The following is from a recent speech I gave May 24th, 2018  at Bailey Toastmaster in Euclid, Ohio

As most of you may know that I am a yoga teacher. I have been studying, practicing and teaching yoga for almost 20 years and I am initiated into the Satyananda Yoga lineage out of Bihar India.

I don’t know how much you know about yoga, but it has been around a long time and  believed to be over 5000 years old.

However, longevity of existence, does not equate with universal understanding, and there tends to be a lot of confusion surrounding the word YOGA and more than a few “Yoga Myths” to be dispelled.

Here are a few…

Many people think

  1. Yoga is a religion.

 Because of it’s origin in the region of India it is often associated with Hinduism, Buddhism, or other Eastern religions. However, taking up yoga should not make you undermine your own current religious beliefs.  Yoga can be done by anyone with or without religious preference.

  1. You have to be flexible to practice yoga

Yoga is really for “every BODY.”  Inherent in yoga postures are many movements that can be tailored to individual needs and current levels of flexibility and health.  There is no need to be able to do the splits, wrap your leg around your head, or even touch your toes to practice yoga.

Speaking of wrapping your leg around your head…. Many people believe

        3. Yoga is all about the Poses

While the poses tend to be the face of Western Yoga, there is so much more to yoga than downward facing dog or tree pose!

Yoga is really the science of right living providing us with tools such as breathing techniques and meditation practices etc. that are intended to be integrated into one’s daily life. Tools that can “WAKE us up to ourselves and the world around us.

Mr. Toastmaster, Fellow Toastmasters and Guests tonight we are going to look at some simple and practical ways that we can use yoga to Wake us up to life and help us be the healthiest, happiest version of ourselves. 

The meaning of the word “Yoga” is “union” or “oneness”  It is derived from the Sanskrit root “yuj,” (pron. “yug”) meaning “to join”, or to  “to yoke”.

This union or yoke can be with God, the universe, a partner, or something as simple as the present moment.

Being at one, or in union with the present moment, the NOW of our lives, is often called mindfulness or present moment awareness.

Bill Keane the Author of the comic strip “Family Circus put it perfectly when he said “Yesterday is the past, tomorrow the future, but today is a gift, that is why they call it the PRESENT. And in that Present day gift…..

There are 1,440 “present moments…” 525, 600 in a year.

That’s A LOT of opportunities to be present! A lot of gifts to recognize!!

What does it mean to be present?

It means to be aware of what you are doing when you are doing it.

When you are walking, you know you are walking.

When you are eating you know you are eating.

When you are sitting in a Toastmasters meeting listening to a speech you are doing your best to truly listen, to be present with the speaker, to be where you are, to be in this room.

So, if you mind has already wandered to what you could have done instead of coming to this meeting, what you are going to do after this meeting, or if your thoughts have gone off on a tangent of something I said…

Come back to this room, come back to my speech NOW!

Paying attention, staying present with what you are doing is not easy. There are so many distractions-phones, people, noise, etc.

But like a muscle, if trained, properly nourished, and rested, your attention, your awareness, can regularly work at an optimal level.

So how can we train our awareness? How can we wake up to the present moment, wake up to our life with yoga?

One way is to make more connections to mind, body or breath throughout the day. And you don’t even have to go to a yoga class to do this.

Let’s go through a sample scenario

Let’s start with the 1st present moment of our day. The minute you wake up.

YOUR FIRST THOUGHT
What is your first thought in the morning? Is it one that is inspiring or one of anxiety or dread?

Our first thought in that first moment can often set up our day. Why not make it a positive one? Consider replacing it with a prayer, a positive affirmation? I have 3 mantras or chants that I bring to mind and repeat the first minutes I wake up. One for healing, one for wisdom and one to over come distress in life and to live in harmony with it. So when I find unserving thoughts creeping in…I go to to these first.

YOUR FIRST MOVEMENT

Instead of jumping out of bed and rushing to get ready, take your time. Make a connection to your body and wake it up slowly. You are going to ask a lot of it today.

Become aware of your feet and ankles and begin to slowly move your ankles in a circle. Slowly and carefully. This simple ankle rotation is from the the Pawanmuktasana series called Anti Rhuematics-they release energy blockages and are helpful for alleviating stiffness of joints and muscles. By moving your ankles slowly with awareness you are making a mind body connection to the feet. Preparing the feet that are going to literally carry you through your day. If you have ever had a foot ailment such as planter fasciitis, this is a MUST DO before putting your full weight of your body on your feet.

