Category Archives: Guest Writers

Confessions From a Yoga Teacher

kristenThis week’s blog entry was written by guest author Kristen Nelson. Kristen is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 200 hour yoga teacher training program. She can be contacted at islandgabby@whidbey.com.

Back in grad school, I read the book The Courage To Teach, by Parker J. Palmer.   To quote from his book, “Good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.”  I firmly believe, that being ourselves makes us better at teaching but can also play on our insecurities.  You will never be able to serve all of your students, but if you’re like me, you’ll certainly torture yourself over why you can’t, or why they chose that other yoga studio, or class, or instructor.

Let’s be honest, it’s not easy to get up in front of people, perfect strangers, find connection, while being authentic-just be yourself, right? It’s easier to be yourself though, when you’re prepared.  Sure, we carve out adequate time for planning the perfect sequence, even though we know it doesn’t exist.  We’ll make time to do the practice AND meditate before class begins. Yes, totally zoned out, prepared, with options for every kind of student-you know it’s a fantasy.

Another insecurity- teaching the class with low numbers. Yeah, you know that class.  Ok, this is hard for me to say, I’m the teacher of that class.  This can send one into a tizzy of second guessing  one’s ability, choice in lineage, and just feeling like I’ve done something wrong, I know I have.  Yes, I want to say, “I teach that yoga called Smart Yoga, oh you haven’t heard of it?”

The other insecurity, your students know way more than you.  I had a student suggest I try more of a ‘dance style’ yoga, which is ‘so much fun’, or ‘hot yoga’ because ‘it really is a good work out.’  The whopper though, that cut to the depth of humiliation- my Yoga For Depression series. Guess what?  NO ONE came. Yep.   I don’t consider myself a depressed person, but after that, really?

But let’s end on a positive note. A few years ago I created a yoga event for the winter solstice.  The first year I had three people.  I felt a small pang of regret, mainly because I had far exceeded my candle budget.  The following year I had a friend visiting me and I was psyched because she was coming to the class.  I joked she might be the only one there, but that might be awkward, so we made a backup plan-dinner.  As my friend helped me light the thirty-some candles, people started to walk through the door and continued to fill the studio to MAXIMUM capacity.  I tried to look cool, looking   as if my classes are always brimming.  But honestly, I wanted to cry, and not necessarily because people were showing up, but because I felt like my hard work had finally paid off.  Hard work and a ton of heart behind the intention. My intention that night-to share and give. That’s it.   See, you learn from experience. Don’t give up. And don’t let those insecurities get the best of you.  Even if you have one student in your life , just one, you’ve made an impact.  At the end of the day, those nerves, those insecurities, serve a purpose.  If we get too comfortable, god forbid, too overly confident, we are not serving our students, because it’s about them, not about us.  Sometimes we’re not sure why we teach, we just feel we need to, more than a want to-and that takes courage.

Kristen

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT is available for preorder now from Whole Life Yoga. The first book in the series,  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  and book sellers everywhere!

Competition to Compassion

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Daniela Maurie. Daniela is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 200-hour teacher training, and a student in our current advanced training. Besides yoga & dance, she is an avid animal advocate who frequently does yoga practices with her constant canine companion, Chai. Daniela can be contacted at danielamaurie@gmail.com.

I came to Viniyoga from the professional, competitive dance world. My self-worth was entirely based on my ability to be the best – the fastest, the smoothest, the prettiest, the best body, the most precise, entertaining, flexible, expressive, artistic, etc., ad infinitum. There was no such thing as enough. I was always striving to be better, to improve something. Well, everything, actually. And while I do not believe there is anything inherently wrong with striving for improvement, basing my value in the ability to achieve perfection was a fruitless, empty, and damaging trip to take.

Back and knee injuries ended my full-time dance career. I needed to find another profession that would keep me active and challenged, without breaking my body any further. That need was what brought me to yoga. I remember clearly my first night of Yoga Teacher Training. I was an insecure dancer who thought she had something to prove. I walked in to the program with many years of experience, but little understanding. I expected yoga to be another endeavor where being the best was what mattered. As I said, loads of experience, zero understanding.

