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Filtering by Tag: yoga

The mental push ups of mindfullness

Jennifer Oechsner

Movement is a big part of my life and on most days I engage in some type of physical activity. This helps to keep me grounded and connect to my strength (both physical and otherwise). When I am in times of struggle, the ways I move my body tend to get more intense. I run faster, I lift heavier, I stretch deeper. Moving my body helps me to heal my mind. 

However, I tend to miss and important part of the healing process. My meditation practice takes a back burner, subconsciously avoiding sitting with the difficult emotions. Its so much easier to sit when positivity dominates my mental landscape. However, its during times of struggle that I need it the most. Recently, I have been exploring sitting with sadness when it arises. My pattern is to fight it, beat it into submission. With an open and tender heart, I am learning that all of my emotions are ok and that they key is not to let them carry me away. This is not easy work and I'm not saying I will stop going for a hard run during times of struggle but I am making more of an effort to sit in the space I am in. Running is easy, sitting is hard. 

In the Shambhala tradition it is taught that opening to sadness with a tender heart is a source of genuine bravery. This warrior's path teaches us to live courageously, meeting the challenges of our lives with compassion, allowing us to care for ourselves and others. Life's circumstances and corresponding emotions fluctuate day to day and sometimes minute to minute. It is only through mindfulllness practices that we can learn to navigate these fluctuations with grace. I wouldn't expect to be able to do any push ups without conscious work. Likewise, I can't expect to become skilled at taming my mind without regular practice. 

Do you have a regular meditation practice? Are you looking to start one? I would love to help. Contact me and let's put a plan into action!

Cultivate Joy, the Lion's Path

Jennifer Oechsner

As most of you know, I recently returned from a 3 week journey in Nepal. Two weeks of that journey were spent co-leading a yoga and meditation retreat with Kimi Marin. Upon my return I have spent a lot of time reflecting on the experience. So often when we return from a vacation we bask in our more relaxed existence for a short time and then quickly return to our patterns of stress, sleep deprivation and old thought patterns. Following my recent journey I have been focused on keeping the emotional and energetic benefits I received from this fantastic adventure at the forefront of my mind. 

One of the feelings that comes to mind when I reflect is joy. Joy for being able to visit such a fascinating country, joy for sharing the experience with a dear friend, joy for the new friends I made, and joy for the laughter we found along the way. Joy isn't just about having fun, but also about the deeper spiritual connection it cultivates. A connection with ourselves and with others.

The Shambhala tradition references the importance of joy in our lives. The path of Shambhala is about awakening to the potential in our lives. In part, this potential is awakened by living a meaningful and joyful life. Within the Shambhala tradition, this joy is represented by the snow lion. The snow lion breathes the fresh air high in the Himalaya, free from the cage we often place ourselves in. We cultivate joy through discipline. Discipline can be practiced in many ways, through meditation, yoga, creating art, living a healthy lfe, or service to others. Each of these paths can lead us down the path of the snow lion, a life of meaningful joy. To find this joy, we must be mindful in our endeavors. Mindful pursuits that feed the soul cultivate joy, help us to realize all that we are capable of, and make us better citizens of the world.

Your weekly yoga practice is a great place to cultivate a mindful life. When you come to your mat, have fun, be joyful and be mindful. Embody the snow lion.

What can YOU resolve to release?

Jennifer Oechsner

"Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own" - Bruce Lee

It's that time of year again, time for resolutions. The time to begin healthy habits, to let go of unhealthy ones, to start fresh. I know Im not alone in the desire to make this year my best. I know I'm not the only one who wants to be the best version of themselves that they possibly can. The question is, what does this mean? We often make resolutions for things like exercising more, eating less sugar, eating more vegetabes, reading more books, maybe watching less TV. These are all great. But this year I need to go big. This year I have a couple resolutions, but my big one is letting go of fear.

Fear can definitely be tricky to let go of. Fear has the power to create so much unnecessary suffering. Fear takes hold of the mind and has the power to keep us in a seemingly endless cycle of self-pity and sadness. The first step to changing fear based behavior is to stare it right in the face. What is the fear? What story do we allow it to give us? How can we change that story? Buddhist teachings stress the importance of mindfullness practice to become more aware when thoughts or fears arise. This helps us recognize that we are responsible for the thoughts our mind produces. 

When fear based thoughts arise breathe deeply and ground yourself in the present moment. You can do this by observing the world around you. Listen to the rain or the birds. Feel the sun, rain or wind on your skin. Let this ground you in the present moment. Fears are often rooted in past experiences or future expectations. Over time, practicing being in the here and now can be an effective antidote to fear based behavior.

In my life, fear rears its ugly head and limits my growth. I feel effecting different parts of my life and it is difficult to break free. As many of you know, I have been studying martial arts for a number of years. It is the first thing I was ever truly passionate about. When I followed my new passion and became a yoga instructor I had the idea to somehow combine these two practices into one class I could share with the community. When I first started teaching yoga I held a couple of classes at a small gym. To my great disappointment, it didn't work out. Maybe it was the wrong time, maybe it was the wrong place, maybe I didn't give it enough time. Whatever the reason,  I felt like a huge failure. Over the past 5 years I have kept thinking about it, trying to figure out how I can make it better. I kept telling myself I would get around to it when I figured that out. But the real roadblock has been fear. And damn is it a big one. The question is, do I have the courage to let it go? What if I try again and it doesn't work out? Well, I've decided there is only one way to find out. 

