Beyond Asana, The Ethical Practices of Yoga #MYTActsofKindness

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.

#MYTActsofKindness #MYTChooseLove

 

xo - Suzanne

 

FOLLOW US ON: INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK

Celebrate All Who Made Sacrafices

For the better part of last week and most of this week, I have been looking at all of the different offers I can take advantage of this Veterans Day. Everything from discounts and free meals at some of my favorite places like Tijuana Flats...to free lifetime membership at Top Flight. There are no fewer than three free yoga classes within an hour of my home too. I'm pretty sure I could spend the entire day driving around enjoying all of these perks offered to me because I served.

However...I did notice something. 

While I am very appreciative...and to be totally honest...I do love a free meal/shirt...I noticed very few actually included everyone who made a sacrifice. In other words, the majority of these salutes to Veterans left out the extended family. Sons and daughters...husbands and wives of the Veteran. I can tell you first hand they equally served and equally shoulder the sacrifice.

So this Veterans Day...all of us here at Mindful Yoga Therapy want to honor all those who served...including those who didn't wear a uniform...but instead wore a cape...or some other super-hero outfit. We ask that you do the same. While you're out and about this weekend (or anytime) and you see a Veteran...take an extra moment and acknowledge their family members too.

 

_()_ Namaste,

Chris

Retired Air Force (1990-2013)

Ch Ch Ch Changes...

David Bowie - Changes 115908378I still don't know what I was waiting for And my time was running wild A million dead-end streets Every time I thought I'd got it made It seemed the taste was not so sweet So I turned myself to face me But I've never caught a glimpse Of how the others must see the faker I'm much too fast to take that test

Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes (Turn and face the strange) Turn and face the strain Ch-ch-Changes

At the most basic level...Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) is a natural response to an unnatural event. Of course from this point...there are many jumping off points we can explore which would further define what PTS is. It is safe to say that after a traumatic event, your body and mind...change. The opening lyrics of David Bowie's "Changes," seem so fitting when it comes to describing the changes warriors with PTS go through. For me...I could easily change the lyric: "...and my time was running wild," and replace it with "...and my mind was running wild!" Bowie continues with the lyric, "turn and face the strange." This could very well be the first step in post traumatic growth! In yoga terms we might call this santosha. Santosha has a direct translation to contentment, however, I like to translate it as acceptance. It is often very difficult for those struggling with PTS to feel...to feel comfortable being themselves...to face the stranger that is now them.  - Chris Eder | MYT Director of Communication

Mindful Yoga Therapy strives to provide the appropriate tools to help those who suffer from PTS. Additionally, our 15 and 100-hour training programs strive to provide a teaching protocol that will help cultivate not regulate a daily practice for these warriors. Perhaps...even leading to some amazing life changes.

These changes often extend to the yoga teacher as well.

We asked our Outreach Coordinator for Veterans, Anthony Scaletta how the 100-hour MYT training changed him! Here is his answer:

Desert Camo

The Mindful Yoga Therapy (MYT) training pretty much changed everything about my practice. I feel that it took my understanding of yoga much deeper than the physical and into the layers of the subtle, mental and emotional bodies through our in-depth exploration of the nervous system. MYT training asked me to both learn about and then directly experience how the various tools of yoga affect the nervous system. For example, MYT taught me how to use yogic tools such as the breath in relatively simple ways that can have profound results on the practitioner. For those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD,) we are perpetually stuck in the fight/flight response with our ‘foot on the gas pedal’ and in MYT we learn how to ‘pump the breaks’ and balance out the nervous system by activating the parasympathetic or relaxation response via the yoga practices in the MYT toolkit. As someone with PTSD, I find using the tools of MYT in my yoga practice to be very supportive and grounding. I have found a lot of healing in a regular practice of Yoga Nidra, which MYT training helped me to explore. Perhaps, the most significant change to come from undertaking the MYT training was that it laid the foundation for my formal seated meditation practice. Prior to MYT training I had dabbled with many different forms of meditation but never settled into a formal daily practice. That all changed when MYT Founder and Director, Suzanne Manafort, challenged us to commit to sitting for 40 days straight during our 100 Hour Training Program. If we missed a day, we would simply start again and continue until we strung together 40 consecutive days with a seated meditation. I had a few slips before I completed the challenge but it was highly effective in teaching me the benefits of a daily mediation practice. I have not missed a single day since I completed the challenge and that was over a year ago. Hands down the greatest change in my life and my practice to come out of MYT training has come from the meditation practice that I learned. It has been a total game changer.

