Two Versions of Me

by Ashley West Roberts

In Buddhist teachings there is this concept called “the second arrow”. You may not have heard this term before but you have experienced it no doubt. The second arrow refers to our reaction to any suffering in our life. Life can be unbelievably beautiful but it is also unpredictable and painful at times. Often we have no control over “the first arrow” – we catch the flu, our lover leaves us, we lose a job, our body ages and becomes ill. As if these were not painful enough, we often, unskillfully, add judgement, blame or dismissal: the second arrow. The second arrow is usually thought based. Our mind goes on a tailspin, we lose perspective and our entire life boils down to this one event.

Here is an everyday example of the second arrow. Just yesterday I spent no less than three and a half hours working on a new playlist for my yoga classes this week. While I was making the playlist I felt excited and energized about the new atmosphere this would provide. When it came time to transfer the music from my computer to my smartphone, something wasn’t right. The music would not transfer and my playlist would not show up. I only had 20 minutes left to figure this out before I had to go teach and this (tiny, non-problem) ISSUE was driving me MAD! I got panicked and frustrated so I called my husband, the tech genius, at work to ask for his help. He tried but could not help me in the moment and I felt upset that he hadn’t dropped everything for me, causing a little rift between us for the moment. Then, admitting defeat, I went back over my day and recounted how much time I had wasted when I could have been transferring the music. I definitely should not have taken that really amazing walk in the sun with my friend, it would have given me more time to make this iPhone work! Then as my/your mind does, I went into ” I am a bad yoga teacher” and now my class will be boring and uninspiring because of the lack of music. You see how silly all of this is, yes? And all of these second arrows were shot within a matter of seconds. That is how it happens. If we are not mindful and present, we do not even know we are doing this. So here is what I did, and what I do when I find myself shooting second arrows:

STOP THE MADNESS. Move out of the space you are in to another space. Change rooms, switch park benches, take a step to the left and be still and quiet for a moment. Use the RAIN acronym to bring yourself back into presence.

Recognize

Recognize that you are in a “second arrow” moment. There are key signs in my body/mind that I am about to go there or am already there. My breath is usually shorter, everything feels urgent, suddenly I am doing a lot of blaming. Look for your own signs to tip you off so you can Recognize when you are going there.

Accept

Accept your situation, as it is, for the moment. I was never going to have music for my class that day. Accepting that would have put me in a better position to prepare. Acknowledge your current situation and try to be present for a moment.

Investigate

This one can be difficult, but it makes all the difference. Explore what is happening with curiosity and interest. When doing this, try to feel into the current flavor and quality of your experience and not psychoanalyze yourself based on your past.

Non-Attachment

You can have a thought and not be that thought. You can have an experience and not be that experience. We all know that, but in the moment we often connect the dots in a way that attaches our entire being to this one dilemma. Because I do not have music to play today, I am a bad yoga teacher incapable of helping people. Or, because I forgot to bring cupcakes to school, I am a bad mother who lets her child down. We so easily go there. There is a lot of spaciousness and freedom when we learn to take a step back from being our thoughts and experiences.

My teacher refers to this process as making space for “the one who knows”. The one who knows is you. It is just the version of you who remains present and mindful and has perspective no matter what you are experiencing in the moment. Next time you are troubled try this mini-meditation:

Use RAIN to explore what you are feeling. Then imagine yourself (your body/mind image) split into two. Now there are two of you. The one who is experiencing pain, panic, anxiety, depression and the one who has perspective. The one who can softly remind you to take a deep breath. The one that reminds you another breath is another moment, making space for a new experience.

Read more from Ashley on her website ashleywestroberts.com

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Ayurvedic Tips for a Vibrant Spring

by Kameko Shibata

Welcome to Spring! The undeniably most popular season of the year is here.  As winter melts into spring, the birds, bees, flowers, trees and human hearts are all nourished by more and more sunlight. We may bask in that sunlight, but often we find ourselves still sluggish from winter, with too much on our plates and seasonal allergies to boot!  The wisdom of Ayurveda is here to help us balance the shift of seasons and get us glowing, not sneezing all spring.

