Last night I dreamt about the movie Face off with Nicolas Cage and John Travolta. If you haven’t seen this movie, the characters surgically have their faces exchanged,(i.e. Nicolas has John’s face and vice versa). It is a suspense/thriller if you like that kind of movie.

I know this dream was prompted by a recent surgery of mine. No I didn’t have my entire faced removed. Who would be the other person to agree to this swap if I did? I had a basal cell cancer removed from my left cheek. Yeah, it’s not a big deal. All the cancer is gone and I am lucky. However, looking at my misshapen face at this point is jarring and disconcerting. I know that I am not my face but reality tells me that I definitely identify with my face, perhaps more than I thought I did.

Walking around with initially a large white gauzy dressing, then little sticky steri strips, and now just with a pink raised incision line and still crooked smile, I am greeted with averted faces and uncomfortable stares. Or, am I just making this story up in my head due to my own misguided perception of self, not being particularly fond of my new appearance. What a great lesson this experience is for me. I am not my looks, I know. The essence of me is far deeper and much more expansive. Why the struggle?

In perfect timing, I had the good fortune of spending time with visiting Tibetan Buddhist monks who spent many hours and days creating their masterpiece of an intricate, brightly colored sand mandala, only to brush it away with respect and joy, ceremonially throwing the sand into the local river for it to be taken in by Mother Earth; a reminder of impermanence and our foolishness in thinking that we can actually hold onto anything. Life is impermanent, period, as are all things. Job, looks, friends, family, home; all are transient. All of them could be gone in a blink of an eye. Just thinking about the possibilities makes me quiver. The only eternal thing is the everlasting soul, our Essence.

Putting my day’s checklist in order often feeds the illusion that I can control what I cannot. Still the years pass by ever so quickly, the hours, the minutes, often with me missing out on nurturing events, people connections, walking on this magnificent earth while I instead choose to concentrate on my busyness, and placate my restlessness with the inventory of accomplishments. The tick of the house clock almost mocks me as if to say “Hey you, the one with so much given to you, go out and love the world, love all beings, say what is yours to say, dance, fall down, get up, laugh smile, GET AWAY from your phone and computer, be free, frolic, dare to be different, don’t wait….”

“Loving what is” a mantra of Byron Katie’s, emphasizes that we are foolish to choose otherwise. If we deny what is, then what do we have left? We often hang onto creative ingeniously contrived explanations to filter our reality that at times provide us solace, but deprive us of living authentically. This delusory practice cuts into those precious minutes, those measured breaths we have now, never to have again!

Many of you recognize these truths already. These are built in tenets of yoga, philosophy, of life itself. But I need reminders. Maybe you do too? I enthusiastically invite you to dance and celebrate with me. Instead of making that daily, mundane “to do” list, go out and greet your neighbors. Perhaps that is the list! How many lives can we touch in a day? I look around and so many people are on their phones, taking “selfies,” when someone near them is desperate for human contact. I am certain I am guilty of this habit, too!

I know my physical wounds will heal. I have friends with much more serious medical issues who would love to be in my shoes. In fact, I feel a bit sheepish focusing on this issue. After all, I am much more than my face and my face will heal. Even if it doesn’t, I should not be lessened by it. But, to acknowledge my struggle is hopefully a part of the healing for others and me.

Who knows what the future will bring? As I hear the clicking of my clock in the background, my cheerleader of sorts, with its steady reminder of life’s progression urging me to seize the day, I venture out, excited and inspired to craft my own mandala, a tapestry of color and interest, which defies the critics of the “shoulds” and “woulds,” from folks on the outside and especially that persistent, convincing voice from within. Along with the amazing monks, I am invested and focused but let go of any attachment; the need for recognition, the inclination to preserve or to keep as mine.

Join me in this dance of the Essence of Self. The journey is so much easier if we support and encourage each other. This allowance of our greatest, most magnificent, connected, vibrant Self to flourish is what the world needs now, as it always has, and always will. I need to “face” this truth. How about you?

