“A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.”
On a regular basis, I am involved in numerous activities to further my spiritual growth.
On Sundays, I go to church. When I am in Atlanta, I attend Mt. Paran Church of God, where I listen to the incomparable Dr. David Cooper, bringing my journal and taking notes that I then read over for days and weeks and months afterwards.
This summer, I spent a lot of time at Unity North in Blairsville, where the hugging portion of the service takes about five minutes.
When I am in Savannah, I go to my mother church, Christ Church on Johnson Square.
On Monday evenings, I go to the Atlanta Soto Zen Center for meditation. Afterwards, my neighbor Steve Hart leads a discussion in Zen philosophy. I bring the shawl I am currently working on and sit and knit and listen.
On an ongoing basis, I read A Course in Miracles. This summer I was able to attend the Course in Miracles study group at Unity North and in Atlanta I meet with friends and we read the course after sharing a pot luck supper on Wednesdays.
And of course, I pray. I bless my healing space every day, I pray before sleep, I pray for my students, clients and readers, I bless my food and I pray constantly to receive guidance for my life and work.
I also turn to my favorite author, Dr. David Hawkins, M.D., an enlightened person who endorsed my book, Healing Depression: A Holistic Guide back in 1997. Practically every night, I pray to be directed to the page in one of Dr. Hawkins’ books that I need to read at that time.
So here is my point: I realize I am never “done.”
I never get to the point where I think I know it all, spiritually speaking. In fact, the more I go to church, meditate, read spiritual books and pray, the more I realize just how little I actually know. I consider myself a Bible illiterate, not that great of a meditator and a novice at A Course in Miracles.
The point is, however, I never ever give up.
I never get to the point where I think, “O.K., I am now a spiritual person, let’s check that off the list and move on to something else.”
The benefits of spiritual training are obvious to me.
While there are short-term benefits, such as being able to handle the stress of whatever comes up in my life with greater equanimity, there are also long-term benefits, such as having a greater depth of insight to be able to help my clients. As I arrange my zafu at the Zen Center, I often remember the scientific research that shows that when enough people in any given area meditate, the crime rate actually goes down.
I feel I am contributing not just to myself but also quite literally to peace on earth.
Just as with spiritual work, many people come to fitness to heal an immediate problem.
You may find yourself carrying excess pounds.
You may have injured your back, your shoulder, your knees.
You may feel exhausted and depressed and have lost your energy.
Whatever. You have a reason. One day, you wake up and decide it’s now important for you to get fit.
Initially, as you begin a fitness program with me, you may notice immediate benefits.
You lose weight. Your back, shoulder and knees stop hurting. You regain your drive, enthusiasm and energy.
I remember getting a call about a year ago from a prospective client. She was overweight and wanted to know just how long I thought it would take for her to lose her excess pounds. She wanted to get it done so she could check that whole fitness thing off her list and go back to overworking, disconnecting from her body and ignoring how she really felt. She did not say those words exactly, but at the end of the day whether she realized it or not that was what she thought she wanted.
“I believe that fitness is a life-long adventure,” I said to her.
Apparently we did not see eye to eye as she did not sign up to work with me. She wanted to find someone who could help her just check that item off her list, as if being thin and looking good were something you could achieve and not actually make an effort to maintain.
Many of my clients come to me to lose weight, heal their back, shoulders or knees, but once these goals are accomplished, the smartest ones keep training. Just as with spiritual training, ongoing physical fitness training has both immediate, short-term benefits as well as long-term benefits. Some of these benefits just seem to come out of nowhere and surprise you.
This past week, for example, I took four trips to ACE hardware one morning to purchase 48 bags of cypress mulch. Each bag was maybe about 26 pounds. I could only fit 12 bags at a time in the back of my Prius, which is why I had to go back four times.
With the first load, I offered to help the guy on the loading dock put the bags in my car. He very gallantly refused. Then I surprised him by coming back and back and back.
“Are you unloading all those bags yourself?” he asked me during my third trip with some concern on his face.