I have resolved to step beyond this fear. I am at the point in my career, in my life, that I need to take a leap. All leaps are scary but I certainly can't grow if I keep quietly wishing for things. My wish, my goal, is to create my own Warrior-Flow. My own class that combines my passions of martial arts and yoga. So that's exactly what I have done. And it's going to be GREAT!

Each class will consist of a unique blend of yoga and martial arts, drawing from various disciplines I have studied over the years. AND I'm sharing my knowledge as a nutritionist by giving students a weekly nutrition focus and weekly recipe. And do you know how I know it's exactly the right thing to do? My gut tells me. The butterflies in my stomach just can't be wrong.

Here's the class info. Please email me for more information. Classes are scheduled to begin at the end of January.

NE PDX @ Whole Foods Market NE 15th and Freemont: Sundays 11:30-12:30
SE PDX @ 5514 SE Foster Rd.: Tuesdays 5:45-6:45pm

What can YOU let go of? How can you enrich your life experience and grow to become a better version of YOURself?

I would love to hear from you!

Parallel Paths

Jennifer Oechsner

When I started dabbling in yoga it was mostly curiosity and the desire to improve my flexibility. My body was also beat up and tired from martial arts and I thought that yoga would be good for me. I thought it would help my back pain (which it did). But I also thought it would be too slow for me (which it wasn't). My weekly practice became something I really looked forward to, even though at that point it was secondary to my martial arts practice. When I started really listening to the messages that were shared at the beginning of my yoga classes I realized that the spiritual aspects of these 2 paths are similar. 

When I began my martial arts journey in Taekwondo, we were taught a list of principals to follow as part of the path. Contrary to what I had originally thought, this path was not just about being tough and learning how to defend myself. There was so much more to it. Within the Taekwondo system there are 5 tenets, or principles, that are an important aspect of the system. These tenets are courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self control, and indomitable spirit. To be an honorable student, one is encouraged to live and practice under these principles. 

The spiritual system of yoga also has a set of ethical guidelines. These guidelines can help us live in harmony with others, and with ourselves. These principles are non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, non-excess, non-possessiveness, purity, contentment, self discipline, self study and surrender. To apply these principles to everyday life, we have to look at them from different angles. For example, while it's obvious that it's wrong to cause physical harm to others, non-violence also applies to harmful speech. This might prove more challenging to adhere to. When practicing truthfulness are you doing so in a way that is not hurtful to others? Literal interpretation of these guidelines is not always enough, one must view these principles through a wide lens. 

When considering the tenets of Taekwondo and the ethical guidelines of yoga the overlap became clear. Courtesy correlates to truthfulness, integrity to non-stealing, perseverance to self-study, self-control to non-excess and indomitable spirit to self-discipline. Realizing this overlap made me realize that the two paths I have been on are not really two paths at all, but one path with steps that shifts their rhythm. Some days I need sun salutations to remind me to live my life from a place of contentment. Some days I need the catharsis of round house kicks to bring me back to my indomitable spirit. Sometimes I find myself running in too many directions and I use inversions to remind me of the need for perseverance. Sometimes I notice myself becoming lazy and losing track of my goals and I practice my spinning kicks to reaffirm the need for self study.

Both martial arts and yoga give me great joy and I feel blessed to have found these passions in my life. Martial arts gave me confidence and a sense of belonging when I needed it most. It continues to help me cultivate mental and physical strength, attributes I am proud to posses. Yoga provides me balance, peace and a connection to myself and others. All of which are important for a well rounded life. What brings you strength? What are your passions? How do you connect? I would love to hear your stories. 

Backing Into Spring

Jennifer Oechsner

These glorious sunny days and warmer temperatures bring with them a sense of opening. All around us we see signs of spring; longer days, shade trees with tiny green buds and stunning cherry blossoms blooming throughout our beautiful city.  With the coming of spring my yoga practice is evolving as well. When I come to my mat I too want to open and find myself regularly practicing back bends. They feel natural and welcome in my body and I have a sense of tuning into the natural world around me. In honor of spring and this interconnection, we will be exploring back bends in my yoga classes for the month of March.  Each week we will focus on a different back bending pose to play with. We will explore how to safely prepare and execute these back bends for any level of practitioner

Back bends can present challenges for anyone. You come to a class and you see someone floating up into wheel (urdhva dhanurasana) with ease or playfully reaching  for king pigeon (eka pada rajakapotanasana) and it can be difficult not to fall into the trap of self judgement and comparison. Each time you come to your mat it is important respect where you are in your practice and work safely to progress to the next level. Regardless of your level,  even the stiffest among us can find some joy in back bends.  

For many of us, our daily activities make back bends even more challenging. We spend our days hunched over smart phones, computer screens and bicycle handlebars. We spend our weekends hiking, skiing, running, and lets face it, with more sitting.  All of these activities tighten the chest, hips, legs and back. We tighten the front of the body and in the process limit the flexibility of the back body. We spend very little time bending backward, a movement our spines were designed to make. This limitation can cause of variety of issues including low back pain, hip pain, rotator cuff issues and limited mobility of the spine.

For many of us, back bends also tap into something deeper, fear. The fear of falling back is very real.  We are afraid of what will happen if we move our body in that way. We are afraid of the opening and the sense of vulnerability  we have in these poses. Regular practice of back bends helps this fear dissipate. Not only are these poses great for the body, but they offer a deeper life training as well. Sometimes we are presented with obstacles we must overcome. Sometimes life takes us out of our comfort zone. Coming to your mat to explore postures that test your boundaries is one of the ways yoga is such an amazing training ground for life. 

Join me this month for an exploration of opening your heart, reviving your body, and stepping into the unknown.