Archive for the ‘About Amber’ Category

Choose Your Own Adventure

When I was a little girl, I would ride my bicycle to the library. I used to love the silence, the solitude, and being surrounded by books and endless possibility.

I gravitated toward the Choose Your Own Adventure books. I remember they were in one section of the library, and I would read them one by one.

But I wouldn’t just read them one time through. I had to explore every possible scenario in each book. I liked to witness how the choices I made at the bottom of the page affected the storyline.

It’s about the Journey, not the Destination

For as long as I can remember, I have used Choose Your Own Adventure books as my analogy to life.

We are born with a certain set of circumstances. From there, we choose what to do, where to go, who to be, how to feel. Then with each new choice we make, we are given a different set of circumstances and decisions to make.

That is the great adventure to life, this journey that we co-create right along with the circumstances we are given.

Becoming the Author

Part of practicing yoga is to become awake to being the reader of the story, the story of our individual lives. We stand back from living the drama, and instead witness how our actions affect our outcomes.

With this greater perspective, we can then become the author of our destiny. We can begin to make choices that lead us more toward happiness and less toward sadness, more toward living the life we truly love, and less toward attracting the things we do not wish to experience.

So that begs the question, “If I am unhappy, what actions can I take to change it?”

Progress Requires Action

Part of being a yogi is moving more toward becoming radically alive, about living each day as if it is your best day. It is not the path for everyone, but it is a path that leads to happiness.

One way yoga leads to happiness is by helping us realize that all we really have in life is the present moment. This present moment was created by our past decisions, by the choices that we made at the end of the page.

Our future, therefore, is determined by the choices we make right here, right now, by the fresh ink still wet on the paper of our current adventure.

So we can co-create our futures now by making decisions that will benefit our greater good tomorrow.

I will be working on answering the above question myself over the next several months, “What can I do to be happier?”. I invite you to join me. I invite you to Choose Your Own Adventure.

Namaste,

~Amber

choose-your-own-adventure

Choose Your Own Adventure books

Free to Breathe Yogathon

I am once again raising money for the Baltimore Free to Breathe Yogathon that takes place 4 weeks from today (specific details below). Last year, I lost my grandfather to lung cancer just two short months after he was diagnosed.

In last year’s yogathon, I participated as an individual, but this year, I am Team Captain of Team Charm City Yoga. This blog post explains a little more about Free to Breathe, about the Baltimore Free to Breathe Yogathon, and about Team Charm City Yoga.

Free to Breathe

Free to Breathe is the event series raising money for the National Lung Cancer Partnership, an organization that supports lung cancer research and awareness.

In a yogathon, or a yoga mala, yogis perform 108 sun salutations continuously. We unite as one to breathe together for a single purpose.

On November 4, 2012 at 1 pm at the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, yogis from all over Baltimore will breathe together to raise awareness for lung cancer.

Did you know? Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer in the United States. In fact, it kills more people than the next 6 cancers combined. 27% of all cancer related deaths in the US are due to lung cancer.

Yoga and the breath are integrally connected. Yoga unites mind to body using the breath, so a yogathon is the perfect fundraiser for lung cancer, so says the Baltimore Free to Breathe Yogathon creator Elissa Sachs-Kohen, a Rabbi at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.

Rabbi Sachs-Kohen reached out to Free to Breathe after her mother died of lung cancer. She brought the Yogathon to Baltimore in 2008, and has been an advocate for Free to Breathe ever since.

Team Charm City Yoga

This year several Charm City Yoga teachers have united to form Team Charm City Yoga to raise money collectively. We invite you to join our team and be a part of not only Charm City Yoga, but also a part of helping fund research for the most underfunded cancer.

That’s right: lung cancer is both the number one killing cancer and the most underfunded in research dollars.

Over the last four years, the Baltimore Free to Breathe Yogathon has raised over $75,000 and counting. Every dollar raised helps fund invaluable research and prevention.

Join Our Team

Today I ask that you consider helping Team Charm City Yoga. You can help in several different ways.