Hey, but don’t stop there…go to the wrists and the fingers attached to them. Bring the hands out in front of you beginning to bend them up and down at the wrists. Our hands do so much for us as work on our computers, text friends, drive a car, workout etc. Due to our constant use of of the fine motor movements in our hands many of us have or on the way to having overuse injuries. These injuries can be painful and limit our movement significantly.

THE FIRST BREATH

Before getting out of bed. Bring the awareness to the breath. Notice the natural breath. The life giving breath. You will take approximately 22,000 breaths today…pay attention to the next few and as many as you recognize throughout the day. Did you know that when you breath mindfully, it comes from a higher brain center then automatic breathing? When you are AWARE, when you know that you know that you are breathing, the parasympathetic nervous system’s flight of the the fight or flight is activated.. And because of that, your heart rate is lowered, your blood pressure lowers, cortisol levels, which are associated with stress, decrease.  All of these heart healing benefits associated with mindful breathing.  Take 3 deep. mindful breath, get out of bed, and carry the awareness of the mind, body and breath into you day.

Throughout the day you begin to notice spaces… where you can take a few deep breaths. Where you can connect with your body moving it carefully, keeping the energy going.

Spaces where you can see things from other people’s perspective. Choosing to remain silent when you realize you don’t need to make yourself known, you don’t need to defend or deflect.  In yoga, this is called ANTAR MOUNA inner silence. The ability to watch and the thoughts as they surface but not necessary act on them. The ability CHOOSE or change your thoughts.

Flash forward to the end of the day

Lying downin bed… take a moment to think back through the day…from the first present moment until now…

You realize, the more PRESENCE you bring the more PRESENTS your receive. You very may well realize you have had ONE OF THE BEST DAYS EVER!

For the last time today, come back to the breath for a simple breath meditation. Bringing your awareness to your natural breath begin to count your breath backward from 108 down to one… It is a yogic way of counting sheep! Breathing in 108, breathing out 108… Breathing in 107, breathing out 107….so forth down…well deserved sleep is on its way.

“Yoga is bringing suppleness in body, calmness in mind, kindness in heart and awareness in life”

Amit Ray

And with that…Sweet dreams… as you look forward to waking up with yoga to the best version of yourself tomorrow!

Mr. Toastmaster…

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“Mobile Yoga” as a concept is showing the complimentary aspects of yoga and skating.

Mobile Yoga as a lifestyle? Well, that would describe mine.

In 2017, skating kept me “flying” around rinks in Cleveland and over 80000 miles in the air from the beaches of LA to the mountainous regions of China. While yoga continued to serve as an anchor to good health, inner peace and the cultivation of present moment awareness. Skating and Yoga, two aspects of my personal and “work” life certainly continued to serve me well in 2017.  It is hard to believe that at 50 years old I have managed to cultivate such a physically active, mentally stimulating, and emotionally rewarding life. Thanks to the support of my husband Greg and my children-who lovingly chide me as “the absentee mother,” I am truly blessed and my life filled with so much love and happiness.

Let’s take a look at a “Mobile Yoga Year in Pictures”.

January 9-17 Beijing, China/Seoul Korea  Sled Dogs Snowskates

 

January 18-May 5 Cleveland , Ohio  Spring Semester Cleveland State University

 CSU Shavasana Spring 2017

January 26-31 Los Angles, CA .  Rollerblade Workouts & Tips for Beginners 2 Videos

Screen Shot 2017-12-26 at 11.01.54 AM

February 2-5 Miami, FL   Skater Migration Event

February 20 New York City Visit Friends & Catch a Show

NYC Blue Man Group Kris Jade 2017

April 8 & 9 New York City   Saturday Night Live

Screen Shot 2017-12-24 at 10.37.51 AM.png

May 5-12 Venice, Italy     Rollerblade International Sales Meeting

B Annual Sales Meeting

Screen Shot 2017-12-24 at 10.39.41 AM.png

Chongqing/Hanzhou/Shanghai China  Inline Certification Program

Chongching L1 & L2 2017

June 1- 3 New York City Parkinson’s Foundation & Columbia University Reunion

Screen Shot 2017-12-24 at 10.44.28 AM

June 9-11 Snowshoe, West Virginia      Wanderlust 

Wanderlust Kris & Tree 2017

June 12-July 0 Cleveland, OH   Cleveland State University Summer Research Inline Skating Study

July 1 Cleveland, OH     Kris’ 50th Birthday Extravaganza

July 2-July 19th  Germany, Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria  European Vacation

August 11-15 Madrid, Spain  ICP Level 2/Level 3 & Sled Dogs Snowskates

August-December CSU Fall Semester

CSU Lord Shiva

September-present  Cleveland Area, OH  Learn to Play & Technique/Power Sessions

October 12 Chagrin Falls, OH  The Pond- Teaching to Be Teachers Seminar

The Pond LTS Program

December 7-17 China/Korea  Sled Dogs Snowskates

December 18-20 Los Angeles, CA  Visit Friends 

Santa Monica Kris & Jade 2017.jpg

End of the trail indeed!