Ellyn       6/6/17

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The third eye or 6th chakra is located between the eyebrows. It is the seat of the “I”s: intuition, introspection, and imagination. It is associated with another “I” word, the color Indigo and compels us to lose the other “I” our ego. When it is blocked, we may feel as if we do not have a sense of direction in life, walking around blindly, in the figurative sense. In addition, since the 6th chakra, Ajna, houses the pituitary, the master functioning gland of the body, general well-being can plummet. One may be sick frequently, develop high blood pressure, migraines (I have chronic migraines!), sinusitis, seizures, and poor vision.

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We have all experienced times of intuitive knowing, that undeniable connection to our 3rd eye, Source, the Divine. Things, people, events, seem to fall into perfect coherence. The opposite of course can be true too. If this area of the body is stuck, we may choose to stay so busy, exhausting ourselves with “must dos” to avoid paying attention to the deeper insightful, intuitive mind.  How many of us try to convince ourselves of our great value when our calendars are so overly scheduled only to find ourselves depleted and uninspired?

 

So, what to do or not do?

To do:

Well, the first change is to take time for reflection.  Commune with the earth and the trees or find a quiet spot in your home to just breathe! It’s always amazing to me how a seemingly overwhelming project can be completed effortlessly after a breath of fresh air or simple reflection. The project may be deemed not really necessary to do after all!

 

Not to do:

According to a great article on www.finerminds.com, a simple rule to follow is this: when we feel lousy, do not trust how we are perceiving things. It’s like we have smudged up lenses in our glasses viewing things out of focus.  When we take action from a distorted, blurred point of view, things just get worse. Wow, what a rule to follow! Do not take immediate action when feeling lousy. Instead –

 

Do clear your head through meditation, journaling, walking, or perhaps just sleeping on it.

 

“Going through life without intuition is like driving a car which has no side mirror and nor rearview mirror. All you can see is just straight ahead.” Yoga Bhajan

On another note, I must confess, one of the reasons I was attracted to stimulating this chakra is that it slows the aging process.  Ok, call me vain but what a bonus! In the aging process the pituitary gland can become smaller and may not work optimally. Since the pituitary is in charge of the production of human growth hormone, decreased production can lead to less lean muscle, decreased heart function, and osteoporosis. When we involve ourselves in the meditation for the third eye or movement to enhance the function of the pituitary, we look and feel much younger than our years.

 

I’ll share with you simple practice to boost the energy of this chakra and the pituitary.

This exercise helps alleviate depression, enhances our intuitive voice, and gives energy to the pituitary.

 

  1. Sit comfortably on your heels in a kneeling position (if too difficult, do so in an easy sitting pose or use a cushion to support the knees.
  2. Place both palms on the floor and bow your head until your third eye point touches the floor. Focus at the 3rd Eye.
  3. Raise back up,
  4. Continue the bowing motion lightly touch your forehead to the floor each time, keeping the neck and spine relaxed and fluid.

 

Feel this exercise’s great effects in only 3 minutes.

Gurmukh, (2000) The Eight Human Talents, New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers, Inc.

 

Try this bowing exercise for 40 days and see how you feel. I guarantee you will live an inspired life allowing Ajna to open and your life to thrive. Move forward with 20/20 intuitive vision. I look forward to sharing class this week, but for now, I’m off to clean my glasses. Perhaps you should too.

 

Ellyn Hutton is a Holistic Nurse and Yoga Teacher. She is teaching the chakra series and enjoys learning and sharing to support connection and community. Please share your thoughts!

www.wellnesswithinbe.ocm

It is synchronistic that this week in yoga class we will be working on the 5th chakra, the throat chakra, the very same week the Academy Awards will be airing. The 5th chakra, Vishuddha, pertains to speaking our truth. The movie world is an art form that can send many messages through the power of words. Are these movies being lauded sending messages we need to hear? It is in the throat chakra that we find our authentic voice, that is, what we are meant to say during our time on earth. I am looking forward to seeing which movies resonated with the masses.

            “Words are not a small thing. Words are the real power.

