I am currently taking the 100 hour Mindful Yoga Teacher training and am so extremely grateful for the scholarship I am receiving to be able to do so. I had been doing yoga for about 10 years, off and on, but it has really only been in the past year or so that my personal practice has taken on deeper and more spiritual meaning and intensity.I served in the U.S. Coast Guard for five years, in the early 1990’s, at a time when there were a lot of migrants trying to reach our shores for economic and political asylum. It was through my time served on a large cutter home-ported in Virginia that I had the opportunity to travel to Haiti, among other Caribbean nations. It was there that I saw such poverty and extreme living conditions, that I vowed to return one day and make a small difference in the lives of the people of that beautiful country. In 2011, I made that vow a reality and traveled for the first of many times to Haiti with a group from my church in Southbury, CT. I have been going down to Haiti every year since the earthquake and will continue to do so, leading groups as the immersion trip leader. In 2017 our small ministry grew into a non-profit corporation called Seeds of Hope for Haiti, Inc., with me serving on the board of directors. If it was not for the experiences I had in the Coast Guard to drive my passion and vision, I don’t think that this would have ever become a reality. In 2014 I had the honor to present my son Matt with his graduation certificate when he graduated from U.S. Coast Guard Boot Camp, in my uniform! I have always had and will always have such a sweet spot in my heart for service members and veterans. That is why I am excited to bring my 200 hour yoga teacher training that I have had through VETOGA, (founder Justin Blazejewski is also a MYT grad) and this 100 hour training with MYT, to veterans, active duty and their family members in Connecticut. I am currently starting work on bringing programs to various military installations in the state, along with the help and expertise of another MYT trained instructor. I hope to see this take off and become a regular offering to the service members stationed there and their families. Before I even started my yoga teacher training, I studied about trauma and how it affects the brain and how the “issues live in the tissues”. I attended the Yoga of Twelve Steps of Recovery leadership training in January in Surf City, NC. I started leading Y12SR meetings in my area in February of 2018, even before becoming a certified yoga instructor! (I had a partner who was certified who led the practice and I led the meeting.) I did not know if I would eventually become certified at first, but a few months after I had led a few sessions of Y12SR, I started looking into affordable ways that I could get my 200 hour certification. (I work full time at a local non- profit agency and do not have the financial means to be able to spend $2,000 to $3,000 on teacher training.) Through a Google search, I found VETOGA, Inc., a nonprofit run by a veteran who offers 200 hour teacher training's to other veterans, so that they could teach yoga in their communities to other military and vets. In order to gain a spot in this training, participants have to raise a certain level of funds. I set out to raise money for this organization in order to be included in the Spring 2018 class. With some hard work, and putting forth some money of my own, I was successful and headed to Alexandria, VA for training in May. It was in this training that we spent one afternoon talking about next steps, how we might partner with other similar organizations that bring yoga to veterans, or to take advantage of more training's that are in line with VETOGA's mission. Mindful Yoga Therapy was mentioned several times as the # 1 way to continue with more training in working with trauma. I was instantly curious because this was what I wanted to do from the very beginning, bring trauma -informed yoga to others. It was only natural that I seek it out after hearing from a friend that I should attend the 100 hour training, and it was starting very soon, in July of this summer. He set me up with Suzanne who offered me a scholarship and after filling out the application, I was in! Talk about timing and dharma, I felt this was the next right thing for me. I am particularly interested in what I have been learning from Suzanne at the Mindful Yoga Center. Her knowledge of working with veterans with PTSD is something that I feel can really benefit from personally, as I deal with anxiety and stress in my own life, it is a great tool in my toolbox that I can take to others. I can see myself working with others affected by traumatic stress, such as those who survived the terrible earthquake in Haiti in 2010, or just the stress and adverse experiences that are present where poverty exists. I feel strongly that yoga would benefit so many, and perhaps one day I will bring yoga and meditation to people in Haiti. This past summer on a recent trip, our group took a yoga class on a mountaintop there, and it was such a surreal experience. The clouds surrounded us, it was literally yoga in the clouds. I would love to offer more classes like that one day. Ever thankful for the opportunity to train with Suzanne and Mindful Yoga Therapy, I hope to pay it forward by carrying the tools of yoga, meditation and yoga nidra to the people in my community and abroad. Namaste, Christine
Those of us who practice yoga and meditation on a regular basis often notice changes in ourselves that can be hard to put into words. Perhaps we find ourselves less prone to stress or anger. Maybe we are calmer when faced with challenges which historically would have thrown us into a swirl of negative emotions. It can almost seem like the simple act of practicing works some unseen magic on the mind itself.
