thighs and hips and the belly. Keep scanning up your body into the lower back, the upper back, the shoulders and neck. Relax your arms, your hands and feel the tension just wash away from your face and head.
The focus itself will bring relaxation. Breathe normally and evenly. Each breath in brings in fresh energy, each breath out rids the body of tensions and toxins. Breathe in rejuvenation and exhale into deeper relaxation. Feel the body melt into the ground, but keep the mind alert yet relaxed. As a beginner, you may fall asleep! That’s quite all right. As you practice you will be able to go into a deep state of relaxation without falling asleep.
A MEDITATION EXERCISE
I remember while working on Wall Street how much my meditation practice helped me with the stressful lifestyle in New York City. I would search at lunchtime for a quiet concrete bench outside between the skyscrapers so that I could do my meditation practice.
Meditation is a great stress reliever. Just sitting still and closing your eyes, will begin to calm the mind. Meditation is Awareness of what is in the moment. Nothing more. Nothing less. Just what is.
It is just being aware of what is already happening in the moment. It is called “witness consciousness”. Just like watching a movie go by. Thoughts will come and thoughts will go. Do not try to capture a thought and create a story from it. Do not force unpleasant thoughts to go away. Just let them come and go.
On a physical level, meditation lowers the blood pressure, and expands the breath capacity. Meditation changes the chemicals in the brain. On a mental level, the mind goes into a state of calm but not to sleep. When the mind dips into the realms of calm, we connect to a source greater than our individual self.
After meditation, there is a marked clarity and focus, and peacefulness. With practice, intuitive abilities increase. The effects cumulate and continue to affect us throughout the day.
For beginners, it is sometimes difficult to sit still. Try some stretching beforehand so you will not be stiff and uncomfortable while sitting. You can try a walking meditation, if you like, before sitting down. Sit up straight so that you can breathe fully and not fall asleep. You may sit in a chair without crossing your legs or arms. Do not lean back and keep your feet flat on the ground. Or you may sit on the floor with crossed legs or kneeling sitting on your heels.
It can be difficult to just begin to meditate without focusing the busy mind first. There are many focusing techniques: 1) listening to the breath, 2) noticing sensations like temperature changes, tingling, and tension 3) focusing on a candle or picture of a loved one or religious figure that inspires you, with eyes half closed 4) repeating or listening to a mantra phrase 5) listening to relaxing music that does not have words or a melody to follow 6) visualizing a white healing light surrounding you or increasing within you. This is good for pain management. Twenty minutes of meditation or the deep relaxation is equivalent to two hours of sleep….a real power nap!
In conclusion, consider what you eat, how you breathe, and how you deal with stress. The ways you take care of your body and mind are directly responsible for your overall health.
In a 2006 study, it was concluded that the subjects that lost weight and kept weight off engaged in activities that were also mentally soothing everyday along with physical exercise everyday (http://www.ijbnpa.org/content/3/1/17). The study's conclusions findings suggest that the subject, by thier own choice, set themselves up a work and rewards system in order to have continued success.
Why is this information important? Three reasons. First, I want to point out that I was prepping you for a thought about weight loss as it relates to yoga. Second, when adding a new activity or behavior into your daily life, you need to also add an encouraging support (work and reward for that work). This concept is the key to continued success of any new lifestyle change. Second, to those of you who do not know the experience of yoga, yoga not only helps you to lose weight BUT it helps you have, what can be, an amazing inner (mental, reflective, or even spiritual) experience, granted you reach a class attendance of at least 4 days a week consistently (for a prolonged period of time or working toward a long committment). Yoga is a physical practice that can bring about both weight loss and reward all in itself. That is why the yoga community is rapidly growing. So, try the very popular, introductory special of 10 classes for 10$ and try out yoga and see how it will benenfit your life.
Emily Kathryn Narayan, RYT
6/20/2012 0 Comments
In 2010, research gave high accolades to the effectiveness of yoga in recovery from breast cancer. The research findings were formed and in the end compiled into a series of lists as tips for breast cancer patients. It suggests that women receiving breast cancer treatment need to do yoga during the treatment.
