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 sweet 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 on Saturday, July 20.

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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.
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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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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.

yoga for canceryoga for canceryoga for cancer

You can also catch Poh for weekly classes:

Sun 9 – 10.20AM Yoga for Beginners
Grand Lake
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What does it mean to Embrace Your Shadow?

by Sariah Jiwan Shakti 

Kundalini Yoga is an ancient yogic technology that helps us heal, strengthen, and cleanse our body as well as balance our mind and our Ego. It brings together all of the different branches of yoga into one practice that will quickly and powerfully transform your life. The thing about high speed transformation is that it can often feel uncomfortable and messy. As we heal our nervous system from past trauma, the residual emotions come up so they can be cleared. Sounds fun, right? Navigating this kind of mass clearing might feel daunting and even a little scary. Fun isn’t quite the thing that comes to mind! However, on the other side of that is freedom, clarity, more creativity and joy and those things may seem a bit more attractive, and yes, can lead to fun!

I’m excited to speak about these things because I’ve been there and personally experienced the messiness, freedom, and joy in transformation. But it definitely wasn’t always easy. When I was going through my Kundalini Yoga teacher training I experienced a lot of irrational anger. All of my suppressed childhood anger was coming to the surface with a vengeance my target became my teacher. I wrapped up all of that angst and frustration, stuffed it into a ball and lobbed it right at his Ego. It was perfect. One day I flat out told him that I didn’t like him. As I waited with my foot in my mouth for him to ultimately dislike me back, he said, “Sariah, where there is a bright light, there is a dark shadow.” This comment has always stuck with me and I’ve often shared it with friends and students when they are grappling with their shadow self. It helped me realize that in him was darkness and light as well as myself. I also realized that my suppressed shadow was projecting judgements onto my teacher as away to find some relief. Classic stuff.

As humans we have strong polarities or opposite forces within us with the most obvious being left and right hemispheres of the brain, masculine and feminine, and positive and negative charges. We have acidic and alkaline qualities within us, we experience hot and cold, high energy and low energy, we are awake and then we are asleep, and I could go on. Often times we equate our dark side or shadow self to the negative and the light side to the positive. Our brains often go to this place of negative = bad and positive = good. However, I want to invite you to take on a different perspective as you read through this. Because all of the polarities within us make up our whole self and allow us to function and on this earth plane, let’s allow both dark and light, positive and negative to be a perfect part of who we are, not good or bad, just part of our Is-ness. That being said, why does our shadow self often seem so intense, negative, and something that we want to push away, or has consumed such a large part of who we are, there is no room for the light?

Let’s explore what the shadow really is according to Carl Jung. Jungian psychology teaches us that the shadow aspect of who we are refers to an unconscious aspect of the personality that the conscious ego does not identify in itself. It’s the least desirable parts of ourself and so our conscious mind tends to push those away and make them largely negative storing them away in the subconscious. Jung says, “Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.”Sariah Jiwan Shakti

So the more we push away this often labeled negative part of ourselves and do not give space for it to express in our conscious life in healthy constructive ways, the more destructive it can become taking up so much space there is not much room for the light to get in. This may manifest as chronic depression, addiction, angry rages, or deep internalized anger that contorts the personality. Ultimately, in it’s most extreme form, if this shadow is not expressed, someone may cause harm themselves or others.

When the shadow aspect of ourselves is causing us to self destruct, we become cut off from our connection to spirit, GOD, soul, and our pure creative playful nature – The Light. The good news is that humans are inherently heliotropic which means we are constantly reorienting towards the light. Even in our darkest times with enough digging we can find an ember within us that if stoked will turn into a bright fire. Why? Because one cannot exist without the other. Dark cannot exist without the light and vice versa. So where there is darkness there will always be light.

How can we embrace our shadow, love it, and transmute it into light? What does a healthy relationship with our shadow self even look like? How can we start to cultivate a loving relationship the perceived negative parts of ourselves so we can become more balanced, have more room for our light, and ultimately shine bright, be big, and connected to our soul’s creativity?

1. Practice Allowing All to BE

When you notice that you are experiencing some uncomfortable emotions, thoughts, images, or sensations in the body, give yourself some space experience this energy. Breathe deep into your body, allow it all to be with you instead of labeling your experience as wrong or bad. Recognize that these darker emotions are here to give you information about what you need to improve your experience. As you allow all to be with you, remain open and notice if new, more constructive thoughts, impulses, and ideas come to you. Notice if your body begins to relax and release. Remain open without attachment to the outcome.