Little by little, attending Yoga Teacher Training week after week, taking classes, and listening to my fellow yogis, I began to understand, yoga is not a competition, not even with myself. On any given day, I may or may not be able to maintain the form and balance required of warrior III. On any given day, I may or may not be able to complete a pranayama practice at my maximum breath threshold. On any given day, I may or may not have the focus to do a meditation. But on any given day, on every given day, I can accept wherever I am at, and whatever I am feeling. Through Viniyoga, I have learned compassion for myself, something I never knew as a dancer. I can now accept my imperfections, and not only accept them but celebrate them as part of this whole, wild, human experience. That hunger to be the best has been replaced with a deep and abiding desire to be authentic. That is the best I can be. Real.

I still dance, both socially and professionally. It is my oldest passion, one I am very grateful for, and doubtful will ever change. What has changed, though, is my ability to divorce my self-worth from my ability to perform, whether I am performing an Argentine tango or downward facing dog. There is no best in yoga, or life. There is only where I authentically am, right here, right now. And that is always perfect.

Daniela

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT is available for preorder now from Whole Life Yoga. The first book in the series,  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  and book sellers everywhere!

My Journey to Wellness with Yoga and Ayurveda

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Heidi Mair. Heidi is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 200 hour yoga teacher training program. She can be contacted at heidi.mair@gmail.com.

Torrey Pines Namaste

For most of my life, I have been blessed with health and vitality. I enjoy gardening, cooking, eating healthy foods and an active lifestyle. I began practicing yoga in my teens and continued a regular practice throughout my twenties. In my early thirties, my husband and I bought a 100-year-old house. Much of my free time was spent on renovation projects, gardening, hiking and socializing. I no longer made time in my busy life to practice yoga.

I have had digestive issues including heartburn for as long as I can remember, but I considered it a minor irritation. After 13 years as a vegetarian I began eating meat again. I was busy at work and didn’t have the time to make balanced vegetarian meals. When I hit the big 5-0, the accumulation of a life well-lived began to take its toll. I became more sluggish with achy joints and experienced a bout of sciatica. My heartburn became more frequent and was accompanied by painful, abdominal bloating. I knew it was time to reassess my life and change some of my habits.

I began attending regular yoga classes and soon felt lighter, stronger and more flexible. Around the same time, I attended an Ayurveda workshop and was immediately enthralled by its holistic approach to wellness. Ayurveda is the science of life and is considered the sister science of yoga. Rather than treating symptoms, Ayurveda focuses on each person’s unique constitution (prakriti), nutrition and lifestyle. I researched and found Kerala Ayurveda Academy where I could be certified as a Wellness Counselor in 11 months. Although I was primarily on a path of self-healing, I was also intrigued by the possibility of counseling and teaching.

About 4 months into the program, I made several simple changes and my heartburn went away! I stopped drinking orange juice every morning, cut back on spicy foods and quit drinking wine. Ayurveda teaches us to live according to the seasons and emphasizes the six tastes: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, astringent and pungent. These concepts may sound challenging in our fast-paced and convenience-oriented world, but it can be as simple as waiting for ripe produce rather than eating out of season. And it increases your body awareness. Why didn’t I realize that my love of salsa was related to my heartburn? It is too easy to get out of touch with our own bodies!

Other changes I’ve made include a morning routine (dinacharya): scraping my tongue, using my neti pot, pranayama and yoga. I also discovered trifala, a digestive aid that has really worked for me. I have learned to cook some delicious and healthy meals using ayurvedic spices and nutritional principles. And I try to eat according to the seasons –  warming soups in late fall and winter, salads in the spring and early summer and cooling foods including  fresh apples in the late summer and early fall. These and other small changes have balanced my energy, reduced my stress and increased my sense of general well-being. I am not super-strict and still love my morning coffee. When I slip into old patterns, I am less judging and more self-aware.

Part of the Wellness Counselor program at Kerala included a regular yoga practice. One of my classmates is a Viniyoga teacher and therapist and she thought I’d enjoy Viniyoga.  Through her recommendation, I discovered Whole Life Yoga. After attending a few classes, I knew I had found my yoga home! I was certified at the 200-level in 2010 and have been teaching ever since. My classes are gentle and primarily geared to people over 50. I LOVE teaching and practicing yoga. Lilias Folan wrote a book entitled, Yoga Gets Better with Age and I believe that is true for me. I continue to deepen my practice of both Ayurveda and Viniyoga and look forward to the years ahead of me. There is always more to learn, no matter our stage of life!

Thanks to all of my teachers for helping me learn to age gracefully.

