Effort versus ease

By Guest Blogger: Eva Montalvo

Sthira Sukham Asanam

We may think that ease (sukha) is better than effort, because it just sounds so, well EASY.  Yet without effort (sthira) there is no strength or stability.  On the other hand, we can overdo effort and feel as if we are straining and stressed.

In yoga we come into poses (asanam) that may be relaxing, and others that feel more strenuous.  Practicing Sthira and Sukha really isn’t an either/or, though.  It is balancing both at the same time

For example, even in a relaxing stretch like child’s pose we can find a steadiness in our breathing and thoughts.  In a stronger pose such as Warrior II, even while feeling the effort of the body’s muscles used to hold the pose, we can still look for a lightness and comfort by letting the shoulders relax down away from the ears and softening the muscles of the face.

Often, we can find ease or contentment simply by letting go of expectations – what we think “should” be – and simply acknowledging what IS.  We can feel the pose and use the breath as a guide to that sweet spot of harmony within.

As you step off your mat and into your life, can you find this same balance of effort and ease?  For example, even while performing a task such as preparing dinner, I find a sense of ease by putting on my favorite music and reflecting on the day with gratitude.  

More about our guest blogger:

Eva is the Owner/Founder of Nourish Yoga & Wellness. Her mission is to inspire adults to live more energetically and vibrantly by helping them incorporate simple changes in their lifestyle, especially in learning how to move and breathe to connect to their body through yoga. She believes strongly in making yoga available for EVERY BODY and specializes in working with beginners and older adults. To learn more click here: https://www.nourishyogawellness.com/

Advice From A Tree

by Ilan Shamir

Dear Friend,

Stand tall and proud.

Sink your roots deeply into the Earth.

Reflect the light of a greater source.

Think long term.

Go out on a limb.

Remember your place among all living beings.

Embrace with joy the changing seasons

for each yields its own abundance.

The energy and birth of Spring.

The growth and contentment of Summer.

The wisdom to let go of leaves in the Fall.

The rest and quiet renewal of Winter.

Feel the wind and the sun

and delight in their presence.

Look up at the moon that shines down upon you

and the mystery of the stars at night.

Seek nourishment from the good things in life.

Simple pleasures

Earth, fresh air, light

Be content with your natural beauty.

Drink plenty of water.

Let your limbs sway and dance in the breezes.

Be flexible.

Remember your roots.

Enjoy the view!

Yawning

Many of us lead stressful, hectic lives and exist in a sympathetic state. This means the sympathetic part of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) — the “fight or flight” response — is more active that the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the part of the ANS that is linked with rest, digestion, and relaxation.

While yawning seems to be associated with fatigue or boredom, it also plays a role in transitions from waking to sleeping and vice versa. Yawning increases the circulation of cerebrospinal fluid and helps relax the body and reduce stress levels.

Our scientific community is looking at the importance of yawning. It’s crucial to our overall well-being. Repetitive yawning helps lower the temperature of the brain and assists in balancing inflammation and combating other harmful effects on the nervous system. Frequent yawning releases many neurologically beneficial processes.

While yawning is involuntary, you can bring about a yawn by just trying it. So… fake it till you make it!

Finding Savasana

Savasana, or more fondly, Corpse Pose is not an easy pose to find. According to the yoga masters, the hardest pose to practice. Letting go and being in stillness is a tall order. Life gets in the way, but it doesn’t have to.

Take a few moments of your day to connect with the earth through your body. Walk barefoot and really feel the earth with mindful, slow steps. Connect through your eyes, through your nose. Watch a beautiful sunrise or sunset. Inhale deeply and exhale slowly. It’s a great start!

Mindful Moment – Lean In

This is one of my favorites by Pema Chodron…

“In life we think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem. The real truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together for a time, then they fall back apart. Then they come together and fall apart again. It’s just like that.

Personal discovery and growth come from letting there be room for all this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.

Suffering comes from wishing things were different. Misery is self-inflicted, when we are expecting the “idea” to overcome the “actual,” or needing things (or people, or places) to be different for us so we can then be happy.

Let the hard things in life break you. Let them effect you. Let them change you. Let those hard moments inform you. Let this pain be your teacher. The experiences of your life are trying to tell you something about yourself. Don’t cop out on that. Don’t run away and hide under your covers. Lean in to it.

What is the lesson in the wind? What is the storm trying to tell you? What will you learn if you face it with courage? With full honesty and – lean in to it.”

Right in this Moment!

Whether your practice is yoga, meditation, mindfulness, journaling, golf, or other beautiful moving meditations, every moment is an opportunity to grow your practice. Yes, every minute. How? By paying attention to your thoughts, your breath, your energy (physical, spiritual, emotional, cognitive, etc.). Your entire landscape. It’s being here now. Right in this moment.

Look inside and ask yourself questions. What can I do to grow? I have asked myself this question and the answer is my destiny. I am moving my Friday yoga classes from the Township to the Sand Hills Wellness center. There, they are a better fit in mind and body. Not only will my teaching practice grow, but there will be growth opportunities for students. This is a quiet, supportive, nourishing space. The setting for new practices will avail, there are many yoga props for new practices (bolster pillows, straps, extra mats, etc.). Props will also better support current practices. They make poses more accessible for the body. The wall space will be something completely new for students (note: an entire yoga class can be taught using the wall). Standing poses using the wall will grow and deepen with better alignment and support.

If you haven’t signed up for classes at Sand Hills, what are you waiting for? Class size is limited. Join me today…right in this moment!

Contact: lyn.sirota@gmail.com or 732-241-7497

Viparita Karani

Viparita Karani or legs-up-the-wall is one of the best yoga postures to use for back issues and overall relaxation. While not considered an inversion, it benefits the body by helping the blood circulate toward the upper body and head, thus creating a feeling of restoration. It helps realign the body after prolonged standing or sitting and is particularly nice if you’re feeling stressed, fatigued, or even jet-lagged. It’s a posture that promotes the feeling of the myriad of positive results of doing less, not more. It creates a paradigm shift in the mind and activates the relaxation response in the parasympathetic nervous system (a countering of the fight or flight response in the sympathetic nervous system).

In Yin Yoga, a more passive and meditative form of yoga, this posture targets the kidney and benefits the urinary bladder meridian. It helps to reduce swelling in the body and  tempers overall anxiety. It’s also effective for fatigue and insomnia. Note: Another variation of this posture is legs up the chair.

Additional Benefits:

  • Alleviates headaches
  • Boosts energy
  • Can help to soothe menstrual cramps (some yoga traditions advice against doing Viparita Karani during menstruation)
  • Relieves lower-back pain

Contraindications: Glaucoma, Hypertension, Hernia