Ellen Patrick, E-RYT 500
Certified Yoga Therapist

For Your Health and Well-Being

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Evolving Your Yoga Practice

Posted on November 5, 2018 at 9:30 AM Comments comments (0)

EVOLVING YOUR YOGA PRACTICE By Ellen Patrick, E-RYT 500 & Certified Yoga Therapist As a teacher of yoga for almost 2 decades, I have seen many students’ practices fluctuate over the years. I, too, am now experiencing a similar fluctuation. Since I began practicing 40 years ago, my now 57-year-old body is not moving as fast and fluidly as it use to. It is tighter and not as strong. And I need a lot more time to warm up and cool down. Old injuries rear their ugly heads and new ones pop up. Giving up my practice is not an option. But neither is pain and discomfort. So I have begun a reevaluation of my approach and relationship to yoga. It is time to recognize the need to adapt and accommodate the aging process. During this contemplation, I was reminded of the classical yoga tradition of Sri T. Krishnamacharya and his philosophy of the stages of life.

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Each day, the sun rises, peaks and sets. Our lives can be viewed through this lens of the various phases of the sun. Sunrise is considered a period to cultivate development; Mid-Day, a therapeutic stage; and Sunset, a time for self-reflection/self-realization. With a clearer understanding of the phase in which you dwell, a yoga practice can be designed that will most appropriately meet your needs and disposition.

SUNRISE: Developmental or Siksana We are born into the dawn of our human experience at Sunrise, which begins at birth and ends somewhere around the age of 25. During this period, communication, intellects, and bodies are developing. This is a time when we are bursting with energy, adventure and curiosity. To facilitate this growth and exhilaration, a personal practice designed to cultivate strength and vitality would best contribute to the requirements of a developing young person. Asana practices such as Power Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga and Hot Yoga would be appropriate. In conjunction with asana, the study of yogic texts such as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali would be encouraged. These sutras (short, concise pearls of wisdom) were originally passed on from teacher to student through chanting and memorization. In fact, students had to learn how to perfect the Sanskrit chanting before ever learning the meaning behind the sutra. This technique not only helped developed a fierce memory, but also initiated the study and inquiry of the philosophy of yoga. Through this inquiry, students were primed for the challenging ups and downs of a full life.

MID-DAY: Therapeutic or Cikitsa As the sun reaches its peak, Mid-day will begin around age 26 and can last until 70. Also known as the householder phase, an appropriate yoga practice would be one in which an individual is supported in the ability to fulfill obligations and responsibilities within the work environment, to the community and to family. Stability needs to be cultivated at the level of physical structure, physiological health as well as emotional well-being. It is imperative to focus on injury prevention and rehabilitation, energetic replenishment, nervous system regulation and stress management. An asana practice would include adaptations of poses to accommodate anatomical imbalances. Viniyoga and Iyengar Yoga are ideal methodologies for this stage in that they support the individual to achieve maximum benefits without depleting energy or compromising structure. In addition, it is at this phase that a regular practice of pranayama is nurtured. Asana is no longer the focus, but is the vehicle upon which breath travels. Through breath control, vitality is cultivated and maintained.

SUNSET: Self-reflection/self-realization or Adhyatmika As the obligations and responsibilities of the householder start to wane, one begins to contemplate the meaning of life, share wisdom and prepare for a merging of the soul back to source. The Sunset phase starts around 70 until the end of life. It is a time when connection to Spirit is deeply developed and embraced in anticipation of the final moments of life. Yoga practice now moves further away from asana, but grows in refinement of pranayama, meditation, prayer and ritual. Fear of death is conquered and a peaceful mind and heart can be nurtured.

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My current yoga practice has been adapted for sustainability. It strengthens and protects my vulnerabilities. The dancer in me enjoys slow, flowing movement that empowers me to remain mindful and present. Meditation is a non-negotiable. Pranayama balances and regulates my nervous system. When practiced daily, I feel grounded, confident and calm.

4 Tips for Incorporating Wellness at Work

Posted on March 3, 2015 at 2:10 PM Comments comments (3)

 

  • Take Breathing Breaks   You’re thinking, “why take a breathing break when I’m breathing all day long?” The answer is because most of us have shallow breathing patterns. Take 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes in the afternoon to consciously and fully breathe into your lungs, watching your chest and belly expand and relax. This will calm your nervous system, decrease stress and revive your energy.
  • Eat Healthy Snacks Between Meals   Ditch the donuts and chocolate bars and instead grab nuts, carrot sticks or fruit to munch on mid-morning and mid-afternoon. These snacks will inhibit a drop in your blood sugar and prevent energy slumps.
  • Do Simple Yoga Stretches at Your Desk   Our posture suffers from sitting all day working at a computer screen. To counteract the muscle tension this creates, simple yoga stretches can release both physical and mental stress. Take a few minutes to stand up and clasp your hands behind your back. Press your hands away from your body and feel the delicious stretch of muscles across your chest. Your body will thank you. 
  • Drink Lots of Water   Our body is made up of 60% water, so it’s important to stay hydrated. Watering the body will help to flush out the kidneys, combat muscle fatigue and give your skin a healthy glow. Throw some fruit, like lemon or orange, into your water and make it extra tasty.

