Kicking off Jaya's Pose of the Month

On the fourth Monday of each month, we will introduce the following month's "Pose of the Month."  You won't necessarily find any dedicated focus given to that pose in your classes at Jaya, although some teachers may chose to do so; it is more about the idea of exposing us to various poses and how we might benefit from incorporating them into our own personal practice.  

The article will give you some basic information on the pose, as well as step-by-step instructions (accompanied by photographs of our Jaya teachers as illustration) to guide you.  We expect many will be familiar, while some may be new to you.

As always, we look forward to hearing back from you as you read our weekly posts.  We love your feedback!  And, of course, feel free to share with your friends!  

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October's Pose of the Month

Vrksasana or Tree Pose

Vrksasana works to improve balance and strengthens thighs, calves, ankles & spine. A great one to practice in the kitchen while making dinner or standing in line at the grocery store ;)

Begin in Mountain Pose (Tadasana).  Shift the weight onto the right foot and bring the left foot to rest on the calf or to high on the thigh. Avoid placing foot directly on knee.  Press sole of foot into thigh and resist with standing leg.  Tailbone points down, hips stay squared forward. Choose a drishti, (a focal point on the floor or wall in front of you) to focus on and help keep your balance.  

If you are struggling with balance use a wall for support.  

Arm variations include hands to heart, stretching arms straight up toward the sky, parallel to each other, or touch the palms together forming an inverted V with the arms. For an extra challenge try closing your eyes.  Practice the pose for thirty seconds to one minute.  

Spotlight On...Katie McElhenny

Each month we will present an in-depth look at one of our Jaya teachers/practitioners.  This month we are shining our spotlight on Katie McElhenny.

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Katie grew up in Scranton, the second of five children, plus her cousin, in tight-knit family.  As a kid, she was athletic and enjoyed participating in team sports;  when she entered high school she joined the swim team.  At some point, she can’t remember when, she took up running. 

After high school, Katie entered the University of Scranton and majored in Special Education.  With the end goal being a teaching career, she did her student teaching in the Western Wayne school district.  But, as is often the case, a few things derailed her path.

In October of Katie’s senior year, her mom died of cancer.  It had been barely over a year since her original diagnosis.  Not long after that, Katie was offered a job in Switzerland to work as an Au Pair.  One might think she would jump at the chance to run away, but she declined in order to finish her degree.  As the end of college drew near, Katie was thrilled to receive another offer to work as an Au Pair, this time starting after graduation - an opportunity she could not turn down!  So off she went to Switzerland.

While she was there, Katie ran her first marathon - - in Zurich. 

After a year away, Katie returned to NEPA to accept her current job as a Learning Support Teacher at the Evergreen Elementary School.  Still reeling from the loss of her mom, and at the urging of her mother’s sister Patti, she decided to try yoga in an official setting.  Prior to that, Katie had only practiced yoga periodically at home with her aunt or through video instruction.

And so it was, on April Fool’s Day, 2008, that she attended her first in-studio yoga class.  Actually, as Katie puts it, her aunt dragged her, and boy was it a doozy!    “It was hard.  There were tears.”  But there was a lot going on beneath the surface.  The day before she and her boyfriend had broken up, and, of course, she was still moving through the process of grieving the loss of her mother. 

But it’s funny how life works out.  April 1st, 2008 just happened to be the official opening day at Jaya Yoga Studio - - which is the place Aunt Patti took her.   

When I Katie asked if it was love at first try, she answered an emphatic YES!  And it only got better.  

About a month later, she attended three classes in one day.  It was Mother’s Day.  The significance of the day, coupled with the fact that she had not eaten all day, created the perfect storm so-to-speak.   Before the end of the third class Katie got sick, but this did not deter her one bit!   

There was no question about her moving forward.  It seems yoga at Jaya offered her exactly what she did not know she was looking for.  She began a regular yoga practice, taking class one to two times a day the first five months.  And with that, everything began to flow.  Katie found yoga to be the catalyst for her journey to work through her grief and allow the healing to begin.

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After one year of continuous practice, she committed to Teacher Training.  When asked what inspired her to do the training, Katie answered, “It was the obvious impact my practice had on my physical and mental well-being.  Honestly, it was the fist time I was able to just sit in my shit.  All of it.  I was holding a lot inside.  Yoga changed me.”

