My family has a summer cottage in Southwest Michigan, right on the lake, where I’ve been spending summers since I was a child. It’s an idyllic site, private and serene, and I think I started meditating on the beach when I was very young. Swimming was my saving grace back then, being a sport that I could excel in, even though I had what my father euphemistically called “baby fat”. (Boy did I hope he was right!) I wasn’t a fast runner, and was nearsighted to boot, so ball sports were not my forte. But I could swim!
I had never taken swimming lessons as a kid, and never really considered it it to be “exercise”. I had no absolutely technique. Lake Michigan, one of the Great Lakes, is really tremendous. It has waves and currents and undertow similar to that of an ocean. I usually swam with my head above water, to avoid getting a mouthful when the waves came crashing at me, because really, I was just playing.
When I first moved to New York, my boyfriend had a membership in a classy upper East side sports club, and he invited me for a swim. I had never done a lap in my life, and knew nothing about kick boards, goggles, fins, or any of the swimming gear. I just jumped in and started playing as if I were in the lake, swimming under water, diving and doing my thing, back and forth. When we got out of the water, my friend looked at me curiously and said ”What were you doing?”
It didn’t take me long to get the hang of doing laps, once I put my mind to it, because I was motivated by the fact that I could swim all winter long. My boyfriend bought me some terrific fins, which I still use, and believe me, it’s not “cheating”. You can really get a great workout using pool parafinalia, and it makes doing the laps more fun.
Often when I go swimming alone in Lake Michigan, I’ll take a kick board, rubber raft or inner tube with me out into the water. It becomes almost like a playmate, sort of like when Tim Hanks bonds with the basketball in the movie, CAST AWAY, and I find I will stay in the water much longer, and therefore get more exercise.
Swimming has many of the same benefits as yoga, including the stretching, and the deep breathing. At the end of my laps I would always take time out to just float, and relax totally in the water before getting out, which gives a similar benefit to a deep relaxation.
I love to swim! The reason I bring this up is because we all need to find a sport that gives some good cardiovascular workout, but it has to be something that doesn’t feel like work, or a punishment! You have to love your sport. You want to get into a place in your head where you’re playing like a child, with enthusiasm and abandon. Every day, we should all go out and play. Our bodies are designed to move, our hearts are muscles that need to be strengthened by exercise. Our lungs need to breathe deeply so we can throw out the stale carbon dioxide that drops to the bottom of our lungs. Out with the old, in with the new! Next time you need to say “no” to a chore that your boss wants to talk you into doing, just say, “I’m sorry I have to go out and play now”.
If you find you really aren’t ready for exercise, start with the easy asanas, especially the ones that tone and strengthen the inner organs. The viscera! I love that word! Because we are made up of all this slimy goo that stagnates and gets funky when we sit around too much. I remember after I had my second child, I could feel how the insides of my body were soft and sloshing around inside me! Before I started to do any vigorous exercise, I toned up by using the yoga asanas. It didn’t take long before I felt things shaping up, and I felt so much better. I maybe didn’t look that much better, because I had really plumped up during my pregnancy, and as a nursing mother, my boobs had become like big water balloons! But the asanas helped get my innards back into place after nine months of pregnancy had squished and shoved my organs into new and unexpected places and shapes. As my neighbor said “You’ve expanded the room”, as if talking about the renovation of a condo.
The body is extremely forgiving. Swami Satchidananda said “health is your birthright”, and I’ve seen time and again, making some small changes, a little bit every day, can bring about great healing.
After a very snowy winter break, my local yoga classes will start up in the next week. Here's my schedule:
Mondays 6:30pm at the G-Raj
Tuesdays at 7:00pm at the Congregational Church in South Haven
Thursdays at 6:30 at the G-Raj
If you'd like to join us at the G-Raj, my home studio, please send me an email to get directions. Suggested donation $10.00
Give yourself the gift of self-care and a supportive community.
The Tuesday evening class
at the Congregational Church in South Haven
is cancelled tonight, December 12, 2017.
Anytime school is closed, we won't have class.
Enjoy your snow day!
Yoga is famous these days for helping combat the stresses of modern life. How the ancient yogis of old knew all the particularities of the benefits of Yoga is still mind-boggling, but they knew. It wasn't haphazard. Either by Divine inspiration, or revelations from deep self-study, the sages knew what was happening in a Yoga practice.
Now that Yoga has been around awhile, science has studied and discovered some of Yoga's secrets, and one of the most fascinating revelations is that Yoga regulates the nervous system by increasing the body's ability to respond to stress. It's called VAGAL TONE.
Have you ever thought about trying Yoga, but were intimidated by the lovely, lithe women in skimpy yoga clothes? Well, my classes are just perfect for you! Please join me for a 6 week series of classes at the First Congregational Church of South Haven. If you don't have a mat, don't worry, I'll bring extras. Just wear comfortable clothes--something that you can bend and stretch in without having it give you a belly ache. Speaking of bellies, please come on an empty-ish stomach--no big meal beforehand.
6 WEEK SERIES
November 4-December 11, 2017
First Congregational Church of
South Haven on Phoenix
Deeper connection to Divine
Can lower need for insulin in diabetics
Better body composition
Better balance in seniors
Improves blood flow to the heart
Strengthens cardiovascular system
You should give yoga a try, if you never have before. It can change your life.
Several years ago, my wealthy mother-in-law took a trip to China and came home with 3 shiny, gorgeous metal bowls, which appealed to her as a decorative curiosity. Lillian was, shall we say, an heiress, and had incredible taste in all things. The bowls looked beautiful in her well appointed home in Scarsdale.
Around 5,000 years ago, the ancient yogis began to lose their capacity to memorize the scriptures by word of mouth, and there became a need to write things down for future generations. The sage, Sri Patanjali, began the process of articulating the basic ideas about yoga in what has become known as the Yoga Sutras. Sutra has a similar meaning as suture, stitch. Patanjali threaded together the meerest inkling of the profound concepts on self-realization. A short work of four books with 196 sutras or aphorisms, the Sutras are the guidebook on how to control the mind and attain moksha, or liberation.
In previous blogs I spoke about Asana and Pranayama as being "pillars", or building blocks of a Big Yoga practice. I started with these more common concepts to begin this discussion of what makes up Big Yoga . But essential to any yoga practice are the ethical rules--yamas, and the good habits or observances--niyamas. The very first of the yamas is Ahimsa, or non-
Meera Kerr B.A., E-RYT