“Yes,” I replied. No problem.
Nothing in my body hurt as I hauled those bags out of car, carried them up the steps to my garden and spread them around my yard. I didn’t hurt while I was doing the job or the next day either. In fact, I thought it was so much fun that I timed myself to see how long it would take me to carry one load of 12 bags – the amount that could fit in my trunk – out of the car and all over the garden. 10 minutes, 48 seconds. “Not bad for 53 and in menopause,” I thought.
All the weight training I do made it easy for me to lift not just one bag but many. All the yoga I do had given me a strong flexible back so I could lift, bend over and reach with zero problems. All the qi gong I do had taught me how to maintain excellent even energy. All the hiking and walking that I do had given me strong legs to carry the bags up the steps.
One of my regular fitness clients is always regaling me with stories about friends of hers who are on numerous medications, who have a terminal illness or who fell down and broke something and are visiting various specialists to find out about surgery. To me, spending your week going from one doctor to another sounds very boring. Meanwhile, my client keeps on ticking – no drugs, no illnesses, excellent energy, stronger than she looks. She gets it. She has regular appointment hours with me and she keeps them.
Yet another long-term client has faced constant resistance from her husband about our work together. He thought all you need to do to exercise is walk around the block. While my client can do activities that are beyond the experience of many people even half her age, her husband just had hip surgery, had to walk with a cane and is now needing her help for basic activities of daily living. She is having the last laugh.
I thought I would make a list for you about the benefits of ongoing physical fitness training with me:
Even when you want to give up, if you have an appointment with me, you will get your exercise done, do it without hurting yourself and have fun even in spite of yourself. I can’t tell you how many clients I have who have been injured just trying even one exercise class from a confident but less knowledgeable fitness professional.
You will look and feel younger than all your friends.
You will learn how to work out smarter, if not necessarily harder. You don’t need to spend hours and hours or be bored or miserable.
You will learn how to have a healthy relationship with your body. When you are connected, you will know when you are tired and need to stop working, and when you eat you will know for sure when you are full and be able to stop eating.
You will maintain your strength, flexibility, stamina and fitness.
You will have better self esteem. What happens on the inside to you is equally important, in my mind, to whatever changes you experience in the way you look.
If you do happen to hurt yourself (one of my clients injured her knee after falling while trying on high heels in a department store), you will know the right person to fix it, get it done, work out safely while being injured, not lose your fitness level and be back on track in a reasonable amount of time.
Let’s face it, who doesn’t want to look good in their bathing suit. In this day and age, once you are past the age of 25, this takes some work and you have to be pretty consistent to maintain that.
Even if you would never be caught dead in your bathing suit, looking good in your clothes is a very achievable goal. I am always amazed how many clothes for middle aged men and women are fancy versions of tents or bags.
You will make working out a normal, every day part of your life. It will feel more normal for you to find ways of exercising no matter whether you are on vacation, highly stressed, busy with your work or whatever. Regular exercise will become like brushing your teeth.
If you are ready to be a regular, consistent and safe exerciser, come and and make an appointment with me. We can talk about where you need to begin and make progress at your pace. No matter how fat, injured, dejected or discouraged you may be, anything is possible if you have the right coach to guide you.