As an example, Katie told me when she added a Restorative class to her schedule, her siblings could tell when she had not been able to take the class.  Apparently, she was way less fun to be around!  Much more tense and stressed out.

I asked Katie what was the best and worst aspect of TT.  Immediately she told me the best part was the opportunity to get to know the other yogis.  And through that process she began to open herself up to others. The worst part of the TT?  Feeling like her core principles and values weren’t in alignment with the teachers of the training.  

Still feeling a bit trepidatious after her training, at first she helped out with the children’s and beginners’ classes.  However, not long after, Hilary needed someone to take over the Restorative class and asked Katie if she would step in.  And she did.  Now Restorative is a major part of her teaching and yoga practice.    

As a student in her class, I already knew Katie’s least favorite pose - - Wide-legged forward fold.  (Her inner thighs are super tight, and her lower back is stiff.)  Like most of my teachers, Katie shares her struggles with her students so we don’t feel different or less than. 

 Her favorite pose?  Pigeon.  (It relaxes and recharges her.)

What’s Katie’s favorite way to unwind?  She takes a book (memoir is her favorite genre) and heads out into nature.  If you're looking for a good book to read, she loves to give recommendations.

Her biggest pet peeve?  Rude people. 

Katie has a simple approach to health and wellness - - everything in moderation.  She was a vegetarian for three to four years, but now just thinks in terms of REAL FOOD/WHOLE FOOD.

To close out our interview, I asked Katie where she saw herself in five years.  “So, what’s down the road for you?”

She looked me square in the eye and almost immediately answered, “I don’t know.”  Three times.  “Right now I am just living day-to-day, and that’s fine with me.  Obviously, I want to continue to feel happy and fulfilled.  Not sure what that means exactly, but that’s my goal.”

What Yoga Means to Me

When Hilary asked if I would writing a blog post on what yoga has meant to me,  I jumped at the chance to share my experience.  Then I sat down to write and realized it would be a hard assignment and, perhaps, a long one, because this isn’t just about what yoga has done for me; this is really about what yoga at Jaya has done for me.  So, in order to do this justice, I need to take a step back and tell you a little bit about me and my life “before Jaya”.  Please bear with me and don’t worry; it’ll be the abridged version :-)

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In February of this year, I turned 55 years old - - or young, depending on the day.  Some mornings I wake up and feel my age, with ankles and lower back creaky from tightness. Other days I hop right out of bed full of energy, yet when I look in the mirror I wonder who the hell is looking back at me, because mentally and physically I feel at least 15 years younger than the person in the mirror!  Then there are days, though few and far between, when I just feel ancient.

A month before said birthday, I signed up for the 30 day trial at Jaya.  Almost nine months later I can say, without reservation, it was the best $30 I have spent on myself in a long time.

I was raised in the deep south, educated in the Northeast and New England, and raised my three daughters near Boston.  These cultures have one important thing in common - attitude.  It’s all about chin up, work hard, and do what has to be done.  Period.  No navel gazing tolerated.  Consequently, I am not one to spend much time or money on self-care.  And quite honestly, I am not one to think much about it either.  I know I probably should, but truth-be-told for a good 20 years I had three girls to raise on my own and they needed a ton of stuff - my time, my energy and my money.  For years there wasn’t enough of anything left over for me - - I don’t even get my hair cut more than once or twice a year.  (Sometimes my mother tells me it looks like it too!  But I digress…)

A little background: I grew up swimming and playing tennis and taking ballet lessons - basically being your average, girlie Southern gal; not really athletic, but you could take me anywhere and I could assimilate with whatever people were doing.  As an adult, before I had children, I took up running.  What started out as a way for me control my weight, which was hard to handle because of my emotional relationship to food, ended up keeping me sane through 1) a divorce, 2) a subsequent remarriage, and 3) sudden widowhood, plus raising three head strong girls along the way.  I was your basic female non-athlete, who exercised for sanity and weight control.

