ON FRIENDSHIP

Poem by Khalil Gibran "The Prophet"

And a youth said, "Speak to us of Friendship." 

"Your friend is your needs answered. 
He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving. 
And he is your board and your fireside. 

For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace. 
When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the "nay" in your own mind, nor do you withhold the "ay." 
And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart; For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unacclaimed. 

When you part from your friend, you grieve not; For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain. And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit. 

For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught. 

And let your best be for your friend. If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also. 
For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill? Seek him always with hours to live. For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness. 

And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. 

For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed."

Song to friends and family

"HUG YOUR PEOPLE. THEY ARE WHAT REALLY MATTERS IN THIS WORLD."  - SV

TEACHING YOGA

"August"

adjective

  1. respected and impressive.
    "she was in august company"

synonyms

distinguished, respected, eminent, venerable, hallowed, illustrious, prestigious, celebrated, honored, esteemed, exalted; 
great, important, noble; 
impressive, awe-inspiring, stately, grand, dignified
"our august guests"

This word "August" is SO befitting for the inner reflections on my mind of the last month, of my summer spent here in Saigon. 

I run Yoga Teacher Trainings. This summer training marked #8. The more I run this course, the deeper my curiosity for learning grows, and the greater my respect is for the process attendees go through to take part in this course and the better teacher I want to be. This course I run is rigorous on a few levels (we cover foundational asana but really pick the practice apart and yes, anyone can partake in this course).

As much as the course is for getting VERY steady in the asana side of things, perhaps the most fascinating part of the training is observing our minds as we develop. We delve deep into meditation and self inquiry.

ON "EDUCATION"

The other night I was questioning myself as a teacher, questioning the subject of education and Universities - what it means to be "educated" and I came accross an interesting article that really resonated with me. I have always gone against the grain in ways in regards to traditional education, what teachers share, content. 

The gist of this poignant article from Psychology Today was this: 

Real learning. 

What is real learning? No, it is not simply memorizing facts or mastering course content. No, it’s not just critical thinking although that is an important element. It’s not graduating with honors with high grades.

A real education that is first rate should transform the student so that she never experiences the world the same way again; especially in areas of their major concentration. 

(Well said)

In other words, an art student should never walk into a room and perceived and experience it in the same way that they did before their education. An English major should never read a piece of literature and respond to it the same way they did before. Psychology majors should experience people’s behavior in a whole new light; in a way in which they have never done previous to their college education.

Their perception and experiences of the world should change for the rest of their lives.

Secondly, a real education should change the character. Gains from studies should not just be mental in nature; but should impact upon a student’s very nature.

True education doesn’t just transform the mind; it transforms the soul.

YES! In reflecting on my education, my time spent with my toughest teachers like Anna Forest and my poetry teacher Mrs. Hart, at this stage I really do agree that there is something to be said for expertise, devotion, dedication and years of experience in a teacher. Everyone complained about her being so "strict". But none of us ever forgot her! She pushed us to be excellent. I appreciate and remember to this day and reflect often on her impact on me as a student.

Where would we be without teachers who care enough to challenge our views, our ways of being, our current knowledge? 

TEACHERS

Do not always teach to please (parents and students, for those of you who are teaching school kids!) and don't teach for the pat on the back. Teach what you see students can really benefit from, be it better mental focus, a stronger body or more flexible attitude. Let go of fear and trust your instincts. Teach your students to devote themselves, especially in the early years of their yoga practice - this is so important. The best benefits come with a dedicated practice. 

In the coming weeks, I will be moving deeper into my own heart, body and mind as I prepare for my students to come and as i keep preparing my mind for life's challenges. These practices I speak of are powerful medicine and anyone who takes their leaning seriously, will grow and develop in ways words can not describe. 

Namaste.
Suzanne

CHILDREN'S MENTAL HEALTH

YOGA AND MINDFULNESS FOR KIDS

There is a growing body of research to back up yoga’s mental health benefits. Yoga increases body awareness, relieves stress, reduces muscle tension, strain, and inflammation, sharpens attention and concentration, and calms and centers the nervous system.

Yoga’s positive benefits on mental health have made it an important practice tool of psychotherapy (American Psychological Association). It has been shown to enhance social well being through a sense of belonging to others, and improve the symptoms of depression, attention deficit and hyperactivity, and sleep disorders. Also, yoga can improve symptoms of schizophrenia when it is done alongside drug therapy (Yoga and Mental Health, Huffington Post 2013).

