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Yoga Poses To Balance The 7 Chakras

By Michael Fry

While many of us in the West see yoga as another way to stay healthy, build core strength and achieve fantastic abs, that was not it’s primary focus when created in India thousands of years ago.   The science of Yoga paired movements or ‘asanas’ in Sanskrit and breathing techniques or ‘pranayama’ together many thousands of years ago in order to affect specific Chakras in the body. The Sanskrit word Chakra literally translates to wheel or disk. In yoga, meditation, and Ayurveda, this term refers to wheels of energy throughout the body that regulate invisible energy, called Prana, which keeps us vibrant, healthy, and alive. The spinal column is the center around which the seven energy wheels revolve. All of the movements and breathing techniques aim to free and develop the Chakras by opening and freeing the passage within the spinal cord where they vibrate and flow.

If you feel disconnected from yourself or the world, unhappy, or feel like things are “in chaos,” there is a good chance that your energy chakras are out of balance. When out of balance chakras may lead to emotional and physical ailments. To the contrary, being aware of chakras and how they can be accessed and nurtured, via yoga, can help to restore emotional, mental and physical balance.  Here’s a list of chakras and the corresponding poses that can assist in balancing each of the 7 chakras.

 Root Chakra –Muladhara, is located at the base of the spine.  Balanced: We can feel secure, connected, safe, confident and able to maintain healthy relationships . Imbalanced: We can experience a lack of security and reduced sense of belonging as well as a basic distrust of life, self and others. Poses: Child's pose , Seated Hero , Mountain, Down Dog, ShavasanaTadasana and Virabhadrasana I

Sacral Chakra – Svadisthana, is located in the pelvic area. Balanced: We can connect easily and deeply with family, self and others. We easily find joy and experience pleasure of all kinds- mental, emotional and physical.Imbalanced: We may feel sexually frustrated, emotionally repressed, and experience a lack of passion in life. Poses: Revolved Triangle Pose stimulates the abdominal organs, re-enlivens the Sacral chakra and helps you remain grounded in the present moment. Also recommended, BālāsanaNatarajasanaParivrtta Trikonasana

 Solar Plexus Chakra – Manipura, Located at the navel center.  Balanced: we trust our of authentic self, intuition, and emerging purpose in life. We take ownership of our choices, thoughts, belies and attitudes.  Imbalanced: We experience low self-esteem, lack of self-trust and increased anxiety.  Pose: Boat Pose will help to activate your core and help align energy blocks or imbalances as well In addition, DhanurasanaVirabhadrasana IVirabhadrasana II.

Heart Chakra – Anahata, located in the center of the chest. Balanced: We are capable of giving and receiving love, compassion, generosity and a deep connection with others. Imbalanced: We lose connection with others and love for ourselves. Pose: Low Lunge opens our heart space and balances Heart Chakra energy.  Many backbend postures and UttanasanaBakasanaUstrasana are also recommended. 

 Throat Chakra – Vishuddha, located at base of the neck. Balanced: We joyfully and vocally express the creative and authentic aspects of ourselves with confidence. Imbalanced:  We experience ear, nose, and throat problems along with a block of creativity and a silencing of the authentic voice. Poses: SarvangasanaMatsyasanaHalasanaSimhasana.  Chanting, “Ham” while engaged in any simple pose will open the Throat Chakra and help keep the energy balanced.

 Third Eye Chakra – Ajna  or Third Eye Chakra, is situated at center of the forehead between the eyebrows.  Balanced: We see life more clearly without it being influenced by the opinions of others, ego, or the past. Imbalanced: We experience confusion, attachment to past beliefs and experiences,  headaches, migraines, and dizziness. Pose: Twisting Postures, Dolphin Pose and many inversions will increase circulation to our face and brain which stimulates the Ajna Chakra. Also, BālāsanaJanusirsasanaArdha Pincha Mayurasana

Crown Chakra ­­- Sahasrara, located at the top of the head.  Balanced: We feel peace, joy, serenity, and a sense of positivity. This chakra is also associated with God, Divine Love and spiritual oneness. Imbalanced: We experience a deep sense of distrust of ourselves, others and life. A feeling of separation or aloneness.  Poses: Balanced Butterfly brings focus, balance and peace. Also, ShavasanaVriksasanaSirsasanaHalf Lotus pose

 

 

 

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Hi Students!