Fast forward to when I took up rowing - on a dare - on my 47th birthday.  Talk about crazy!  Here I was, the girl who was never good enough to make a team, deciding as a grown-ass woman to give one of the most brutal sports a try.  (Cue laugh track.)  Because of my height and obscenely competitive nature, it turned out to be the sport for me.  But I was lucky too.  All the stars aligned.  I had two daughters who were gifted rowers - winning national championships and college scholarships - to guide me, plus three very excellent and compassionate, if not tough, coaches who immediately saw my potential and believed in me.  I joined a fierce and determined team of men and women, between the ages of 40 and 70, who were in it to be their very best.  In short order I was moved from the novice group to the competition team.  Soon, with a lot of hard work and a committed group of rowers, our team became competitive, and the year before I withdrew - in order to prepare for my move here - we started to win almost every race we entered.  The few times we didn’t win, we came in second.  I felt physically, and mentally, strong and powerful for the first time since I birthed my three girls.  I was riding on an emotional and physical high 24/7 those six years. Being this strong and powerful rower became my identity.

Then my life changed and opened up in a most unexpected way.  So, in order to move forward in my personal life, I needed to put rowing aside to prepare for my move to NEPA. 

Between September 2016 (when I said good-bye to rowing) and January 2018, I did little more than walk (sometimes jog) with my dog about five days a week, but less once I moved here last summer.  I tried yoga before, briefly when I had been injured and had to take a few months off rowing, and I did a yoga series the last three months I lived in Massachusetts.  It was mostly restorative and beginner level stuff, so not terribly active.  

Occasionally I’d go for a long, and painful, bike ride.  There were hikes thrown in here and there for good measure, but let’s be honest.  I went from pushing myself to kick some serious ass six days a week to doing basically very little.  Physically I became somewhat stagnant, and eventually it began to show.  In no time flat, I lost all the impressive muscle mass I had spent six arduous years working to build.  (When I tell you I was one tough broad prior to 2017, that is no lie.  If you happen to meet a serious rower you will understand.)  

Then 2018 dawned, and a few days into the new year I stood in front of my bathroom mirror, in a sports bra and underwear, and cried.  Seriously.  I did not recognize myself.  I had no muscle tone to speak of and, while no one would call me fat or pudgy, I had a head start on, what I refer to as, that “middle-aged female, mid-section pudge”.  

You see, since I stopped rowing, and thus working out two + hours three times a week and 90 mins. another three times a week (yup, it’s pretty hard core), I had also gone through that most dreaded phase of womanhood - MENOPAUSE.  (That’s the time in life when you learn that every trick you used to keep yourself healthy (read thin) and strong all these years, in spite of food issues and three pregnancies where you gained anywhere from 39 - 60 pounds, no longer works.)

While I didn’t actually gain any weight at all, within a year my body did not look like itself.  My once taut and lean arms were devoid of muscle, period, and my thighs, which are your powerhouse when you row, were really starting to show a visible lack of tone.  Don’t even get me started in my core!  It’s like I woke up one day with someone else’s body, in one of those hollywood switcheroo movies, but in the horror genre, not comedy.  UGH!

Today I am closing in on nine months with Jaya.  I take four classes every week: Tuesday at 10 AM, Wednesday at 5:30 PM, Friday at 10 AM, and Saturday at 10 AM.  When I tell someone I love yoga, it’s really an understatement.  And as I said in the beginning, it’s not just yoga; it’s really yoga at Jaya.  While I don’t feel as if I am quite part of the culture yet, I do feel totally and completely connected.  And safe.  That’s a big thing for me.  You see, I suffer from anxiety.  Any new and unknown situation is hard for me.  And as a highly competitive person, with a strong perfectionist streak, going into a yoga class can bring up the worse anxiety ever.  I am constantly fighting to keep myself from comparing my abilities with those around me.  And my former success as a rower, within a relatively short period of time, has only exacerbated this issue.  I am sure the aging process has set me back as well.  

It took me almost three weeks just to convince myself to go in and sign up for the 30 day trial.  I knew I would be right back at square one and I hated the thought of looking foolish, but that was a waste of energy.  I have not met anyone at Jaya who wasn’t welcoming, and the instructors could not be more warm and encouraging.  I feel challenged for sure, but never defeated.  

It has been quite the journey these past nine months.  I have struggled and felt frustrated and annoyed with myself.  When I started, I could not hold my weight up during plank and I used to hold plank easily at rowing practice.  Talk about frustration!  I still have pain in my wrists and shoulders from time to time, because they are weak and tight, and this causes me to take child’s pose more than I would like.  And I am sure those who are on mats closest to me have heard me mutter obscenities out of frustration when I can’t do what I am trying to do.  But no one glares or says anything to make me feel like a loser.  In fact, after every single class all I feel is encouraged.  Lighter.  Brighter.  Calmer.  