2. Play with Your Shadow

Are there some safe, fun, and inspiring ways for you to express and play with your shadow? Perhaps there is a loud, aggressive rock band you want to go and dance to. Maybe a costume or outfit you want to rock at a party that expresses your shadow self. Maybe you go out to a secluded place in the woods and throw rocks and scream obscenities and all of your dark thoughts to release them and ground them in the earth? Creating art and music is a great way to express your shadow self, channel this aspect of your subconscious self into something dark, beautiful, and inspiring for others. Find a friend, teacher, or coach to help you work more constructively with this energy.

3. Practice Yoga, Meditation and Prayer

Yoga and meditation are the fast train to getting into your subconscious mind, clearing out the old, and changing old pattern behavior that does not serve your highest good and your light-being self. Prayer is a way to connect with the God consciousness within you that trumps all darkness and will instantly bring the light. Surrender the destruction of the shadow to God and your Higher Self. Prayer also provides the energetic support you need to pull yourself out of a funk. Yoga will strengthen your nervous system and when you have a strong nervous system, it is easier to take a pause, a breath and be with the shadow so you can metabolize the bad feeling emotions.

4. Celebrate and Shine Your Light

When you notice that your dark energy has shifted to more lightness, celebrate this! A great way to recognize this is if you notice your system has gone from feeling tight to feeling big and expansive. Make it a point to smile at others and say nice things. Share your experience, your grace, and the brightness that is within you. Know that all good things, dreams, goals, and visions come from within you. External circumstances do not get to dictate how you feel. Allow your inner light to shine outward and create all of the good things in the world your unique self is here to create!

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Liberate the Neck and Shoulders

by Poh Teng

Do you have achy neck and shoulders from too much driving?  Me too! Try these easy-to-do yoga postures to create some space in the neck and shoulders and relieve neck and shoulder pain.  I commute four times a week from Oakland to San Jose and these postures are a part of my self-care routine.  Try holding each posture for 5-8 deep breaths.  Remember to practice on both sides of the body.

Neck and Shoulders Yoga with Poh Teng

 

 

1203_nourishyourheart-social-400Don’t miss Poh’s next workshop:

Nourish your Heart with Reba Gray and Poh Teng

Sat Date: Dec 03, 2016 From: 1:00 PM4:00 PM Location: Rockridge

 

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Seeing Gentle as The New Advanced Practice

By Vickie Russell Bell

I woke up this morning after sleeping for 8 hours and I felt wrecked, like I’d been hit by a bus. No, I didn’t have too many drinks the night before and I hadn’t even been awake at 3:30 needing to read for awhile to shut off the chatter in my mind. But I had been dreaming vividly. And the dreams were a bit like a post apocalyptic video game. What I knew upon waking was that my mind had been working through some stress. The evening before, I had finally made the decision to be honest with a man that I had been dating for a couple months. We had been having fun together, kind of a “friend’s with benefits” set up. But, I had been having this unsettled, nagging anxiety. After spending an hour quietly practicing restorative yoga, and inviting in this unsettled feeling (the sensation was just a clench in my chest and a hollow feeling in my belly that quickly dissipated as I gave it space) I knew that I needed to stop my current behavior in order to make space for the kind of relationship I truly desire.

Is this a piece about being single or dating etiquette? Not really. This is a piece about what’s often missing in our yoga practice. In the current yoga culture some of us have confused the practice of yoga with working out. Don’t get me wrong, working out is great and has it’s place. But the physical benefits of the practice of yoga are what I consider to be side effects. Long, lean, strong and flexible are wonderful by-­products of showing up on our mat.

The other day I was talking with a colleague about the idea “gentle is the new advanced”. I wholeheartedly agree.

Our culture rewards us for going hard all the time. We feel worthy when we push and stress.

I tell myself I am important when I answer the question “how are you?” with the answer “I am so busy!” We learn to ignore our exhaustion, our discomfort and our heartbreak. We learn to abandon our deeper Truths and needs in order to be productive beings.

