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Relaxing Into Grace and Power: The Recovery of Breath

If you are anything like me, you may have found that your normal routine towards empowering yourself can often leave you breathless. Trying to maintain the balance between the external world of work, classes, kids and partners, while at the same time trying to stay steady in our body and breath can be challenging, to say the least. Yet I have found that I actually function more effectively by slowing down and breathing into what life is presenting me. I do this by tapping into one of the most empowering tools that we all possess: the recuperative power of my own inhale and exhale.

Changing the rhythm of our breath is essentially a way to “talk” to our nerves . If you want to create a more soothing, serene body and mind, it helps to integrate a simple breathing practice into your daily life. It can be as short as a few minutes before you fall asleep at night, or in the middle of your day, but the more you use it the more you’ll see its effects. The following is one of my favorite breathing practices for soothing and calming body, mind and emotions.

Lie down flat on your back, relax, and allow the feet and arms to open as the may. Sometimes it helps to place your hands on your belly to really feel the rise and fall of the diaphragm. As you inhale allow the belly to expand, and as you exhale feel how the belly button comes back in towards your spine. Try to expand the breath into the back body, the lower back, and even into the pelvic floor. Breathing into the back body sends the message, “You are safe, you are loved,” to the mind/body structure. Do this long, deep breath for a few minutes without forcing or straining the breath. The more you can relax and not judge yourself, the more the body will respond.

As you relax more and more into this belly breath, try to extend the exhale out a little longer than the inhale. That means, if your inhale is 4 counts, let the exhale be 6 or 8counts. Do this breath for a few more minutes. Lastly, as you relax more into the exhale and the back of the body, see if you can notice that tiny space between where the exhale ends and inhale begins. The more you let go, the more that open space will arise spontaneously. Relax into the power and grace of your very breath -- and move into the quiet between breaths -- before you move out into the rest of your day.

Katie Silcox, San Francisco, CA.
Yoga Health Educator, Katie has recently returned from India where she studied with famed yogi, A.G. Mohan. She is currently giving retreats internationally. You can contact her at jesseespain@yahoo.com


"The West Virginia Diet"
What Growing Up Poor Did for This Gal

I’m a grandmother now, well-past menopause, but I can still out-pace some of the youngins. Looking back, it seems to me that my healthy body is due, in no small measure, to my under-privileged upbringing.

When I started first grade, I joined my older brother in walking two miles to and from school. We swam the river and balanced on rocks as we found our way up and down the bank and swung on rope-like vines hanging from the trees. We took to the hills in search of berries and various kinds of nuts. Back to the edibles from the hills in a sec, but first let me tell you what our parents couldn’t often make available to us: soft drinks, chips and dips, candy, cakes or cookies (unless Mamma whipped them up for special days). Donuts were only a fantasy. Dished out on a regular basis was meat once or twice a week, every kind of fresh and dried bean imaginable, corn bread, potatoes, peanut butter, cabbage, tomatoes, water from the well and oatmeal every morning. Mother Nature supplied jams and all kinds of greens plucked from the wild. The piedmont hills of Appalachia were full of hickory and walnuts. I haven’t seen a beech-nut in years, but back then we snapped many a one between our teeth. And who could forget the wild huckleberries?

I was almost in college before I could afford to eat badly, but I still did a lot of walking to save a dime or quarter for bus fare. Today my legs are still good. In 1986, I recovered from Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that paralyzes you. One of the reasons for my fine recovery was that I had a strong body and had hardly ever been sick. Luck has a lot to do with health. And, to be sure, the genetic factor. Growing up on a healthy diet because we couldn’t buy the bad stuff has stood me well for all of these years. There’s irony here. Poor people today eat unhealthy because organic health foods cost so much more than fast foods and donuts.

Today, I walk, practice yoga and still eat healthy. Recently, I’ve discovered that raspberries are allergy remedies. My friend says they help her clogged lungs. I’ve taken to eating a half-cup of frozen raspberries (they last longer and taste as good as fresh this way.), along with a sliced banana and a pack of frozen açai berry juice for breakfast. Check out the açai berry at: http://www.acai.vg/ Claims are that it aids digestion, mental clarity, sleep, detoxifies the system, helps the immune system, fights some cancers, enhances the libido, and more. Sure gives me energy.

I count my blessings. If I had been raised poor on the streets of Chicago or Kansas City, where would I have found the wild nuts and berries?

Author Judy Light Ayyildiz dreams, writes and walks in Roanoke, Virginia www.judylightayyildiz.com


Simple Stretching to Start Your Day

Lesa K., Smithtown, NY
Her occupation: Yoga Teacher
Her sports: Cycling, hiking and of course lots of yoga

Aches and pains in the body after 40?  Or, maybe you’re under 40 and still feel tight for no good reason. What can you do?
 
It can be simple as shifting your awareness. Many of the ways you move throughout your day may contribute to contracting, protecting or pinching areas of your body.  Lower back aches, for example, are very common.  
 
Here’s what you can do: sit on a hard chair with no sides. Then place your feet firmly on the ground, right beneath your knees, and press your entire foot – heels and toes – into the floor in a nice even way. No heavy pressure, don’t squeeze or curl your toes. Simply make sure your weight is evenly distributed on your chair and that your feet are firmly on the floor. Your hands can go on your lap or on the sides of the chair.
 
Now straighten your shoulders, lift your side ribs just a little, and look straight ahead. Notice the opening in your lower back. What you have done is shifted your weight and shifted your awareness at the same time.
 
Now of course you can not sit on that chair all day or focus hour after hour on pressing your feet into the floor at work, or with the kids running around, or mid-day, with chores to do.  But you can take a 5 minute “break” each day to do this, at work, or in your kitchen. Do this simple exercise 3 + times a week, and it will become not only a more natural way to sit, it will gradually help shift your posture awareness.

Later on, you can expand your daily chair stretch. Sit, feet firmly planted on the floor, lift your side ribs, draw your upper arms back once again… but now interlace all your fingers and reach down with your joined hands toward the floor, stretching as far as you can go without strain. Breathe into that stretch for about 10 seconds, and then come up slowly.
 
Either way, seated with a little lift to your spine, or leaning forward with your hands interlaced, you are off to a great start to opening your body, stretching your back, and perhaps easing some of those unnecessary aches and pains


Tina K., Fort Washington, MD
Her occupation: Salon Owner
Her sports: Walking

To become whole again after a week of stress, surround yourself with vanilla scents. The sweet and soothing smells will help you to regain your balance.


What do you do to train better?
Eat better? Stretching tips? Favorite early morning exercises? Breath or focus training? Pre-event diets or chow downs? Visualizing success? Reducing stress? Adding muscle? Tell us!

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