Emily Kathryn Narayan, RYT
Yoga has many benefits. So why choose Hot Yoga? Or, more specifically, why choose hot yoga for weight loss? How does weight loss occur with Hot Yoga?
"The heat of a hot yoga class does not cause permanent weight loss. You'll lose water weight, temporarily, through sweating. When you rehydrate, however, your body will regain the water it needs to function properly, and your weight will return to normal. However, the heat raises your heart rate slightly. As you sweat, your blood volume decreases because of dehydration, and your heart must pump faster to keep the blood flowing throughout your body. In this way, the heat helps you reach and maintain your target heart rate, achieving a level that burns calories effectively."
Emily Kathryn Narayan, RYT
6/11/2012 0 Comments
What are the Eight Limbs of Yoga?:According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, one of the ancient texts that is the basis for the philosophy behind yoga, there are eight “limbs” (Ashtanga in Sanskrit) of yoga. Each limb relates to an aspect of achieving a healthy and fulfilling life, and each builds upon the one before it. You may be surprised to hear that only one of the limbs involves the performance of yoga postures. Here is a description of the eight limbs.1. Yama:Five ethical guidelines regarding moral behavior towards others: Ahimsa: Nonviolence
2. Niyama:Five ethical guidelines regarding moral behavior towards oneself:
Tapas: Sustained practice
Svadhyaya: Self study
Isvara pranidhana: Surrender to God
3. Asana:Practice of yoga postures.4. Pranayama:Practice of breathing exercises.5. Pratyahara:Withdrawal of the senses, meaning that the exterior world is not a distraction from the interior world within oneself.6. Dharana:Concentration, meaning the ability to focus on something uninterrupted by external or internal distractions. 7. Dhyana:Meditation. Building upon Dharana, the concentration is no longer focused on a single thing but is all encompassing.8. Samadhi:Bliss. Building upon Dhyana, the transcendence of the self through meditation. The merging of the self with the universe. Sometimes translated as enlightenment. Sources:
Light on Life, B.K.S. Iyengar, 2005.
Yoga: The Iyengar Way, Mira Silva and Shyam Mehta, 1990.
Emily Kathryn Narayan, RYT
6/7/2012 0 Comments
Yoga on Obstacles and Distractions (Chitta Viksepa): The Challenge of The Human Condition
We find ourselves in soured states of being in many times in our lives. Example: The relationship failed. Irritation and, the behavior that ensues as a result, of small interruptions and changes out of control plague us. We get depressed. We battle superiority and inferiority. We run from our thoughts, feelings, past, or fear. After we run from something we go to something else or someone else projecting the dis-ease of our life. We, simply, are addicted to the more base components of the human experience.
Though there is much debate concerning the truest account of yoga’s origins amongst Hindu and other religious theologists, historians, philosophers, and yogi’s and yogini’s. The one constant in yoga, as it was intended, was to inform and assist the descendants of the human race in their journey to becoming less attached to our multiple sensory experiences in this life in order to be able to perceive and feel contentment, inner peace, connectedness, and oneness with all living things.
The Chitta Viksepa, or Causes of Modification of the Mind, is a line of thought, informational, and instructional, laid out in the Yoga Sutra’s of Pantanjali. Some yoga experts argue that the Yoga Sutra’s are the foremost authority on yoga (others argue that the authoritative texts are the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, The Upanishads, and other texts). The Yoga Sutra’s are mostly written like a line of thought that resemble a philosophical arguments in format. With a starting point beginning in the first sutra, the consecutive texts continue to build on the first and beginning sutra. All sutra’s point to one thing… the attainment of a state of detachment. This is a vague term, but, you can easily come to know the context of this idea of detachment and what it means to become detached and how it is life changing.
We are fortunate to have our many experts on yoga that have compiled the information for us and presented it to us in many different ways. B.K.S Iyengar wrote in his book Light On Yoga in 1966 about the Obstacles and Distractions. He outlines this easily for us in Light On Yoga.
We go deeper into the Obstacles and Distractions in our next blog.
Emily Kathryn Narayan, RYT