The whole universe is a magnetic field.

If we create positive words, we feel love,

If we create negative words, we feel hatred.

-Yogi Bhajan

            The Fifth chakra includes our neck and shoulders, mouth, nose and ears. How many of us have issues in this area? I know I do. I’ve walked around with a tight neck and shoulders most of my life. I think that this chakra was affected by messages I received early on to “be quiet and nice and people will like you”. I think many of us received similar messages.

During my work in massage therapy, I find so much tightness in my clients in the muscles of the neck and head, especially around the jaw. It is like a vice, closing off the free movement of the mandible, as words and opinions are held back. When this area is closed off more and more, the risk of addictions increases. Addictions can range from alcohol, and drugs to smoking and overeating. The shadow emotion is denial. As we deny what out true voice is, we tend to find other ways to separate ourselves from our soul’s voice, which leads to depression and a lackluster life.

“When you speak, it should be as if Infinity is speaking.”

-Yogi Bhajan

             I was intrigued when I heard about Dr. Emoto’s work when I watched the film What the Bleep in 2006. Dr. Emoto decided to study how thoughts and words affected the formation of distilled water crystals. He typed words onto paper, and then taped the paper onto glass bottles overnight.

Thank you ‘Love and appreciation’ ‘You make me sick, I will kill you’

The water exposed to positive words such as “thank you,” “love and gratitude” formed beautiful geometric symmetry when frozen, unlike words “You make me sick” or “I will kill you” formed dark misshapen crystals. Just imagine what harsh words do to our bodies, which are about 85% water? How many negative things do we tell ourselves throughout the day or say to others throughout our life. You know as well as I do that a harsh word said over 10 years ago can still carry the same potent sting as it did on that very day it was uttered. It may take a lot of practice and patience to change those knee jerk reactions of harmful responses, but it is definitely worth it. I am sure that living of life full of grace and peace is much more gratifying than one with drama and hate.

So, what can we do? Begin today to change the inner conversation. When a harsh thought comes up about the way you look or think, replace it with an opposite, positive one. Make it a daily practice and it will become a new habit. How we think about ourselves directly affects how we treat others, the domino effect of love breeding love.

“To know you is to love you and I do.”

Bobby Vinton

            A simple thing I did is based on Dr. Emoto’s work. I have the words love and gratitude taped on my Brita water pitcher at work. Just recently I added a Vitajuwel gem wand filled with amethyst gemstones (exposing the water to beautiful gemstones is also based on Emoto’s work to enhance the energy of the water). My clients love it and so do I. Drinking water that has been enriched energetically is powerful. It also inspires me to drink more water, which is good thing!

What other ways can we empower the 5th chakra? Perhaps it is as easy as starting to open up this area physically by doing slow fluid neck circles. Warming up the neck and at the same time massaging the thyroid and parathyroid glands to bring balance back into the body and mind. Along with the movement, allow a tone to be released. Gurmukh in her book The Eight Human Talents (1997) suggests chanting the mantra “Ong”.

Ong (Infinity in its most creative form)

Breathe in and out deeply though your nose a few times

Scrunch your shoulders up tightly to you ear, and then relax and lower your shoulders (5 times)

Close you eyes and roll you head around to the right and to the left, inhaling and exhaling through the nose.

Bring you head back to neutral.

Focus between the eyebrows (the third eye)

Chant “Ong” Curl the tongue and press the back of the tongue against the back of the throat firmly.

Practice 3-7 minutes.

You will begin to feel a slight buzz in the back of the throat.

            Enjoy the effects. Allow your voice to be free. As you begin to find your authentic voice again, you will find other areas of creativity being cultivated beyond the spoken word such as painting, drawing, and photography. Cultivate kind thoughts, make it a daily practice, and watch the world around you become loving and alive. Unite with your inner Wisdom, your True Voice. The world is waiting to hear your song, your message of love, your own wonderful award-winning life film.

