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Recent topics at traceykelleyyoga.com:

Meditate Much?
Self-Care: The Greatest Gift
Keeping a Yoga Journal

Many practices of awareness focus on chakra balancing, but what does this mean? In Sanskrit, chakra translates to disk or wheel. There are seven primary chakras believed to be large whirling centers of energy along your spine and thousands of nadis, or inner pathways of energy, that lead to a presence of consciousness in the subtle body. Each primary chakra corresponds with a particular point in your nervous system, linking with meridians to encourage a positive flow of prana, or life force. If one chakra is blocked, so is the flow of energy, and your potential for complete radiance of your full self.

Meditation, prayer, sound therapy, visualization, crystal clearing, yoga and physical exercises, and other techniques help you intuit aspects of your chakra health and create opportunities for wellness. Learn more at Yoga Basics>Chakras.

 
Movement Happenings!
The schedule for Iowa's DNR First Day Hikes is out! This free program happens on January 1st each year in Iowa and around the country. There are a number of great locations in Central Iowa, so check out the list here. I'd LOVE to join with a bunch of you at Walnut Woods on DSM's SW side on Monday, January 1st at 9 a.m., so let's keep the conversation going! When you click on the link above, look for #14, Walnut Woods, for details.

Yoga Under the Stars begins again at the Science Center of Iowa's Star Theater Planetarium on January 8th. Various instructors lead an evening class each Monday in the series. For more information about cost and time, click here.

The quarterly yoga and gallery talk program at the Des Moines Arts Center continues in 2018. This is usually a free offering, but reservations are required, and the class is limited to 50 participants, so act quickly! The next event is scheduled for Saturday, January 13th.


Yogi Chat! Sunday, December 17th 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Sometimes, there's simply not enough time before or after class to talk to one another and discuss yoga lifestyle practices, get to know one another better, and catch up on other important aspects of life. So once a month or so, it would be fun to have a casual gathering and do just that!

I'll set up a large table at the downtown Panera at 10th and Walnut on Sunday December 17th from 11:30-1:30. We can each get our own favorite beverage or nibble, and just hang out. If you can make it for a while (obviously you don't have to stay the whole time if your schedule doesn't allow it), great! If not, hopefully you can come to the next gathering.


Meditation Happenings!
As I've mentioned many times, I'm a big fan of the Meditation Around Town program started by Dennis Kelly. It's always a diverse and interesting experience, featuring different workshop leaders and meditation styles in a variety of locations around the metro. If you haven't had a chance to experience the concept of sound healing, consider attending the event on Thursday, December 21st featuring the wonderful Deb Jennings at 6:00 p.m. at the Agora Event Center, 7692 Hickman Rd., in Urbandale. Always free! Learn more here.

Each Tuesday evening, the Des Moines Meditation Group hosts a mindfulness meditation sitting at the Friends Meeting House at 42nd and Grand. Newcomers can enjoy the first sitting from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. with iconic Des Moines meditation leaders. The site needs updating, but you can reach out to some of the meditation leaders for more information by email. 

If you're looking for a more regular group meditation practice throughout the week, try the Des Moines Zen Center. Meditation sessions are typically 40 minutes long, and other events include potlucks and dharma talks. Review the schedule.

If you'd like to have a more private meditation session, there are a number of resources you can use. Here are some recommendations from various students: Headspace, Insight Timer, and The Mindfulness App.


Private Sessions
Many people have asked if I still teach private sessions now that the studio is closed. YES! I meet people in their homes or at the Des Moines Public Library Central Campus. It's always a great honor to work with someone 1:1 and continue to devote personal attention to his or her goals for yoga, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation.

Sometimes group classes aren't for everyone. Whether it's due to scheduling conflicts, personal circumstances, injury or illness recovery, or just to relish quiet time focused on  yourself, private sessions are an intimate, transformative way to explore yoga in a meaningful manner, 1:1, accessing a more effective practice. If you or someone you know desires this type of personal attention, reach out for more information and/or referral cards.


On a personal note...
I'd like to once again extend my deepest thanks for your various expressions of condolences regarding my grandfather's passing. I was fortunate to have him in my life for 51 of his 96 years. The posts, texts, cards, flowers (and candies!), and other forms of contact you chose to share really touched my heart and as always, I continue to be forever thankful for our yoga tribe! Namaste. 
 
