• To Teach or Not To Teach Yoga at a Nursing Home

    It was time for me to get creative. I wanted to share yoga outside of the traditional studio setting.

    Here are 5 things that I learned after teaching yoga at a nursing home:

    Not Everyone Will Participate

    Most of the time, I felt like I was an entertainer instead of a yoga teacher because no one really participated. I had one or two people out of twenty who would try and follow along with me, but most of the people in the room were sleeping, telling me to stop, trying to leave the room, or too confused and/or sedated to do anything.

    I also volunteer at a non-profit Adult Day Care facility as well and it is a small group of participants (about 8 people) and they all participate. This facility is much more organized and chooses to bring people in the room who actually want to do yoga. Sometimes, it depends where you are teaching at.

    Sensory Exercises Can Boost Engagement

    Since I was having difficulty getting everyone to participate, I tried adding in fun little extras to get them engaged. I started bringing in my speakers to play music. I tried so many types of music, from relaxing to rock music, and found that if the music was calming yet upbeat, it created a nice energy in the room.

    I also utilized my essential oils. This worked the best! I would put a drop of oil in my palms and go to each person and have them take a breath. One time at the beginning and another at the end. They all really seemed to enjoy this.

    I also experimented with the lights and closing the door to the rec room, so that it felt more like an experience. Nevertheless, people were always in and out whether it was nurses or visiting family members, it was difficult to avoid a disruption.

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  • How To Find A Meditation That Works For You

    When we think of meditation, we visualize a monk sitting, legs folded, eyes closed, silent, sitting still. We think that he is in complete peace, his thoughts have ceased, and he’s not bothered by the flies and mosquitoes. His legs aren’t asleep and his back isn’t aching. From the outside, we think meditation is bliss. But when we try meditation on our own, we feel nothing like this.

    Meditation is not all peace and enlightenment. It is learning to get comfortable being uncomfortable, being in pain, and training the mind through consciousness. It’s a practice. Some days you will succeed and some days you will have a difficult time. But as long as you are trying, you will receive the benefits.

    There are an infinite number of ways to meditate. So, don’t feel discouraged thinking that you are just limited to sitting in silence. You can . . .

    • Lay down on your back (But not recommended in the morning because you have been laying down all night while you were sleeping)
    • Concentrate on breathing in and out slowly
    • Count in your head
    • Concentrate on a color
    • Walk slowly and mindfully around the room/anywhere
    • Listen to music – any music! From Nirvana to Beethoven
    • Listen to nature – the ocean, a stream, the wind, birds
    • Dance (Look up Osho meditations)
    • Sew, Stitch, Macrame (Or any other repetitive motion)
    • Cook or bake
    • Draw a mandala
    • Color – there are adult coloring books
    • Sing a mantra (I recommend the Gayatri Mantra)
    • Create your own mantra and repeat in your head or out loud or even write it out – For example, “I am grateful” or “I am deserving of love”
    • Listen to a guided meditation on Youtube
    • Try Yoga Nidra
    • Try Qi Gong

    If you choose to sit or lay down in silence, feel free to use pillows or sit against a wall to make yourself comfortable. Meditation has no rules and you have to find what works for you. And, when you feel pain or discomfort, be mindful of it and see how long you can last without moving or giving up.

    Going to a meditation group can also be helpful because it forces you to stay with the practice. The group energy keeps everyone together and gives you the strength to keep going and maintain. Also, you can make new friends!

    The easiest time to meditate is after the body has been moving and exerting itself. This is why we go into Savasana at the end of a yoga class. Working the body allows more space for the mind to calm down. So, no matter your physical practice, try to take 5 minutes to sit still at the end. If you’re having trouble finding stillness, do 20 jumping jacks and try again.

    Meditation allows us the space to stop and just exist. To be one with ourselves and the universe. When we give ourselves this time and space, we can remove blockages, we can hear our intuition, we can feel the feelings we were repressing, and we can release tension and de-stress. It is easy for our mind to be a tangled web. Meditation teaches us that things don’t have to be so messy and cloudy. Actually, life is simple. We are blessed to be alive and to experience life. Not all experiences will be pleasurable and meditation can teach us how to accept the unpleasant and even appreciate it.

  • What is Yoga?

    Common Yoga Aversions

    When I encourage people to try yoga or explain that I am a yoga teacher, the most common response is: “I can’t do yoga because I am not flexible.” This is like me saying, “I can’t play basketball because I am not 6 feet tall,” or “I can’t run because I have poor stamina.” It does not mean that we cannot participate in these activities, but, perhaps, we don’t have the natural talents or luxurious tools. Some people were born tall and others naturally flexible. One of the beauties of yoga is that the only equipment required is your body. This includes disabled bodies, overweight bodies, bodies of all skin colors, sick bodies, healthy bodies, all bodies.

    So when I hear this response, I view it as an excuse. A misconception. Yoga is not only for flexible people. Developing a flexible body is a result of practicing. So is strength and balance.

    Unite the Mind-Body-Spirit

    Yoga translates as union. It is a union between your body and mind. Between your spirit and the universal energy. Ancient Indian texts describe it as the coming into being and the ceasing to be.

    We move our body to the flow of our breath. We are not meant to think about the laundry or work or our date tonight. We are thinking about our lungs inhaling and exhaling air. We are observing the present moment through sensations and physical assessments.

    The path to the mind-body connection is through managing our thoughts and impulses. For example, concentration is required when we are upside down, balancing in a headstand. Discipline is required while we are holding our body in Warrior II. We teach our hips to relax in pigeon pose by mentally directing our muscles to soften while intentionally slowing the pace of the breath.

    Intimacy With Your Body’s Boundaries

    Each time we practice, the state of our mind and body may be different. Where is the threshold today and is it right to push it? Perhaps only a millimeter forward is appropriate. Perhaps we don’t push it at all. Only you know what is best for your body.

    Yoga is listening to the body and the mind, instead of reacting. It is surrendering. Letting go. Relaxing. Fighting. Breathing. Releasing. Existing. Healing. You can learn a lot about yourself by getting on the mat for one hour a day. The practice of focusing on the movement of the body, breathing, and being present leads to positive mental and physical health outcomes.

    Practice, Not Perfection

    Your mind may wander. You may experience frustration. You may feel uncomfortable. Thus, we refer to its application as a yoga practice, not yoga perfection. Maintain consistency as the drops of bliss that you may feel at times will turn into liters. What you cultivate and build on the mat spreads to the rest of your everyday life.