Tag Archives: meditation

Yoga for Healing

I am working with a private yoga client to deal with issues he is having.

Disclaimer: I am not a yoga therapist or other certified healer per requirements of registry with Yoga Alliance.

However, yoga has many healing properties. And, as old as I am, I have experience with pain and injury within myself and others with whom I’ve interacted. I am also a scientist and have had training in anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and many biology/chemistry courses through graduate level studies. So there’s that 🙂

This client, having a life of dealing with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) ahead of him, has a vested interest in finding ways to manage this disease. He provided me with literature, both anecdotal and research oriented, that relates to PD. Working with clients sometimes goes beyond the time constraints of class.

While I’m not in the business of diagnosis and treatment, I know aspects of body movement. PD is an autoimmune disorder that affects how the nerve impulses are sent throughout the body. The further from the brain, the greater the effect. So, I think a lot about feet, hands, and limbs. The spine is also a major emphasis, so I focus on keeping it supple and strong.

Specific effects of PD that I am helping with are:

  1. Posture – PD results in drooping of shoulders and head forward resulting in increased kyphosis of the spine. Besides general posture associated with all physical poses in yoga, I am working on strength in the entire back especially upper back and shoulders. Locust pose is an ideal solution. Both upward and downward facing dog is also crucial. Anything we can do to keep the posture upright is warranted.
  2. Feet shuffling – the most problematic effect of PD is a shortened stride length. This leads to falling forward and tripping with steps. The main aspect we are working is keeping length in the legs and strength. So we’ve started with long lunges (anjaneyasana) stepping forward across a room and back. This also has a balance effect. We hold at the first few steps to keep length in hamstrings and glutes.
  3. Balance – since the neurons and synapses between them are not functioning well, signals to the brain to help with balance are lost. So we are working on keeping all those stabilizing impulses firing. Tree pose is the go to for balance, which we do with a light assist at the wall. But, even Tadasana is used where we may lightly close or close eyes completely. This requires a lot of balance for most people. Warrior poses, triangles, and other standing poses are critical as well for balance.
  4. Pranayama/Meditation – our last area of emphasis is in meditation. Dopamine receptors are greatly affected with PD. Re-programming our brains to find calmness assists greatly in reducing the chaos of our minds. Also, in daily life, when hands begins to tremor and feet begin to shuffle, it creates anxiety and the feeling of helplessness in the mind. Any time we are stressed, we inhale, hold our breath, and breathe at a high, shallow register. So we are re-training our breathing to make us aware of what we do. When we feel anxious, we consciously need to breathe deeply and evenly to calm our minds. This is never more obvious than in meditation. We work with the breath and visualization to help program our bodies to find peace. This may be the aspect of yoga that contributes the most.

You would be amazed at the number of ways yoga can help with our lives. As a yoga teacher, it is amazing to experience what others go through in addition to our own experiences with life. Learn, adapt, teach, and learn some more!

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Meditation with a Mala

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I have read many methods of using a Mala for meditation, but I’d like to share you mine. A Mala is a beaded necklace, or bracelet, that is used for prayers in various faiths. A rosary is a similar device used in Catholicism. The one I use has 108 beads, which is a significant number to many. Other forms are divisions of half or a quarter of that number. For instance, a mala bracelet may have 27 beads, or one-quarter of 108. There is often a head bead that has a tassel or other design that lets you know when you reach the end.

The method I use for meditation usually ends after yoga practice of opening stretches allowing you to find a better seat, or asana. I may use blocks or a Zafu/Zabutan cushion to sit on. I may light a candle or find a place that is serene. It may be a boat dock or someplace that is private and quiet. I wear enough clothes to keep a comfortable temperature.

I will sit cross-legged in Siddhasana, but you may choose Sukhasana, Lotus, or half Lotus. My spine is erect and my hands are open in front of my knees. I keep my head balanced on my shoulders with eyes closed. I take the Mala in the peace fingers of my right hand. I find the notch next to the head bead. Then I begin my breathing, or pranayama. If I rate the sound of my Ujjiya breath from 1 to 10 with 10 being the loudest, I’ll take maybe 1-3 level for meditation.

Now, I focus on an intention. It may be a specific word or short phrase, or mantra. It could be the word “peace” or “love”. Or it may be a self-affirmation, like “do well today” or “be in the present”. My breath is continuous except at the bottom where there is a natural respiratory pause. In that pause, I silently state my intention to myself. Only, I must have complete focus on that intention in order to advance to the next bead. If my mind wanders, I don’t move forward. If I have time, I’ll go through the entire 108 beads. Other days, it may be half or a quarter of the beads. Whatever I do, I make sure I end on the head bead. I don’t want to have to open my eyes to see how far I’ve gone.

It is such an incredibly satisfying and grounding practice to meditate. My other favorite method if I am in a class, at the end of a weightlifting workout, or if I’m out on a run is to sit in vajrasana (thunderbolt pose). I place my hands in my lap in dhyana mudra. In this method, I’ll focus on my breath with my eyes closed, but focused on the tip of my nose. Then I’ll imagine colors, cool blue air as I inhale, and red hot air as I exhale. It is so refreshing. Try meditation and find the peace you’ve been looking for.

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