Yoga For Healing Your Heart
What You Need:
A yoga mat
A yoga belt
Two yoga blocks
Supported matsyasana (fish pose) with head on one yoga egg and chest on two yoga eggs with legs in baddha konasana (bound angle pose), bound by a belt – at least 7 minutes
Uttanasana (standing forward fold) with hands on yoga eggs and head resting on yoga blocks so crown is resting
Prasarita Padottanasana (wide leg forward fold) with hands on yoga eggs and head on yoga blocks
Makarasana (dolphin) holding egg between the hands
Sirsasana (headstand) against the wall
Setu bandha with egg at feet and belt at thighs, pelvic lift repetitions for 3 breaths only to build upUrdhva Dhanursana (wheel) variation lying over chair, feet on wall, belt around thighs. First hands hold on to chair for one minute, then reaching arms over head
Urdhva Dhanursana (wheel) variation lying over chair, feet on wall, belt around thighs. First hands hold on to chair for one minute, then reaching arms over head
Ustrasana (camel) variation, hands on chair behind you
Jathara Parivartanasana (reclining twist), one yoga egg between the knees – 1 minutes each side
Sarvangasana (shoulder stand) to Halasana (Plow) variation, hips on chair – at least 7 minutes going back and forth
Viparita Karani (legs against the wall pose) – at least 7 minutes
Savasana – at least 10 minutes
Discussion: Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States amongst both men and women. About 25 percent of all deaths in America are caused by some form of heart disease. People of all ages, shapes and sizes can get heart disease.
The top risk factors for heart disease include:
High blood pressure
Overweight and obesity
Nine out of 10 heart patients have at least one risk factor.
The physical heart is a muscle in the center of the chest weighing about 8 to 10 ounces for women and about 10 to 12 ounces for men. It is roughly the size of a fist.
Energetically, the heart chakra is located at the center of the chest just above the dome of our diaphragm. It is the meeting point between the two separate polarities in the body’s energy field and unites both the upper and lower chakras as well as the right and left sides.
As with all chakras, the heart chakra may either be over energy or under energy. Over energy in this chakra may correspond with high blood pressure and co dependency, while under energy in the heart chakra may make a person appear cold and unfeeling, have low blood pressure and/or depression.
Balancing this chakra has the effect of balancing the entire person.
Even those of us who do not have physical heart disease may have experienced some form of broken heart throughout our lifetime.
I designed this yoga program to draw energy into the heart chakra in a very gentle, nurturing and supportive way. It will have the net effect of relaxing you and bringing your mind into a quieter place.
Yoga For Healing Your Kidneys
A yoga mat
Two yoga eggs (www.threeminuteegg.com)
Surya Namaskar – emphasizing baby backbends – do about 5 repetitions each cycle on baby backbends to warm up lower back
Marjarysana (cat pose) to Bitilasana (cow pose) repetitions
Adho Mukha Svanasana (down dog) to Urdhva Muka Svanasana (up dog) repetitionsParsvottansana (intense side stretch pose) with blocks on either side
Parsvottansana (intense side stretch pose) with blocks on either side
Bhujangasana (cobra) with hands on yoga eggs
Natarajasana (King dancer pose)
Viparita Dandasana (wheel variation with hands around head at wall)
Janu Sirsana (head to knee forward bend)
Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend)
Marichyasana 1 (sage twist) variation with hands wrapped around knee forward folding
Viparita Karani (legs against the wall)
We humans have two bean-shaped kidneys, each located in our lower back between T12 and L3. Each kidney weighs about 150 grams, or a little more than 5 ounces. The right kidney is next to the liver. The left kidney is next to the spleen.
When we inhale, our kidneys move down, so the deep breathing that we do in yoga class helps to keep our livers healthy and functioning.
Even though these organs are small, they receive about 20 percent of the blood pumped by our heart.
The kidneys perform multiple functions. Many people are not aware that kidneys help to regulate your blood pressure. They also remove waste from the body in the form of urine, filter our blood, maintain our acid-base balance and secrete a number of hormones.
Energetically, the kidneys are part of our water element and connected to our second chakra.
As with all our chakras, the second chakra may either be over energy or under energy. If the second chakra is over energy, we may experience excessive sexuality or be overly emotional. If the second chakra is under energy, we may be shut down sexually and emotionally.
As we balance our second chakra, we experience a balance between our power and our sexuality so that neither one cuts the other off. We are able to experience joy in a balanced way.
Many people are chronically dehydrated and, at the same time, unaware of how important their kidneys are. My experience in my healing practice is that most people have less connection to their kidneys than virtually any other organ. As we age, we may lose our thirst mechanism and mineral depletion may make it difficult for us to absorb our water.