And maybe the best and most valuable thing I have gained from my time at Jaya is the fact that when I arrive in a bad mood (my youngest, at 21, was living with us this past school year and she frustrated and annoyed me more than either of us expected) or not feeling quite 100% (I did the Whole30 for the month of April and I definitely did not feel my best most of that month), the teacher of that class ends up totally turning me around.  The little pearls of wisdom that come out of Hilary’s mouth have been such a gift.  It’s like she says them just for me, as if she somehow knows I need it at that moment.  The soothing and gentle voice of Corrin has been a godsend, in spite of the fact that she can really kick it up a notch.  Don’t let the sweetness fool you!  Restorative with Katie has saved my back on more than one occasion.  It has helped me so much I cannot begin to tell you how much I love that class!  And If you aren’t in a good mood and motivated after Erin’s class, well then, I guess there’s just no hope for you! 

There are many other classes to try, and with the new school year I have moved to a different schedule.  So far, so good!  I look forward to the time when I can consider moving past slow flow and into a faster paced class.  But for now, I am in no hurry.

With every class I find I am stronger and more confident.  After about three months, I took a chance and tried a bind in Erin’s class and was able to do it (on one side) and hold it!  I felt just like Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic, as he stood with Rose at the bow of the ship - King of the World!  

Shortly after that, I noticed plank was easier for me, and then one day I thought, why look there - my arms are getting muscular again!  SCORE!  And more often than not, I am able to focus 100% on the moment - all 75 mins - while in class.  It’s hard for me to do that, but guess what?  As a consequence of that focus, I have days when I make it through an entire class without swearing under my breath, or huffing and puffing, or muttering to myself, or going to child’s pose because I couldn’t hold the pose given.  

I always go into a class with the intention of being mindful and moving with purpose, and some days I am able to fully put that into practice.  I may not be the big, strong rower I was just two years ago, but I am a new version of strong.  Plus the way I see myself has changed.  I have regained my confidence and have found a sense of peace.  I am learning to be in the moment, to be present and to be happy where I am - even if it’s in child’s pose while everyone else is flowing along without me.

So, yes, I do love yoga and it certainly has been good for me, but I have to believe it has been yoga at Jaya that has made all the difference, and for that I am deeply grateful.

I bow to you. (Namaste)

Hilary's Monthly Musing - September

For a moment I thought about quieting down the conversation in teen yoga the other day, but then I decided to listen instead.  In front of me was a group of teens, from different schools, talking about the same struggles.  These girls may see a different view every day, but the hurdles, roadblocks, and challenges they meet are the same in so many ways.  We are more similar than different. We all suffer from the human condition and that is so much a part of yoga.

Jaya is a place where no one cares about how much money you make, whether you have perfect hair, or what your job is, etc. There are no consequences here.  If you can do a pose, great; if not, keep practicing. Our value as humans doesn’t come from a yoga pose.  Our character, however, can be strengthened by what we learn when we fall out of one.

Jaya was born from an idea.  I saw a place where people could come to be inspired, to let the best version of themselves shine.  I hoped for a place where people could feel free to be in the moment and celebrate the experience of life.  

The well known quote “practice and all is coming” means ALL is coming - - the good, bad, light, dark, easy, difficult, etc.

Since Jaya opened its doors seven and a half years ago, it has grown to become more than just a yoga studio.  It’s a community center. It’s a church.  It’s a wellness center.  It’s a lifeline.  

Yoga is a way of life and Jaya, and the yogi community, reflect that off the mat.  The connections people have made here are priceless. From our pink ponies to yoga jail, Jaya has it’s own breath, it’s own personality, it’s own energy. It’s truly beyond anything I could have planned or imagined.

Being that September is National Yoga month, it’s the perfect time to extend the reach of yoga and offer more opportunity and access to mindful, healthy content. As you may know, I have been working on relaunching the Jaya blog.  I am feeling really good about this little change that I believe will provide another opportunity for us to connect and grow together. Through the blog, we are building a place where we can share recipes, articles, and ideas, and invite more people to experience the community at Jaya off the mat.  So take time once a week to check us out, and please, let me know what you think.  

And if you find something worthy of sharing with your friends, Jaya yogis or not, please do so.  Jaya is about connection and community.  Thank you for being such an important part of that vision.

