My MYT training experience - Christine Granja

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

In Their Words - Jacki Alessio

Hello my name is Jacki Alessio and I came to know the 100 Hour Mindful Yoga Therapy program through my home studio director Suzanne Manafort. I have to first of all express my gratitude to Suzanne and my fellow student peers who have honored my brief service to the Connecticut Army National Guard (August 2017-February 2018). I truly believe I've arrived in a unique niche of the yoga community and thus my experience thus far in this training has been a transformative one.
Personally,I've sought out psychotherapy for 20 years for relief from anxiety, seasonal and grief related depression, addictions and codependency, and from automatic responses as a result of interpersonal violent traumas. Professionally, I've worked in the field of mental health/social work for 10 years; empowering survivors of abuse and neglect, advocating for civil liberties at the local and state level, taking care of the elderly and those with physical disabilities/ABI's/TBI's and providing clinical support to those involved in the criminal justice system. 
The 100 Hour Mindful Yoga Therapy program has allowed me to further deepen my self inquiry. The content of the educational materials and classroom instruction, combined with the community of students enrolled in the course have made for a rich learning environment. I feel surrounded by living-breathing Embodied space holders who have the ability to move through the world with support, purpose and tools to help those struggling with PTS(D).
I believe in this program's protocol and its ability to help create safe, predictable and beneficial outcomes for military service members and their families, those in recovery and for community members who have found themselves involved in the criminal justice system.
In 2019-2020 I plan on leveraging this training by instructing weekly classes to special populations that include: confined military personnel and half way house/court supported residential populations. Additionally, I plan on teaching at military service member family support events and self-care/support events for fellow social workers and health care professionals. 

Acceptance

Acceptance

There is no denying the transformational power of yoga practice. People often start yoga looking to change their lives or change something about themselves. They come to yoga looking to lose weight, get stronger, improve balance, or feel better about their bodies. Some begin yoga looking to reduce stress, get more relaxed, or quiet their minds. But what about looking for acceptance?

It isn’t often that someone starts out with yoga looking to stay exactly the same as they are.

But as much as yoga is about change and transformation, yoga is also about cultivating acceptance, or santosha.

Santosha is a combination word in Sanskrit, derived from Saṃ and Tosha. Sam means “completely”, “altogether” or “entirely”, and Tosha, “contentment”, “satisfaction”, “acceptance”, “being comfortable”. Combined, the word Santosha means “completely content with, or satisfied with, accepting and comfortable”.
Accepting reality and seeing things as they really are does not mean stopping or giving up. Rather, it means accepting how we actually are and how we feel each day in a gentle and loving manner and moving forward from there. Sounds great, but how can we begin to cultivate this?
A  great place to begin is to cultivate acceptance each time you step onto the mat. For example, one day you might come to your mat feeling great. Your practice feels amazing, you are able to keep your attention on the breath and flow seamlessly through your practice. Another day you might have a completely different experience. You may be working with an injury or other physical limitation that prevents you from doing the classic expression of a posture. You might be grouchy or tired or sore. Maybe you have a lot going on in your mind or something stressful is happening in your life. When we practice acceptance, we acknowledge the body that we stepped onto the mat with today and how we are feeling. And then we proceed with the practice.
Sometimes, students start yoga and are frustrated that their bodies aren’t able to do things they think they should. Many of these individuals have been athletes or very physically active in the past and are frustrated that their bodies won’t do just as they could 5 or 10 or 40 years ago
Our bodies are not the same as they were 20 years ago any more than they are the same that they were yesterday or last week. The body, the breath, and the mind change all the time. These changes are normal and expected!
Practicing santosha does not mean giving up on the practice or the possibility of transformation. And it doesn’t mean getting nothing out of the physical postures. It means accepting that the practice is different each time.  Whether you have some limitations, or are in a bad mood,  you keep practicing. Accepting that each time finding that place between “nothing” and “hurting” is going to be a little different.

If you are continuously running negative stories through your mind, it might not seem possible to bring acceptance and contentment into all aspects of you life.