Also, yoga has been shown to increase the level of gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, a chemical in the brain that helps to regulate nerve activity. This is especially relevant to people who have anxiety disorders in which GABA activity is low (Yoga and Your Mood, the Ultimate Yogi).

Yoga also improves the mood, behavior, and mindfulness of high school students taking yoga classes in addition to PE than students taking PE alone (yoga classes helps highschool students). It has been shown to improve workplace well being and resilience (The Effectiveness of Yoga for Well Being in the Workplace).

But, let’s not stop here. Yoga’s benefits extend to adult caregivers who experience lower life satisfaction, depression, and stress and high levels of biological markers for inflammation. One study found that practicing a 12-minute daily eight week program of yoga exercise resulted in reducing markers of inflammation in adults taking care of loved ones stricken with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia (UCLA’s Late-Life Depress, Stress and Wellness Research Program).

Clearly, mind and body practices, like yoga, meditation, deep breathing and prayer help to reduce stress and improves stress-related nervous system imbalances (Psychological Benefits of Yoga). But, how do they do this? Is there one main mechanism at play here?

Researchers say it is the relaxation response that accompanies these mind and body practices that lead to the many improvements to physical and mental health. A new study from investigators at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) finds that the deep, physiological state of restinduced by such practices produces immediate positive change in the expression of genes involved in immune function, energy metabolism and insulin secretion (Genes and Physiological Pathways Altered in the Relaxation Response, Science Daily, May 2013).

What is a deep state of physiological relaxation? It is a change in calm and relaxation that takes place on a neurobiological level. Even having a good time out with friends or family is not enough to relax your biology on a cellular level. It takes a certain amount of brain and body stimulation to laugh, animatedly move our faces and bodies, and to listen and respond effectively to social cues. We need enough adrenaline pumping to our brain, heart and muscles to do this. So, you see, even socializing, playing an enjoyable game of tennis or golf, or shopping with a friend is actually a state of biochemical tension. For the body to relax at the nerve and cellular level, we need to alter body processes that shift us biochemically from a state of excitement and tension to a state of calm, deep rest and relaxation. Only deep breathing that accompanies mind-body practices like yoga can do this.

Credit: Psychology Today

 

Deep Breaths

Benefits of Deep Breathing

Most people unconsciously breathe from their chests, resulting in short, shallow and inefficient breaths. Chest breathing causes reduced oxygen and nutrient delivery, increased feelings of anxiety and stress, and muscle tension. Unlike chest breathing, deep breathing involves breathing from your abdomen, which enables you to draw air all the way down into the deepest pockets of your lungs. Deep breathing can provide a number of benefits to your physical and mental well-being.

Technique

To practice a basic deep, abdominal breathing technique, sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your hands resting comfortably in your lap. Keep your spine extended tall and relax your shoulders. Observe your current breathing patterns for a few moments. Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Inhale as deeply as you can, drawing the air into your abdomen. Focus on raising your lower hand, then your upper hand, as your body fills with air. Pause for a moment and exhale completely, contracting your abdominal muscles to expel the last bits of air from your lungs.

Physiological Changes

Deep breathing helps quiet your mind and body, which can result in a number of significant physical and psychological benefits. Deep breathing reduces your need for oxygen, leading to decreased firing activity in the nerve cells in your brain. Additionally, deep breathing slows down the activity of your parasympathetic nervous system by increasing oxygen delivery and promoting the activation of your sympathetic nervous system's relaxation response.

Physical Benefits

Deep breathing results in greater oxygen and nutrient delivery because you draw air down into the deep pockets of your lungs, which is where the greatest amount of blood flow occurs, according to the American Medical Student Association. This may help increase your energy levels and can result in improved stamina in athletics and other physical activities. Deep breathing also increases your body's production of endorphins, your body's natural pain-killing chemicals. Endorphins are the chemicals responsible for the feeling of euphoria known as "runner's high." According to the Pain Center of Arizona, endorphins may help block your nerve cells from releasing pain signals to your brain, which can provide benefits during times of acute and chronic pain.

Mental Benefits

Deep breathing is a powerful tool for stress relief and relaxation. It teaches you to be more conscious and mindful of your everyday activities and promotes your body's relaxation response. The relaxation response involves a deactivation of your stress response, also known as the "fight-or-flight" response. Deep breathing helps return your body to a state of equilibrium after an anxiety-provoking or fearful event. By tuning in to your breath, you refocus your attention on the internal, rather than the external, world.

A Short, Easy Daily Practice 

Take 10 deep breaths (as in the described technique above) before each meal. 

Take care of your self and enjoy!