A quick way to view our schedule starting April 1st is to go to the Elmhurst South schedule page, click Full Calendar, and then choose April 1 on the calendar icon. Or, see below!

Please keep in mind we may still make a few changes to the schedule, so always be sure to check our app (search “Ahimsa Yoga Studio”) or website.

Monday, April 1
08:30 AM – 09:45 AM
Therapeutic Yoga
Renee Mitchell

10:30 AM – 11:45 AM
Hatha
Rhonda Fentry
 
04:30 PM – 05:45 PM
Vinyasa Flow
Cindy Jo
 
06:00 PM – 07:15 PM
Vinyasa Flow
Abbie Hildreth
 
07:30 PM – 08:45 PM
Therapeutic Yoga
Linda Troutman
 
Tuesday, April 2
08:30 AM – 09:45 AM
Vinyasa Flow
Dana Sidoryk
 
10:00 AM – 11:15 AM
Beginner's Yoga
Michelle Leibrock
 
11:30 AM – 12:00 PM
Toddler & Me Yoga
Emily Carr
 
12:15 PM – 01:00 PM
Baby & Me Yoga
Emily Carr
 
01:15 PM – 02:30 PM
Hatha
JoAnn Concialdi
 
06:00 PM – 07:15 PM
Hatha
Jessica Martini

06:00 PM – 07:15 PM
Kundalini Yoga @ Elmhurst North 381 N. York St. starting April 16th
Tina Gavlin
 
07:30 PM – 08:45 PM
Restorative/Yin Yoga
Marijka Munoz
 
Wednesday, April 3
07:00 AM – 08:00 AM
Vinyasa Flow
Marijka Munoz
 
08:30 AM – 09:45 AM
Ki Gong
Renee Mitchell
 
10:00 AM – 11:15 AM
Hatha
Juli Cronin
 
04:30 PM – 05:45 PM
Vinyasa Flow
Cindy Jo
 
06:00 PM – 07:15 PM
Prenatal Yoga | Prenatal Package Required
Jackie DeGaetano
 
07:30 PM – 08:40 PM
Restorative Yoga
Yvonne Damiani
 
Thursday, April 4
08:30 AM – 09:45 AM
Therapeutic Yoga
Linda Troutman
 
10:00 AM – 11:00 AM
Vinyasa Flow
Kimberly Kitlica

01:00 PM – 02:30 PM
Restorative Yoga
JoAnn Concialdi
 
04:30 PM – 05:45 PM
Vinyasa Flow
Liz Fahey
 
06:00 PM – 07:15 PM
Yin & Yang
Cindy Jo
 
07:30 PM – 08:45 PM
Hatha
Jim Shaw
 
Friday, April 5
09:00 AM – 10:15 AM
Vinyasa Flow
Cassie Quick
 
10:30 AM – 11:45 AM
Restorative/Yin Yoga
Katie Van Eynde
 
04:30 PM – 05:40 PM
Yin & Yang with Sound
Christina Michelle
 
06:00 PM – 07:00 PM
Hatha
Angie Panozzo
 
07:15 PM – 08:15 PM
Restorative Yoga
Angie Panozzo
 
Saturday, April 6
08:00 AM – 09:15 AM
Vinyasa Flow
Marijka Munoz

09:30 AM – 10:45 AM
Hatha Vinyasa
Cindy Jo 


11:00 AM – 12:15 PM
Therapeutic Yoga
Christine Nye

12:45 PM – 02:00 PM
Vinyasa Flow
Samantha Johnsen

04:30 PM – 05:40 PM
Gentle Yoga with Sound Bath
Christina Michelle

Sunday, April 7
09:30 AM – 10:45 AM
Vinyasa Flow
Jessica Martini

11:00 AM – 12:15 PM
Hatha Yoga with Sound Bath
Christina Michelle

04:15 PM – 05:30 PM
Hatha
David Driscoll
06:00 PM – 07:15 PM
Restorative Yoga
Marijka Munoz

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Pet Yoga Benefits Pet and Partner

By Michael G. Fry 

Animals can teach us a lot about movement and stillness and thus about yoga and life. Have you ever witnessed your pet meditating? Ignoring your temper tantrums and demands? How about stretching? Dogs often take downward dog, cats utilize cat pose, cobras rise up to cobra pose, They already know how to move their bodies and adjust and navigate the environment they are in. Even when that environment is completely controlled by their  human partners. We humans, despite all of our technological advances and creature comforts, don’t always understand how to care for our bodies.