But practicing acceptance each time you are on your mat, can help develop the skills you need to bring this quality of contentment into the rest of your life. With time and practice, you will begin to distinguish between the stories you tell and the reality in front of you. Once you can do this,  you can begin to create distance between your story and who you truly are.And, as you begin to discern the difference between your story and what is actually going on in front of you, you will make the space to live in the moment, to accept what comes, and to create a brand new story about yourself—one that reflects your highest self, rather than a habitual or outdated yarn. That is when santosha becomes possible.

Mindful Yoga Therapy has been to Yoga in Me several times. Check out where we are headed to next.

MYT Tools and Brain Health

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,

Jennie

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.

Sources:

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.

 

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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: c.eder@mindfulyogatherapy.org

Yoga Nidra - You Ain’t Awake, But You Ain’t Asleep Either

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 (c.eder@mindfulyogatherapy.org) and we’ll add it to our blog.

#MYTYogaNidra

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,

Jennie

 

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 (c.eder@mindfulyogatherapy.org) and we'll add it to our blog.


UPCOMING TRAINING PROGRAMS:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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Small Steps...Big changes!

Santosha | Acceptance, but not without action

Your yoga practice will help you learn to practice Santosha or Acceptance of what is, and where we actually are—in our mind and body—at each new moment and each new day and an important principle in our yoga practice.

But it isn’t always easy! This doesn’t mean we surrender or that we don’t take action.

In my last message, I mentioned that I am not a big believer in New Year’s Resolutions because they always make us feel as if we failed when we veer away, and we do veer away! However, if we make a conscious effort to make small changes and continue to find our way back to them, we find a way to treat ourselves with kindness. If we can treat ourselves with kindness, we can learn to treat others the same way.

Small steps….Big changes!

You may step on your yoga mat today and have an amazing practice that feels so good that you can’t wait to do it again tomorrow. When tomorrow arrives, you may have an entirely different experience. You may have physical limitations that don’t allow you to do the full expression of the posture. You may be tired, or just not feeling good. In practicing acceptance of how we actually are and feel each day, we just proceed on with our practice. We notice and then continue on. Santosha does not mean stopping or giving up! It means that you accept your practice is different each day and you continue on. You keep practicing. You accept you have some limitations, but you don’t let them stop you.

While this acceptance starts on your yoga mat, it will enter other areas of your life. There is freedom in discerning what you can change, what you can’t, and moving forward with that knowledge.

xo,

Suzanne


New Year…Best You…but how?

January 1st…the beginning of the year. A renewal. A day to start anew! A time to once again…be the best you…again! Of course, I could suggest that the best you is already in you…or that in order for you to be the best you…all you need to do is give yourself permission to do so. Regardless…many of us will use the beginning of the year as a launching point for the rest of the year. Some of us will call them resolutions, others goals…and even some of us will call them intentions. For me…I resolve to allow my intentions help me achieve my goals.

As practicing yogis…we all sort of share some common ideals. Compassion and kindness to one-self and others are certainly some of those shared ideals. So too is Santosha…or acceptance. So how can we better ourselves in a manner that is both compassionate and kind…all while accepting (santosha) that I am already all that I need?

I heard a perfect analogy for those of us looking to #MYTKickStart the new year. I was listening to the Tim Ferriss interview with LearnVest CEO Alexa Von Tobel. She suggested there were two types of people. Achievers and Competitors. I think this is the solution! We can better ourselves…we can allow ourselves be the best versions of ourselves…and we can do it with compassion and kindness. According to Von Tobel, it all boils down to whether you’re an achiever or competitor. Let me explain.

Von Tobel suggests that when an achiever (read yogi) wakes up, they make a list of goals, tasks, resolutions, intentions that they plan to achieve/accomplish. They then set out to do just that. Pretty simple…make a list…complete it…feel good! Conversely, a competitor will see the achiever making all of these great strides and think to themselves, “how can beat them…and be better than them?” The difference is stark! The achiever wants to be the best possible version of themselves…whereas the competitor simply wants to be better than you.

So…if you are going to, or desire to #MYTKickStart your year, be compassionate and kind to yourself. Allow yourself to achieve your goals and don’t allow yourself to compete…especially against yourself. #santosha

_()_ Namaste,

Chris