This week I will be teaching a yoga routine for the fourth or Heart Chakra.The Heart Chakra is about the energy that resides in each one of us individually. The Sanskrit name for this chakra is Anahata meaning unstruck, not the result of striking or beating something to create sound. It is a spontaneously occurring sound current that is always present within us and in the cosmos, detected during deep meditation paving the way to higher levels of consciousness, to pure, unconditional love. Tapping into this vibration allows for a deep, satisfying rush.

When the Heart Chakra is balanced, we live in unconditional love. We make deep connections with others. We actually listen deeply without glancing at the messages on our smart phones or computers. We make eye contact and honor the spirit of the person talking; it is a paradox that with the boon of the Internet and social media, we have skyrocketing rates of loneliness.  A social media connection is not the same thing as a bond, nor is a text or smiley face.

 In an article about loneliness, the Atlantic Magazine, (2012) says that instant cyber connection is no ticket to happiness or ultimately a better world. Creating real life social bonds and communities not only increases happiness but also promotes optimal health. It’s worth noting that being alone does not necessarily constitute loneliness. Solitude used to be good for self-reflection and self-discovery. But now we are constantly left thinking about the image we portray as we share our daily photos, activities, and posts. We are so busy instantly sharing every minute detail that we never take the time to discover who we really are!

So, in honor of the heart chakra and our journey to lasting happiness, plan to establish deeper bonds:

  •  Begin a Facebook or smartphone fast.
  • Create community.
  • Take the time to truly listen to someone speak and worry less about what you need or want to say.
  • Devote moments to silence, to no distractions, to uncovering the authentic Self.

Let your Inner Voice, your Inner Teacher arise and perhaps in the midst of the unveiling a subtle but detectable vibration or hum will be felt or heard, the Anahata, the rhythm of the heart. And you will touch, at least for a moment, the face of bliss, finding the profound and unconditional love of all humankind.

 Join me Wednesday at Fit Studio for Kundalini Yoga at 6 p.m. Let’s share in this opening together!

 

Love, Ellyn

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/05/is-facebook-making-us-lonely/308930/

I was leafing through my yoga literature while contemplating my upcoming yoga class on the 3rd chakra, Manipura Chakra. Associated with the color yellow as in the tip of a flame, this chakra correlates with the element of fire and is involved in self-esteem and the power of transformation. Churning movements of the belly can help balance this area where the spleen and liver reside, enhancing digestion and personal power. We can literally and figuratively “digest “ things in life better when this area is balanced.

This center is our seat of self-power or how we view ourselves. Every time we judge or criticize ourselves we weaken this center. When it is weak, we may find ourselves coasting through life without motivation. In the winter months, especially, I resonate with this apathetic feeling. It’s cold outside and my business is slow. Even though I have more time to practice yoga and meditation, I slump deeper into the drudgery and put off those daily practices that nourish me and keep me feeling alive.

As I read, I come across a description I had not heard before. According to Wikipedia, this chakra is the site of deep belly laughter. We all know where that is, don’t we? Deep belly laughing has to be my favorite thing to do. It is one of the reasons I like hanging out with my family. My mom, brothers and sister are natural comedians. No matter what the circumstance, each one’s viewpoint always has a unique comedic twist. What a gift! Even though from the same genes, I tend to be more serious and not as funny, but I really appreciate those who are and like being around them!

A few years ago, I ruled out watching anything violent on television. This decision wiped out many choices with so much violence on shows and especially the news. I would have difficulty sleeping thinking about all the killings I had witnessed on the small screen. Recently, I decided to take a cue from my brother David who, before work, would watch old episodes of Get Smart. For those too young to remember, Get Smart aired in the 60’s and centered around Maxwell Smart a bumbling secret agent, assigned to foil KAOS’, (an international organization of evil), latest plans for taking over the world. Invariably, Smart’s bumbling antics got him in trouble. He had a “shoe” phone, which was probably the first known cell phone (or should I say “sole” phone?)