   

"The importance of breathing need hardly be stressed. It provides the oxygen for the metabolic processes; literally it supports the fires of life. But breath as "pneuma" is also the spirit or soul. We live in an ocean of air like fish in a body of water. By our breathing we are attuned to our atmosphere. If we inhibit our breathing we isolate ourselves from the medium in which we exist. In all Oriental and mystic philosophies, the breath holds the secret to the highest bliss.

That is why breathing is the dominant factor in the practice of Yoga.
"
~ Alexander Lowen, The Voice of the Body

Breath: The Neverending Cycle

Depending on what ancient yoga texts you read, there are 84 basic yoga postures (asanas)...or 200...or 1,340...or more than 2,000.

Yeah, I haven't hit those really high numbers in my practice yet. Have you? And this is the interesting thing about a regular yoga practice. The choreography of poses within a session can change each time, providing endless variety. A yoga journey never needs to be stale as long as you have 2,000 asanas to master!

Is this mastery the point of practice? Yes and no. Physical accomplishment is always wonderful, and an asana practice is one of the classic Eight Limbs of Yoga. You'll certainly become more strong and flexible with each yoga session.  But breath, or pranayama, is another vital Limb to a full yogic experience, and without it, physical accomplishment won't happen. And neither will a deepening of your practice, or an expansion of your calm state.

To really experience a complete transformation in your practice, breath has to lead movement. Anyone who's ever practiced with me has heard me say this once, twice, 300 times, at least! You can do the same sequence for weeks on end and yes, your body will open. But if you focus on your breath before moving, you'll experience a greater release of tension, a deeper awareness of relaxation, and an improved state of being.

Using breathing techniques outside of yoga practice is also a vital practice to follow each day. Try the following as a refresher to your current breathwork routine, or incorporate one or two of them for the first time and see what happens. There are many options for techniques, but here are three to try.

Equal Breathing
This is a wonderful technique to bring your attention to the capacity of your breathing ability.
1) Sit upright in a chair or against a wall.
2) Inhale through your nose for a count of four, then exhale through your nose for a count of four. This is one cycle.
3) Repeat this count five-to-eight more cycles.


To advance in this technique, simply extend your count to five, six, seven, or eight. Just maintain a focus of an even inhale and exhale--remember, our natural inclination is to exhale longer. So balance is important.

4-7-8 Breath
A favorite among many people I know, this is a great technique to use before bed or at any other time when you want to relax. If you're new to this, sit upright to prepare for practice.
1) Exhale completely through your mouth with a big "whooooosh" sound.
2) Close your mouth, place the tip of your tongue behind your lips, and inhale through your nose for a count of four. This is a mental count at your pace.
3) Hold the breath on the same pace for a count of seven.
4) Open your mouth slightly, and exhale on the same pace for a count of eight.


This is one cycle. The pace you set for inhale, hold, and exhale is totally up to you, but keep the 4-7-8 count. Repeat for another three cycles. As you advance in this technique, you should be able to lay down and do it without a problem.

Abdominal Breathing
Move deeper into your body with this technique, allowing for an awareness of how the breath is passing in and out.
1) Straighten your spine as you sit in a chair or against the wall. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your diaphragm. This is a domed-shape muscle, so the best place to feel it's movement is to rest your hand on your belly with your pinky finger on your belly button.
2) Inhale so you feel your abdomen, not your chest, rise. This may take a few tries so your chest isn't pushing out at the same time.
3) Exhale so your abdomen settles back down and the diaphragm relaxes. You can feel this difference from the inhale by pulling your belly button in slightly.
4) Your eventual goal: six-to-10 deep breaths like this each minute, or a complete cycle, for 10 minutes each day. So start minute by minute and see what happens.


Keep in mind: the more stressed you feel in a particular moment, the harder it will be to control your breath. So simply try for that first minute of six-to-10 focused breaths, and as your heart rate drops and your head clears, consider adding another minute or two.


 

Use your yoga practice to continue to explore not only postures and breath, but also all the other aspects of life that appeal to you.
And thank you for sharing your journey!

 
 



 


 


                   
                     

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