Guest Post

Embracing Your Warrior Within

Here is our 7th and final Guest Post for The Light Within from Sharyn Hahn. I’ve been  trying to incorporate warrior poses into my daily yoga practice. This advice came at the perfect time and is such a great send-off from my neighbor mindfulness guru. Could there be a better way to begin (or end) the day than reaching for the sky? Happy travels—in yoga and writing—and look up what Sharyn’s doing on her sites, linked below. xo, Rachel

silhouette of women on lake against sky

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“Though yoga cannot cure all of our problems or remove all the obstacles we face in life, it can help us prepare for them. Many that practice yoga frequently find they become less bothered by everyday frustrations and annoyances. Then, the larger challenges that life throws our way also become easier to manage.”

—Mind Fuel Daily, “Can Yoga Help With Life’s Challenges?”

 

Always be proud of your strength. Not just physically, but also emotionally and mentally. Take care of yourself and there will be more of you available to give to others. Yoga and meditation are very effective ways to cultivate strength and flexibility, as well as mindfulness. You will find that you are better able to deal with the problems that arise in your daily life when you feel good physically and mentally.

As a middle school teacher and a yoga teacher/practitioner, I have discovered that certain poses and breathing techniques are especially effective in making me feel balanced and ready to face my day. I have been sharing them with my students at different times during the school day, and they have had positive results. In particular, focusing on the breath and warrior poses are very effective in relaxing us, focusing us, and empowering us!

There have been studies about the body’s response to doing power poses, and they reveal that there is a positive health outcome as well as a behavioral change. Yoga stances that include strong leg positions, with distance between the feet, squared hips and raised arms fit into this category. Warrior 1, 2 and 3, Chair pose, and some balancing poses are examples of this type of “asana” (pose.) Self-esteem and confidence are boosted over time with repetitious practice, and hormonal changes are evident as well. This has a big impact on our ability to deal with stress, difficult situations, and obstacles that impede our progress in areas of our lives. Consider the results of a study conducted by Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy:

“…While high-power posers showed an 8% increase in testosterone, low-power posers had a 10% decrease in the hormone. Meanwhile, the inverse relationship happened with cortisol, the hormone related to stress. While high-power posers experienced a 25% decrease in cortisol levels, low-power posers had a 15% increase in their stress levels.”

These outcomes suggest that yoga poses and mindfulness practiced in settings that require performance and progress, such as in schools, would be a very helpful addition to the daily routine. Inspired by these potential benefits, I was recently certified by the Breathe For Change program, which is a Yoga Alliance 200 hour certification training for educators. The idea behind this program is that teachers have the opportunity to reach many individuals every day over many years, and if we all were able to instill good practices and mindfulness into their routines, we would be able to make an impactful change. As the site explains, “Breathe for Change empowers educators to enhance well-being into their lives, classrooms, and school communities.”

Giving ourselves times relax our bodies, connect with our breathing, visualize a positive situation that we would like to see actually happen, and standing in strengthening poses only takes about ten minutes, but can change the way we feel and interact with others during our day. It is something that can be done alone or in a group, at home or in a specific setting. I encourage everyone that I meet and teach to begin a short practice that can then possibly expand into a longer amount of time.

Breathing exercises can encourage the body to release tension, circulate oxygen more effectively, and wake up the mind. Inhaling into the belly while sitting comfortably or lying down will allow you to follow the breath as it goes in and out. Filling the belly with your breath and then gently pressing the belly button towards the spine as you exhale is a wonderful way to start a practice. Be sure to keep the inhale and the exhale equal lengths to begin with. Later on you can extend the exhale to two more counts then the inhale.

Warrior and balancing poses are uplifting and strengthening. When we raise our arms towards the sky, we are connecting with our inner power, and the sense of balance and control that result from mastering these “asanas” has a positive effect on our well-being.
Warrior 1 pose is the first of three related powerful standing postures that improve strength and flexibility. There is also Warrior 2 and Warrior 3.

Standing tall with your arms at your sides, relax your shoulders and feel your feet grounded into the earth and supporting you.