Heidi L. Mair

Some of my writings about Ayurveda and Yoga:

 http://floralinnae.blogspot.com/

 http://ayurvedaprograms.blogspot.com/2010/04/seven-sacred-plants-of-india.html

 http://www.ayurvedawama.com/91

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT is available for preorder now from Whole Life Yoga. The first book in the series,  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  and book sellers everywhere!

Your Inner Dialogue

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Sarah Smith. Sarah is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 200 hour yoga teacher training program and a student in our advanced training. She can be contacted at sarahesmith10@yahoo.com

Communication is powerful.  Just like the knife that can be used in a beneficial way to prepare food for nourishment, or a surgery to heal the body, or used against some one to harm them, communication can be positive or negative.

Sometimes when I am leading a yoga class I will bring the class to standing and ask them to close their eyes and think of one thing they love about their body.  A few more asanas later, coming back to standing, I will ask them to say one kind thing to their body.  At the end of the practice just before ‘namaste’ I will ask them to think of one thing they are grateful for or appreciate about their body.  Other times I will ask them to think of something they love about themselves.  Not surprising is how many people come up to me later and say how hard that is for them.  They are unable to think of one thing they love about their body or their self.

In our daily life how others speak to us has a powerful affect on us.  People who are our well wishers, are encouraging and point out our gifts and talents empower us in our endeavors.  People who invalidate, criticize, judge can throw us into a downward spiral that takes the wind out of our sails and can make us feel as if the life is being sucked right out of us.

Our internal dialogue is incredibly important.  We sometimes get into patterns of thinking that affect us in ways that we don’t realize.  “I have a bad knee” versus “I have a knee that is trying to heal itself.  I am so grateful for the healing power of my body”.  We may find ourselves mentally focusing on our ‘failures’, thinking they define who we are.  This life, this body did not come with a manual.  Maybe taking the word failure out of our vocabulary and replacing it with ‘great lesson’ would put us back in the driver’s seat.

Notice what you would like to have others say to you, and begin to give that to yourself. Words and thoughts that are kind, loving and honoring help our bodies to heal, and ourselves to grow into the spiritual beings that are who we truly are.  It takes practice, but that is why we call it yoga practice, not yoga perfect.

Sarah

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT is available for preorder now from Whole Life Yoga. The first book in the series,  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  and book sellers everywhere!

100 Happy Days/Persevering Practice

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Jeanette Sanchez. Jeanette is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 200 hour yoga teacher training program. She can be contacted at jehanette@gmail.com.

“Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth.” – Pharrell Williams

I was being a good yogi doing my persevering practice of trolling Facebook. What I should have been doing was working on my dissertation, grading papers or even doing yoga. That was when my close friend threw down the gauntlet: 100 Happy Days.

100 Happy Days (http://100happydays.com/) challenges people to be happy for 100 continuous days and to share that happiness by posting photographs of things that make you happy on social media or just with them.  They say, “The ability to appreciate the moment, the environment and yourself in it is the base for the bridge towards long term happiness of any human being.”  Of course, this sounds familiar, it sounds like one of the results of meditation and persevering practice which we, yogis, know brings on a state of nirodhah (control of the random fluctuations of the mind).

Sutras 1.2-4

Yoga is the process of ending the random fluctuations of the mind. Then (once we are in nirodhah) the seer will be established in our own true nature (we can see clearly). Otherwise, what we see is a product of our own conditioning, not what is really there.

Coming into a state of nirodhah means adopting a persevering practice (other yogi’s practices have been highlighted in this blog previously). It can be any practice that is sustained over time. I have experimented in pranayama practices, flossing practices, and making my bed each morning practices all with good results.

Sutras 1.12-14

Control of the mind’s random fluctuations comes from persevering practice and from non-attachment. The state of nirodhah is stabilized through sustained effort. Moreover, that practice must be done for a long time, and without interruption; with eagerness and sincerity.  Then it will become a stable platform from which you can grow.

So nearly three months ago, I accepted the challenge to find 100 things to be happy about 100 days in a row. I have posted them on my Facebook and enjoyed watching my friend post hers.  And for a while it was just fun. Lots of pictures of my husband, my pets and my pets and … my pets…

After about a month, I realized how reliant I am on my dog, in particular, to make me smile during the day.

