Yoga for a better bedtime

August 14, 2012
by admin

Consumer reports survey: Yoga works for insomnia, but too few try it

Consumer Reports recently released the results of a survey suggesting that yoga is an effective remedy for many people with sleep problems, though few have tried it.

The subscription-based product and service review company surveyed its members about their sleep habits and found that problems abound. Almost 60 percent of those surveyed said they had trouble falling or staying asleep, or woke up still feeling tired at least three times a week, according to the July report.

It will come as no surprise to anyone looking for work that unemployed  respondents were more likely to have sleep problems than the employed. Among those surveyed, 69 percent without jobs had trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, compared to 59 percent of those with jobs.

The survey also asked those with sleep issues to give remedies they had tried and tell how well they worked. Medication was reported to be the most effective, with between 42 and 75 percent of those using drugs such as Ambien, Restoril and Klonopin saying the drugs “helped a lot.”

On the other hand, survey respondents were very open to alternative methods, from exercise and diet management (tried by 53 and 23 percent, respectively) to deep breathing and meditation. While only 5 percent of those surveyed said they’d used yoga to combat sleeplessness, 28 percent of them said it “helped a lot.”

The survey led Consumer Reports to give a list of suggestions to those having trouble sleeping. They advised readers, among other things, to make lifestyle changes, such as exercising during the day and keeping a regular schedule, and to explore alternative methods.


March 16, 2012
by Heidi Kyser

Recommended read for a belated occasion

Feb. 26-March 3 was National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. I meant to write a post about yoga and eating disorders – or, rather, food and body awareness – that week, but got too busy. (Trust me, the irony of a freelance writer-yoga teacher being too busy to write about yoga is not lost on me.) There’s always next year.

In the meantime, Yoga International took up the topic in its March issue with a feature by Linda Sparrowe titled Making Friends with Your Body. This article is well worth reading, not only in honor of the time set aside for eating disorders awareness, but also in light of current events in the yoga world – publications questioning yoga’s safety, scandals involving gurus taking advantage of their students, etc.

Passages like the following, I found, raised relevant questions about what we’re doing, and why, when we practice yoga:

Yoga postures make up a small part of this ancient practice, but pulled out of context—in gyms, rec centers, and even some yoga studios—they can become little more than a means to sweat and stretch our way to a better, thinner, more ‘acceptable’ body.”

Sparrowe even touches on the pressure yoga teachers feel to maintain model figures as they stand in front of expectant students and mingle with other teachers.

Yoga is different things to different people, but I am unaware of any school that encourages emotional insecurity, and the basic tenet of ahimsa (non-harming) precludes destruction of the body, such as anorexic starvation.

Given that, Sparrowe’s advice seems applicable to just about any style of practice. Use it to make your body your ally in all endeavors (emotional, physical and spiritual) and you’re practicing yoking, yoga, in its most basic sense.

February 29, 2012
by Heidi Kyser
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All the time for yoga

People frequently ask me how often they should do yoga, and for how long each time. “How much do you practice?” they ask. What a rich question.

The obvious answer – one I’ve heard in workshops and teacher trainings – is every day. When students ask me, that’s what I tell them, that they should try to practice every day. But, I add, practicing every day doesn’t necessarily mean going to a studio for a class, or even rolling out a mat for a one-hour home session of pranayama and asana followed by meditation.

What they must ask themselves, I say, is what it means to practice yoga. If getting up a little early and sitting on your porch wrapped in a blanket listening to the world wake up yokes your awareness to your consciousness, then that is practicing yoga.

My partner Peter and I recently had an experience with this. On Jan. 1, we felt like doing yoga together. He said something about wanting to do more yoga this year; I said something about all the so-called “30-day challenges” going on around the New Year; and somehow it was settled: We’d try to practice together every day for a month.

We succeeded, and not just in the obvious sense of doing some kind of yoga every day for 30 days straight. We beat really bad odds. Peter’s ankle was still in a cast following a break and surgery in early December. We were both on medication recovering from bronchitis. His kids, who live with us part-time, went back to school in mid-January, restarting our family’s 5 a.m. wake-up ritual after the holiday hiatus. It was a crazy month.

A couple times, we found ourselves at the end of the day without having practiced; we would drag ourselves into our home studio and start the timer for a pre-bedtime meditation. (Every time we meditated that month, we increased the time by 15-30 seconds.) Peter went through physical therapy and got his plaster cast changed for a walking cast; our asana practice evolved along with his fibula. The month of yoga became an exploration of what we could do. What we couldn’t do rarely entered our minds.