And there it is BEINGS! For a long time I was a doer who had forgotten how to be. I ignored the young parts of myself that needed my attention and my comfort. I pushed all of that away and ran on adrenaline. Until I couldn’t do it anymore. Slowing down felt scary like a little death.

IMG_0833When I learned about restorative yoga and my nervous system, I felt drawn to it and scared at the same time. How can I stop pushing? Who will I be? What if all those plates I’ve been spinning crash down around me…then what? The ease that I touched kept drawing me back. I craved the comfort of the props and the deliberate stillness and silence. The physical yoga postures feel amazing in my body. It is fun to work hard in practice and to learn new things. The asanas can invigorate and challenge; they can be sensual and soothing. Gripping and protection start to soften and my mind is more clear. After 26 years of practice, this softening and clearing is the entry, the invitation to sit or to lie still. To invite the feelings that have been pushed down or distracted against (that nagging sensation of anxiety that leads me to the tenderness of knowing that I want more from a relationship).

After my quiet practice this morning, I knew that I had made a decision that was filled with integrity and honored all my desires and needs. I also knew that even though I had slept for 8 hours, I had still been exhausted. Sleep and relaxation are not the same thing. My restorative practice honored my night of disturbed sleep and the sadness of disappointing another in order to care for myself.

Some days when I lie down I am faced with a whirlwind of thoughts and an almost pounding sense of my energy. What I know now after years of balancing active asana practice with stillness and meditation is that it takes a little time, a little patience and a light attention on the breath and little by little my whole being starts to quiet down. Some days the ease feels deep and wide, and others, I barely touch it. When the chimes ring after 22 minutes of sitting or watching my breath or doing a restorative pose, I am more spacious, more sane and sometimes I feel like I’ve had a healing vacation.

Give it a try. Silence, stillness and savasana. Set your timer for 20 minutes. Switch gears. Get still and quiet. It will change your life. What’s missing from your yoga practice?

Take time to open up the body, wring out stress and balance winter kapha energy. This practice will center on restorative twists and renewing poses that free the breath to prepare your entire being for springtime. Find more of our restorative and therapeutic offerings here.

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The Thoracic Jacket

The thoracic jacket is a supportive tool that helps maintain healthy upper spine alignment. It keeps the shoulder blades relaxed away from the ears, the chest lifted, and encourages the head to lean back and line up with the upper back.  I used it daily, not too long ago, when I struggled with chronic nerve impingement.  I had lots of tingling, numbness and nerve pain down the arms.  The sensations were especially uncomfortable when I slept on my side – for a 6-month period, I didn’t sleep through the night because of nerve pain.  My condition was probably encouraged by years of working with microscopes and computers for long periods of time, and exacerbated by two car accidents.  It also wasn’t helpful that I folded up in a car, 4 days a week, to drive to work from Oakland to San Jose.  I had lost all the natural curves in my spine.  The thoracic jacket was helpful in scaffolding my upper back, supporting me in healthy alignment so that my body could relearn a better way of being.

If you’re looking for relief from neck pain or shoulder pain, or maybe you’re just trying to neutralize text neck, I hope you’ll put on the thoracic jacket and go about your usual activities. Give it a try and see how you feel.  I have found it useful on days when I do a lot of writing or when I learn a new chant with my harmonium.  It’s not so great on days when you have to dress up for the office, and it’s particularly annoying if you like wearing nicely pressed, wrinkle-free clothes.

Therapeutic Yoga Thoractic Jacket

Known for her curiosity, playfulness and nurturing style, Poh offers yoga practices that cultivate spacious presence for the busy, modern life.  Poh comes to yoga with a career in tech at the intersection of engineering, law and business.  Her personal practice revolves around nurturing body, heart and mind towards homeostasis as she navigates a demanding world.  This is the flavor of her yoga classes.  Poh teaches from the heart and offers her unique blend of attentiveness to healthy alignment, courageous + compassionate self-inquiry, and deliberate relaxation.  Typically, there’s a splash of Bhakti and she sings.

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Human Connection in a Digital Age

It seems ironic that though yoga is about connection (yoga means “to yolk”), it is such a solo practice. Though we may practice in groups, yoga invites us to focus on ourselves: my sensations, my thoughts, my habits, my abilities, etc. Where is the yolking? Where is the connecting?

