Three Activities to Help Heal a Bereaved Heart

For many years, Ken Breniman has had the honor to hold space for hundreds of people in his Yoga for Grief workshops in the SF Bay Area. In addition to yoga, Ken also serves as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, clinical supervisor and a private practice yoga therapist in the Bay Area.

Ken shares:

I added this subtitle to my Yoga for Greif workshops –Healing Hearts, Healing Bodies – because the grieving process is unique for each one of us and there are a variety of places within our being that unhealed energies or emotions can get stuck. I found that by offering a yoga practice that participants were able to release emotions that had become stuck in the body and helped them move through some very difficult mind states. I also always knew that just a half day of yoga or a 6 week series of yoga sessions could be a safe and supportive space for grieving yogis and yoginis but that it could not ‘cure’ the bereaved heart.   

So what might one do to patiently tend to a healing heart during an extended time of grief?   In my own personal journey and in hearing from participants of these gatherings, I have found that the following three activities have been helpful during the darker days of loss to channel the pain and anguish, and assist in working through the numbness.  These three activities also provide a safe go-to place even after the acute grief response has subsided and we come to realize that there will be waves of grief in the days, months or years to come.   

1. Journaling.

Healing Grief | Journalling

I started journaling when I was a teen and about two years before my mom became ill.  Journaling literally saved my life while I was trying to make sense of my mom’s sudden death. I look back at those journal entries and they were riddled with questions I still don’t have the answers to, but allowed me a space to let my heart’s voice be heard rather than shut down. Over the years, journaling has become my free (and always available) therapist and I continue to write in a journal on a regular basis.  Of course, there are times when the journal sits at the bed side for weeks but for me it has become one of the best tools in times of loss and grief and I highly recommend checking out this website on grief journaling.  

2) Tonglen Meditation     

This can be a powerful practice when done on a regular basis. Tonglen meditation is a Buddhist technique that helps a grieving person find a way to sit with the suffering using the in breath to find a way to release the pain, suffering, despair, anger or other unhealed energies so that we can open our hearts to feel relief, joy, forgiveness, and other healed emotions through the out breath.  Pema Chodron, a great Buddhist nun, has a graceful way of teaching Tonglen.  Check out Pema’s teaching here.

3) Creating an Altar in your home

Healing Grief | Making an AltarAdmittedly, this was the hardest one to begin for me because I somehow thought that a nondenominational eclectic animist like myself who didn’t have any lineage or tradition, didn’t have a foundation for building a sacred space in my home.  Then it dawned on me, that is all the more reason to build one!  No matter what your beliefs or non-beliefs are, if you are mourning the loss of a beloved person, pet or the loss of some thing, (i.e. a relationship, a job, health) you deserve to have an area in your home that helps to ground and center you!  And even though it took me years to find out how powerful my tiny little bookshelf altar would be in my healing journey, I laughed out loud when I searched the web for a ‘how to build an altar in your home’ and found the simplest of instructions. Check out these three steps to creating an altar!

I am prone to borrow Mae West’s wisdom at times like these: “I didn’t say it would be easy, I did say it would be worth it.” I hope you find these tips helpful and if you have any healing tools that you would like to share or if you have any questions on how to deepen your healing practice, please email Ken or share in the comments below!

One final practice I can share is this yoga Swan Dive with Intention.

Swan Dive with Intention

A short practice with Ken Breniman for when you are confronted with grief.

Posted by Namaste Yoga + Wellness on Monday, December 3, 2018

From my healing heart to yours, I wish you solace and peace in your healing journey. Please join me for my next Yoga for Grief workshop, which begins Thursday, April 25.

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5 Benefits of Yoga + Mindfulness for Teens

Resilience is like a muscle. Strengthen it! Yoga and mindfulness can create healthy habits that help girls as they grow into strong women. Using yoga and meditation builds the mind-body connection, and positive psychology helps to find our strengths and bolster our ongoing “I’m good enough” practice.