MYT_Event_Flyer_WhiteLotus_Facebook Cover

Anthony will be teaching at the White Lotus Wellness Center in College Park Maryland March 10-12. You can register here for this training.

MYT Guiding Principle | Mindfulness (Part 2)

MadMimi Banner_Mindfulness-01

It's funny...the more I depend on technology to make me more efficient, the more it seems my life is full of things to do. I feel the very same technology I use to keep up in this fast-paced life...the more hectic my life becomes. Sometime to the point where I don't even get to...or more importantly...forget to enjoy it!

Mindfulness in its simplest form breaks down like this: paying attention, on purpose, in this moment, and without judgment. The mindfulness aspect of Mindful Yoga Therapy consists of two primary components:

Vietnam veteran John Reib practices Mindful Yoga Therapy1. Paying attention to the present moment 2. Maintaining an attitude of acceptance and non-judgment

Today, Suzanne Manafort, MYT Founder, follows-up with Part 2 of Mindfulness which deals with acceptance. Acceptance (Santosha)

Acceptance is an important part of mindfulness, and santosha is a key component of any therapeutic yoga practice. Santosha is the yogic principle of contentment and acceptance of what is actually arising in the body-mind. This acceptance does not at all infer non- action, but rather is the basis for transforming patterns in the body-mind. Santosha involves a degree of “allowing” that can be practiced only when inner support, grounding, and connecting to the earth have been firmly established.

The emphasis on acceptance is especially important for veterans with PTS due to the high incidence of guilt and moral injury that arises from the traumatic events they experience during military service. Many veterans have participated in activities that they later feel intense guilt and shame about. Conversely, other veterans feel a strong sense of guilt and shame about things they did not do or could not prevent. These negative feelings about past events, and the tendency to replay these events in the mind, prevent many veterans from living in the present moment. This negativity is often manifested as anger, restlessness, struggling, and isolation from others. By fostering santosha in our students, we can help them not only feel better about these past events, but also become more comfortable living in the present.

Peace & Love,

Suzanne

MYT Teacher Highlight - Susann Spilkin

elephant-love-774430_10151443717508420_680415199_oWhen Susann Spilkin first tried yoga during the early 70's, it wasn't to learn the ways of the enlightened, rather it was a way to escape for a night out with her husband. However, it wasn't long before the allure of listening to the Beatles playing in the yoga classes that yoga turned from 'something alternative to try,' to 'joy from being inside her body' in a way she had never been before. Similarly, that is the one of the goals of Mindful Yoga Therapy. The tools provided in the MYT practices are a powerful complement to professional treatment for Post Traumatic Stress. Tools that when used in tandem with professional talk therapy help veterans reconnect to their bodies. Susann's father was in the Air Force Reserves. She recalls a trip to the Detroit VA where she took her father for an appointment. While walking through the hallways she experienced great joy, much like her first yoga experience. She really enjoyed sharing a smile, or even eye contact with the Vets at the VA. Perhaps a felt experience, or perhaps an authentic experience. Susann's Veteran connection begins and ends with her dad, but that doesn't mean she isn't connected. "I may not have experienced anything our vets have experienced in their service, but we are more alike than we are different; we all want the same things….to feel good and to live a life with as much peace and joy as possible."