I felt guilty that I wasn’t out there going on hikes and seeing the beautiful days we’ve been having and spending oodles of time with my husband in the sun doing all those wonderful outdoor things people do up here in the Pacific Northwest.
Then I realized that after one month of “being happy,” of working on this challenge, I had spent more than 20 hours in the library working on my dissertation.  I’d filled pages and pages of sources in my bibliography. I’d found a way back into my work. And so I persisted in my practice.

I found time to start doing my breathing practices more often. As a result, I slept better. I also found other regular practices that made my life better.  Chamomile tea before bed with my husband on our deck as we catch up with each other, walking to work rather than parking as close to the door as I can, and eating different varieties of apples each day. All of these things make my days more fulfilled and as a result, happier.

I will be finished with my persevering practice of 100 Happy Days by the time this blog goes up. I am nearly done with my bibliography, caught up on grading, have a happier husband because I spend time with him and sleep, and the bed is made every day. I will need to find a new practice to fill its gap. It is something I look forward to with happiness.

*The writing of this blog post was accompanied by repeated playings of “Happy” by Pharrell Williams (http://youtu.be/y6Sxv-sUYtM), much to the amusement (read: annoyance) of my husband.

**Another great Happy resource is The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. It is an amazing book. Her practice of giving yourself 15 minutes to work on tasks has dramatically changed my cleaning house lifestyle.

Jeanette

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT is available for preorder now from Whole Life Yoga. The first book in the series,  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  and book sellers everywhere!

Living and Writing your Passion

Welcome to Sparkle Abbey, two of my favorite people and a couple of mighty fine authors, to boot! I’ve seen them at several mystery conferences over the past year, and needless to say, I was thrilled to learn that they both also practice yoga.  We even practiced a little in the back of the room at Left Coast Crime.  To find them online, check out www.sparkleabbey.com  Take it away, ladies!

Thanks so much for allowing us to be guests today, Tracy!

First off, here’s a little bit about us. Sparkle Abbey is actually a pen name because there are two of us. We are Mary Lee Woods and Anita Carter and we co-write the Pampered Pets mystery series for Bell Bridge Books. Because we co-write the books, our publisher asked us to use a single pen name and we chose to use Sparkle Abbey on this series because we liked the idea of combining the names of their two rescue pets – Sparkle (ML’s cat) and Abbey (Anita’s dog).

Our series focuses on the wacky world of precious pedigrees, pampered pooches, and secrets in posh Laguna Beach, California. The main characters and amateur sleuths are Texas cousins, Carolina Lamont, a pet therapist, and Melinda Langston, a pet boutique owner. The two would join forces and work together if they were speaking, but well…they’re not. Midwest Book Review calls the series “A sassy and fun mystery!” We were excited about that description because that’s exactly what we were trying to achieve.

We met Tracy at the Malice Domestic mystery conference a year or so ago and we love her Downward Dog yoga-themed mystery series. And the books involve a wonderful German Shepherd dog, so even better! For Tracy, yoga is much more than a hobby. It’s a vocation and a calling. She is passionate about it and it shows!

Here’s our experience with yoga… Writers spend a lot of time at the computer. A lot. We sit at the keyboard to create our stories, we’re there to edit and polish, and then we’re also often online meeting readers and networking with other authors. That’s a lot of desk time!

So the two of us decided we needed some enforced activity and we signed up for a yoga class through our local Community Education program. It seemed like an easy way to get moving and de-stress, plus it was held at the local elementary in our neighborhood so was close by.

The first class was great and we loved the relaxation time at the end of class. (One of us even fell asleep during one class, but Tracy tells us that happens all the time.) However, after a knee injury for ML and foot surgery for Anita, we were struggling with many of the yoga postures. Soon we stopped going. However, we continued to talk about how much we liked it and how we’d like to get involved again.

At Left Coast Crime, we talked with Tracy about some of the problems we’d had and she was quick to ask questions and offer some advice. Advice which has made all the difference. (She even stopped in the middle of the welcome reception and demonstrated for us what we needed to do. We should have taken pictures.)

You see when you’re passionate about something, it becomes a part of who you are. We feel that way about animals and especially rescues. We try to partner with rescue organizations whenever we can on benefit events and educational efforts. We try to share our love of animals through our books and through the things we’re able to be involved in as authors.

Whether it’s cooking or quilting or antiques or stained glass, we think you’ll find many mystery authors (especially cozy authors) combine something they’re passionate about with their love of storytelling.