  1. Be a part of Team Charm City Yoga by joining our team.
  2. Donate to either my personal fundraising page, or Team Charm City Yoga‘s fundraising page.
  3. Join us on November 4th for the 108 sun salutations for a registration fee of $30.
  4. Or, simply share this blog, or our fundraising pages to help us raise money for Free to Breathe.

Yoga means “union”, so let’s unite as a team and raise money so that everyone can be Free to Breathe.

Details

When: November 4th, 2012 at 1 pm
Where: Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, 7401 Park Heights Avenue, tel: 410-764-1587

Thank you for your support!

Love,

~Amber

Remedies for Sore Muscles

Yoga Mala

On Sunday, I did a Yoga Mala, which is 108 sun salutations done in a row. This particular Yoga Mala was a fundraiser I did for lung cancer research. My grandfather died in August of lung cancer. Yogis call a fundraising Yoga Mala a Yogathon, like a marathon.

In today’s post, I am sharing pictures from the Yogathon. Also, below is an explanation of a sun salutation and why we perform 108, as well as remedies to combat muscle soreness from overexertion.

My Yogathon temporary tattoo on my hand. 🙂

My sign dedicating my 108 sun salutations to my grandfather.

Sun Salutation – Surya Namaskar

A sun salutation is a sequence of 9 breaths. In Sanskrit, a sun salutation is called Surya Namaskar.

There are many variations of sun salutations, but below is the sequence we practiced 108 times in our Yogathon.

Surya Namaskar A

  1. 
Inhale – Urdhva Hastasana (Upraised Hand Posture)
  2. Exhala – Uttanasana (Intense Stretch/Forward Fold)
  3. Inhale – Ardha Uttanasana (Half Intense Stretch/Half Forward Fold)
  4. Exhala – Chaturanga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Posture)
  5. Inhale – Urdhva Mukha Savasana (Upward Facing Dog)
  6. Exhale – Adho Mukha Savasana (Downward Facing Dog)
  7. Inhale – Ardha Uttanasana (Half Intense Stretch/Half Forward Fold)
  8. Exhale – Uttanasana (Intense Stretch/Forward Fold)
  9. Inhale – Urdhva Hastasana (Upraised Hand Posture)

The Sacred 108

108 sun salutations sounds like a lot of work. Yes, it is really hard as it sounds. It took about 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete a Yoga Mala with this sequence.

A lot of people ask why we perform 108 sun salutations. The number 108 is a sacred number in yoga and in Hinduism. There are many explanations as to why this is.

The simplest explanation is that Hindu prayer beads have 108 beads strung together, along with one guru bead. The prayer beads are used to say a mantra 108 times, very similar to Catholic rosary beads.

Combating Muscle Soreness

It should go without saying that performing 108 sun salutations will cause overexertion of the muscles. There are several tricks I recommend to people when they have overly exerted their muscles.

The first trick I recommend is to eat potassium rich foods after the work out or practice, Some common potassium rich foods are bananas, tomato sauce, avocados, most legumes, and coconut water. Muscles cramp up when they lack potassium, so feeding the muscles potassium will prevent muscle cramping and fatigue.

Anyone who has ever worked out too hard, shoveled snow, or performed any other form of manual labor is familiar with muscle soreness and stiffness a day or two after the exertion. This muscle soreness is caused by a build up of lactic acid in the muscles.

The first way I recommend combating muscle soreness is to do some light working out. Warming the muscles back up with keep the muscles from feeling stiff, and movement will work the lactic acid out of the muscles.

Another trick is to take a warm bath in Epsom salts. Epsom salts have long been used as a remedy for sore, achy muscles.

The final recommendation I have is to use a tennis ball or a myofascial release foam roller to massage out the lactic acid in the aching muscles.

Some may have seen a myofascial release foam roller in the gym. It is a cylinder-shaped dense foam apparatus that is used to iron out muscle soreness. Personally, I massage my shoulders and arms with a tennis ball, and use a foam roller on my back and lower body to relieve muscle soreness.