Susann is in fact spreading peace and joy. She teaches yoga using the MYT principles to veterans at the Detroit VA Medical Center as well as the Domiciliary Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program. Additionally she has presented MYT at the Michigan Association of Treatment Court Professionals Annual Conference in the hopes of introducing MYT into the Michigan Veteran’s Treatment Courts. Rolf Gates often says in his class, "plant good seeds...and good fruit will grow. Well, the seeds have been planted and they are already beginning to grow. Susann has been contacted by the Ann Arbor, Michigan VA Transition Management Team to bring yoga to their post-911 vets; the Detroit VA Medical Center Military Sexual Trauma Department for a women’s only MYT program; and the Macomb County Vet Center wants a MYT program as well.  If you think that is a lot of work for one person to handle...you're right! Three of our recent 100-hr graduates are stepping into these opportunities.

A mindful, embodied yoga practice can provide relief from symptoms and develop the supportive skills that veterans need in their everyday lives. Yoga has proven to aid in a veteran’s healing journey. This healing power, or journey is not only for the veteran. It is a two-way path. Susann believes her personal practice has been fortified by her MYT training and teaching. She says the principals were always present but now have a deeper meaning.  "The actions and effects that I took for granted truly seem like precious gifts now. Gratitude plays a much bigger role in my own practice/teaching and life. I am more aware than ever of the power of the practice to support a balanced nervous system and can equate that to the yogic quality of sattva."

Getting a yoga student to take a teacher training class is pretty easy. Easier still is getting a yoga teacher to take a yoga class. However, it still seems somewhat elusive to get veterans to try yoga. Susann offers this advice. "Remember the old Life cereal advertisement?....'Try it, Mikey likes it!' Ask your buddies who have tried yoga; you are more likely to believe and trust them than me.  Those who have tried it are likely to tell you they are sleeping better, have a handle on their anger, that their relationships with their families have improved and they have a level of self-acceptance that they haven’t felt in a long time. You are likely to hear them tell you that they are less often numb or controlled by their emotions and that they are feeling more and in a good way."

Solid advice to be sure. However, what if you don’t have a buddy letting you know how yoga has given them tools to deal with life? Susann suggests grabbing one or two of them and finding out together.

If you're a veteran and are looking to try yoga, but are not sure where to start...contact our Outreach Coordinator for Veterans, Anthony Scaletta. If you're a yoga teacher who is interested in taking one of our programs, check out the program schedule for a class near you.

MYT Guiding Principle | Mindfulness (Part 1)

MadMimi Banner_Mindfulness-01Mindfulness is a major buzzword in today's fast-paced, I want it now world we live in. Slowing down for some seems so far fetched...and perhaps even unachievable. Mindfulness in its simplest form breaks down like this: paying attention, on purpose, in this moment, and without judgment. The mindfulness aspect of Mindful Yoga Therapy consists of two primary components:

Suzanne Manafort, founder and director, Mindful Yoga Therapy for Veterans

1. Paying attention to the present moment 2. Maintaining an attitude of acceptance and non-judgment

Today, I want to talk about how we can pay attention to the present moment in Part 1 of Mindfulness. Present Moment Awareness The cultivation of mindfulness can be very challenging, but it is an important piece of any yoga therapy practice for veterans with PTS. Often they live outside of the present moment, avoiding painful reminders of trauma or actively re-experiencing traumatic events. At other times, people who suffer from PTS are in the present moment, but are there with a great deal of fear and anxiety because they experience elements of their current situation as threatening and unsafe. Avoidance and hyper-vigilance are primary symptoms of PTS. The meaning a person gives to internal physical sensations has enormous implications for physical and psychological health. Often, individuals with PTS interpret internal sensations as abnormal or frightening. As a yoga therapist, you can help your students minimize symptoms by normalizing the sensations experienced, reframing their meaning, and reducing the tendency to catastrophize. In Mindful Yoga Therapy, we are invited to intentionally focus on the sensations in their yoga practice, both to find comfort and to learn to be present and non-reactive to sensations of discomfort. The comfortable sensations then become a source of support, and the uncomfortable sensations become dissociated from fear and anxiety.