Spring is also about new beginnings, setting roots that sustain us in summer and fall. This spring, let’s commit to sustaining and thriving- through balance, deep breaths, clean closets and cleansed bodies!

In Ayurveda, the Indian classical Medicine used by yogi’s for thousands years, spring is ruled the elements fire and water, which combine to make pitta dosha or bodily constitution. In spring we work to shed the excess of winter and balance the amount of fire AND water in our systems. Too much water combined with excess earth leaves us feeling heavy, muddy and full of toxins (ama). Too much fire and we’re angry, over heated, over doing, full of allergies and without enough time. Too much fire and water at the same time leaves our bodies taxed, inflamed and pressurized (think sinus headache). Spring is ruled by the organs of liver and gallbladder, our main organs for cleansing and processing toxins. Our liver processes allergens that come from pollen and pollution, but if our liver is taxed, it has a hard time working as smoothly. Using Ayurveda we cool our heat with water, and cleanse with fire. When we are balanced we have healthy fire, creativity, action and ideas, and the coolness of water to stay hydrated and go with the flow. The wisdom of Ayurveda helps us live in balance with the season and the natural world around us, which is ultimate challenge in our modern urban world — however it is so worth it!

Here are 3 basic tips to get you going.

1. Clear out your closet – Clean your house.

It sounds basic but de-cluttering your space will help you de-clutter your mind. They say the body is the temple of the mind, and it’s much easier to clean the temple of the body and mind when the literal temple of the home is clear. Get new plants and increase the amount of fresh green things in your living space.

2. Clean out your body.

Spring is the perfect time for a mild Ayurvedic cleanse to reduce toxins (ama) from winter. Since spring is ruled by the organs liver and gallbladder, it the perfect time to give those organs a break. It’s like an oil change for your body.

Try cutting out sugar, alcohol, dairy, caffeine, cooked oils and red meat for 2 weeks just to give your body a break. The first 3 days are the hardest – it gets easier after that! Getting a friend or partner to join helps a lot too. Increase your intake of water, yoga, rest and alkaline foods (green veggies, fruits, whole grains, raw olive oil, avocados). If you have allergies, increase your intake of bitters, sours and astringent. Bitter veggies (arugula, mustard greens, dandelion greens) support the liver and gallbladder, helping to cleanse the system.  The excess of winter is all about sweet, heavy comfort foods. Now is the time to cleanse those out of the system.

3. Simply breathe!

The simplest is often the hardest. When we simplify our days, our desks, our dreams, we have more space just to be. Too breathe, to rest, to delight in the moment. Find 10 minutes in your day to do pranayama (breathing practices) and then just sit (or put your legs up the wall if you feet feel tired, hot or swollen). If you find pranayama challenging from sinus congestion or allergies you need a neti pot and a steam inhalation (more in class about that).

The simplest pranayama practice is samma vrtti – count to 5 as you inhale and 5 as you exhale. Take a short pause after the inhale and after the exhale, as a reminder to pause and take space! If you feel especially hot, stressed or need to relax, lengthen the exhale (5 in, 8 out). 12 rounds of breath is perfect. Then sit or put your legs up for the remainder of the 10 minutes.

Learn more about Ayurveda and book an appointment with Kameko here.
For healthy recipes, class schedules and cleanse support visit Kameko’s website www.kamekoarts.com

 

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Get to know Dr. Day

Right here at Namaste Berkeley, we are lucky to have a Naturopathic Doctor at our fingertips. Dr. Amy is incredibly knowledgable, personable and so passionate about her work. This week we are launching a workshop series led by Dr. Amy called Women’s Wellness Wednesdays. To kick off the series we sat down with Dr. Amy to learn more about what makes her such an amazing practitioner.

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What drew you to Naturopathic Medicine?

 

dramyI grew up in Miami, FL with conventional medicine being the only medicine I knew of. In college, I became interested in alternative healing options like nutrition and herbal medicine. I enjoyed sharing simple natural strategies with my family and friends, such as echinacea to shorten the duration of a cold. Meanwhile I was completing a business degree, never thinking I wanted to go into medicine.

