I am so excited to be teaching a special workshop on office yoga and wellness at University of Colorado, Denver! I have been preparing this handout below. Would you hang this in your cubicle or office?
My goal was to move to a completely new state to start a "new life" before I turned 30. After finishing grad school, I knew I wanted a change, and, since I had not attachments, I knew I could move anywhere. I ultimately chose Denver, CO on a whim (or should I say CO chose me in the form of goosebumps, my ultimate compass in life). And so I packed my Prius up with all my stuff and hit the road, arriving in Denver on July 1, 2016, just two days before my 30th birthday (I tend to reach my goals, although things often tend to all come together last min.)
Check out my photo journal of the trip from Poquoson, Virginia (small swamp town) to Denver, Colorado.
So here I am, building my life and business here in Denver, Colorado.
The Science of Prana
By Ann Swanson 2016
Let’s evaluate this vital energy,
known as prana or qi.
Intuited by ancients before systematic science.
When there was only science of the senses.
Described as vortexes.
As ins and outs and ups and downs. All around.
I was a skeptic, like you...
Applying scientific inquiry to poetry
I formulate a hypothesis.
Energy in; energy out.
Action; reaction. Equal and opposite.
I hypothesize that when we receive more units of energy in
than we can process and release,
that energy is stored in our tissues.
The issues are in our tissues.
My experiment is:
From the first breath to the last.
My evaluation is:
The energy of emotions
bundled in a neat package—
wrapped in fascia, fibers, feelings
The direction of flow of emotional energy is out.
Like a poem
it comes from within.
It is simply a reaction
to the action.
The energy is asking to be acknowledged.
into the universe.
When named, physiologically, logically,
the electrical signals are translated
from the limbic system
to the cerebral
When seen: to the visual cortex.
When heard: to the auditory.
When physically felt: to the somatosensory.
The emotional charge changes, dissolves, evolves
electrical energy—through my nervous network,
an eloquent electric language.
Mechanical energy—in my vibrating cells—37 trillion cells—
chemical energy—at gates filled with codes and keys to unlock
Flowing energy circulating with messages, oxygen, and nutrients
it is all of this
it is infinite.
My conclusion is
as I try to cognize, rationalize, I shift
I was a skeptic, like you…
until flooded by my undeniable empirical—experiential
Accepting the moment as is, without resistance,
softens the bundle
Acknowledges the vast, endless space around the pain
around all us.
I felt it. The day I witnessed it.
The moment I stood face to face with it.
I couldn’t walk away, so I turned to it.
There is a charged current
and every moment, we are faced with a choice:
To plug in
and access it
through a greater awareness
or stay in the darkness.
I may change my perspective, hypothesis, point of view.
In fact, I will. Most certainly.
Evolving as I experience, understand,
and observe new phenomena.
I am a scientist.
But really, this energy, prana, cannot be put into words.
It cannot be “proven” by science.
It is just felt.
Either way, it is there.
I was a skeptic, like you…
Now, I intuit
a new wave of consciousness,
a union of science
In writing this
I transformed the energy of hurt into the universe.
I am a master of my own physiology,
psychology, energy body.
I am an energy alchemist.
And so are you.
The number of people doing yoga, specifically for therapeutic reasons, is rising. More and more doctors and healthcare practitioners are recommending yoga to complement usual medical care. The rise of the popularity of yoga in America, for example, is clear.
A large survey just released in January 2016 shows that the number of yoga practitioners in America alone is now 36.7 million, up from 20.4 in 2012. This is a huge number and a dramatic increase. Also, scientific research is beginning to support yoga for various health conditions.
More and more reviews and meta-analyses (the gold standard of research) show promising results of yoga for trauma, depression, cancer, and conditions like low back pain and arthritis. It is becoming known that yoga seems to work therapeutically for a lot of people!
Also, check out my quick (2.5 min) elevator speech on yoga therapy below.
We spend so much of our days at a computer or smartphone (heck, you and I are are guilty of it right now). Most of the time our head is down toward a contracted chest with the brow and facial muscles tensed.
Darwin described this general position to communicate low spirits, anxiety and dejection. The slouched shoulders and rounded spine create tense muscles and disc issues in the neck. Recent research shows that this kind of slouched position we are often in leads to an overall feeling of a lack of power that carries on throughout our day.