I used all of these tricks on Sunday after the Yogathon to ease my sore muscles. The next time you have muscle soreness or stiffness due to muscle fatigue, see if these remedies work for you.

Love,

~Amber

P.S. My fundraising for lung cancer research continues through December 31, 2011. If you would like to make a donation, please click here. Thank you for your consideration to help fund research and to raise awareness for the number one killing cancer in America. Remember, not everyone who gets lung cancer is a smoker, but lung cancer research is the most underfunded cancer in the country because of that stigma.

More Than You Can Chew

Apologies for not posting last week. Last month, I more than doubled my teaching schedule, on top of working a full-time job.
I am very careful not to stretch myself too thin. I have done that before and it makes living a balanced, healthy life impossible.

Have you found yourself becoming stretched too thin before? Perhaps you are presently feeling overtaxed. Below are reasons to reconsider taking on more than you can handle.

How Stress Affects Health

Our bodies become susceptible to illness and disease when we put too much pressure on ourselves. It is crucial to our health to make sure we have room to fit our responsibilities into our day without feeling overwhelmed.

Too much stress is toxic to the body. When the body is under stress, certain hormones are released into our bodies that increase heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar. Having those bodily functions elevated over prolonged periods leads to poor health.

Chronic stress makes us more susceptible to picking up colds and flus because it lowers our immune system. Chronic stress also leads to the following conditions.

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Skin breakouts, including acne

This list is not all-inclusive, but it does make stress relief demonstrate how important it is to live a calm life instead of being constantly stressed out.

Stress Reduction

Many doctors recommend yoga for stress reduction, and for conditions that flare up under stress, such as lupus.

Yoga and breathing techniques are wonderful stress reducers. Another thing that I highly recommend is prioritizing responsibilities and only accepting reasonable amounts of duties in one day.

Think of it this way. When we bite off more than we can chew, no one individual responsibility can possibly be done well because we get overwhelmed.

Fitting It All In

That being said, until my schedule changes, I will only be able to guarantee to post to this blog on Mondays. If my schedule allows for more writing, I will post more. But working a full-time job with a commute, and teaching 8 classes a week does not allow much room for writing.

I have heard disappointment from some that they missed the daily posts last week. For that, I apologize. However, I cannot let my health, my writing, or my yoga teaching suffer by taking on too many duties in one day.

Thank you for understanding and thank you for reading. I do hope to get back to posting more frequently as soon as my schedule allows for it.

Peace and stress release,

~Amber

Better Than Coffee

When I am tired and I need a boost of energy, I practice pranayama, or the breathwork of yoga. Pranayama is also beneficial if you are stressed out, as it will help calm you down.

The study of yoga teaches us that by controlling the breath, we control the mind. The mind becomes calm and clear, and we can better focus our energy to complete tasks.

Kapalabhati Breath

Once such practice of pranayama that I will discuss today is called kapalabhati breathing, or fire-breathing. Kapalabhati is also called the skull-shining breath, because it is known to bring a sense of brightness to the brain. It is also good for the digestive system, so it is cleansing and detoxifying breath.

Kapalabhati focuses on a very forceful exhale. The inhale happens automatically. It can be practiced with the mouth open, it can be practiced with the mouth closed (have a tissue handy if you have mild stuffiness).

To practice Kapalabhati, follow these steps:

  1. Sit in a comfortable upright position. You may use a chair.
  2. Take a few long, slow calming breaths.
  3. Inhale normally, then either with an open mouth or a closed mouth, exhale forcefully 10-30 times in a row, noticing that the inhale happens automatically. If you become too light-headed, stop and return to normal breathing for a moment. Resume kapalabhati when you are no longer light-headed.
  4. On your last exhale, breathe normally for a minute or two, and then practice another round.
  5. Repeat kapalabhati breath at least 3 rounds.