Peace & Love,

Suzanne

Virabhadrasana - The Warrior

Virabhadrasana - The Warrior

from the Enhancing Your Yoga Practice series by Suzanne Manafort

The mythical story of The Warrior begins when Shiva learns of the death of his wife Sati. He is first shocked, then saddened, and then enraged. He falls into the deepest and darkest place he can find. He tears off one of his locks, and throws it to the Earth, creating the fiercest of warriors. Shiva names this warrior Virabhadra, from Vira (hero) and Bhadra (friend). The scene is total havoc.

For anyone who’s ever sweated and worked through Virabhadrasana I, 2 or 3, it may come as no surprise that the asanas (postures) were inspired by cosmic chaos and destruction. Many yogis, especially beginners, feel genuinely embattled by their complexity: the persistent tug-of-war between pouring down into the earth and reaching up and out, twist and backbend, and strength and flexibility.

The yoga poses that comprise Virabhadrasana are not at all at odds with the peaceful ahimsa of yoga practice.   Ahimsa is one of the yamas (moral and ethical practices) and means “non-violence”. For in this pose we are not celebrating a warrior who caused a scene of destruction and carnage. Instead, in this posture, we acknowledge our own spiritual warriors who every day does battle with our own egos and avidya (self-ignorance), which is the ultimate source of all our suffering.

We learn to use discernment in our lives or to use Viveka, the faculty of discretion or discernment, which enables us to distinguish between true and false, reality and illusion.

The pose, in other words, is about the resilience of spirit, the true spirit of yoga.

Virabhadrasana I

According to the ancient texts, Virabhadra thrust his way up from deep underground with his sword held over his head in both hands, an essence reproduced in the posture Virabhadrasana I.

Virabhadrasana II

Next, Virabhadra made his presence known by standing with his sword poised and ready to strike. Essentially, the posture Virabhadrasana II embodies this quality.

Virabhadrasana III

Finally, Virabhadra lifts his sword into the air and strikes. You may think of this as the sword of discernment or Viveka.

 

Strength and Clarity

We learn from these postures to use the power of Viveka to differentiate right from wrong and useful from useless,  important aspects of the yogic path.  The next time that you work your way through these postures, think of the spirit of their creation as you work toward strength and clarity in your body and mind.

~Suzanne

Mindful Yoga Therapy in the News - Cincinnati

Jennifer Wright teaches yoga to Veterans in CincinnatiOnce again, the Mindful Yoga Therapy program is gaining recognition in the news... In Cincinnati, Jennifer Wright is making mindful magic happen, helping veterans in the Veteran Court system.

Here she is being interviewed by Deborah Dixon of Cincinnati Local 12 News.

Local veterans with post-traumatic stress and other problems are learning how to deal with anxiety, depression and addiction in a peaceful way....

Warrior Compassion and Nidra

Our Director of Communications, Chris Eder has been keeping busy.  He has "Warrior" on his mind.  Warrior Compassion and Warrior Nidra.  First off...Warrior Compassion.  In Chris' latest blog he talks about being compassionate even if you're a warrior. punch-yellow

WAIT A SECOND!  How can I be both a Warrior and a compassionate person?  How can I play a pivotal role in the destruction of physical property, ideology, and even...human life...and still live a life worthy of living?  A life of love and loving?  A life instep with that which I believe to be true?

 

READ MORE...CLICK HERE!

 

 

 

 

 

1654072_10153197893182837_280805222_nChris and our Audio/Video guru Paulie Miller just recorded the Warrior Nidra.  This track will be available on our upcoming Resilience CD.  Also included on this CD will be some additional breathing exercises.

 

 

 

 

Stay up to date with all that is happening with MYT on our FACEBOOK page.