In this pose, the legs are placed in a lunge position with the back foot turned at a 45-60 degrees angle and the front leg bent at a 90 degree angle so the knee is stacked over the ankle. The heel of the front foot should be aligned with the heel of the back foot. The hips are squared so the torso faces the bent leg and the arms are raised overhead with the palms facing each other or touching.

We usually begin on the left side and then repeat the pose on the right. This is true of all of the poses. If you would like to learn more about the different poses and their alignments, you can contact me on Facebook (Sharyn Hahn’s Fitness, Yoga and Mindfulness for All) and Instagram (suryyama_yoga) for more information.

Being a warrior means being grounded and centered and also ascending upward to connect with the path that is unfolding before us. Stand strong, be alert, and set your intention to fight for freedom, truth, and equality for all. Now more than ever.

Journaling is central to this process. I encourage you to start if you haven’t already. Here’s a question to get you thinking: what personal trait do you feel most comfortable sharing with others? Which one are you least comfortable sharing? How can you focus on this in a positive and uplifting way? I hope that you take some time to think about how you interact with incidents during your day, and what steps that you can focus on to allow a positive change to unfold for you. Namaste.

—Sharyn

Sharyn Hahn has been a teacher to students of all ages for 33 years, with a focus on teaching French at a private school in NYC. During the past eight years she has added a new dimension to passion for teaching and is now an ACE certified Personal Trainer (FitWomaNow!), and a YogaFit instructor with a 200-hour RYT certification in Mind-Body Balancing from the Deep Yoga Center in San Diego, California. She is currently pursuing a certification in Yoga for Traumaas she continues to broaden her understanding of the significance of yoga, meditation, and breath in her students’ lives. Sharyn holds a Master’s degree in French literature and language and runs Tutorcise.com.

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Rachel

Channeling Energy

Today my 4th-grader Wally prodded me out of bed with a pitchfork (it felt, really, he just lightly tapped me on the shoulder) at 6:30. I am usually wide awake and buzzing around the house by then but the past few days something odd has been happening where I am…not. As I made coffee he jumped and danced all around the kitchen in a way that felt spastic to me, even though he was/is just a morning person (and a night person) and has lots of energy and is excited about Halloween.

As he flailed around and nearly tripped me several times I grumpily snapped, “Other people don’t have as much energy as you first thing in the morning!” I wanted to elaborate that I’m not even the worst and many people I know can only slump over their coffee for the first hour of the day without speaking but I saw his hurt face (and anyway, why did I need the credit for not being as bad as others?) and knew the best thing to do was just head straight for the living room, light a candle, put on some music, and hope he’d join me for a few sun salutations.

Sometimes he’s just really silly during yoga, climbing on me, tunneling, insisting each pose have a little Wally twist to it: Cobra you have to also raise your feet and try to touch them with your neck; Uttanasana, which Kajal so wonderfully elaborated on yesterday, you also have to swing back and forth and “get the energy of the sun.” Other times he won’t even try. Every now and then he’ll actually go through the poses with some measure of discipline.

“I just have more energy than most people!” he said, racing around the room as I pulled open the livingroom curtains to take in the last of the night sky. “I need to run! I need more recess!”

I waved for him to come over, and encouraged him to take a deep breath and raise his arms up to the sky. I don’t even know if that has a name. I know Mountain Pose is when you stand there, but with arms up, does it change? He copied me. “Now fold over,” I said. (Oh yes, in Wally’s World, that can’t just be a fold, or a dive, but has to be a little wiggle like you’re a fish going downstream.)

I told him that his modifications were okay but that he should also practice holding poses, just being still. He tried several times with plank, but he’d inevitably go too low or too high.

“Just hold it, that’s the challenge.”

“I have too much energy!” He’d flop and wriggle around.

“Channel that energy,” I said. Plank takes so very much.

We all have many tasks we need to accomplish. We have the energy to do many of them. Channeling the energy into the task is the hard part. It’s often not the energy but the discipline we lack.