The muscles around your shoulders and neck have an important job — they basically hold up a bowling ball all day! And if you put the laws of physics into the equation, the forward position of our head increases the lever arm (remember back to High School physics?), and can make it seem like that 11 pound bowling ball weighs over 50 pounds to the muscles and bones supporting it.
I have 3 quick tricks for you HERE in this article. (Sneak peak: trick #1 is to keep your head up, figuratively and literally.)
Yoga is all about cultivating a sense of union between your body, mind, and deeper Self. This can be tough when you feel disjointed because of pain in your joints (where two or more bones unite). There are many potential causes of joint pain, from injury to arthritis.
Some sources estimate that 1 in 3 adults may have arthritis, many undiagnosed. “Arthritis” is a broad term, including over one hundred different conditions. The most common type is osteoarthritis, which is caused by wear and tear. If we live long enough, most of us will deal with this. Other types include: rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and gout.
Common conditions such as bursitis, tendonitis, and carpal tunnel are often also lumped into the category of “arthritis” and related conditions.
A growing body of evidence supports yoga for arthritis symptoms and overall pain. Specifically, a recent study at a leading research university showed statistically significant improvements in pain. Based on this research and others, the following yoga tips apply for arthritis and any type of joint pain.
1. Move It or Lose It
Movement is universally recommended by doctors and experts to manage arthritis symptoms. It is vital for daily activities and to maintain and gain range of motion, stability, and balance.
I am not exactly sure how I fell into the specialty, but I seem to be the local expert on yoga for Dressage and Equestrians. Serendipity?
Actually it makes sense because I work a lot with yoga for balance and arthritis/chronic pain. These are two big concerns for riders long-term. Riding can lead to spinal disc issues and resulting back and nerve pain. Also, the position the body is in can put pressure on the back and knees, increasing the risk of arthritis in the long run. The good news is that through mindfulness and yoga, a lot of these symptoms can be relieved and many of the potential issues can be lessened or prevented.
First thing I had to do was look up what dressage even is! Dressage is an equestrian sport and is thought of as "the highest expression of horse training."
A deeper level of focus, balance, and sense of union with your horse is necessary.
A big part of my work with this unique group has been in physical and mental balance. In brainstorming with a top Dressage coach and judge, Kathy Rowse, we came up with the following tips for yoga for Dressage & Equestrians:
REMEMBER (in yoga & riding):
- Find your balance. Play with lots of balance poses. See the video below where I add extra balance challenges to the traditional sunsalutations.
- Find "center." When standing on two feet and when sitting on your sitting bones. When seated, try moving your butt muscles to the side and "slithering" or wiggling to feel your weight equally on by wiggling and noticing (this works on your mat or saddle).
- Focus on your posture. Find a neutral pelvis so that you have a subtle curve inward in the low back. Imagine your head is floating up. Imagine space between your vertebrae. (Disc issues are a concern for riders so this is important.)
- Keep your shoulders down. When you lift your arms in a yoga pose or to hold the reins, keep the shoulders down. The upper traps may have a tendency to ride up toward the ears. Relax. There is no need to wear your shoulders as earrings ;) The horse can sense this!
- Relax unnecessary muscles. While you are at it, notice if you are holding stress anywhere else. Relax your jaw, hips, and even your toes!
- Notice your breath. Find a rhythm in your breath. Remember that your rhythm directs your horse's tempo. Also, in life, the rhythm of our breath directs the tempo of our reactions and interactions. Becoming more mindful of your breath will help you be more mindful in the moment. Imagine also being acutely aware of your horse's breath. Through this, your connection will grow infinitely.
- Keep your head up and your heart open <3
- Lots of balancing poses like tree pose, eagle pose, and warrior III
- Hip flexor stretches like lunges
- Back strengtheners like cobra & locust
- Spinal movements like cat/cow and side stretches
- Core strengtheners like plank pose
- Also, consider my routine for the low back. CLICK HERE for the free video.
This weekend I taught 2 workshops on "Yoga for Dressage Riders" and I feel inspired and energized by the unique perspective of the students.