Staff Spotlight— Diane Danaher
Ironically, I began massage therapy school without ever having received a massage. However, I was attracted to the idea of touch as a method of healing the body both physically and emotionally. In 1998 I graduated from the massage therapy training program at the Florida College of Natural Health. Since then I have logged more than 300 hours of continuing education classes in different massage styles. During each massage session, I integrate techniques from different modalities to customize the massage to the client’s individual needs.
In 2007, I was living in Atlanta and working at a wellness center that specialized in Ayurvedic massage. Ayurveda, literally meaning “the knowledge of life,” is an ancient system of health care native to India. In the center, we were trained in many of the Panchakarma oil massage therapies. These therapies incorporate the use of herbal oils to address and treat imbalances in the doshas (the components of an individual’s constitution).
Since yoga is the sister science to Ayurveda, beginning a yoga practice seemed like the next step to take in continuing to explore “the knowledge of life.” After moving back to Florida in 2010, I joined The Yoga Sanctuary and immediately fell in love with yoga—so much so, that I wanted to start the teacher training program right away. I was gently advised to first develop my yoga practice. Five years later I was ready. In April, 2015 I graduated from the teacher training program and have begun teaching yoga.
My favorite yoga pose, Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose) began as my least favorite. I struggled with every aspect; balance, opening the hips and chest, strength, confidence. I still have a long way to go towards achieving full expression in Ardha Chandrasana, but I am enjoying the journey and what it is teaching me about myself.
The practice of yoga is life changing, awakening both the physical body and the energetic body. It is about listening to your inner voice. And it is always about balance. What a joy to share with others.
Yogi of the Month—Anita Stuart
I was born and raised as the youngest of three children in Kempen am Niederrhein, Germany, and then West Germany. After my school years I did an apprenticeship in a local firm. I met my husband (who was in the army) in 1974, got engaged a year later, and we married in El Paso, Texas in 1977. We only lived there for a few months before receiving orders to move to Italy. After our third year tour in Italy, we were able to get a transfer to Germany and moved to my hometown where our son Nigel was born.
I have always been an active person. I taught step aerobics for a number of years. I began doing yoga using DVDs and later attended yoga classes at my fitness center, but I always felt that I needed more guidance. So when I moved to Punta Gorda, I visited The Yoga Sanctuary and knew that it was the right place for me.
My main reason for starting yoga was to find a better balance in my life. I have been blessed not to have had any medical issues that led me to want to do yoga. I practice five days a week, and during the winter months I practice up to seven classes weekly.
Yoga has made me more flexible, and I am learning to calm myself in stressful situations. It has taught me to be more mindful.
Since I am fearful of falling, some of the poses like Crow still intimidate me. I keep trying to overcome, however. My favorite pose is Warrior II. I really like all of the teachers and fellow yogis at The Yoga Sanctuary. There is so much we can learn from one another!
I am currently really enjoying my husband’s recent retirement—finally having time together is wonderful. I enjoy walking, cross training, biking, and boating. I also love knitting.
My favorite quote stems from my mother: “From nothing comes nothing!” So if you want to make positive changes, you have to apply yourself.
Exploring the Myths of Asana—Tadasana
We begin the series of yoga asana myths with Tadasana, or Mountain Pose. While this posture is not necessarily steeped in Indian mythology as many of the others, Tadasana is a fundamental yoga posture that is rich in symbolism. From the Sanskrit words tada (mountain) and asana (posture, or seat), Mountain Pose is the essence of stability and foundation. Tadasana contains the building blocks for every other posture in yoga.
The posture itself “promotes the stillness, strength, relaxed power, and stability we associate with mountains,” says Alanna Kaivalya, author of Myths of the Asanas. She explains the inseparable relationship between mountains and rivers, both represented by the Indian god Himavat, who represents the Himalayas and is considered the father of Ganga Devi, the goddess of the Ganges, India’s most sacred river.
“When we stand in Tadasana, the head, being nearest to heaven, is where we receive the blessings that flow through the rest of our body like a river,” she says. The even stance of Mountain Pose—the lengthened spine and steady base—sets the tone for practice.
In India, there is a mountain called Mount Kailas with two lakes—one shaped like the sun and the other like a crescent moon, which represents hatha (ha = sun, tha = moon) yoga. Mount Kailas is considered the seventh chakra—sahasrara. The two lakes have been likened to the two streams of energy (ida and pingala nadis) that rise up one central channel (sushumna nadi) moving toward the highest level of consciousness. Mount Kailas is considered a sacred mountain.
When we stand in Tadasana, we are equally grounded and arising. Our base is firm, yet we reach upward toward the heavens. Our spine is situated as it would be during meditation, ideal for the free flow of prana (life force) throughout the body. Take the time to connect to this energy in Tadasana. It can help you to maintain it throughout your practice.
Yoga for Athletes
Athleticism requires a certain drive—mentally, physically, and emotionally. The dedication of an athlete is admirable—the many hours spent training, week after week, and the moment of glory when an athlete is making a play or finishing that last mile—it’s no wonder so many athletes are also our heroes. But it’s not all fun and games. The life of an athlete can take its toll. Fortunately, the practice of yoga can help athletes balance their training so that they experience more physical comfort, enhanced balance, and mental sharpness.
Muscle tightness in athletes is usually quite prominent due to the many hours of strength training required, which is disproportionate to the time spent stretching. While many athletes incorporate “a few minutes of stretching” before and after their training, it’s not enough. Yoga helps to balance this tightness not only with postures that increase flexibility, but also with breathing and awareness techniques to help the athlete relax areas of the body where tension is held. This is important for people who are prone to injuries. Yoga helps bring about an awareness that can prevent injuries in athletes who tend to “push through it.”
Balance is another aspect that yoga helps athletes to hone. Every sport requires a certain element of balance, but rarely do athletes train for it. Postures that help to improve balance, such as Vrksasana (Tree Pose), Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III), and even standing postures such as Trikonasana (Triangle Pose) all help the athlete to establish a firm stance, no matter the position of the feet. This training helps athletes maintain balance as they engage in their sport.
Mindfulness may be the best reason of all for athletes to practice yoga. While yoga postures help to bring about better flexibility, relaxation, and balance, ultimately it is the mind that can make or break any athlete. Most athletes say that when they are fully engaged in their sport, they are able to reach a state of complete absorption—as though everything drops away and all that is left is the current moment. This is mindfulness. Rather than catching glimpses of this powerful state, yoga teaches continual mindfulness. Sure, it takes practice, but the more an athlete can reach this state on a regular basis, the better able they will be to perform when it matters.
Overall, yoga helps athletes get out of their heads and let go of competition. When the athlete is able to tune into the present moment—with a body awareness and comfort gained through the yoga practice—they can take their performance to the next level.