September is National Yoga Month!

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Greetings Yogis! 

September is National Yoga Month and we have a few surprises in store!  

Traditionally, September is also a month of change.  Once summer starts to wind down, we know a new school year will officially shift into gear.  As kids, many of us loved the idea of a fresh start in the fall and the feeling of endless possibilities associated with that - - new teachers, classes, notebooks, supplies, and a new wardrobe!  

Now as adults, we notice the sun rises just a bit later each morning and sets a bit earlier in the evening.  With each passing day, the air grows cool and crisp. 

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, "The only constant is change." Autumn reminds us that our bodies, minds, and surroundings are always changing and evolving.

Taking our cue from the seasons, we are excited to announce a re-launch of our Jaya Blog starting Labor Day!      

Thanks to the vision and passion of our own Jeanne Foley, Jaya will be offering weekly insights not only into yoga, but also into health, wellness, and recipes.  Basically, all things Jaya and more!

On the first Monday of each month Hilary will start things rolling with a personal note, sharing her insight in  “Hilary’s Monthly Musings.”

On the second Monday we will offer an essay by our blog editor in chief, Jeanne Foley or a guest writer.  Topics will vary, depending on the author, but will be in harmony with the idea of yoga and wellness.

On the third Monday we will offer “Spotlight on … “.  Each month we will share a close and personal look at one of Jaya's teachers.  This will give you the opportunity to get to know your yoga teacher outside of class.  Topics will generally touch on their path to becoming a teacher and insights about their journey.  You never know what you might learn!

On the fourth Monday we will announce the following month’s “Pose of the Month.”  The article will serve as a touchstone throughout the month, should you wish to revisit the information provided.  Photographs of the pose will accompany the article as illustration.  The more you know, the more you understand, and the more you understand, the more you can use that to enrich your personal practice.  Before long you will get to know the ins and outs of that month’s pose, just in time to learn what the next “POM” will be!  This will be a fun and challenging way for each of us, no matter what level, to put our focus into our own practice as we explore in depth the various poses and learn firsthand how they can enhance and expand our journey. 
  
As the next 12 months unfold, we will be offering other fun and interesting tidbits on the blog, so please keep us on your regular “blogs to check out” list.  Let us be your first stop for information, not only on happenings at Jaya, but also on how yoga/mindfulness/meditation can enhance your life.  Perhaps you will find yourself sharing articles from our blog with your friends.

Jaya is all about community, and we are committed to empowering you to be the best version of yourselves both on and off the mat. Life is yoga. Yoga is life. 

Be sure to check us out on Labor Day! 

Namaste,

Hilary & Jeanne

Diastasis Recti and Pelvic Floor Weakness - What they are and how to FIX them

Lets start off with a quick description of Diastasis Recti (aka DR), technically speaking it’s an unnatural separation of the rectus abdominis muscles (six pack muscles).  This separation happens 100% of the time in pregnancy, so at the time of delivery every mom has this condition. The belly has to grow and expand to accommodate baby or babies so it makes sense that these muscles get pushed to the side and stretched out. The fascia or connective tissue that lies between and over these muscles, along the linea alba, gets thinned out, stretched and weakened as well. Hands down, almost every mother out there will tell you that their midsection was never the same after having a child. In fact, 3 months postpartum, nearly 60% of women still have this unnatural separation. It can improve on it’s own, but for a good majority it doesn’t. 

How do you know if you have DR? Some women are checked for DR at their postpartum follow-up appointment, but most are not checked or they are unaware if they were checked. One of the telltale signs of DR is the dreaded mommy pooch that just won’t go away. This pooch can appear all along the area of the linea alba or it can be more pronounced at or below the bellybutton. Another common presentation is when the front of the abdomen appears to protrude. This protrusion can start right under the chest and go all the way down to the pubic area. Low back pain can also be connected to DR in some instances.

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As a personal trainer and someone who suffered from DR I can’t stress enough how important it is to properly assess DR and the sooner the better. Proper assessment is important because the most common ab exercises to “tone” or “strengthen” the core are the absolute worst moves for someone that has DR. Planks, sit-ups, crunches, v sits and rollups are some examples that can further weaken the area and put someone at risk for a hernia or prolapse. So knowing which moves to avoid while incorporating the right moves and breathing techniques is an essential place to start in order to fix DR. 