“Do not feel lonely.  The entire universe is inside of you.” –Rumi

5 Benefits of Mindfulness and Yoga Practices for Teens:

  1. Stress Management: Several studies have proven that teenagers who practice yoga are less stressed and perform better than their counterparts in academics. Working with mindfulness tools and breathing practices to reduce anxiety comes in handy in the pressure-filled life of a high school teen. Find the details of one of these studies here.
  2.  Build Strength: In adolescence, bodies are changing. Yoga builds physical strength from the core out. As if that is not enough, the auxiliary benefit is that feeling strong in the body will translate to strength and confidence in the mind.
  3.  Expand Attention Span: Mind-body practices teach focus and concentration and remind us to bring the focus back over and over. Learning skills like these can translate into increased concentration in all areas of life.
  4. Emotional Resiliency: Mindfulness helps with critical thinking and executive function. There are no better skills for your teen to learn than how to make good decisions and think for themselves. Those are skills that can be applied to all of life.
  5. Community: Let’s not forget that yoga classes create the opportunity to meet like-minded friends. One of the tenets of Buddhism is Right Friends.  Finding people who support you and want to see you succeed goes a long way in building confidence.

Have a teenage girl in your life? Share Anna Grace’s upcoming series for teen girls ages 14-18, Build Resiliency. Learn more about this weekly program beginning February 28, 2019 here.

 

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How to Inspire Your Afternoons

You know that bit of the afternoon when time slows to an astonishing pace . . .

and the afternoon drags on and on . . . We have the perfect medicine: The Noon Class.

Namaste has a noon yoga class every weekday at each one of our studios. Our teachers bring their unique flavors, but the outcome of class will always be the same: you will not regret how you spent this hour moving and inspiring the rest of your afternoon. Here is a sneak peek, so you can choose just the right one for your day.

Rachel Heron

Monday noon at Namaste Berkeley 

Friday noon at Namaste Rockridge

 

 

It’s a great re-set for body/mind/heart/spirit. My class highlights the way that yoga is part of Life and can fit into a full day of other tasks.

Focus is on strengthening and stabilizing.

I often pick one area of the body, or a category of poses to emphasize, so that the hour feels both deep and spacious.

We start with movement because i think most folks are coming in with some adrenaline and jittery monday energy. I like to work off a few layers of surface tension before slowing down. About halfway through, we pause to feel and notice the effects of our practice.

Go back into the day with a brighter energy in our bodies, and more spacious presence to engage with the fullness of Life.

In the noon class, I recently connected with a woman i hadn’t seen in 8 years! Her son and my son were in pre-school together, so it was a sweet little reunion, and she told me she’s been receiving my newsletters all that time.

Anj Manitsas

Monday/Wednesday noon at Namaste Rockridge

I try my best to squeeze out every last drop of nectar in our short time together at noon.

We might sweat. We might chant.

Classes are designed so that you may build support and strength while flushing out heaviness and stagnation.

It is my intention that at the 61 minute mark we emerge brighter, clearer, more steady versions of ourselves. And spacious. So spacious. From this place, we greet the rest of our day.

 

Margi Young

Tuesday/ Thursday noon at Namaste Berkeley

My noon class is a joy. I respect that many of the students are doing a quick transition to and fro work, and I am delighted for the sake of humanity that they choose to spend the hour on the mat with their yoga community.

The class always takes on its own shape depending of the students and energy in the room, but we often start with legs up the wall, and I am careful to get people moving as well as give them time to be still.

We breath a lot, sweat a little, connect deeply.

Move consciously and on occasion giggle at the delight of being in  the human form!

 

 

Whitney Walsh

Tuesday noon at Namaste Rockridge

Physically challenging

Kind and playful philosophy

Creative and precise alignment cues

 

Adam Kurzfeld

Tuesday / Thursday noon at Namaste Grand Lake

The vital elements of a modern yoga class are all represented: Pranayama, sankalpa (intention), strong asana with plenty of uplevel/downlevel options, core work, and breath focus throughout.

When I can, I offer hands-on adjustments, and sometimes a little massage during savasana.

Common themes: mindfulness, acceptance, letting go, balance, self love, compassion, being with instead of avoiding…  After all, love is not about what you can get, it’s about what you can offer.

 

 

David Schlussel

Wednesday / Friday noon at Namaste Berkeley

The way I weave in flow, philosophy, biomechanics and fun is a unique combination.

