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Yoga for Airplane Travel

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Airplane flight sure takes its toll. Between waiting in line, security checks, and overbooked flights, the stress and discomfort of flying begins long before the plane ever takes off. The flight itself, however, is where the real discomfort sets in. Small seats, crowded cabins, and long flights set us up for aches and pains both during and after the flight.

Fortunately, you can make your next flight more comfortable with a few yoga stretches. The following sequence can be done mostly while seated with a couple added poses you can do while standing.

To begin, sit up tall in your seat. Drop your chin toward your chest to stretch the back of your neck. Then, inhale and let your chin circle up toward one shoulder. Exhale your chin back down to your chest and inhale up to the other side. Do this for a few rounds of breath. Next, sit up tall and let one ear drop toward your shoulder, stretching the side of your neck and the shoulder for a few breaths. Inhale up and exhale to the other side.

Next, bend your right knee and bring the outside of your right ankle just above your left knee. This may feel like a deep stretch. If so, stay here. If not, fold forward somewhat to deepen the stretch. Stay for about 5 breaths and then switch sides.

Then, from a seated position place your left hand on the outside of your right knee. Inhale and lengthen your spine and begin to twist to the right as you exhale. You can hold onto your armrest with your right hand to support the twist. Stay in the pose for about 5 breaths. Exhale back to center and repeat on the left side. Next, sitting up tall, place your hands on your knees. Inhale and roll forward on your sit bones, opening your belly and heart, and looking up. Exhale, tuck your tail, round your back, and tuck your chin. Continue this pattern, opening the front body as your inhale, and opening the back body as you exhale.

Finally, cross your right arm over the left at the elbow. Bend your arms and wrap the right arm around the left until your hands meet. Draw your elbows down and outward to maximize the stretch in your shoulders and upper back. Stay for a few rounds of breath and then repeat on the left side.

You can also do a few stretches while standing, either while waiting in line for the restroom or during a momentary stand-up break. Hold onto the back of your chair for support, bend your right leg and hold your right foot behind you. Hold the stretch for a few breaths and then switch sides.

Next, stand up tall and raise your arms overhead. Hold your left wrist with your right hand and shift most of your weight into your left food. Keep your weight in your left foot as you reach and stretch over to the right. Stay for a few rounds of breath. Inhale back to center and switch sides.

If you do these postures about once per hour during your flight, you will feel less stiff and sore from your travel. Print this article out or load it on your phone or tablet so you can find some relief while in the air. Bon voyage!

 

Yogi of the Month—Marilyn Bunte

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Before she passed away, I had planned for Marilyn Bunte to be our yogi of the month. So in honor of her, I’d like to share some of my memories of Marilyn as well as some memories from others at The Yoga Sanctuary.

Marilyn was of my very first students when I began teaching yoga in Punta Gorda 11 years ago, well before we opened The Yoga Sanctuary. She stayed with me back then, and as soon as the studio doors opened, Marilyn was one of the first to come in. A lovely woman, she was not only a student but a friend. She was sweet, friendly, and always smiling and giving big hugs. She was very committed to the yoga community at the studio, always willing to help out and attending all the events. She was a truly a part of our yoga family.

Marilyn was so much fun to be around. She made a point to include everyone, no matter what the activity. A beautiful woman, Marilyn was the type of person that you never forget. She was always “put together,” even before a yoga class! She had a warm heart and was always so thoughtful of others. We were all fortunate to be able to be a small part of her life. Marilyn will be forever missed and will always hold a space in our hearts.

A Beautiful Mind – by Melissa Goodwin

photo for staff spotlight April

“You think too much.”

I’ve been told that more than once. And you know what? The people who said it were right. I’ve always been a worrier—I worried about everything! I also have a great imagination, which, as a writer, is an asset. But I used to believe that I had to think out everything I was going to write in great detail before I wrote it. My mind was a very busy and rather messy place!

I say “was” and “were” and “used to” because I have been working hard to change this. In retrospect, it occurs to me that all that thinking and worrying and imagining was a way of trying to control the world. It was as if I thought that by worrying enough, I could prevent bad things from happening.

I think we all know that’s not how it works.

The mind is a beautiful and miraculous thing.  But the same mind that can write poetry and solve problems can also cause tremendous suffering. A beautiful mind doesn’t use our memories and imaginations to torture us with thoughts about what happened in the past or the infinite unknowns of the future.

Once I began to delve into yogic philosophy and wisdom, my eyes and mind were opened to a wonderful realization: this practice that I loved so much could also be the key to reining in my overactive mind. It could help me reduce or even eliminate the unnecessary mental suffering caused by “thinking too much,” and it could help me be more fully engaged in my life, right here, right now.

I began meditating, but for a long time, I felt like I wasn’t getting the hang of it. My mind wandered. I criticized myself for not doing it “right.” More often than not, I fell asleep!

What eventually helped me was finding a mantra —a set of gentle, loving phrases to repeat over and over. Before long, I found myself repeating them not just during my meditation time, but when falling asleep at night, upon awakening, while taking a walk, driving the car or simply sitting quietly. After a few months of this practice, I found that if my mind started to conjure up worrisome thoughts, I automatically shifted it back to my comforting phrases.

I feel calmer now and more present in this life with which I’ve been blessed. I rarely worry. And as a writer, I’ve found that not thinking so much before I write allows a freer flow of creative inspiration that takes me to delightfully unexpected places. In my writing and in my daily interactions, my words, actions and responses feel more heart-centered and authentic than they did before.

Before this practice, I secretly doubted that the mind could be retrained. Of course others said it could be done, but they were yogis, gurus far more enlightened than I. They seemed to me somewhat like members of a special club with a secret password that the rest of us were not given.

But having experienced it myself, I can say with confidence that yes, we ordinary humans really can control our minds rather than letting them control us. The key was, and is, practice. Diligent, almost constant practice.

In his book, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Sri Swami Satchidananda writes, “As the mind, so the person; bondage or liberation are in your own mind.” I prefer liberation, so I return to this practice again and again. And again.

Relevant Yoga Sutras:

Yoga Sutra 1.2:  Yoga is the restraint of the fluctuations of the mind.

Yoga Sutra 1.12: These fluctuations are restrained by practice and non-attachment.

Yoga Sutra 1.13: Of these, practice is effort toward steadiness of the mind.

What Your Challenges in Yoga Can Teach You

 

In yoga, you will inevitably encounter challenging postures and movements that might even cause you to avoid them altogether. For example, you may find that Utthita Hasta Padangustasana (Extended Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose) is extremely challenging—and you wouldn’t be alone! Those poses that are most challenging tend to be the ones we need to be doing on a regular basis.

If you change your attitude from one of avoidance to one of curiosity, you will find that the challenging parts of yoga can be your greatest teachers. When you change your perspective of challenges as a way to move through them rather than away from them, your entire practice can change.

This is also true off the mat. Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone is one of the best ways to grow. Embracing your vulnerabilities—on and off the mat—is a powerful practice that will help you not only get to know yourself better, but also help you to experience life in a new way.

The next time you reach that dreaded pose, instead of heading to the bathroom, adjusting your yoga pants, or staring at “that one person” who does it perfectly, find your breath and take the pose. Every. Single. Time. One day, a few weeks or a few months down the road, you will realize that your relationship to the challenge has transformed. This practice is one of the gifts of yoga. Use it on your mat, and then try it in your life.