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Learn to Surrender by Melissa Meehan

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Before taking yoga teacher training, I had never used the words surrender or non-attachment. These particular words peaked my interest, however, when I came to realize that they could change my life.

 

I would never have labeled myself as controlling, but I would have labeled myself as stubborn. This quality has made my life frustrating and irritating at times, causing worry, anger, etc. In my mind I always had a vision of how things should be—at work, in relationships, in families—but my vision and reality were two completely different roads, and I felt a bit lost at times.

 

Yoga philosophy has taught me to surrender, detach, and let go. Detachment has a connotation of carelessness, but it simply means being in the present moment. It means being aware of everything around you, yet not attached to any particular outcome or emotion that arises as a result. It means you no longer stand in avidya, or ignorance, seeing life from only your point of view. Instead, you open your mind to the many perspectives and realities that cross your path.

 

Letting go involves release of a need to control the details of life. It means being in the present moment—no matter the circumstances—with full awareness and gratitude. By practicing non-attachment to people, things, ideas, thoughts, jobs, and routines each day, you learn to accept that “things are as they are.” You realize that you have the choice to react or not, get irritated or not, get angry or not. The only things you can truly control are your thoughts, actions, and words.

 

With consistent practice of letting go and non-attachment you begin to feel peace within. With surrender, you are more able to connect to this peace, which brings clarity and ease into life, a flow of giving and receiving love.

 

For more in-depth information, read Living Your Yoga by Judith Lasater, chapters 3 and 12, and Yoga Sutras 1:12 and 2:7-8.

Yogi of the Month—Darlene Nuckols

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Before I moved to Florida in January of 1996, I retired from Human Services as a caseworker, a career in which some days were greatly gratifying and others a true heartbreaker. My husband Bob and I married in November of 1995 after having known each other for 24 years. We bought our first home in Florida while on our honeymoon.

 

My first try at yoga was an attempt of self-taught yoga with a book. That didn’t last long. My next attempt was when I joined Bonnie at her old yoga studio. For the first couple of years I only practiced gentle yoga due to pain and a couple of surgeries. Since Bonnie opened her new Yoga Sanctuary, I have become a regular student.

After my back surgery, I wanted to get into yoga more regularly to help me regain lost strength, acquire knowledge for improved breathing (for my asthma and emphysema), and to help my balance. I had a compressed nerve for a year before my back surgery which caused nerve damage. Luckily I did have some nerve rejuvenation with the aid of medication and my gentle yoga. The stretching in class was a tremendous boost to my recovery.

I attend 4 to 6 classes a week, unless it’s September when we do the yoga challenge—what fun! I enjoy level one, gentle, yin, and just recently started mixed. I also like to do meditation and restorative. My biggest challenge is still balance. My yoga instructors are such a beautiful blend of their differences. They each have a very calming effect on their students and they have all been a huge inspiration to me.

When I’m not on the mat, my favorite place is the beach. I love the water. When I’m not at yoga or on the beach, I stay busy trying to help my best friend who no longer drives due to her diabetes. I have also been honored by being asked to be a deacon at my church. My flock keeps me busy with cards, extended communion, or whatever else is needed.

I have two biological sons. My older son, Lance passed away in 2012. My youngest son Shawn lives in Boston with his wife Satya. My “bonus” son Jeff lives in Sarasota with his wife Lisa and my two youngest grand kids, Olivia and Jack. My “bonus” daughter Jen lives in Virginia with her husband Brent and my oldest grandson Jeffrey. Their daughter Brittany goes to college in Toledo, Ohio. My husband and I are so very blessed.

A couple of my favorite poses are Downward Facing Dog and Plank. They just feel good and enable me to feel my own strength. I try to live by my own theory. If I’m not where I want to be, doing what I want to do, when I want to do it, then I must be where I’m needed.

The Three Doshas

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The doshas are the three mind-body constitutions. According to Ayurveda, the 5,000-year-old sister science to yoga, there are five elements that make up everything in the universe: earth, water, air, fire, and space. These elements, in different combinations, make up each of the three doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha.

 

Just as the five elements make up the doshas in different combinations, we, ourselves, are made up of the doshas in different combinations. Vatta is mostly air and space; pitta is mostly fire with air and water influences, and kapha is mostly earth and water. Most people have one or two predominant doshas, although some people (not many) are balanced across all three.

 

A vata predominant person is always on the move, physically and mentally. They constantly have new ideas, but have trouble following through. They tend to be energetic, yet introverted and usually have a lean physique.

 

A pitta predominant person is firey in every way. Their bodies tend to run warm, and their tempers can be equally hot. Pittas have a big appetite and excellent digestion. They are often intellectual thinkers, and usually have a strong, muscular body.

 

A kapha predominant person, in contrast with vata, is a slow mover, physically and mentally. They are most comfortable staying put, and can have trouble with motivation. Kaphas are the most content and loving of the three dosha types. They tend to gain weight easily and usually have curvy figures.

 

Over the next four months, we will cover each dosha in more detail. You will learn about dosha imbalances and how bring them back into balance, how to eat for your dosha, and what yoga practice is best for your dosha type. The best way to determine your dosha is to consult with an Ayurvedic practitioner, who can most accurately determine your predominant doshas. Alternately, there are online quizzes, like this one, available that can estimate your dosha type for you.

Yogic Breathing 101

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Proper breathing is what makes yoga, well, yoga. Attention to breath is what transforms mere exercises into a dynamic practice that helps us to understand our true nature. But before going too deep, let’s take a look at what it takes to breathe well during yoga practice.

 

It will be helpful to get acquainted with the diaphragm—the large muscle that separates the abdominal cavity from the chest cavity. It essentially bisects the torso into two parts. This muscle is quite mobile. It has the potential to be drawn down low into the abdomen upon inhalation and pulled up into the chest cavity upon exhalation. That is, if it is called upon to do so. Unfortunately, most of us do not utilize the diaphragm to breathe, and so we lose the ability to really fill our lungs with air.

 

The three-part breath is the best way to experience breathing with the diaphragm. Begin seated (or reclined on your back) with your hands on your belly.

 

Part 1. Sit up tall and relax the shoulders. Then relax the muscles of the belly. Next begin to inhale with the belly completely relaxed, and try to draw the breath down into the belly. (The breath doesn’t actually go into the belly, but the movement created by the breath does.) If you have trouble achieving this, push the belly out somewhat as you inhale to get the feeling of the movement. As you do this, take a moment to notice that you are able to fill your lower lungs with air. As you exhale, feel the belly sink back in (drawing it in if you need to in order to feel the movement).

 

Part 2. Next, place your hands on your lower rib cage. As you inhale, feel the belly expand (part 1) followed by the rib cage opening and expanding. As you exhale, feel it sink back in. Follow this movement for a few rounds of breath, noticing how the lungs fill with air from the bottom up.

 

Part 3.Finally, place your fingertips on your collar bone. Inhale and feel the belly expand (part 1) followed by the ribs (part 2) and finally, feel the chest rise and expand as your finish your inhale. Think about the top portion of the lungs filling with air at the end of the inhale, and think about how the exhalation empties this portion of the lungs first. Follow this movement for a few more rounds of breath.

 

Next release your hands and sit with this three-part breath for a while, noticing how your body moves in response to the breath without having to actually feel it. This deep awareness of breath linked to movement will help you find more awareness in your yoga practice. Connect to it as often as you can.