Yoga is one of the best things you can do for your body and your mind. It’s been proven to have numerous health benefits received through its stretching components, breathing exercises, meditation practices and strength exercises.  As the ancients have known for millennia, 21st century  tests have demonstrated how  yoga also helps with depression, addiction, pain, fear,  stress and much more.  But have you ever considered doing yoga with your pet?  That’s right, yogis and their pets are practicing together and the range of pets participating is quite diverse. Non-human yogis include but are not limited to dogs, cats, snakes, birds, goats, horses, rabbits, rats and even turtles. More and more pets are getting intentionally into the flow instead of being perceived as interrupting the flow.

As yoga itself gains popularity around the globe, Pet Yoga is elevating its optics right along with it.  Dogs even have their own brand of PY called “Doga” and shelters have started using yoga at adoption events. Some of the benefits of Dog-Yoga are bonding, stretching, increased focus, stress relief and injury prevention. Just as with humans, dogs benefit greatly from stretching. The stretches help improve flexibility and range of motion in the joints. Common benefits include increased muscle tone and strength, as well as flexibility.  And let us not forget that yoga borrows a few poses from our canine counterparts including Down Dog and Upward Facing Dog.

Pet yoga is even being seen as a ‘reason’ to adopt a cat or a dog by those without pets and as a reason for current ‘pet partners’ (humans) to begin a yoga practice of their own.  Either way, both pet and partner benefit from mindful workout poses in tandem with the peace and familiar comfort of beloved animals.

When I began my practice over a decade ago it was ‘interrupted’ by my two cats but soon I began to look forward to their ‘yoga-cuddles’ and even started to invite them with ‘kissing noises’ and pats on the mat.  Currently, I can look forward, each morning, to my Great Dane puppy, Skye, joining my early morning yoga practice.  While he is still more jokester than yogi, judging by my smiles and his wagging tail, we both are receiving the benefits of our practice.

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Gemstones, Malas, Mantras + Japa Meditation: Tools for Physical, Emotional, Mental + Spiritual Healing 
By: Allison Case

“One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.” - Henry Miller

Upon departing from my energy medicine program graduation, I stepped into an artist co-op in Asheville, North Carolina and purchased a mala.  I had no knowledge about this jewelry piece I was acquiring to celebrate a long awaited day except that my roommate during the final training weekend wore a string of 108 gemstones and I thought the necklace looked like a fashionable accessory someone on a spiritual journey ought to wear.   What surprised me instantly was how the mala made me feel when I wore it. I researched the meaning behind the stones and found they carried the energy of compassion, peace and comfort —the same energy I felt when in contact with the mala. This finding led me on a path that not only included an expanded awareness about the energy of gemstones but also the power in a mantra, the possibilities Japa meditation provides and most significant, a reinforcement about the importance of setting intention in our lives.


The energy of gemstones: a high vibrational connection

“Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way.  This is not a philosophy. This is physics.”  - Albert Einstein

The Earth provides us a wide range of healing energies in the form of crystals and gemstones.  These healing elements are created from minerals which first originate from magma.  The magma surfaces from the core to the Earth’s crust at a varying pace, sometimes over billions of years, and through this migration forms a unique structure. Each stone has a distinctive vibration that is created by the back and forth motion of it’s particles. The individual journey of formation creates the special makeup of each stone. (Much like our individual journeys that make each of us unique.)   

From an energetic healing perspective, the human energy body resonates with and attunes to the higher vibrations of the stone’s natural energetic properties. If you have picked up a quartz crystal and felt a tingle or surge in your body that is most likely because the energy of the stone transformed into an electrical charge when it came into contact with the heat of your body.

The healing effects of gemstones are usually subtle and may not be so apparent at first.  Keep working with them and over time you most likely will feel the energy they have to provide. If you are new to gemstones, start exploring which stones resonate the most with you by simply following your intuition. The right stones will speak to you.  Clear Quartz, Amethyst, Carnelian, Citrine, Rose Quartz, Blue Lace Agate, Black Tourmaline and Smokey Quartz are some of my favorites to start a collection with because this grouping covers many energies, chakras and colors.  

