The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper. ∼ W.B. Yeats
Perception is everything. A shift of thought, seeing something as if for the first time, becoming still, and paying attention; these are a few ways to change how we experience life.
We sometimes go through life on autopilot, running from one place to another, going along with what “everybody else” is doing or believing, or zoning out to avoid what feels overwhelming to us. We can feel we are on a hamster wheel, getting further behind. But in reality, there is nowhere to go. You are already here. Right now. In yoga, we use our senses to bring awareness to the present moment. We start by feeling the gift of one breath at a time. We pay attention to the life-giving breath that flows in and out, whether we think about it or not. And, like magic, we can also participate in this breathing process:
Feel your physical body, supported by mother earth.
Feel the natural flow of your breath, just as it is.
Notice the rhythm of the breath.
Feel where each phase of breath begins and ends.
Notice the pause between each phase of breath.
Now, gently lengthen the end of the next inhale.
Gently lengthen the end of the next exhale.
Feel yourself getting into the rhythm of the breath and participating in it.
As the breath slows, appreciate the miracle of each breath.
Appreciate the miracle of life, given one breath at a time.
Life is like the breath. We can just let it happen, or we can treasure it. We can tune in right where we are to our gut feelings and to the whispers of the soul. As we begin to pay attention, we begin to understand who we are. We begin to notice and use our own unique gifts, talents, and interests that can contribute to the beauty of this world. This life is a magical opportunity.
We can pay attention to the magic of nature, including the miracle of having this human body. Begin by appreciating what your physical body can do, even with its limitations. Feel how it allows you to experience everything in life. It allows you to give a hug, to move, to create, to experience.
Use your senses today to fully experience everything right where you are. See the beauty of a flower. Hear the sound of birds chirping. Feel a cool breeze. Smell your herbal tea. Taste a crisp ripe apple. Really see the people in your life. Listen intently without planning what you will say. These simple shifts are magical. They make us aware and able to participate in our connection with each other and with all of life.
What magic will you find and create in the world today?
Blessings, love and light,
Oct2018 Shelley Carpenter, Physical Therapist, Registered Yoga Teacher, Reiki Master Teacher is a practitioner at Ommani who offers group (Tuesday and Wednesdays) and individual therapeutic yoga sessions, physical therapy, and Reiki care. Call our office at 262.695.5311 to schedule an appointment.
Reiki (pronounced “ray-key”) is a hands-on energy healing technique for stress-reduction and relaxation. It promotes the body’s self-healing ability and provides a sense of peace and well-being in mind, body and spirit.
At the end of this one-day class, you will have the ability to perform Reiki healing for yourself and others.
You will learn about the history of Reiki, how it works, current research, and gain a basic understanding of the chakras and how they correspond to your health.
You will receive an attunement that allows Reiki energy to flow through you freely, and have the opportunity to practice a self-treatment and a full Reiki session on a partner in class.
For more information and testimonials, please see PureEnergyYoga.com
Cost: $160. Call or email Shelley with questions or to register.
I have found that nothing unites people like being out in nature.
Two years ago, our family took a trip to Olympic National Park, Crater Lake National Park, the Redwoods and many amazing points in between. The breathtaking beauty at each of these locations seemed to soak into our pores. It made us slow down and filled us with awe and reverence. While we were hiking through the silent redwood forests amidst the giant trees, we encountered other families on the trail. They said “hello” to us with hushed voices as if we were all in a sacred cathedral, which of course, we were.
This summer we took a whirlwind road trip to Niagara Falls. The city of Niagara, Ontario has casinos interspersed with loud arcades, a wax museum, an amusement park, shops of all kinds, restaurants, and bars. The weather was hot and the streets were packed.
This incredible, powerful and beautiful force of nature made the crowd pause. We all slowed down and were united by our joy and wonder. We were smiling both at our families and each other. There were people of all ages, shapes, colors, and countries. And we were kind to each other as we shared this beautiful place.
We gave each other space to enjoy the view at the ledge. Those enjoying the view spent some time and then politely moved on to another area in order to let the next group have a turn. The mist from the falls cooled our bodies and frazzled psyches and soothed our spirits.
One could gaze at the view and listen to the rush of the falls for hours. And we did, from every angle: above, below, beside, from the Canadian side and the US side, daytime and the nighttime. It was humbling, exciting and fun. When encountering the power of the waterfalls I had the similar feeling that I get at the edge of the ocean or in the mountains: feeling small, and at the same time, feeling the oneness and connection with nature, God, and the entire planet.