Not surprisingly, there have been myriad neuro-scientific studies on this topic, specifically where the practice of meditation is concerned. The amygdala, the brain-center for our emotions, ‘lights up’ when we feel intense emotional responses to difficult, frightening, or stressful situations. Studies show that practitioners of meditation exhibit reduced amygdala activity, and are therefore more able to regulate their emotions. Physiological testing indicates that those who develop mindfulness-based practices (like meditation) feel negative emotions with less intensity, are less prone to anxiety, and adapt well to stressful situations [Desbordes, G. et al.]. These studies indicate that meditative practices really do create enduring, positive changes in the function of the brain.
Mindfulness practices like yoga (which many consider a form of moving meditation) have also been shown to positively affect practitioners’ attitudes toward their own experiences in life [Keng, S. et al.]. For example, we may be more apt to approach situations from a place of curiosity and openness, rather than reacting with fear or judgement. This makes it easier for us to cope with the changes that life inevitably brings.
The data is pretty undeniable: If you find yourself facing life’s constant changes and challenges with a little more equanimity, you really can thank your yoga and meditation practice!
Peace and Love,
P.S. If you’d like to read these studies (and many others like them) in more depth, check out the Research link on the MYT website.
Desbordes, G. et al. (2012 Nov 01). Effects of mindful-attention and compassion meditation training on amygdala response to emotional stimuli in an ordinary, non-meditative state. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. 6: 292. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2012.00292.
Keng, S. et al. (2011 Aug). Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: A review of empirical studies. Clin Psychol Rev. 31(6): 1041–1056. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2011.04.006.
COMING UP: NATIONAL STRESS AWARENESS DAY
April 16th is National Stress Awareness Day...#MYTStressAwareness | We are looking for 2-3 yogis to share their experiences on how yoga & meditation have helped them deal with stress. If you're interested, please send an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
All this week, we’re going to highlight the benefits of Yoga Nidra as a form of yogic sleep. Yoga Nidra is one of Mindful Yoga Therapy’s five tools in our toolbox. The other four include: Pranayama, Asana, Meditation, and Gratitude. What makes Yoga Nidra so special is that it can be a more effective and efficient form of rest and rejuvenation than conventional sleep. The total relaxation achieved in a Yoga Nidra session is equivalent to hours of ordinary sleep. We reached out to our MYT graduates to see what their thoughts are about this ancient practice. Here are Ben King's thoughts on Yoga Nidra.
My first experience with yoga nidra was at the Washington DC VA.
I hadn’t slept through the night in weeks and when I was invited to try the class out at the I figured I had nothing to lose. The first thing that made me feel comfortable was being called New Guy by and old gnarly looking Vietnam Veteran. I like him immediately. When I asked him what this stuff was like he said, “well you ain’t awake, but you ain’t asleep either."
The teacher began the guidance by getting us focused on our breath. We did five minutes of alternate nostril breathing. Then she invited us to think about a place that we really like. A place that felt safe and secure. An internal recourse the teacher called it. I immediately thought about the lake house by grandparents built back in the 50s. Right on the lake in south western Virginia, I immediately let my thoughts go back there. The smell the sounds of the crows in the morning and the boats on the water. Then the teacher guided us to pay attention to different parts of our body. Starting at our feet she would say, now focus your attention on you left big toe, now the second toe and on and on she would literally just call out body parts for us to focus on and before I knew it everything slowed way down.