So what about you? What things are you passionate about?

Check out Sparkle Abbey’s newest book Fifty Shades of Greyhound!

Yoga Nidra

julie_and_bikeThis week’s blog entry was written by guest author Julie Miller. Julie is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 200 hour yoga teacher training program and a teacher at Whole Life Yoga. She can be contacted at ecojamill@yahoo.com.

As you may imagine, in a meditation class conducted in a comfortable, dark room, with soft music playing and a gentle voice guiding practitioners through visualizations that are often quite peaceful, it can be a challenge to stay awake. Still when a student recently asked me why I phrase my request that students “do not fall asleep” in the negative instead of saying simply “you will stay awake”, it caused me to reflect on the purpose behind that particular statement.

The ideal nidra state is neither awake nor asleep. The unconscious mind is tapped in to through what might best be described as a lucid dreaming type of other state. Through a series of guided meditations designed to peel back the onion of self-awareness, a practice typically explores sensations of the physical body and then down through the more subtle layers of breath, emotions, and energy to reach the ego-less self. This path of exploration can allow one to become aware of conditioned responses and provides the opportunity to break patterns that no longer serve, or were perhaps never beneficial. These habits or patterns are referred to as Samskaras, and it is thought that we must break through or purify these in order to open the door to our true nature. To use that controversial label, yoga nidra is a form of tantric yoga. As defined by well-known yoga teacher Rod Stryker, tantra means to weave, and yoga nidra allows us to weave and reweave the fabric of our consciousness so that we can begin “to see the seer”.

That is all very abstract and no doubt a bit heavy sounding, but the class itself is very relaxing. We begin with breath awareness exercises, a guided body scan, and then move into mental exercises that ask the yogi to engage all of their senses such as imagining fully being in a physical location and all of the sights, smells, sounds, and tastes associated with that place. An exploration of each person’s unique association with symbolism and imagery is usually included as well as mental exercises guiding the yogi through emotions and qualities of being (e.g. compassion, gratitude, joy). These lead to more complex exercises asking the practitioner to attempt to hold conflicting thoughts or sensations simultaneously, thus finding release from conditioned thinking.

The medical benefits of yoga nidra can be found in studies in peer reviewed journals showing its ability to aid with depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, and PMS, and new studies state it may be helpful for regulating blood sugar levels in individuals with diabetes. If that isn’t enough to convince you to give it a try, I have often heard students say that they feel more creative after a nidra practice, sometimes experiencing a burst of inspiration during the session, others report having more vivid dreams, and many find they are more in touch with their intuition and subtle sensations of energy in the world around them.

Julie

Join Julie’s Yoga Nidra class at Whole Life Yoga and experience the peace, creativity, and relaxation that is part of this deep, wakeful sleep.

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT is available for preorder now from Whole Life Yoga. The first book in the series,  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  and book sellers everywhere!

Breathe Before You Act

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Rene De los Santos. Rene is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 200 hour yoga teacher training program, a student in our advanced training, and a teacher at Whole Life Yoga. He can be contacted at theyogirene@yahoo.com.

You may be familiar with the phrase “think before you act” or the ever popular “what were you thinking?” I heard the latter quite often during my adolescent years, although I very seldom had a chance to respond while adults conversed loudly around me.

We all know that our actions are conceived in thought, but luckily (or should I say thoughtfully) we don’t do everything we think because we (usually) think before we act.

Here’s a proposition for you and one I have set for myself; breathe before you act.

Working on pranayama assignments in the yoga teacher training over the last few weeks has made me think a lot about the breath and lengthening the breath; conscious breathing.  A question that came up for me was “What is the point?”  This question continued to plague me until it occurred to me that I was practicing without intention. I must confess now that this revelation did not drop on my head from heaven; it was a part of a discussion we had in the teacher training–my big AH HA moment of the evening. That’s what’s missing: intention!

Because we have been discussing obstacles over the past few weeks, I decided to set my intention on seeing things more clearly so that obstacles could be recognized as they appeared. The breath work and meditating on Yoga Sutras 2.10 & 2.11 helped me set my intention and enhance my experience (not every pranayama practice should suck, right?)

In his book Reflections on Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, TKV Desikachar comments on Sutra 2.11 “Any means that will help us free ourselves from the consequences of these obstacles is acceptable.”