Before using your stones clean, charge and set them with an intention. Gemstones can be cleaned of stale energy by setting them in sea salt for a few hours or by running them through sage smoke.  After your stone is clean, placed in the light of the moon, the sunlight or by the base of a house plant for a few hours to charge.  Once the stone is clean and charged hold it in your hand and set an intention, let the crystal know what you want it to do for you.

Malas: a tool to focus the mind on what you want more of in your life

“Our intention creates our reality.” - Wayne Dyer

A mala is a string of beads used in meditation to count intentions, mantras, prayers, or breaths. It’s a tool for focusing the mind. Each mala is created with intention. As an energy practitioner my work involves channeling energy while communicating a message about what a client wants first to release followed by what they desire to manifest more of into their life. During an energy medicine therapy session a practitioner is the conduit for the client who ultimately heals themselves. A mala can also be viewed as a conduit to aid in communication of a healing intention.  

A full mala contains 108 counting beads plus one guru bead. The larger guru bead (also called the teacher) symbolizes a transformation from darkness to light. It marks the starting and ending point of the mala. The tassel is connected to the end of the guru bead to finish the mala with a final knot. A truly authentic mala is made with one continuous piece of string. 108 has a powerful significance in Eastern culture. To name a few examples there are 108 letters in the sanskrit alphabet, 108 holy sites in India, 108 acupressure points on the body, and 108 energy lines throughout out the body that all converge and connect at the heart chakra. 

When creating an intentional healing mala with gemstones, I let my intuition be my guide.  I continue to be joyfully surprised when I research the meaning of the final gemstones selected for a custom piece as the healing properties of the stones seem to always pair perfectly with the client’s intention. 

A mala can be worn as a necklace, wrapped as a bracelet or placed in a special spot in your home as a visual reminder of what you want to manifest in your life.  To gain the most benefit from a mala it is used with a mantra in meditation, called Japa meditation. 


Mantras and Japa meditation: tools for deeper self realization

“What is mantra? Mantra is two words: Man and tra.  Man means mind. Tra means the heat of life.  Ra means sun.  So, mantra is a powerful combination of words which, if recited, takes the vibratory effect of each of your molecules into the infinity of the Cosmos. That is called Mantra.” - Yogi Bhajan 

Japa is the meditative repetition of a mantra or intentional thought utilizing a mala to count the chant. The sanskrit word Japa translated to English means to mutter. The mantra or intention can be spoken aloud or within the reciter’s mind. The meditation is generally performed sitting but can also done standing or walking. 

A mantra, as referenced in Yogi Bhajan’s quote, translates to instrument of the mind. It is categorized as part of the 6th limb of yoga, Dharana, known as concentration.  A repeated mantra helps keep us in the present moment of now and holding a positive thought. The power of the mantra is in the vibration and resonance that is created through the ritual. The mantra chosen can be whatever word or series of words feels right for you.  Some people prefer to use a Sankrit word such as OM or Tattwam Asi which translates to “I am that.”  I have observed transformations using mantras from Louise Hays, “You Can Heal Your Life.”  Let your intuition guide you. 

As with all meditation styles, Japa Meditation benefits include lower blood pressure, reduced anxiety, improved sleep, increased focus, and a deeper sense of self. I believe that meditation with a mala and mantra increases the speed of manifesting an intention. Our thoughts are very powerful and have a direct connection to what occurs in our lives. Devoting time to this daily ritual has opened up avenues I did not feel possible before working with a mantra during meditation. I have also witnessed my client’s lives changing using Japa meditation.  One particular client committed to a daily Japa meditation practice with an intention to heal their cancer and within 4 months received significantly improved test results pertaining to their cancer markers.  The test results can’t be medically proven to be related to the meditation practice but in my heart I believe it to be true (as does my client).   

To use a mala in Japa meditation first place your mala in your right hand.  Place the mala over your middle finger.  The middle finger represents the air. (There is a belief that you should not use your pointer finger to move the mala as that finger represents fire.) Use your thumb  to move the beads towards you. The thumb represents universal consciousness. Start at the guru bead and repeat your mantra as you touch each of the 108 beads. When you find your mind wandering bring your thoughts back to your mantra.  Continue until you reach the guru bead.  Close with Namaste or your own word of gratitude. It is believed that you will experience the most benefits from Japa meditation if practiced daily for 40 continuous days. Keep a journal to note the shifts and movements you see as it relates to your intention. The more you use your mala the stronger the energy of the mala will feel.  When a mala breaks it is believed that the intention has been brought into your life and it is time to manifest something new.