 

Yoga vs. Prescription Meds

Posted on October 14, 2014 at 12:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Recently, the NBC "Today" show produced a segment posing the question, "Are Americans an overprescribed "pill nation'"?  Accordng to this report, the government estimates 2.1 million Americans are addicted to prescription medications: 1.4 million are treated annually for overdoses; and the Centers for Disease Control estimates 22,000 Americans die every year from prescription drug overdoses.  The most commonly misused prescriptions are for pain, sleep, depression and anxiety.  


In many cases, medications are necessary and life-saving, but self-help techniques can reduce or eliminate the continuing need for prescriptions, as well as, trips to the emergency room as a result of misuse.  These techniques include yoga and yoga therapy, which can free us from painful, dysfunctionial moverment patterns.  Breathing techniques that may release anxiety by relaxing the nervous system and inviting a good night's sleep. And meditation can lift us out of dysfunctional thoughts and feelings.  Why not add yoga to your prescription for health and well-being?

Got Stress? Try Yoga.

Posted on October 14, 2014 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (0)

Americans know the importance of stress management in creating optimal health and well-being.  Stress management is about building strong bodies, developing coping mechanisms and shifting attitudes.  The anient practice of yoga provides stress management tools to empower individuals in becoming active participants' in one's health and well-being.  The physical moements of postures build stronger bodies and aid in dissipating the harmful effects of stress chemicals that may contribute to hypertension and diabetes.  Yoga offers breathing techniques that calm the nervous system, affecting blood pressure and alleviating conditions such as insomnia.  The skill of meditation promotes the development of awareness making us less reactive and more responsive toward the events and people in our lives.  You need not look any further than your local yoga studio, its staff of qualified teachers, and yoga therapsts to access an ancient practice that will provide support and guidance, while you learn to navigate the often turbulent waters of our complicated modern lives.  

Heal Yourself with Yoga

Posted on October 9, 2014 at 6:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Webster's Dictionary defines health as "physical and mental well-being."  The 5,000-year-old science of yoga breaks this down even further when considering one's health:  physical, energetic, cognitive, emotional and spritiual well-being.  Everything we need is already inside of us to create and/or maintain the balance and harmony of all levels of our being.  Through the practice of yoga and the tools it has to offer, we learn to tap into our true innate healing abilities.


There has been much press about how yoga can help you become limber and strong as well as reduce the stress in your life.  But, you may ask, how do poses like 'downward facing dog" or "mountain" teach you to manager your anger?  How can a "sun salutation" provide enough energy to get you through the day as effectively as your daily cup of java in the morning?  Many of you have already been lucky enough to experience the feeling of euphoria cultivated during your yoga practice.  Can that same good feeling also heal the dysfunctions and imbalances in your life and health?  On the surface, yoga looks like a relaxing way to keep fit.  But like an iceberg whose tip is above the water, the bulk of yoga's benefits lie below surface impressions.  Yoga is a tried-and-true science that has been practiced and refined througout the millennia.  And now, western science, is also confirming what the ancients had already discovered:  a steady yoga practice can activate your innate healing abilities and produce more quality in your life.


The most important and simple tool that yoga has to offer us is also the most challenging.  This tool is the cultivation of awareness.  In our modern information age, the amount and pace of stimulus our human brains absorb is astounding.  I once heard that the amount of information we absorb in one day, is as much as a person would absorb in an entire life-time one hundred years ago.  Whether this statement is accurate or not, the point is well-taken.  It would be no surprise to anyone if our entire society were diagnosed with ADD--our pets included!!!  How can we know what we need when our minds are so externally absorbed?  Even when we try to take care of ourselves by going to the gym, we find ourselves multi-tasking as we run on a treadmill while reading a magazine or lift weights while watching television.  Our lives begin to feel like one long treadmill that is never-ending.


Yoga offers us the opportunity to slow down our thoughts and quiet the noise in our minds long enough to become aware of the messages from within.  All the answers we need, and all the information we are seeking are within.  We just can't hear it above the din of our minds!  When I being teaching my classes, I ask my students to close their eyes and connect with their breath.  By closing their eyes the external world begins to dissipate.  By connecting with the breath--slowing it down and deepening it--we are flipping the "stress switch" to the off position.  The tension in our muscles starts to loise its chronic hold.  The mind starts to slow down and its constant chatter becomes more quiet.  We then check-in to find out what is showing up for us:  How is my body feeling at this moment?  Where is my energy level in this moment?  What is the state of my mind today?  Do my emotions feel balanced today?  Have I been nurturing my soul or have I been neglecting it?  By asking these questions, we become  more aware of ourselves.  Loaded with this important information, we can then make conscious choices in our lives and influence our well-being in a direction that is more in tune with our needs and desires.  Without this awareness we live our lives on automatic pilot, reacting, rather than responding to the myriad of circumstances to which our modern lifes are subjected.  


Through this process of introspection and reflection, we develop an awareness that we can then use to access well-being.  We can use a yoga practice to create strength, flexibility and endurance through postures.  If we are seeking more energy in our life, we can learn breathing techniques that will slow down our hyped-up systems and rejuvenate us.  If it is relief from the distracting stress of our "to do lists" that we seek, we can learn to focus our minds.  When our emotions threaten to destabilize us, we can turn to meditation.  And when our souls feel neglected, we can turn to deep, intense reflection and fill the well of our being.  


This is the beginning and heart of cultivating health for our individual well-being.  With the guidance of an experienced yoga teacher or yoga therapist, you can uncover the path to your innate healing abilities. It already resides within you.  Take the journey and discover your inner landscape and its treasure of well-being.


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