Our digital culture also fuels more isolated pursuits. Even our social time is spent independently staring at our digital devices replying distally to a widening array of “friends”. However, humans are social creatures by nature, and our increasing isolation is thought to be one cause of increases in anxiety, depression and insomnia.

Partner Yoga provides an opportunity to truly connect to another person through physical contact, through shared breathing, through shared goals of creating the partner poses. We learn to listen not with our ears, but with our proprioception (awareness of your body in space). Partner yoga provides an opportunity to be sensitive not to only your own flexibility and needs in a pose, but that of your partner. It gives us a chance to tend to another, to be kind to another, to develop our sensitivity to another. It gives us a chance to connect.

“Through the practice of partner Yoga, the duality of self/other begins to dissolve and we experience directly the essence of Yoga – union.”

Elysabeth Williamson

PARTNER YOGA: THE PLEASURES AND THE PRINCIPLES

One of the reasons Facebook and Instagram are more popular than old-school, in-person interactions, is that they are navigated on our own terms. We have less fear of messing up, saying the wrong thing, being unpopular, than we do with in-person interactions. Similarly, fear may keep us from pursuing Partner Yoga. The practice evokes our inner dialogues of not being enough for our partner: not skilled enough, or flexible enough, or strong enough or patient enough.

Our willingness to engage in something, even in the presence of fear, represents our courage. And, courageous action enhances our resilience. Of course, every pose doesn’t come off perfectly on its first attempt, or second, or perhaps ever. But, being in the practice enhances our sense of capability. We learn that we can navigate challenges peacefully. We learn to express our needs and listen to the needs of our partners kindly.

And with that sense of ability, our fear diminishes and we start to find the joy of being embodied, the joy of moving with another friend in a type of meditative dance. We develop a sense of accomplishment. And, most importantly for our sanity and happiness, we experience true human connection.

[Original Post on The Opener Blog]


domonick-faculty

Partner Yoga and Thai Massage with Domonick Wegesin

No experience is required. Domonick will provide clear, easy-to-follow directions to create a safe environment for your exploration. Bring a partner with whom you feel comfortable being in close contact.

Check our workshops page for the next occurrence of Domonick’s Partner Yoga.

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Take Back the Morning

If you’re reading this post, most likely you’ve taken a gander at the first page of google results that pop up when you search “Best Tips for a Morning Routine”. It’s become a trend to promote the importance of routine, especially when it comes to setting the tone for the day. The problem is sometimes we just don’t have enough control over our schedules.

Work, kids, illness, or guests can keep us up late and result in a rushed morning. Getting to bed on time is the first step, but once your schedule becomes unstable, it’s hard to to get the routine train back on track. Starting small is the first step. We wanted to offer some sweet ways to guide yourself back into a simple morning ritual.

Don’t jump out of bed.

Although it may be counter intuitive to stay in bed it’s the best way to gently wake yourself up. Arianna Huffington, who recently came out with the new book The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night At a Time, recommends not even waking up with alarm! The reason she gives is that alarms can be violent and jarring, starting your morning with anxiety. Waking up without an alarm may not be an option for you – but giving yourself  a few moments to just gently wake up can change your whole mood.

To maximize the first 5 minutes awake try propping yourself up with pillows, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing for 20 counts. Think about your intention for the day and possibly a few things you are grateful for. Then hop out of bed.

Keep Movement Simple.

If exercise has been elusive or you prefer to sweat it out in the evening then keep your movement routine simple. Once you’ve hopped out of bed, role out your mat (or keep it out from the night before!), do a few cat-cows and work out those sleepy kinks. If you are feeling good, try 3 to 5 sun salutations. Don’t guilt yourself for not doing enough. Small wins are where it’s at. Once you stick to 5-10 minutes of movement you will naturally start to grow the practice of doing more.

Drink Water (Preferably with Lemon)

Slice up some lemon slices the night before and keep them in the fridge. As soon as you are done with your morning yoga grab some lemon wedges and a glass of water. Your body is working hard to cleanse itself at night and we all wake up a little dehydrated. Life is sustained by water and you will feel better the more hydrated you stay. Drinking some fresh H2o first thing in the morning can help with grogginess, digestion, and mood.

This entire routine should take no more than 15-20 minutes. Keeping it simple and working on being compassionate with yourself will help alleviate any tension and anxiety. Before you know it you will be looking forward to having your sweet morning ritual.

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