No matter where we are, we are surrounded by the incredible beauty of nature. In order to cultivate awe, peace, and connection all that is needed is to shift into a state of awareness in the here and now. Letting go of the remembering, planning, worrying mind and connecting to our senses allows us to be present to what is here, right now. To experience this connection to nature, you don’t have to go further than out your door.
Give these mindful nature experiences a try: Stand outside, look up at the white clouds, blue sky or bright moon and stars; feel the grass or sand beneath your feet; reach out and touch the bark of a tree or a leaf or petal; listen to the wind, moving water, birds, squirrels, frogs. Smell a flower or herb growing in the garden; bite into a just-picked fresh fruit or veggie and truly taste what you are eating.
Enjoy the beauty!
If you’d like to schedule a Reiki energy healing session or guidance in an individualized therapeutic home yoga practice, please call The Ommani Center. If interested in attending a group yoga class, I invite you to drop-in on Tuesdays at 9 am or Wednesdays at 6 pm.
August 2018 Shelley Carpenter, Physical Therapist, Registered Yoga Teacher, Reiki Master Teacher is a practitioner at Ommani who offers group (Tuesday and Wednesdays) and individual therapeutic yoga sessions, physical therapy, and Reiki care. Call our office at 262.695.5311 to schedule an appointment.
The steamy weather of summer can make many of us feel trapped and irritable, with decreased energy and motivation. Yoga and Ayurveda (the several thousand year-old healing sister science of yoga) teach us to work with the seasons instead of against them. These time-tested teachings offer guidelines on keeping cool and finding balance when the temperature rises. To cool down this summer, give the following a try!
Sitali Breathing: (If you can curl your tongue-this is a genetic trait, not a skill. If not, read further!)
- Sit in a comfortable position with your eyes softly closed. Begin to notice your breath and slow it down
- Make an O shape with your mouth, and curl the tongue lengthwise.
- Then, as B.K.S. Iyengar instructs in Light on Pranayama (Crossroad, 1998), “draw in air…as if drinking with a straw and fill the lungs completely.”
- Then close the mouth and exhale through the nose.
- Repeat this cycle for 2-3 minutes initially.
Sitkari Breathing: (If you can’t curl your tongue, or if you just prefer this method)
- Sit comfortably with your eyes closed.
- Gently press your lower and upper teeth together and separate your lips as much as you comfortably can, so your teeth are exposed to the air.
- Inhale slowly through the gaps in the teeth and focus on the hissing sound of the breath.
- Close the mouth and slowly exhale through the nose.
- Practice gently and without intensity early or late in the day, when the air is cool.
Yoga practice: Specific poses such as forward bends and gentle twists are cooling. Also how you practice can be cooling as well. Practicing at a slower pace, moving gently, and incorporating restorative poses are energetically and physically cooling for the body.
A wonderful restorative pose that decreases swelling in the legs and decreases internal heat is Viparita Karani (legs up the wall pose). Sit close to a wall (I like to use a closet door for this.), sideways. As you move to lie down, swing your legs up and rest them on the wall. Hips can be flat on the floor or supported by a folded blanket.
You may be close to the wall, with seat touching the wall, or away from the wall depending upon your hamstring length. (Another option: bend knees and place lower legs on a chair seat if you have very tight hamstrings or significant back tightness and pain.)
You may stay there, allowing your breath to flow slowly for 5-15 minutes. (Start with 5 minutes and progress gradually over time.)
To move out of the pose, bend your knees, roll onto your side, and slowly scoot away from the wall before carefully sitting up while consciously breathing. Changing positions slowly while breathing helps prevent light-headedness.
If you’d like guidance in creating an individualized therapeutic home yoga practice designed just for you, please call The Ommani Center to schedule a private yoga session. If interested in a group class, I invite you to drop-in on Tuesdays at 9am or Wednesdays at 6pm.
June 2018 Shelley Carpenter, Physical Therapist, Registered Yoga Teacher, Reiki Master Teacher is a practitioner at Ommani who offers group (Tuesday and Wednesdays) and individual therapeutic yoga sessions, physical therapy, and Reiki care. Call our office at 262.695.5311 to schedule an appointment.