Like the Vietnam vet said I wasn’t asleep but I wasn’t awake either. It was like I was riding in a boat and my thoughts where the calm water beneath me. My thoughts seemed serene and calm and my awareness of them was easy and fluid. I had choice in what came to mind but my thoughts where so light that it was just easier to just let them float up and away.
The 45-minute class was over well before I thought it would be. After a few minutes of not wanting to leave my chair I thanked the teacher, said see you next week to the other vets, and walked back to my car. As I walked feeling better and more rested than I had felt in a long time I couldn’t help but think how much different my life would have been had I had this tool when I returned home from Iraq. Man I thought, years of self-medicating with booze and sleeping pills to fall asleep, what a waste. I didn’t lament my past for long. I had found a new tool and I planned on using it to the fullest. I went back to that class for 8-months straight and ended up getting certified in the iRest yoga nidra style. The practice changed my understanding of what tools were out there to deal with transition stress and PTSD. So my advice to any vet trying to manage transition is don’t create a tool box without yoga nidra in it. It ain’t sleep, but you ain’t awake either.
We would love to hear about how you use yoga nidra, meditation, yoga etc…to help you sleep. You can either use the hashtag #MYTYogaNidra, tag us in your post and/or send us an email (email@example.com) and we’ll add it to our blog.
TODAY kicks off the National Sleep Awareness Week.
We're going to highlight the benefits of Yoga Nidra as a form of yogic sleep. Yoga Nidra is one of Mindful Yoga Therapy's five tools in our toolbox. The other four include: Pranayama, Asana, Meditation, and Gratitude. What makes Yoga Nidra so special is that it can be a more effective and efficient form of rest and rejuvenation than conventional sleep. The total relaxation achieved in a Yoga Nidra session is equivalent to hours of ordinary sleep.
We reached out to our MYT graduates to see what their thoughts are about this ancient practice. Here are Jennie G's thoughts on Yoga Nidra.
What is Yoga Nidra? Translated literally from the Sanskrit, we arrive at the term “yogic sleep,” yet the practice of Yoga Nidra is not sleep. Though it is extremely relaxing, it holds so much more for us than simple stress relief. So, what exactly is this practice, and how can it help us reach our inner potential to live calm, joyful, and contented lives?
Yoga Nidra is a tantric practice based upon the knowledge of the channels (nadis) between the body and the brain. Using pratyahara (sense withdrawal), the deeper recesses of the mind may be accessed via sushumna nadi (the central channel). These depths house the root of our habitual thoughts and behaviors, from which grows the very framework of our minds. In this way, the practice holds undeniable potential to affect positive change.
In Yoga Nidra, the practitioner is guided along a path of progressive awareness, moving from one body part to another, in a sequence proven to calm the body. The act of calming the body also quiets the mind and opens a space of stillness between consciousness and sleep. In this space, our minds are much more receptive to our chosen intention or resolve (sankalpa), which we set in place at the beginning of each session.
The practice of Yoga Nidra makes it possible for us to correct patterns in the brain which do not serve us on our journey through life. By spending time in the fertile threshold between waking and sleeping, we begin to remove obstructions from our minds, allowing freedom and growth to occur. Through this practice, we begin to truly live in harmony with our ideals.
During National Sleep Awareness Week, why not see what Yoga Nidra can bring to your life?
Peace and Love,
We would love to hear about how you use yoga nidra, meditation, yoga etc...to help you sleep. You can either use the hashtag #MYTYogaNidra, tag us in your post and/or send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we'll add it to our blog.
UPCOMING TRAINING PROGRAMS:
The Yamas and the Niyamas
The Yamas and the Niyamas are ethical practices laid out for us in Patanjali’s 8-limb path presented in the yoga sutras. I like to think of them as a road map, guiding us in the right direction.
The five yamas, self-regulating behaviors involving our interactions with other people and the world at large, include:
- Ahimsa: nonviolence
- Satya: truthfulness
- Asteya: non-stealing
- Brahmacharya: non-excess
- Aparigraha: non-possessiveness, non-greed.