Then, my mom sent me an article about this profession called “Naturopathic Medicine” and I became fascinated by the blend of science and nature. I loved learning about how the body works, including the detailed nutritional and hormonal biochemistry. My medical school training focused on evidence-based natural approaches to treatment while still making room for mind-body-spirit aspects of wellness. Now as a naturopathic doctor, I feel so lucky to practice a type of medicine that treats the whole person and is rooted in promoting the body’s ability to heal itself.

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What health topic are you most passionate about?

 

dramyEmpowerment. I see too many women suffering from symptoms that they assume are “normal” or have been given treatment options that they don’t want to follow (ie RX drugs). Our current medical system is so disease focused that it is not well equipped to help us optimize our health. I love helping women with hormonal imbalance to improve their energy, sleep, mood and weight, especially around perimenopause.

I’m also very involved in the world of endometriosis… as a patient, as a doctor and as a board member of the Endometriosis Association. In all women’s health issues, I take a strong stand for patients to take their health into their own hands, and learn to listen to their own bodies’ signals. If one doctor doesn’t give you the help you need, find practitioners, treatments and self-care practices that work for you, so you can feel great and truly enjoy life to it’s fullest!

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How has being a Naturopath Doctor influenced your role as a mother, or vice versa?

 

dramyMy son just celebrated his seventh birthday, so I have a real compassion for busy women who are trying to balance their own health in the mix of a million other things. After 8-1/2 years in a busy group practice in San Francisco, I’ve shifted my work life to be closer to home and my schedule now allows me to spend more time and focus with each patient. I’m delighted to have my office at Namaste (Berkeley) in a very healing environment with yoga right in the next room.

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What do you do to relieve stress?

 

dramyA great perk of being at Namaste is the short commute to yoga class! I also love my morning walk/jog around the park and I wind down at night with a foam roller neck/shoulder relaxation routine. I’ve been through adrenal fatigue a few times now, so I’ve learned that stress management is a crucial part of everyday living. Other favorite pastimes include playing with my son, throwing the frisbee and spending time outdoors, especially when the sun is shining!

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What other women’s wellness support do you offer in addition to your private practice?

 

dramyMy website DrAmyDay.com is a great place to learn more about my online offerings, such as “The Busy Woman’s 2-Week Recharge” wellness program. I’m also very excited to be bringing together small groups of women locally to learn, heal and create supportive community. I have a one-day rejuvenation retreat in SF on Saturday March 29 with solyogatrips.com and, at Namaste, we are launching a monthly workshop series starting on March 19. “Women’s Wellness Wednesdays” will take place one Wednesday evening per month and will be a great way to get my support on a variety of topics. Attendees will also have the chance to share and learn from other health-conscious women while enjoying herbal teas and chocolate!

Learn more about Naturopathy
Sign Up for Women’s Wellness Wednesdays

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Weekend with Noah Mazé

“Noah Mazé has been teaching yoga for a little over 20,000 hrs, making him a “master” twice-over. Time spent with Noah is full of laughter, and humorous insights into the yoga practice. His 4hr workshop on the Art of Sequencing- through group-work, lecture and 1st-hand experimentation with asanas- always came back to the question of why; what is the purpose of putting this pose before that one? Why would we as teachers teach this transition? Why teach yoga? Noah considers himself an educator, one that lit a fire within the students who attended his workshop, rather than filled their pail.” Kellyn Foxman

“Noah’s teaching voice is capable of making big, expansive ideas easy to understand. He speaks candidly about his experience and opinions and encourages us to do the same. The workshop was grounded and interactive, and I’m already drawing from his wisdom to create new classes. I left with a lot of inspiration and can’t wait to study with him again.” Sparkle Thornton

“Noah’s balance of clarity, humor and curiosity is infectious. He believes in his students.  So we smile even as we’re quaking and sweating…and that’s in tadasana!” Aviva Black

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How Your Breath Affects Your Nervous System

by Baxter Bell

When I read the posts of my fellow YFHA bloggers, I often learn new perspectives that might differ from my own as well as new information that I was previously unaware of. Reading the posts also highlights occasions where I could have been clearer or given better information on a particular topic. As an example, I have written about breath techniques and their effect on the autonomic nervous system, as did Timothy in his awesome follow-up post on the buzzing bee breath, Bhramari Pranayama with Mudras. And we often mention that extending or lengthening the exhalation triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, the Rest and Digest part of our nervous system’s balancing program. This made me realize that I could add a bit more detail to explain how that actually happens.