I often start our yoga classes by setting the intention to “be kind to ourselves”. I feel that we need this reminder, not only in our yoga practice but in our lives.
In our society, we tend to take an all-or-nothing approach. We often feel that something is not worthwhile unless we’re pushing beyond our limits, “going for the gold”, often resulting in harm to ourselves and others. Fatigue, burnout, illness, pain, strained relationships, and discontent are often the signs that we haven’t been kind to ourselves.
In yoga philosophy, the concept of Ahimsa (non-violence) is an important ethical and behavioral guide. Practicing ahimsa helps to create a harmonious relationship between our inner and outer worlds.
Ahimsa applies to our thoughts, words and physical actions. In yoga we practice paying attention to the subtle messages our bodies are giving us, and honoring our limitations. If we ignore these messages and push into a deeper variation of a pose than we are ready for, we can cause physical pain.
Practicing ahimsa on our mats allows us to tune in on an even more subtle level in our daily lives. We begin changing harmful thoughts, words, and actions toward ourselves and others. When unkind thoughts arise, we can choose to work through our feelings in a productive, non-hurtful way. We can seek Truth, love, and respect for ourselves, others and all of creation.
I invite you to practice ahimsa toward yourself as the warmer weather approaches. Take time to warm up, gradually ease back into activities outside, and gently stretch afterward. If you’ve been more sedentary this winter, avoid “making up for lost time.” Remember that it’s actually more productive to pace yourself than to overdo and spend additional time recovering. Give yourself time to enjoy being out in nature, and to balance work and play.
Here are 2 gentle and effective stretches to try:
Wall calf stretch:
- Place hands on wall, counter or chair for support. Legs remain hip-width apart.
- Stand with neutral alignment, abdominals engaged to support your spine.
- Keep one leg close to the wall or chair, and bend the front knee (keeping knee over ankle, not beyond).
- Step the other leg straight back, keeping back foot straight ahead. Ground through back heel, keeping back knee straight. You should feel a very gentle stretch in the back calf and most likely in the anterior thigh and hip. If the stretch is painful or extreme, move the back foot closer to the wall.
- Keep weight shifted toward the pinkie toe side of the back foot to maintain arch of foot.
Hold 30 seconds to 1 minute. Repeat on the other side.
Hamstring stretch at step:
- Stand at the base of your stairs. Hold rail for balance. Use good standing alignment with abdominals engaged to support your spine.
- Place your heel on either the first or second step. You should feel a gentle stretch in the hamstrings (back of leg). If not, move your foot to the next step.
- Hold and breathe for about 5 slow breaths.
- Repeat on the other side.
Many blessings to you in the month ahead! If you’d like guidance in an individualized therapeutic home yoga practice to feel better this spring, please call to schedule a private/appointment/session. If interested in a group yoga class, I invite you to drop-in on Tuesdays at 9am or Wednesdays at 6pm (Drop-in fee: $13).
Apr 2018 Shelley Carpenter, Physical Therapist, Registered Yoga Teacher, Reiki Master Teacher is a practitioner at Ommani who offers group (Tuesday and Wednesdays) and individual therapeutic yoga sessions, physical therapy, and Reiki care. Call our office at 262.695.5311 to schedule an appointment.
I’ve seen for many years how life’s stressors and our reactions to these stressors are the major causes of pain and disease. Breathing instruction is my go-to for restoring inner calm, and is highly effective. But lately, I’ve seen a higher level of stress in most people I encounter, combined with a deep inner body-gripping. When trying to breathe mindfully, they become more stressed as they feel they are running out of air.
It took me awhile to understand what was happening until I realized: the fight-or-flight inner body-gripping was so extreme that the psoas and abdominal muscles were in a constant state of spasm. This gripping prevents the major breathing muscle, the diaphragm, from being able to drop down to allow a full breath.
I experimented with this feeling in myself to see how I could guide others to let this go. The phrase that was given to me is this: “melt into gravity.”
Try this: Lie on your back, either on your yoga mat or your bed. Place 1-2 pillows or folded blankets under your knees. Use enough support under your knees to relieve any pressure or discomfort in your hips or back. Support your head with a small pillow or folded blanket. Make sure you are warm enough, using a light blanket if needed. Softly close your eyes. Feel the weight of your body being fully supported as you lie here.