The five niyamas, personal practices that relate to our inner world, include:
- Saucha: purity
- Santosha: contentment
- Tapas: self-discipline, training your senses
- Svadhyaya: self-study, inner exploration
- Ishvara Pranidhana: surrender to a higher power
The Yamas and Niyamas are often seen as ‘moral codes’, or ways of living life to your full potential. To be ‘moral’ can be difficult at times, which is why this is considered a very important practice of yoga.
If we are to really benefit from a yoga practice, it has to expand beyond the mat and into life, so that we can move closer toward unity and wholeness. We are not only strengthening our bodies, but our minds and our hearts. The practice of yoga is realization that we are all one.
This month on February 17th we celebrate random acts of kindness. Frankly, our world needs more kindness. See how many times this month you can surprise someone with an act of kindness.
Lets make this a movement, maybe it will catch on………
Show the world that love matters.
xo - Suzanne
In the book, How Yoga Works, by Geshe Michael Roach, a young girl named Friday is arrested when she crosses the boarder with an ancient copy of the Yoga Sutras. While in jail, she notices the Captain is suffering from pain. Over time...and I mean...a long time...Friday teaches the Captain...how yoga works. In this story, yoga found the Captain just at the right time. Over the years, I often ask people, "How did you find yoga?" The answers generally fall into two categories: I found yoga, or yoga found me. I asked this question to our Outreach Coordinator for Veterans, Anthony Scaletta this question...here is his answer.
Yoga found me. I believe that’s just how it works – when you are ready (i.e. life’s challenges and experiences have prepared and opened you to receive the teachings) the practice of yoga will find you. It’s a spin on the old maxim that when the student is ready; the teacher appears. Well, I feel that when a person is ready to begin practicing; the yoga appears. The scope and diversity of yoga make it intrinsically adaptable which lets the yoga practice meet someone right where they are in a way that is most useful and meaningful to them at the time. It is in this way I feel that yoga finds you. That’s how yoga found me. I was in a lot of pain mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually and I was seeking to ease my suffering. It provided me (and continues to do so) with many tools to address the various layers of my being while carving out the path toward healing and wholeness. Yoga found me about a year after I separated from active-duty and gave me a way to reconnect to my body and find some support and grounding. In this way it really helped as I struggled to reintegrate into civilian life. I honestly don’t know where I would be if yoga hadn’t found me at such a critical time because I had been on such a destructive path with drugs and alcohol and some really risky behavior. That was over a decade ago and yoga still seems to be finding me in new ways as it continually supports me through all the ups and downs of life. The challenges I face are my teachers and the yoga provides me with the tools to skillfully navigate them. I believe that yoga is truly a gift and I mean it when I say that yoga saved me. That is why I am now so committed to sharing the practice of yoga with others, particularly my fellow brothers and sisters that have served, because I wholeheartedly believe in its transformative powers to heal, empower and inspire people to step into their fullest potential.
Anthony will be leading a 15-hour Mindful Yoga For Trauma Training For Yoga Teachers program at White Lotus Wellness Center, (College Park MD) March 10-12. Space is still available. Register Here!
Amanda Neufeld and Colten Peed own and operate Yoga Studio Satya in Colorado Springs, Colorado. They have a very clear and focused mission statement:
To Bring Joy and Health to the Body and Mind, to Inspire and Love Without Judgment and Create a Community Beyond the Walls in Which we Practice.
And this is exactly what the two of these yogis from "The Springs" are doing. They have already hosted a 15-hour Mindful Yoga Therapy weekend course, as well as a 100-hour teacher training program. Colten and Amanda have also signed up to host another 15-hour course next year.
Colorado Springs is a perfect location to reach out to and serve Veterans. Colorado Springs is home to five military bases so a a good portion of the population is currently serving or has served. When they opened their studio they initially wanted to be a local non-profit that supported yoga in the community...that is how they found The Give Back Yoga Foundation (GBYF). GBYF has several programs for under-served communities...one of which is Mindful Yoga Therapy, which seemed appropriate for their demographic. So, they reached out to Suzanne Manafort to host a 15-hour training. According to Amanda, once they met Suzanne Manafort, "we knew were a part of something really incredible." Of the tools in the the MYT Toolbox, Amanda and Colten (like Suzanne) believe Support Precedes Action is the most important, "we must learn how and be willing to support ourselves. Support Precedes Action...whether this be in body, environment or relationship, there is a willingness to be receptive and aware." According to Colten and Amanda, this MYT principal allows you to return to a natural flow without trying to fix or change yourself.