Kris’s Mobile Year in Review…..The End.

Rollerblade's ABT

Click To Start Rollerblade ABT Video

In my 20+ years teaching skating, I have taught 1000’s of people how to skate or how to skate better.

When meeting new skaters, or listening to the reasons why a relatively experienced skater is hesitant to skate more often, I have noticed a common theme:

Lack of Confidence:  People want to feel more confident while on their skates.

Being able to control your speed and stop in a variety of settings and various surfaces is the basis of a safe and enjoyable skating experience. It is the foundation of what keeps people skating.   Being able to skate when I want, and wherever I want is what motivates ME to skate.

The Macroblade ABT is perfect for the skater that needs a little confidence booster.  The Active Brake Technology allows the skater to have all 8 wheels on the skating surface, which provides the stability and control that they are looking for in their skating experience.

Personally having skated in the Macroblade 80 ABT (Pictured below) since Rollerblade’s International Sales Meeting last year. I have found that the brake does not get in the way of my skating at all, which is a common concern for some skaters, and have been able turn and maneuver in variety of situations with ease. It truly feels like an extension of my foot.

Women's Macroblade 80 ABT

2017 Women’s Macroblade 80 ABT

For those new to the sport, the ABT is the perfect tool to speed up their learning curve giving them the confidence and motivation to skate more often and for longer periods of time.

This is something that I believe we can all agree upon is important for the growth of our sport:

More people skating confidently, More people skating for longer periods of time. More people skating.  PERIOD.

For additional information on the Macroblade ABT,  skating  videos, skating advice and more check out http://www.rollerblade.com

MAcroblade 80 ABT Mens

2017 Men’s Macroblade 80 ABT

Change Chinese Characher

This is the time of the year for “grand proclamations” of change.

The reality, however, is that there is no need to wait until the New Year. While is does provide a somewhat ceremonious starting point, we can make a change in every moment, every second of our lives.   The opportunity to change the way we think, speak and act lies in our ability to be the “witness”, the “observer”.   The “witness” is the part of us that “knows we know.” It is awareness and our best teacher. It is the ability to “watch” our actions, reactions and  personality manifest in relation to the world around us.

Examples of opportunities to develop the “witness”:

  • When saying “I told you so” to a loved one or friend when they didn’t follow our advice, is replaced by either a heart felt condolence or by saying nothing at all.
  • Noticing the space between hearing the voice inside remind us that we do not “need” that 3rd piece of pizza, no matter how tasty, and NOT taking that third piece.
  • It is the ability to let go of a repetitive, unserving thought that causes depression or anxiety,  and choosing to replace it with one that is neutral or maybe even joyful.
  • Being “cut off” by a car on a highway and instead of condemning the driver, bless them and wish for their safe arrival wherever they may be going.

Change Sign

Changing patterns of thoughts and behavior through developing the ability to witness takes vigilance and continual practice.   According to the teachings of Swami Satyananda in the Bihar School of Yoga, it is believed that one of the best ways to develop the ability to “witness” is through Karma Yoga. In  “Yoga Vision” on the Bihar School of Yoga website, Karma Yoga is referred to as “a system which develops immunity to the reactive and negative components of an action. “Swami Niranjanananda has said  that “Through karma yoga we are able to understand our own life, improve the quality of life and transcend life.”

Karma Yoga is the yoga of action and is often referred to as “selfless service.”  While all work we do, and actions that we perform, can potentially be labeled as Karma Yoga, it is easiest to begin with duties in which we literally and figuratively have little or no attachment.  Karma Yoga  is then working without worrying about the “fruits of the labor” or even completing the task.  In Karma Yoga it is actually okay “not” to finish what you are working and to allow your effort and whatever outcome or consequences to be “good enough.”  The idea is to notice the thoughts, etc. that arise before, during or after the  experience.

Karma Yoga provides a wonderful platform to change hard-wired patterns of thoughts and behaviors, positively altering our personality, relationships and lives over a period of time.  So if you have made your grand proclamation for change in 2017 don’t forget to leave space for the “witness”.  In the words of Michael Jackson:

“If You Wanna Make The World
A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And
Then Make A Change”

~Man in the Mirror

seasons_people_change_autumn

Breath Awareness in Crocodile

The following was published August 30th, 2016 in the Psychology and Education Journal.