I take people from fixed ideas about what they can and can’t do, towards life as a playful exploration of possibility.

I believe yoga is primarily for relieving the stress we carry as physical tension, so I watch out for it getting too serious and re-activating our habitual stress response.

I like to start slow, mindful and meditative, then build pace to create a mindful sweat, then go deep into whatever action or posture I am focusing on, then drop deeply into meditation.

I had someone come up after class, pointing at his hand, moving his thumb.  He said something like “I haven’t been able to move my thumb since an elementary school injury, until today, in savasana, when you had us relax every joint in our body, and my hand just opened…”

 

 

 

 

Lucid Dawn

Thursday noon at Namaste Rockridge

I cater to the needs of who shows up, listening to their voices, the weather, the news, the moon, the season… we get therapeutic, we flow, we renew and invigorate the day with yogic wisdom and community.

I meet everyone that I can before hand and check in on their needs/ requests.

I give options for levels in almost all poses and flows – opportunities to go further, to pull back, to just be with the breath, to hold still or to flow… i make sure and offer challenge space for more advanced practitioners and space to pull back, breathfull, observe, and feel good about it (“being where you are at is the real yoga”)

I hope my students leave with a sense of inner steadiness and ease, a refresh to their day, a smile in their hearts, a forgiving and wide view of whatever is showing up in life, or the fire to go forth and creatively make change in their world!

We can start the day over with any breath.

“I feel like I have just gone to the spa every time I leave Lucid’s class.” ~ Darya

 

 

 

Olivia Huls

Friday noon at Namaste Grand Lake

High energy, great world music playlists, slow but vigorous.

Work hard, sweat, breathe, smile, get in a great mood and get ready to relax for your weekend.

Basic but hard, simple sequencing and poses with a focus on building muscular strength.

Full body  flow/work out We hit all the major muscle groups to build strength, improve balance and then stretch out what we worked.

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Mudras for Focus with Sonya Genel

Follow along with Sonya Genel as she takes you on a mudra journey…

to cultivate focus and life energy.

A mudra practice has many physical, mental, and emotional benefits. They work with the subtle energetic body and they are a great ally on the spiritual path!

Liked this practice? Join Sonya Genel for her upcoming workshop Beyond Asana, on Saturday, September 29th.

She also teaches public classes at Namaste Rockridge on Mondays and Wednesdays at 7pm. Sign up for class here.

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Why is this New Moon So Special?

New Moons are always good times to set your intentions. But this new moon is extra powerful.

Wendy Faith gives us the details:

 

Join Wendy and Cyrena Giordano for their upcoming event on Sunday, September 9, 2:00-4:00pm at Namaste Grand Lake.

This slow flow practice will unwind the body while an array of live instruments quiet your mind. Relax your nervous system with the calming vibration of singing bowls, flutes, chimes and more. Practice includes a guided meditation and craniosacral / massage in savasana.

Sign up here.

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Yoga: It is an Honor to Meet You

Honor Yourself with Rachel Heron

Rewind…October 1992

A rainy day in New York City. I walk into the Jivamukti Yoga Center on 2nd Avenue and 10th Street. The walls of the yoga studio are purple. There is an altar with pictures of Ram Dass, the Beatles, Jesus, and almost every guru in every lineage of every eastern mystical tradition. The heavy scent of Nag Champa incense is in the air. I am transported from the chaotic streets of Manhattan into…I don’t know what. A familiar feeling of recognition and home in myself, a feeling that I am absolutely in the right place…and I have no idea why.

25 years later…

Honor Yourself with Rachel Heron

 

My perspective is this:

Hatha yoga (the physical practice) is a gateway toward the more contemplative practices.

It grounds us in the physicality of being human. We learn to breathe and feel. We learn to tolerate a certain amount of discomfort, not as a value or an attachment to pain, but as an inevitable aspect of life and a way to cultivate our inner witness.

Honor Yourself with Rachel Heron

I teach from a place of honoring.

• I honor myself and what is true for me about the depth of this practice and the related practice of seated meditation

• I honor my students by offering gentle guidance and encouragement to explore their bodies and minds without bias or judgement

• I honor what is profound about embodying presence, and experiencing ourselves in physical form

• I honor the limits of our physical bodies and guide practitioners toward exploring meditation and other contemplative practices

Please join me in this inquiry. I look forward to meeting you, exactly as you are.