Here’s a thought: if we think before we act (theoretically changing the outcome) what will change if we take some time to breathe before we act? Not a long pranayama practice; just take a minute or two to notice your breath, notice the pauses and quality.

Of course, a successful practice takes more than a couple of minutes, but what if we just noticed the breath throughout the day…and what would happen if we took a minute or two to just breathe before we acted?  I remember being in a Q&A session with Desikachar several years ago and noted how he always takes a couple of deep breaths before answering a question. He was breathing before acting whereas I tend to say the first thing that pops into my head.

How different would our day be if we could step outside every now and then, take a few deep breaths and let the sun shine on us for a minute or two?

Breathe.

Rene De los Santos

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT is available for preorder now from Whole Life Yoga. The first book in the series,  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  and book sellers everywhere!

Three Tips for Practicing Mindfulness in a Multitasking Workplace

A note from Tracy: Publicists send me multiple blind submissions for blog articles every week, and for the most part, I review and ignore them.  But this one caught my eye.  Meditation and  yoga helped me survive my last two years at Microsoft.  You may not be able to make it to the studio every day, but you can practice mindfulness wherever you are–including at work!  I hope you enjoy this article by Dr. Romie Mushtaq.

Headshot 2

Google, eBay, Intel and General Mills offer classes on it. So do Harvard Business School, Ross School of Business and Claremont Graduate University, among other campuses. Mindfulness is not just a corporate trend, but a proven method for success.

Mindfulness – being focused and fully present in the here and now – is good for individuals and good for a business’s bottom line.

How can people practice it in a workplace where multitasking is the norm, and concerns for future profits can add to workplace stress?

“Even if a company doesn’t make it part of the culture, employees and managers can substitute their multitasking habits with mindfulness in order to reduce stress and increase productivity,” says Dr. Romie Mushtaq, www.BrainBodyBeauty.com, a neurologist with expertise in Mind-Body medicine and Mindful Living.

“The result that you and your colleagues will notice is that you’re sharper, more efficient and more creative.”

Dr. Romie says the physiological benefits of clearing away distractions and living in the moment have been documented in many scientific and medical studies.

“Practicing mindfulness, whether it’s simply taking deep breaths, or actually meditating or doing yoga, has been shown to alter the structure and function of the brain, which is what allows us to learn, acquire new abilities, and improve memory,” she says. “Advances in neuroimaging techniques have taught us how these mindfulness-based techniques affect neuroplasticity.

“Multitasking, on the other hand, depresses the brain’s memory and analytical functions, and it reduces blood flow to the part of the right temporal lobe, which contributes to our creative thinking. In today’s marketplace, creativity is key for innovation, sustainability and leadership.

Romie offers these tips for practicing mindfulness in a multitasking business:

•  Focus on a single task for an allotted amount of time. You might say, “For 15 minutes, I’m going to read through my emails, and then for one hour, I’m going to make my phone calls,” Dr. Romie says.

If your job comes with constant interruptions that demand your attention, take several deep breaths and then prioritize them. Resist the urge to answer the phone every time it rings — unless it’s your boss. If someone asks you to drop what you’re doing to help with a problem, it’s OK to tell them, “I’ll be finished with what I’m doing in 10 minutes, then I’m all yours.”

•  When you get “stuck” in a task, change your physical environment to stimulate your senses. Sometimes we bounce from one task to another because we just don’t have the words to begin writing that strategic plan, or we’re staring at a problem and have no ideas for solutions.

“That’s the time to get up, take a walk outside and look at the flowers and the birds – change what you’re seeing,” Dr. Romie says. “Or turn on some relaxing music that makes you feel happy.”

Offering your senses pleasant and different stimulation rewires your brain for relaxation, and reduces the effects of stress hormones, which helps to unfreeze your creativity center.

•  Delegate! We often have little control over the external stresses in our life, particularly on the job. How can you not multitask when five people want five different things from you at the same time?

“Have compassion for yourself, and reach out for help,” Dr. Romie says. “If you can assign a task to somebody else who’s capable of handling it, do so. If you need to ask a colleague to help you out, ask!”

This will not only allow you to focus on the tasks that most need your attention, it will reduce your stress.

“And who knows? The colleague you’re asking for help may want to feel appreciated and part of your team!”

While it is possible to practice mindfulness in a hectic workplace, Dr. Romie says she encourages business leaders to make it part of the company culture. Stress-related illnesses are the number one cause of missed employee workdays.