About the Author 

Allison Case is an energy medicine practitioner (HTCP), yoga instructor and mala artist.  Her work is focused on supporting her client’s physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energy systems to achieve the energy of wellness. She utilizes many tools including drawing on her energy medicine education, conscious living principles and two decades of corporate experience successfully leading diverse teams and developing solutions for Fortune 500 clients. Visit: www.flourishintegralhealth.com or contact allison@flourishintegralhealth.com


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Ahimsa Holiday Potluck 2019

By: Kelly Merydith
Photos and video by: Joe Kowalewski

On January 19, 2019 Ahimsa teachers, workstudy, and teacher trainees came together for a holiday potluck! We gave awards to our managers and others:

Happiest, Hippest, Hippy - Masin Ouksel, co-owner
Wizard of Oz - Kelly Merydith, co-owner
Rockstar Events Coordinator - Christiane Broihier, Events Coordinator
Peace & Love Warrior - Carol Buer, Customer Care & Workstudy Coordinator (and Kelly’s mom)
Zen Master - Chuck Merydith, Ahimsa Teacher, Floor sweeper, shoveler, 100 other jobs, Gong Master (kidding), and Kelly’s Dad
Best Pregnant Manager - Lauren Laughlin, Oak Park Manager
Badass in Berwyn - Mona McDougall, Berwyn Manager
Most Transformed - Christina DeCillo, La Grange and Elmhurst North and South Manager
Rockstar Referrer - Marissa Jayne, Berwyn Teacher
Larabar Lover - Caitlin Coan, Berwyn and Oak Park Teacher
Big Spender - Jackie Huxel, Oak Park Teacher (who loves our retail!)

Super Subbers - Teachers
These awards went to teacher who subbed the most classes at Ahimsa in 2018. This is a BIG deal because getting subs can often be difficult, so it’s nice that these teachers helped others in need.

Super Subbers - Lauren Laughlin, Jessica Jayne, Grace Sangat Gian, Julie Allison, Ann Rinderer

Super Subbers - Workstudy
Ahimsa’s workstudy program is where a student works a 4 hour desk shift in exchange for a Gold Membership. This shift is unpaid. When workstudy students cover for others, they are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts.

Super Duper Subber - Morris Applebaum, who subbed 13 times in 2018!
Super Subbers - Joe Kowalewski (who also took the photos and videos!), Liz Chase, Miriam Gevinson, Shirley Rissmann, Colleen Luckey, Shanna Pierce

Ahimsa Yoga Studio Potluck 2019 - YouTube































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Gong Meditation / Sound Healing Etiquette and Information

By Kelly Merydith

I went to my first Sound Bath around 2009 at Inner Wisdom Yoga on South Blvd in Oak Park. The word was spreading around about these “sound baths” or “gong baths” (until the term was copy written). I didn’t know much - just that the vibrations were relaxing and healing. I took two of my buddies (Masin and Will). We each brought a pillow and a blanket and stepped into the unknown…

Nowadays, sound baths are a bit more mainstream - they’re all over the place, and even integrated into regular classes. Kundalini Yoga uses gongs and/or bowls at the end of each class, and many of Ahimsa’s restorative or yin classes as well.

What makes the sound?

Gongs are very special instruments that are carefully created to produce certain sound frequencies. The same goes for Tibetan singing bowls, which are usually made out of a type of metal and hit with a mallet or “played” by moving the mallet around the lip or outer edge of the bowl. There are bowls made of crystal, also made of differences sizes, which produce different sound frequencies. Other sounds may also be used, like a rainstick or cymbals.

So what is a sound bath anyway?

Do you go into a bath? Is there water? We’ve heard it all. The term bath just means that your body is “bathed” in sound, or healing and relaxing frequencies, waves, or vibrations. Some people are able to meditate deeply during the sound bath. Others relax deeply in a quiet and present awareness that they are unable to find in daily life. Some people go into a trans-like state and see colors and visions. In the end, you leave feeling relaxed and energetically cleansed.