Honor Yourself with Rachel HeronRachel Heron will be teaching our upcoming 3-week Intro to Yoga Series.  She teaches from a place of deep intuition and a desire to share the potency of the practice.  “Yoga has given me many things, but one of its greatest benefits has been increasing my ability to tolerate challenge and it’s accompanying uncomfortable sensations.  I believe that when we can stay present in a pose, truly present to the fluctuations of energy, sensation, breath, thinking-we are able to take that experience into our day-to-day lives, and find a more harmonious relationship to the mystery of life unfolding.”

The Intro to Yoga series offers basic instruction of this contemplative movement practice, and the chance to explore the foundational elements of breath and mindful awareness. It also provides a way to become familiar with our studios and guide you toward the appropriate next level of classes going forward.

We’ll create a safe space where you can connect with yourself in movement and meditation, and be able to ask questions of a Namaste teacher (me!) who loves introducing people to this life-changing practice. Please arrive a few minutes early to settle in and lay down your mat. We invite you to have a cup of tea before or after class, and spend some time orienting to the studio.  Learn more about the Intro Series here.

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Kundalini for Transformation

Kundalini Yoga for transformation is a natural use of the medium, since kundalini means “creative potential.” It is a powerful form of yoga that can lead to transformation.

We wanted to know more.

We checked in with Sariah Sizemore for more details and to gain a deeper understanding.

“What can one expect from a Kundalini workshop?” Hear her description in her own words below.

 

Sariah’s offerings are an opportunity to heal in a focused way. Her upcoming event works with Kundalini Yoga and Breathwork to heal habitual unwanted patterns, however those may be revealed in your life.

Step 1: Identify Unhealthy Patterns

Take a moment to write down one or two habits that you want to release. These can be addictions like drinking or eating unhealthy food, or they could be more subtle patterns like watching too much TV, working too much, or getting angry while driving. Get clear on the pattern that you are looking to let go of.

Step 2: Breathwork Practice to Release Unwanted Patterns

 

Step 3: Join us

Sign up for Sariah’s upcoming workshop Healing Habitual Patterns: Kundalini Yoga and Shamanic Breathwork, on Sunday, July 15 to go deeper into the realm of transformation.

 

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Yoga for Cancer Support

Yoga can help reduce anxiety and improve physical wellness in our stressful everyday.  The effects can perhaps be even more pronounced when one is in the experience of living with cancer.  Although not a cure, yoga can help soothe the nervous system and encourage the body to relax and heal.  Gentle movements linked with breath can help practitioners cope with challenges and uncertainty.  Try this home practice to help with your journey.

You can also catch Poh for weekly classes:

Sun 9 – 10.20AM Yoga for Beginners
Grand Lake
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Yin Yoga vs. Restorative Yoga: Relaxation 101

We all know the feeling of being worn out. Eyelids heavy, brain a little fogged, ambling through the day fantasizing about rest. It’s true that active movement, like a vinyasa practice, can help keep the energy up but when we’ve already hit a wall pushing the body isn’t always the best call.

This is where learning to relax becomes a key self-care practice. Yoga provides a myriad of tools to help us slow down and reset. If you’re healing from an illness or injury, exhausted, overworked, or stressed to the max consider a class that hits the pause button.

Classes that fit into this category include Restorative, Yin, Gentle, or Therapeutic yoga. The next question may be, how do you choose? In our new series Relaxation 101, we’ll be breaking down the differences in these ultra sweet and nourishing practices.

What is Restorative Yoga?

The term “adult naptime” is an occasional phrase offered to describe Restorative Yoga. The exciting part is that it is so much more! During a nap, the body and mind fall into unconscious rest, most likely in a traditional horizontal sleeping position. Restorative Yoga provides the same level of rest but helps to build awareness by keeping you mindful of the body. In a Restorative Yoga class, you will experience a small set of poses that rely on numerous props like blocks and blankets to help the body let go and relax. This process gives your body a supported, gentle stretch while allowing the nervous system to relinquish tension and stress built up through the day. Imagine the most luxurious Shavasana possible!