Suzanne 

Love to my teachers

I feel extremely blessed for the time and care my teachers have given to me over the years. Without their guidance, I would not be who I am. 

Teachers are so important and as a teacher myself, one who comes from a lineage of teachers (2 of my Grandparents were teachers and both of my parents are, as well) I value those who spend their life sharing the gift of knowledge, one of the greatest gifts there is. However this comes for each of us is different. Some take a more academic, traditional road and others are self taught, or taught in less formal, less traditional ways. Life has so much to teach us and if we are open, there are so many ways to learn, so many chances in a day. My love for learning is big. I love the feeling of understanding, experiencing and knowing based on experience. Yoga is such a stimulating subject (experience) and there is just so much to learn. Whatever path we decide to take, it is ours to chose so following our hearts as we learn and make our way forward seems a wise way to go. 

Question: Can yoga be studied? 

Peace

Do what it takes. Give yourself what you need. Self care, self inquiry, quality time with quality people, practice honesty, avoid gossip, serve others and forgive. Take a trip alone to soul search. Rest up or get up, whatever you need. 

Have patience. Minding our own business and focusing on how we as one person can be better simplifies things. And this is all part of yoga practice. 

Practice is the key word. We are all learning until the day we die. Patience with ourselves is a good thing to focus on because we are all going to have moments we falter. Yet each day we start over again and each day we can try again to be as understanding as possible. 

When on a soulful path it can be extra challenging and there will always be situations that knock us off balance. We will not always hit the mark but peace within is the best place to focus our efforts. 

Do what feels right and do what feels good to you. Respect and love yourself and then it doesn't matter what others think about you. Being right within ourselves means being at peace with where and who we are. We can forget this and I do too at times but bring my mind back to this ASAP. 

When stressful times hit we can go within. Sometimes it takes a little time to calm down but in just sitting, breathing and connecting with our inner self as best we can, can bring relief and peace in minutes. 

Today is another new day. 

Namaste & love,
Yoga for Wellness with Suzanne Via

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Souping is the New Jucing

If you’re a fan of juicing, you’ll definitely be on board with souping, the latest detox trend. Why drink cold juice in the winter? Go for warming soups this time of year! A soup-only cleanse offers a number of nutritional benefits while keeping you satisfied. Packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber, soups are filled with superfoods that can help you battle inflammation, cleanse your colon and reduce oxidative stress. Plus, most soup recipes are versatile, allowing you to swap in different ingredients and seasonings according to your taste.

What is souping:

From the viewpoint of physical wellbeing, the keyword is: detox. All the beneficial properties of pulses and vegetables, proteins, vitamins and the like are blended together in what is, broadly speaking, an extremely healthy and economical option, and also rich in fibre and cooked to make it more digestible. The sugar content is provided by the complex carbohydrate variety and not simple fruit sugar. And, unlike a juice that is knocked back at the speed of thirst, soups are eaten slowly, resulting in a pleasing sensation of fullness.

The key to success:

On the subject of sensorial pleasure, consistency is vitally important when it comes to soup: it can be more or less creamy and liquid according to the recipe, but never solid enough to prevent the purification process, nor too liquid to make the consumer feel deprived of a proper meal. During the summer, in the northern hemisphere, cocktails underwent a solidification process: mojito, daiquiri, cosmopolitan and margaritas were being served by top barmen and chefs in a foody version, in consistencies that were more or less solid, more or less foamy, in a creative impulse that could even be defined as tending towards “Negroni soup.”

Souping and detoxing:

Authentic “souping,” however, is a soup version of detoxing that offers genuine detox battle plans, whose protagonists are armed with ladles. Starting from The Big Apple, the Splendid Spoon suggests “plant based plans” for detoxing, inviting you to put your trust in its steaming, ready-to-eat bowlfuls. Soupelina in Los Angeles follows a similar concept and at the start of the year, it released a book entitled “Soupelina’s Soup Cleanse,” in which the chef shares her soup detox dietary secrets, lasting from three to five days.

What your options are: 

24-Hour Raw Reset Cleanse: This fiber-heavy one-day cleanse is designed to recharge your body immediately, perfect for anyone who needs a quick jumpstart or lacks the time to commit.

3-Day Boost Cleanse: If you're a beginner and up for a little challenge, a 3-day cleanse is the perfect way to strengthen your digestive system, create healthy tissue and help aid your body's natural ability to get rid of toxins. 

5-Day Soup Cleanse: If you're a cleansing pro, you'll benefit from this most, and will likely see the number on the scale drop as well as experience a reduction in headaches and fatigue.