What should I bring?

Dress in warm clothes - sweatpants, heavy socks, sweatshirt. Bring your yoga mat if you have your own, and borrow one of Ahimsa’s for free if not. We will provide 2 yoga blankets and one bolster per student. You can bring a thermos of tea to warm up before the sound bath if you’d like.

What do I do when I arrive?

Arrive 15 minutes prior to the start time and check-in at the front desk. Put your belongings away in the cubbies and remove your shoes. Set up your mat so the short edge of the mat is facing the gong. When you lie down, lie down with your feet facing away from the gong. We do this because we below the frequencies of the gong encourage toxins and old energy to be released through the feet.

Turn off your cell phone (this is very important), and remove any metal jewelry you’re wearing. You can place your jewelry in your purse or on the gong’s blanket (just remember to retrieve after).

Lie down and place the bolster underneath the knees. Place one folded blanket underneath your head (however high you want), and cover your body with the second blanket from the neck down.

Then what?

Once the sound bath begins, simply close your eyes, relax, and breath deeply. If you feel the urge to get up, or open your eyes, do it. Sometimes the gong gets really loud and can create some panic - simply relax and let your body feel the emotions rising. It’s also good to note that the frequency of the gong cannot damage your hearing in any way.

If you are pregnant, sound baths are not dangerous in any way, in fact, many say that babies in the womb love sound baths!

What if I arrive late?

If you arrive late, you will disrupt the sound bath for all of the other people in the room. Arriving 5 minutes late is okay, but after that, please do not enter the studio, and return for another sound bath when you can arrive earlier.

Sign Up for a Sound Bath:

Visit our events page to sign up for a sound bath: www.ahimsayogastudios.com/events.

Comment below!

Comment below with any other knowledge you’d like to share or comments on how your experience has been attending a sound bath.

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Savasana: Relaxation and Rebirth

by Michael G. Fry

“Savasana is being without was, being without will be. It is being without anyone who is.” B.K.S. Iyengar

 Savasana, also spelled Shavasana or Shivasana, is often seen as a ‘nap’ after class and while the pose does serve this delightful and sometimes needed purpose, savasana is so much more.  It is a chance to let go, ‘die’ and be reborn.

Happy New Year! What are your New Year’s Resolutions?  Stop. Shhhhh. No need to answer that…again. This is the time of the year when we, in the west, tend to get caught up in making an extra effort to honor our ‘resolutions’. We have made written lists and verbal promises to ourselves, our loved ones and in some cases social media, to do better, act better and be better this year than we were last year.

We want to lose ten pounds, eat less red meat and go to the gym. We begin our ‘new’ year from an old perspective, that we are somehow deficient, need to change and so we begin our year with modern day karmic debt and a fiery intention to pay it back in 12 month installments.  Hey, not all debts are bad, right, especially if they allow us to pay over-time to get what we want. Goals are great and resolutions can be used for good!

But, prior to assigning ourselves goals for next year, have we taken the time to relax and rejuvenate?  To take a deep cleansing breath?  To feel good about ourselves and our last year’s accomplishments?  Savasana, occurring after a rigorous practice,  reminds us to take that pause and to rest between efforts.

Savasana literally means--corpse pose.  It is called corpse pose not only because of the position of the body: lying on the back, arms and legs spread at 45 degrees, palms up with eyes shut and allowing the breathe to be smooth, long and deep, but also in its ability to prepare you for the ultimate relaxation: ‘death’. 

Lol. Don’t worry, while in the yogic tradition death is the most important moment of life and reincarnation is a seen as a karmic rebirth, one needn’t embrace these spiritual traditions to benefit from savasana.  One only need to be willing and able to let go, relax and release.

Savasana decreases heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension and general levels of anxiety.  It increases energy levels, boosts memory and stimulates the ability to concentrate.  It gives you a more easy sleep and brings a general sense of well-being.  And everyone can do it, making it the great common denominator of yoga practice. Savasana also gives instructors the chance add a personal touch to the practice as they guide students in relaxation, self-blessing, prayer, affirmation, gong, essential oils and even crystal bowls. 