It’s interesting to note that simply writing about this program makes me feel lighter. I laugh as a few episodes come to mind thinking more about my brother’s contagious belly laugh more than the show. Nowadays, I watch anything funny on TV from Modern Family to old episodes of Gilligan’s Island. I listen to Comedy Radio in the car, thanks to my sister, Kathy.

I happened to catch Oprah’s interview of Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest on Super Soul Sunday this week. Fr. Rohr talked about our true self versus our ego self. He said a true sign that we are functioning from our ego self is when we feel offended by someone’s actions or words. Our pure essence can never be offended. It is what we are, pure and perfect, our “inner diamond”. When Oprah asked how to best manage our reactive tendencies, which are innately part of being human, he said, just laugh about it. Be light in the recognition that something in our ego self is being triggered. That even with all our faults, our true essence is unchanging and connected to Source.

I look forward to class this week. I hope to introduce the lightness of being and encourage “fun” in balancing the Manipura Chakra, which means “City of Jewels.” One of the gems of this energy center is to live life fully, with enhanced will power and self esteem. I hope to not let another day pass by languishing in disengagement and laziness but instead thrive in feeling of love, purpose, and the pleasure of a good belly laugh.

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I know this comparison may sound a bit absurd but bear with me for a moment. New studies suggest that maternal stress hormones babies are exposed to in the womb, affect child outcomes:
• hyperactivity and inattention in boys
• emotional problems in girls and boys
• conduct problems in girls
(DePietro, 2004)

When a pregnant woman is chronically stressed the baby may be exposed to unhealthy levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. (They are not talking about everyday stress.) These levels can affect brain development, changes in blood flow to the baby which affect developing organs. Moms that are stressed have poorer sleep habits and often-unhealthy diets.

Babies born to stressed-out moms react more severely to the initial heel sticks after birth and tend to be fussier overall (Beddoe, Yang, Kennedy, Weiss, & Lee, 2009). It’s like the perfect storm – a stressed-out baby born to an already stressed-out mom!

The remedy is the most important part of this writing. Moms that have social support, eat well, and exercise daily can lower the effects of stress for both themselves and their baby. Creating that “village” is the prescription for healthy well-adjusted children.

Studies now show yoga as more effective in decreasing anxiety/stress than standard exercise. A series of publications show that women that start prenatal yoga early in pregnancy compared to women who practiced later in pregnancy experience improved sleep patterns in their second trimester (Beddoe, Lee, Weiss, Kennedy, Yang, 2010) and had better psychological health (Beddoe, Paul Yang, Kennedy, Weiss, & Lee, 2009).

Yoga clearly has positive effects for both mom and baby. I have always loved the community that is created in pregnancy yoga classes. I am intrigued with women and their stories. In fact, I published The Colors of Birth, a keepsake of birth stories to honor the process of birth. My mom’s stressed out pregnancy was probably the impetus for me to work with this population.

Every time I teach a pregnancy yoga class, calmness and healing is created for both the participants and me. Each mom connects with her baby throughout the class and through gentle movement and breath creates the dance preparing for birth. In the closing meditation, I refer to the private, peaceful universe of the baby in the womb. Moms also create changes in their world, their universe, by infusing harmony to placate the nervous system. They open themselves up to the silence and stillness, and then something extraordinary happens. The inner wisdom, the inner voice speaks. Women begin to choose healthier options, ask good questions, and bond more deeply. They become knowing mothers joining the ranks of the wise women who have birthed before them.

Community, of course, is good for all of us. In pregnancy, however, there is a deeper, immediate connection shared by those holding a life within. In the busyness of daily life, sometimes this miracle is overlooked and unsupported. In a pregnancy yoga class, women ease into the comfort of movement, share joys and worries, and reset the stress button. As we now know, babies benefit too!

Could it be that simple? What would the world be like if babies and moms were less stressed? If mom knew how to self soothe and babies entered this world calm and receptive for growth. That they would grow up in a generation that chooses calming inversions, deep breaths and soothing meditations over reactive anger, drug abuse, and gun violence.