What is Yin Yoga?

Yin Yoga is based on the ancient Taoist concepts of yin and yang. Introduced by Paul Grilley in the late 1980’s, Yin Yoga works synergistically with the principles of traditional Chinese medicine. Yin yoga is much slower and gentler than a typically Hatha or Vinyasa class but still challenging in its own way. The focus of Yin is to dig deep into the health of joints, bones, ligaments, and fascial networks. Yin accomplishes this by taking a more active approach to gentle asanas (poses) like forward bends, happy baby, or child’s pose. Yin provides a deep satisfaction of feeling both intensity and relaxation within the body as muscles melt and ligaments release.

What are the main differences between Restorative and Yin Yoga?

Yin Yoga with Sarah Moody

Interested in trying a Restorative or Yin class? Check out our weekly Restorative and Therapeutic class schedule! 

We have a *Brand New* YIN class with Sarah Moody (featured in all of our lovely restorative photos above!) now Fridays at 4 PM at Namaste Yoga + Wellness Rockridge.

 

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5 Questions to Ask Before a Yoga Teacher Certification

If you’re on the mat regularly you know the power of the practice. But are you ready for a yoga teacher certification and training? Trainings have become increasingly popular – with different focuses on everything from social justice to healthy aging. If you know that you are ready to go deeper but are unsure if you need a yoga teacher training to accomplish this, reflect on some of the following questions:

1) Do you have a regular meditation or home practice?

Having a regular yoga or meditation practice is an important first step towards deepening your practice. Although maintaining a regular home practice can be difficult, it is something that most studios encourage before making a commitment to a teacher training. You don’t need to be practicing yoga every morning at 6 AM  – but you should spend time exploring a home practice and make a concerted effort to practice on your own as much as possible.

A good way to gauge if you have a healthy home practice is if you can say, with confidence,  that whenever you feel the need to tap into your body you know how to get there on your own, in a personal, sacred way. Learning how to make yoga personal and how to practice on your own are crucial building blocks for developing a practice that is meaningful and rich.

yoga teacher certification

2) Have you felt cues from other areas of your life encouraging you to dig deeper?

If your life feels like you are ready for a big shift, a teacher training may just be the spark you need. A teacher training will force you to focus, to dig down deep into your inner desires and values, and to learn how to express yourself in more authentic ways.

Often we may feel ready for a lifestyle change but are lacking the right environment or supportive community to help us achieve our goal. A teacher training can be a perfect opportunity to bond with fellow beings who are interested in curating a life of healthy choices and honest living.

3) Do you feel like you are in a supportive, stable place in your life?

A teacher training carries a lot of commitments. Not only will you be investing your money, but you will be investing a good amount of time, energy, and emotions. It is important to feel confident that your living situation, your personal relationships, and your finances are all in a stable place.

If it is a financial stretch, you are going through a rough breakup, or in the middle of moving – then taking a training right now may not be the wisest choice. Although it may sound like a fun distraction – the likelihood of you being able to tap into the inner wisdom you seek will be highly diminished. You want to be in a clear, stable place in your life where you can dedicate yourself fully to the teacher training journey.

yoga teacher certification

4) Are you feeling the desire to learn and become a student again?

Learning is a lifelong process. If you are feeling the burning desire to become a student again, there is no better way to answer the call than to take a teacher training. A yoga teacher training is an opportunity to not only advance your asana practice, but to dig into the philosophy and history of yoga. You will be in a classroom setting again, with fellow students whom with you can study, brainstorm and debate. You will be able to process all of your new knowledge under the guidance of experienced teachers. This will make the learning experience much more valuable than if you were to read the materials alone.

5) Is your yoga studio a place that feels like home?

This is the most important question. Is your yoga studio a place where you feel safe, accepted, and cared for? You will be spending a large amount of time there and will at moments feel very vulnerable. It is important that you vibe with the teachers, the atmosphere, and even the front desk staff. These people will become like family, and the relationships you have with them will either detract or enhance your teacher training experience.

Namaste’s 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training is right around the corner. If you are interested in expanding your teaching, feel free to email us at tt@ilovenamaste.com or call us to find out more. Applications and more information may be found here.

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