When I was told that I had DR nearly 6 years ago, my GYN said that I needed to avoid the typical ab exercises. At the time I wasn’t a trainer, but had a personal interest in fitness and all things movement related so I set out looking for what I needed to do to correct the issue. Surprisingly the available info thru books and media was very sparse so I just continued to avoid the ab work my GYN warned me about. Fast forward a few years I decided to take my interest in training to the next level and became certified as a personal trainer as well as a specialized kettlebell instructor. By this time I had found some useful information on exercises to help correct DR and decided to take a certification course (Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist with Dr. Sarah Duvall) that specialized in DR and Pelvic Floor. This course was amazing!! It was the missing link that I needed to completely correct my DR.

An added bonus to correcting my DR was the realization from this course that I also had Pelvic Floor weakness (yeah!!). I would leak when I sneezed and sometimes when I coughed if I didn’t brace for it. I jumped on a trampoline at SkyZone and felt an immediate heaviness in my pelvic floor, it was so uncomfortable that I had to stop jumping IMMEDIATELY. These issues were random so I never thought too much of them, that is, until I took this course. It turns out that sneeze-pee and leaking with or without exertion is so common among moms and we just ignore it or think that its just the norm after having children. Well, let me tell you it’s not normal and you can correct this. I stopped leaking literally 2 weeks after I started implementing the work I learned in the course, it was such an ah ha moment. Pelvic Floor and DR often go hand-in-hand, but they don’t have to. What’s awesome is that most of the exercises and breathing techniques I teach will address both and I can customize it to fit the exact needs of a client. Pelvic Floor weakness can present in other ways as well, like urgency to urinate, difficulty starting or stopping flow of urine, pain with penetration, tampon falls out or moves down on its own or unexplained pain in the genital, hip, butt or pelvic area.

I hope this post has peaked your interest in finding out more about your DR and/or Pelvic Floor weakness. My goal is to help women fix this issue once and for all by implementing specific  breathing mechanics and personalized core strengthening moves while keeping you safe and avoiding injury. Join me at Jaya Yoga for a 4 session Diastasis & Pelvic Floor Fix workshop starting July 22nd. Space is limited to ensure each participant receives a custom program that works for them. Click Here to Register. 

- From Jessica Doncses of Optimize to Thrive

Seasonal Mindfulness

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I often find myself thinking a lot negative thoughts in the winter. I hate the snow. I hate the cold. I hate shoveling. I am always thinking about how much the winter hinders me from doing what I want to be doing. What I don’t realize most of the time is that without this season, I would not appreciate the others as much. In the summer, I make the most of my outdoor hours as I know they are limited. But, still, in the back of my mind, I am thinking about winter. I sit by my pool and think, “One day it will be winter again and I will feel sad that I cannot do this.” This is already setting me up for what I will call “winter failure.” I know many people hate summer but enjoy the winter. That is a foreign concept to me! But, are we all always in a constant state of anticipation?  

Everything has something that seems to compliment it. A yin and a yang – opposite energies, but both are needed. The shady side of winter vs. the sunny side of summer. I have to believe that winter is needed in this way for me. After all, there is really no avoiding winter as long as I live in NEPA.  Is it important to think this way? To be mindful of our seasons?

I think so.

All too often, we are anticipating the future, especially when it comes to the weather. In winter, most of us cannot wait to experience the sun and warm weather. We cannot wait for winter to just end. We think about what is to come. In spring, we are doused with a lot of rain and thinking the same thing. Where is the sun? Why do we have to sit through a season of rain? Do we examine why this season is needed? Do we think about how the rain is needed for the summer colors to blossom? When summer is here, many of us are complaining of the heat (not me, but… most others), and we cannot wait for the fall to come and pumpkin flavored everything and slightly cooler temperatures. When the fall comes, though, do we really take in that beauty of fall? I know that I spend a lot of time dreading the winter that is to come.  I often think how much I would like to just move to where it is warm, but it is not always that easy for all of us. We have families and jobs and things that tie us to where we currently are. So if we don’t want to lose all of that, how do we deal with those seasons we all dread?