Now melt into gravity. (Just feeling, not analyzing)
After allowing this inner melting and letting your body settle in as long as you like, begin to notice the breath naturally flowing in and out. Just feel this for a few minutes. If it’s comfortable, gradually slow the breath down. Focus on stretching out the breath, not going deeper. If you feel you are working hard at this, soften the effort. If at any time it becomes uncomfortable, let go of the breath and again think and do: melt into gravity.
After experiencing this feeling of melting into gravity and releasing the inner body, practicing often makes it easier to drop into this place of inner release. During the day when sitting or standing, think: “Can I be a little softer in my body right now?” and allow some inner melting.
Repeat, with kindness to yourself, several times per day.
Feb 2018 Shelley Carpenter, Physical Therapist, Registered Yoga Teacher, Reiki Master Teacher is a practitioner at Ommani who offers group (Tuesday and Wednesdays) and individual therapeutic yoga sessions, physical therapy, and Reiki care. Call our office at 262.695.5311 to schedule an appointment.
As I embark on another new phase of life, I am again humbled by this incredible lifelong journey of deepening discovery and growth. I knew this time would come—the time when our sons would grow up and leave the nest. After our younger son went to college this fall, I’ve been spending significant time in the process of contemplation and recalibration. It’s the only way I can describe it. I feel I am being reset and recalibrated for what is to come. My role as mother is shifting, and my expanding role as a healer is being further revealed daily.
As I often say in our yoga classes: Nothing is static. Just as our minds and bodies are constantly changing with each breath, so are our lives. When we drop the illusion of being in control and surrender to what is, we open ourselves up to deeper connection to God and to each other.
The Irish have a term, thin place, which describes a place where the space between heaven and earth grows thin–where we can feel connected deeply to both. This experience may happen in a sacred site such as a church or labyrinth, or sacred place in nature such as the edge of the ocean or on a mountaintop. I also find that we have thin times, those times in life when we feel more fragile. We feel more connected to the Divine and each other in tragedies, illnesses, deep joys, as well as during major life changes.
These places and times open us up to our true nature. They offer opportunities to tune in to the whispers of our souls. By getting quiet, opening myself up more fully to my emotions and being kind to myself during this time of change, I have been experiencing more meaningful dreams, feeling a stronger flow of energy and intuition when offering Reiki, dropping into a deeper level of calm and tapping into Divine wisdom in my yoga, meditation practice and teaching. I have also felt more creative and open to learning and growth in my daily life. I am more receptive to hearing my soul whispers.
I feel that all of us on earth are experiencing a thin time right now. My prayer is that we will take time to care for ourselves, to each hear our individual soul whispers and to then use our unique gifts and callings to care for each other and our world. I feel honored to be on this journey with you.
Blessings, love and light,
Nov 2017 Shelley Carpenter, Physical Therapist, Registered Yoga Teacher, Reiki Master/Teacher is a practitioner at Ommani who offers group and individual therapeutic yoga sessions, individual physical therapy, and Reiki care. Call our office at 262.695.5311 to schedule an appointment.
(This article is 5th in Shelley’s series on the chakras)
I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit. ∼Dawna Markova
The throat chakra, or Vissudha chakra, is often a major focus in mid-life. This energetic center, located behind the throat, at the base of the neck, deals with communication, speaking and hearing truth, personal expression, manifesting creativity, Divine purpose, following one’s dream/finding one’s own voice, experiencing a sense of timing and rhythm.
Often in mid-life, there is a “crisis” that occurs when we can no longer tolerate life in its present state. We feel out of balance in relationships, work, life situations. By this time, most have survived or are currently struggling through major life challenges or transitions. Like a snake needing to shed, we feel we no longer fit into the confines of our current situation. We may feel that we have lost touch with our true selves and we suddenly feel desperate to reconnect to our inner truth and purpose for the second half of our lives. This is a natural phase of life. If you are experiencing these issues, you are not alone.
I have found in my own journey, and in assisting many others through this process (with Reiki and Yoga) that most of us don’t find easy, satisfying answers. We would like an easy to follow instruction book to fall into our hands. It would say: THIS is it. THIS will bring more joy, connection, and purpose to your life. You were created for THIS. While some know exactly what needs to change, most have clues, inklings, gut feelings. The throat deals with self-expression and listening (both inner and outer). This process involves an uncovering or re-discovery of your true self and the unique gifts that you bring to the world.