Almost another month after the end of our experiment, I’m still processing the full meaning. Part of it is this: There is time for yoga every day – not just the kind of time it takes to gather gear, change into a certain outfit, drive to a studio, spend an hour and a half in a class and drive home. Or, maybe that same amount of time, but spent practicing another way. Maybe, instead, just five minutes of breathing mindfully at your desk during the most stressful part of the day.

That’s not to say classes aren’t important. They are. It’s not to say setting aside large chunks of time to tackle challenging breath and body work isn’t meaningful. It is. The point is, the more often you are practicing – regardless of the circumstances – the more time you’re spending discovering your true nature,  and the better you’re getting at being yourself.

That’s not something I want exactly twice a week for 75 minutes. I want it all the time, as often as possible.

February 13, 2012
by Heidi Kyser

A break from the past

English: Painting of Krishna, Arjuna. (Bhagava...

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In my class yesterday at Yoga Sanctuary, I took a break from our ongoing study of the Bhagavadgita to let students know that, on Thursday, Feb. 9, I relinquished my Anusara-Inspired (TM) license. I told them that some apparent abuses of power within Anusara had recently come to light and seemed serious enough that I no longer wanted to be associated with the organization.  I didn’t go into details, but told them they’d find plenty of information online if they wanted to know more.

My own reaction in announcing this caught me off guard. As I recounted how Anusara yoga was the first style of yoga I ever tried and the one to which I’d been devoted since, I got choked up. I thought of the nearly 11 years I’ve invested, the time, the friendships, even the money. I assured them that nothing much would change, because I would continue to study whenever possible with my main teacher, Noah Maze, and the other teachers who have influenced me, Anusara or not. Still, I felt a loss.

An apt theme for the class seemed to be loving kindness. We made it our collective intention to embody goodwill, and to extend kind thoughts to all those harmed by the current events, including John Friend, who is at the center of the controversy. We did lots of heart-opening back-bends (of course!) and the loving-kindness meditation.

It was a tough but rewarding class for me. I recalled one of the first practices I did with Noah, when he taught a lesson on unconditional love. While my students reposed in savasana, I turned the pages of my copy of the Gita, looking for wisdom, and stumbled on this:

“Without hatred of any creature, friendly and compassionate without possessiveness and self-pride, equable in happiness and unhappiness, forbearing, contented, always yoked, mastering himself, resolute in decisions, with his mind and spirit dedicated to me – such a devotee of mine is beloved of me. ” (34[12].11 in J.A.B. van Buitenen’s translation)

As the relevance of the passage settled in, I understood the days’ class hadn’t really been a break from the Gita at all. With or without Anusara, my license, or the drama of the day, yoga goes on as it has since Arjuna faced his fears on the battlefield. May anyone else grappling with what’s happening to Anusara remember that.

February 7, 2012
by Heidi Kyser

Who’s calling?

Krishna and Arjun on the chariot, Mahabharata,...

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Isn’t serendipity fun?

For last Saturday’s yoga class, as part of our ongoing reading of the Bhagavad Gita, we began what will probably be a weeks-long exploration of dharma. We started by looking at this complicated concept as one’s calling: something you feel compelled to do and are a natural at – as Arjuna, with being a warrior – even though it may be difficult at times, challenging your devotion – as with Arjuna in the battle against his extended family. One way to find your dharma is to listen, to hear the call welling up from God, your heart, soul, spirit (or whatever you like to call it).  Meditation and mantra are great tools to help  practice listening.

After nearly three hours of classes on the topic, I got in my car to drive home. As is my habit, I switched on KNPR, and what was playing? Snap Judgment’s episode No. 303 “The Call.”

I almost couldn’t believe my ears! From the first segment on a doctor who is struck by lightning twice and, in that, hears the universe telling her she’s a shaman , to a regular Joe taking a neighborhood tragedy and using it to transform himself into a real-world superhero… every story told of the personal risk and reward of finding one’s calling. Every storyteller seemed to echo Krishna‘s words to Arjuna: It’s better to fail at living your own dharma than to succeed at living someone else’s.

If you feel you haven’t found your calling, relax. Embracing life with an open heart and mind are more likely to lead you to it than gritting your teeth and trying to force it to reveal itself. And while you wait for that call, celebrate people like Butterscotch, whose courage should inspire you to keep going, no matter how long it takes.