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If we all take a step back and realize that we are constantly anticipating the seasons, what else are we anticipating? Are we waiting on more things that we cannot control? Does this worry of the future affect our daily well being? Constant worry or anxiety can affect us in many ways, both physically and mentally. If we can begin to notice that we are anxious, we can begin to figure out what it is that is making us feel that way. We can start by changing how we think about one thing. If we take the seasons as an example, we can try every day to live in the present, in that season. Every day we can take a good look around and just take notice of what season we are in, without thinking of the next. We can simply stop and breathe in the cool air, warm air, that fresh spring air, or crisp fall air and we can be happy that we are able to have this current experience. We can begin to check in with our physical selves. Is this weather making us tense? In what areas? Are we hot? Are we cold? How can we relax that tension, or make ourselves more comfortable?

We have this same cycle of seasons every year. We cannot control the cycle, but we can work on how we respond to it. And from there, we can begin to use this concept to learn how we think about other things that we seem to anticipate but have no control over. Every day we each fight a battle with our minds and we do not even realize it. If we stop our thoughts, or take a step back from them and look at what we are thinking, we can become more aware of that battle that we don’t realize we are fighting and we can win it. We have that control to be mindful, we just have to figure out how to use it.

From Erica Nealon

Yoga for Runners

 Ashley is an avid runner and yogi!

Ashley is an avid runner and yogi!

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If you identify as a runner you might be familiar with the following: shin splints, plantar fasciitis, tendinitis, stress fractures. Running takes a lot from your body. With every stride we exert 5 to 12 times our body weight to propel us through the next step. Do that for hours upon hours and you’re bound to end up with a nagging injury. We can’t change how demanding running is, but we can work to prevent these injuries by doing activities that help strengthen our tendons, ligaments, and muscles outside of the quadriceps and calves, which are usually the major muscle groups worked while running. Yoga has many benefits for runners. In addition to the physical effects, it is a highly mental practice. During moments of discomfort we learn to breathe through movements and hold poses; this is helpful when you’re at a point in a race where it’s too painful or tiring to go on. You develop your own mantras that help you achieve success when you just want to give up. As runners we tend to have tight hips, hamstrings, quads, calves, feet – you name it! The appeal of yoga is that no matter which class you go to, all of those body parts will be stretched in some way. In addition to stretching, yoga is a great workout for your core. Your core holds you up while running and will help you retain form in the late stages of a race or long run when your legs give out. A strong core also helps improve your endurance and form. We tend to neglect doing core work, or possibly try and do it improperly. We lead very busy lives and may not always make time for 10 minutes of stretching after every run, but it is highly suggested that you incorporate a yoga class into your self-care routine. Coming from a sport that is highly competitive, yoga is a breath of fresh air in a non-judgmental and supportive environment. It doesn’t matter if you can or can’t touch your toes, there is no competition or prize for doing so. Yoga teaches us to be honest with ourselves and listen to where we’re at in the current moment. Some days we must dial it back in order to move forward. In running, listening to our bodies is crucial and could mean the difference between a minor injury and a sidelining injury. If you feel that your running routine is missing something, are prone to common running injuries, need an effective cross training activity and/or looking to gain strength, flexibility, and confidence, yoga just may be what you need. Hope to see you on the mat!

- Ashley Shamus, Manager of the National Running Center in Clarks Summit

 

Want to Feel More Relaxed for Better Sleep? Try Meditation

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The benefits of meditation have been known in the Eastern world for generations, but we’re only now beginning to understand the science behind this age-old practice. In a fast-paced, technology-driven world, sometimes you need to take a step back to see how stress might be affecting your life. It could be damaging your relationships, wreaking havoc on your health, or leaving you sleep-deprived. If you want to reduce stress, center yourself, and improve the quantity and quality of your sleep, meditation might be right for you.

Stress-Related Sleep Deprivation

Stress comes with many harmful physical and mental side effects. A few you may have experienced include:

  • Headaches or migraines
  • Muscle tension, especially in the shoulders and back
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Stomach upset such as acid reflux
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of focus
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Appetite changes
  • Social withdrawal

Stress can prevent you from reaching the deepest levels of sleep needed for full regenerative rest, compromising your immune system, affecting your appetite, and overall well-being.

Stress and sleep deprivation form a vicious cycle. Stress makes it hard to sleep, yet lack of sleep makes it difficult to deal with stress, making the effects of stress more pronounced. Bringing stress under control can help put you back on track for getting the full seven to eight hours of sleep you need each night.  