For Amanda and Colten, what makes the Mindful Yoga Therapy training standout is the educational focus on the nervous system, guided nidra and calming breath practices that are sometimes overlooked in other training programs that are more asana based. Additionally, they believe the training is very helpful in discussing the military culture and language that is appropriate, while understanding PTS and levels of severity and how it effects the health of the individual.
"I think this training was the path I was looking for to deepen my own studies of therapeutics and trauma and I feel much more prepared to meet my clients with the tools we've learned through this training." - Amanda
Getting a Veteran on the mat can sometimes be super easy...and sadly...sometimes hard. Colten and Amanda have a pretty straight-forward idea on how to approach Vets to practice yoga.
"Although yoga can be perceived as fancy foot work, too difficult or it seems too fluffy - I say find a place that seems like a good fit and give it a try! There are several classes around town offered to veterans for free, there are classes at the VA and there are a few studios in town that also work privately if that is a better fit. If you're physical body is in pain or you've had an amputation: yoga can help increase range of motion, build strength and balance and help decrease pain, if you have PTS, anxiety or depression: yoga can help you increase breath capacity which calms the nervous system, if you have a hard time sleeping: yoga nidra can help you find rest without pills. There are many positive benefits of yoga that will meet you where you are."
So far this year, with the help of MYT, GBYF & Gaiam, Yoga Studio Satya has been able to donate yoga mats and tool kits for TAPS & the 127th MP CO. Colten and Amanda believe the MYT program has been so thoughtfully developed and truly cares for each veterans as an individual. More importantly, they say they are grateful to have the opportunity to support such tremendous work these men and women do and offer a way to serve them and their families.
If you are interested in helping serve the Veteran population, or perhaps you own a yoga studio and want to host a MYT event, please send us an email.
Yoga Journal presents a six-week course, based on our Mindful Yoga Therapy program, that aims to relieve stress and anxiety while focusing on breath, movement, meditation, and yoga nidra. Pre-register for Yoga for Stress and Anxiety today to be entered to win this class completely FREE!
Venue and registration info below
Yoga for Stress and Anxiety — for free!
Feeling overwhelmed, on edge, or panicky? Yoga can be a powerful tool for easing these and other symptoms of anxiety, stress, and trauma. Now, you can discover the powerful grounding techniques developed through our Mindful Yoga Therapy program, in the privacy of your own practice space.
Sign up today to be automatically entered to win this course for free! Yoga Journal will select one winner each week, beginning February 1st until the class launches in March 2016.
About The Practice:
The six-week Yoga for Stress and Anxiety course will introduce you to a suite of techniques that can help you find calm and peace, including breath (pranayama), movement (asana), meditation, and yoga nidra (yogic sleep) techniques that can help you heal.
These mindful, embodied practices, shared by Mindful Yoga Therapy creators Suzanne Manafort and Robin Gilmartin, are designed to provide a feeling of groundedness and security, deliver relief from the symptoms of stress, and offer supportive skills to enhance everyday life now and long into the future. Developed to support veterans dealing with PTSD and anxiety, Mindful Yoga Therapy offers a clinically tested, proven way to cultivate calm.
How you’re giving back:
A portion of the proceeds of every course registration will support the Give Back Yoga Foundation in bringing yoga and mindfulness to underserved and under-resourced segments of the community.
Date & Times:
Pre-Register to Win Free Tuition: January 28th – March 7th
Paid Registration Opens: March 8th
Six-Week Course Launches: March 30th
Online course offered through AIM Healthy U.
Pricing & Registration:
AIM Healthy U’s online courses are subscription-based. No purchase is necessary to enter the giveaway.