Yoga can be an inexpensive, accessible, and effective way to manage stress in pregnancy. Yoga trains the individual to be better prepared to cope with daily stressors and improve her overall mood (Marc, Blanchet, Ernst, Hodnett, Turcot, & Dodin, 2010). We now can see how long range these effects may be.

So say, “yes” to yoga, infiltrate our society with this well-studied strategy for a peaceful existence, and give the next generation tools to be happy, healthy, and whole. I envision a more peaceful planet and prenatal yoga may be the magic bullet.

Wellness Within will be facilitating a comprehensive Prenatal Yoga Teachers’ Training
February 25-28 At the STAR campus at University of Delaware. All yoga teachers and nurses are encouraged to attend.
References:
Beddoe, A.E., Yang, C.P., Kennedy, H.P., Weiss, S.J., & Lee, K.A. (2009). The effects of mindfulness-based yoga during pregnancy on maternal psychological and physical distress. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing, 38, 310-319. doi:10.1111/j.1552-6909.2009.01023.x
Beddoe, A.E., Lee, K.A., Weiss, S.J., Kennedy, H.P., & Yang, C.P. (2010). Effects of mindful yoga on sleep in pregnant women: A pilot study. Biological Research for Nursing, 11, 363-370. doi:10.1177/1099800409356320
DiPietro, J.A. (2004). The role of maternal stress in child development. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 13(2), 71-74.
Marc, I., Blanchet, C., Ernst, E., Hodnett, E.D., Turcot, L., & Dodin, S. (2010). Mind-body interventions during pregnancy for preventing or treating women’s anxiety. Cochrane PRENATAL YOGA 10 Database of Systematic Reviews 2009, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD007559. doi:10.1002/14651858. CD007559

Today I taught a yoga and meditation class for those with chronic pain or disease. The class focused on breath awareness.

At the start of class, I asked the participants in the class to write their story in 5 short minutes. When they completed this exercise, they put their writing in a bin, which was placed outside the yoga room. Each person was encouraged to “let go” of his or her story and for the next hour to remain centered on the present.

Bryon Katie, (www.the work.com), reminds us that by staying attached to the story, we miss the gifts of the present. We cannot change the past so the ruminating just causes the misery. I am as guilty as the next gal, staking claim to my belief of a much-deserved recitation of my traumatic and eventful life. I am sure I appreciate all the “oohs and aahhs” and sympathetic glances. Nevertheless, I am ready to let go of my story. Frankly, I am tired of it!

The question posed for this class’s review is:

What is it that you might be holding on to that if you let it go it would create more space in your life?

Hmmm. What am I holding on to? I believe I am holding on to the familiarity of my present life. If people know of my injury perhaps they won’t expect as much from me. I won’t be held to as high a standard. Many years ago, after a brain injury, I was told that I might not graduate from high school or college. (Oops there I go again, the telling of my story!)

Why do I need people to know my history? Perhaps it is so that I can play small. That it is my own power that I am afraid of as Maryanne Williamson states:“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

Or is it the chronic headaches that serve as a reminder, which keep me stuck in the past? Pain can lead me down the path of “poor me, why me, and dear me” all at the same time.

Lately, I am encouraged. I have developed for the past week, a meditation practice both at bedtime and first thing in the morning. It has been a fairly easy transition, since I mentally recite an entire body scan while I am in bed, with not much a physical exertion. Even with just minimal effort, I have noticed a shift in perception and in pain levels. The sensations of my body become my focus rather than the pain or anxiety about the possibility of pain. As I say good-bye to my story, the pain has lessened. I am brighter, more loving, and happy. Really, just in 5 days.

I share this experience with you because I can easily slide back to my old habits (and probably will)! I have had success in the past and eventually abandoned my practice. (There I go, bringing up the past again!) I am further encouraged this time by the support of the group. Together, I think we can optimally influence our perceptions and habits, even if it is only in small increments.

Let me know your thoughts and personal practices. I would enjoy hearing about them.

By the way, the name of the today’s yoga group is The Inspirations. We thought it best not to be known as the Chronic Painers. I am inspired by all of them.

Thank you.