During this process, the more kind and compassionate you are to yourself and others, the more smoothly it goes. We don’t have to figure it all out at once. Start small. If a coloring book looks interesting to you-color. Take a different route on your walk or drive. Create small pockets of time throughout your day to breathe and look out the window. Better yet, go outside and feel your feet on the ground and use your senses to experience your surroundings. Praying, singing, playing an instrument, writing, gardening, or creating art are healing and balancing practices for the throat chakra. Be present during conversations. Speak from your heart, and listen with your heart.
The following is a description of a restorative yoga pose that gently opens the chest and throat. It is nourishing, calming and freeing. Enjoy!
Chest opener restorative pose: Sit on a rolled blanket or beach towel (supporting entire pelvis), and lie down with rolled blanket under your spine, supporting all the way from tailbone to head. Keep knees bent. Move arms into a comfortable savasana position (palms up, arms slightly away from your body). Rest and breathe, feeling your chest and shoulders soften. Remain there 2-5 minutes, melting into the support beneath you. Then slowly roll off of the blanket. (This should feel relaxing, “opening,” not creating a strong stretch or strain.)
Blessings, love and light,
Aug 2017 Shelley Carpenter, Physical Therapist, Registered Yoga Teacher, Reiki Master/Teacher is a practitioner at Ommani who offers group and individual therapeutic yoga sessions, individual physical therapy, and Reiki care. Call our office at 262.695.5311 to schedule an appointment.
(This article is 4th in Shelley’s series on the chakras)
The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched-they must be felt with the heart. ∼Helen Keller
The heart chakra, or Anahata chakra, is considered the center of our chakras. It connects the upper and lower chakras. Just as the physical heart gives us life, one beat at a time, the energetic heart is key to our well-being, joy, and experience of connection. One meaning for Anahata is “unstruck”–the place that sings without being played. The location is in the center of the chest, just behind the physical heart. This energetic center deals with love of self and others, compassion, empathy, kindness, relationship, intimacy, devotion, reaching out and taking in, forgiveness, hope, trust, balance, quest for peace.
The heart is also where we experience and carry grief, where we carry our concern for others; for those things that touch us deeply. We know how it feels to be “heart-sick” or “heart-broken.” When we allow ourselves to feel these emotions, to allow them to touch our lives and to live from this authentic place, where we experience both deep joy and tremendous pain, we can truly connect with each other. While most of us would like to avoid pain and tragedy, these experiences often make us reach out to give and receive care for and from each other.
The physical organs that the heart chakra most affects are the thymus, heart, cardiac nerve plexus, lungs, circulatory system, immune system, shoulders, arms, ribs, breasts, and diaphragm. There are many studies that show the link between yoga breathing, yoga practice, meditation, energy work and benefits to the cardiac and respiratory systems.
Instead of focusing on the research, today I’d like to focus on one aspect of the heart that is profoundly effective in shifting our focus in order to live from a more heart-centered place. A gratitude practice (such as I’m suggesting below) can be life-changing. This is not an, “I know I have a lot to be thankful for, but…” way of thinking. Instead, it’s a turning our attention and awareness to the present moment, and focusing on the gifts and blessings. This can be done even during our darkest times, and can shed a ray of light on our situation. With regular practice, it can become a way of experiencing life.
Let this experience settle into your bones, until it becomes a new way of being:
Begin by centering. Focus on and slow down the breath. After a few minutes of breath meditation, bring to mind one thing you are grateful for. Continue to breathe slowly and smoothly, allowing yourself to experience the feeling of gratitude for this specific gift in your life. (It may be something small, like the beauty of a flower-whatever comes to you-let it be real for you).
Very gradually let this feeling of gratitude grow until it expands to fill your heart space. Take your time and let it grow further until it fills your entire body. Next, let it overflow, spilling out beyond your body in all directions.
Eventually bring your awareness back to your heart center, allowing the feeling of gratitude to reside there.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…It turns problems into gifts, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow. ∼Melody Beattie
Blessings, love, and light. I am grateful for you.
Shelley Carpenter, Physical Therapist, Registered Yoga Teacher, Reiki Master Teacher is a practitioner at Ommani who offers group and individual therapeutic yoga sessions, individual physical therapy, and Reiki care. Call our office at 262.695.5311 to schedule an appointment.