After over a decade of yoga practice, I still enjoy occasionally falling asleep during savasana but more often I enjoy the benefits of my practice by allowing essential silence, stillness, pranayama and a deep sense of well-being to replace all thought. After savasana, we roll over to the left into a fetal position in preparation to be reborn. Savasana can be a portal to peace and a reminder to pause and rest before moving onto the next goal.

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Pranayama: A Pathway Inward

 By Michael Fry

 “Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” ~Thích Nhất Hạnh

 Modern life is stress-full. We are bombarded constantly by messages from the outer world via endless devices and platforms, many if not most of those messages are fear based, need based, want based and create anxiety and stress.  We live a life of endless desire with no pathway to fulfillment but with countless obstacles to overcome to gain even the smallest level of satisfaction. As soon as we finish one task, we are presented with ten more. Our self-worth is often subject to the opinions of others who themselves have little self-worth without another’s opinion granting them thus.  

Satisfaction gained from the outer world is always at risk of being lost.  And thus our identity is dependent on the shifting currents of outer circumstances, the opinions of others and the conditions that enter our lives from the outside.  We become but reactions to outer stimuli seeming to come at us from all directions.  We are under attack. But where do we, as modern humans,  go to find calm, to feel peace and to just be? The answer for me, less than a decade ago, was to ‘hell’, over and over, in my own mind. But hell is simply heaven inverted.  By switching one’s focus or attention from a dependence on the outer or seen world, to the inner or unseen world via yoga and pranayama, controlled breathing, we gain a tool to begin to transform a personal hell into a personal heaven while instantly sharing this heaven-energy with all that is.

Prana means life force or breath sustaining the body; Ayama translates as "to extend or draw out." Together, the two mean breath extension or control. Breath may be the most important tool in a yoga practice, a portal inward, a connection to the divinity and limitless source energy contained within us and within all life. Sounds good, right?  In retrospect, these words have meaning but a little less than a decade ago, with failing health and a failing marriage and with two wonderfully innocent sons suddenly at risk, all I knew was that the mid-life crisis I had been trained to expect was crushing me.

It was the summer of 2011 and like karmic clock-work, at age 45, my marriage of 17 years was dissolving and amidst fear, blame, guilt, anger and resentment, my soon to be ex-wife had taken my two sons, 3 and 10,  to the East Coast to visit her parents. For the first time in my adult life I was left completely alone. Alone to lament the life that now had suddenly, or not so suddenly, imploded.

 Life for us as a family had sucked for a while but I hadn’t let myself know.  I was viewing my life and the life of those around me through a prism of old beliefs founded on a series flawed premises such as; Men don’t cry or they’re weak, the harder you work the bigger the reward, black men cannot lead, money will make you happy, sex is love, competition drives progress, survival of the fittest, etc.  This coupled with having given up my passion, television and film writing, for a safe teaching job had left me a shadow of my full potential and I knew it.   The result of this belief system was fear, anxiety, low self-esteem, low energy, binge eating, arguments, defensiveness, lack, worry, doubt and shame.  I was medically sick and depressed.  I was overweight and suffering from both high blood pressure and high cholesterol. My diet was 80’s-90’s Americana consisting of burgers, chicken, cheese, bread, pizza, cookies and ice cream.  I was depressed and having mild panic attacks.  Multiple medications had been suggested by my physician.

Life was being done to me.  I believed I was being punished for every so called ‘sin’ since childhood.  That the Universe was against me and that perhaps, this would kill me and set me free.  It was at this low point that a gift was given from an unlikely source. Before my ex-wife had gone she sent me a link to a YouTube video called “Yoga For Beginners Pt.1” by Yogatic.  I was pissed.  The nerve of her!  After all, she didn’t do yoga or meditate or chant, why does she think I need it?

Blame, guilt, fear, loss, and silence can break you and that summer they were all on the attack.  Sober already 8 years meant that diving into a bottle was no longer an option so, one afternoon, I began to watch the yoga videos and actually do the poses. Well, try to do the poses.  And it was the fact that I could not do any of them that challenged me to keep trying. Why? Something inside me had already shifted. 