Why it's better than juicing: 

If you've ever done a juice cleanse, you've probably felt dizzy, weak and hungry. Soup cleanses don't leave you feeling like this, because they're filled with more easily digested nutrients and highly satiating ingredients. They also have a lower glycemic index compared to juices, which helps to stabilize blood sugar levels.

How often you should do it: 

Four times a year. It's best to cleanse seasonally, so that your body can stay in tune with the change in weather. 

How many soups you'll have per day: 

Five. If you're doing a 24-hour reset, you'll have five raw soups. For a three-day and five-day cleanse, you'll have three soups—one during breakfast, lunch, and dinner, plus two light broths for snacks in between. For optimal results and to keep your metabolism up, you'll eat every three hours.

What you can't eat: 

A cleanse is a chance to give your body a break from working so hard to digest the foods you normally eat. While on a soup cleanse, you should only consume the soups and broths, with exceptions for pumpkin seeds, cucumbers and celery. Soupelina's cleanse calls for avoiding coffee, sugar, fruit, soda, animal protein, dairy, alcohol and nicotine (a given), wheat and processed, dried and canned foods.

What the benefits look like: 

Glowing skin, silkier hair, reduced stress levels and higher energy levels. It also helps rebuild the part of your metabolism that works with burning fat, and aids in building a strong immune system by cleaning your gut. 

Ready to stir the pot? Get souping with this beginner’s 3-day detox meal plan:

DAY 1

Breakfast: Raw Green Soup

Lunch: Easy Chicken Bone Broth

Dinner: Hearty Wholesome Harvest Soup

DAY 2

Breakfast: Vegan Butternut Squash Soup

Lunch: Easy Kale, Mushroom, Quinoa Miso Soup

Dinner: Simple Dairy-Free Mushroom Soup

DAY 3

Breakfast: Cauliflower Corn Chowder

Lunch: Seasonal Veggie and Umeboshi Soup (Macrobiotic) 

Dinner: Vegetable Bean Chili

Note: I am not a certified medical practitioner; please consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Forward Head Posture Correction

My bambino is so young and starting to get forward head tilt.

Should be corrected soon with new computer set up, awareness and this technique of pushing back of head into pillow (to lengthen and strengthen back of neck).  

Done with back against wall bent knees strong legs press feet and press back of head into pillow hold for a bit repeat.

If you look at your kids posture don't be surprised to find this issue as many kids now have it (adults too) from looking down at electronics. 

Strengthening the rhomboid muscles (muscles next to upper spine between scapularis also known as shoulder blades) will further help.

Namaste,

Suzanne

Tapas for Wellness

Discipline in yoga is called "tapas". The word “tapas” comes from the Sanskrit verb “tap” which means “to burn.” The traditional interpretation of tapas is “fiery discipline,” the fiercely focused, constant, intense commitment necessary to burn off the impediments that keep us from being in the true state of yoga (union with the universe). 

THE CHALLENGE:
☆ 8 hr sleep
☆ 30 min run
☆ 1 hr yoga
☆ 30 min meditation
☆ 30 min sutras study

What do you need?

Every year I take a solo time out for travel (usually there is yoga and nature involved). I have done this for years. I leave my work, family, friends and I go out into the world by myself to "recalibrate". No pressure, pure "me time".

We go to work, interact with others, with our kids, colleagues, our families, clients - whatever and we do our best to keep things smooth and to please the people in or lives, to support others, to make money, be good parents and partners, etc. It can happen that we stop paying attention to our own needs. 

There is this thing that I have done over the years. I learned it from author Louise Hayes, the great healer. This is my version of it, anyhow. 

Walk to a mirror. Look yourself square in the face, dead in the eyes and have a conversation with you. You can speak your mind freely and say whatever you want, out loud. No need to edit, just speak directly to yourself. Notice this person in front of you (yourself). You might feel ridiculous and want to laugh. No, you are not a lunatic. You might see how lovely you are and just how worthy you are of your own love and acceptance and find some answers to your questions as to what you want to do or need in your life and information for moving ahead with more clarity. 

I am going for a massage, an early night's sleep. I leave for a 4 week pilgrimage in India soon. That's what I need most right now so I am giving it to myself. 

And you? What do you need and how can you best support yourself at this time in your life?

Why not go to a mirror and ask yourself. Because no one knows better than you. 