Using Meditation as a Relaxation Tool

Where does meditation come into the equation? Meditation can break the stress-sleep deprivation cycle. Meditation triggers what’s called the “relaxation response.” This response is accompanied by a decrease in oxygen consumption, an increased exhalation of nitric oxide, and a reduction in psychological distress. Other short and long-term effects of the relaxation response include:

  • Slowed brain wave patterns
  • Improved appearance of your skin
  • Decreased muscle tension
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Improved immune system
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Restored circulation
  • Decreased metabolism
  • Increase in communication skills

Other methods of treating sleep deprivation, like sleep education, have proven to be less effective than regular meditation. With continued practice, meditation can fundamentally change how genes express themselves. The genes begin to reverse the damage done by stress to individual cells. In addition, the amount of proteins that cause stress-related inflammation goes down, reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other illnesses and disorders.

Meditation for Better Sleep

Today, meditation has become more accessible than in the past. Many yoga classes discuss and incorporate meditation as part of the class because the two are so closely related. Apps, websites, and online videos are readily available to help you learn meditative techniques. It can be done before bed to help you let go of stress and relieve tension. Whether you’re sitting in a quiet room or lying on your mattress ready to fall asleep, you can follow meditation instructions to help you drift off to sleep.

If you’re looking for a simple technique to try right away, mindfulness meditation works well for beginners. It involves breathing deeply from the diaphragm and listening and focusing on the inhalation and exhalation of the breath. Some techniques also involve the visualization of a nature scene or counting down numbers. The more you practice, the better you’ll get at developing a method that can change your relationship with stress and sleep.

From Sarah Johnson of Tuck

Incorporating Young Living Essential Oils Into Your Cooking…My Top 4 Tips!

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From Sandi Graham’s Vintage Kitchen

I must admit that I was hesitant in using essential oils into my cooking.  Admittedly, I was hesitant at the thought of using my essential oils in my cooking.  How would it work?  For example, I am not going to use Vitality Basil Oil on a Caprese Salad because the basil a visual ingredient.  However, using Orange essential oil in place of orange juice in a sauce, cuts out extra sugar while keeping the flavor element. 

Once I started thinking about flavor and health, I started playing with more ideas and ways to use essential oils.  Here are my suggestions to help you get started:

  1. You can always add more.  Essential oils are concentrated so you only need a drop or two in a recipe.   With about 85-100 drops in a bottle of Vitality oil, the price per drop is economical.  Additionally, sometimes fresh herbs are not available in the store, so the oils are a convenient substitute.
    (Note: if you are using black pepper, a drop may be too much.  Put a drop onto plate and dip a toothpick into the drop, then swirl the toothpick into your food.  Remember, you can always add more.)
  2. I think it is easiest to start with the citrus oils.  Adding lime, lemon, orange, tangerine, grapefruit or citrus fresh to a recipe in in place of an extract can bring delicious results.  Think cupcakes, frosting, or marinades.
  3. Beverages are a great place to experiment with adding essential oils.  Warm beverages, cold beverages, cocktails, mocktails, and smoothies can all benefit with a complement flavor.  How do you decide a complement flavor? Use some classics: orange and chocolate or cinnamon bark and apple are good places to start.  There are many premixed mocktails on the market, add an oil for a unique beverage.
  4. Don’t overlook dip, bread, or cake mixes.  You can customize a standard mix with just a few drops.  Try rosemary in a quick bread mix or in a marinara dipping sauce.
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Jaya Bingo!

Get on your mat and win! Join us for Jaya Bingo during the month of August!

Play to win prizes or complete the entire board to be entered to win a FREE Month at Jaya! Pick up your card at Jaya's front desk or download and print your own! Then get on your mat with us to win! 

RULES:

Jaya Bingo is played from August 1st - August 31st. Winners will be drawn for prizes weekly. You will be automatically entered to win a free month with a completed card. Social posts are counted on Facebook and Instagram. Check in at Jaya and use the hashtag #jayasummerfun.

Yoga on the Roof!

 2016 Yoga on the Roof

2016 Yoga on the Roof

Join us Tuesday, July 4th on the rooftop of the Marketplace at Steamtown for Yoga on the Roof! Kids are welcome and there will be a coloring contest featuring the July Yogaphants! Take the coloring sheet with you or color it there, then scan or snap a picture of your masterpiece! Post it to the Jaya Facebook and a winner will be chosen!