Tips to Kapalabhati:

  1. Practice on an empty stomach, or at least two hours after a meal.
  2. Do not practice if you think you might be pregnant, or if you are pregnant, if you are severely sick, if you have cardiac problems, or if you have a hernia. If you have unmedicated high blood pressure, avoid practice as well.

Benefits to Kapalabhati:

  1. Provides abdominal exercise to strengthen the core, and a cardiac exercise to strengthen the heart.
  2. Helps clear the lungs.
  3. Improves your mood.
  4. Moves metabolic waste out of the cells through the lungs.
  5. Increases peristalsis, or the contractions of the digestive track to improve elimination.

Happiness is a Consequence of Personal Effort

Pranayama is an excellent way to improve your state of mind whenever you need it. I encourage you to tap into your breath if you are tired, upset, stressed out or angry.

Remember that yoga is about the expansion of conscious awareness of ourselves. One way to tune the attention inward is to focus on your breathing, which will allow you to reflect on your mood. From controlling the breath, you can then improve your mood.

Happiness is a choice, and one trick that will help you is pranayama. It does not hurt to try.

Best,

~Amber

Work Hard; Play Hard

I took this weekend off, for the most part. I only took one yoga class and I only taught one yoga class. For me, that’s taking off.

Right now I am at a point in my life where I work very long hours during the week. I do this all because I love teaching yoga.

It is very tiring to have such long days. I am fulfilled, but I sure am out of energy by the end of the day.

So this weekend I gave myself the luxury of relaxing and enjoying life to the fullest. It was my way of celebrating my hard work.

I spent time with wonderful people, and I enjoyed myself completely.

My point is that life is meant to be enjoyed. It is not always about work, and it is not always about your spiritual growth.

Life is also not about other people’s expectations of you, and neither is it about your expectations of yourself. Life is for living, not for expecting.

We should be witness to what is happening in life and try to maximize our enjoyment of it. If we are not enjoying ourselves, what is the point of working so hard?

This weekend, I was reminded of this: work hard, play hard. That does not mean play irresponsibly, of course, but it does mean have fun and enjoy yourself when you are able.

Peace,

~Amber

“Fun is good.” -Dr. Seuss

The Path of a Yogi: Why I Practice Yoga

Yesterday, for a split second, I got into handstand for the first time by myself.

Source

Keep in mind, yoga is not about mastering the physical practice. The physical practice of yoga is a metaphor for life.

I focused on something for a very long time and finally accomplished it. Yoga happens when I take those skills off the mat and relate them to my day-to-day life.

Yoga teaches us that when we concentrate the mind on something, we can achieve it. Yoga also teaches us that we can control our mood, our chattering mind and our body by controlling our breath.

The 8 Limbs of Yoga

As defined by Patanjali, the great yogic sage, yoga has 8 limbs. The first four limbs of yoga pertain to the practical and physical nature of life:

  • The Yamas (ethical observances) teach us how to deal with the outside world.
  • The Niyamas (restraints) teach us how to deal with ourselves.
  • Asana (postures) teaches us to treat our body like a temple, to keep it strong and healthy.
  • Pranayama (breathwork) teaches us to relax the mind.

The remaining four limbs focus on the evolution of the spirit:

  • Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses) teaches us to turn our attention inward.
  • Dharana (concentration), teaches us to focus the power of the mind.
  • Dhyana (meditation), teaches us to be aware in the present moment
  • Samadhi (bliss, absolute union), teaches us we are bigger than our bodies and we can connect to the source of all things.

Soul Meets Body

I read a profound quote yesterday that a fellow blogger and yogi posted on Facebook.

“You do not have a soul. You are your soul. You have a body.” -C.S. Lewis

The purpose of practicing the postures is to live your yoga off of the mat so that the spirit can be ever evolving like a tree growing up toward the heavens.

And just like the tree, before we can evolve, we must be rooted in what is manifested here on Earth, our physical being.

I practice yoga because it elevates my mind, my body, ultimately uniting me with my true self, my spirit.

That is the path of the yogi.

Namaste,

~Amber