Happy New Year :) 

10 yoga-inspired healthy food habits

While many people would agree that a good fitness regime helps keep fatigue, weight-gain and stress at bay, it may just not be good enough. Choosing and following a good and healthy diet can help you there. Even with a hectic lifestyle, one can minimise the risks by choosing the right food to eat. But is choosing the right food enough? No. Along with the right type of food, we must also learn how to eat it the right way. The following 10 yoga-inspired tips should help:

1. See what you are eating

Observe your present diet. What is it that you eat most of? Are you consuming too many calories in your diet and don't have enough time to burn them off?

2. Choose green leafy vegetables

They are a rich source of proteins, iron, calcium and fiber. Green leafy vegetables are easy to prepare and quite appetising too.

3. Know when to drink water

Drinking plenty of water helps detoxify the body as well as gives you a glowing skin. Although, we should avoid drinking water during meals as it slows down the digestion process.

4. Include enough proteins in your diet

Proteins are vital for the body. Broccoli, soybeans, lentils, asparagus, spinach and low-fat dairy are some commonly found protein rich foods.

5. Chew your food

The more you chew your food, the easier it becomes for your stomach to digest it and the more calories you burn moving those jaws.

6. Keep away from fast food and soft drinks

Fast food is addictive and loaded with unhealthy trans-fats. Carbonated soft drinks have a high sugar content, which may lead to obesity, diabetes and dental caries.

7. Cook at home

Instead of ordering pizza from the joint around the corner, stay home and make that dish, adding health tweaks (feta instead of mozzarella cheese) along the way.

8. Focus on your food

Most of us have our food while distracted and don’t keep count on how much we eat. Though your stomach might be full, your busy brain tells you to eat more.

9. Never skip your breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day as it prepares the body for the whole day ahead. Eat a wholesome dish before you step out of the house.

10. Digest your food better

Sitting in Vajrasna (adamintine pose) for a few minutes after having food helps with digestion. This particular yogic posture enhances blood circulation in the lower abdomen.

A balanced diet helps keep the body fit and active. Yoga combined with good food habits can make you become more energetic, dedicated and focused person in all spheres of life. Remember, what you eat is what you become. So choose wise and eat better!

 

Santosha to Ahimsa!

Life is such an incredible, crazy journey. I enjoy the intensity it brings at times - the spaces of calm and challenge along the way. I have been on a mission to be more patient and accepting of myself and others, which has been paying off.  

Being an avid practitioner these past few months of “Santosha”, meaning contentment, my mind often ponders the fact that we are all so beautiful and perfect, regardless of our imperfections and challenges. We are incredible creatures, capable of so much love, filled with creative genius. I am eternally grateful for my teachers who have helped me down my yogic and meditation path.  

Layering on top of Santosha (the practice of acceptance and contentment), today I want to touch on one of the Yamas - the practice of Ahimsa, which means non-harming.

The yamas and niyamas are yoga’s ethical guidelines laid out in the first two limbs of Patanjali’s eightfold path. They’re like a map written to guide you on your life’s journey. Simply put, the yamas are things not to do, or restraints, while the niyamas are things to do, or observances. Together, they form a moral code of conduct.

Ahimsa: nonviolence

I will never forget the day my teacher Ana asked us, “How are you self-mutilating?” She is a warrior of a teacher and does not mince her words. I found my time studying with her to be intense, conflicting and often confronting. To this day, I am grateful to her for being such a courageous teacher who cared enough about her students to raise the difficult issues that many yoga teachers avoid.

My mind felt resistant and a lot of emotions came up as I wrote in my journal the ways I self-harm. Yikes, Ana.

Since childhood I have had this habit of biting my cuticles when I am under stress or pressure. This is very personal, what I am sharing and to this day I notice this old habit creeping back when I am feeling afraid, over excited or stressed. When I notice myself doing this, it sends me a signal that I need to check myself to see why it is happening.

I am often challenged by habits pertaining to my body so as I focus more attention on Ahimsa, I am looking to see how I can love and treat my body a little better. Baby steps are great and I am okay with going slow. It is just a process and processes can take time.

I am aware of a few other habits that I have been unsuccessful in squashing lately, and am gently asking myself why. Just being aware can lead to greater self-understanding, which is helpful. Higher consciousness in these areas will come in due time.

Today, I am doing my best to go slow and stay calm. By not taking on too much, by allowing myself to experience my natural state of being moment to moment, with awareness and acceptance (Santosha), even when I feel I could or should be doing better. It has been interesting working this Niyama so intently and this particular practice has set the stage, I feel, for taking me now back to the practice of Ahimsa. Let’s be as patient and understanding towards self and others as we can be as we all learn along the way.

Wishing you peace. Happy Ahimsa practicing.