“Offering mindfulness training and yoga classes or giving people time and a place to meditate is an excellent investment,” she says. “Your company’s performance will improve, you’ll see a reduction in stress-related illnesses and you’ll be a more successful businessperson.”

About Dr. Romie Mushtaq

Dr. Romie is a mind-body medicine physician and neurologist. She did her medical education and training at the Medical University of South Carolina, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and University of Michigan, where she won numerous teaching and research awards. She brings to healing both her expertise of traditional Western medical training and Eastern modalities of mindfulness. She is currently a corporate health consultant and professional health and wellness life coach at the Center for Natural and Integrative Medicine in Orlando, Florida.  She is also an international professional speaker, addressing corporate audiences, health and wellness conferences and non-profit organizations.  Her website is www.BrainBodyBeauty.com.

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available now from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Whole Life Yoga, and other retailers!

The Last Breath

This week’s blog entry was written by guest author Sarah Smith. Sarah is a graduate of Whole Life Yoga’s 200 hour yoga teacher training program and a student in our advanced training. She can be contacted at sarahesmith10@yahoo.com

As we all know, the breath is the most important and powerful part of yoga.  There are times when a breath can give us a spiritual experience, such as the first breath of a newborn, the breath that brings someone back to life from a traumatic situation, or even a powerful yoga class.  And then there is the last breath…

On Dec. 15th during our 5 hr. Sunday clinic I heard the thought that my mother is passing away.  Those words kept repeating all through the day and into the next day.

In the past year, my 92 yr. old mother had been experiencing a lot of dizziness, sleeping more and eating less.  We could see that she was disconnecting from life a bit.  In the last few months she was falling more, but never injuring herself.  My 98 yr. old dad was becoming afraid to leave her alone.  My sister Joan lives nearby in So. Cal.

On Friday, Dec. 13th, Mom fell, injuring her arm and head.  The paramedics were called, bandaged her arm and found her head to be fine.  After this incident,  Joan wanted her to move into the downstairs den to make it easier on my dad to take care of her.  Mom can be very resistant to change.  Joan tried bringing visiting nurses in, but Mom cancelled them after one visit.  She was upset that the paramedics had come.

Trying to get her to move downstairs, Joan’s husband Michael had a loving, honest talk with Mom the next day.  Michael has been care taking his mom for 10 yrs. now.  He explained the toll this is taking on Dad.  Mom has never wanted to be a burden on anyone. After this talk she refused to eat or drink water.

On Monday, Dec. 16th, with the help of hospice Mom was moved into a hospital bed in the dining room.  Joan called me that afternoon and I arrived the next morning along with my sister Beth, who lives in Issaquah.  Driving to the airport I told my husband that I felt  she was leaving on Thursday or Friday.

Mom didn’t want to be confined to the bed and was very agitated.  She would try to get up. Hospice showed us how to administer morphine to keep her relaxed.  When the morphine would wear off, she would become agitated.  At those times I gave her another dose and would stroke her forehead, telling her I loved her and that she couldn’t get up, her body was too weak to safely hold her.

For two nights I slept on the couch in the living room watching over her, keeping her relaxed with morphine every two hours.  She always woke up agitated and wanting to get up.  At 2 am on Thurs. I sensed Mom was awake and went in to check on her.  She asked me very calmly, what happened, did I fall?  Yes, you fell and you are in the process of passing away, I told her.  We are giving you your wish to stay in your beautiful house with only family around you.  She replied, you are so kind.

Around 1 pm on Thursday, Joan laid on the couch in the living room, Dad went into the den, Beth went upstairs.  I was also about to go lay down  when I had a feeling.  I grabbed my book and sat with Mom.  40 minutes. later I felt a shift in the room.  I set my book down and watched her.  After about 10 minutes her breathing changed.  It was shallower and there were longer spaces between breaths.  I went and told Joan, this is it.  We gathered around Mom.  At 2:10 pm Dad kissed Mom on her forehead and then she took her last breath.  She had a little smile on her face and she was glowing.  The room was vibrating with such joy and peace that we  just sat there taking it all in, whispering what we were feeling and witnessing.  I said that Mom is teaching us how to die.  Dad said that this is exactly how he wants to go and we promised him we would give him the same experience.

Sarah

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available now from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Whole Life Yoga, and other retailers!