July gifts us with the coldest evening on record as The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Cincinnati summer Project Yoga session ends.
After completing stretching and balancing poses, we all sit on our mats and breath deeply. Focusing on the breath directs attention and promotes relaxation, providing the kids a simple and accessible tool to reduce anxiety. We select a place to go in our imagination, then relax on our mats and have a peaceful rest.
The kids say their “Yoga Nap” is the part of class they like best. I watch the most fidgety child roll up in his mat like a yoga burrito and finally become still. I breathe deeply myself, knowing I’m making a difference.
The mandala, a Sanskrit word meaning circular, has its origins in Buddhism and can be seen in cultures across the world. Used as a contemplative tool for centuries, multiple studies now show drawing a circular shape reduces anxiety.
Unplanned, my pen meandering without purpose, lines and squiggles became patterns and finally form a cohesive whole. My stress neutralized, my brain relaxed and my choices became clearer as I created a world within a circle.
Temperatures dipped low enough today to have me heading to Moksha Yoga, a favorite hot yoga spot. Ellen Bradley’s Cincinnati studio kicks it up a notch with both heat and humidity, relaxing the body and providing a comfortable cocoon in the depth of a cold winter.
Ellen’s class at noon today was tough. Just as my thoughts began to run in circles around my perceived failure, I heard her voice, “Breathe in and allow more space in your mind… breathe out and allow more space in your body.” Wise words. And a relaxing reminder our breath is always there to provide us with that choice.
Drawing #23 created on Doodle Buddy for iPad by Pinger, Inc
The Girl Scouts of Western Ohio‘s management team planned a wellness day for their staff last week, and I was invited to teach a yoga class.
While Scout leaders participate in activities with the girls, there is an army of staff working behind the scenes in an office all day, to make the scouting experience happen. My class outlined a series of stretches, easily done at a desk, to help increase circulation, flexibility, and reduce stress at the office.
This Yoga Journal article outlines a quick mid-day stretch to lift your energy.
Drawing #20 created with Draw
Weekends wind down quickly, and the last hour of a sunny Sunday is especially precious.
A few special friends consistently choose to spend that hour in my yoga class. Their attendance allows me to develop my teaching skills. I cannot express my depth of gratitude for their support!
Drawing #15 created on Doodle Buddy for iPad by Pinger, Inc
The still-unnamed kitty I rescued likes it here. And she has perfected the most fundamental yoga pose, “downward-dog cat.”
Drawing #12 created on Doodle Buddy for iPad by Pinger, Inc
The sun rises each morning and so do I, although the two don’t always coincide.
Today began with Sun Salutations, a series of yoga poses also called Surya Namaskara, meant to wake the body up with gentle movement.
Loosening the joints, moving the breath in and out, stretching and strengthening – this little morning dance is a wonderful wake up call.
And, keeping with my 31 drawings in 31 days challenge, it is also the topic of drawing #2.
Created with MyPaint Free by MyMedia
Sitting still with the children during our final class this Summer.
I was blessed this summer to teach children yoga within the Cincinnati Boys & Girls Club program, helping students K-12 have fun as they learned to stretch, sit still, and calm themselves by focusing on their breathing.
Only a few hands went up on Day 1 when asked if anyone had heard of yoga. Early on, most kids wiggled around, paying little attention to direction. But within weeks they became more coordinated and responsive, enjoying each class’s unique theme and fun yoga games.
Every week progressively filled me with more joy. What a thrill it was to witness their little smiles! Boys & Girls Club staff reported that some children were asking their parents to get them to school on Yoga Day! And one little boy said to another, “I was going to hit my little brother last night but I took a deep yoga breath instead.”
By the end of summer, kids who found it impossible to sit still in the spring were now saying their favorite part of yoga was ending with quiet relaxing. Read this YogaJournal article about the many benefits yoga provides children.
I’m certain yoga has helped my tennis. After more than a year away from the game, I am playing better than when I practiced regularly!
During a difficult match, I noticed how often I stopped breathing. By focusing on a steady breath cycle, my muscles relaxed and I was able to play better. As in yoga, tonight’s tennis became about observing my breath. And about hitting an exceptionally high number of great shots!
I had recalled the words of my yoga teacher Lilias and aligned with my “witness self,” the part of us that observes with detachment and compassion. Maybe I even stepped into that coveted place in sports called The Zone. In that zone, a “bad” shot didn’t upset me; rather it was just a placement of my body which yielded a result.
However it happened, the results were marvelous. We won 🙂
I don’t sit still well, or for very long. One year on April Fool’s day, a client actually built a speed bump in the hall outside my P&G office! A clear communication I might consider slowing down.
For a decade, my life was constant movement between offices and countries, always onward to the next big deal. Work came first. Exercise consisted solely of running through airports. Seriously.
The day I realized I could cut through fellow travelers in the airport faster if I had a smile on my face, shoulders held back, and a calm certainty I would make the flight – that was the day I did my first yoga pose. I just didn’t realize it yet. Unknowingly, I discovered a kind of transcendence and ability to achieve my desired outcome by simultaneously harnessing ease, joy and will. It was magic.
Many hundreds of thousands of air miles later, circumstances brought me to a yoga class… and I hated it. So slow, so focused. How could this stuff possibly transform life and limb? I discovered my biggest challenge was to remember to breathe. I was constantly holding my breath!
Eventually yoga taught me to breathe on my mat. Slowly I’m learning to breathe in life. And after a particularly deep breath, I dove into yoga teacher training. Ready for a new twist.