Food, Shelter, Safety, and Yoga.

In a world where people experiencing homelessness are ignored and literally pushed to the fringes of society, I am continually amazed by the resilience and kindness of the human spirit in spite of life’s unimaginable circumstances. And I have been honored to witness how these qualities are continually cultivated and grown in a simple yoga practice.

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The reasons why people find themselves homeless are as varied as the trees you find in the forest. Given that people experiencing homelessness are often reduced to focusing on meeting their basic needs: food, shelter and safety, it is a wonder to me that anyone would find their way to a yoga class.

However, one beautiful woman that I met at SOME (So Others Might Eat), a community-based organization that assists the poor and homeless in Washington, DC, exemplified the importance of a yoga practice that is accessible and specifically designed to take place in the jail system.  She shared with me about the impact of a program she took part in offered by Yoga District while she was in a local jail.  While practicing yoga, she learned and clearly now understood how to connect with the present moment, the impact of exercising to reduce stress, and the joy found in simply finding activities and people that we enjoy.  As she shared her experience with me, she was so present and connected with a sparkle in her eye. I was in the moment with her.

While there was nothing particularly special about my conversation with this woman at SOME to set it apart from any other conversation. But for that brief moment I’d like to believe we connected as humans are supposed to, seeing and honoring each other’s light.  Namaste.

Calls to Action:

  1. Do you know anyone at Yoga District in DC who could connect me with an instructor for the jail program? Right now, the woman I met is not connected to a yoga studio and I have been trying to reconnect her with her instructor from Yoga District.
  2. Would you like to support yoga for the underserved? Check out my upcoming class in Gainesville, Georgia at Flip Your Dog Yoga Studio on October 29.  Let me know and I’ll set you up.

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Yoga for Ankle Sprains

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I am so grateful for this article written by Julie Lawrence, which walks through yoga asanas that can be done while healing from an ankle injury.

You can do several poses without placing stress on your injured ankle. The mantra here is ahimsa (nonharming). Learn to practice with love for yourself by staying out of the realm of pain.

Initially, you should rest your ankle while focusing on other areas of your body. Eventually you can incorporate gentle strengthening and stretching poses as part of your recovery. I suggest you wear an elastic ankle brace even while practicing poses that do not involve the ankle.

To take all the pressure off your ankle, try some upper-body stretches while seated in a chair. Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute), Urdhva Baddhanguliyasana (Upward Interlaced Fingers Pose), Urdhva Namaskarasana (Upward Prayer Position), Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose), and Paschima Namaskarasana (Prayer Position Behind the Back) will keep your shoulders flexible, chest open, and breathing fluid.

You can also do twists such as Bharadvajasana (Bharadvaja’s Twist), which stretches your back while massaging organs that can get sluggish when you’re immobilized by an injury. Jathara Parivartanasana (Revolved Abdomen Pose) strengthens your abdominal muscles and opens your chest without putting pressure on your ankle. Also try straight-legged seated forward bends. As you align your legs without bearing weight, you can begin to explore the range of motion in your ankle. Be sure to stay in the pain-free range. Dandasana (Staff Pose), Upavistha Konasana (Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend), and Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend) will stretch your hamstrings, increase mobility in your hip joints, and lengthen your spine.

Absolutely incorporate inversions, which help drain fluids from your swollen ankle. You can do Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand) with a chair or Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose). Both are calming and bring lightness to the mind.

Practice gratitude for the ease you take for granted when you’re free of pain. Injury can inspire you to embrace humility and provides a renewed compassion for others with differing abilities.

Julie Lawrence, director of the Julie Lawrence Yoga Center (www.jlyc.com) in Portland, Oregon, is a certified Iyengar Yoga instructor.