It turns out the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) that connects brain to body is a two-way street. If I am anxious and nervous or stressed out by events in my life or simply the thoughts about those events, my brain, via the nerves of the ANS, will likely turn on the Sympathetic part of that system (the Fight or Flight response), which could result in faster heart and breathing rates, and increases in blood pressure, to mention just two of the most obvious physiological changes.

But the cool thing is that the lungs and heart can feed back to the brain and essentially convince the brain that things are calm and peaceful, even when there are still stressful circumstances. One neat way this happens involves the relationship of the heart and lungs and the nerves between them. In each round of breath, during your inhalation, your heart gets stimulated to beat a little faster. Then during the exhalation that follows, your heart gets told to slow down a tad. The overall effect is very little change in the heart rate from minute to minute. But when you make one part of the breath cycle, either the inhale or the exhale, longer than the other, and you do this for several minutes, the accumulated effect is that you will either slow the heart rate down or speed it up from where you started. When you make the inhales longer than the exhales, for example, by using a two-second inhale and a one-second exhale, and you keep this up for several minutes, the heart rate will go a bit faster. This will send a feedback message to the brain that things need to activate more in the brain and body for whatever work there is to be done, stimulating the Sympathetic portion of the ANS.

With the very useful Bhramari breath Timothy expanded on Bhramari Breath with Mudras, we do the opposite. As we hum during the exhalation, the exhales get longer relative to the inhales, as when we do a 1:2 ratio breath practice without the humming. This new respiratory cycle begins to slow down the heart rate, sending a message to the brain that everything is more peaceful and calm than five minutes ago, allowing the brain to support this shift further by activating the Parasympathetic portion of the ANS (the Rest and Digest or Relaxation response) that goes back from brain to body.

Research has shown that the vagus nerve as well as certain chemical neurotransmitters account for these effects of breath patterns on heart rate and subsequently on shifting the balance between the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic parts of the ANS. Keep in mind that the ANS is trying to keep all background systems in balance and responding appropriately to ever-changing circumstances of our day.

I’m providing this information for those of you who want to go a bit deeper in your understanding of how breath patterns affect the nervous system balance and either excite the system or quiet it. Our conscious choice of breathing differently can shift us to a more desirable part of the ANS, either by stimulating the active Sympathetic branch or the quieting Parasympathetic branch.  Most of us need more of the latter, but not always!

For a little more background on how the Respiratory system influences the Cardiac system, which in turn influences the Autonomic Nervous System, see The human respiratory gate as well as Effects of yoga on the autonomic nervous system, gamma-aminobutyric-acid, and allostasis in epilepsy, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Baxter Bell blogs at yogaforhealthyaging.blogspot.com

 

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Away We Go: Badlands National Park

with Tosha

I recently had the opportunity to drive cross country, while relocating to the San Francisco area. The direct route would have been to go straight through the middle of the country, but I was traveling with my partner and dog, and we had plans to make the most of our trip. The one place we wanted to stop more than anywhere else was Badlands National Park in South Dakota. So we zigzagged across the country, making our way north. We were not disappointed. It’s cliche to say, but the photos just do not do it justice. The landscape is jaw dropping and so unusual, unlike any other place I’ve ever been. The colors were impressive.

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There are many beautiful places in the world, and there is an undeniable sense of awe when you make a point to appreciate nature. We left the Badlands with one more gift, a sense of courage. We couldn’t help but think of the pioneers of our past coming across this land and passing it in their carriages and on foot. Their bravery and dedication still lingered in the air, and we carried that with us as we traveled to our new home.

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