That first morning of yoga-fails and falls had pushed me beyond anger into irritation. By trying to hold warrior one with macho-insecurity and false bravado had pushed me from irritation to pain and struggle.  This had forced me to holding my breath.  That only lasts so long.  Then…by releasing my breath suddenly, cleanly and smoothly through my mouth,  I felt my body stretch just a tiny bit deeper into the pose.  Pain in my legs and arms had stolen my attention from outer concerns. My mind, for the first time ever except during sex, was not tossing fears and worries. As I held the pose…breathed…inhale…hold….exhale, lean in to the pose a little more.  Time stood still. Breakthrough. Aha moment. Hell witnessed from the light of heaven.

You see, meditation had snuck up on me during the most basic of yoga poses because the pose encouraged my breathing to change.  I credit Yogatic’s instructor, my ‘friend’ whom I have never met, a human-angel of sorts, Esther Eckhart, constantly reminding me to ‘breath’…in through my nose and out through my mouth. Somehow, I had been connected to a secret place where well-being and peace dwelled undisturbed by modern life.

In “The Power Of Now”, Eckhart Tolle, and suddenly the two Eckhart names hit me, as so much now after years of spiritual practice and yoga, as a synergetic pattern, in the book Tolle reminds us that it is always the eternal ‘now’.  That the ‘past’ is just a memory and the future is just an imagined plan, one can never ‘be’ anywhere except the now. The gift is the present.  The present moment is the now. 

The Eternal Now is where we dwell during our deeper yoga practices. Pranayama, which BKS Iyengar defines as… “the three stages of breath in pranayama — inhalation, retention and exhalation — are the means by which we can abide in stillness in both body and mind and merge with the great mystery. During inhalation we invite prana into the house”   The house is our body, our consciousness and our controlled breathing connects our mortal human consciousness to our innate Divine or spiritual consciousness. We realize, I not in words, our wholeness, Oneness, mindfulness. The God Principal or The All That Is within all life is simultaneously within us.

All that really happened that summer was that, in a time when I had only fear, sadness and doubt, through yoga and prana, for a split second at first and then longer experiences,  I wasn’t sad or fearful or depressed while in the act of practicing yoga. While in 2011 I was  struggling to hold and go deeper into simple poses created thousands of years ago in ancient India I had, for the first time since childhood, glimpsed a moment’s peace. And that glimpse has fueled my life since.

The peace that I discovered that first day had no words, no definition and there was no learned instructor to explain what was happening but I  had experienced a part of myself that I had never known before. A place, inside of my body, where the outside world seemed to disappear and fear and loss did not invade. It came with the gift of a deep sense of silence and well-being. 

I have grown to depend on the peace of pranayama.  It is  always there, just below the surface of the worldly storms, this divine and undefinable sense of ease, peace, safety and compassion coming from the inside. This inward movement, Pratyahara, or the turning inward of the senses, is one of the he keys to meditation, peace and healing the outer life. From the inside outward. By increasing our attention to internal phenomena like our breath, we can learn to tune out external phenomena and stimuli. Stress and chemicals like cortisol, secreted during times of stress, cause illness and over time, lead to several life threatening diseases. 

Yoga and its benefits, including pranayama and pratyahara, saved my life.  At the end of a wonder filled 2018 I am a full time writer, actor and television series creator being paid to pursue my passions. I have a perfect bill of health and ascribe this to yoga, Tai Chi, meditation and a change in diet to pescatarian, non-dairy.  My sons are both characters, but both solidly grounded in the love and compassion modeled them by a father who used an ancient Indian form called yoga to transform a modern life.

Michael G., Fry is a single dad, writer, actor, advertising creative, world traveler and filmmaker living in Oak Park, Il.  He practices yoga anywhere he wakes up and at Ahimsa yoga studios.

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We have two awesome ways to help your loved ones enjoy yoga classes (or clothes, books, props) at Ahimsa.

Check out these awesome specials and purchase on our gift card page: www.ahimsayogastudios.com/giftcards

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Nature Yoga Sanctuary in Oak Park (formerly YogaTrek) is closing on December 16th. We are always sad to hear about a yoga studio closing it’s doors or changing ownership - it’s very hard on the teachers and students because yoga studios are such special places for people to feel safe and develop a personal physical and spiritual practice.

Our doors always open to anyone who wants to practice yoga, and we are also open to adding teachers to our sub list or class schedule.

For any students who are displaced and looking for somewhere to practice, send Ashley a message for a special discount - ahimsaashleyh@gmail.com.

For teachers, you can apply online here: https://www.ahimsayogastudios.com/yogateachers.

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