Depression and Anxiety Decline after Participation in a Semester Long Yoga Class

Jeremy E. C. Genovese & Kristine Fondran

Cleveland State University

      Students at large Midwestern University completed the short form of the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS 21) at the beginning and end of a semester long yoga class. The class was taught by an experienced yoga instructor and included physical postures (asana), breathing practice (pranayama), and meditation (including yoga nidra). The classes met twice a week over a 16 week semester and each class lasted for 50 minutes. The participants showed statistically significant declines in depression, and anxiety. Stress also decreased, but the results were not statistically significant.

 

We originally intended this study as a comparative test of the effects of yoga practice on depression, anxiety, and stress. We had hoped to compare students in yoga classes with wait list controls and other, non-yoga, exercise classes. Unfortunately, we only received one response from the course wait list and only eight responses from students in non-yoga exercise classes. Fully recognizing the limitations of the remaining data, we felt these exploratory results were sufficiently interesting to report to the research community. It is our hope that these findings will encourage others to study the psychological benefits of yoga.

Methods

Participants

Sixty one students, enrolled in three sections of an elective yoga class offered by a large urban university, participated in this study. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 67. Fifty of the participants were female and eleven were male. In this sample, 47 participants identified as White, 5 as Hispanic or Latino, 4 as Black or African American, 3 as Asian or Asian American 1 as Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and 1 as American Indian or Alaska Native. Thirty one of the participants had no previous yoga experience, 4 did not respond to the question, while 26 had yoga experience ranging from 6 months to 12 years.

Instrument

Students were asked to provide demographic information and to complete the short form of the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS 21) on the first day of class, prior to any instruction, and again during the last week of class. The DASS 21 is a widely used 21 item self-report instrument that measures depression, anxiety, and stress. The DASS 21 has shown good psychometric properties and can be used for both clinical and non-clinical populations (Antony, et al., 1998). The DASS 21 asks participants to reference their answers to the previous week, thus, it is useful for tracking change over time.

Class

All yoga classes were taught by the same experienced teacher, trained in the Bihar School of yoga. The yoga classes included physical postures (asana), breathing practice (pranayama), and meditation (including yoga nidra). The classes met twice a week over a 16 week semester and each class lasted for 50 minutes. Students were encouraged to practice outside of class.

Analysis                                                                                     

The data were analyzed using Simstat. Because of the limitations of the data, we chose to use a more conservative nonparametric approach. Pre-class and post-class scores on the three scales of the DASS 21 were compared using the Wilcoxon matched-pairs signed test.

Results

Levels of depression, anxiety, and stress, as measured by the DASS 21, fell after one semester of yoga, however only two of these declines (depression and anxiety) were statistically significant (see Table 1).

Table 1.

Summary of Reported Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Before and After a 16 Week Yoga Class

 

Before Yoga Class

After Yoga Class

Variable

Mean

SD

α

Mean

SD

α

p

Depression

2.77

3.17

.84

1.30

1.50

.64

.00

Anxiety

4.07

4.21

.47

2.55

2.91

.75

.02

Stress

6.17

4.48

.85

4.73

3.89

.84

.08

Note: α = Cronbach’s α. Wilcoxon matched-pairs test.

Discussion

The results reported here are limited because of the lack of a control group. The declines in depression, anxiety, and stress might be explained by some factor other than yoga. However, for university students, depression, anxiety, and stress are known to increase over the course of semester (Andrews, & Wilding, 2004; Jemmott, & Magloire, 1988), and it is noteworthy that participants in this study experienced decreases. At minimum, these results suggest that yoga is promising area for future research.

 

References

Andrews, B., & Wilding, J. M. (2004). The relation of depression and anxiety to life‐stress and achievement in students. British Journal of Psychology, 95(4), 509-521.

Antony, M. M., Bieling, P. J., Cox, B. J., Enns, M. W., & Swinson, R. P. (1998). Psychometric properties of the 42-item and 21-item versions of the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales in clinical groups and a community sample. Psychological assessment, 10(2), 176 -181.

Jemmott, J. B., & Magloire, K. (1988). Academic stress, social support, and secretory immunoglobulin A. Journal of personality and social psychology, 55(5), 803 – 810.

Author Note: 

Jeremy E.C. Genovese is Associated Professor of Human Development, Department of Curriculum and Foundations, College of Education and Human Services, Cleveland State University.

Kristine M. Fondran is a part-time lecturer, Department of Health and Human Performance, College of Education and Human Services, Cleveland State University.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Jeremy Genovese, JH 367, Department of Curriculum and Foundations, Cleveland State University, College of Education and Human Services, 2121 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio, 44122.

Email: j.genovese@csuohio.edu

Yoga Nidra-Just about everyone's favorite!